Two key components for growing and sustaining a happy long-term relationship involves intentionality with being grounded within as well as focusing on the good of the relationship.
Step One: Focus on Being Grounded Within
When sustaining long-term relationships you have to take ownership around managing your own emotions and stress. Coming from a grounded place within yourself is key to navigating the dance of relationships. If you aren’t calm and happy within it is difficult to connect with your partner in a calm and peaceful way. There are so many different options for staying grounded; however, whether you like listening to music, hiking, playing games reading, or the like, I suggest to everyone to add into the mix intentional breathing.
Breathing is one of the most simple and also very effective ways to ground and calm yourself. When discussing the importance of breathing I often hear clients say something like “oh well I breath all the time ‘cause obviously I’m alive!” followed shortly by “what’s the point?”. Yes, we are all breathing and yes that keeps us alive, but grounded breathing requires more focus to bringing the right breath in to create an intentional calm. When most of us breathe throughout the day it’s often sporadic, shallow and comes from our chest. When we breathe in this way it feeds into the stress/anxious loop created by the sympathetic nervous system. This part of our nervous system is what activates the go-go-go of life.
To counteract this, you need to be intentional about your breathing and carve out space in your day where you access the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which is called the parasympathetic nervous system. The breath that activates this part of the nervous system comes from a deeper belly breath, which is like hitting the “pause” button on the action of life.
Below is a simple practice for grounded breath to weave into your day before your morning commute, after that crazy daily meeting, or when you crawl into bed.
Either seated of lying down, rest your hands on your belly and gently close your eyes. Take a moment to notice your hands on your belly. Notice the weight of your hands and the warmth or coldness. Then on your next inhale, breathe in deep and use the intake of oxygen to slowly fill your belly like a big balloon for a five-count. Make the belly nice and round and full of air. This is not a fitness or sexy test so really puff out that belly. To help with your count you can use your right hand on your belly and gently press each finder against your belly one-by-one to count up to 5. On your exhale, slowly deflate your belly balloon and count down from 5 using the fingers from your left hand one-by-one to press against your belly.
Do this intentional belly breathing for at least 3 full breath cycles to start.- that’s only 30 seconds so no excuses! To build your practice of belly breathing, try to add one more belly breath each day.
Step Two: “Imagining the Good”
To further add to your grounded practice you will want to bring in another important element of long-term relationship success, which is focusing on the good. Intentionally focusing on the good strengthens and builds the positive pathways in the brain. This is important because our brains like to default to the negative AND to the path most followed. To combat this natural instinct of the brain you need to actively focus on the good of your partner to strengthen this positive pathway.
Before you start your belly breathing, find one element of good that you appreciate or have gratitude of regarding your partner. An example might be their lovely smile or the fact that yesterday they made dinner. As you breathe slowly and intentionally for a full belly 5-count, imagine the good that you selected for this practice. If you chose to focus on your partner’s smile, for example, imagine the times you noticed your partner’s smile. Do you remember what feeling it created in you? Did it also make you smile? Can you notice what feeling this memory creates in you now? Really immerse yourself in the good as you continue to breathe in the good of the memory. Imagine all this goodness seeping into your body, and spreading into your hands, toes, and face. On your exhale, imagine that any negative energy about your relationship that’s trying to set up shop inside you is being evacuated and leaves with your outbreath. Do this daily and you will create a calm and positive environment within you that builds a solid relationship.