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How to stay connected with your partner during the holidays

It's official, we are smack dab in the middle of holiday season. Often this time of year is so busy with fun (and not so fun) activities and obligations, that we end up feeling like we need a vacation by the end of it! Even though the holidays can be full of joy and wonder, they can also be a time full of stress and high expectations. Snippy comments or full blown arguments with your partner can often be the result of this stress.

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But wait! Don't fret!

Here are 4 ways to stay connected with your partner during the holidays. (Pssst... these are ways couples can stay connected year round!)

1) Set Realistic Expectations

Before you are knee deep in holiday cheer, discuss with each other what your hopes and expectations for the holidays are. What are the things that are most important to each of you? What are the things that you are willing to (and not willing to) compromise? Perhaps you will be spending the holidays at the in-laws, but you feel it's important that you, your partner, and your children spend some time together. Make a game plan ahead of time for how the things that are important to each of you can happen. 

2) Make Couple Time a Priority

Intentionally set aside time during the holidays to connect as a couple. Perhaps you can make a new tradition with your partner such as exchanging gifts just the two of you, or going on a special date. Quality time together can be as easy as sharing a glass of wine by the fire or going for a walk while the grandparents watch the kids. The time you spend together doesn't have to be fancy, but it does need to be a priority. If time together isn't intentionally planned, it can be the first thing to go when we get busy.

3) Create a Culture of Appreciation 

Sometimes we take our partners for granted and do not recognize all the little (or big) things they do to help our family. And sometimes we feel taken for granted ourselves. Couples can create a culture of appreciation in their relationship by noticing the things that their partner does and by saying "thank you." Try to catch each other doing something good, and acknowledge it when you see it. When you pay extra attention to the helpful things they do, you might be surprised how many you can find! During a time where everyone is busy, a simple "thank you" can go a long way.

4) Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care!!

This last one may sound counterintuitive, but it's true! In order to not let the holiday stress come between you and your sweetie, you need to take care of you. With holiday parties, family obligations, gift buying, etc., etc., etc. It can be easy to forget about the self-care. Try to add in some solo or family activities that include exercise and schedule down time to recharge your battery. Simply taking a few minutes to practice some deep breathing can be a great stress reducer.

Remember this time of year isn't about the gifts, the food, the parties... it's about spending time with the ones we love. Now go and create some memories together! Wishing you all a happy holiday season!

Want more? Check out a few more posts about improving your relationship here.

The Secret to Happiness

The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness, YOU HAVE TO CATCH IT YOURSELF.
— BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

What makes a person happy? Is it money? Is it friends and family? Is it a successful career? 

The study of happiness and what makes people happy has been increasingly popular topic since the 1990's when the positive psychology movement started. Book after book has been written about how to find happiness in your life. A few years ago I watched the documentary 'Happy' and several things stuck with me. So, I decided to rewatch it this weekend and share what I learned. 

Scientists have studied people from around the world to figure out what makes a person happy. Here is what they found: 

50% of our happiness is determined by our genes. This is called our genetic set point. Basically, when bad things happen you will be less happy for a while, and when good things happen you will be more happy for a while, but then you will return to your genetic set point.

10% of our happiness is determined by the circumstances we were born into, and are out of our control.

The remaining 40% of what makes us happy is our intentional behavior, these are the things that we do on a regular basis that can make us happier.

Here are the things in our control that will make us happier:

  1. FLOW. Flow is an activity (usually physical) where your mind is so completely focused on the present moment that you loose yourself and you tend to forget your problems. Athletes call this being in 'the zone.' Some people feel flow when exercising, some when performing, some when working. The more flow in your life, the more happiness in your life.

  2. Close family or friends. All of the happiest people interviewed had a strong community of friends and/or family. In Denmark, one of the happiest counties in the world, they have communal living. Here, twenty to thirty people live in a small community and they all  share responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning. They all eat together and socialize with each other. The community is made up of all ages from children to elderly, and they all look out for each other. 
  3. Religion or Spirituality. When people feel connected to something greater than themselves, they tend to be happier. However, when religion sets people up against each other, and teaches that one is greater than the other, then the effect is opposite and people are less happy.
  4. Compassion and acts of kindness towards others are the most effective ways to increase your happiness set point. 

One thing that didn't have an effect on happiness was money. As long as you have enough money to meet your basic needs, then money really won't buy happiness. When you look at people making $5,000 compared to people making $50,000 there was a drastic difference in their happiness. But when you compare people making $50,000 to people making $500,000 the difference was minimal. 

So get out there, spend time with friends and family, create a community, find your flow, and be kind to one another! Check out the documentary if you would like to learn more.