A review of 148 studies found that people with strong social relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely. Similarly, Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones research calculates that committing to a life partner can add 3 years to life expectancy.
Wow! It’s easy understand how our food and fitness routines impact our health, but it’s not so obvious that our relationships do too.
Over the last 30 years, I’ve been actively working on developing healthier friendships and better relationships with my husband and family members. Here are the 3 relationship habits that have had the biggest impact for me.
The Freedom Of Forgiveness
When I was in Hawaii, I learned the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono prayer. This simple prayer goes like this: “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you”. You can say this to someone else or to yourself. While simple, it shows the importance of both acknowledging our own faults and forgiving others for theirs by extending love to them. If you don’t know how to walk through forgiveness with someone, the Ho’oponopono prayer is a good start. It can be powerful.
This simple prayer takes the understanding about the power of forgiveness and applies it in real-time. As you say these words, you can literally feel your heart opening and your body relaxing. Making this prayer a regular habit will have a profoundly positive impact on your health.
When we struggle to forgive others, it’s largely just us who get negatively impacted by that experience. The weight of the negative emotions cloud the mind and create subtle tensions in our body. These tensions can turn into physical pains and dis-ease across time. The mental energy wasted in negative thoughts can disrupt our inner peace and distract us from experiencing the world in a positive way. The simplest (yet sometimes the hardest) thing to do is forgive the person who hurt us, reminding ourselves that we all make mistakes.
If you’re struggling to forgive, ask God to help you through the process, and practice saying Ho’oponopono until you feel the weight lift off your heart.
I’ve seen it too many times, both in my life and in those around me. Too often, important conversations degenerate into people feeling hurt and unheard as they bark their pain at each other in a deafening roar.
The next time you find yourself in one one of these situations, stop wasting your breath and try a simple technique (the other person isn’t listening anyways, so give this a go). I promise that you’ll be amazed at the powerful progress you make.
This conversation technique is calling mirroring, and it is the closest thing you’ll ever find to a jedi mind trick. Used correctly, it will build connection, help your conversation partner feel heard, and it will help shift them into a collaborative state of mind (rather than a combative one).
The first part of the technique is a goal shift. Rather than aiming for the other person to say ‘You’re right’, you want them to say ‘That’s right’. When someone says ‘You’re right’, you’ve completely failed at getting through to them and (more times than not) they are dismissing you to end the conversation. When someone says ‘That’s right’, it means they feel heard, are in agreement with you, and are open to collabrating with you to solve the issue.
So here’s how to do the technique:
1) Actively listen to what your conversation partner is saying. When there’s a break in their words, repeat the last few words (or the most important few words) back to them as a question. After saying the words, hold silent for 5-6 seconds until they say something, while maintaining eye contact. The goal of this technique is to encourage them to say more while showing that you are actively listening.
Eg. If they say, “And that’s why I need the entire house cleaned”, you could respond, “the entire house?”. Then be sure to give the mirror space to work by being silent and letting it sink in.
2) Every once in a while, summarize what they said back to them, in their own words. The goal is for them to say, ‘That’s right’, which will show that you’ve listened well enough and that you understand the problem from their perspective. Only after they say, ‘That’s right’, will they be able to listen to what you have to say.
If they do not say the magic words, and instead add more detail, then alternate mirroring their words and summarizing what they say until you get to the bottom of the issue. Yes, it requires patience, but it is often the only way progress will be made.
Having Healthy Boundaries
We all know what it’s like to be trapped in a conversation we don’t want to be in, or to feel obligated to spend our energy and time in ways that make us feel like we have no control. If you’re feeling this way, you might find work on your relationship boundaries helpful.
Relationship boundaries all start with the word ‘No’. That word communicates that you have reached a limit on what you’re willing to do. It may seem counter-intuitive that saying ‘No’ can help you build relationships, but, if you can’t say ‘No’, then your ‘Yes’ doesn’t mean anything.
Think about it like this; saying ‘No’ creates space between you and a person/experience which you do not want. This now means that you have more time to spend on the people and experiences which you do want. This will allow you to build healthier, and more intentional relationships.
Practice saying ‘No’ this week in situations where you are normally scared to say ‘No’. Even if it is uncomfortable, you will feel more empowered as you respect your time and energy in this way. Don’t worry if it comes out awkwardly at first, that’s totally normal as you grow in boundaries.
In my book, ‘Life More Abundantly‘, I talk about cultivating boundaries in detail and I share experiences from my own journey. If this is something which you could use support in, read the Family & Relationships chapters of my book now.
Want to learn more?
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Abundance can start with small, simple habits. All you have to do is learn and apply them!
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