Okay, it may seem a bit obvious that getting outdoors with your spouse or significant other will strengthen your relationship. Bring you closer together. Absolutely ramp up your closeness. However, when was the last time you made an effort to hike with him alone? Backpack with her without the kids? Truly connect in a way that feels deep and REAL. Something you want to repeat?
It’s been awhile, huh!
Getting outdoors with him will not only build your relationship, it will build YOU. Here are 8 reasons why putting hiking back on your relationship table is so critical.
1) Hiking will make you closer. Getting outside in nature will make you feel closer, period. I’ve talked with couples after their weekend hike or backpack trip. They absolutely believe that getting out on the trail brought them closer. Sometimes it’s the roaring creek they crossed carefully together. Other times it’s waking up together in a tent in the Uinta Mountains. The examples are endless. Although it’s a subjective feeling, couples tell me in counseling sessions that it just felt awesome.
2) Hiking clears your head. Couples that spend too much time in their head (and you know who you are) feel distracted. Disconnected. Longing for closeness. Hitting the trail allows you to focus on nature’s amazing beauty. It also allows you to focus on each other in ways that the movie or dinner just CAN’T accomplish. Distractions fade, and the intensity of focus on each other increases. In fact, you may actually forget about the office for a few hours. Or hopefully for the entire, connective weekend. Nice!
3) Hiking makes intimacy better. One huge benefit to exercise in the backcountry is better and more consistent intimacy. Couples that hit the trail together find each other more appealing. More attractive. More interesting. It should come as no surprise that their interest in being more affectionate also increases. And who doesn’t want better sex in their relationship or marriage? Who doesn’t want to feel more attractive to him or her? Makes sense!
4) Hiking is a crazy cheap date. Finding time to date your spouse is one thing. Actually coming up with the money to pay for it is quite another. Couples find hiking very inexpensive. It’s really the cost of gas and a few snacks. And with so many trails available in the Salt Lake City area, finding a trail is simply not the problem. So why not ditch the movie and grab him/her and hit the beautiful mountain trail!
5) Hiking will make you so much healthier. As someone that has hiked for many years, I know firsthand that the benefits of hiking are truly endless and so amazing. Although I like the gym, I would much rather hit the trail than hit the treadmill for cardio. When we hike on a consistent basis, we not only become healthier, we absolutely ramp up our immune system. We don’t get sick as often. We don’t feel rundown or lethargic. The apathy in our marriage just disappears. We appreciate each other more. Sweet!
6) Hiking absolutely begets more hiking. Now you may be saying to yourself, how do I get started? The answer is found in many sports commercials. We just do it! Further, how do you start anything worth while in your life? Recall when you were considering going back to school? You likely laid out a plan and actually followed through with that plan. Hiking consistently is very much like going back to school. It’s about building a better you. It is so true that hiking really does beget MORE HIKING. Give it a try!
7) Couples that hike together are happier. As a family therapist that has counseled couples for many years, I’m constantly looking for ways to help couples improve their relationships. Searching for ideas that will get their couple relationship to the next level of connection or affection. The answer more often than not is to actually spend TIME together. Thus, couples that hike together not only stay together, but they do so because they’re happier. Hiking or running on the trail simply enhances closeness. When we feel better about ourselves, we feel better about our relationships. It really is that simple.
8) Hiking is a great inoculation for marriage problems. It is my experience that it’s usually not the big things that make couple relationships disconnect. It’s the little things over-time that do it. Little things such as inattention. Disconnection. Or the oft mentioned boredom, that produces disaffection in relationships. When we hike together couples absolutely inoculate their relationship from these fairly common marriage pitfalls.
Where do I go from here? Imagine hiking in seemingly endless fields of wildflowers with your awesome husband. Imagine sitting by a cold mountain stream as the water rushes by you and your wife. Can you picture seeing a moose in an alpine meadow as you take pictures safely with your digital zoom camera? And can you imagine going on a winter hike or snowshoe adventure with him or her? Or hitting the Cottonwood Canyons in October for the amazing splendor of Autumn Aspen in Utah?
If any of these hit home with you, then you’re ready for the next step. Actually getting out for a hiking adventure in our amazing northern Utah backcountry. The Wasatch Mountains are peppered with trails for all hiking and experience levels. It doesn’t matter where you live, it only matters that you’re willing to get out there. Try it. You will absolutely love it. And your couple relationship will too!
To schedule an appointment with Michael, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555
Michael Boman, LCSW, is a Healing Outdoors expert in Cottonwood Heights. Michael schedules Healing Outdoors therapy sessions on select local trails. If you would like to learn more about Healing Outdoors and if it’s the right counseling approach for you, Michael can be reached via email at MichaelBoman@Wasatchfamilytherapy.com.
I recently took a trip and stayed in a hotel with many floors. Of course, many floors mean an elevator with many buttons! During one of my visits to the elevator stood a 4-year-old child and his mother, inside the door, discussing the “buttons,” and where they went. I entered and smiled at this toddler’s curiosity as two other individuals entered. As the door closed, the boy began pushing all of the buttons! I looked to see the responses of the other passengers: one man shrugged, while the other gave earnest looks of annoyance. The mother clearly was embarrassed, and she quickly moved the child away from the buttons.
I couldn’t help but think about how this can be a metaphor of how people “push buttons” in relationships. “Pushing buttons” means to intentionally bring up topics that will leave an emotional sting and often brings about negative emotions of the receiver. This response happens almost instantly, and the intention may be the most irritating part.
I’m sure we can all think of moments that we have experienced where someone has “pushed our buttons.” What were the feelings you felt in that instant? Anger? Embarrassment? Disgust? Perhaps you had wished the floor had opened so you could jump in? It often takes a person who knows us well to be able to push our buttons with such preciseness. There’s no one that can do it quite like family; parents, siblings, children, and spouses are the best button-pushers!
In her book “Daring Greatly,” social researcher Brené Brown suggests that the reason these close relationships pack so much power is because of the attachments we have to one another. We know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This dynamic of close relationships can get buttons pushed in ways that less intimate relationships can do.
The question that is often asked in therapy is: How do I avoid it? While there are people who are button pushers, there are ways to avoid having these annoyances grow and become destructive. There will always be someone standing nearby willing to embarrass, annoy, assume power over, or just be a mean tease. The antidote is perspective (which can be hard to do when someone has just taken a concerted stance against you!). Here are 10 tools to help you gain perspective and soothe your emotions in the moment:
Chew on a piece of ice
Take a time out
Talk to your Higher Power
Imagine a place of peace
Use powerful coping thoughts: “It’s OK to feel this way.” “So what?” “This sucks, but it will pass.”
Squeeze the handles of arm of the chair 5 times.
Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
Write your name in cursive with your toe, while you’re seated with legs crossed. (Don’t laugh, it works!)
Count your breathes
Use your 5 senses: Notice what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.
For the mother in the elevator. . . good job taking 50 deep breathes, as the elevator stopped at each and every floor!
To schedule an appointment with Andrea, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555
Jordan Johnson – Marriage & Family Therapist, was recently interviewed by NBCnews.com and asked how new marriage trends are impacting relationships today. Follow the link below to see what he has to say:
On any given day, kids and teens may feel joy, wonder, disappointment, rage, jealousy, and endless other emotions. Yet, many kids will inevitably learn from parents or peers that “happy” is the only emotion acceptable to express or even experience. “Happiness” in our culture tends to reign supreme as the highest aspiration – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is what we are taught to aim for – what we all deserve.
I commonly hear parents say to their kids:
I just want you to be happy.
“How can you be so down? Just look at all you have to be happy about.”
“Just focus on the positive. You’re dragging everyone down.”
Though these parents have good intentions, their statements might imply that if kids are not contented, they are somehow failing, or that happiness is the only feeling others are comfortable with. Children may respond to these messages by feigning a cheerful disposition and generally suppressing negative feelings to please parents. Unfortunately, suppressing feelings can compromise a child’s psychological well-being and fuel unhealthy behaviors.
Pain is a critical part of the human experience and in most cases, it is healthiest to confront it head on. Encourage children to acknowledge and accept emotions, such as anger or hurt, by using mindfulness meditation strategies. If your child seems overwhelmed by her emotions, encourage her to find a way to express them: talk to someone she trusts, write in a journal, create a work of art, or see a mental health therapist. Let us teach children that no one’s life is solely full of sunshine and that to live fully, we must stand in the occasional rainstorm.
According to John Gottman, in every interaction in our significant relationships, there is an opportunity to attune or turn away. We have many experiences where we notice our partner, and we make a choice: “Do I ATTUNE myself to what is going on,” or, “do I turn away?” Pay attention to what happens when you turn away. What are your thoughts? What happens to the other person? What does your body feel like? What do you choose instead?
A-T-T-U-N-E is an acronym for just how to turn toward our partners in a supportive and empathetic way. Our job with each other is to create emotional safety, and it is through small moments, like attuning, that create stability and ongoing romance. When we feel acknowledged, we feel secure and safe.
T- Turn Toward
Here are some fun ways to practice attuning opportunities:
Go for a walk with a spouse or child.
Plan a picnic.
Cook dinner together.
Call each other during the workday.
Volunteer in the community.
Plan an outing together: hike, bike, or drive.
Visit the beach.
Go dancing together.
Plan to attend brunch.
Get away to a secret location.
Whatever you decide, remember the importance of attuned engagement and the strengthening power it has.
For extra support or help making repairs in your relationship, make an appointment with Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555.
Couples therapy can be both extremely challenging and extremely rewarding for those who participate. In therapy, there is nothing more powerful than seeing a couple re-kindle their trust and affection. On the flip side, there is nothing more vicious than a couple’s diabolical pattern of criticism and contempt.
Here is an article I wrote about some of the poignant things couples have said in couples counseling:
Fear is a common emotion that everyone experiences. We generally spend a lot of time trying to avoid or get rid of it, but the reality is, it won’t ever disappear completely from our lives. So, how do we deal with it? Ashley Thorn LMFT recently had the opportunity to contribute to a 2-part article series about facing fear and using it to our advantage. The following links to these 2 articles should provide you with some helpful insight into managing your fears more effectively, and in a way that benefit (rather than hinder) you:
Have you ever been talking to someone and you are absolutely convinced that he/she isn’t hearing a word you are saying? Chances are you are right! Research has shown that the average person listens for 3 seconds before they start thinking about what he/she wants to say next. Researchers Miller, Sherod, and Phyllis developed a powerful communication tool called the Awareness Wheel, which includes a listening cycle. They outline very effective research based skills for listening:
It’s been twenty years now since a caring neighbor and friend challenged me to change my ATTITUDE. It was a difficult time for me as suddenly my life became filled with darkness, doubt and pain. My Spouse of almost 20 years had recently been diagnosed as having a brain tumor and given only a few months to live. While he was fighting a battle to survive for as long as possible by receiving daily treatments of both Chemo and Radiation, I was trying to continue to raise five children and eventually became a caregiver of a man who couldn’t even remember how to brush his teeth.
My friend encouraged me to read and study a book that contained wise advice, “Simple Abundance A Daybook of Comfort and Joy,” She provided me with a beautiful Journal and instructed me to take a few minutes each day to write down 5 things that I was grateful for. Although at the time I doubted that such a simple task could improve my mood and change my ATTITIUDE I took on the challenge. As I began to focus on what I HAD rather than what I lacked my burdens became lighter and my soul was filled with joy and hope. Now 20 years later this small and simple task has become not only a habit but a ritual I look forward to performing.
Remember there is no right or wrong way to keep a gratitude journal. While doing so you will discover what works best for you, but here are some tips:
1- Keep a physical record. Write things down. Just don’t think about these things in your head.
2- Look for the small things that may seem trivial,small or unimportant.
3- Include a narrative as to WHY you are grateful.
4- Focus on people as well as things you are grateful for.
5- Record unexpected events or surprises.
6- Write regularly. Commit to a certain day and or time and be consistent. New evidence has shown that writing 1-3 times a week can be more effective than writing daily,
7- Set a goal to write for at least 15 minutes each time.
8- Try it! You’ll like it!
It’s easy to take the people who we love and the good things in our lives for granted. Keeping a gratitude journal will improve your relationships with others, improve your sense of well being, and enable you to enjoy greater happiness and better health.
So… Catch but DON’T release that “GRATITUDE ATTITUDE!” Doing so has made an incredible difference in my life and it can in yours too.