Relationships Nourish the Soul

There are lots of things that nourish you besides food. In this blog post I'm talking about how relationships nourish the soul.

Primary Food

One of the core concepts of IIN’s Health Coach Training Program is Primary Food, which is everything that nourishes you besides what’s ON your plate. This concept changed my point of view about health completely. My former grasp of being healthy was very narrow but, now I understand that several other areas of life are also nourishing. The main ones are spirituality, creativity, career, finances, education, social life, joy, and relationships. From all that is considered food OFF your plate, connection is the most important one – relationships nourish the soul.

Being in Balance

Even if you eat the best food in the whole world, you’d still be unhealthy if the other areas of your life don’t feel nourishing. The key to being healthy is to find balance ON and OFF your plate by making sure your soul feels as nourished as your body. I think you’d agree that there is no way to be healthy working at a non-fulfilling job or being constantly worried about making ends meet. In the same way, it is impossible to feel healthy without somebody you can count on. 


From the warmth of a friend’s hug to the laughter shared with loved ones, the importance of relationships for our health and well-being cannot be overstated. Relationships are the cornerstone of life. It begins at birth with parents and the list never stops growing. Relationships speak to our ability to love and relate to other human beings. Connection and support are humans’ core needs, and we all want to give and receive love. So, relationships fulfill our deepest desires and therefore greatly impact our quality of life and health.

Relationship Needs

Understanding your relationship needs is the foundation for having healthy relationships with others. Although sometimes you might think so, one person is never enough. No one is capable of playing all the roles you need in your life. It takes a village! Each relationship brings something different to the table – love, wisdom, support, friendship, touch, intimacy, and sex. Also, our needs change depending on what’s happening in our lives. In challenging times we need more support, in happy times we need somebody to share the good news. Find your people!

Social Support 

One of the most significant benefits of relationships is the social support they provide. Whether it’s a shoulder to lean on during tough times or a listening ear to share our joys and triumphs, having supportive relationships is precious. That’s what friends are for, right? Dan Buettner‘s research shows that individuals with a strong sense of community and social networks live longer. Feeling supported throughout life’s challenges helps to regulate stress and to see things clearly. 

Unhealthy Relationships

But what if you don’t feel supported in a particular relationship? Well, that’s not a good sign. Unhealthy relationships are more common than you think. It’s also common not to perceive them as toxic for a while. When you’re deeply involved with someone it’s hard to acknowledge that the relationship might be doing you more harm than good. Not only romantic relationships have a chance of being unhealthy. Anyone, even a parent, who makes fun of or insults your thoughts, ideas, or beliefs is waving a red flag of an unhealthy relationship. 

Another Signs

It’s easier to acknowledge an unhealthy relationship when there are threats, scares, or harm in any way (physical or emotional). It’s also a red flag when someone forces you to do something you don’t want. In those cases, you should probably free yourself from this relationship or ask for help. However, if someone criticizes you or calls you names, tries to keep you from friends and activities you like, doesn’t respond when you talk or ignores you, and always has to win a discussion or argument – he or she is giving you reasons to believe the relationship is not worthwhile.  

It’s Harsh

It’s not easy to recognize a relationship as toxic but, it’s necessary. Believe it or not, the quality of your relationships can have a direct impact on your physical health. From lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease to faster recovery from illness and injury, the emotional support and encouragement we receive from our people have tangible effects on our physical well-being. Not to mention the impact it can have on our mental health – some folks can literally drive you crazy. So, keep in mind that moving on might be the best option in those situations.


I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to save a relationship. You should, if it’s not clearly an unhealthy, abusive one. In this case, the best thing to do is to move on. Forgiveness is a noble attitude, and we should all strive to forgive but, don’t get stuck if you can’t. You can decide to forgive or not. Give yourself some grace to find forgiveness at a later time, when it does not hurt anymore. Or just let the time help you learn to be indifferent. Toxic people deserve nothing other than indifference. Even if they are the closest people you have at the moment.

Healthy Connections

Meaningful relationships, on the other hand, offer a safe space for emotional expression and validation. Feeling safe to be your true self and to share your thoughts, emotions, and experiences it’s a sign of a healthy relationship. Having a safe container where you can be honest with each other, agree to disagree, and still have fun together is the type of relationship we should all strive to build. Yes, we build them. When you find people you trust and relate to respectfully, keep them for life! Those are the kind of people that bring love and light to your existence. And they can play many different roles in your life.

Improving Worthy Relationships

When you recognize you haven’t tried hard enough to nourish, and therefore build, a healthy relationship, you can (and should) improve your game. Harville Hendrix in his book Giving the Love That Heals says that negativity is the disease of the human race. Anything that puts another person down is negativity – it creates anxiety which blocks higher cerebral functioning like problem-solving. So, one way to improve your relationships is to avoid negativity in every interaction or communication. Another good way is to practice appreciation – because what you affirm grows, and what you pay attention to grows.

Mental Resilience 

Building and maintaining positive relationships can also bolster your intellect.  Engaging in meaningful conversations, intellectual discussions, and shared activities with others greatly stimulates our minds. Jim Kwik in his book Limitless says our social networks influence our neurological pathways through specialized brain cells known as mirror neurons, enabling us to learn and empathize by observing others. Surrounding ourselves with positive and uplifting individuals and ideas can expose us to favorable experiences and outcomes.

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” – Epictetus

Watch Out

So, as Jim also says, remember to WATCH who you spend your time with, as they undoubtedly affect your: Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character, and Habits. Relationships should give meaning and purpose to your life. Whether it’s nurturing family bonds, and friendships, or contributing to your community, the connections you create shape your future. Knowing that you are valued and appreciated by those around you is one more reason to strive for personal growth, pursue your passions, and make a positive impact in the world.

By bringing a loving focus to move on from toxic relationships and to build and enhance healthy ones in your life you will hugely impact your health and wellness. Hopefully, when you do so you’ll inspire your loved ones to do the same, starting the ripple effect.

After all: Good is what makes you feel well!


Anna Resende

Anna Resende

Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Certified by IIN - Institute for Integrative Nutrition

Every week I send out my newsletter called Mamma’s Tips where I share health and wellness topics, good books, recipes, and more. 

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I’m excited to share that I just published my first e-book

A Weekend of Feeling Great!

In this book, you’ll find all the steps you can take to feel great. Besides all the foundational principles of multidimensional health, it has a sample of a productive daily routine and a two-day menu with 10 healthy recipes for you to try.

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