Relationships almost always start off with sparks. Imagine the flood of electricity that comes when we first meet and fall in love. Once the initial wave of emotion has subsided, we tend to fall back into something that’s less energizing. After a while, relationships can become more about habit and less about happiness.
Things don’t have to stay that way. It’s possible to improve your relationship with happiness. That happiness starts with you and then spreads out to your partner and into the life beyond that you share. The goal isn’t to recapture the flush of the initial romance (though it’s certainly nice to feel some of that again). The goal is to enrich your happiness and deepen your connection.
Calming the Amygdala
One of the things that many of us recognize is that relationships can spiral into a repetitive pattern that we can’t seem to escape from. That’s due in part to the way that we find ourselves being triggered by outside forces (work, children, finances, etc.) and then taking it out on our significant other. It’s not something that we do on purpose, but rather it’s a trigger that we get caught in.
Our brains have an alarm system, a method of detecting threats and then warning us to respond to them. That alarm system is seated in the amygdala. Supporting positive functioning of the amygdala prevents that alarm from going off at times that don’t work for your relationship. Say when you feel threatened by jealousy or caught off guard with a snippy response from your partner. When you practice mindfulness and work to improve your overall happiness, your amygdala is communicating more effectively with the prefrontal cortex of your brain. The executive functioning center of your brain is then better able to keep your amygdala from going off the deep end and escalating situations that don’t need to be escalated.
Putting into practice steps that move you towards happiness calms down your amygdala and allows you to break free from stress cycles that are damaging your relationships and putting a strain between you and your partner.
Increasing Emotional Awareness
Emotional awareness is a key to having positive relationships. When you’re aware of your own emotions, you’re better able to recognize both the positive and negative emotions that you’re experiencing. You can then actually judge whether or not your feelings are moving your relationship forward, or if they’re holding your relationship back.
Frustration and anger block our ability to emotionally aware by releasing stress hormones like cortisol. The more that you engage in growing your own happiness, the more you’ll be able to improve your relationship with happiness and be aware of what your partner is feeling. Mindfulness and other meditative practices promote acceptance and open attitudes that have a positive effect on our ability to engage emotionally.
Looking at our partner’s negative behaviors in context lets us see the bigger picture. We can approach conflict with awareness and openness which leads to deeper connection and growth in your relationship.
Gratitude is the Highest Good in Relationships
Increasing happiness is in many ways tied to increasing gratitude. The more grateful we are, the less likely we are to suffer from depression, stress, negativity, and anxiety.
Incorporating happiness practices like focusing on gratitude is a powerful way to improve relationships. It’s a straightforward way to combat the brain’s negativity bias. That’s our propensity for clinging to negative things that we encounter in life. When you consciously focus on the good parts of your day, your ability to feel positive about life grows as well. That includes your ability to feel positive about your partner. You can connect with them more fully and deeply when you foster a sense of gratitude in your own life.
Your partner has brought some great things into your life. The reason that you’re together has a lot to do with the good things that you saw in the beginning. Those good things are still there and are constantly growing. Learning to be conscious of your partner’s positive traits rather than focusing on the negative is one way that you can improve your relationship with happiness.
The highest good that you can achieve in your relationship comes through finding happiness in gratitude. That includes finding gratitude for your partner.
Happiness is Contagious
Positive people grow positive relationships. Just like a virus is contagious in a negative way, so too does happiness run from person to person in a positive way. A study out of Harvard showed that when individuals invested in happiness development, nearly one in ten of their partners became happy as well. They didn’t have to do anything else special in order to share their happiness with their partners. They just had to find it for themselves!
That same principle applies to your relationships as well. When you work hard to create happiness for yourself, you’re going to find that your loved ones become happy as well naturally.
It’s important to note that physical proximity has been found to be a powerful agent for happiness. If you live with a partner or spend a great deal of time in their physical presence, you’re more likely to share your happiness with them.
Becoming happy isn’t something that you’re pursuing just for yourself. When you take steps to improve your own life, you’re doing it for the people in your life too. Your outlook on life has a massive effect on the way that you interact in relationships. The happier you are, the happier your partner will be, the happier your relationship will be.
It’s always a great time to take positive steps forward to create happiness in your life. And it’s not just about your life – your happiness is an important part of helping improve your relationship. Imagine your best relationship, then imagine how much happiness could help you to get there.
Learn more about what happiness can do for you and how to get it by signing up for our free happiness training.