5 Ways to Improve your Relationship

How is your relationship going between you and your partner/spouse/significant other? Are the coals of love, kindled long ago when you first both fell head over heals for each other, still burning bright and hot or have they become dim, dying embers that are on the brink of burning out?

No matter where you are in your relationship, there is always a need to stop and take stock of where your love for one another is.

Below is a list (by no means an exhaustive one at that) that will help stir up the coals and strengthen your relationship.

1. Put away your phone.

How do you feel when you want to talk to your partner but they seem more interested in checking out the latest cute kitten video on YouTube or busy texting their friends? It’s not great huh?

I have been guilty of doing this myself at dinner time and it irks my wife. I have apologised and repented and vowed not to use my phone while having dinner.

Surveys conducted by Baylor University show that using cellphones while spending time with each other can lead to a deterioration in relationships and even depression.

So, put away your phones. Set aside time just to be with each other without any sign of technology nearby and see your relationship blossom anew.

2. Don’t try and change your partner

We are not ideal beings. We are human and fallible and have faults. Once we accept that the easier it is to accept other people.

When you and your partner first met you fell in love because there was something there that attracted you to one another. You get married and then you start to see another side of each other that you didn’t know existed. A side that might irritate you. He cuts his toenails with your sewing scissors. She uses your shaver on her legs. These are small things, but annoying. You can talk to each other about them.

However, you might have an ideal of what you want your partner to become and try and mould them into this fictitious person only to be met with frustration and heated arguments.

Accept each other for who you are. Each of us are unique individuals. Celebrate diversity rather than ubiquity.

One final comment. If you find yourself in a verbally or physically abusive relationship then seek professional help. Don’t stay in it under an illusion that the person will change.

3.Forgive

Don’t hold grudges or remind your partner of the thing that they did wrong or failed to to do. Did they upset you? Did they hurt you? Inevitably every relationship is going to experience hurt between one another.

When your partner genuinely apologises to you, forgive them and let it go. It’s liberating for not only you but for your relationship. Unforgiveness only leads to bitterness and hatred and destruction of your relationship.

Forgive, let go and move forward.

4. Show gratitude

When was the last time you thanked your significant other? When someone says “Thank you” to you for something you did (it might have been something small) how did it make you feel?

Show appreciation to each other. Not every now and then. Not once in a blue moon. Show it EVERY DAY and see how your relationship will bloom.

5. Don’t focus on the negatives.

If we’re honest enough with ourselves we realise that we all make mistakes. We aren’t perfect. When you always have someone pointing out the things you do wrong you will get weary of the person pretty quickly.

You will always find what you are looking for and focused on. If you focus on the things that your partner does wrong, then you’ll soon find yourself heading on the highway to Splitsville. Focus on the positives and you’ll find yourself living in Pleasantville where you will love and adore each other.

Do these 5 things and see how your relationship strengthens and blooms.

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Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream

We all have at least one: a dream (and I don’t mean the ones that occur when you lay your head down at night and slip into the World of Nod). What is the purpose of our dream(s)? They stir us. They give us a motivation and hope of achieving and accomplishing something that is currently lacking in our life.

What dreams do you have? They don’t necessarily have to be financial or materialistic. Perhaps you want to do more exercise. Or maybe you want to relax more. Stress less. Spend more time with family and friends. Write a book. Start a new hobby. The list is endless. The dreams don’t have to be lofty. Nor do they have to be what everyone else wants. Dreams are individualistic. What I dream of achieving can be completely different than what you dream of doing.

How long have you had the dreams for and, most importantly, what are you doing to bring your dreams to pass. When you keep your dream in the forefront of your mind, it transforms into a desire. That is when the motivation kicks in. The dream is now something you want. Don’t just relegate the dream back into the vagueness of your semi-consciousness only to drag it out every now and then, dust it off and then say “Oh, yeah! I want to do that someday”. Think about your dreams constantly. Talk about them to those who will encourage you and support you. Do not mention your dreams to people who will ridicule you and make you doubt yourself. (You want allies and supporters not detractors!)

When you keep the dream before you, you will feel, as I have mentioned, that it becomes a desire. The longer you consciously think and talk about the dream, the stronger the desire becomes. You may even realise that somehow along the journey the desire has now become a want, or even a need. The drive and motivation towards realising the dream becomes more intense. Law of Attraction advocates state that we should act as if the dream is now a reality in our lives (then we can’t help but see the manifestation of the dream!).

You can fall into complacency and think “I’ll do it someday.” Yet, let me tell you, someday never comes and is always pushed further and further into the future. START NOW! 

Write down your dreams. Keep the list before you. Then make the first step toward achieving. It’s not going to be easy to get started. You may not even know where or how to start bringing the dream to pass.  But make a start and figure it out along the way. Keep focused. Press on and then you will find that your dream is no longer merely a dream. It is now…

REALITY!!

 

Experience the Now

now_clock

It is granted that life can keep us busy. In the mornings, whilst having breakfast, you may be thinking about the day ahead. Planning what you are going to do. Are the kids ready for school? Have I got everything ready for work? Where did I put that report that’s due today? Looking at the clock, you panic as there is only 15 minutes before you have to be out the door. During the day you rush from one task to the other. If only you could just “STOP!”

Does that sound familiar? Does the above describe you? Are you wishing that life would just slow down for a minute so you could enjoy it a bit more? Do you sometimes wish time would come to a screeching halt, even for a split second, so that you can stop being so busy and enjoy life? When we get so focused on being busy, we lose focus of what is happening around us. So how do we “stop” in our busyness?  All it takes is a conscious effort.

For the two weeks (or try and make it four weeks, as it is said it takes at least a month to form a new habit) try this experiment:

During the day, just stop what you are doing for five minutes. Close your eyes and take in some deep breathes. Focus on your breathing. Do this for a minute. Now open your eyes and just look around you. What do you see? Look at the things around you as though it is the first time you have seen them. What are the shapes and colours of the objects? Listen. What do you hear? Are there any sounds in the distance? What are they? Now close your eyes and sniff the air. What can you smell? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? What else can you smell? Now focus on yourself. How do you feel? Are you relaxed or stressed? If you still feel stressed, do some more deep breathing and visualise the air rushing through your body, relaxing and energising every part of it.

After the exercise, ask yourself how you feel? Did you find yourself more aware as to what is happening around you?

We all need to take time out of our daily busyness and appreciate what is happening “here and now”. Instead of our minds constantly thinking ahead, planning what to do next, we need to experience “this moment”. It’s more than a superficial experience. When we begin to use all of our senses in a more profound way, then we will begin to find a new richness in the life around us.

It is then that we truly “experience the now.” When our minds are constantly planning ahead, it is robbing us of the chance to experience “this moment” in all it’s richness and diversity.

So, do yourself a favour, stop and enjoy “now”! You will find that life takes on a new, exciting and profound level.

 

 

Rewire your brain

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It has been claimed that our brains are naturally wired for negativity. This isn’t so bad as it helps up become aware of dangers and threats that surround us. It is only when everything is seen in a negative light that it becomes maladaptive.

Here’s an experiment that you can try for yourself. If you do something wrong, what is/are the first thought(s) that enter into your mind? Are they positive or negative?

Another exercise you can do, to see which way your brain is wired, is to keep a “thought journal” for a week. You can keep it for longer if you want, a month would be ample time. At the end of your chosen period, make a list of all the positive and negative thoughts. Which category is greater?

If you find that you automatically think negatively, or that you have a greater ratio of negative thoughts to positive ones, then it is time to do some rewiring work.

Remember, not all negative thoughts are bad. It’s only when the negative thoughts have no real basis in reality that there is a problem. You need to be honest with yourself and ask how accurate your negative thinking is.

Just as there may be faulty wiring in a house, we also may discover that we possess “faulty wiring”. What happens if we neglect to deal with the faulty wiring we discover in a house? There is the risk that such wiring can cause a fire and the house is destroyed. Our metaphorical house is our health, well-being and our relationships. If we don’t deal with the faulty wiring in our thinking, we can end up burnt-out and our relationships destroyed.

If we find that our physical house has faulty wiring, we need to replace the wiring with new wiring. So it is with the wiring in our brain. If our negative thinking is found to have no basis in facts, then we need to have a “rewiring”. The maladaptive negative thinking is akin to the faulty wiring that threatens the house. It threatens our well-being, our happiness, our peace and serenity and also affects our relationships.

But how do we go about rewiring our thoughts? It is a process, just as it is in determining where the faulty wiring is hidden behind the walls of a house. Once it is discovered, then the wiring can be replaced with the new wiring. So, the first step is awareness. Once we have a negative thought, we need to determine whether it is natural and helpful (remember that not all negative thoughts are bad). If we decide that the the negative thought is faulty, then we need to replace it with a positive thought. We are now on the way to rewiring our thinking.

The next step is to look for positive things in your life. Sometimes we take things for granted. We stop appreciating things and, more importantly, people. When was the last time you told someone how much you appreciate them? When was the last time you just stopped and appreciated nature? Go for a walk and just listen to the sounds of nature. Look at the beauty of the flowers and the trees. When we start to become more aware and thankful for the positive things surround us every day, then our brains will automatically begin to forge new channels for the positive thoughts to flow through.

Another step is to look at our self-image. What do you think about yourself? Do you like yourself, or hate yourself? How do you react when someone says something nasty to you. Do you believe the comments the person has made? Or do you just explain it away as the person is having a bad day? We can’t avoid people saying negative things to us, but we can avoid taking the comments on board as facts about us. If you find that you are mulling over the bad comments made towards you, then you need to ask yourself why you are thinking about the comments. At a fundamental level you may believe that the comments are true. But is this an accurate assessment of who you truly are? For example, I used to be told that I am no good and that I would never amount to anything. I believed that, because that is the message I was given several times a week as I was growing up. Then as I got older, I would sometimes have someone say to me “You’re useless.” I would go over the comment over and over again in my mind and I would agree with the comments. Why? Because that was the message that had been “programmed” into my brain. In other words, my brain was wired to think the negative comments were true.

So, how do we go about rewiring our thinking from a negative self-image, into a positive self image? Again, it is a process. As we encounter a negative self-belief, we need to find an opposing positive self-belief. In my example, as I achieved things in life, I realised that I’m not useless. So whenever someone made comments along that line, I would dismiss such comments by remembering the things that I have achieved. As you challenge the negative self-image, with a positive self-image, you are rewiring your brain.

It has been suggested that to overcome 1 negative comment/criticism requires 5 positive comments. Here’s some homework for you. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned about keeping a “Thought journal” for a week in which you record your thinking. Again, I want you to keep a notebook and record down nothing but positive thoughts for the duration of the exercise. How long you want to do it for is up to you, but I recommend at least a month (as that is usually the duration it takes to replace old habits with new habits).

By challenging your negative thoughts, determining whether they are healthy or not, you are on your way to rewiring you brain. It’s a process. It will take time. But the results are worth it!

Let your rewiring begin!

 

Seek hope

Hi everyone,

First I want to apologise, it’s been a long time since my last post.

Over the past several months I have relocated to a new country and the transition has been hard at times. There have been high points but these have been far exceeded by low points when I have hit the bottom of despair and felt like I could not carry on. Through these times there has been someone who has been my angel who has told me not to give up and remain positive. My wife.

Reflecting back on the low points I find that hope had abandoned me and that there was little point pushing forward. However, I could still see glints of hope breaking through the black, heavy clouds of despair. My angel was also by my side encouraging me to keep going.

When I had things to hope for, I was fine. But then those things would be taken away and I would find myself back in the downward spiral. I was tired of pushing forward when there was nothing to hope for. Looking to the horizon for something, anything that could give me hope,  I would, at times find something and then I realised things aren’t as bad as they seem.

From the past half year I have learned that one needs hope. Without hope, there is nothing to strive for, nothing to look forward to. When my wife was telling me to remain positive, I replied that at times it’s hard to do so when things weren’t happening the way I imagined they would. Yet she was the rock that kept me anchored. My focus was on the things that weren’t happening rather than on the things that were happening. When someone is in the grips of despair and hopelessness, their focus emphasises the negative and ignores the positive. The opposite happens when you are feeling great and have hope.

I have also realised that things don’t happen the way you expect them to. Life loves to through “curve balls” at you. It’s how you deal with those balls that determines if you’re going to win or lose the game. At times I found I punted them and other times I hit them out of the park. You also need to hit the balls out of the park and win the game.

When it seems that hope has abandoned you and there is little reason to move forward, seek out something to hope for and make your way towards it.

 

 

 

What is Reflecting back at you?

LionCatHi folks, how are you all doing?

I want to start this post with an illustration:

John wakes up to a beautiful, sunny morning. The birds are singing and he gets out of bed and thinks to himself “Today is going to be a great day!”. On the drive to work he gets stuck in traffic, but isn’t too phased by the hold up because he realises that that is just part of living in a major city. So he turns up his radio and sings along to the song that is playing. When he finally gets to work, he smiles at his colleagues and greets them. They smile back and return the greeting. They like John because he is usually happy and cheerful and lights up the work place with his positivity.

During the day, he receives some bad news. A deal he has spent some time on has fallen through. Even though he is upset over the news, he just accepts that sometimes “You can’t win ’em all.” But even though he has lost that deal, he usually considers what may have gone wrong and takes learnings from it. Then gets on with enjoying the rest of the day. 

Let’s consider another person, Don:

Don wakes up to the same sunny, beautiful day that John had woken up to. Don just knows that today is going to be an awful day. Why? Because Don says that everyday is awful. Don is always quick to point out what has gone wrong, who is to blame for things going wrong and reasons as to why he should not bother. “What’s the point? Things will just get screwed up like they always do.” 

Don is caught in a traffic jam, he toots his horn and screams out at the cars in front of him. When he arrives late for work, it is not his fault “The damn idiots on the road made me late!” His work colleagues try and avoid him because he is always moody and negative. In the afternoon, he is told that a client he had been talking to for a major deal has declined to go ahead with it. Don says “I knew that would happen. Things like that are always happening to me!” 

In the 2 illustrations we have two different individuals sharing quite a similar day. But what is the difference? Simply, the mind set between John and Don! Don is so negative and with this negativity he is focused on everything that goes wrong around him. John on the other had is always looking at the positive things that happen in his day. Sure, he missed out on the deal, but it didn’t affect him like it did with Don.

When you are in a negative frame of mind you are always looking at all the negative things that happen and use those things to justify why you are so negative. The same is also true for people who look at the positive things in life. They see the good things that happen and put those things forward as evidence for their positivity. Does that mean that bad things don’t happen to people who are positive? NO! It just means that instead of treating the bad things as a major catastrophe, those with a positive outlook reframe the event and look at it as maybe a slight set-back, a challenge to overcome or just simply something that was beyond their control to deal with.

How do you view your world? Do you always see the negative things that happen? Do you always focus on the negative way people have treated you? Are you always quick to blame others for the problems you face? If so, then I recommend that you change your mind-set! How do you change from a negative view of the world to a positive one? It will not happen over night. You will not magically go to bed thinking “In the morning I am going to be so positive and happy and love the world!” and then wake up in the morning with a complete personality change. It takes small, progressive steps.

Here are some things you can start doing:

  1. Show appreciation of yourself! How can you get others to like you and accept you if you do not love and accept yourself? Make a list of your positive qualities. Look at that list everyday and tell yourself that you are a beautiful, unique individual.
  2. Smile: When you smile, even when you don’t feel like it, you will be amazed at how your thoughts pull into line!
  3. Practice gratitude: How often do you thank somebody for a kind word they have said, or a kind deed that they have done?
  4. Do a selfless act: Each day make it a goal to do a random selfless act. The joy and appreciation you will receive will make your day!
  5. Focus on your successes: What have you done well? What are you good at? Is there anything you have accomplished? If so, then think about that accomplishment and then focus on what you want to accomplish next? If you are yet to accomplish something, then go out and do it!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a step in the right direction.

Let me know how you get on!!

 

Focus on Yourself!

One of the banes of society is that people seem to compare their lifestyle with those around them. How many times have we looked at the metaphorical “Joneses” and wished that we had what they have? How does it make you feel when you compare your life with those around you? We can either find that we are satisfied or unsatisfied with our lot in life.

In psychology there is a term – social comparison. This is where we compare ourselves with those around us and use that as a gauge for our life satisfaction. There are 2 types of this comparison: Upward Comparison and Downward Comparison and both of these evoke different emotions.

Upward comparison occurs when we compare our life with those who we perceive to have a better life than us. They may earn more than us, have a bigger house than us, seem to be more successful than us. The other day I was having a conversation with a person who was experiencing such a comparison. The person came across as being resentful toward the person they were comparing themselves to. That is the danger with upward comparison, it can make you feel like you have failed in your life. It fills you with feelings of dissatisfaction and maybe jealousy. It could lead you to feeling depressed as you begin to see what you think is lack in your life.

The other side of the coin is when we look at those who have less than us. People who are socially and economically inferior to us. This is what downward comparison is. When we come across people who have less than what we have, then we feel that things are not as bad as we thought. We feel that we have got a good life, we are not struggling as much as we thought we were. We have food on the table and a roof over our heads. How do you feel when you compare yourself to those who are lower down on the socio-economic ladder? You probably feel satisfied with your life, you see the abundance that you have, you feel happy and confident.

It is interesting to see the contrasts in the paradigms when we consider social comparisons: one can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, lack and sadness. The other leads to feelings of satisfaction, abundance and happiness. What has led to these differences in feelings? Simply this: Who are you focusing on and comparing yourself to?

True happiness does not come by focusing on the lives of those around us and seeing how we “stack up”. We need to focus on one thing only: ourselves and our life.  That may sound selfish but it isn’t! We need to begin to compare ourselves to ourselves. Are you growing as a person? Are you the same person you were a week ago? A month ago? A year ago? What changes have you made to improve yourself (not as a means of pleasing other people, but as a way of accepting yourself and loving yourself as a unique human being.) You will also find a flow-on effect on those around you as your life becomes more positive and richer.

If you find that you are always concerned about how you life is compared to those around you, please STOP! You will never experience true happiness. Look at who you are now and compare that to who you were. Who do you want to be in the future? When you realise that you have grown as human being, then that is true happiness and satisfaction.