5 Ocak 2012 Perşembe



Yeni bir iş, yeni bir ilişki…
Yeni bir okula başlamak ve ya yeni bir ülkeye gitmek…
Yeni bir yıl… Yeni bir hayat…
Ama her gün yeni bir gün… Yeni bir başlangıç… Bize sunulan yeni bir şans…

Hayatımıza şöyle bir baktığımızda görüyoruz ki bir sürü birbirinden değişik ‘başlangıçlar’ ile dolu… Her attığımız büyük ve radikal adım, ilk denediğimiz, yediğimiz, gördüğümüz şeyler… Yani; yaşamdaki ‘ilkler’ hepsi birer başlangıçtır bize sunulan…

Başlangıçlar, algısal bakımdan, bir bitişten sonraki yeni ve ilk adımdır… Heyecan verir… Umut vaat-eder. Aynı zamanda bir değişimi çağrıştırır. Değişimler kimi zaman bize korku da verebilir. Geçmişe dair her şeyi bırakmak gerekir. Geçmişi bırakmak ise çoğumuz için zordur… O sayfayı kapatmak ve yeniden sıfırdan bilinmezliğe doğru ilk adımı- başlangıcı yapmak…

Simgesel anlamda hatta ‘yeniden doğmak’ gibidir başlangıçlar… Bize sunulan bu şansı en iyi ve verimli şekilde kullanmak gerektiğine inanıyorum… Çoğumuz bize sunulan hayatın ve limitli verilen zamanın değerini bilmiyoruz. Gereksiz şeylere, detaylara takılıp duruyoruz ve o sırada asıl önümüze çıkan güzel başlangıç fırsatlarını, açılan yeni kapıları göremiyoruz. Kaçıp gidiyor o an… Kapanıyor kapı…
Her ne kadar pozitif düşüncenin önemi her okuduğumuz kitapta, her filmde, her doktor ve psikolog tarafından vurgulansa da, bizler bir o kadar negatif düşünce kurbanı oluyoruz… Yaşamın güzelliklerini kaçırıyor değer bilmediğimizden kendi değerlerimizi unutuyoruz. Sadece, anlamadan, farkındalığına varmadan tüketiyoruz… Ama bu tüketimden keyif de almıyoruz. Hem kendimize, hem başkalarına hem de hayata yabancılaşıyoruz.

Oysaki ne kadar kolay… Bir güne başlamak bile bize sunulan yeni bir başlangıç. Bu şansı değerlendirip değerlendirmemek sadece bize bağlı. Unutmayalım ki, hepimiz kendi seçimlerimizden sorumluyuz. Neyi seçersek seçelim iyi ve ya kötü, bedelini en çok biz öderiz. Bu yüzden, sunulan her başlangıcın değerini bilmek, o anları farkındalıkla yaşamak, her boyutta hissetmek ve anlam çıkarmak bizlerin yaşam kalitesini arttıracağına inanıyorum.

Her bitiş yeni bir başlangıçtır. Bunu bilerek yaşayalım…

15 Temmuz 2011 Cuma

Music for the Mind: The Psychology of Music

Music for the Mind: The Psychology of Music

According to British psychologist Glenn Wilson, music plays a very central role in the lives of people and is ranked highly among pleasures including sex, food and drink. Aside from the enjoyment of listening to tunes or composing symphonies, studies show that music of all genres can have a great impact on both the physical and psychological aspects of the human body, in addition to that of plants and animals.

The American Music Therapy Association describes this form of treatment as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship.” People suffering from psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and autism have shown great improvement in various mental aspects after listening to certain classifications of music. A 2009 article in The Washington Post discusses a mother’s use of music to assist her 15-year-old autistic daughter perform daily activities including bathing, eating and attending school. She and her daughter regularly engage in what is called music therapy by singing simple tunes together; the lyrics are not just words, but instructions such as “take a bath.”

Patients suffering from anxiety and depression often show marked improvements in symptoms after listening to soothing or uplifting music. The reason for this is purely neurological. As mental disorders, both anxiety and depression are associated with lower levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin within the brain, and can reduce brain activity on an alarming scale. Musical tunes and melodies help increase Serotonin levels to a more natural, calming state. Typically the more melodious music is the better as it also has the power to calm nerves and reduce stress. Although someone may get a rush from heavy metal rather than classical; it depends on the person. Either way, no ill effects are generally discovered using music therapy.

In addition to its copious mental advantages, music is also celebrated for its innate restorative abilities, literally healing from the inside out. French researcher and otolaryngologist Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis conducted in 1991 what he coined “The Mozart Effect,” which he claimed promoted healing and brain development. His theory also proposed that listening to Mozart’s ballads at differing frequencies helped people with inner ear conditions retrain their ears to hear again.

Cognitive function benefits from music in a variety of ways; mood is largely influenced by the sound of music. Marketers actually research the kind of music that influences shoppers, for example, a store that plays pleasant, positive tunes usually enhances the customers’ experience and keeps them coming back for more, so the theory goes. Memory is another brain function that increases under the influence of song. Ever heard the idea that listening to classical tunes before a test enhances recall function? Go ahead, give it a try.

Music defines decades, bridges barriers and enhances lives, so the theory that music promotes health and well-being isn’t that far off the scale.

Mind Over Cancer

Mind Over Cancer
Therapy can increase patients' quality of life, boost their immune system and help them live longer.

Cancer affects nearly all of us. Yet few people realize that psychology can play an important role in cancer's treatment. Psychologists can help patients and families reduce emotional distress, enhance communication among patients, families and oncologists, reduce treatment's side effects and improve patients' quality of life. There's even evidence that psychological interventions may strengthen patients' immune systems, perhaps even helping them live longer.

Three Months To Live

Kip Little was supposed to die a decade ago. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, she was stunned. "I spent my lunch hours working out. I ate good things. I was a health nut,"—says Little, a former high-school counselor and physical education teacher in a Toronto suburb. "How could this happen to me?"

Following her mastectomy, a chance encounter led Little to a psychologist at the Ontario Cancer Institute. Working with him and other breast cancer patients, she transformed her life. Together they met weekly to discuss their feelings, learn meditation and other relaxation techniques, and explore ways of coping with grief, depression, pain and fear.

Finding the program was a lifesaver, says Little, now a 60-year-old retiree in Burlington, Ontario. "It was the skills I learned that got me through—and continue to get me through," she says. When her cancer returned in 1990, a physician gave her only three months or so to live. She rejected further physical treatment and instead intensified her practice of meditation and similar activities targeting her mental state. Today she's cancer-free.

Like Little, most people don't automatically associate psychology with cancer treatment. But they should. While psychologists can obviously help patients cope with the devastation of a potentially life-threatening diagnosis, their role often goes far beyond that. Psychologists teach patients how to endure the often difficult treatments that may represent their only chance at life. They improve patients' quality of life and help family members cope. As Kip Little's story illustrates, psychologists may even help extend patients' lives beyond conventional medicine's greatest hopes.

Living Longer?

Psychiatrist David Spiegel, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine, launched the debate about whether psychological interventions can lengthen lives in 1989, when he published a now-classic paper describing his work with breast cancer patients.

In the study, patients came together in weekly group therapy sessions to express their feelings about cancer and receive support from fellow victims. When Spiegel followed up a decade later, he discovered that patients who had participated in the sessions had survived an average of 18 months longer than those in the control group. Years of controversy have followed, with researchers trying—with mixed results—to replicate Spiegel's findings.

Now the psychologist who treated Kip Little believes he has the first real evidence that psychological interventions can indeed prolong lives. Like many others, Alastair J. Cunningham, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute, has spent years trying to determine group therapy's actual impact.

At first, he had little luck. Using an intervention he calls "Spiegelplus," Cunningham led 30 women with metastatic breast cancer through nine months of weekly group therapy. Patients also completed assignments such as attending religious services. An addition all 36 patients received a workbook and audiotapes designed to teach them relaxation and mental imaging. To his disappointment, Cunningham could detect no difference in survival rates between the two groups when he checked five years later.

Then Cunningham realized that a randomized study wasn't the right approach. Although randomized studies are the gold standard of scientific inquiry, they hide individuals and their behavior behind general findings.

To find out how his intervention affected individuals, Cunningham substituted a correlative design for a study of 22 patients with various kinds of supposedly incurable cancer. After asking experts to predict each patient's life-span, Cunningham and his team painstakingly gathered data on each participant's attitudes and behaviors as they participated in an intervention along the lines of the earlier experiment.

The result? Cunningham found that patients like Kip Little and other "superstars"—people who worked the hardest at transforming themselves psychologically—lived at least three times longer than predicted. With one or two exceptions, the least active died right on schedule. "It makes sense to me that the people who live longer are those who make substantial psychological changes," says Cunningham. "Of course, only a few do that."

Cunningham's discovery won't stop the debate about psychological interventions' impact on patients' life spans. Scientists still don't even know how cancer develops. "For years we've been puzzling around the labs trying to figure out what regulates cancer," says Cunningham, noting that the endocrine or immune systems may play a role. "Not much is known yet."

Enduring Treatment

What is known is that psychologists can teach patients how to manage their treatment more effectively.

Haber helps her patients cope with the emotions cancer elicits, which may include terror, depression, or even relief for patients who have been told their malaise was all in their heads. But, Haber insists, it's the other issues she tackles that are even more crucial for cancer patients.

For instance, Haber also helps her patients weigh decisions that can be a matter of life or death. She teaches them how to talk more effectively with doctors and get the information they need. She'll even set up "buddy groups" that take on everyday chores patients are too weak to manage.

Psychologists can also help patients comply with their treatment regimens, teaching them techniques for managing side effects that may not only affect their quality of life but can actually interfere with their treatment. After all, chemotherapy can't work if a patient can't keep the drugs down. To help patients control nausea and other side effects, Haber teaches patients self-hypnosis and other techniques designed to help them relax.

Pain management is especially important. "The experience of pain is very subjective," says Haber. "If you break your leg, it's always going to be painful. But if you're panic-stricken about going to the hospital, that exacerbates the pain."

Take Patrick Riordan, for example. Riordan, special assistant to the president of the University of South Florida in Tampa, discovered he had lung cancer in 1998. As he prepared for chemotherapy, a psychologist at the university's H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center taught him how to use guided imagery to control discomfort. The psychologist quizzed Riordan about places dear to him, then created a tape that allowed Riordan to take a guided trip into a nearby park all in his mind.

The cassette became invaluable when Riordan's radiation therapy burned his esophagus. In agony; Riordan was barely able to eat or even swallow. "I could close my eyes and go to this beautiful park with lots of palms, cypresses and alligators," says Riordan, who took the trip so often he could soon go there without the tape's help. "I'd just think about the fact that there was a great chain of ecology that had created that environment over eons, that I was part of it, and that I didn't need to be so focused on my present discomfort."

Today Riordan, 54, is in remission. And he's back to putting hot sauce on his pizzas.

Helping Families

Patients aren't the only ones who can benefit from psychologists' help. In fact, researcher Laurel L. Northouse, Ph.D., R.N., a professor at the University of Michigan's School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, has discovered that family members are often more distressed than actual patients.

In one study, for example, Northouse discovered that spouses of colon cancer patients were more upset than the patients. Northouse also found that husbands of breast cancer patients experience just as much distress as their spouses and have an even harder time coping with their work and family obligations. Yet family members are often overlooked, says Northouse.

And their distress can take a toll on patients, warns psychologist Mary Jo Kupst, Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In research that followed children for a decade after their cancer diagnoses, Kupst found that the best predictor of how well the children fared was how well their parents adjusted to their children's illness.

Pediatric oncology wards have done a good job of meeting the needs of what are sometimes called "secondary" patients, says Kupst. Psychologists can help parents manage stress and help siblings overcome fear and feelings of isolation. Some psychologists actually encourage family members to become active participants in patients' care.

Using a technique pioneered by William H. Redd, Ph.D., now associate director of the Ruttenberg Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai/New York University Medical Center, psychologists teach worried parents or spouses how to soothe their family members through hypnosis, relaxation or even something as simple as a video game. According to Redd, doing so helps channel relatives' anxiety and makes them feel useful.

1 Temmuz 2011 Cuma

Recognizing Your Attractions of Deprivation


Why do our most intense romantic passions so often end in disaster? Why do these "attractions of deprivation" feel just like true love, even as they lead us off the edge of a cliff? There is an insight which can help us solve this mystery, but it's one we don't get taught: Our most painful attractions actually arise from our deepest intimacy gifts, and these gifts are the brick and mortar of a love that can survive in this often treacherous world. This post will teach you how to recognize and avoid your own attractions of deprivation, but, even more important, it will help you name the intimacy gifts they conceal.

All of us are attracted to a particular type that stops us dead in our tracks: a physical type, an emotional type, and a personality type. These "iconic" attractions make us weak in the knees, and they trigger our insecurities as well as seismic longings. How does that happen?
Harville Hendrix' model of the Imago explains that they draw us in part because they embody the worst emotional characteristics of our primary caregivers! Even though we may be adults, we often have unresolved childhood hurts due to betrayal, manipulation, abuse and neglect from our caregivers.

Unconsciously, we seek healing of these wounds in our intimate relationships. But that means we're most attracted to people who can wound us in just the way we were wounded in our childhood! Our psyche seeks to recreate the scene of the original crime, and then save us by changing its ending. The child in us believes that if the original perpetrators -- or their current replacements -- finally change their minds, apologize, or make up for that terrible rupture of trust, we can escape from our prison of unworthiness. Our conscious self is drawn to the positive qualities we yearn for, but our unconscious draws us to the qualities which hurt us the most as children.

What lies at the heart of this inexorable hunger for healing? The answer lies in the deep strata of our emotional self, where we create what I call our "myth of lost love." As we grow beyond the relative paradise of infancy, each of us crashes into the painful wall of our parents' dysfunctions, and the cruelty of the outside world. This experience feels like a deep loss; a betrayal of what we know life should be like. So we create a "myth of lost love" to explain why this loss occurred. Like any powerful myth, this one frames our understanding of how life--and love--works. As we grow into adults, it becomes the mold that shapes our love lives.

The myth of lost love has two aspects. First, it articulates how the world is unsafe, and what we should do about that. It creates rules for us to follow to protect ourselves from new assaults upon our heart. The second part of our myth is equally destructive. It explains our parents' limitations in the way that makes the most sense to a kid --"It's my fault, and in some essential way, I'm unlovable." And then it continues its path of damage by articulating the flaws which make us unworthy of love. It homes in on our most vulnerable, needy, and nonconforming qualities and tells that us that they are to blame for our loss of love.

Most of us will be in battle with that voice for the rest of our lives, trying to disprove it even as we stubbornly remain loyal to it.

When we find someone who awakens the unconscious memory of lost love, our buried hopes are awakened-in spades. Yet if we choose a relationship of deprivation, our hopes are likely to be crushed once again.

The part that's both heartbreaking and hopeful is that, in most cases, the very qualities we are ashamed of are the ones that can best attract the love we need! I call them "core gifts." It's important to note that these gifts are not the same as talents or strengths. They are simply our areas of deepest sensitivity and feeling, and they are usually tied to our most passionate, creative and loving qualities. But gifts aren't easy things to have. People take advantage of them. Our gifts have an intensity which can make us behave irrationally; a sensitivity that can bring us to our knees. The truth is, our gifts get us in trouble again and again in our lives. If we don't understand our gifts and the way they've influenced our history, then in some essential way, we won't understand the deep story-line of our lives! (More about core gifts in future posts.)

As long as we keep following our attractions of deprivation, these gifts will remain disempowered, and so will we. So how do we stop following these wildly compelling attractions? The first step is to recognize them for what they are. The second step is to identify the core gifts they conceal. This important exercise will help you to do both.


I use this very helpful exercise in my workshops. It can help you identify the negative, withholding qualities that keep drawing you in. With this knowledge, you'll have a rudimentary map of your path to healing intimacy-complete with warning signs to protect you from once again choosing pain.

STEP ONE: Take a sheet of paper and write at the top: "My attractions of deprivation." List all the traits of your former partners which hurt you, frustrated you, or made you feel unseen or unacknowledged. Don't worry if the fault might have been partly yours. Write them down anyway. Include physical traits that are sexy but also negative, like a cocky swagger or an angry, tight mouth.
Tip: If you're having a hard time identifying your attractions of deprivation, ask your closest friends; they've probably wished they could tell you for years!

STEP TWO: Take a second sheet of paper and write on top, "A portrait of my attractions of deprivation." Read through your notes from step one, and put together a profile of the types of people who draw you in and cause you pain. For example:

"I'm attracted to bad boys. Guys who have no problem expressing their anger or their needs. I'm talking about angry people. Guys who don't seem to need me like I need them. Guys who don't need the validation I need. A lot of them have drunk too much. Some of them-at least three-have cheated on me. All of them were sexy in their self-confidence. Most resented my successes, or at least couldn't celebrate big accomplishments with me. They were critical of me, and I ended up feeling guilty a lot of the time. I'm attracted to guys with a sort of disdainful look on their face. A bit of arrogance turns me on."

STEP THREE: Underneath that part, write a new subtitle, "My gifts." Remember that our greatest wounds point to our greatest gifts. Write down which of your gifts felt degraded, minimized, or not fully appreciated in these relationships. What parts of you did you most yearn for your partner to understand, appreciate, and make room for? Those are your core gifts. This information is invaluable, and here's why: In all likelihood, these are the very gifts that you haven't been able to fully honor, which is why you allowed them to be neglected, minimized or even abused. These gifts lie at the cutting edge of your growth. They are the qualities in your personality that you need to embrace and express. Not to mention protect--which is why it's imperative that you choose people who honor and treasure them as well. These are your relationships of inspiration, not deprivation.

Take a few minutes to read what you wrote, and notice your feelings as you let it sink in. Remember not to judge yourself; this knowledge is exactly what will set you free from future replays, and open the door to a relationship where you are loved for who you really are.

29 Haziran 2011 Çarşamba

The Six Best Ways to Decrease Your Anxiety

The Six Best Ways to Decrease Your Anxiety

Use research-based coping strategies to overcome your fears

Calming the mind
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat that we think is too much to handle. That's because our "fight or flight" response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals. As a Cognitive-Behavior Therapist with more than 15 years of experience, I have found a variety of techniques that I can teach my patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, or chronic worry. Some are based on changing thoughts, others on changing behavior, and still others involve physiological responses. The more aspects of anxiety I can decrease, the lower the chance of relapse post-therapy. Below are six strategies that you can use to help your anxiety.:

Techniques to achieve inner peace of mind

(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening
Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.

(2) Decatastrophizing

Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It's important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.

(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down

By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the breaks on sympathetic arousal.

(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions

The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is soething that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.

(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.

Soothing & healing strategies for your mind
(6) Exposure
Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.

24 Haziran 2011 Cuma

3 Stages of Love in Relationships

The three stages of love in relationships are romantic feelings, physical attraction, & emotional attachment. Here are seven ways for partners to enjoy all stages.
Relationships go through three stages of love: the initial feelings of lust or romantic feelings, physical attraction, and finally a deeper emotional attachment.

Reaching the final stage of love isn't just about luck or unconditional acceptance. You can reach the final stage of love with these seven tips for a healthy love life. But to be enjoyed, the three stages of love must first be understood.

What Are the Stages of Love?
The three stages of love are the same for everyone: lust or romantic feelings, physical attraction, and emotional attachment. The stages of love aren't necessarily separated by markers like anniversaries or events (such as getting married). Rather, the three stages of love blend together in one long stroke of love.

Not everyone reaches or stays in the final stage of love, which is when separation or divorce becomes the choice.

The Three Stages of Love in Relationships
Romantic feelings or lust is the first stage of love. Romantic love is driven by testosterone and estrogen. Mating is the evolutionary purpose of this stage of love; it creates strong physical attraction and sets the stage for emotional attachment. In this stage of love, endorphins soak your brain and you're immersed in intense pleasurable sensations. Your lover is perfect, ideal, made for you. In this stage of love you feel exhilarated and even "high" (similar to the feeling you get after you eat really good chocolate or have a great workout). You feel infatuated in this stage of love.

Physical attraction and power struggles make up the second stage of love (the "lovesick" phase). You may lose your appetite, need less sleep, and daydream about your lover on the bus, during meetings, in the shower. In this stage of love, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are racing through your body and brain. You're also trying to shape your lover into your ideal partner – which is where the power struggles come in. In this stage of relationship, you're becoming more realistic, and you two may fight about things like whether or not to buy organic food or listen to country music. The infatuation is wearing off, a strong emotional attachment begins to set in, and feelings of infatuation fade.

Emotional attachment or unconditional acceptance is the third stage of love. Emotional attachment involves commitment, partnership, and even children (a fear of intimacy prevents many from reaching this stage of love). In this stage of love, you're aware of both positive and negative traits in your partner, and you've decided you want to build a life together. Confrontation is most likely to occur in this stage of love (though if you're authentic and honest, it'll also happen in the second stage of love). You and your partner will either work towards a healthy, loving relationship or decide to call it quits.

Staying in Love
Love isn't just a vehicle that brings happiness and contentment to your life (or bitterness and pain!). Love is a living, dynamic creature that changes, grows, and needs attention -- and you must nurture it. In all three stages of love, your love reveals who you really are, in all your glory and weakness.

All stages of love can help you accept your strengths and weaknesses. All stages of love also reveal your partner's strengths and weaknesses.

7 Tips for All 3 Stages of Love:
Focus on the things you can control: your attitude, your behavior, your words, and your energy. If you want something to change in any stage of a loving relationship, make it your own traits or actions – not your partner's.
Learn healthy ways to express your disappointment, anger, or frustration. Be honest and authentic, and kind and loving in all stages of relationships.
Remember the first stage of love! Recall your feelings of lust, attraction, and desire for your partner. Think about the traits that you were attracted to, and let those old feelings come to life again.
Appreciate your partner's good qualities; be grateful for the life you share. Gratitude can enhance all stages of relationships.
Focus on emotional intimacy in all three stages of love. Be vulnerable to have a healthy love life.
Own your feelings. Your partner can't "make" you feel stupid or worthless. If you feel unfulfilled or sad about your life, look at your own dreams and goals. Are you pursuing the life you were meant to live? Are you following your heart? Develop your personality, mind, and spirit. Figure out what will make you happy in this stage of love, and start creating the life you were meant to live.
Consider counseling in any stage of love. If you've lost that loving feeling, it could be an individual thing that you need to deal with or a couples' issue that you should tackle together. An objective point of view, from a therapist, pastor, or friend you trust, is incredibly helpful in all stages of relationships.

3 Haziran 2011 Cuma

10 Ways to Perk Up Your Relationship

10 Ways to Perk Up Your Relationship

If you've ever gotten relationship advice, you've probably heard plenty of don'ts. Don't nag. Don't stonewall. Don't blame. Don't leave the toilet seat up, don't squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle, and definitely don't assume he's that into you when he's just not. Well, don't listen.
The happiest couples focus on do's, not don'ts. Rather than just steering clear of negative interactions, they actively work to build positivity into their relationships. They show what psychologists call an "approach orientation," moving toward what's good, rather than moving away from what's bad.
Traditionally, couples research has focused more on minimizing negatives (arguments, emotional distance, infidelity) than on maximizing positives. But a new wave of research is changing all that. Positivity-oriented psychologists find that maintaining a favorable balance of positive to negative emotions helps people—and relationships—thrive. "We've already learned about all the toxic stuff that harms relationships," says psychologist Dacher Keltner, author of Born to Be Good. "There's a whole new science of how to build in good emotions."

Positivity has a way of shifting our perspective: While negative emotions shut us down, positive emotions open us up. They help us "broaden and build," argues Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Positivity. Positive emotions actually spur big-picture thinking, yielding benefits like keener peripheral vision and increased creativity—not to mention better relationships.
"Finding ways to inject humor and lightness into a difficult situation is not merely a distraction," says Fredrickson, "It actually helps people see possibilities." Partners stuck in a "one-note song" should move towards greater positivity by seizing "micro-opportunities" to connect, she says. Positive emotion is about more than just having fun—it includes gratitude, inspiration, and curiosity.
When participants do a "loving-kindness meditation," a form of meditation focused on generating warm and tender feelings toward others, the quotient of positive emotions in their lives increases, which in turn boosts relationship satisfaction, Frederickson has found.
In fact, just setting more positive goals for your relationship can make you happier as a couple. Couples who seek to increase the good in their relationships, concentrating on sharing fun and meaningful experiences together, promoting growth and development in the relationship, and creating satisfaction and intimacy ("approach-oriented goals"), fare better than couples focused on ducking the negatives ("avoidant-oriented" goals), says Emily Impett, a researcher at UC Berkeley.
You may not always achieve all the positives you seek—but it's enough to realize that positivity is important and to set goals reflecting that. The payoff is great: more fun, more growth, better sex, and more sustained intimacy.
1: Be grateful.
Remembering to thank your partner seems simple, but gratitude may provide the everyday dose of spackle that keeps you glued together over the long haul. "Gratitude helps remind us of the good qualities in our partners," says Sara Algoe, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It reminds people to attend to the others in their lives."
In a study of cohabitating couples, on days that one partner expressed more gratitude, the other felt more satisfied with the relationship. "We get into these routines and start taking our partners for granted," says Algoe. "But gratitude can work as a booster shot, injecting positive emotion into the relationship."
A low-quality expression of gratitude focuses on the object—"Thank you for cooking dinner, I was really hungry," explains Fredrickson. It's much better to focus on the other person: "You're such a great cook; it's so thoughtful of you to cook for me!"
"A lot of people express their appreciation in self-absorbed ways," Fredrickson says. "But when the expression of gratitude focuses on the other person, we find the other person walks around feeling better about themselves—and six months later, the relationship is stronger."
2: Poke fun at each other.
Playfulness is one of the first casualties of a busy life, says Dacher Keltner. When your life consists of nothing but working, paying bills, cleaning, and sleep, play can disappear from a relationship. "You have to keep it alive by having fun, joking around, using silly nicknames," he suggests.
You may think sincere communication is the way to handle a serious issue. But Keltner has found that couples who teased each other in the heat of a conflict felt more connected after the fact. When he staged a conflict discussion in his lab and compared couples who communicated in a direct, logical way with those who made light of the conflict, he found that couples who tease are happier and reach more peaceful resolutions.
That's because couples who can tease can use that modality to handle the tough stuff in a relationship. Even silly nicknames help turn conflicts into peaceful exchanges, Keltner says, by reminding couples to smile at each other's quirks. So if you're annoyed by a partner's long-standing habit—say, stealing the covers in the middle of the night—try teasing. Calling your partner the Blanket Monster might take the edge off your irritation while reminding your partner to share. Remember to tease in a way that's playful, not hostile; use nonverbal cues that convey you're having fun, like a silly facial expression or a change in tone.
3: Capitalize on good news.
We expect our partners to provide us with a shoulder to cry on when times are tough—but how couples behave during good times might be even more important. Partners who respond enthusiastically to each other's successes—asking questions, paying compliments, and cheering each other on—report greater relationship satisfaction over time, says Shelly Gable, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A couple's ability to "capitalize"—that is, to celebrate each other's positive events—predicts satisfaction better than their commiseration over negative events.
When something good happens to your partner—a promotion, a compliment from a coworker, or even just a witticism that gets a big laugh—seize the opportunity to make the most of it. You don't need a major event as an excuse to break out the good china.
4: Use your illusions.
We may think putting our mates on a pedestal is unrealistic—but in fact, partners who idealize each other wind up happier. Partners in the most satisfied couples rate their mates more positively than the mates rate themselves, finds Sandra Murray, a psychologist at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) who studies positive illusions.

Similarly, when spouses perceived their partners as being nicer than their actual behavior warranted, they maintained greater long-term satisfaction than spouses who did not idealize each other as much, according to research by Paul Miller, Sylvia Niehuis, and Ted Huston at the University of Texas, Austin.
So if you value your clear-eyed judgment of others, including your partner, it may be time to ease up a little and concentrate on what you like about your mate. Looking through a soft-focus lens might help you build a genuinely rosier picture over time.
5: Find your ideal self—in your partner.
happy couples bring out the best in each other. But when partners more closely resemble each other's ideal selves, couples fare better—above and beyond the benefit to the relationship afforded by how similar you are in actuality, says Caryl Rusbult, a psychologist at the Free University of Amsterdam.
Someone who describes her ideal self as physically fit, for instance, might be happy being with a disciplined athlete; someone who longs to be more creative might thrive with an artistic partner. Rusbult calls this the "Michelangelo effect," since partners can help "sculpt" each other's best selves by affirming each other's efforts at self-improvement. The aspiring fitness buff, for example, appreciates her athletic partner's reminders to work out.
So try listing your personal goals. Then think about the qualities you like most in your partner. Chances are, there's overlap between the self you aspire to and the aspects of your partner you appreciate most. Then recruit your partner to help you improve in the domains that matter to you. You'll not only get closer to your ideal self—you'll also feel closer to your partner.
6: Notice what's new about your partner.
Letting your partner surprise you is vital to sustaining excitement in your relationship. But in order to be surprised, you first have to pay attention.
The problem is that most of us get so familiar with our partners, we stop really noticing them. "But the fact that you stopped looking doesn't mean they've stopped changing," says Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer. It's only the illusion of stability, Langer says, that leads us to conclude our partners are fixed, static entities.
"You feel like you've captured who this is in your mind, so you hold them still," says Langer. "But they're actually growing and changing all the time. Once we think we know another person so well that we don't pay attention to them anymore, the person stops being seen."
So take the time to actively notice differences: Look for five things that are different from the last time you looked. These differences can be as simple as a new necktie and as profound as a shift in spiritual beliefs. Taking the time to notice—what she calls "mindful awareness"—increases our engagement with our partner.
When non-football-fans watch a game while writing down new things they notice about the players and the stadium, they become more enthusiastic about the sport, Langer found. "You develop a passion for what you're engaged in," she says.
So become engaged with your partner. Once you begin to really pay attention, you'll be amazed by what you discover.
7: Put it in writing.
For a recent Valentine's Day, Los Angeles-based film editor Stefan Grube gave his wife Julie a journal, with the idea that the couple would take turns writing to each other. "There's something great about using a pen and paper that helps us really take the time and express our feelings," says Julie. "I cannot tell you how excited I am when I see he's replaced it on our shelf and I know there's a love letter awaiting me."
Writing has a way of shoring up romantic emotions. A University of Texas study found that when participants wrote about their relationships for 20 minutes at a time for 3 days, they were more likely to be together 3 months later. They also expressed more positive emotions in instant message conversations with each other—the writing had prompted more good feelings about the relationship. So next time you think fondly of your partner, write those thoughts down.
8: Provide support in secret.
You might think showing a stressed-out partner explicit support—like cooking special meals or running time-consuming errands—will shore up your connection. But overt social support carries a cost: Partners feel obligated, which leads to more stress, found Niall Bolger, a psychologist at Columbia University.
The most effective support was actually "invisible." When one partner claimed to be providing support the other partner did not report receiving, the other partner showed more improvement in mood than when receiving explicit support.
The lesson? Hidden acts of kindness brighten your mate's day, especially when he or she is going through a challenging time. So instead of making grand gestures, find subtle ways to make your partner's life easier: Stock the fridge with a favorite drink or straighten up a cluttered workspace. Being surreptitiously supportive is a good way to exercise your positivity muscle on a small scale.
9: Get back in touch.
Sure, having regular sex does wonders for relationship satisfaction and well-being. But for couples whose sex life is stalled, even just a little warm touch can make a difference.
A simple "listening touch" exercise, in which partners gently touch each other's neck, shoulders, and hands, increases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding, and reduces partners' blood pressure and physiological stress levels, found a team of researchers from Brigham State University and the University of Utah.
"Cultivating 'body sense' awareness on one's own and with one's partner is essential, not only for a good sexual relationship but during any close encounter," says Alan Fogel, a University of Utah psychologist who helped develop the touch intervention.

In other words, you can reap the benefits of physical closeness even when you don't have the time or energy for full-blown intimacy. Just a quick hug or backrub can boost your mood—and your connection with your mate.
10: Look after yourself.
You may think the best way to improve your relationship is to focus more on your partner, but that's not always true. Investing in your own life and happiness will pay off, too.
"If you're going through a rough patch, often the most effective thing that you can do is to lovingly remove your attention from the relationship—period," says Susan Biali, wellness coach and author of Your Prescription for Life. "Forget about what the other person is doing badly, or isn't doing, and focus on taking positive action in your own life instead."
By making your life more satisfying, you take pressure off your relationship to be your sole source of happiness. "Plus, by taking care of what you need to in your own life, you bring a more positive attitude back into the relationship," Biali says. "The other person will start to treat you differently—without you having done anything other than shift your energy into your own life." For Biali, this strategy took her relationship from "constant chaos" to happy marriage.
Whether you choose to say thanks, sneak in some invisible support, or coin a silly nickname, a little positivity goes a long way. Small gestures matter. Expensive gifts and exotic vacations are nice, but not as meaningful in the long term as simple actions like taking the time to notice a new outfit or cheer a partner's success. Positivity expands your awareness, begetting more positivity—more noticing, more engagement, more appreciation, and more trust. Little actions help build a reservoir of goodwill that will keep your relationship replenished.
The opportunities to fill that reservoir are out there. Don't miss them