I have been on hiatus dealing with a family situation of the knucklehead teenager persuasion – though stressful, the experience brought into bold focus the importance in my life of the people I love. Friends, family, my partner. These relationships are defining for me. I have had some amazing, fulfilling relationships in my life and I have had some one-sided, not-so-good ones. I have worked with many people in therapy who struggled in terms of their interpersonal connections. Relationships can be hard, but they are essential. As Seligman points out, “very little that is positive is solitary.” (Flourish, p.20). Most joy, laughter, and positive experiences happen with other people. Our relationships contribute directly to well-being and are worth the effort. Positively connecting and being kind to others is a guaranteed remedy for whatever is ailing you.
Here is my recipe for growth promoting positive relationships:
Step 1: Find people who are good for you and get close to them. Obviously, it is essential to make good choices about who you develop friendships and romantic partnerships with (I know that is bad english, but with whom just sounded too stuffy). Trust your gut and connect with people who bring out the parts in you that you like the best and who make you feel good.
Step 2: Once you have cultivated connection with these folks, be the finest you in your relationship. Relationships work best when both parties are more worried about the other person than themselves. What I mean by this is that if my focus is to take first-rate care of my friend and my friend’s focus is to take the first-rate care of me – both of our needs will be met and then some. This is true in healthy romantic relationships as well. One way that relationships get out of whack is when people get so focused on themselves they don’t consider the other person. I have been on the receiving end of much generosity and selflessness in the past week and I can tell you that it had a profound impact on me and I will pay it forward when the opportunity arises.
Step 3: Find ways to integrate more tenderness in your daily life. In his research, Seligman found that doing just a single act of kindness had a profound impact on mood.
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
So, what are three kind things you could do in the next week?
- Smile at a stranger in the grocery store (not flirty smile, friendly smile)
- Offer to carry someone’s bags off the elevator
- Leave your partner a note in the fridge listing your 5 favorite things about them
- Call your mom and tell her thank you for all she did for you when you were a knucklehead teenager yourself
- Think of something else nice and do it for just no reason…