Surveys suggest that young people often see their route to happiness as getting rich, being famous, working hard and achieving more. As we get older we often forget that once upon a time we probably shared similar goals.

Yet studies also indicate that the road to happiness is less about ‘having it all’ and more related to being ‘socially connected’ to others – family, friends, communities. And it doesn’t necessarily follow that having ‘more’ friends equals ‘more’ happiness. 

Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Social connection is good for us. Loneliness, it seems, kills. Evidence indicates if we are socially connected we live longer – which makes sense if we accept that loneliness is ‘toxic’. It often leads to seeking out support mechanisms (like drink, drugs, food) – which can be anything but supportive.

Some of us enjoy being on our own – which is fine. Many of us though feel more isolated than we want to be. When we are less happy our health often declines; our brain function may also decline quicker than those who are happy.

I often hear people ‘counting’ the years they have been together; I also hear people ‘counting’ how many friends they have. Yet it is the quality of our relationships which is important. Living in emotional turmoil is not good for our health. Living in a positive and supportive environment provides a form of protection.

A supportive environment acts as a buffer. It helps us cope better. There is evidence to suggest that when we feel connected our physical pain feels more manageable than when we are struggling with isolation. Our mood has a greater chance of staying happy

Relationships protect our brain. Good close relationships are good for our wellbeing. It may be obvious. It is easy to ignore. Relationships are messy, complicated, ongoing.

Relationships are not glamorous. But they are essential for our health.