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6 Steps to Mindfully Deal With Difficult Emotions

Let’s get real here. For most of us – myself included – life is fast-paced and chock full of family, relationship, and work stressors. This reality, along with the ever-increasing pressures of technology and society at large, can really take a toll on your marriage. As a result, difficult emotions like anger, confusion, fear, loneliness, and sadness, just to name a few, can arise. Emotions like these are often the most present and powerful forces in your life.

The key to overcoming these difficult emotions is mindfulness! Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm down and soothe yourself. In this state, you have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than react.

Following these six steps will help you to understand and deal with your difficult emotions in a mindful way:

1. Turn toward your emotions with acceptance
Once you become aware of the emotion you are feeling, notice where it is in your body. You may feel it as a stomachache, a tightening of your throat, the pounding of your heart, or tension somewhere. Sit with this anger, anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, sadness, shame, or whatever emotion you are experiencing. Become aware of it and don’t ignore it. If this is difficult, get up and walk around or get a cup of tea.

The key here is to not push the emotion away. Bottling it up inside will only cause it to bubble up and explode later, resulting in more difficult emotions or even a complete emotional shutdown. Listen to your difficult emotions. They are trying to help you wake up to what is going on before a major crisis occurs.

2. Identify and label the emotion
Instead of saying, “I am angry”, say, “This is anger” or, “This is anxiety.” In this way, you’re acknowledging its presence, while simultaneously empowering you to remain detached from it.

When my husband was in the hospital before he passed, I felt a deep sense of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. I needed to acknowledge and identify the emotions and say to myself, “I know that I am experiencing anxiety and fear right now and I don’t know what will happen, but I am going to just ‘be’ with it.” Although it remained an extremely painful experience to the end, identifying and labeling my emotions in this way allowed me to take some of the pain out of what I was feeling. This, in turn, allowed me to stay in the present, versus catapulting me into the future, or trapping me in the past. Being thrust in either direction would have only caused me to blame myself. I can just imagine how that critical voice would have rung out, “If only you would have done something different, maybe there would have been a different outcome.”

3. Accept your emotions
When you are feeling a certain emotion, don’t deny it. Acknowledge and accept that the emotion is present, whether it is anxiety, grief, sadness, or whatever you are experiencing in that moment. Through mindful acceptance you can embrace difficult feelings with compassion, awareness, and understanding towards yourself and your partner.

Think of a friend or a loved one who might be having a hard time. What would you say to them? Bring the scenario of what you would say to them into your mind’s eye. Now, say the same thing to yourself: “I am ok. I am not to blame. I did the best I could.” Hold these images and phrases within yourself with loving kindness and compassion. Extend this act of kindness toward yourself and become aware of what is going on within you. In this way you will gain the power to not only calm and soothe yourself, but also your partner.

You will soon come to realize that you are not your anger, fear, grief, or any other difficult emotion you are feeling. Instead you will begin to experience these emotions in a more fleeting manner, like clouds that pass by in the sky. Opening yourself up to your emotions allows you to create a space of awareness, curiosity, and expansiveness that you can then apply to your relationship, as well as any other aspect of your life.

4. Realize the impermanence of your emotions
Every one of your emotions is impermanent. They arise and reside within you for a time, and then disappear. It’s easy to forget this when you’re in the midst of dealing with difficult emotions.

Allow yourself to witness and observe your emotions with kind attention and patience, giving them the latitude to morph, and in many cases, completely evaporate. To embrace this process, ask yourself: “What and where is this feeling? What do I need now? How can I nurture it? What can I do for my partner? What can my partner do for me? How can we, as a couple, turn toward one another with acts of loving-kindness?” Asking these focused questions and responding in turn will go a long way to promote empathy, compassion, and connection within your relationship.

5. Inquire and investigate
After you have calmed and soothed yourself from the impact of your emotions, take a moment to delve deeply and explore what happened.

Ask yourself: “What triggered me? What is causing me to feel this way? What is the discomfort I’m experiencing and where is it arising? Was it as result of my critical mind, or was it in reaction to something my partner said or did?”

Perhaps you had a hard day at work or difficulty dealing with your family. Maybe you feel unappreciated, lonely, or disconnected as a result of your interactions with someone. Whatever the cause or trigger, look at it closely and ask yourself, “What is happening here?”

Consider what was said or done and compare it to your values. What were your expectations surrounding the situation? What reactions or judgments caused you to become angry or anxious? Is this a pattern that keeps arising?

Asking yourself these critical questions and investigating the root of your difficult emotions will help you gain empathy and insight into what you are experiencing.

Taking yourself off autopilot and trusting your deepest, authentic self to answer these questions about your situation will create a space to see things with a different perspective. This will ultimately allow both you and your partner to be more present and connected with each other.

6. Let go of the need to control your emotions
The key to mindfully dealing with your difficult emotions is to let go of your need to control them. Instead, be open to the outcome and what unfolds. Step outside of yourself and really listen to what your partner is feeling and what he or she has to say. Only then will you truly gain an in-depth understanding of your emotions and the interactions surrounding them within your relationship.

Mindfully dealing with emotions is hard and it takes time. Be kind, compassionate, and patient with yourself and your partner. You’re in this together! As Dr. John Gottman has said, “In a good relationship people get angry, but in a very different way. The Marriage Masters see a problem a bit like a soccer ball. They kick it around. It’s ‘our’ problem.”

We are fortunate that we live in a world where you and your partner can take the time to explore, discuss, and learn about mindfulness and your emotions. Take nothing for granted, for life is fragile and fleeting!

Resource: Gottman Blog
Photo: Courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici on Freedigitalphotos.net

When the Simple Things Matter Most

No one enters into a new relationship thinking about how it might end. Most new relationships are filled with excitement, anticipation, and hope. Even years down the road, unless love and compatibility is lost, or serious issues creep into the relationship, few people actually want to see things end. In fact, many couples who believe the end is near have allowed certain vital aspects of a strong relationship to fall to the wayside, and they are desperate to figure out where they have gone wrong and to rekindle that fire that will save them from the end.

Relationships take some effort to maintain. This is not to say that love itself is “work,” but neglecting any aspect of your partnership can result in miscommunication, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment. And often, even the most communicative of couples will suffer in silence, avoiding talking about their concerns simply because they blame themselves or do not want to start a fight or hurt their spouses feelings. It’s only when those held back feelings are compounded that the bomb explodes and simple issues become major problems. Many factors go into making a relationship work; however, in this article, we are discussing the subtle and simple things that can make a significant difference to you and your partner.

Mind Your Manners
Few of us made it out of childhood without knowing the value of saying please and thank you.  We also learned early on that duties are better shared than left to one person. These values do not fly out the window when we reach adulthood. Never take your partner for granted or let them even think this is the case. If you have a request, say please and talk it over. Don’t just make the decision on your own, leaving your partner out in the cold without any input or choice. If your spouse does something for you, around the house, etc., thank them. Gratitude shows your appreciation, making each task or special effort much more worthwhile. To further show your undying appreciation, share the duties of your life together. Don’t embrace gender roles and leave certain tasks up to one or the other. If something needs doing, get in there and do it, offer to help, or join forces and complete tasks as a team.

Ask and Listen
If you work outside the home, you know that your days can become hectic, stressful, and nerve wracking. The same goes for your spouse. And if one of you happens to be a stay-at-home parent, a homemaker (even without children), or self-employed/working from home, your days are no different from a partner working a conventional job. Each partner should be genuinely interested in the others thoughts, feelings, and activities. Take the time each day to ask your partner about his or her day, and spend some time listening and even talking about concerns, stress, etc. Communication is key to any relationship, and this type of open communication conveys genuine care, concern, compassion, love, and appreciation. By sharing your daily but often separate lives with one another, you build a strong bond of friendship and can rely on one another as confidantes. Even if you have the type of job that requires confidentiality, you can still discuss your concerns and activities in a general way that allows your partner to be a part of this aspect of your life.

These two simple acts make a huge difference in your relationship. Communication and relationships go hand in hand. You must communicate your sincere appreciation, love, and concern on a regular basis. Neglecting to do so can leave your spouse feeling unloved and uncared for. Don’t let such misunderstandings lead to destructive resentment when it is so easy to just take the time to think about your partner and to show them the simple things that matter most.

What Makes Relationships Work? The Keys to a Healthy Relationship

When you have found that special person, you find yourself psyched. Each day is an adventure and you just feel yourself falling further and further into love with that person. As the relationship progresses, those flutters can fade, but not in a bad way. However, some people fall into looking at their relationship with blinders on, which makes them ignore what makes relationships work in the first place. To make sure your relationship is healthy, consider these keys to a healthy, happy relationship.

Respect on a Mutual Level
You should know who your partner is and your partner should know you. You both should respect one another mutually. That means understanding and respecting one another’s boundaries and morals. Neither of you should challenge one another or force the other to do something they wouldn’t want to do. Respecting boundaries is the key to a healthy relationship.

Trust
Trust is important when looking for what makes relationships work. You both should trust one another fully. While you can show that occasional jealousness toward one another – especially when you see your partner talking to the other sex – if it turns into mistrust, you may need to reevaluate why it is you cannot trust your partner to speak to someone of the opposite sex without worrying so much about it.

Honesty with One Another
Honesty is very important in a relationship. Couples should never lie to one another and instead should have a full disclosure between both parties. If you feel compelled to hide things from your partner, you may want to investigate why you cannot be honest with him or her.

Support
A partner shouldn’t just support you during the rough times – you should feel supported at all times. There are times when people shine while others are falling apart, but they tend to neglect offering support when things are good. A healthy relationship is one where both partners can lean on one another regardless of how severe the problem is.

Keeping a Separate Identity
When people start to date or even get married, they start to morph their identities into a couple, rather than working on their individuality. While it is important to work together and act as a couple, each person still needs to remain true to themselves. Couples should still keep in touch with their friends, take up hobbies they enjoy and maintain their separate interests – along with things they do as a couple.

Communication
If you’re curious about what makes relationships work, the biggest factor is communication. Couples should be able to speak to one another, keep things open and say what is on their minds. It is important to never bottle feelings or concerns up – these can explode later on. Even if you are worried about how your partner will react, keeping the lines of communication open at all times is important. Even if you need to take some time to think about what you’re going to say before sitting your partner down, that’s fine, just as long as you both communicate with one another.

Positive Psychology in Relationships

Relationships, no matter what level they are on, can have ups and downs. They can make you happy and at times sad. We are all looking for ways to enhance our relationships and make them better. When the relationships in our life are in unison, everything seems in sync.

One new view when it comes to enhancing a relationship is that of positive psychology. Many people think that psychology mainly focuses on the mental aspects of things. While it does, positive psychology has a different view. Positive psychology doesn’t focus on what’s wrong, but looks more at promoting a sense of well-being. It looks at how to get the life and relationships you want. It’s about your life experiences having a sense of happiness and pleasure – and ensuring that it all has meaning to you.

So how can you use positive psychology to enhance your life and your relationships? By utilizing these positive psychology techniques, you will become a better person and thus be better when it comes to the relationships in your life. These techniques include:

  •  Enjoy the moments in life by being aware of the things that give you pleasure. It’s OK to feel a sense of pleasure when something good happens. Enhance that pleasure by sharing it with others. Let them know about your experience and how great it was. Sharing a positive experience allows you to share the experience with others and assists in enhancing your communication skills with one another.
  • Try to avoid repetitive behaviors and experiences. It’s common knowledge that anytime you share an experience with someone, the first time you experience it is typically the best time. If you try to keep repeating that experience, it will never be as good as the first time. Try new experiences as often as you can. By introducing new experiences, you’re giving your relationship a chance to experience something new and thus creating a new bond with each experience.
  • Invest time in your friends and family. Building strong personal relationships has proven to enhance a person’s well-being.
  • Let go of any anger and resentment in your relationships. While it may feel like you’re doing something good, you’re actually hindering your happiness and adversely affecting the relationship when you hold onto these feelings. Try ridding yourself of the anger and resentment by writing it all down.

Developing a strong bond in your relationships needs to happen on all levels. A relationship that has a strong bond and sense of well-being in the good times has the foundation already built to get through the bad times as well.

Positive psychology is becoming more popular as time goes by. While the techniques look simple – and in a sense they are – there needs to be focus on the techniques to make them work. If you don’t give them your full attention, then they won’t be beneficial in the relationship or in your life. Relationships are a large portion of our lives. So making them the best that they can be is important. Use these techniques, and you are on your way to achieving a greater sense of well-being in your life.