This famous quote is fundamentally true and here’s why. Have you ever noticed that when you are in a positive work, home or social environment, how that lifts your mood?
Well, it is because the people you are surrounding yourself with are impacting your well-being through a transfer of positive energy, thoughts, words and actions, and if you are in a toxic environment, the opposite tends to be true.
A number of global studies have been done on how our social circles impact our wellness and well-being. For instance from 1983 to 2003 researchers from Yale University closely observed just under 5,000 people living in the small town of Framingham, Massachusetts in a study called The Framingham Heart Study. They found that when someone became happy or sad, that emotion rippled throughout the entire town.
Locally, I found no evidence of these kinds of studies, so I spoke to local Clinical Psychologist Michelle Crawford who has been in private practice for 22 years.
Michelle's insight provides a deeper understanding of the topic, outlining the root cause of why we end up choosing the types of social circles and relationships that we do.
She says, "The communication style and the relationship style of our family of origin forms our earliest template for relating. So if we come from a family where there has been abuse, or lack of attentiveness or parents who weren't very attuned to our needs or dealing with their own things, then the way we related to our family of origin forms our earliest templates for relationships.
So often what happens is if we've had difficult family relationships, we end up choosing adult relationships that reflect those early relationships, if we've had good early relationships, where we felt seen, heard, and unconditionally loved we invariably end up choosing people who do the same to us as adults."
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The first step towards choosing relationships that support your wellness and well-being is developing a sense of awareness about how your relationships are impacting you. Michelle re-affirms this by saying, "We need to examine our relationships very carefully and how we feel in relation to others and then we can choose people who are supportive and loving, unconditional and accept us for who we are."
If you are not in supportive, loving and healthy relationships, you must be wondering, what about toxic relationships? What do we when we find ourselves in relationships that don't support our well-being?
Michelle sees difficulties in relationships as a wonderful opportunity to heal and emphasises that we can use communication and self-reflection as methods to work on difficulties. In healing a relationship non-judgement is a crucial factor - not judging yourself and not judging the other individual and being as compassionately accepting as possible of whatever arises internally for both.
However, not everyone is open to healing or change, thus if you are in a toxic relationship with someone who is not willing to do the work, sometimes stepping away or creating distance or space in that relationship can be a healthy solution.
In Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler show that we can be influenced by co-workers, friends, family and beyond our immediate social circles including our social media networks.
And even though your close relationships are the ones that influence you the most, its important to examine your entire ecosystem, to choose communities that positively impact your wellness and well-being.
Have you been affected in a noteworthy way by your social circle? How? Share your thoughts with us here.
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