Rev Up Your Relationships
by Joshua Rosenthal, NYC
When I used to work at a natural food store, I would watch the customers moving through the aisles shopping for healthy foods, all day, every day. After work I would often go to the movies to
chill out with the popcorn-munching, soda gulping moviegoers. They were laughing and enjoying themselves with their friends. Many times they seemed healthier than the natural food shoppers. I was fascinated. Could more than health food contribute to a healthy life?
In many cases love, intimacy, romance and friendships can provide nourishment in ways that fruits, vegetables and whole grains cannot. Modern nutrition—carbs or proteins, fresh produce or fast food—is really just one source of nourishment. We also hunger for play, fun, touch, romance, intimacy and love. The energy that positive, loving relationships provide feeds us beyond what any food can do.
The nourishment that loving relationships provide is what I call primary food. It does not come on your plate. Along with healthy relationships, it includes a fulfilling career, regular physical activity and a spiritual practice. The idea is when primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.
We all have a need to give and receive love. It’s food for the soul. Just like vegetables, whole grains and fruit nourish the cells in your body, love nourishes the body, mind and spirit. Examine the connections with those you love in your life. Are you happy with your relationships? Being well connected with others—husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, children, friends, family and co-workers—is an essential part of life. Strong connections with the people in our lives give us the freedom to share our hopes and dreams, fear and anger, joy and struggles for a sense of comfort and safety.
When examining relationships, try to understand your personal preference in regard to how much intimacy you want in your life. Some people love being alone; they feel energized by the experience and require plenty of time to catch up with themselves. These people are relatively introverted and develop ways to be on their own with great ease. They usually prefer to relate with one or two people, and are finicky about their choices in friends. At the other end of the spectrum are those who love being around people. They are more extroverted, become energized by social interaction and often create an extended family and a network of friends. They have hundreds of people on their social networking sites and an extensive email list. They thrive at parties, holidays and group events. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. The important part is to find the right balance for you.
When I suggest improving the quality of your relationships, I am not suggesting everyone should be more social or get married. I am saying, find a type of love and intimacy that is appropriate and nourishing for you. It’s a bit like establishing the amount of protein, vegetables or exercise that is appropriate for your body. Each person needs to find the right balance of togetherness and aloneness, and know that these needs will change with time, just as dietary needs change and just as everything in life changes.
For people at any stage of a relationship, you can increase the level of love and intimacy in your life simply by setting new intentions. Explore what you really want from your relationships. You can journal, meditate or talk to a friend about it. Make a list of what you are looking for from your current relationship or from a new relationship. Look at your list everyday and know that you are a unique being who is worthy of love and intimacy. When we are clear about our intentions, the universe very often delivers.
Cleaning Out the Friendship Closet
Friends who truly listen, care and are open to new ideas can be difficult to come by, but you can take steps to create a positive, supportive community. I invite you to look at your relationships in the same way you look at your wardrobe. You keep many clothes hanging in your closet that you no longer wear—maybe you are hoping they will come back into style, or they don’t quite fit but you keep them there for sentimental reasons. It’s the same with relationships in your life.
Strengthen Friends Who Energize You
Make a list of all the people who contribute greatly to your life. Would you like to see them more? Invite them out for tea or lunch. By spending more time with the people who make you happy and support you, your body, mind and soul will feel satiated.
Clean Up Old Friendships that no Longer Serve You
You probably have a few people from your past who don’t really belong in your present. Do you find their company draining? Determine which of these people you can let go of. You don’t need to break off all contact from these relationships right away. You may want to downgrade these friendships by seeing them less often or staying in touch with them by email. See what feels right to you. By pinpointing those toxic people in your life you will have more time to spend with the supportive friends.
Joshua Rosenthal is the founder and director of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. This has now become the largest nutrition school in the world, offering students access to the world’s foremost authorities on health and nutrition, as well as a certificate from Purchase College of The State University of New York (SUNY). www.integrativenutrition.com.