Dr Philip Hopley and Dr Tim Anstiss discuss the importance of maintaining relationships both inside and outside of sport.

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Positive relationships are one of the key pillars of mental health, happiness, resilience and wellbeing. Developing and maintaining good quality relationships – at home, with friends, in the workplace – is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. And your success and performance, in sport and in life.

Sometimes work and other activities or pressures get in the way of relationships. We can find ourselves neglecting people, not creating opportunities for spending quality time with people, and not being fully present with them even when we are physically present – e.g. by ‘phubbing’ them (prioritising your phone over the person you are with).

Here are some ways to go about investing in, protecting and improving the quality of your relationships:

  1. Make a list of good friends with whom you haven’t met up with or had much contact with for months or even years. Contact them. Arrange to meet up. Do something with them – eat food, attend an event, just chill, reminisce, learn about what they have been up to. Agree to do it again in a few months, years or never (depending on what they are like now!)
  2. Take the time to be more fully with friend and family members. Carve out time to do something together, perhaps free from mobile phones. Go for a walk with them, a bike ride, the movies, play Cluedo, learn to dance with them.
  3. Forgive people. We all mess up, and say and do unhelpful things. Perhaps you are angry with someone, or disappointed with them. See if you can’t forgive them. Do this for yourself, as much as them. You don’t even have to tell them you have forgiven them, just act differently towards them. Sometimes it’s best just to move on from an unhappy event or situation and reconnect with people. Of course, if they continue to mess up, then perhaps spend less time with them in the future.
  4. Apologise. And get better at apologising. Apologising is commonly very good for improving relationships and stopping people drifting apart or feeling angry or disappointed with each other. And do it properly – not ‘I’m sorry you were upset by what I said, or did’
  5. Become a better listening. Ask people what is going on in their lives. Listen, without jumping in with advice. Learn about ‘active’ or ‘reflective’ listening, saying something back to a person to check you have understood them. Help them feel listened too, heard, accepted and understood. Perhaps they will do the same for you.
  6. Join a new group, do some voluntary work, take a class. Learn to paint. Join a choir. Do some forestry work. Whatever appeals. Meet new people. Create the conditions for friendship to emerge.

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