Relationships: Healthy Connections
Jan 30, 2015 09:18PM
By Pat Obst and Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld
Relationship is the state of being connected. For relationships to really thrive, there needs to be connections on multiple levels. However, research indicates that to be connected to others we first must be connected to ourselves. This calls for us to be self-aware, sincere and compassionate.
Self-Awareness and Mindfulness
The first step to connecting to one’s self is self-awareness by practicing mindfulness. Self-awareness gives us an understanding of what we are doing. Mindfulness gives realization and recall. It is observation or paying attention without judgement.
This practice of paying attention to what happens inside and around us with a non-judgmental attitude helps us to have a clear perception of our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, motivations and values. It’s removing our own viewpoint to take inventory of everything. It’s painful, but well worth it.
Start by sitting down in a quiet place for three minutes. Pay attention to the present moment using all five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. Hear the background noise, smell the air, see the colors in the outside world. Now there is connection to what happens around us. Now observe the thoughts that come into your mind, emotions that arise and the physical sensations in your body. Think of it as being a an engaged bystander. Recognize how each thought has an emotional response and physical reaction. This forges the connection to self and starts the process of creating new insights.
By practicing this skill, the more connected we become to self and our outside world which includes our relationships.
Values and Strengths
Values are the things that we believe are important to us. They are learned from parents, society, religion, experience and other factors. Strengths are natural traits or skills that develop along the way. Together, they are the foundation for how life is lived. Knowing them is critical. When individuals live by core values, use their strengths, they are connected to themselves and others. Doing a value exercise helps to clarify where our values come from while helping to see which ones are important right now. It also helps us learn how we need to adjust or even let go of them in order for life to work for us.
Values are very important in relationships. Healthy relationships require shared values. Most conflicts in relationships are usually a value conflict. By having shared/similar values and living them out in a similar way forges the deep connection.
Self-compassion, or self-kindness, is vital to mental well-being and life satisfaction, according to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a leading researcher on self-compassion. Neff says that self-compassion isn’t dependent upon feeling special; it’s the ability to treat yourself like a human being who deserves love and care. In essence, you value yourself.
It’s a learned skill, a practice of treating one’s self with understanding and kindness in instances of pain and failure. It includes self-forgiveness and acceptance of all of you.
One way to increase self-compassion is to develop a mantra. One that Neff developed for herself is: “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment; may I give myself the compassion that I need.” Neff’s son has autism. When he would have a tantrum in public, she would turn to her self-compassion mantra.
Being connected to self creates a healthy relationship with one’s self and the outer world. It is the foundation for establishing a bridge in developing healthier, deeper and more fulfilling relationships with others.
Pat Obst, a Licensed Clinical Therapist, and Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld, an ICF Certified Professional Life Coach, bring over 25 years of expert professional experience plus many years of personal knowledge and understanding of loss, grief and forever changes. Their Afterwards program is the next step and the critical link from being supported through therapy and support groups to gaining the ability to flourish after the first year. To learn more, visit AfterwardsProgram.com.