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Keep the happy in the holidays: Relationship resolutions

Happy New Year! As you begin 2014, consider having a relationship-oriented resolution.

Happy New Year! HPRC wishes you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2014.

The New Year is a perfect time to reflect on where you are in your life and where you want to be in the coming months. When you set your resolutions, think about setting one around your primary relationships. Is there something that you could focus on this year that would make your relationships stronger? For example, what about taking a romantic getaway with just your partner at least once this year? Or how about staying in closer contact with your parents or best friend? Also, think about incorporating other areas of Total Force Fitness in your resolutions, such as physical fitness, nutrition, mental resilience, and your environment.

Keep the happy in holidays: Celebrate your friends and family

Celebrate your friends and family this holiday season by showing them you appreciate them.

While it’s true that sometimes the ones we love the most are the ones who can really get under our skin, particularly during the holidays when everyone’s together (know what your irritators are and how to deal with them), it’s also true that many of us have reason to celebrate our family and friends.

Appreciation is a powerful tool in fostering strong relationships, but it’s often overlooked in the business of everyday life. This holiday season take the time to let your family and friends know that you appreciate them. This can be in words or actions—it could be as simple as just taking the time to let them know you love and appreciate them, or you could show your appreciation with a gesture. For example, maybe your brother or best friend hasn’t had time for his favorite hobby lately due to family responsibilities. By offering to babysit the kids for an afternoon, you’d give him the chance to take time for himself. Small things go a long way in showing appreciation—this holiday season and all next year.

For more ideas on strengthening relationships, check out the Family Relationships section of HPRC’s website.

Keep the happy in holidays: Practice acceptance

Accepting the things that invade your thoughts when you can’t avoid them or control them can help you keep happy this holiday season.

Last time we highlighted being aware of possible depression in those around you. This week, as we continue our series on keeping happy in the holidays, try practicing acceptance of the things you can’t control or avoid.

Problems can arise when you try to avoid thoughts or feelings rather than noticing them as they come and go. Instead of avoiding them, try to note your thoughts or feelings, accept them, and keep moving forward rather than dwelling on them. If you need or want to think about something further, pick a good time and place to think it through later. But if it’s outside your control, practicing acceptance can help separate the things you can control from those you can’t—and help you find some peace this holiday season.

Keep the happy in holidays: Make friends with what bugs you

This holiday season identify possible friction points with your friends and family ahead of time in order to deal with and avoid conflict.

Last week we highlighted tips for coping with a loss or distance of a loved one this holiday season. This week, learn to identify your irritators—and make friends with them.

The holidays are a time of year when you probably want to connect with family and friends, but it can sometimes feel like you’re drawn into old—maybe negative—ways of relating. As you approach the holidays this year, think ahead about potential friction points with people you’ll be seeing and decide how you want to respond to them. Planning ahead for how to deal with situations can help you navigate them better. If you only see your family occasionally, they might view you as you were when you were younger instead of as you are now. Even just being together in the same place can ramp up old issues. Instead, as you come up with your plan, be patient and stay true to yourself in how you deal with loved ones this holiday season.

For more information on managing friction in your relationships, check out HPRC’s section on “Overcoming Conflict.”

Keep the happy in the holidays: Be a gratitude-seeker

Developing a sense of gratitude can enhance your happiness. Learn more about this skill for promoting happiness this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving! In HPRC’s series on “Keeping the Happy in the Holidays,” this week we focus on being a gratitude-seeker. Gratitude is a state of mind that that can be hard to foster in our busy lives, particularly during the holidays. This holiday season set some time aside for gratitude.

The Defense Centers of Excellence suggests some tips for cultivating this skill, including:

• Spend two minutes a day thinking about what you are grateful for,

• Write five things daily in a gratitude journal

• Look for things to be grateful for in your everyday life.

For more ideas on fostering happiness, check out HPRC’s section on Mental Resilience.

Keep the happy in the holidays: Experiment with expectations

Experiment with your expectations this holiday season and see how shifting your thinking can shift your experiences with your loved ones.

HPRC’s series on staying happy over the holidays started last week (read the first BLUF here). This week, try experimenting with your expectations in order to sail through the holidays with a smile.

If you have visions of the holidays being a certain way—with lots of fun, togetherness, love, joy, and no discord—you may feel disappointed when the reality turns out to be something else. It’s natural to feel this way, but take stock of how your expectations perhaps contributed to your disappointment. Try experimenting with different ways of looking at things. For example, think about what’s behind your holiday expectations. Is it really a happier holiday when you spend more money? Can the entire holidays be filled with fun? Can you get along with everyone all the time? Are your expectations realistic?

Afterdeployment.org describes how to foster realistic thinking and have a clearer lens to the world by focusing on what is probable instead of wasting time thinking about things that are unlikely. In other words, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. This can be particularly helpful for your relationships.

For more ideas on enhancing your relationships, check out HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement section and, for other mind tactics, Mental Resilience section.

Intimacy after an injury

Combat injuries such as PTSD and TBI can impact your ability and interest to be sexual with your partner. Two fact sheets provide more information and suggestions.

Being able to be close and sexual are key aspects of intimate relationships. Warfighters struggling with PTSD, TBI, or other combat injuries may be surprised to find that injuries can impact their ability to have sex, derive pleasure from sex, or be intimate by connecting emotionally with their partner. Or conversely there might be too much emphasis on sex (engaging in or talking about it inappropriately).

To learn more, check out these two fact sheets from the Uniformed Services University: “Reintegration and Intimacy: The Impact of PTSD and Other Invisible Injuries“ and “Physical Injury and Intimacy: Managing Relationship Challenges and Changes.” Both include suggestions for how to improve intimacy.

To learn more about other specific mental-health conditions, check out HPRC’s Mental Health & Suicide Prevention section. Also check out HPRC’s section on Relationship Enhancement.

Having the same conversation over and over?

Going over the same things again and again in your relationship—with no new results? Learn how to break that cycle.

Do you ever feel that you and your partner talk about the same issues over and over again? You’re not alone: Only 30% or so of the problems couples struggle with can actually be solved, leading to discussions that keep coming up about the other 70%. Solving the issues that can be solved is great, but learning how to interact in a positive manner about the “perpetual problems” is a good skill in any relationship.

One way to do this is to go through a structured problem-solving strategy such as this:

  1. Specifically state the issue.
  2. Briefly state why the issue is important.
  3. Brainstorm and discuss possible solutions to the issue.
  4. Have everyone involved agree on a realistic “solution”—even if it’s just a game plan for how each person is going to respond about the topic.
  5. Pick a specific amount of time to try the solution.
  6. Then give the solution a try.

Remember, the “solution” doesn’t have to mean a resolution to the problem; it can just be about new ways to approach the issue. For example, if you fight over one of you being late frequently, discuss ahead of time how you each would like the other person to respond. Maybe the latecomer needs to call or text if running late, or the punctual person calls ahead to find out if the other will be on time. And maybe you need to set a window of time rather than something exact.

For more tips on communication between two people, check out “Basic Training for Couples—Communication” and more in HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement section.

In the middle of a fight, change your focus

If fights with your loved ones last longer than the argument itself, then check out this strategy for refocusing your mind and calming your body.

When you find yourself in an argument with a loved one, it’s important to be able to move on afterwards without being burdened by negative feelings. But sometimes the negativity can hang on after the argument itself is over, and can make interacting with the other person difficult. It’s important to work out those negative feelings so that they don’t fester and wreak more havoc in your relationships.

Here’s how: When you find yourself in the middle of an argument, take a time-out before you become too worked up. It’s easier to shake off negativity at this stage. Stay levelheaded enough to stop the argument, walk away, focus on something else, and make yourself focus on positive thoughts about yourself, something else, or your loved one. While you are doing this, also engage in some stress-management techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation; you can learn about them in the Mind-Body Skills section of HPRC’s website. By refocusing your thoughts and letting go of stress in your body, you’re more likely to feel calmer, slow your heart rate, and be less reactive to the other person. Once you’re calmer, you’ll probably find it easier to interact more positively with the other person and do or say things that can enhance your relationship.

For more ideas on strengthening your relationships, check out HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement section or this article on “Basic Training for Couples Communication.” And for more information on handling stress, check out HPRC’s Stress Management section.

Be a “Joy Multiplier,” not a “Joy Thief”

Filed under: Mind, Mood, Relationships
The way you respond to someone when they share good news can either enhance or detract from your relationship. Learn how to strengthen others with “Active Constructive Responding.”

At the Warrior Resilience Conference V in August 2013, representatives of the Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness (CSF2) program discussed one of the resilience-promoting skills that they teach for strengthening relationships: Active Constructive Responding.

Active Constructive Responding shows “authentic interest” where sharing creates a deeper experience for both individuals. For example, when someone shares a positive event with you, the best response is to show interest or excitement about what he or she is telling you, followed by a positive conversation about it. By doing this you can be a “Joy Multiplier.” By comparison, it’s important not to do any of these:

  • Kill the joy by focusing on possible negatives about the event (being a “Joy Thief”).
  • Bring up something that happened to you, turning the attention away from the other person, or completely ignore what you were told (being a “Conversation Hijacker”).
  • Respond to the other person as if distracted and/or with limited interest (being a “Conversation Killer”).

To learn more about this technique (and the ones to avoid), check out this presentation from CSF2. And for more about CSF2, check out this section on HPRC’s website.

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