We need loving connection: February is relationship month

Hi there everyone.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Soon we’ll be awash in hearts, flowers and candy to celebrate love. Do you celebrate the day? How do you celebrate it? Happy Family Day to you also.. Not everyone has happy partner or family connections, so there may be other relationships friends or co workers that may give you more reason to celebrate. So with this I

 In this vein, our next of the seven elements of Wellness is Relationships. Today we will look at the health benefits of positive healthy relationships and the health risks of negative unhealthy relationships.

I happen to think that the celebration of love any day is important to the longevity of any relationship. This includes every kind of relationship from marriages to living together, friendships to acquaintances, parents to children. Love can range from the deepest emotional connection possible between people to the showing of caring in any form,  temporary or longlasting.

So whether or not you actually celebrate on Valentine’s or Family Day, let’s enjoy  February the month of love, connection and relationships. See  how you can show  caring concern or positive regard toward people we meet, however briefly. And yes that includes the person that just cut you off in traffic, the barista who just made your coffee or the grocery store clerk.

If you really want to give a gift that will transform your marriage, primary relationship  or partnership, consider registering in one of our upcoming Hold Me Tight: A  Transformational Weekend Retreat for Couples during 2017. There are group retreats in March , May and October.  If you prefer a private couple retreat these can be arranged with me as early as February. There is information below.

And remember have some fun with focusing on your relationships in this month of love and connection.

Warm hugs to you all


History of Valentine’s

I thought you might enjoy a little “intel” on the history of Valentine’s. Here’s a link


How’s your Emotional Awareness?

Being conversant with your own internal emotional life enhances how you are in your relationships.

In the last email we talked about Emotional Wellness. How did it go with your delving into your emotions?

What did you learn about  your emotions through the mindfulness approach of  Noticing and Naming is Taming your emotions?

How did you do with the mindfulness approach  in the style of Jon Kabat Zinn’s definition which is “ awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,”?

It does take time and effort to move from simply experiencing your emotions to experience then watch, observer or “pay attention… non judgmentally”.   Did you know that according to somethe physiological activation of emotional states lasts only a short time, with one researcher saying it lasts only 90 seconds.

So how come emotions stay with us so much longer? What often happens is we feel something, such as anxiety, anger or hurt which gives a surge of chemical activation in our bodies. Then as it surges we tend to become disturbed being upset and say things to ourselves like “I don’t like this, here we go again, I can’t handle this” Then this activates a new surge of emotion and on it goes.  We reactivate the original physiological response or a new one and this keeps on happening such that we keep feeling things more and more intensely. And remember don’t use this information to make yourself even more upset that you can’t resolve your own emotions in 90 seconds; it’s a process to begin to experiment with and experience this. It’s good information to encourage you to look at what happens for you when you do have emotions that seem to have a life of their own.

Here’s a link to an article that you might enjoy that expands on this and encourages you to observe and name your emotions as part of the process of allowing the intensity of the emotion to run its natural course:

Think About Your Relationship

Here’s a couple questions for consideration in the second element of Wellness, that of relationship wellness. Each person’s answers to these reflect preference. What might be satisfying and a community of support for me, could be too much or too little for you.

How satisfying are your closest relationships and  friendships?

Do you have a “community of support”, someone or someone’s you can connect with both when things fall apart and when they are going well.

Whether you have a close intimate realationship or not, many friends and a large network of friends, acquaintances or colleagues at work or a smaller network of one or two, the important thing is that it is working for you. If you feel a lack in these areas, take your answers to the questions as information to move forward in a direction you want.

The articles during February will address these questions from the lens of attachment. First we will look at the physical benefits of positive relationships and the negative effects of poor relationships. Then in the next email we’ll look at what attachment is and why it is important to our well being ourselves and when we connect with others.

We Need Loving Connection

From her book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Dr. Sue Johnson,  Clinical Psychologist and Researcher  cites several research studies that demonstrate both the down sides of  the lack of emotional connection and the up sides of close emotional connection to others. She states “Having close emotional ties is vital to every aspect of our health – mental, physical and emotional”. Here is a summary of the health impact of positive and negative relationships from  pages  24 – 26 in Hold Me Tight.

First the bad news – health risks of poor relationships

Research has shown that relationships can affect our health in significant ways. It has shown that loneliness can increase blood pressure such that the risk for heart attack and stroke is doubled.  Emotional isolation was shown to be a higher health risk than smoking or high blood pressure. 

The quality of the relationship also affects our health. Negative relationships have negative impact on our health.  Men with a history of angina and high blood pressure were asked if their wives exhibited love toward them. The men who answered “No” had nearly twice the number of angina attacks than those who replied “Yes”.  Women reporting strained marriages and regular  rancorous  interchanges with their partners were more likely to have significantly raised blood pressure and increased levels of stress hormones  when compared with women in happy marriages.

Distress in marriage affects our immune functioning.  In a study with newly weds who were instructed to have an argument, if the fight was more contentious and antagonistic, the levels of stress hormones were higher and the immune system was more depressed. These effects lasted up to 24 hours.  In another study it was found that wounds take longer to heal, the nastier a fight was between a couple.

Lastly researchers have shown that  the risk for depression increases by ten times when there is marital distress.  

Now the good news – health benefits of positive relationships

Study after study shows that positive emotional connection  with others is a protective factor  for stress and equips us to deal with the day to day life challenges. In a remarkable study, named the Hand Holding study, Jim Coan of the University of Virginia informed women having an MRI brain scan that they may receive a small electrical shock when a little red light came on in the machine. When alone the stress centers of these women’s brains lit up. When holding another’s hand, less stress was recorded in their brains and less pain was experienced when the shock came. Interestingly in loving, more satisfied relationships there was a stronger effect. As Coan stated “The people we love are the hidden regulators of our bodily processes and our emotional lives”. p 26

In brain imaging studies, it was shown that emotional hurt registers in the same area of the brain as physical hurt.  If you’ve ever experienced the ending of a marriage or losing someone close to you this will make so much sense to you. A broken heart hurts as much as a broken limb.

Further in Hold Me Tight, Johnson says “Love is not the icing on the cake of life. It is a basic primary need, like oxygen or water. Once we understand and accept this, we can more easily get to the heart of relationship problems”.  P 2

What Does Attachment in adult relationships have to do with love and Valentines? A.R.E.

Here’s a little taste. According to attachment theory we need emotional connection “cradle to grave”. Much like a child needs a secure relationship with its parents, adults need someone who are Accessible, Responsive and Engaged. That means someone who has your back, is tuned in with you and answers your call for support and stays connected to you. We’ll learn more about this in the next email.

A transformational gift for Valentine’s.

Give the gift of lasting, close relationships. The early bird date for the March 17 – 19, 2017 Hold Me Tight: A Transformational  Weekend Retreat for Couples is fast approaching. Save $100 and register by February 17. Here’s the link to further information and to register.

Want a private couple retreat?

Want something for your relationship sooner? On your schedule? One couple with one therapist? Patricia can schedule  a 12 hour Hold Me Tight Private Couple Retreat on weekdays or weekends. Here’s information.  Email or call soon. Spots are filling up fast. Depending on your schedule, you could attend in February. (Norja please put link to existing information; I will be updating it soon)

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