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What 2016 Can Teach You About Relationships

By most accounts, unless you are a rape-y cheeto with narcissistic personality disorder, this was a shit year. People are hoping 2017 will be better but most of us are skeptical. Most of you also are wondering how the heck I am going to link this crap-ass year to relationships.

People are being overwhelmingly negative about 2016 on the web. Negativity can overwhelm us. Our brains are biologically programmed to look for the negative and hold on to it more because 10,000 years ago, that was a survival skill. Many of us wallow in the negative and find optimistic folks endlessly annoying. But… if you hold on to negativity it will doom your relationships. Really, being endlessly negative will drive people away.

You probably don’t realize the toll being negative takes on your relationships. I am guessing most of you readers have had at least one relationship in your life end and have no idea why. You may believe your negativity gives you a realistic outlook on life. You may think other people just don’t get your struggle and are too judgmental about your negativity. You may hold a deep belief that waiting for something to go wrong in a relationship protects you from too much heartache.

Here’s the thing, everyone struggles. We all have different struggles. Some times the struggle is harder than others. We all need support in our struggle. And yes, some times things are pure shit. Holding onto that pain and crap will keep it in your life. It only gets better when you let it go.

Protecting Yourself

Many folks I know are jaded about relationships. They have a “wait and see” attitude. Many people believe they will ultimately be betrayed by a lover and they point to their history as proof “nobody stays around forever.”

The first problem with this is that your negativity gets tiring to be around. If you are Debbie Downer all the time, no one wants you around as a full-time partner. If you project that everything is awful, life is a struggle, people are horrible, that awful, depressed energy is what you carry. You partner(s) will feel it. It is a turn off both emotionally and sexually.

Second, many people keep waiting for a partner to betray them. Not trusting your partner and taking actions as a result of not having trust will also drive someone away. Things like snooping through a phone or purse, constantly checking up on someone, always asking if they want to be will someone else sends a couple of messages. One, you still hold onto the baggage of past relationships are are not ready to embrace someone new. Two, you have boundary issues. Three, you run the risk of being the “crazy” bf/gf.

Third, negative people can’t support partners in their endeavors. You have to believe in someone and you have to believe that it is worth the effort and risk to try something, to go for a dream. If you are the person who always points out the risks and pitfalls, works out the worst case scenarios and has a half-dozen reasons something will fail, you are not being supportive. You may think you are the “realist” but you are actually limiting what your partner will be willing to try as long as you are together.

How Do You Find the Positive in Crap?

I have never been one to look for the “silver lining.” I also believe some situations are just pure, unadulterated shit with no meaning. And no, not everything happens for a reason. But, I can also find many reasons to be grateful.

Gratitude is the key. It is not being happy or joyful about everything. Cultivating gratefulness will make you more positive without making you unrealistic.

There is actual science to this. Research out of UC Davis and a few other places has shown that people who take just a few minutes a day to write down what they are grateful for every day actually retrain their brain to be happier. It is effective, especially with people who tend toward depression.

There are several ways to practice gratitude. You can keep a list or journal of things you are grateful for. You can get a jar and write down the things you are grateful for on a slip of paper and place it in the jar. You can create your own gratitude mantra for meditation. The one key thing is to just take a few minutes to be grateful for something every day.

There are several fMRI studies which look at the activity of the brain when people practice being grateful. The areas that are linked to anxiety and stress tend to decrease in activity and the areas of well-being increase in activity when you think on one thing you are grateful for.

If you find yourself being endlessly negative or that your negativity is impacting your relationships try taking just five minutes a day to figure out what you are thankful for. It can be small, like the ability to get out of bed, the ability to feed yourself, the ability to sleep. It can be much larger like the opportunity to do a job you love or the fact you woke up next to someone you love or that you have a house over your head. Whatever it is, take a minute every day and just be grateful.

The change doesn’t happen immediately, but with regular practice being grateful will build your ability to be positive around your partners. This in turn can improve your relationships.

“But You Don’t Understand How Bad it is!!!”

Here is a brief personal testimony. I started being mindful of things I was grateful for about three years ago. I had made the decision to stop using prescription medications to manage bipolar disorder after several horrible interactions with psychologists including one where I filed charges with the police. I had been using prescription drugs and western doctors to manage my disorder for over 20 years.

Being grateful was one of many things I did as alternative treatments of bipolar. It has been amazingly effective for helping with the depressive aspect of my disease. I have not spun into a clinical depression in three years. This is the first time I have gone more than six months without a severe depressive episode. It is not gratitude alone, I use supplements, yoga, and energy work as well, but gratitude is part of it.

Just in case you think I get to be grateful because I live an easy life, that is not necessarily the case. I have been fighting to get a chronic condition diagnosed and treated for over three years. I live with debilitating pain and fatigue. I have been told twice by medical professionals they are out of ideas and it is a wait and see if I live an something else develops. I have been homeless. I was raped. I have lost a huge number of my possession. My step-father died. So no, life hasn’t been a cakewalk.

However, I am grateful every day for at least one thing. It has changed the way I approach most of the world and helps me keep focus on the positive stuff as well as the crap.

You may be skeptical. You may think you are not that negative. You may not be. But I would encourage you to be grateful once a day just through January 2017 and see if anything changes in you.

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