Did you know that your relationships can actually effect how long you live? Did you know that being unhappy in a relationship is actually dangerous to your health? A study of 105 middle-age British Government employees found that woman and men with more marital worries had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as higher levels of stress and high blood pressure – factors that raise risk for heart attack and stroke.
When the University of Utah researchers studied video-taped conversations between 150 husband and wives – and also scanned their blood vessels – they found that spouses whose exchanges were angry and mean-spirited were also 30 percent more likely to have arteries clogged with heart=threatening plaque. Other studies show that an unhappy relationship can raise your odds for weight gain, depression, lowered immunity, stomach ulcers, and heart disease risk.
In contrast, a happy marriage may protect your health because spouses imitate each other’s healthy habits. When Brigham Young University researchers checked up on 4,746 married couples aged 51 to 61 years old, they found that couples mirror each other’s health status: A man in his early fifties in excellent health had a very low chance of having a wife in fair to poor health. But a fifty-something man in poor health had a 24 percent chance of being married to a woman with so-so health and a 12 percent chance of being married to a woman in poor health. Why? Couples live in the same environments when it comes to food, exercise, and stress reduction. They also share emotional stress.
If your union has been unhappy or hostile for a long time, pay extra attention to your mental health and your heart health. Creating a happy marriage can lead to a longer, healthier life. A University of Pittsburgh study of 7,524 women ages 65 and older found that simply being married cut their risk of dying over a six-year period by 17 percent. Why? Married people are more likely than a single person to take simple health promoting steps on a daily bases such as eating breakfast, wearing seat belts, getting physical activity, having regular blood pressure checks, and not smoking. And be patient: In another study most unhappy couples who simply stayed together were very happy within five years.
Happy marriages deliver on most every conceivable health benefit: Lower risk of major diseases, longer life, less stress. Then there are the emotional benefits: Happiness, fun, joy and intimacy. A close, loving relationship is among the best things in life for your long-term health.
Here are some suggestions for you to stay happing in your relationships:
Stop expecting perfection from your mate. Experts say most couples – even those in happy marriages – have 6 to 10 areas of disagreement that may never be resolved. Your marriage may not be broken at all – just normal!
Keep your love account in the black. According to various experts, it takes 5 to 20 positive statements to outweigh the damage wrought by a single negative remark – or even by a steely squint or impatient harrumph! Concentrate on positive statements to keep your account in the black.
Don’t try to change your partner. When things aren’t going right, change the way you act. Marriage experts say that trying to force your partner to change rarely works, and worse, it creates lots of resentment. If you take good-hearted steps to improve, it’ll be noticed – and often, will cause your spouse to respond in kind.
Touch. Human touch triggers the release of feel good endorphins – for giver and receiver alike.
Study the art of small acts of love. You know how to push Mr. or Mrs. Right’s hot buttons, and if you think about it, you know how to push his or her joy buttons, too. That doesn’t mean sex, but it’s not a bad place to start. Greet him with a glad-to-see-you hug and kiss when you get home. Surprise her by delivering coffee, bedside, some rainy Thursday morning.
Spend time together every day. You clear your schedule for hair appointments, favorite TV shows, and your book group – how about your spouse? Spend 20 to 30 minutes a day chatting together about your daily lives, your dreams, your plans. And make time for intimacy – even if it means scheduling it in a day planner.
Skip the blame game. Setting your partner up as the bad guy ignores the 80 to 90 percent of him or her that’s really wonderful. Criticism, contempt, confrontation, and hostility don’t help anything. Instead, express concerns by calmly and honestly taking about how you feel.
Listen Carefully to your spouse. Don’t try to defend yourself or argue… just respect what he or she had to say. This alone can go a long way toward ending the fights and finding a healthier common ground.
Raise concerns when you both have time and energy to discuss them. Late at night, when your rushing out the door, or when you are hungry isn’t the right time.
And above all remember that you are in charge of your own happiness. You can decide to be happy right now in whatever situation you are in. No one else is responsible for your happiness. Only you are. Everything that you think your spouse is saying or doing is only your thoughts or your interpretation and you can change your thoughts in a moment. You just need to be aware of them, and aware you are in charge of how you think.
Giving you the most current and up to date advice on living a longer and active life.
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