The month of January and the self-improvement industry—they seem inseparable. Every New Year we’re inundated with product advertisement offering to help us look better; feel better; live better. Relatively few of these products though, offer to help us relate better. Certainly it’s important for us to eat right, exercise more, read a good book, and practice other healthy habits. No question about it. Yet, as important as these are to our overall well-being, it’s just as important for us to experience healthy relationships. In fact, this is important to our very essence.
Allow me to explain. Neuroscientists, based upon recent brain research, are in general agreement that our brains are “hardwired” for relationships. (I know. I know. If you’re like me, terms like “Neuro” and “scientists” and “research” risk losing the reader. But try to stay with me. It’ll be worth it. I promise.) We all contain a “relational hardwire,” an internal system that motivates and organizes our emotions with and memories of others. In other words, we are born to lovingly attach to those who are most influential in our lives.
And you’ve probably witnessed this firsthand. For example, consider a parent and baby, face-to-face, engaged in that delightfully mysterious game of copycat. One’s grin leads to another’s grin, then smile to smile, chuckle to chuckle, and laugh to laugh. It’s a precious back and forth, an interpersonal link that produces a sort of neural “dance” between two brains.
We tend to take this idea for granted but it’s actually quite remarkable. The very hardwiring of your brain is designed for human connection. Your brain is physically structured to develop in tandem with another’s, particularly through emotional communication, beginning even before you speak a word. In short, your brain is dependent on relationships in order to develop and organize itself properly, and not just when you’re a baby but throughout your lifetime.
By all means, then, be resolute this New Year: refuse that extra donut; remain a little longer on that treadmill; read that best-seller (even when the movie is less long and more “special-effecty”). Just don’t overlook what might be most important to your health this year – boosting your brain by building your relationships. It’s both the goal and the process for your well-being.
Any relationship can have ups-and-downs, but in that closest of close relationships, that most intimate and influential relationship with your marriage partner, it can be especially disappointing as well as satisfying, destructive as well as productive. Most of us know this all too well and need a little help on occasion.
So, to help you learn how to build your relationship (and boost your brain) with your partner, I have a special offer for you. To find out about it, just go to the following link: hopeharborinc.org/newsevents/couple-checkup/
Jim Baumgardner Jr, LPC, CFLE
Community Counselor, specializing in family relationships (918) 928-9820