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Relationships can be a source of joy… and a source of frustration. Some relationships are very easily maintained, while others take work and effort to be fruitful and enjoyable. Whatever efforts you make toward nurturing and nourishing 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 in the midst of 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.

  1. Be emotionally responsive 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 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 if you are engaged in practices such as mindfulness, then your limbic brain and your pre-frontal cortex work cooperatively and you will have more self-control. Bringing awareness to this process makes connecting with others easier.  

  1. 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.