Firstly, why don’t we change right when we want to? Even in the face of significant health or relationship issues, many of us don’t change our habits. If I had diabetes, you would think that I’d change to avoid kidney failure, blindness, etc. If I spent time in prison, you’d think I’d come out and not reoffend. Yet, many times, it’s just not enough to influence change.
Why and how do we change? Everyone’s why is different, but generally, we move along a “continuum of change”. The stages of change according to Prochaska and DiClemente are: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. You move through this continuum for every change you make. Sometimes you move quickly and sometimes slowly and sometimes, you move back and forth.
Knowing where we are in the “continuum of change” can inform us how to agitate the problem (what we want to change) and encourage movement.
The biggest problem with change is on a subconscious level, none of us likes to be pushed into change. Whether it’s a health challenge or another habit, we will likely resist change. Change triggers a bit of pushback. In addition, change, even good change can be scary. Our primal brain just knows that right now we’re alive and it wants to keep it that way. These tendencies cause us to ultimately be ambivalent about changing, even if we want to!
Many times, we resort to making ourselves feel bad when we want to change. This doesn’t work. How many of us berate ourselves for not changing in ways we’d like? We say, “I can’t believe I ate that. I’m such a pig.” “I’m such a loser for getting drunk again last night.” “I hate myself for blowing up and getting mad.”
First decide where you are in the continuum. Precontemplation=No desire to change, Contemplation= I might need to change, maybe one day. Preparation=I’m getting ready to take steps. Action=I’m making the change. Maintenance=I’m careful not to let my new habits slip.
We might ask ourselves a series of questions. We might ask:
Why do I want to make this change?
How could I do it if I wanted to?
What’s a good reason to make this change?
How important is it for me to make this change? Why?
What do I intend to do about this change?
What am I ready and willing to do about this behavior?
What have I already done?
If you find yourself “fighting back” with some of your answers, relax and remember, you don’t HAVE to change! What and how you change are completely your choice.
Your answers to these questions will give you a clue where you are. Let’s work through an example:
I want to stop smoking.
Why do I want to make this change? Truthfully, I don’t. I like smoking. It’s a comforting habit I have, and I enjoy it.
How could I do it if I wanted to? I guess if I wanted to, I could take a stop smoking class. You know they have those all over now.
What’s a good reason to make this change? I’m sure it’s already impacted my health, but the longer I smoke, the more significant those impacts are going to be.
How important is it for me to make this change? Why? It’s important. I want to be healthy and enjoy my retirement and my grandchildren.
What do I intend to do about this change? I’m not ready to commit at this point.
What am I ready and willing to do about this behavior? I suppose I can get some information about the stop smoking classes.
What have I already done? Well, I’ve calculated how much smoking costs me every year and that’s shocking! That actually made me cut back some.
From this example, you can see I’m probably in the contemplation stage. I’m thinking about making a change, considering how to do it, and imagining my way into quitting smoking. You see in the first question; my resistance is high and I’m going to have to deal with that. I see that part of myself that’s hanging onto smoking as being in fear for its life! It doesn’t want to give up smoking! How can I approach this a little less directly, so it doesn’t get freaked out? I could say to that part, how could we do this in a way that would not make you so nervous? You might think of cutting back little by little, or setting a deadline, or switching to Nicorette. This is important because if that part of you doesn’t buy in, the change is not going to last.
The other questions are giving me information to agitate this issue. I know some ways to approach it. I know why it’s important. I’ve evaluated my current level of willingness. If I continue to explore some of these concerns, it will further create dissonance between what my brain sees me doing and what I am doing. If I learn about the stop smoking classes and I think about how important changing this habit would be, I will soon find myself moving through preparing and into action.
Let’s use a relationship example:
I am currently practicing giving my partner the silent treatment when I’m angry. I’d like to be able to talk things through without walking around for days without speaking to each other.
Why do I want to make this change? It creates a lot of distance between us and doesn’t resolve anything.
How could I do it if I wanted to? I could make a commitment to just talk it out when I’m upset. I could ask my partner if they’d help so we both could initiate it.
What’s a good reason to make this change? I know the silent treatment is not effective in creating a safe relationship and that’s what I want.
How important is it for me to make this change? Why? In the long run, I can see it would be important. I don’t have an urgency about it.
What do I intend to do about this change? I will talk to my husband and see if he’s as bothered by this as I am. Maybe we can work out an agreement as to how to handle it better.
What am I ready and willing to do about this behavior? Even if he’s not on board, I’m going to attempt to break the silent treatment when I notice it.
What have I already done? I’ve begun to recognize when it’s happening and practice having those conversations in my head. I ‘m going to practice speaking up even when I’m scared.
In this example, I’m more in the preparation stage. I’m already aware of how this behavior is impacting me. I don’t like it. It’s incongruent with my desire to be in a supportive relationship. I’ve identified some starting behaviors and I’m ready to implement them.
If I want to encourage the actions to happen, I can agitate myself in this way too. I can focus on the long-term problems that might occur if I don’t change. I can read articles about the benefits of good communication. I can talk to others who’ve overcome this issue.
Using some of the concepts of motivational interviewing can be a good strategy to help us make changes that need to be made. This approach has research behind it! I always want to provide concepts that work and you can implement. Let me know what you think.
Jon Gottman, MD, an eminent relationship researcher, studied couples from about six months of marriage and followed them for ten years. What he found may surprise you!
The way you talk about your partner with your family, friends, or even strangers will predict whether you will be happy together long term with an accuracy rate of about 87%.
The couples that were happiest over time showed love and respect for each other. They talked about themselves as a unit vs. separate individuals. They told pleasant stories about each other.
These ways of talking about each other and the relationship make it much more likely to endure. With this knowledge alone, researchers can tell 87% of the time if a couple will end up getting a divorce or breaking up.
The way you talk to other people about your partner and your relationship says a lot about how healthy it is. You can see the signs pretty quickly, even in the first six months of the relationship.
In short, people who see their partner consistently in the best light have relationships that will last. Cynical partners talk badly about their partner to others.
Because, as I always say, feelings, thoughts, and behavior travel together. If we are speaking negatively about our partner, that is behavior. It will drag your thoughts and feelings further down that road. On the other hand, a behavior like speaking positively about your partner will make you think and feel more positively about them. When you’re thinking and feeling more positively, your actions will show more love and affection.
As I also say, you find what you’re looking for! If you’re looking for positive things to say, you’ll find more!
Try this with your thought world too! If you notice yourself thinking something negative about your partner, try shifting it to a positive thought. It will show up in your feelings and behaviors, too.
Sending positive vibes!
Kissing is also a prominent part of our culture. Kisses resurrect princesses in fairy tales, offer greetings and make movies romantic.
Lips serve many purposes, eating and communicating. Kissing has its own purpose. They send physical sensations, sexual excitement, feelings of closeness, motivation, and even euphoria across the body via a series of brain impulses and hormones. Kissing represents two bodies becoming one.
Studies of kissing show there’s a lot more going on than just locking lips. There may be an evolutionary component involving pheromones which communicate information at a primal level. Kissing would be an efficient way to transfer pheromones if this is so.
Besides all that, the lips have the thinnest skin of any part of the human body, yet a very high concentration of sensory neurons. These neurons fire off during a kiss, triggering pleasant feelings, strong emotional and physical responses. Chemicals that regulate stress, motivation, social connection, and sexual excitement are all released when two people kiss.
There are many studies about kissing, but its purpose and origin remain elusive. Examination of kissing reveals many layers of complexity in this seemingly instinctual behavior. Meanwhile, couples continue to enjoy kissing for their own reasons!
Do you enjoy kissing your partner? What does kissing mean to you? If you read my previous post, you’ll note that lingering kisses are a hallmark of happy and enduring couples. It’s worth a shot isn’t it?
Kissing is an act of intimacy that conveys many things. It might convey closeness and connection—an expression of emotional or physical intimacy.
Passionate kissing might express intense physical or sexual attraction between two people. But kissing may also be a source of comfort or reassurance. In times of difficulty or sadness, it's a nonverbal way to express love and encouragement.
Kissing can be a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness in some situations. After an argument or dispute, it might be a way to make amends.
Kissing someone on the cheek or briefly pecking them on the lips is a popular form of welcome and farewell in some cultures and families.
Kisses might be part of celebrations, spreading joy at marriages, birthdays, job promotions, etc. They might also just be joyful expressions of affection.
This act of “kissing” is very versatile in communicating a message. It really is all about the nonverbals, isn’t it? When it comes to your partner, you don't want just any kiss. It’s got to be special. Research tells us that a kiss that endures for at least six seconds is the one that increases connection with your partner.
A six-second kiss is just long enough to feel romantic but also, short enough to leave them wanting more.
Most couples I work with are assigned a daily six second kiss. I have them do a trial run in front of me in session while I count one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, etc. They get to experience how long six seconds really are!
Sometimes this feels uncomfortable, especially when our connection is a bit lacking. If it feels uncomfortable, let’s try to work through that. Repeated practice reduces the difficulty.
Use a future vision mindset to get there. How do you view your ideal relationship? Do you share lingering kisses with your partner? If so, what’s stopping you from implementing this now? Your future requires change!
As I mentioned, six second kisses are backed by research by Jon Gottman. Use the techniques that are proven to work!
Let me know how it goes!
1.Extend your exhale.
This is probably the simplest way to reduce anxiety. When you’re anxious, too much deep breathing can cause you to become even more anxious.
Be mindful of pushing all the air possible out of your lungs. Then inhale naturally. Be attentive to exhaling longer than your inhale lasts. Count, if that helps. Try taking 10 breaths with this technique.
2. Belly (or Diaphragmatic) Breathing.
I call this big belly breathing because you are going to blow up your belly like a beach ball.
You can do this in any position, but it is helpful to do it while lying down when first learning belly breathing.
Lie back in a comfortable pose and put your hands on your belly. Inhale slowly, directing your breath to your belly. Notice as your belly expands and your hands move along with your breath.
Exhale, continuing to focus on the movement of your belly. Try to focus on the breath coming in and then going out of your body. Continue this practice until you feel more calm.
3. Breath Counting.
This technique allows you to measure your breathing, and it will adjust to the rhythm of your counting.
Practice this at first in a comfortable position, but you can do this technique literally anywhere you like. While practicing, you might want to close your eyes.
Notice your breathing. A relaxed person has a slow rate of breathing. You want to make your breathing slower than it currently is. Once you have the pace worked out, begin to count as you inhale, 1...2...3…4. Then count as you exhale, 1...2....3....4. Slow your counting down as you go.
Continue this process until you feel more calm and grounded.
The process of making noise when you breathe can be calming to an anxious nervous system. This is one you may want to do in private!
Again, in a comfortable position, take a deep breath. As you exhale, make a loud sighing noise almost like a growl. Inhale and repeat the noisy exhale.
This may seem like the silliest technique, but it works!
Too much anxiety is no fun. When we’re feeling on the verge of panic frequently, we need to find some ways to reduce it. The goal is to be happier and healthier! Change the behaviors that have positive impacts!
Try these and let me know how it goes! Allison
Most people have an innate capacity for nurturing and providing care for others.
Women, especially, are encouraged to anticipate and meet the needs of others. We are built with the purpose of nurturing children, families, jobs, communities, and the world.
Most of us take our responsibility to care for one another extremely seriously. Those people in our lives who need to be cared for receive our undivided attention and best efforts. I am no stranger to burn out or the drive that keeps us on that road!
Many of us do not have anyone else in our lives who is aware of our individual boundaries. That is a responsibility that falls squarely on our shoulders. How much of your time and effort do you put into tending to your own needs? We tend to believe we can put off caring for ourselves indefinitely while nourishing all these other people in our lives.
The beauty of taking care of yourself is that it will bring a sense of calm and abundance to all your connections, which is its greatest benefit.
Consider the following: Are you better prepared to deal with a stressful situation after you’ve spent 15 minutes reading an enjoyable book or rushing to complete a tedious report for work?
What are some of the things that make you feel pampered and indulged? A steaming mug of tea to enjoy while you relax on the back porch? Eating dinner in the glow of candlelight? Taking a relaxing soak in my bathtub is one of my favorite things to do. Because it provides such a sense of indulgence, I made the decision a few years ago that I was going to treat myself to it daily. And I have! The novelty of taking a bath has never worn off for me, although I’m not always mindful of it.
Show yourself a little loveliness!
Let me know how it goes, Allison
Relationships take a lot of time, attention and effort to be winning ones. Sometimes, you may avoid “checking in” because you want to avoid any negative feelings lurking there. You don’t want to mess up a good thing.
Checking in on a regular basis can help you catch issues when they’re small. Ignoring or overlooking things that bother you, leads to bigger resentments which can’t be overcome if they go too far.
These six easy questions will give you a quick gauge of your relationship:
Relationships involve give and take, ups and downs. Mastering the flow is something you’ll be studying for the rest of the relationship. Small problems are easier than big ones, so don’t ignore them. You won’t always feel great about all these questions. Checking in consistently and persistently sets the stage for a winning relationship.
How's it going?
We’re all looking for ways to strengthen our relationships. All relationships have their own unique path. Some are respectful and polite. Some are abrasive and filled with conflict. I always approach each partnership with the expectation they can and will be willing to change for the sake of the relationship. Long term, relationships are a lot of work if you want them to endure.
I’ve often referenced the relationship cycle I work from. Conflict arises, negotiation ensues, and higher levels of connection are reached. Sometimes the conflict seems unconquerable. It is then, more diligence and attention is urgently needed. However, there are things you can do to all along to make minor adjustments before a crisis occurs.
There will always be difficult times in any relationship. Knowing and preparing for this can help you overcome those obstacles. Practice negotiating for the best outcome for you both and get better with each and every conflict.
Strong relationships are WINNING relationships!
Taking care of your spirit is an important part of taking care of yourself. Self-care is a way to take care of your physical and mental health, but it's also important to pay attention to your spiritual needs.
Consider these ten tips if you want to take better care of yourself in a way that makes you feel strong spiritually.
Tip 1: Don't ignore or hide your feelings. Instead, talk about them.
Trying to keep your feelings inside instead of letting them out can cause a lot of pain on a spiritual level. Instead, let yourself be emotional when you're feeling it. Laugh, cry, talk about your problems, and let yourself really work through what you're feeling. It will take a lot of weight off your spirit.
Tip 2: Find a way at the end of the day to "dump your brain."
Whether you talk to a trusted friend, write in a journal, or walk yourself through your whole day, finding a way to "dump" all the things you've been thinking about is a great relief for your spirit. Rather than keeping all the feelings, experiences, and conversations you had during the day in your mind, letting them go lets your spirit rest.
Tip 3: Do some light meditation to help you center yourself and get back on track.
You don't need expensive classes or a fancy teacher to meditate. You can do it just about anywhere. Some simple exercises, like taking deep breaths and repeating a mantra, are great ways to meditate and bring your spirit back into balance.
Tip 4: Make a playlist of funny videos to watch when you need a quick pick-me-up.
The best medicine really is to laugh. Keep a playlist of videos that are sure to make you laugh on hand for those days when you need a good laugh the most. Take a break and do something fun to help you feel lighter.
Tip 5: Tell yourself it's okay to be silly.
If you're feeling especially down, give yourself a few minutes to be silly by having a mini dance party or making funny faces. Especially on a hard day, letting yourself really break away from your serious exterior can give you a little extra spiritual boost.
Tip 6: Try not to be so serious about everything about yourself.
In a world where you often feel like you have to act a certain way, give yourself permission to not take yourself so seriously. Let some of that exterior facade go. Instead of trying to impress others or forcing yourself into a role you don't like, just be yourself. It's a great way to make you feel better.
Tip 7: Look up to your higher power, no matter what or who it is.
Whether your higher power is a religion, your own sense of inner goodness, fate, or something else, look to it when you're feeling spiritually burdened. This will help you get your energy back on track and lighten your mood.
Tip 8: Do things regularly that you really enjoy.
Spend time doing what you enjoy. It's one of the best ways to keep your mind and spirit light, peaceful, and healthy. Make time for the things you enjoy doing, whether it's sports, painting, reading, playing with your dog, putting together jigsaw puzzles, or something else. This will give your spirit a boost.
Tip No. 9: Spend some time outside.
Getting back in touch with nature is a great way to help your spirit feel more at peace. Let your bare feet touch the grass, take deep breaths of fresh air, and enjoy the warm sun. All of these feelings bring you closer to nature and lift your spirits.
Tip 10: Think often about your goals and dreams.
Another great way to boost your spirit is to stay focused on your goals and dreams, especially by going back to them often to "check in" and see where you're going in life. By doing this, you'll be more likely to make changes to your plans as needed while still keeping your eye on the end goal.
My husband is coming home. You may know that we’ve had a long distance relationship for many years. I’m very self sufficient. I like to figure things out and most of the time, I can.
But, my husband is coming home. So things I normally would spend time on, I just put on a list for him. He can do it faster and he’s way more perfectionist than I am! So, it helps me to just put it on a list.
While he’s doing “the list”, I’ll do other things, like edit a video or do laundry. I help him, he helps me, and we both do the things we do best.
When we begin a relationship, we theoretically become more than the sum of our parts. We belong to someone. We develop a language that’s all our own. We have inside jokes that only we think are funny. We count on each other for things we might have to handle alone. The “couple bubble” increases our versatility, our range, our expertise. “We” becomes greater than “me”.
My attention to some things becomes an opportunity for my husband and vice versa. This creates an environment where we can both explore things we couldn’t on our own. I’m a planner; he’s spontaneous. I’m organized and consistent; he thinks he’ll deal with it later (spoiler…he won’t).
Not to mention learning from each other! As much as I enjoy my planning processes, he has taught me to ACT! I’ve taught him to slow down and read instructions. Our changing in these ways has made us more compatible and better rounded people.
In addition, happy relationships contribute to longer, happier lives, better mental health and financial stability. These are really practical reasons that being in relationships is good for us.
The greatest gift of relationship may be the self growth it pushes us toward. Because of our patterns of attraction, attachment and self management, our most significant relationships will bring attention to all our sharp edges.
There are times when committed relationships feel limiting. The opposite is actually true! Relationships can open us up to more freedom, opportunities and growth.
So often, we focus on what we lose as an individual while ignoring what we gain as a couple.