Do you ever feel stressed out about the requirements of daily life? My customers Ava and Leo were doing their best to balance high-pressure jobs with the requirements of two school-aged children and time for themselves. Their job got done, also. But the amount of tasks that they juggled every day made it tough to remain connected to the people they cared about most – their daughters, their friends, and each other.
They began feeling less like union partners and more like roommates, and were not certain how to block the feeling of drifting apart. They spoke about large solutions – a holiday, or a series of Friday night dates. These were great thoughts. In fact, however, it is often the smallest actions that produce the most extraordinary results. Let’s look at a few simple techniques to decrease stress and reconnect.
Touch is a powerful way to connect. Research demonstrates that contact from someone you trust can decrease pain and enhance your immune system. Other studies reveal that signature releases oxytocin, and thereby fosters a sense of connection and belonging. The power of touch goes past affecting personal relationships. NBA basketball teams whose players touch each other more win more matches.
Touch by medical physicians makes physician visits appear longer, and increases the odds of survival for those who have complicated diseases. When librarians touch the arm or hand of a pupil during the checkout procedure, the student is more likely to come back to the library, and more likely to report the library period as enjoyable. Touch, at the perfect moment and in the ideal way, can decrease stress, enhance recovery, and relieve your mind.
Another way to connect is by creating small, positive gestures – gestures let folks know that they matter. It’s not so much what you do (although that’s important); it is that you thought about doing something. A gesture may be expressing a straightforward appreciation, sending good wishes, or taking a few minutes to hear a buddy’s problem even if you’re tired. It might come in the shape of a comment, a notice, a text, or perhaps a little gift. It can take any form, so long as it is meaningful to the individual receiving it.
Make connection a custom. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, takes gestures and touch to another level by helping individuals create life-changing (and organization-changing) customs. The customs themselves are small, but are intended to alter personal and business relationships in a significant way. He’s helped over 3,000 individuals to make change in 30 minutes or less.
Among the most effective habits are the ones that affect relationships. After I get my car keys, I will hug my daughter goodbye. When I walk in the door after work, I shall kiss my husband. After I open my browser in the morning, I will send an email to a friend. When I leave for lunch, I will text my spouse. Once an action is identified, it has to be replicated, ideally at least once per day. These patterns of gesture and touch may result in powerful relationship change.
Here’s how you can make a relationship-enhancing habit on your own. First take a few minutes to consider someone with whom you want to feel more connected. Create an action which you can replicate at least daily, preferably one which takes under a minute. Do it every day for a week. Notice how you are feeling. If you want the results, continue your activity for another week. If you are unsure, then think of a new habit and try that one for a week instead.
After a month or two, once your action is occurring automatically, without having to consider it, add another one. Leo’s easy action was to text his wife from work, daily. It took just a couple of minutes to compose the text and push the send button. It was not the first action he’d attempted, but it was the one that worked. Their relationship began to shift. Ava was touched by the message, but even more by the consistency. Leo remembered, daily, and Ava knew that she had been on his mind. She could tell he cared. For Leo, the end result was even stronger. He felt better about the connection – no surprise here. But he also felt stressed at work. He laughed more during the day and fell asleep more easily at night. Can simple gestures shift a connection? If you choose well and behave consistently, they could. Try it and see. After a week of exercise (remember, that is a minute each day!) , notice what happens – not only with another individual, but on your own. Relationship habits construct connection with others, but also change how you feel.