March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM ET
Some studies have shown that surrounding yourself with good friends and strong relationships help people live a happier life. Liz Vaccariello from Reader's Digest explains how to handle your relationships with people closest to you.
Radical acceptance saves the day
The idea that we can fix flaws in our partners, friends, parents and grown children remains tantalizing. Trying to "correct" someone usually backfires. The other person may get the message that he or she isn't good enough and become resentful.
A healthier approach: look inward and compromise with husband, wife or kids.
Benign neglect is good for kids
Parents who hover and over parent can provoke eye rolls from developmental experts and teachers.
Regularly stepping in to protect kids from stress may hurt them in the long run. Studies found that over parenting leads to depression-prone, aimless kids (and ultimately, adults) who lack the ability to achieve goals.
A healthier approach: It's better to let kids live with occasional disappointment and resolve their own problems, while assuring them that their feelings are heard (even if you're the one saying no) and that you're available for support.
Opposites don't forever attract
The key to a happy, healthy relationship is choosing someone who is a lot like you. Studies have repeatedly underscored the importance of shared values, personality traits, economic backgrounds and religion, as well as closeness in age. Seek a partner whose passions differ enough from yours to expand your experience, but with whom you're aligned on big-picture issues: How to show affection, what constitutes a moral life, and how to raise children.
Social networks matter
We've all heard the usual advice for living longer: Exercise, don't smoke, eat well. But friendships are just as important. Researchers speculate that the stress associated with weak social support sets off a cascade of damaging reactions. Data from studies analyzing the relationship between health and social interaction, found that, over a period of about seven years, people with active social lives were 50 percent less likely to die of any cause than their nonsocial counterparts.
A healthier approach: Go back to the original meaning of the word "social," which is to interact with people in a meaningful way.
Lust wanes; love remains
Too often, couples assume a relationship is beyond repair when the intense romantic excitement ends and the arguing begins. Researchers say that real love comes after we see each other's imperfections.
A healthier approach: Avoid nasty zingers and air grievances to let couples speak their minds and take responsibility for their missteps. Also, work to restore the connection by trying something new or doing something caring and special for your partner.