It seems like every few minutes there’s another alarming headline about coronavirus. Perhaps, worries about the virus have you constantly reaching for hand sanitizer and steering clear of anyone you hear coughing or sneezing in public.
While it makes sense to follow precautions recommended by the CDC and other trusted organizations, did you know that there are some other potent ways to stay healthy? I’m talking about taking steps to boost your mental health.
Normally, I discuss these steps in the context of improving your marriage. But the same strategies that benefit your relationship will also boost your physical health. And in stressful times like these, we could all use a boost! The mind-body connection is powerful. Here are four mental practices that will enhance your physical wellness.
Chances are you were pretty stressed out even before this global crisis. If coronavirus has you even more anxious than usual, it might be time to put some limits on your news and social media consumption. When you do seek information, turn to sources that are reliably accurate and that take a calm and measured tone instead of a sensationalistic one.
You can also bolster your immune system by making sure you are getting enough sleep and eating healthful foods, especially those that feed the gut bacteria that protect your body. Meditation, yoga and qigong can help turn the volume down on your body’s stress response.
2. Make a Point to Connect
Just like stress, loneliness is bad for your immune system. And it’s an epidemic in its own right. Almost half of all Americans report feeling lonely and left out.
As coronavirus spreads, we hear a lot about keeping up our
physical distance from others. Universities are canceling classes. Companies
are telling employees to work at home. And members of vulnerable groups are
being urged to self-isolate.
At the same time, though, we should be making an extra effort not
to be emotionally distant. Get in touch with people you don’t see
regularly. If virus precautions have changed your routines, don’t let important
people fall off of your radar.
When you are stressed and sad, share your feelings with someone you trust instead of just soldiering on. Even spending time with your pet helps. We are all social beings who need a rich network of relationships.
3. Keep a Positive Mindset
Decide right now that you are in good health and that you are going to stay that way. Constantly call to mind mental images of yourself as strong and healthy. Positive emotions and visualization improve physical wellbeing in a very real way.
Regularly remind yourself of everything that you are grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful weapon against the negativity bias in our brains. We do a good job of remembering dangers and threats, but we have to intentionally focus on and savor positive things in order for them to register.
These four tips will help you bolster your health amid the anxiety about coronavirus. And, as a bonus “side effect,” they will also improve your marriage and other relationships. Please care for yourself well, both during this challenging time and well beyond.
Have you noticed how easy it is to spend your entire day under a cloud of negativity?
There is no shortage of upsetting headlines in the news. If you dare to read the online comments of news stories, the degree of negativity and rudeness can be mind boggling! Turn to your social media feeds and there are complaints and criticism everywhere.
Even at work, how many times a day do you and your colleagues “vent” about what’s wrong?
All that negativity takes its toll and can spill over into your marriage. It’s hard to turn off the habit of fault finding and looking for problems, even when you’re with people you care the most about.
Spouses can be especially easy targets for such negativity. But for the health of your marriage, it’s important to, as the old song says, accentuate the positive.
Here’s what can help:
1. Intentionally Build a Positive Space.
Your marriage can be a fortress of optimism that helps you cope with the sea of negativity around you. But building a marriage like this requires being deliberate and focused. It’s too easy to fall into negativity, so you have to repeatedly choose to be positive. If you can do this, you will find the upbeat nature of your relationship invaluable to your well being.
Marriage research reveals that couples with the strongest marriages have about 20 positive interactions for every negative one. Even when there is conflict in these marriages, the ratio is still five positives for every negative. For struggling marriages, on the other hand, the number is closer to 0.8 positives for every negative. Keep these numbers in mind if you want the type of marriage that will buffer you from outside pessimism.
2. Take Care of Yourself. When you’re stressed and really busy, getting to that positive place isn’t easy. That’s because a stressed brain is hardwired to look for what’s wrong. Studies have shown that under heavy stress, couples have more difficulty seeing the positives in their relationship and usually magnify anything negative that is happening. This is just one important reason to take a break to mitigate your stress. When you’re calmer, you’ll be able to see your spouse more accurately. Take some time for you, so that your time together will be more constructive.
3. Notice the Good Things. To counteract the strong tendency to focus on the negative, make an extra effort to notice what’s working well in your relationship and talk about it. Most people are starving to be noticed and appreciated, and your husband is no exception.
What are your best moments with him? Which of his qualities make you feel grateful you’re married to him? Have you told him any of this recently?
Pay special attention to the end of the day when the two of you reconnect. It’s easy to turn this crucial time into a gripe session. But think about how much better it would be if you shared some good news and expressed how glad you are to see each other instead.
You may not have any control over what happens in politics or national and world affairs, but you can take steps toward positivity that make a real difference in your marriage. Give the ideas in this article a try. And if you’d like to discover more strategies like these, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
What’s the most romantic thing you can do for your husband this Valentine’s Day? Planning a special dinner? Choosing the perfect gift?
Those gestures are wonderful, of course, but the most powerful thing for your marriage might actually be showing your excitement when he tells you he aced a presentation at work or that he hit his exercise goal for the month.
Recent research highlights the value of celebration, positivity and enthusiasm in creating a happy relationship. That might seem intuitive, but it’s something we often overlook. We tend to talk about the strength of a relationship in terms of how a couple weathers challenges or hard times together. But the way we handle the “for better” part of “for better or for worse” is just as important.
A UCLA study found that the way dating couples discussed positive events was more closely related to the health of their relationships than how they talked about negative events. Another study discovered that sharing good news with someone else and getting an enthusiastic response enhances the value of the good news to the sharer and strengthens the relationship with the responder.
And just last year, a brain-imaging study added more evidence for the power of positivity. New York Magazine’s Science of Us blog describes the study as showing that “the relationship satisfaction of longtime married elderly women is particularly related to the neural activity they show in response to their husbands’ displays of positive emotion, rather than negative emotion” and notes the possibility “that marital happiness goes hand in hand with sensitivity to our partners’ positive emotion.”
How can you use these findings to strengthen your own relationship? Christine Carter of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center recommends remembering to share your own good news with your partner and reacting with enthusiasm when he shares good news with you. The key word here is “enthusiasm.” A distracted “that’s nice, Honey” just doesn’t have the impact of genuine interest and excitement. We all have an innate need to be “seen” and cherished by the people who are important to us. When that happens in a relationship, the bond between partners strengthens. Also remember that all the seemingly little positive and negative things you do in a relationship add up over time. Responding enthusiastically when your partner has good news is a great way to make a “deposit” in the emotional bank account of your relationship — and ensure that you’re ready for any “withdrawals” in difficult times.
To learn more about infusing your relationship with positivity, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love. And don’t forget to throw in a few high fives (figurative or literal!) for your husband amid all the hearts and flowers of Valentine’s Day.