Communication is a vital part of wellbeing, mental health, and a quality life. The single word, though—communication—can be complex, difficult, and overwhelming. Communicating is deeper than talking. Communication is words, and it’s more than words, and it is vital for wellbeing and life satisfaction.
What Does Communication Have to Do with Mental Health and Wellbeing?
Talking is the act of verbally sharing information. Communication is the act of connecting, of sharing not just information but all aspects of being alive. We communicate hopes and dreams, successes and failures, triumphs and struggles, problems found and problems solved, and the gamut of human emotions. Communication is connection, with others and with ourselves, too. We communicate with ourselves with the words we tell ourselves, behaviors, and more. Same for others: the words we say, our body language, tone of voice, and things we do are all part of our communication.
This all-encompassing concept we call communication has everything to do with mental health, wellbeing, and our ability to create and maintain a quality life. When we can communicate with each other, and ourselves, fully and honestly, we:
- reduce stress and anxiety (no more guessing games or making assumptions about what someone meant)
- create stronger, more satisfying relationships because everyone feels heard
- solve problems more efficiently because everyone stays on the same page
- let others know our needs
- learn others’ needs so we can better respond
- discover how to compromise while remaining true to ourselves
- laugh together more often because we’re closer, more positive about each other
- grow confident in ourselves and in others
Communication is indeed fundamental to our wellbeing and our quality life, but it’s not always easy.
How to Maintain Communication and Connection When It’s Hard
As vital as it is to connect and communicate, it definitely isn’t always easy. If the topic is heavy, communication can be awkward and bumpy. Mental illness or mental health challenges that aren’t diagnosable as an illness can also interfere in healthy, relationship-building communication. A variety of mental illness symptoms, including (but not limited to) difficulty focusing and concentrating, emotional ups and downs, difficulty interpreting others’ nonverbal communication, racing, distracting thoughts, worry about what others are thinking, feeling, or doing, or dissociations.
When we’re facing any type of challenge, communication is perhaps even more important. When you keep it simple, it’s possible to communicate despite struggles.
- develop an understanding in which each of you shares what’s important (“I can handle anything that comes our way with this [Isaac’s diagnosis of DID], but I cannot handle you withdrawing and shutting me out. That can’t happen.” — Reese explaining her needs to her husband during a conversation in Twenty-Four Shadows.)
- if someone begins to violate the understanding, simply and calmly remind him/her of the understanding
- set a timer, and when it sounds wind down the conversation, agreeing to pick it back up later — breaks are important when the topic is intense or one or both of you are facing difficulties
- walk and talk, or shoot hoops or toss a baseball — movement can loosen intense emotional reactions by releasing endorphins, decreasing cortisol, and other positive brain and body reactions
- know that communication isn’t just about talking — simply being together in silence for awhile, doing something relaxing and engaging like reading, can put everyone on the same level for even communication
And above all, the skeleton key to wellbeing, mental heath, and a quality life is to remember your ultimate goals and values. Why to you want to have great communication with others in your life? With your answer to that question as your guiding star, your communication — and your wellbeing — will shine.
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