Intimacy is something most of us strive to gain and maintain in our relationship. Intimacy is the feeling of achieving a total connection with your significant other. It is actually a necessity for mental well-being.
From the “Social Animal” to the Plague of the 21st Century
Nearly 2,300 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote:
Man is by nature a social animal; […] Society is something that precedes the individual.
Fast forward to the 21st century, human society has changed dramatically. Many people suffer in silence from various mental illnesses, the number one being depression. According to a research paper published by Paul R. Albert, Ph.D., in the journal of psychiatry and neuroscience, women are more predisposed to suffer from it,
The breaking down of social values, and even of interpersonal relationships, plays a key role in the exponential growth rate of depression, especially among women. However, this article is not about how to fix society and bring it back to Aristotle’s ideal. Instead, it is about how achieving and maintaining a healthy level of intimacy can help achieve and preserve well-being.
The Two Sides of Intimacy
There are two kinds of intimacy: emotional and physical. They are both equally important for human beings. As Mary Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D. noted in an article for the University of Minnesota,
Healthy relationships enable use to be who we are. They nurture us and they help us grow. They help us become better people.
In this context, mental well-being is a core part of who we are. An individual who has a positive self-image, confidence and an optimistic outlook on life reflects this positive mental state on everything: their relationship with their partner, their children, and their professional peers. Science backs up this claim and proved that people with poor personal relationships are at a greater risk of depression.
Coming back to the role of intimacy in a healthy and fulfilled life, we all need both types: emotional and physical. Let us look into detail at the role of each in boosting mental well-being.
Emotional intimacy is the core of any meaningful relationship. It nurtures trust, confidence and the feeling of having someone to talk to about the deepest fears and insecurities.
It is critical to be able to speak out and seek comfort and understanding without the fear of being judged. A trusted significant another can, with a few simple and heartfelt words, do more to boost self-confidence and mental well-being than 1,000 mantras and motivational quotes.
Physical intimacy refers to the love and affection you show to your significant other. Simple gestures, like hugging your significant other when they come back from a hard day at work, or cuddling during a movie. It means holding hands as you take a walk in a park.
These simple gestures are more than just an expression of affection. They are the daily dose of nourishment for mental well-being. In children, touch deprivation leads to developmental delays, both physical and mental.
In adults, the negative effects of lack of physical intimacy include:
- Aggressive behaviour
- Negative body image
- Increased levels of stress
- Mental health issues, especially depression.
Simple Ways to Nurture Intimacy and Boost Mental Well-being
Reaching a satisfactory level of intimacy does not happen overnight. Small steps and simple choices are required to find harmony and fulfillment together with a significant other.
Here are just a few suggestions:
1. Create a Beauty Ritual to Boost Body Image
We all need to feel attractive in order to enter into a romantic relationship and encourage intimacy. Each of us needs a pampering ritual that leaves us to feel beautiful, fresh and desirable. Perfume, deodorizing spray, facial masks and makeup can make a world of difference for anyone.
2. Build Routines with Your Partner
Routines are very important for emotional intimacy and mental well-being. They create a sense of security and confidence. It’s the little things that matter: having coffee together in the morning, going grocery shopping together, or sharing a hobby like jogging or gardening.
3. Adopt a Pet
For many couples, adopting a pet is the first step before parenthood or a replacement for it. Taking care of a pet and showering it with affection is also beneficial for the couple. They can create small routines around the pet (feeding, cleaning, taking them out for walks) and a propitious mood for speaking out about their emotions, plans for the future, and fears.
4. Understand Each Other’s Emotional State
At present, emotional intelligence is one of the most sought-after skills in life and business. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand another person’s feelings and state of mind and empathizing with them.
In a relationship, emotional intelligence is very important for achieving intimacy. Everyone has a bad day at work or gets caught in heavy traffic. And we can’t simply swipe a full day of stress in a few minutes and walk in the house with a cheerful mood and a smile upon our face.
Thus, it is important to understand and receive an understanding of negative moods and find ways to help each other relax and let go of negative emotions. This is also important because holding on to these negative emotions increases the risk of mental illnesses.
5. Dare to Do Something Different
Intimacy is based on common interests and daily routines but also needs to be revived and spiced up from time to time. Variety in life is also good for mental well-being. By nature, we are curious and willing to explore the world around us. Embrace this side of human nature with your partner and do something new from time to time.
For instance, travel to a place you’ve never visited before instead of your traditional holiday destination. Try cooking a new recipe you saw on a food blog. Try doing something creative together, such as repurposing old furniture or redecorating the house.
Each of these steps is a link in a chain – the chain that forms a strong and meaningful relationship where you are confident in sharing intimacy with your partner. In turn, this fulfilling intimacy will fuel your mental well-being and help your life in complete harmony with yourself.