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Finding Joy Through Gratitude this Holiday Season

canstockphoto7856078I recently listened to a fabulous podcast where Brene Brown was being interviewed. (For those of you that don’t know, Brene Brown is a very well known therapist, researcher, and author. She has written several, brilliant books about embracing vulnerability and recognizing the difference between guilt and shame. Her books have had a big impact on my personal and professional life. I highly recommend all of them.) In the podcast Brene focused on being comfortable in experiencing vulnerable emotions. In particular she spoke about joy.
In Brene’s research she stated that joy was often associated with fear. Her example was simple, but profound. She spoke of a parent lovingly watching their child sleep at night. In that moment of joyful contemplation the parents often reported a high degree of fear right after having the feeling of joy/contentment. What if my child dies at an early age? What if I contract cancer? Everything is so good right now, something has to go wrong soon. When I heard this example I knew exactly what she was talking about! I have had those same thoughts and feelings as I tucked my children into bed. As I thought about it, a lot of times I feel joy I realized it was very often followed up with fearful thoughts that my happiness could only last so long before something went wrong.
The answer to challenging this commonplace problem showed up in Brene’s same research project. She stated there were a number of people that reported after they had joyful feelings they purposely stated thoughts of gratitude to themselves. Instead of leaving the situation feeling fearful and worried, like so many did and do, this second group of people reported feeling joyful, happy, and grateful. These people made mention of giving gratitude to a higher being, a thoughtful spouse, their jobs, health, and many other things that allowed them to feel happiness in that moment. 
 I took this to heart. Over the last week or two when I have noticed feeling happy with my family, marriage, house, holiday season, or really anything, instead of following up with a negative or fearful thought I immediately stated how grateful I was in the moment for that joyful feeling. What a difference! It seemed like the joy I was feeling multiplied and lingered much longer than when I had chaotically thought about what may go “wrong” next to ruin my happiness. It has made me a better wife, mother, friend, and daughter to practice this easy technique.  
This holiday season I challenge you to experience true joy. In those loud or often quiet moments when you find yourself feeling happy, follow those thoughts/feelings up with thoughts of gratitude. Why are you happy? Who helped you achieve that happiness? Why are you grateful for having the joyful feeling?  Extend your Thanksgiving list of gratitude into the Christmas season, and notice the difference it will make. 
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Shut Up! I’m Trying To Be Mindful!

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Mindfulness is all the rage right now. There are a million pins teaching you how to be mindful, and just about as many books or articles. The problem is trying to find the time to be mindful! I’m trying to balance three children, my husband, work, dance class, homework, preschool, nap time, volunteering, self-care, my own hobbies, and the list goes on. I could write a whole blog post about everything that I have to do, and I’m sure your list is just as long (if not longer).  The last thing on our list is to take some time to ground ourselves so we can continue to move forward with the many responsibilities we have. Here is a small but effective grounding, or mindfulness exercise to try. So put a show on for your kids or lock yourself in the bathroom and give this a try.
Take three calming breaths and look around while identifying:
5 things that you see
4 things that you feel
3 things that you hear
2 things that you smell
1 thing that you taste
Find a good time in the day and set an alarm on your phone to do this exercise. You will be surprised at how five minutes of reconnecting with yourself can help you throughout the day.

 

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How to Connect Using Gottman’s Love Maps

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John Gottman is a world renowned therapist that specializes in marriage therapy. I use several of his ideas and techniques when working with couples. Today, I want to share the idea of Love Maps with you.
Gottman talks about a marriage like a house. It is built from the foundation up. When the foundation is shaky, it creates instability in many other areas of the relationship. One way to strengthen your marriage foundation is to create a shared meaning and have good emotional intimacy. Love maps are a great place to start in creating this emotional intimacy. I have listed the questions to create a love map. The challenge is to sit down with your spouse and see how many questions they can answer. If they get the answer wrong, it creates a time that you can share thoughts and feelings in a safe way. Try it with your spouse! It will create a wonderful time of connection.
-Name my two closest friends.
-What was I wearing when we first met?
-Name one of my hobbies.
-What stresses am I facing right now?
-Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday.
-What is my fondest unrealized dream?
-What is one of my greatest fears?
-What is my favorite way to spend an evening?
-What is my favorite way to be soothed?
-What is my favorite get away place?
-What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel
about them?
-What are some of my favorite ways to work out?
-What medical problems do I worry about?
-What was my most embarrassing moment?
-Name one of my favorite movies.
-What is my favorite restaurant?
Rachel is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She loves working with couples in distress, and those looking to make their relationship better.
Call 801-944-4555 and make an appointment to find new ways to strengthen your relationship.
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Emotional Spring Cleaning

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Can you feel it? Slowly but surely spring is coming. The days are longer, the flowers are starting to peek out from the ground, and it is warming up. I always take spring as a time of assessment about myself and where I want the year to go. The majority of people make “new years resolutions.”  Usually these include goals about eating better, exercising, and getting out to meet new people and have fun. I don’t know about you, but in January when it is cold and snowy all I want to do is stay inside, and make and eat homemade bread and cookies. Suffice it to say, my new years goals take a backseat very quickly. However, in the spring I am much more motivated to take inventory of where I am and what I can do for the rest of the year to feel good and make my relationships better.
It is common in spring to do “spring cleaning.” We open the doors and air out our homes. We clean out our flowerbeds to make room for plants. Let’s
do the same emotionally. Look at and evaluate how you are doing personally and with your relationships. After your evaluation you can make some commitments to yourself. Doesn’t commitment sound a little more decisive than a goal? For some reason when I say I have committed to someone or something I have a strong desire to follow through. Goals, it seems, can be easily broken.
Here are some of the commitments I have made to myself this spring.
1) In an effort to exercise more I have signed up to run the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in September. My hope is to match or beat my time from my last half marathon. This motivates me throughout the spring and summer to exercise and prepare well for the race.
2)In an effort to connect more with my husband we have committed to going on two dates a month.
3)I will do one thing just for myself daily. I have three young children and most of my time goes to taking care of them. In an effort to take care of myself I will do something just for myself. This may include reading, working on a project, doing my nails, journaling, or simply sitting quietly and meditating.
Although these may not seem like monumental commitments, I think they will keep me focused and help me feel better throughout the rest of the year. I challenge you to do the same! Look at yourself and your relationships and see what needs some sprucing up. Come up with one to three commitments to make your year great.
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Connection Rituals in Marriage

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During my tenure in graduate school it was required to gather research and write a thesis. I aimed to create fabulous research about couples and their marital satisfaction. Out of the many questionnaires gathered, and statistical tests administered I was left with only one correlation of “statistical significance.” However, it was one that has greatly shaped how I do marriage therapy, and how I act in my own marriage. The correlation found that couples who participated in daily connection rituals reported higher levels of marital satisfaction.
What are connection rituals? I’m glad that you asked! Connection rituals span a great many ideas that include leaving notes to each other, having daily talk time, going on walks, eating dinner together, doing service for the other person, greeting each other with a hug and kiss, and many other ideas. Anything that you do on a daily or even regular basis that helps you feel connected to each other is considered a connection ritual. One husband in my survey said his favorite connection ritual was when his wife slapped his rear end after they brushed their teeth at night. How funny that something so small could send such a powerful message. I see you and love you. All that from a little slap on the rear end.
In couples counseling I ask over and over what they are doing on a daily basis to connect with each other. It is amazing the difference that comes about when the couple creates and completes things that connect them and allow them to feel attached to each other. When made a daily ritual I have found that couples feel more important to their spouse, which leads to feeling more loved, which leads to higher marital satisfaction. Want an added boost to your relationship? Add a daily connection ritual with your spouse. Eat breakfast together. Always kiss each other when one of you leaves. Use the time when the kids are in bed to talk about your day. Massage your spouses feet while you watch Stranger Things. The sky is the limit. Talk about what you would like and come up with a game plan. I have only seen very positive things come out of it!
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Two Books Every Couple Should Read

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Relationship maintenance is one of the most important things couples can do to create and “maintain” emotional intimacy. This maintenance comes in many forms. Some couples have regular date nights. Others have daily talk time. Often times one or both people read self help books about strengthening the relationship. Many of the couples I work with, and come across in my personal life, ask me about books they can read that will give them skills to strengthen their relationship. Here are two books I think every couple, happy or in distress, should read.
The first is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book takes you through five ways that people show and feel love. The five love languages are quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, service, and gift giving. This book takes you through the these five love languages and helps you identify which love language speaks to you. Read this with your partner. Once both of you are done and have properly identified your love language, share it with the other person. I use this idea in every couples session. The hope is that once you know your partners love language you can start speaking directly to what they need in the relationship. Someone who has the love language of quality time, but is given gifts will not feel properly loved and connected to their partner. This book gives invaluable insight into yourself and your partner that can strengthen every relationship.
The second is Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. This is a fantastic book that teaches you about attachment and reconnection with your partner. It has seven fabulous “conversations” for you and your partner to work through. If you are looking for emotional intimacy with your partner this is the book you are looking for. It is educational and highly effective at healing past wounds within relationships. Even if you and your partner have a healthy and loving relationship this book can still be a tool in creating a stronger bond.
Many couples feel that going to therapy, or even reading books like these shows a weakness in the relationship. My frame is that attending therapy and reading books to better your relationship is a strength; it means you and your partner are willing to put hard time and effort into being better individually and together. These couples are the ones that have relationships that will last. Hopefully you have the time to pick up these two books and give them a try. Read them with openness along side your spouse and they can make a world of difference.
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4 Easy Ways to Start Cheating On Your Spouse

  1. Always remain emotionally distant. When you have a problem keep it to yourself. Never allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to the other person.
  2. Reach out to old flames on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social media sights, so you can see what they are doing on a daily basis.
  3. Start talking to these old flames regularly. Find out about their current likes and dislikes. Examine if they are happy in their relationship.
  4. When you are sad, angry, hurt, confused, and/or any other negative emotion toward your spouse turn to this new/old friend for support. Your spouse does not need to know. This information will only burden them and create even more emotional distance. Lean on and confide only on this new friend. Emotional closeness with someone of the opposite sex holds no danger for you. In the long run you are looking after your spouse and hopefully protecting them from hurt feelings.

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If you find yourself falling into any of these categories and feel that the relationship with your spouse is not going well, call Wasatch Family Therapy today. We are ready to help you through this difficult time and teach you effective ways to strengthen your relationship, and keep proper distance and boundaries in areas that may lead to cheating in the future.

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3 Ways Singles Can Make Valentine’s Day More Meaningful

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There seems to be a dichotomy of feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day among single people. Either you love it or you hate it. I was amazed at how many articles I found online, written by single people, blasting this holiday. May I propose a change of mindset about this day? Valentine’s Day is more than feeling good if you’re in a relationship or horrible if you’re not. It is your choice to “buy into” that frame of thinking. Being single on Valentines Day does not have to make you feel depressed or less than other people who are currently in relationships. Here are three suggestions that may help you find a more meaningful way to celebrate this year.
1) Think about the people that you love and appreciate in your life. Valentine’s Day is the day of love. There is nowhere that says the “day of love” can only be celebrated by those who have a significant other. Reach out to people in your life that you love. It can be a mother, father, sister, brother, neighbor, aunt, uncle, roommate, or co worker. Take the time to send them a text, or call to show that you are thinking of them on this special day. As you take the time to be mindful of those around you, the day will have new meaning.
2) Set yourself up for success. If you wake up in the morning and tell yourself that today is going to be a bad day, chances are your day will end up being bad. Our actions tend to follow our thoughts. Make the decision to wake up on Valentines with a positive attitude that “today will be a good day.” Throughout the day remind yourself that it will be a good day. Make mindful decisions that will reinforce that you are having, and will have, a good day. You will be shocked at how keeping your thoughts positive and happy will change your attitude about the day in general.
3) Do something you enjoy. Valentine’s Day is a holiday, so enjoy it! If you like going out with your friends, plan a dinner. If you like to see movies, go see a movie. If you like to watch Netflix by yourself with popcorn and chocolate, do it. There is no need to buy into the societal norm that you either need to have a date or go out seeking one on Valentines Day. Find an activity you truly enjoy and do it because you want to do it, not because you feel pressure to do so.
Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday. Hopefully you can take the time to attach positive meaning to it so this year, and those afterwards, can be successful.
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3 Ways Couples Can Make Valentine’s Day More Meaningful

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Valentine’s Day is upon us. That lucky time of year when love is celebrated and it is socially acceptable to eat your weight in cinnamon hearts and chocolate. There is an extreme amount of pressure to make Valentinest a special and romantic day for your spouse. Too much focus is put on the gift giving aspect of this holiday. We should be focusing our attention to the sentiment behind the day, which is to show your love for the people in your life. Here are three ways that you can make your Valentines Day more meaningful and put the emphasis of the day where it belongs.
1) Embrace this opportunity to look at people in your life that you love and appreciate-other than your spouse. Of course I don’t want you to forget your spouse on this most auspicious day. However, the day can take on additional meaning if you expand your loving thoughts to others whom you would not normally reach out to. Take the time to send warm thoughts to a neighbor that means a great deal to you. Write a loving email or letter to your sister or brother. Don’t forget aunts or uncles that were essential to your growing up years and helped shape who you are today. As you look to the people in your life who have made a difference and take the time to tell them, your Valentines Day will take on a whole new meaning.
2) Give the gift your partner REALLY wants. This may shock you but NOT EVERYONE WANTS A PRESENT AT VALENTINES DAY. It is a common myth that the only way to show someone they are loved on Valentine’s Day is to give them some sort of present. We all feel love in different ways. Gary Chapman wrote a brilliant book entitled The Five Love Languages. He outlines five different ways that people feel loved. They include physical touch, quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation, and service. This means that you could be showering your partner with gifts when really a simple letter expressing your love would mean just as much- if not more. Go over the five love languages and identify which one makes them feel the most loved. Once you know the answer speak to that love language. Sit down today with your partner. Ask them outright what they would like to receive on Valentine’s Day. Asking does not take away the romance of the day. It does ensure that you will give the gift, time, touch, words or service your partner wants and needs the very most.
3) Keep It Simple. Grandiosity and Valentines Day go hand in hand according to Hollywood. However, this is not realistic or needed. Creating a small, fun Valentines ritual that can evolve with your life will be much more successful than diamond earrings. When my husband and I met we were in college. Our first Valentines Day together my husband had class until nine in the evening. He picked up Chinese food on the way home and we ate it on the floor of our tiny apartment in the candle light. Two children and eleven years later our Valentines ritual has evolved to making the Chinese food and eating it with our kids in the candle light. It is nothing extravagant, but means a great deal to both of us. Talk with your spouse about something small and meaningful that you can do as a couple, or family, to celebrate this day.
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5 Tips for Creating a Peaceful Holiday Season

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At the beginning of November my mom sent me a text that read “I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the season…. I’m starting to feel anxious.”  It was meant as a joke between us because of how early the commercial side of Christmas starts.  All joking aside, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people.  Personally, I can become overwhelmed at Christmas time.  The shopping.  The parties.  The neighbor gifts.  The decorating.  The list goes on and on.  I thought sharing some tips on how I stay peaceful and stress free during this time of year would be helpful.

1) Identify what triggers your anxiety during the holidays.  This seems like a no brainer, but is so important to decreasing your stress.  Is it handing out neighbor gifts?  Is putting up Christmas lights going to send you over the edge?  Figure out what causes so much anxiety and then…

2) Identify what causes you the most joy during this time of season.  Cookie making?  Decorating the tree?  If it brings joy write it down.  At this point you should have a list of what causes you stress and what causes you joy.  Once you have that list…

3) Prioritize.  This time of year is not about doing every last Christmas activity, or attending each and every party to which you received an invitation.  If that is what brings you joy then by all means please enjoy those parties.  If party attendance is on your list of triggers then prioritize which parties are the most important and regretfully decline the others.  The idea is to bring joy into this time of year and push out the things that cause so much stress.  This may change every year.  One year at my house, to decrease stress, we only put up stockings and a Christmas tree.  Another year we only attended select Christmas parties.  We prioritized what was important to us and let the other stuff fall by the wayside.

4) Make special time for yourself and your significant other.  There is so much emphasis on family this time of year.  That is such a wonderful thing.  I love being together with my family and close friends.  Sometimes we forget that we need time for ourselves that does not include Christmas shopping or planning Christmas magic for our family.  Take some time for yourself to relax and enjoy the sights and smells of the season.  Take time with your spouse to be together without throngs of people around.  It will make a big difference.
5) Be grateful.  Being grateful always grounds me to be content and joyful.  Especially at this time of year I love to keep a daily gratitude journal.  It helps keep me centered on what I already have instead of what I need or want as gifts from other people.  Everyday take an inventory of the blessings you have in your life.  It will create a wonderful perspective for the season.
Good luck!  Hopefully as you create and maintain some good boundaries this year your holiday season will be less stressful and more enjoyable.
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