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Living in Connection

I recently returned from a whirlwind vacation in Slovenia and Croatia, where my husband Thom and I not only had a terrific adventure, but also where the experience of living in connection was palpable. In the above picture I was having one of our daily Cappuccino’s at a riverfront cafe in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. Not only are their coffees terrific there, but most special was being immersed in a culture which seems to embrace connection. People there routinely sit outside together, young and old, regardless of the weather, enjoying coffees, wine, sweets, meals and good old conversation all day and night! We hardly saw anyone on their cellphones, ignoring the humans in their midst the way we routinely do in the USA. We were struck by how friendly and happy the people there seemed, and not just the tourists who were enjoying a vacation. We returned to the States convinced in a new way that the experience of daily human connection and personal happiness are intertwined.   So, when you’re not on vacation in a friendly spot what can you do in your daily life to promote connection?  
  1. Be intentional about engagement when you’re with other people. Maintain eye contact, listen, share, and most importantly, don’t confuse cellphone use with human socialization unless you’re sharing photos or anecdotes, and it’s not a solo, isolating activity.
  2. Take time each day to find people and places where you can have some meaningful conversation – whether it’s at the cooler, at lunch on a walk, or after work at a restaurant. If you’re a stay- at- home Mom join a mother’s group or a gym where you can find connection.
  3. Create small pockets of connection with your partner if you lack big expanses of time. Get away from an”all or nothing” frame. Share a glass of wine while cooking dinner, sit together and talk about the TV program you’re watching, share news about your day over dinner or walking the dog together. Plan your weekend and create something to look forward to.
  4. Use technology to let the people you care about know you’re thinking about them, then make a date. Don’t use technology as a substitute for the real thing, creating pseudo intimacy. Reach out and do stuff with the people you value.
  5. When you’ve experienced conflict in a relationship, (as you inevitably will in most normal relationships), don’t let it stew – instead, address it in whatever way the relationship will sustain, so it doesn’t become a barrier to connection. (The exception to this would be relationships which feel abusive, then boundaries are your best resource).
  6. When you’re alone find moments of connection with strangers who feel safe to you – talk with the supermarket clerk, start a conversation with the person next to you at a bar or restaurant, compare dog stories with other dog walkers. Engage!
However you do it, be intentional and creative about maximizing the experience of connection in your life. You’ll be happier, for sure.                                                          PS. If you need help with this issue feel free to contact me at my Portsmouth, NH office at 603-431-7131 for an appointment.

It’s All About The Ball!

 
When it comes to how we live our lives, ask any dog, especially Tucker above, and they’ll show you that we’ve got our priorities all wrong – sideways, so to speak.
 
Tucker is my morning pal, the next door neighbor’s dog, and my big, handsome blonde Teacher of All Things, Big and Small. We run around and walk the trails behind my house every morning, Tucker attached like cement to his green ball. When I’m tired or cranky he reminds me that “it’s all about The Ball, get over it!” When it’s buggy or muggy or rainy like today, we both get bitten and soggy, but the Ball Game has to go on! A little rainfall won’t kill anyone. So what if there are some inconveniences?
 
Tucker has taught me not to make such a big deal of piles of snow, the early hour after a late night, muddy boots and trampled garden beds. He reminds me of the importance of promises, some predictability, and mostly the importance of being present in connection and having FUN in life. He helps me see that Quickbooks and emails can wait, calls can be returned later, but for a guy with only about 5 more years to live, the time is NOW for The Ball!
 
If you don’t have a Tucker in your life like I do, trust me that you’ll live longer and happier if you listen to and practice his “words” of wisdom: It’s all about The Ball!
 
If you’re on your own and need help getting your priorities straight, feel free to contact me – I’d be glad to help!
 
Susan Lager
603-431-7131

Wanna Be Happier? Get or Borrow a Dog!

 

Look at this face!

This is Tucker, my morning cup of joy. Every day at 9 AM he arrives at my breezeway door, sent by my next door neighbor, ball in mouth, ready for action. (Some days I wonder why I’m voluntarily getting out of a warm bed an hour early and heading into the “arctic” outdoors with this rambunctious canine)!  

We traipse around our land playing Fetch or Tug of War for awhile, then we head onto the adjoining trails leading to either the bog or the nature path which goes through miles of farmland and woods. Tucker runs ahead, then waits at every turn for me to show up and cheer him on. When he’s naughty he drops the ball and eats deer droppings or grabs onto giant five foot logs which he swings around, intending to haul back home. Once in awhile he obeys when I tell him to drop either the poop or the log. I’m persistent, so he’s minding me more often lately. It’s a work in progress…

For about four months here in Maine, any doubt I may have felt earlier in the morning about the effort to get up and out disappears completely once we’re immersed in this winter wonderland. After the walk I take Tucker downstairs into my gym where he works at the peanut butter inside his Kong while I’m working out. When he’s done he thanks me profusely with sloppy kisses, and I remind him how much I adore him. I then take him home next door, and return to the rest of my day feeling loved, useful, grateful, and filled with joy.

This is my happy place, communing with nature and a big, sweet, loving creature who enjoys the experience as much as I do. It’s a morning ritual which sets the tone for good energy and connection with clients, family and friends. I start each day “in the moment” with intention and gratitude.

So, if you have a dog and can’t roam the woods like I do in the morning, you can still make their walk a ritual of immersion in nature and love by just being present. If you don’t have a dog, borrow one as I do, so you can also borrow their capacity for spontaneity and pleasure. Chances are, your friend or neighbor who loans him to you will appreciate the help, and you and the dog will benefit immensely from your special time together. Any affectionate touch will ramp up the happy bonding hormone Oxytocin in both of you. You’ll begin the day with great self care and a full heart, and you’ll be readier for whatever comes your way!

Cheers,

Susan                                                                                                                                                                                   

*PS. If you need help with the whole issue of self care and practices which promote positivity and joy, feel free to call me at 603-431-7131 to set up an appointment. I’d be glad to help! 

 

Emotional Contagion – what are you spreading or catching?

I live in New England where right now in the middle of the winter of 2018 there seems to be a massive Flu epidemic. It’s cited as being the worst in history, with people unwittingly passing it on to others who then do the same. It’s a classic case of physiologic contagion. We’re all advised about washing out hands, not sharing towels or utensils, and staying home if we have symptoms to avoid unnecessary spread of the illness which can be fatal.

But what about other forms of contagion? Who notices them and gives us tools to avoid spreading the unsavory?

Contagion in relationships is much like the Flu – if you get too close and aren’t mindful, you’ll catch, in this case, the emotional state of someone you may feel sympathy towards.
If your spouse is depressed and lolling around, if you aren’t proactive you may end up “mirroring” them with similar body language and affect. We all seek people who will mirror us accurately as a form of bonding and connection, but when a loved one is very down or anxious, you want to be careful to not take on their attitude, but instead to feel compassion, and try to provide support. It’s a fine line of difference.

If a friend is feeling hopeless about a relationship or job, you can listen and acknowledge their pain, maybe even ask if they’d like some suggestions or a reality check around their experience. But that’s different from hanging around with them and getting into long, shared experiences about how partners or jobs are unreliable, and tapping into your own negative beliefs about these things. Then the feeling and attitude has been contagious. You’ve “caught” it.

If when you empathize with a loved one by connecting with similar experiences you’ll need to also connect with any lessons you learned or things you gained from the experience, so you don’t “catch” the “hopeless bug”. You’ll need to remind yourself of anything you may have done to get past the experience to something brighter.

It may be useful to remind your loved one of their resources and resilience they’ve demonstrated in the past around these kinds of issues. You can become a subtle cheerleader for their strengths, without sounding too chirpy.

It will also be helpful to limit time spent with someone in a very dark state. You cannot help them if their narrative becomes your own, so make sure you engage in activities before or afterward which remind you of good possibilities in life. You will be a sunnier presence for them as well if you practice this.

You can then make hope the contagious feeling instead!

BlogTalk Radio Podcast Wed., 12/13/17 8:30 PM EST: “5 Ways to Build Couple Connection During the Holidays”

 In this 20 minute episode I’ll share some connection tools from my many years of working with couples. In this brief podcast you’ll get ideas for how you can, with minimal time and energy, amidst what is often a whirlwind of busyness, build in a fun sense of “we-ness” with your spouse or partner.

Join in live at 8:30 PM EST with your questions, comments, or your own ideas at 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live podcast you can hear the recording anytime afterward at: www.BlogTalkRado.com/SusanLager.

I hope that one way or another you can join me!

Blog Talk Radio Host

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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