Living optimistically nurtures the relationships that enrich our lives, helping them both grow and last.
Posted in , Feb 15, 2018
Relationships are like plants. Rooted in the fertile soil of common interests, shared experiences and emotional connection, they grow over time, reaching sunward even when the weather brings either storms or drought.
Many of us talk to our plants, coaxing them kindly and lovingly toward fruitfulness, lush growth and long life. What would it look like to treat our relationships—friendships, professional colleagues, family relations and love partners alike—with similar positive care and attention? After all, some research shows that talking to our plants actually helps them thrive and grow!
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
These three aspects of positive psychology offer a foundation for tending to your garden of relationships:
1) Practice Good Relationship Hygiene
The psychologists Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski write in their book Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts that relationships need regular “workouts” to thrive. As consistent watering, fertilizing and weeding make for a healthy garden, regular time together, clear communication and positive encouragement forge vibrant relationships. “The good news is that with time and practice, it gets easier because you’re building your relational ‘muscles,’ which get stronger and more flexible over time,” they said in an interview with Brides magazine.
2) Celebrate the Little Moments
In the garden, you might do a little jig over a pea harvest that yielded a bowlful more than you picked last year. Likewise in relationships, it’s the small achievements, the little moments of joy and growth that are wonderful celebrating in each other. Miriam Kirmayer, a therapist and friendship researcher, recently told the New York Times, “Remembering obviously big life events—things like birthdays are a given—but also maybe smaller things like: They had a doctor’s appointment coming up or you know they were going to have a stressful day at work and kind of checking in to see how it went. Even a quick text message can go a long way.”
3) Focus on Each Other’s Strengths
Positive thinkers are skilled at recognizing the best in others, rather than dwelling on those things our friends, family members, or partners struggle with. Honestly assessing someone’s strengths—and arranging your time together in a way that allows those strengths to shine—makes for a mutually beneficial relationship. After all, you wouldn’t plant a tropical garden in northern Maine and expect it to thrive. Why would you invite a friend who loves books and movies but hates the gym to join you in training for a marathon?
How do you use positive thinking to cultivate healthy, meaningful relationships?