How to Become a Healthier Me

If you’ve taken the Dating and/or the Relationship Quizzes previously posted in this column (Dec 17, 2008), you will have some idea of the things I will be talking about in this one. Though it is human nature to desire connection and intimacy, it is not necessarily human nature to know how to do it right. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at divorce statistics.

Most of us remember our first love relationship in which falling in love was so unencumbered – we could just be swept away by those lovely fairy-tale feelings of longing and desire. What we learned about love and romance came from the prevailing attitudes and notions of the day and what our parents modeled for us. But not all that was taught and learned served us well.

It makes sense to say that two healthy people make one healthy relationship. Imagine two people embarking upon a journey together – if each is prepared for the trip, it will go smoothly, whereas if one or neither is prepared then the journey will be fraught with difficulties. So if you want to enjoy a healthy, happy, and satisfying relationship, you must work on becoming healthy and happy in your own right. Here are some tips to aid you in your journey:

1. Stop listening to love songs, or if you must, don’t believe what they say. No one can (or should) save you from the task of growing up and taking responsibility for your own life, so don’t even go there. And you should never feel like you cannot live without someone – it’s a suicidal contract you shouldn’t even consider!

2. Instead, take a look at your own life, and work on knowing yourself better. Examine your values, outlook, and life goals. Write down a list of your strengths, the positive things you will bring into a relationship.

3. Listen to your life, and let it speak to you. Ensure that there is balance in it. Take care of business so that you are in good physical, mental/emotional, financial, relational or spiritual shape. Prioritize the things that are important to you, and don’t let them slip.

4. Set some life goals that are just for you, regardless of whether or not you are in a relationship with someone. For example, you may want to travel, learn a foreign language, take up tennis, make a career change, or volunteer to help the needy. These are things that will enhance your sense of purpose and connection to life.

5. Learn how to enjoy just being you. Spend time with friends, but also spend time alone regularly doing good self-care. It can be going for a run, or meditation, enjoying a cup of tea or reading a book.

6. If you have “unfinished business” (i.e. leftover issues from previous relationships, whether they be romantic or familial), get them worked through. Most likely, seeing a counselor or therapist will facilitate this process. Walking around with a lot of emotional pain makes you a ticking time bomb.

7. Learn the skill of emotional grounding (aka mindfulness practice)– the ability to stay focused and clear-thinking in the midst of extreme stress or other destabilizing situations (such as losing your job, breaking up or falling in love or lust with someone).

8. Keep an open attitude towards life, and a curiosity that leads you to keep learning new things. Boredom is simply the state of negative inertia, and it leads to a spiritual stagnation. Life is too full of interesting and stimulating things to learn and adventures to be had.

9. Tend to your important relationships with family and friends. If you don’t have any, cultivate some. Write that letter that you’ve been meaning to, or pick up that phone and call someone. For that matter, cultivate connections to your community – get involved in ways that interest or gratify you. These will be anchors for you when your ship hits stormy seas.

10. Challenge yourself to growing in an area of your life. For example, if you are shy, you may seek help from a counselor to learn more social skills. If you are unhappy in your job, explore options for doing something else. Or you may be needing to turn on your computer and start on that play or novel you’ve always meant to write.

The adventure of becoming more of who you are begins everyday! Love yourself and love your life, and love will flow into it like water finding its way back to the ocean.

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