At any given moment there are things about your relationship that you love, and things you don’t love. That is natural. No one has a “perfect” relationship no matter how green their grass looks from across the street.
The question is: where is your focus? Do you focus on the positive, on what is working between you, or is most of your mental energy drawn to and consumed by focusing on what is missing in your relationship?
When our attention and awareness is on what is working, we can feel happy and content with our partner. When we start mentally (or verbally) listing and logging the complaints, we can barely look at our partner without feeling anger and stress.
To get more of what you love in your relationship focus on the positive, on what you have that works, and you will create more of that.
Imagine if there were just two channels on TV, one was a positive channel, broadcasting only positive messages. The other was broadcasting all negative messages. When it comes to your relationship, you have these two channels in your mind. You always have a choice about which one to watch or listen to. Which channel is going to get your focus? If you have a habit of turning to the negative one, you may have forgotten you have a choice. Learn to focus on the positive channel.
Perhaps you have a lot on your mind right now, a long list of issues and complaints, genuine hurts, promises not kept, and resentments that are eating the fabric of love like moths. This list you are carrying in your mind may be big enough to crash the largest hard drive.
Think of all these mental records as energy. How much energy does it stake to store all this data? How much storage space is it using on your mental hard drive? Is it time to get control of what you are storing on your mental hard drive? You do that by learning how to direct your focus on the positive. When you focus on the positive, your relationship can naturally turn around in that direction.
The Power Of The Mind
The mind is an incredible tool because what you focus on is what you get more of. This is why it is so important to take charge of what you are carrying around in your mental space. If we focus on what is stressing us, what is wrong with our world, and on who did or didn’t do what we wanted them to do, we are going to feel a lot of burden on our mental software. If you are carrying around a lot of resentment, you are adding to your load of mental anguish every day.
On the other hand, if our focus and attention is on what is going well, we are going to feel better. It doesn’t mean the real problems will go away, but it does mean that with a positive mental perspective you will have more energy, and more possible options at your mental disposal. When you focus on the positive you have more energy and options.
When you are angry at your partner, it is hard to imagine things could get better, so you are less proactive to find solutions. But when your focus shifts to how you do love them (including your issues with them) solutions now become apparent, where previously there may have been none in sight.
When problems occur between you and your partner, if you obsess about them, they will grow in intensity, and can become overwhelming just to think about them. Then the next incident or small issue becomes unbearable, and soon your state of mind is heading down the garbage disposal. This is where you want to recognize what you are doing and regain control of where you are putting your focus and attention so that you direct your awareness to focus on the positive.
Take the simple “Optimism/Pessimism Test.” In your mind’s eye imagine a glass of water with the liquid at the halfway point. It is the old question of: “Is the glass half empty or half full?” How you answer that question has huge consequences for your state of mind.
If you perceive the glass as half-full, the optimistic approach, you see the world as full of options. You may experience stress, but you feel resourceful to handle it. If your view of the glass is that it is half empty, you are looking at what is wrong, what is depleted, what has already been lost. You tend to view life through the dismal prospects of “not enough …(energy, time, love, sex, success, etc.)
The glass is a metaphor for life. Both optimism and pessimism are habits. They are acquired through practice and repetition, and they can be reversed through consistent effort. If you grew up in an optimistic environment, chances are that you will have acquired that state of mind, and if you grew up in a continually “half-empty” household, chances are you developed that habit also. Some people are just naturally optimistic. The rest of us can acquire the skill of optimism.
Learn to focus on the positive and you can acquire this skill.
Even if you grew up in an environment that didn't promote positive thinking, with effort you can create the mental neuro-pathways to assist you in these changes. It takes continual focus, but you can change your mental style. By focusing you build the mental muscle to hold onto what is positive for longer periods of time.
Positive emotions and mental outlook have a great impact on thinking, on healing, and on maintaining a healthy body and mind. And they have a huge impact on how you handle your relationship. Just taking the perspective that you can find solutions to your problems – even if you don’t have those solutions now, will assist your brain by freeing up mental disk space. Studies show that when people are under even small amounts of stress, their ability to add a column of numbers decreases. Stress creates decreased capacities. Feeling helpless about problems increases stress.
But if you can switch your focus to even a glimmer of possibility, it immediately increases your sense of resourcefulness. Switching your thoughts about what is wrong in your relationship, to what is working, will help you focus on love.
Love And Gratitude
Focusing on love will immediately change the dynamic between you. Positive feelings and the flow of emotional generosity will resume. This positive perspective lowers stress and increases mental capacity, thus allowing you to arrive at new possibilities that you hadn’t considered before.
Take a walk. Change your perspective physically to help you make a mental change. One reason that taking a walk is good is that your eyes move, which creates new neuro-responses, allowing you to shift your thinking, if you allow yourself to let go.
One quick way to shift from problem-focus, where all you see is more of the problem, to solution-focus, is to direct your thoughts and attention to what you feel grateful for. This is called the “Gratitude Attitude.” No matter what is happening, there is something, or at least one thing you can be grateful for about your partner. Gratitude is one way to focus on the positive.
Try this simple stress-reducing recipe for happiness:
Look at something to your left. Now switch your attention to something on your right. It should involve turning your head and moving your eyes, so make sure it is enough of a visual viewpoint change. Make the second thing you look at be higher up, so that your eyes focus at a spot higher in the line of vision.
This is the process of switching your visual focus, and will in itself create the beginning of a shift, because when your eyes move, new things happen in the brain. Taking your eyes through a circular and upward movement will begin to create changes in your mental landscape.
Next, just as you can switch your sight lines, you can switch your mental sights. Shift your focus from whatever problem concerns you, to something that you feel gratitude about. It could be as basic as the fact that you and your partner are alive and not dead. The fact that you can read these words is something to feel grateful for.
The fact that you want your relationship to work is a good thing, something you can feel grateful for. The fact that neither of you have completely given up on each other is a fabulous thing to feel grateful for.
Really focus on your sense of gratitude for at least 30 seconds. If you can feel the positive feelings about what you are grateful for, you will create a mental shift also. Gratitude is a powerful tool for many reasons; not the least is its ability to make a rapid shift in your emotions. Gratitude is the antidote to stress because it can help you shift your focus back to love.
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