For those of you who have been keeping up around here, you know that Zach and I have been working our way through Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, doing one chapter each month. Last month we worked through chapter two, which was all about love and relationships, both romantic and with family and friends.
I'll admit, this month was really difficult for us. We have just both been so busy with work that thinking about things like a date night or leaving a little note to each other just really wasn't taking priority. But then that's part of the reason we're doing this in the first place, because we need more of a work/life balance. So while I can't say we hit every challenge out of the park, it was nice to have these topics in mind throughout the month. What we're sharing today are a few of the points that kind of changed our perspective, provided a little a-ha moment, and will hopefully stick with us for months to come.
Hugs Powered by Science
Z: One thing I thought was cool in this chapter was the concept of the seven-second hug. Rubin references research that says six seconds is the minimum necessary hug time "to promote the flow of oxytocin and serotonin, mood-boosting chemicals that promote bonding." Focusing the hug and actually counting the seconds adds another layer of tension release and helps me ease my mind. It's calming to take that time to connect, especially in moments of stress.
A: I really liked that he grabbed onto this concept, because I actually didn't even remember reading this particular part. Then one day when I was stressed out, he just hugged me and was counting. When he was done he just said, "It's science." (He can be a man of few words.) I thought this was really funny so every time it's happened since I have a little happy memory to go along with it. That plus the legitimate power of the longer hug has actually really been a really helpful way to combat stress this month.
No Dumping, No Snapping
A: So I actually don't think we have any super serious problems when it comes to fighting. Not that we don't fight, but in my opinion, it's pretty normal relationship conflict. We also don't have kids yet, and I know that can really be a game-changer, so I'm prepared to eat my words when that day comes. One thing I didn't realize I already do with Zach is try to employ what Rubin refers to as "no dumping." Basically, I just can't expect Zach to be my partner, my best girlfriend, and my therapist. According to the book (and basic human observation), women have more empathy than men do and both men and women feel more intimate in relationships with women. So when I'm looking for an understanding ear, I try to go to Zach with only one very specific thing. If I do this (especially if I can do it calmly), he is always a big help. However, anything else and he gets overwhelmed, I end up hurt, and nothing is accomplished. And really, I can't blame him for that. After all, "It's science." ;)
Z: It can feel overwhelming to get dumped on, so I definitely like it when we're focusing on just one problem at a time. For me, I chose to focus on not snapping at Ashley. I carry a lot of work-related stress, so I really tried to be mindful of how things like my tone of voice when I'm feeling overwhelmed can have an effect on both of our feelings.
Be a Love Mirror
A: This was my favorite part of the chapter and something I hope sticks with me in the future. The concept is simple but carries a lot of impact: in order to show love you need to understand how a person wants to be treated. To understand this, it is important to look to how they act rather than what they say. Rubin talks about planning a party for her mother-in-law, and to explain this point, I am also going to use my parents as examples. When asked what they would like for their birthdays, they always say (as most of us do) that they don't really care. However, if we're trying to do better than this, we should put a little thought into figuring out what they actually do want. My mom, for our birthdays, tends to keep celebrations simple, but also beautiful, thoughtful, and with a few extra-special treats. So this helps me to know what she would like for her own birthday. A small and relaxed gathering with beautiful touches and something a little indulgent, like a pretty cupcake and some new jewelry, would make her feel happy and loved. My dad, on the other hand, loves to surprise people with elaborate, well-planned gifts and has even thrown a few surprise parties for others. He's a "the more, the merrier" kind of guy. So I know that when it's his birthday, something with a surprise element is the way to make him feel appreciated. Something like a big cookout with friends and family he hasn't seen in years would really make his day. Everyone places value in different kinds of acts of love, and a great way to figure out where another's values lie is to look at how they show love to others. It's kind of obvious, but I'm going to make a special point to try and actively think about this when celebrating others in the future.
Z: I'll be honest, I hadn't really ever put thought into "how" to show someone I care about them. It has been pretty eye-opening how this concept is so simple and doesn't necessarily require more work, but the result can be so much bigger and so much more thoughtful. I can see how this could be useful in all types of interpersonal relationships. I feel like it's also a good guide for men who might struggle with connecting with others because it's such a straightforward way to understand someone. You don't have to have the answers, you just have to pay close enough attention and be more observant. If you are will to be receptive, people will show you how they would like to be treated.
Have you read The Happiness Project? Did any of these tips resonate with you? Were there any we haven't covered that you particularly liked? Let's chat it out in the comments! :)
For May, we're focusing on chapter three, which is all about "Aiming Higher" at work. Like I said earlier, this is pretty much always the main focus in our household these days. We also both are in transitioning periods with work, so I'm excited that it's coming at such an opportune time. Some topics covered include launching, embracing failure, asking for help, and working smarter. If you'd like to join in, grab your copy, read up, and check back in with us on the first Monday in June! (I also do a mid-month tip from the book, too, so make sure you're subscribed to receive new posts!)
Are there any areas in your professional life in which you would really like some tips? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to gear a future post around what I learn!