The 3 Secrets of Happy Couples…

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

You’ve seen them. You’ve probably been out to dinner with a friend or your spouse and noticed the ‘happy couple’ across the room. You’ve noticed them laughing, touching, and having, what appears to be, engaging conversation. Maybe you’ve even thought, “Why can’t we be as happy as they are? The truth is… you can. So, what do you have to do to be ‘that couple’?

First, you need to focus on your partner’s STRENGTHS. This is what all couples do at the beginning of a relationship.However, many couples shift gears and then begin to focus on their partner’s weaknesses. While it is common for the feelings we have at the beginning of a relationship to wane, it doesn’t have to be that way. The married couples I have spoken to over the years who describe themselves as ‘happy’ CONTINUE to focus on their partner’s strengths; even when they are hurt or angry in the relationship. Every time you get annoyed, upset, hurt, angry or bored with your partner, remind yourself of 3 character strengths of his or hers. These character strengths must be qualities you were attracted to initially, and most likely, still are.

The second secret of these couples is ACCEPTANCE. Of course there are behaviors you should not accept from your partner, such as disrespect or abuse.(If that is the case, seek professional help.) But aside from those, if she often loses her keys or he often listens to the tv too loudly, you can most likely accept these behaviors. Just like you, your partner is not perfect. If you are focused on the ‘little things’ he or she does to bother you, you will obviously feel bothered. If instead, you look at him or her with appreciation and acceptance, your relationship benefits greatly. It is likely the more accepting you are of each other, the closer you will feel to each other.

Last, but not least at all, is that happy couples have FUN! Happy couples know how to play with each other, whether it is by flirting/friendly teasing, making each other laugh or doing the extra silly little things they used to do for each other at the beginning of the relationship. This may require some thought or planning on your part but fun is actually a necessary part of relationships and of life. Some husbands or wives may say, “Well, s/he is no fun!” If that is how you feel, it is simply an indication that you and your partner need to create more fun, as you have allowed other things to get in the way. Yes, work and parenting responsibilities are priorities but FUN needs to be too! Fun is critical to a healthy relationship.

So, I ask you…do you want to be that ‘happy couple’ in the restaurant that others look at with envy? If so, start applying the above secrets right now!

Time for Spring Cleaning…And I Don’t Mean Your Closets!

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

So, FINALLY, the weather is nicer and daylight is longer! Hooray, we made it through the brutal and challenging winter. Now, it is time to do a bit of a ‘spring cleaning’ but not your closets… YOUR LIFE! Spring is a great time to reflect and re-evaluate. Reflect on where your life is now, where it has been and where you want it to be.

Change is always happening. Your life is likely much different today than it was a year ago, 5 years ago and certainly 10 years ago. Chances are your life may look different one year from now, 5 years from now and certainly 10 years from now.

Answer the following questions to help you get started on reflecting…

1. Who can you turn to when times get tough? Do you feel you have enough options?

2. Do you have people in your life who simply ‘take’ from you and don’t ‘give’ to you?

3. What behavior(s) of yours would you like to stop?

4. How do you feel at the end of the day? For example, do you feel as if you were productive? If not, what needs to change in order to feel productive?

5. When was the last time you felt deep gratitude?

6. What are the experiences that bring you true joy?

7. Where in your home do you feel peaceful? How can you create more space like that in your home/office/life in general?

8. What are the experiences that trigger stress for you?

9. What behavior(s) of yours makes you feel calm? How often do you engage in these behaviors?

10. What are your spiritual beliefs and how can they help you when you feel anxious, scared, or even depressed?

Each of these questions tells you something valuable about you, your decisions, and your life. If music brings you joy, listen as much as you can. If you have people you refer to as ‘friends’ that do more taking than giving, maybe it is time to re-evaluate how important that relationship is to you and why you are in it. If meditation is a practice you engage in weekly and it brings you a sense of calm, why not try to incorporate it into your life on a daily basis? If you find yourself eating too much and you want to stop this, commit to a new behavior or program to help you. The point here is to use your answers as a way to reflect on how fulfilled you are in your life. Make the necessary changes. Yes, this may sound easy but it is not. The concept is a simple one, but the practice may be a bit tougher. Remind yourself though, that anything worthy in life requires some level of commitment and work. Aren’t you worth it? Happy Spring!

How to Get Really Really Happy…

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By Stacey Rose, Phd, LCSW

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” (John Lennon)

When I ask people what they most want out of life, I often hear, “I just want to be happy.” Yet, when asked what wouldmake them happy, the answers are not as clear. So, what is happiness and how can you get more of it? One of the first emotions we learn as children is happiness. While this emotion may be easy to define as kids (e.g.: ice cream, more tv time, being outdoors with friends), we need to let the word ‘happy’ evolve as we evolve into adulthood. If you ask 10 different people what makes them happy, you will likely get 10 different answers. Thus, happiness is whatever you define it to be. What has made you happy in the past? What makes you happy now? How can you recognize the emotion of happiness? It may not be as easy as it sounds. For some people, happiness is a feeling of contentment where there are no major crises happening in their lives (the lack of conflict). For others, happiness is a feeling of peacefulness. Write down 10 things/people/experiences in your life that bring you the feeling of happiness. This list will be your guide to increasing your level of joy. Being happy can be feeling grateful, showing kindness or receiving kindness, or can be a true sense of appreciation; focusing on the positives in your life.

In recent years, Martin Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness” and also known as the “Father of Positive Psychology”, talks about 3 kinds of happiness. The first is the ‘pleasant life’ where basic human needs are met. The second is the ‘good life’ where one discovers their strengths and virtues. The third is the ‘meaningful life’ where a person discovers their life purpose and the meaning behind it. How would you define your life at this point? What would it take to get to a ‘meaningful life’? Begin to think about the times in your life where you felt true depth and meaning. Could you re-create any of these experiences? If so, how? One of the messages Seligman gives is that so much of our happiness lies within our own hands. While it may not be easy, if we use gratitude and forgiveness to help let go of things from our past we may be holding onto, it is completely possible to shift gears and think more positively. Furthermore, we can incorporate altruism to help bring us joy. Helping others often helps us.

One of the biggest challenges in the path to joy can be the notion of comparisons. In other words, when we compare our lives to our friends (even our facebook friends), family members, colleagues, or anyone for that matter, we just blocked our own happiness. There will ALWAYS be someone in the world who has more /better_________(fill in the blank…money, home, job, body, kids, car, success, etc.) than you. There will also ALWAYS be someone in the world who has less___________(fill in the blank) than you too. While it is normal to want to ‘fit in’ to groups in life, it is critical that we know how to be ourselves. Comparing ourselves to others does not often bring us true happiness. Set specific and attainable goals for yourself.

We all want to be happy. Happiness, like all emotions, may come and go; but it can play a predominant role in your life if you do what is necessary to bring it about and help sustain it as much as possible. So, go out and make yourself happy today… No need to wait, start right now and maybe you can go from a ‘pleasant life’ to a ‘meaningful life’. John Lennon understood it for sure.

What Inspires You?

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

When the weather is cold, bills are coming in, and maybe you feel like you’re just not having any good luck, what inspires you? For some, it can be hearing a story in the news that reminds you someone else always has it worse. For others, it can be listening to a motivational talk on t.v. or at your house of worship. But, the reality of life, is that it is short! As far as we know, we only get one life, so what are you doing with your time on Earth? Are you happy about the choices you are making? If not, what do you want to do about it?

If you had only 24 hours to live, what would you do with that time??? I imagine you have met people that can have one negative experience after another and still find the silver lining in their clouds.

I imagine you’ve also met people who don’t have it so bad, but can only see their life in the worst light possible. In other words, it is all about perception. How we react or respond to situations are within our power and can determine much of how we feel. If your teenager comes home past curfew, are you imagining the worst-case scenarios? ‘Maybe, he had a car accident’ or ‘Maybe, someone put something in her drink and she is passed out somewhere.’ Or, do you say, ‘Maybe, he lost track of time’ or ‘Maybe, her cell phone died but she is on her way.’ It’s all how we look at things.

Are you a half-empty or half-full thinker? Research shows that those who see the glass half-full are physically healthier, happier, and may even live longer than those who see the glass half-empty. Perception is a choice you make when you have an opportunity to respond to a situation.

Years ago, I worked with a woman who was typically negative and unfriendly. She would push people away with her attitude, without even realizing it. She lived her life this way until she was diagnosed with cancer in her fifties. After months of chemotherapy, time to think and heal, she came back to work a new woman. She was now warmer, friendly, and more open to others. The transformation was amazing to me. Unfortunately, she had to go through this experience to realize just how precious life is. At her funeral, friends and family grieved the loss of her and the loss of who she had become.

Many people live their lives without reaching their full potential. If you were to reach your full potential, what would that look like? Would you be at your current job? Would you be spending money the way you do? Would you be in the relationships with those in your life now? Would you react and respond to situations the same way? Think about a time in your life when you felt most inspired. Put that to good use now.

Don’t wait for something huge and life threatening to happen in order for you to make a change. Do it now. Find out what inspires you to be the best YOU you can be.

Maybe You Know…

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

Maybe you know someone who died too soon. Maybe you know someone who suffered a traumatic loss or deep pain that doesn’t go away easily. Maybe you know what it is like to love and lose that someone. If so, you are living a full life; because loss is a part of the human experience. Every day in my office, I hear people talk about what they lost or what they are afraid to lose. For some it is the loss of a parent, friend, spouse or even child. All are devastating in their own way. For others it is the loss of a job, a career, health, money, or even loss of control. So, maybe you know…

And if you do know what it is like to lose, maybe you know what it is like to win. Maybe you know what it is like to gain a friend, give birth to a baby, get a raise, get into a new relationship, get a clean bill of health from the doctor, or to simply relish in joy on a nice day. But this is not about winning or losing, this is about how to live life in a way that is whole. Most people want to avoid pain at all costs. While this is completely understandable, pain often is accompanied by a gift. In other words, every experience can teach us an important lesson, if we are open to it. So, if we ‘cheat’ ourselves of a painful experience, we ‘cheat’ ourselves of the gifts it offers too. The more we avoid pain, the less we grow and evolve emotionally.

The choice is yours. Do you want a full life; one that includes hurt and sadness too? Most people would say no immediately. But think before you respond. By saying no to pain, we never truly appreciate joy. Sadness allows us to appreciate happiness. Feeling ill allows us to fully appreciate feeling well, just like cloudy days allow us to appreciate sunny days. You get the point. If life were all good, all the time, we wouldn’t even realize it.

So, take a moment right now; think about some of the deep and intense emotional experiences you have had in your life. Maybe, you are in the midst of one right now. Breathe into it. Welcome it because it has something to teach you; something you may not have learned without it. As trite as it may sound, it is true…”what doesn’t kill us, does make us stronger.” I would add to that… ‘if we let it’.

One of the services I offer is helping people manage the pain of life. Through guided imageries, meditations, and learning new tools to cope with these challenges, there are ways to move through these times without being debilitated by them. Sometimes, we can actually be transformed by them.

Again, it is your choice to decide how you want to go through the one life you have. Do you want a full experience including a full range of emotions; or would you prefer a safer and more limited experience in life? The choice is yours… Either way I remind you that simply by being human, we all know…

Five Tips You Must Try Before You Decide To End Your Relationship

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

Every day in my office I hear someone say something like, “I love you but I’m not in love with you anymore.” This often leads to the consideration of ending a relationship. Some people choose to have affairs (emotional or physical), while others simply ‘check-out’ emotionally from the relationship. If you are married, and especially if you have children, you owe it to your kids to do everything in your power before you walk away. When, and only when, you can say to yourself that you have tried everything you can to make your relationship work; and you are still unhappy, then walk away… as gracefully as possible. But, many people quit too soon.  You probably don’t want to tell your kids one day that you didn’t try your hardest to make the marriage work. So, here are some things you can do immediately to begin to turn things around.

1. Remind yourself why you chose your partner. Write down at least ten traits you were attracted to in him/her.

2. Thank your partner for something he or she has done that you really appreciate, even if you are angry and apathetic in the relationship. It is at the times when you can’t think of anything that you appreciate about him or her, when you really need to stretch yourself and revisit his or her strengths. Just because you are upset with your partner does not mean the attributes you liked or loved at one time have disappeared.

3. Ask your partner to go on a date with you…even if you don’t want to go. Oftentimes, when couples change the environment they are in, their moods change too. This will give you both an opportunity to reconnect with each other.

4. Think about a time when you felt most loved by your spouse. What was happening at that time that allowed you to feel that way? What did he or she do to help you feel loved? What was different then from now? The answers to these questions will help you identify what needs attention.

5. Look at yourself. Have you let resentment build over the years? If so, begin to consider forgiveness. This does not mean that anything you are upset about is to be let go completely; but how are you benefitting from holding onto it?  Look at yourself again. Are you keeping up your end of the relationship? Are you giving your spouse what he or she needs to feel loved? Ask him or her when he/she felt most loved by you. Create a similar experience today.  All of these tips are easy to do when you are happy and getting your needs met. It is when your relationship is at its most challenging moments when you need to implement these tips the most. The more often you do any of the above, the more you and your partner will benefit… And most importantly, the more your kids will benefit!

These five simple tips will begin to shift your perspective about your marriage. This is not to suggest that ending your relationship is still not an option, but only when you can honestly say you have done everything to at least try to make it work. If you need assistance with any of this, feel free to reach out. Many couples have benefited from my Marital Boot Camp… a quicker, easier way to make your marriage work (and much less financially and emotionally costly than a divorce.) See my web site for more information….staceyrose.com

Time to Live Your IDEAL Life…

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

So the summer is finally here and as the school year winds down for your kids or your work schedule eases a bit, you can take a deep breath. Go ahead…inhale…and exhale. What do you want to do this summer? Will it be a great vacation? How about heading to the beach? Maybe you want to catch up on some great novels or see a few fabulous movies. Whatever it is, let it be relaxing. We had a rough winter; and just as the seasons change, so too do our lives. We go through seasons in our relationships and hopefully are always evolving.

I’d like to take you on a journey. This is the journey of the next year of your life. Imagine that this is the beginning of the summer of 2015. Think about what would have happened in your life in the past year. What did you accomplish? What changes did you make? Are you in the same home, same relationship, same job? If so, are you happy about that? Or, did you make significant changes? Did you learn how to meditate this past year? Did you take tango lessons or pottery classes? In other words, if you lived your ideal life over the past year, what would it have looked like? THAT NEEDS TO BE ON THE AGENDA STARTING NOW.

Sometimes, we need to start at the end in order to know where we are going. Just like a GPS system, if you don’t put in the destination, the GPS can’t direct you. I invite you to write down the answers to the questions above. Let these be your goals for the upcoming year. Start small though…maybe just have goals for this summer. Maybe you want to take surf lessons or re-ignite your passion for golf. Whatever it is you desire, it is up to you to pursue. If not now, when?

Here’s a bit of a road map to help…

IDEAL….I stands for “I” as in yourself. “D” stands for desire. “E” stands for evolution. “A” stands for aspirations. And “L” is for love.

Follow this map and you should be on your way. Living your IDEAL life means..I desire_______(fill in the blank) and in order for me to be evolved I will _____________. I aspire to _____________ and will love myself and others in this way________________.

If you need some coaching to help you clarify your goals and be held accountable, feel free to reach out. In the meantime, enjoy this summer of 2014 so by next summer, you will feel so much more accomplished and not to mention, ideal!