By Erica Turner
As we welcome in the New Year, students make resolutions that they hope will improve their lives. Some have promised to raise their grades, score that dream internship, or land their first job. But one of the most popular resolutions on campus for 2012 is improving relationships.
Not surprisingly, improving relationships is easier said then done. It can be hard to shake our ways and break those habits that hinder us. Regardless, it is important to have healthy relationships with those we care about in order to uphold our own mental health.
One way we can cultivate these relationships is by trying to meet the needs and expectations of our partners and friends by making them a priority even if it means putting our own goals temporarily on the back burner.
“I think that in order to have a great friendship or relationship it is important to put others’ well being over my own,” educationjunior Casey Droste said.
Droste hopes to accomplish this by keeping her resolution in her mind and reminding herself of her commitment every time she is in a sticky situation that might challenge her resolution.
“I think in order to have great friendships and relationships it is important to put others first. My relationships are important to me, and I want the people in my life to know that,” she said.
Psychologist and author Dr. Michelle Callahan believes that doing something nice for someone else actually improves our own personal well-being. Callahan emphasizes taking the focus off yourself and growing your relationship with someone else by putting them first.
Doing something for someone else makes us feel important and fulfills our self-presentation goals. When our peers think of us as helpful and kind, it in turn raises our self-esteem and improves our self-image.
However, staying grounded and maintaining your own sense of self is equally important. Granted, helping others can make you happier, but sacrificing your own expectations all together can cause serious long-term problems.
Making sure you are at your best by realizing when to cut your losses can improve your mental health and improve your relationships.
“My resolution is to work to help my good relationships grow and not be so hard on myself about working to suffice relationships that are bad (for me),” said human development and family studies junior Emily Schmid.
Callahan reiterates that the most important relational resolution is to take better care of you.
“You can’t be your best, when you’re feeling your worst. When you aren’t well, you won’t be the best spouse, parent, friend or co-worker,” she said.
How do you ensure you are at your best? Relax, eat well and exercise. Also, pursue things that interest you or take up a new hobby. Finding new ways for you to grow as an individual can improve your relationship and facilitate your relational growth.
Relational author Julie Spira believes peoples become more appealing when we have our own lives and are confidant and feeling good about ourselves.
Spira says to think of things that used to make you happy that you no longer do.
“Having interests and experiences that have nothing to do with each other means you have more to bring to the relationship,” said Spira.
Resume an old hobby or join a new student organization to help yourself thrive on a personal level and to strengthen your sense of individuality.
However, this can be a challenge to find time to develop your own personal growth, as well as time to nurture your relationships in all of the turmoil of school, work and other commitments.
Plan one-on-one times with your partner so that you can stay connected and share your experiences. Spending quality time alone with your partner give you the opportunity to bond at a deeper level.
“Sometimes you literally have to schedule the time, put it on your calendar and protect it just like you would a meeting at work,” said Callahan.
There is no official quota of how often you should be seeing each other, but many experts agree that having face-to-face time together at least once a week will cultivate a healthy relationship.
But sometimes in our busy schedules, we can’t always make face-to-face time, and we have to find ways to make our relationships work long-distance.
“I want to have people in my life that bring out the best in me and keep my relationships close, even when I’m far in distance,” Schmid said.
Technology becomes a valuable resource to make use of when trying to keep in contact with loved ones, especially in long distance situations.
“Utilize technology to stay close and connected, but don’t rely on it exclusively or allow it to replace face-to-face relationships. Putting in good face time is still an important and necessary way to build and maintain close relationships both at home and at work,” Callahan said.
It is an ambitious resolution to improve one’s relationships, but unlike the temporary satisfaction of other resolutions, improving your relationships will benefit you in the long run.
Lets face it: our friends, families and partners are the ones that make our lives as special as they are. So show them a little appreciation this season by finding ways to improve your relationships with them by making your own relational resolution.