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The tree of connection

By Anna

The connections we have with others in terms of building positive relationships, as well as providing support in times of need, are fundamentally important to our mental health and wellbeing.

For many of us, our values are interlinked with our relationships – personal and professional; which leads us to the importance of connectivity. People with a good support network feel confident and that confidence means they cope better. Relationships are not just about your family and friends, but can also include how you relate to co-workers, and even strangers that you pass on the street, or the check-out person at Coles.

Studies have shown that social support is the highest predictor of happiness during times of stress. The support a person receives is important but the support they provide to others is an even more important factor in sustained happiness and engagement. Treasure and prioritise those who sustain you and provide support to others where you can.

Here’s a way to think about how you are currently fostering positive connections and, perhaps, where you can make some positive changes.

This is a simple exercise that can show you where the important people in your life lie, and how well you are connecting with them. Are you prioritising them, or another? Are you making an effort to maintain these relationships? And what are some of the ways you have used to maintain, strengthen or repair these relationships?

  1. If we use a tree as a metaphor for you and your relationships; imagine the trunk is you. You also have some branches. These are all the different connections or relationships you have in your life. Write these relationships on your branches. You might have the large branches as the main connections (your primary relationships) and the less frequent or less important relationships will be on the smaller branches.
  2. Next, you have the leaves. These are all the positive ways you keep these relationships healthy. Things like trust, spending time together, regular communication. Write these on the leaves.
  3. Now we are going to think about the termites attacking those branches. What are some of the things that break down the connection between you and those people? Over committing yourself to tasks, prioritising work constantly over personal time? Write them at the bottom.
  4. Lastly, think about and write down three actions you can prioritise this month to help foster the connections that are important to you.

Maintaining connections with those we care about can be one of the first things to suffer when life gets busy, and reaffirming our commitment to them is one of the best things that you can do for your own, and others, mental health.

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