Sleep

Sleep – One of the most profound effects of a night of sleep is the improvement in our ability to remember things.

To Sleep, Perchance To Learn

Sleep is also a time when old memories can be modified and new memories can be formed.

When the animals were awake and traveling around their cages, the scientists identified brain cells that became active only when the rats were in a specific location. During sleep, these same cells became active in the same order, indicating that the rats were reliving their travels and presumably strengthening their memories of places they’d been.

The Food-Sleep-Memory Connection

One surprising bit of research at the meeting was a study that suggests a midnight snack can undo the memory benefits usually conferred by getting enough sleep. A team from UCLA found that mice that ate during their normal sleep time scored worse on memory tests than mice that ate during their normal waking hours.

Frustration – When we experience the same anger and disappointment over and over again, we really need to find some helpful principles to cope better.

  1. Maintain realistic expectations.

We often expect people to be reasonable, rational, logical, thoughtful, and perhaps to think and behave just like we do. Guess what? They don’t! Having reasonable expectations about the behavior of others based on their past behavior is critical for our peace of mind. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. We need to remind ourselves of this important truth in order to minimize the upset, disappointment, and  anger that we experience over and over again from the same behavior by the same people. Just because we think it is reasonable to behave in a particular way doesn’t mean that others think the same way at all.

  1. While you can’t control the behavior of others, youcan control your responses to it.

There is some great wisdom in the often-quoted Serenity Prayer. We really do need to learn to change what we can, and accept what we can’t. While we may not be able to control the actions of others, we sure can control how we respond to them. We don’t have to go along or agree with others when they do what they do and say what they say. We can, and perhaps should, say No more often when asked to do things that we believe are unreasonable or not in our best interest. We can be better at not putting ourselves in situations that result in chronic upset and frustration with others, simply by being careful about how we respond to others and their requests.

  1. Let go, while keeping the big picture in mind.

Often people get so frustrated with the behavior of others that they just can’t let go of some slight, some upsetting action, or something rude that someone said to them. Often we really just need to take a deep breath and ask ourselves if our distress would be as upsetting to us if we were lying on our deathbed. In other words, what’s really important and what’s the big picture here? There is wisdom in the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Letting go needs to become an ongoing daily coping strategy for many people.

  1. Ask yourself if you’re just being too demanding.

Many of us think that the world would be a lot better off if everyone thought and behaved as we do. If you chronically get frustrated with the behavior of others, you have to ask yourself if you might be the problem after all. Perhaps what seems so appropriate and reasonable to you just isn’t to others.

The cues are everywhere. Whether it’s the smell of freshly baked cookies as you enter your favorite bakery, mouth-watering pizza commercials on TV, or the donut shops that seem to be popping up on every corner, food temptations abound. And it turns out that when you are bombarded by food cues, you tend to consume more. Case in point: People in an office eat more candy when there is a candy jar on top of a desk in plain view than when the candy is hidden in a drawer.

It’s probably not so surprising to learn that the abundance of food and the cues to eat it in Western society may contribute to overeating and obesity. What issurprising is that you can quickly train yourself to avoid temptation, simply by changing how you look at cues to eat.

When the stress and wear and tear of everyday life gets us down, there are small things that we can do that will allow us to take a break and improve our well-being.

Express Gratitude.  There is tremendous benefits of expressing gratitude—appreciating what we have, or thanking someone for something positive they have done for or given us. Not only can gratitude make us feel better and more optimistic, but it increases empathy, and, if expressed to a friend or loved one, makes them feel better, too.

Laugh and Be Happy. Laughter is the best medicine, it can increase energy, and it’s hard to feel stressed when you are laughing. Even smiling can have an effect.

Take a Break. Taking a break from the everyday grind—a weekend getaway, a round of golf, a good workout, a shopping spree—can provide welcome stress relief. The critical element, however, is to truly “take a break,” and not sit ruminating on what you are not getting done. Rewarding yourself with a break is a quick way to get some relief.

Count Your Blessings. Related to gratitude, this is actually taking inventory of the good things in your life. Focusing too much on the negatives, leads to pessimism and, in extremes, can make us feel hopeless and helpless. Focus on the positives—good friends, good times, your talents and strengths—and you should feel better.

Visit Someone Who Needs You. Being a support to friends or loved ones in their time of sickness or trouble not only makes them feel better, but can improve your well-being, both through the shared camaraderie, and from knowing that you are helping them get through a difficult time.

Spend Quality Time With a Loved One. Nothing is more rewarding than spending focused, positive time with someone you love. Whether it is a romantic dinner, an outing with a child, reminiscing with parents, or an enjoyable activity with a sibling or best friend, these intense, focused interactions lead to the positive memories that will get us through future hard times.

The need for meaning of life is at the roots of the motivation that makes each of us human. There are various ways to assess satisfaction, happiness, and well-being, all of which involve some type of subjective rating. These measures often reflect our momentary sense of joy or dejection. They’re not the same as evaluating the extent to which you’re accomplishing your life goals.

college students who felt their lives had meaning showed the most adaptive functioning across a host of psychosocial variables. Those who felt their lives lacked meaning showed opposite patterns, leaving them feeling depressed, anxious, and more likely to engage in acts of social and physical aggression.

Believing that your life has meaning may also help improve your relationships with others and vice versa. Not only are people more satisfied when they feel their lives have meaning, but they are also more secure in their sense of self-worth. Further, as the Eakman study showed, they have higher motivation for relatedness to others. You may not specifically be searching for better relationships when you seek to define your life’s purpose, but it can become a very rewarding byproduct.

Fighting is one of those unpleasant parts of a relationship that we wish wouldn’t happen. But what if it was also life-threatening?

But what if there was a technique that could help resolve conflicts between you and your partner? Would you try it—even if it meant temporarily dropping your side of a fight? What if it meant letting go of all that pent-up, righteous rage right at its peak moment? Believe it or not, you can learn to do this. And when you do, not only will your fights lose their nasty, escalating nature, you will feel better and more empowered.

Unilateral disarmament is a tool I introduce to every couple I work with. What it involves is momentarily dropping your side of the debate and approaching your partner from a more loving stance. The idea is that when couples have tension between them, perhaps from not communicating successfully or directly, they start to build resentments toward each other, which often reach a tipping point. An argument begins, then escalates based on an overflow of pent-up frustration and flawed communication. Heated moments are, however, the worst times to try to solve problems or make our points heard. They leave us saying things we regret or don’t even mean.

Unilateral disarmament involves shifting your focus from your partner’s words and behaviors to your own. The only person you can control in a relationship—or an argument—is you. All you can do in a moment of tension is soften within yourself and approach your partner from a more vulnerable and open stance.

Relax.

At times when you’re triggered, you may feel yourself start to experience increased arousal, as if you are heating up. At these moments, you may hear your inner critic coaching you to take destructive actions, like lashing out at your partner. Respond by calming yourself down, maybe by taking a series of deep breaths or counting back from 10.

You can get a hold of these moments and learn to pause. For example, you can choose between intimating and violating, between addressing your partner from a loving stance and talking calmly or from an angry, punitive point of view and yelling. Whatever your technique for getting back to yourself with the higher functions of your brain online, perhaps taking a walk or listening to music, find a way to get centered in yourself before you respond. Think about what your goals are for your relationship and make your actions ones that will move you toward those goals.

Don’t lash back.

Couples often know what to say to each other to trigger the other person. Resist making these statements or taking the bait. Stay being who you want to be regardless of how your partner is acting. You can take responsibility for your own behavior and not hand over your personal power to your mate, i.e. “she/he made me act like that.” When you do this, you can feel good about yourself, because you did not end up saying a lot of hurtful things to your partner, which may have caused lasting damage to the relationship.

Remember, if your ultimate goal is to be close to your partner, then being “right” and “winning the argument” is not a success. Often, it is more important to be close than to be right. In other words, you can choose in the moment to prioritize staying emotionally vulnerable and open to your partner over winning the argument.

Respond warmly.

Try to listen to your partner’s feelings, irrational as they may seem to you in that moment. Then, say something warm and understanding. Stress that it doesn’t really matter who’s right. A recent Baylor University study showed that fights between couples have a lot to do with power. The study revealed that, in a fight, people primarily want their partner to relinquish power. Next, in order of most to least, they want their partner to show investment, to stop adversarial behavior, to communicate more, to give affection and to make an apology.

Laying down your arms does not mean giving up your power, or taking the easy way out.  It is actually incredibly hard to do and takes a lot of personal strength, but it is worth it. It means taking a more vulnerable stance that won’t be perceived as threatening and will have a softening effect on your partner. Put a hand on your partner, look them in the eye and say something from your heart, like “I care more about being close to you than having this fight.” Sometimes, a small act of affection is all it takes to disarm your partner. Looking your partner in the eye, taking his/her hand and clearly communicating your goal of being close to him/her is an act of vulnerability that is hard to disregard. Taking this action will often melt your partner’s heart and allow him/her to be more vulnerable and open with you.

Empathize.

You can put yourself in your partner’s shoes and empathize with what he/she is feeling. For example, if your partner is jealous, because you stayed out late with friends instead of doing something with him/her, you could say something like, “It seems like this makes you feel insecure. I’m really sorry about that. It is not my intention to hurt you or be untrustworthy. Spending time with my friends doesn’t mean I feel rejecting toward you, or that I don’t care about you. But I can understand how it looked that way from your perspective.”

It’s important to note that the technique of unilateral disarmament does not imply that you are surrendering your point of view, giving in to emotional manipulation, taking the blame or deferring to your partner’s opinion. It simply indicates that you value being close to your partner more than winning your specific point. You can come to appreciate that you are two separate people with two sovereign minds, who may see any event or situation from a very different perspective. Each of your points of view is shaped by your past experiences, and you can have compassion and understanding for both yourself and your partner. Having taken the step of deescalating the conflict by disarming, reaching out and showing empathy toward your partner, you can begin to have constructive collaborative communication in which each of you is trying to understand the other’s perspective and reach a shared understanding.

Communicate how you feel.

“Name it to tame it” is a technique by which you label your feelings and actually calm them down. The first step is to tune in to what you are actually feeling in the moment. You can then acknowledge or share with your partner what is going on for you and how you saw the situation. You can take the risk of being honest and open about your feelings. For instance, you could tell your partner, “I felt hurt and put off by your jealousy. It makes me feel bad that you don’t seem to believe how much I care for you, and that makes me feel distrusted and pushed away. My goal is to be close to you, but I don’t want to give up my other friends; they are really important to me”

When you communicate with your partner, be attuned to all the ways you’re expressing yourself, both verbally and non-verbally. What’s going on in you when you talk to him/her? What do you feel? Notice your nonverbal signals, your body language, tone of voice, the timing and intensity of your words. Pay attention to the impact that ways you are communicating is having on your partner. If your body language is different from your verbal message, you are sending a double message to your partner, which is confusing. It would be important to recognize if you have ambivalent feelings and to share both feelings with your partner directly, allowing for honest communication.

The more you communicate in this way with your partner, honestly and directly, yet with compassion, the closer and stronger your relationship will become. Each of you will be less likely to build a case against the other and to hold grudges that are just waiting to resurface during your next conflict. You will be relating as two equal individuals, with respect and caring. And perhaps you will even live longer and certainly with a lot more satisfaction from your relationship.

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