Building a better relationship - things to try

 

With all the daily stresses and responsibilities we face each day, it can be easy to lose track of our relationship and get disconnected from our partner. Yes, keeping a relationship strong requires great effort. But there are simple, proven exercises that couples therapists recommend to deepen your relationship and make it more fulfilling.

If you have tried couples therapy before, you probably have encountered several of these.

 

Active Listening

Many times, a simple conversation could lead to a week-long of cold war or simultaneous arguments. That is why a lot of couples therapy exercises are designed to make both partners ‘active’ listeners. Active listening doesn’t only make discussion of sensitive issues easier, but also allows both of you to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.  When practising active listening, it is important for the speaker to remain focused on a single thought or point, and for the listener to concentrate on sharing their partner’s perspective. Here are simple rules to follow when practising active listening:

  • Listen to what your partner is saying. Take notes if necessary.
  • Let your partner know you understand every bit of information he/she says by wrapping it up in your own words, without adding your own point of view, and without judgement or criticism. If your partner said you got it, let him/her proceed. Otherwise, ask him/her to tell you what you missed.
  • Validate your feelings. Validating is a way to tell how your partner’s feelings make sense to you, or how you are able to understand your partner by putting yourself in his/her shoes. This could be the most difficult step, but with practice, you can get better at it.
  • Exchange roles.

Spare a few minutes daily to practise this exercise and see how it can enhance many aspects of your relationship. Whatever the issue is, the best way to practise active listening is to do it with patience and love.

 

Appreciation List

 

Study after study shows that grateful couples are happier and more resilient. Appreciation is vital to a relationship. But sometimes, especially among long-term couples, appreciating becomes a rare thing. If you’re lacking of this, there’s a very simple exercise that couples therapists recommend and it only requires making a list. Here it goes – daily, for five days, write down things that your partner did for you that you appreciated. They don’t have to be grand. Simple, sweet acts would do, like taking your dog for a walk, watering your plants, preparing your breakfast, making you smile, massaging your pounding head, etc. After the five days, exchange lists.

It is very easy to feel that you are being taken for granted and feel that your partner doesn’t recognise your efforts and the little things you do for him/her. This simple exercise can help both of you see and appreciate small gestures of love and care that you have for each other.

 

Using Positive Language

 

Miscommunication is a common problem among couples. Many of us often make false interpretations of what our partner is saying. This can lead to arguments, emotional disconnection and feelings of rejection. Couples therapy exercises can greatly deepen your bond and help you tackle even the most complicated issues without lashing or arguing. One of the best exercises for better communication is using positive language.  A good communication exercise is using "you said" and "I heard" statements during conversations. In this exercise, you and your partner take turns repeating the other person’s statement and explaining your own interpretation of the message. Beginning your sentence with “I heard” makes your partner feel that you pay attention to and care about what he or she is saying. Saying these two words is like saying “I’m listening to you because what you have to tell me is important”.

 

Love List

 

Many times, we get too caught up doing things that we think our partner would really love and appreciate that we forget to ask ourselves – is it what he/she really desires? We need not always do or spend so much to please our special someone. Sometimes, it’s again the little, sweet acts that matter to them. Whilst surprises and gifts are really so romantic – sometimes, it’s the affectionate gestures like running errands for him/her, sitting with your partner to watch the same movie over and over again, or kissing him/her before leaving for work and the moment he/she comes home are enough to make your partner feel loved by you. A great exercise that therapists usually ask couples to do is to write down five things your partner can do, or does to make you feel loved.

 

Dating

 

Lots of couples stop dating after marriage, which is wrong. Dating is essential to keeping the fire burning and retaining the kind of excitement you both have experienced before. Maintaining relationships require hard work, and can be really stressful at times. Therefore, it is important for you and your partner to relax and unwind. Arranging a trip with your partner can be one great way to practise the above exercises whilst having a little fun. It doesn’t have to be a grand vacation. A simple getaway will do as long as you are in a place where you can relax – away from the things that remind you of your work, responsibilities, and all others that stress you out.

 

Intimacy Builder

 

When you already have kids, intimacy becomes much more of a challenge. Intimacy is about being emotionally close to your partner. It’s also about being able to bring your defences down and accept and share in your partner’s thoughts and feelings. It’s about being able to share your “inner world” to this person. Intimacy is basically one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship. Many couples start out their relationship thinking that they have achieved the highest level of intimacy that they have never experienced before. Yet, as years go by and they go through the highs and lows of marriage, they tend to discover a series of deeper levels in their intimacy. And each discovery only makes their relationship deeper and more rewarding.

A great intimacy builder routine, which you can do daily, involves sitting facing each other and closer that your knees are almost touching. Take a minute or several minutes to look into each other’s eyes. Assess your own reactions and thoughts. And share them with your partner. Feel the moment. Experience the closeness. This exercise is one way to connect with your partner after a hard, tiring and busy day.

 

Every relationship goes through rough waters. Incorporating all if not some of these basic couples therapy exercises can greatly improve many areas of your relationship and help you and your partner deal with issues more effectively, and grow closer. Marriage counselling exercises can also help you revive intimacy, strengthen the bond between you two, and maintain a healthy, happy and lasting relationship.

 

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Ways to boost your confidence

 

Confidence. It is something we need on a daily basis. It is something we need to start the day right, end it right, and prepare for another one. We need it to reach our goals, face the challenges ahead, and be successful in life.

There are a lot of ways to build confidence. And one of the most helpful is to go beyond our comfort zone. When you push yourself to do things that give you a little discomfort, scare you or intimidate you, you expand your comfort zone and learn to become more comfortable in doing things.

Apart from going beyond your comfort zone, below are five key habits that are have proven to have confidence-building capabilities.

Accept the reality.

Many people are fond of wishing that things would have been different from what they are. They wish they have a different job. They wish they were richer. They wish their partners would behave differently in certain situations. But getting stuck in wishing for things to be different is rejecting the reality, which crushes your confidence. Instead of making us more confident, it gives us regret, anxiety, and anguish that all destroy our confidence.

Learn a new craft.

Learning should not end the moment you graduate from school. Learning is an ongoing process. We all should strive for learning no matter what age we are, regardless of what point in life we are now. Learning a new craft is a great way to build confidence. Mastering a skill gives us a sense of accomplishment which in turn, boosts our performance.

Meditate.

How does meditation boost confidence? While it does not directly impact our self-esteem, the amazing benefits of meditation significantly impact our confidence level. Practising this mind-body technique is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, through lowering blood pressure and resting heart rate. And just in case you didn’t know – stress and anxiety are two of the biggest threats to our confidence. When you are stressed, anxious and emotionally not feeling well, you are less likely to have high self-esteem.

Work out.

This may come to a surprise, but working out does really benefit your self-esteem. Same with meditation, exercising can greatly reduce stress and anxiety, and boost positive feelings. Of course when you are feeling great, so is your self-esteem. Speaking of exercise, lifting weights should be part of your workout routine. Lifting weights builds muscle and physical strength, which makes us stronger, mentally and physically. Also, losing excess fats keep us in shape and enhance our physical appearance, thus, boosting our confidence.

Prepare.

It is hard to feel confident about anything when you are unprepared. Think about taking an exam. How would you be confident when you didn’t study? Now, think of life as an exam. How would you prepare for it?

Smile.

Not really sure how to do it? Smile. Smile is a little tiny thing that can have a huge impact on your self-esteem. It calms you, and puts positive vibes to the people around you. Smiling doesn’t cost a thing. But your self-esteem will thank you.

Be grateful.

The more you think about what you do not have and what you can’t have, the less confident you become. Simply thinking about your positive attributes, as well as your accomplishments and blessings, can already boost your confidence. Remember, you don’t have the right to wish for more when you can’t fully appreciate what you already have.

 

 

 

 

Anxiety

 

Do you always find yourself feeling anxious every now and then and couldn’t figure out how to deal with it? Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. But sometimes, it becomes unbearable that it already affects our quality of life. Anxiety involves both physical and mental symptoms that further stress us out.

 

But don’t worry. You can get through it. The next time you are hit by anxiety, here are some very helpful tools that give you immediate relief:

 

Practise mindfulness. When you are anxious, your mind is off the present moment. It is occupied with so many thoughts of the past and the future - yep - even things that haven’t happened yet. The moment you realise that you are succumbing to negative thoughts, intentionally focus on the present. Snap those scenarios in your mind away, and just breathe. Brining yourself back to awareness is really liberating. It allows you to feel in control of yourself. So how do you practise mindfulness during stressful moments? First, breathe.

Then look down on your body. Notice your clothes, your feet, and the comfort level you are experiencing at the moment. Notice any tension you feel at any part of your body. And slowly, release the tension. Lastly, look around you. Notice the details of your surroundings. When your mind starts to wander again, bring it back to the present. Don’t feel bad. It’s normal.

 

Laugh a little more. When anxiety-provoking moments strike, having an extra dose of laughter can be really helpful. Laughter is one simple and free tool that alleviates symptoms of anxiety and lifts your mood. When you laugh, the ‘happy hormones’ in your brain activate which gives you positive feelings.

It could be difficult to insert some laughter when you are already stressed out. So just like mindfulness, you want to intentionally make yourself feel better. Rest for a while. Watch a funny video or a comedy film. Chat with a jolly friend. There are so many ways to add joy to your life. And yes, it’s the best medicine.

 

Get rid of the grudge.  The longer you hold on to your grudges, the worse you will feel and the more anxious and stressed you become. Practising forgiveness may be a difficult challenge. But the reward is amazing. Not only does it help restore the connection you have with another person. It also greatly improves your health and well-being.

Healing takes time. Don’t push yourself if you can’t forgive. But don’t prevent yourself from forgiving when you feel like you are ready enough. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean having to acquaint with him or her again. It simply means forgiving that person for what they did and allowing yourself to move forward with life, without hurt or resentment over that person you wronged you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journalling?  Keeping a diary?  It can be a good idea to help you organise your thoughts daily. It can help you give an outlet to your thoughts and feelings like no other.  Here are a few ways that it can help up when you keep a regular, daily journal.

 

 

Slowing down your thought process.  If you mind if all jumbled up with thoughts and feelings and emotions that don't make sense, journalling gives your mind the opportunity to slow down and process those emotions.  Sometimes we can use this if we can't find someone to talk to.  Journalling is an effective way to help you identify what's going on and help clarify your emotions.

 

When you start to clarify your thoughts when you can start to reflect and understand and know yourself better.  You may start to identify thought patterns and any emotional blocks that could be hindering your.  Similarly, any strengths and qualities can be identified which you can utilise in your life. 

 

If the difficulty is an argument, then writing about the events can help you understand the other person's point of view so you may feel better able to deal with it and maybe resolve the conflict or identify any triggers you have.

 

Wrting about events can give you a sense of what is around you and help you be more grateful of good things and events. Psychological researchers from the University of California at Davis, found that participants who wrote a daily journal about five things they were grateful for felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems than those who wrote about the daily hassles they experience and those who didn’t write a journal at all.

 

When you get into a routine of writing a journal you may notice patterns of behaviour which you can identify.  You may not have been aware of these previously and you may notice how these are contributing to the issues you are experiencing at the present.

 

Your journal can be a place where you express your true self and you won't be worried about being judged and you can feel free to express all your emotions.

 

Journallinghas therapeutic benefits and is cheaper than seeing a therapist! In the study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Psychology, the psychological stress levels of athletes who were asked to write about their negative experiences related to their injuries and treatments were significantly lower than that of the control group.

 

You can find a place to plan for your future and look at your specific goals.  Your goals can be weekly challenges for small changes in your life or for more life challenging events.  Be reflecting in your journal about your success or otherwise  by doing the challenges, can also be insightful by looking at how you managed it, how it felt, was it really what you wanted?

 

 

 

 

Lynn Wulcko

Heathbury

Baker's Lane

Chilcompton

BA3 4EW

07531 555 878

 

 

 

I am a fully insured Registered Member of BACP