As you work to create a healthier life, it’s important to look at ways you can strengthen your relationships. Strong relationships should be the main source of comfort and gratification in your life. Yet, at times, you may turn to food to fill a void.

Food is nourishment and nutrition; it’s not the answer for emotional pain. By evaluating and strengthening your relationships, the goal is to reduce the emotional pain you’re feeling, as you commit to returning food to its proper context in your life. Let’s look over another six ways you can be proactive in maintaining a healthy relationships:

  1. Always attempt to communicate with an attitude of acceptance—and with love and affection, where applicable. When this is your attitude verbally, it translates into body language, which the other person will read. This attitude opens doors for communication and makes it safe to be open. Think “mercy, grace, and forgiveness” as opposed to “hostility, anger, and frustration.”
  1. Make sure your motivation to engage in the conversation is one of enhancing and improving the relationship. Most people don’t respond well to mean-spirited criticism. If you do feel you need to bring up a critique, be strategic in how you present it, and when. Bringing it up when the other person feels down or irritable is a surefire opening for an argument, not a discussion. The goal of bringing it up is to provide closure, not blow open the floodgates of a dispute.
  1. Allow the other person to make his or her own decisions. This can be especially difficult if you’ve set in your mind what you’re sure they are supposed to do. (This applies to adult relationships. Children are certainly entitled to their own opinion about the situation and should feel free to express them appropriately, but as the parent, or adult, your decision may still need to stand.) You are free to explain your reasons why a certain decision would be the most advantageous, but the other person has the right to decide differently.
  1. Seek to inspire trust by extending understanding to the other people and by responding honestly to what is said. It does not build trust in a relationship if you do not express how you truly feel. The other person will eventually pick up on your duplicity and this can strain even the closest relationship.
  1. Always be sure to seek forgiveness yourself when you make a mistake. Notice, I didn’t say if you make a mistake, but when. You will make mistakes; everyone does. Don’t just pretend it didn’t happen and say nothing. Relationships are often built up best through mutual forgiveness. Admitting your own failures will create an atmosphere of openness so other people will feel safer admitting their own mistakes.
  1. Be accountable for what you say you will do. Guilt is one of the strongest negative emotions that can eat away at your insides, provoking a reach for food to numb the pain. Don’t feel guilty about not doing what you said you would—just do it, and feel good about yourself!

Look over these six ways to build up and improve your existing relationships. Identify the one you’ve got down pat. Identify, also, the one that gives you the most trouble and think about why you have difficulty in this area. Be honest about the roots of this behavior and commit to intentionally responding in a different way.

Work hard to be aware of every interaction you have. Make it positive! And if it isn’t, make sure you did all you could to keep it from going sour. If it does, you’ll know it wasn’t because of anything you did. Then you can let it go and move on.