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The Art of Running in the Rain

"To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." -Prefontaine

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marriage

The Love of My Life

One year ago today I had the privilege of marrying the love of my life.  When I look in his eyes, I can be transported to that day and I’m filled with so much joy!

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Just to name a few of his strengths: he always listens, he cares about my feelings, he is interested in my interests, he loves Charlie as if he were his own, his love of animals/music is on par with mine, he’s introspective, and the list could go on.

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Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, but as I’ve mentioned in my post about conflicts, we’ve worked through so many things, and our communication is stronger because of it.  All that is to say I feel like we put in the work (both individually and together) and we are reaping the benefits now.  We’ll always have things to work through in life, but it’s so great to know I have someone who’s always on my side to do it with.

View More: http://rickplusanna.pass.us/nicolelovesdavid

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Happy anniversary to the love of my life.  He helps me be a better me.  I love him so.

Be well.

Photos by Rick+Anna

Happiness Course Week 1-2

I’m having such a great time learning about the psychology of happiness.  Every time I work on a course I’m taken aback by the fact that UC Berkley offers it for free!  We’re on week 3, so I’m not sure how it works on joining, but I highly recommend it if you’ve got 4-5 hours a week (I try to do it on Sundays in the afternoon/evening).

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I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell.  I have enjoyed quite a few of his books, but my favorite by far was Blink.  I love the way it gives you a ton of researched information in easy to read vignettes.  I will read research articles from time to time (especially for professional development in the area of speech pathology); however, Blink’s format is by far my favorite way to gain knowledge about new research.  I think quite a few people are like this because I often see things on googlefacts/uberfacts which are essentially lists of current facts (e.g., Google was originally called Backrub) some are funny and some are just informative.  So I wanted to share with you some of the facts and research they discussed in the first two weeks of my course.

Week 1 “What is happiness?” facts

  1. What determines our happiness? 50% genetics, 10% life circumstance (e.g., attractiveness, SES, etc.), and 40% intentional activity (e.g., stable fulfilling relationship, expressing gratitude, etc.).
  2. What is Hedonic Adaptation? The observation that humans return to their baseline of happiness no matter what they do.
  3. Human beings are NOT good at predicting what will and will not make them happy (e.g., having more money, break ups, etc.).
  4. When it comes to having more money, research found that once basic needs are met (e.g., food, shelter, etc.) money no longer increases happiness.  The magic number, $75,000 yearly

Week 2 “Social Connectedness” facts

  1. The same area in the brain that activates when someone feels pain activates when someone is excluded from a group. – No wonder I don’t like spending time with people that exhibit that behavior
  2. Attachment styles (e.g., secure, anxious, avoidant) play a large role in happiness.  These form in infancy.
  3. Oxytocin, which is produced in the body when we are happy, produces trust towards others, increases monogamy, and reduces stress.
  4. Touch therapy can increase birth weight of premature babies, reduce depression in individuals with Alzheimer’s, doubles the likelihood that children will speak in class, and may boost the amount a child uses the library.
  5. John Gottman found that these four behaviors (coined “The Four Horsemen”), when exhibited together in a relationship, increase the likelihood of divorce/separation to 92%. Contempt, Criticism, Stone wall, and Defensiveness.
  6. To combat the four horsemen, use these strategies: Humor & Play, Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Disclosure.
  7. Parents are happy!!! They are finding that when it is a choice, becoming a parent can be a happy thing.
  8. The following factors influence being a happy parent: Age (older = happier), Gender (fathers gain more emotional benefit), Parenting style, and Emotional bond with child.
  9. The following (child) factors influence being happy as a parent: Child’s temperament and problems, child’s age (birth, older = happier, 1-5 yrs = not so happy).
  10. Friendships release Oxytocin!!!!!
  11. Empathy makes you more capable of sharing joy and achievement, allows you to have close friendships, and increases the likelihood that you will empathize with others when they feel pain and they will support you.
  12. Habits of highly empathetic people: Cultivate curiosity about strangers, Challenge prejudices, Try another person’s life, Listen hard and open up, Inspire mass action.
  13. How to become more empathetic: Become an active listener, Share in other peoples joy, Look for commonalities, Read fiction, Pay attention to faces.

I hope you enjoyed all these facts!!  I find that with each lesson I am compelled to learn more.   I was inspired to take the class because of my love for psychology and how we develop as humans; however, I’m finding the suggestions and facts interesting to put them in the context of my life and the people closest to me.

Be well.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Sigmund Freud.

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Why Conflict is Important in Relationships

I find it perfectly fitting that following my wedding recap post I write a post on the importance of conflicts in relationships.  I’m not here to tell you what your relationship should look like, but I’m here to share with you a little bit about ours, and the science we follow to continue to build a healthy, happy, and loving connection.

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I’m sure you’ve heard it before, ‘it doesn’t matter whether or not you and your partner have conflicts it’s how you have those conflicts.’  I find that conflicting in a ‘good, constructive’ way, can be so difficult at times, and it never quite feels like your doing it right.  The ultimate goal would be that partners during any given conflict are able to listen to one another; I find that in conversations so many people are just waiting for their chance to talk.  This, for me, is one of the hardest things to handle in a typical conversation, let alone a conflict.  Dave is an amazing listener, he waits for you to finish your thought, asks you questions, and often when he feels that he has abruptly changed topic (it’s usually never as bad as he thinks) he will apologize immediately.  Even amazing listeners have a hard time in conflict conversations.  One of the strategies that our therapist gave us is to repeat back what you have heard the other person say, and then ask them if you heard them correctly.  This simple act of repeating what you heard and confirming that you’ve heard it correctly is enough to ease a difficult conversation.  Listening is an area of growth for me, I find I want to relate everything to myself (which turns out is not listening).  At times, when I utilize the technique of repeating back, I find my speech to be stilted and seemingly unauthentic, but you know what? That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that there is room for growth in all of us, and I want to be a better me and subsequently a better partner, so I will try this technique that research has proven to work. 

Another goal is for each person to exhibit empathy towards one another.  I find this part of conflict always requires me to ‘strike when the iron is cold.’  A Gottman term that my therapist (separate from our couples therapist, I believe that is a very important thing) reminded me about the last time I brought the remnants of a Dave and Nicole conflict into one of our sessions.  For me the term means that if you take the time to cool off from a heated conflict and come back to the topic when you’re both feeling less flooded you may be better able to address the issue with effective communication.  Now, it’s important to know that having empathy means that you are able to see things from someone else’s perspective, if you are unable to do this when not in a conflict perhaps working on that skill individually would be a good place to start.  Dave and I often use a worksheet our therapist gave us entitled “Dreams within Conflicts.”  It’s a questionnaire that allows each person to share all of their feelings surrounding the conflict and to feel safe and heard.  It helps you learn more about your partner’s deepest desires and feelings, tends to resolve conflicts, and makes the relationship stronger.

Sometimes it seems there is nothing you can do, you have the conflict, it’s ugly, and you feel regretful.  Stop right there, if we went around feeling like giving up after every mistake then nothing would get done (don’t I sound like Mary Poppins).  It’s just as important to discuss these ‘regrettable incidents or fight’ and the feelings that surround them to ensure that the bond between you and your partner remain connected and in love.  I liken it to making a mistake with your children, let’s say you got mad and yelled about something and you later realized wasn’t a big deal and you were just in a bad mood from work, it’s just as important to talk to your child about your reaction and apologize or discuss why you reacted the way you did as it is to have better conflicts in the first place.  Now this aspect of conflict resolution is founded in the idea that both partners believe that they have something to learn, that their knowledge base of each other and this world is not a static thing.  Self reflection is key.

I feel that the happiness in my relationship can be directly correlated to the amount of effort I am putting in to make our bond closer, and seeing that Dave is putting in just as much effort.  When we have children I want them to see us hold each other, have tender embraces, have philosophical conversations, have conflict and resolve conflict.

Be well.

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