Relationships (R)

The next element of PERMA is relationships.

Relationships refer to the many different interactions you have with others: your partner, friends, family, boss, colleagues, children and/or your community. Relationships refer to feeling loved, supported, and valued by others. We are inherently social creatures and positive relationships have a significant impact on our wellbeing.” (Seligman, 2012).

Our relationships at work can have just as much impact on our physical and psychological health as our personal relationships. Workers who had a poor relationship with their boss were found to have a 25% higher risk of heart problems – and this risk increased the longer the employee had worked for that manager (Rath, T., J. Harter, J.K. Harter, 2010).
Building better relationships with colleagues, friends and family is something that most of us aspire to. One of the leading researchers in this field, Shelly Gable, says that sharing good news or celebrating success with other people has been found to foster positive social interactions, thus enhancing relationships.

Gable’s research found that, in close relationships where partners respond to each other enthusiastically, people have higher wellbeing including greater intimacy and marital satisfaction (Gable, et al, 2004). Gable refers to this as active-constructive responding which is a skill that all of us can learn.

Research findings on relationships

  • The social environment can play an important role in protecting against cognitive decline in older age (Seeman, Lusignolo, Albert & Berkman, 2001) and having strong social networks contributes to better health outcomes for older people (Huxhold, Fiori & Windsor, 2013).
  • People with significant mental illness report that the support of family and friends was the most important factor in aiding their recovery (S. Cohen, 2005).
  • Successful workgroups are more likely when employees are friends with their colleagues (Harter et al., 2003).
  • Happiness is contagious - people who are surrounded by happy people are also more likely to be happy (Fowler & Christakis, 2008). 

How to build relationships

  • Make new friends by joining a class or a group
  • Ask questions of the people you don’t know well to find out more about them, their family, interests, hobbies etc
  • Find someone at work that you can be friends with
  • Get in touch with people you’ve not spoken to for a while, like a relative who lives in a different city or town