We all know the old adage 'a problem shared is a problem halved' but can having an open and honest conversation really make you feel better? Can it in fact make you healthier or bring you greater wellbeing? More importantly, can addressing your biggest fears about the future have a beneficial effect on your health and wellbeing?
We are all ageing. It is a fact of life, try as we might to slow its visible effect with creams and potions and to reduce its physical impact with good diet and exercise. Aging can mean we transition to a period of life where we no longer work, maybe even where we can't look after ourselves that well. And what then? Who - or what - will be there to support us?
These topics were explored at a recent School of Life event, hosted by AXA. The art of open conversation, from small talk to deeper issues, was examined in a workshop attended by 15 couples. In order to explore how conversation could benefit us, we wanted to encourage people to talk about the things in their future which scared them, to answer questions such as 'If your entire financial history were posted online, what would you feel most embarrassed about?', 'What did you used to dream about achieving by this point in your life?', and 'Complete this sentence: If I died tomorrow, and my partner found love again within a year, I would feel...'
The results were captured on film with most couples admitting that they would like to make more of an effort to speak with one another more often, and with more honesty.
It's easy for us to sail through life without thinking about our future, without thinking about what might happen if there was a death in the family, or if you had an accident. But having these difficult conversations can be good for you - they can do wonders for your mental health. In fact, not having these conversations could inhibit your ability to realise your potential now and in the future. Failing to have a conversation about how you will support yourself in old age for example, is crucial if you are sharing your house, life and finances with your partner.
Our research revealed that 79 per cent of adults who have struggled with their mental health said their physical health had also suffered - it is a dangerous circle to get trapped in. As scary as it may seem, having an open conversation with your loved ones about your fears for the future could well help some of those fears dissipate. So how do we start that conversation?
It's a bold move, but beginning by highlighting that you are not intending to upset anyone, such as saying 'I'm worried this is going to upset you, but I feel we ought to discuss it...' can really help you to broach the subject. From there, you just need to rip off the plaster and say what it is that worries you, for example, 'I'm worried we won't have enough money to get by comfortably'. Where the conversation goes from there is up to you and your partner, but ultimately, having the conversation could make you feel much happier - no matter what its outcome. If you uncover that you don't think you'll be physically fit enough or have enough money to live life well in the future then it's better to know now, whilst you still have the opportunity to do something about it.
Tempting as it is to ignore those lingering thoughts and worries, they are likely to mature and grow if nothing is done about them. So before you end up experiencing countless sleepless nights, might it be time to have that delicate conversation you've been putting off?