Relationships can be a source of joy and a source of frustration. Some relationships are easy to maintain, while others may take work and effort to be fruitful and enjoyable. Whatever efforts you make toward nurturing and supporting your important relationships will have far-reaching benefits.
Here are 3 tips to help nurture healthy relationships and strengthen your connections with others:
1. Breathe into a difficult conversation
Breathing into your diaphragm actually switches you into a calmer mode which makes communication a lot easier. If you hold hands with loved ones and family members when having difficult conversations, it makes it easier to stay positive amid conflict. Focus on your heart when communicating with others. Avoid blaming and projecting (assigning your unmet needs and feelings on others). In his book on parenting with intention, Dan Siegel writes about how caring communication supports the development of healthy attachment, and that it is a critical element in building trusting relationships. Caring communication is a worthy goal, no matter what connections you are working to strengthen.
2. Be emotionally sensitive and emotionally responsible
Make sure you are working on your own concerns (depression, emotional neediness, being shy, health issues). Learn strategies that help you remain calm even when your emotions are triggered. There are two parts of the brain working against each other during an emotional conflict – the limbic/emotional brain and the pre-frontal cortex. When you are intentional about self-care (i.e., learning about conflict resolution, getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise), and engaged in practices such as mindfulness, then your limbic brain and your pre-frontal cortex work cooperatively, and you will have more self-control. When you bring awareness to this process, it makes connecting with others more comfortable.
3. Remember to take turns
Your favorite activity tonight, someone else’s favorite tomorrow night. Alternating activities helps keep everyone’s fun-quotient high, which makes relationships easier. It’s easier to get along when you’re doing things you really enjoy. Sharing interests is a great way to get connected, or to reestablish a connection that seems weakened by time and challenge.
Alistair Hawkes received her master’s degree in 2009 from Naropa University and her LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) credential from the State of Colorado in 2011. She has worked for 25 years as a therapist in a multitude of community settings, helping people heal and grow, and teaching clients the teachings of self-regulation through mindfulness and body awareness. She is passionate about growth and change and enjoys teaching a variety of populations foundational practices to regulate body/mind/emotions. She currently works as a Prevention Specialist for Jefferson Center and spends her work week teaching self-regulation life skills to elementary school students in the public school system. In addition, she enjoys gardening, creating art, dancing, and spending time with family.