Sounds of concentration

Sounds of concentration

When it comes to needing to focus and get work done, music has been my savior. Creating a playlist for when I need to concentrate, however, is not easy.


Studies show that music can improve your productivity and help tune out all of the background noise so you can tune into what you want to accomplish. Read more about that research here.


To create a good working playlist, here are some tips:


Choose songs that won’t distract you.


This is a fairly obvious, but easier said than done. I’m definitely the type of person who can rock out to whatever song I am listening to, which undoubtedly gets me off track. Something I have found to be really effective is choosing songs that don’t have words, like this song from the “Inception” score. That way, you can still recognize the tune without singing along and sometimes even type the lyrics to your favorite Coldplay jam even though you’re supposed to be typing a paper. (It’s actually happened before.)


Pick songs you love.


That isn’t to say that all the songs you pick should be from your least favorite genres. Choose songs from genres that you listen to in your free time, even your favorite songs. I have found that to be very effective myself. Your favorite songs and artists will motivate you and that similar sound found within the genre you like would help maintain your concentration. That is of course, keeping the first tip in mind.




Mix rhythms and tempos.


The last thing you want is to be in a constant state of boredom when working. A playlist of just the same sounds over and over will not motivate you; it will do the opposite. Mixing rhythms, tempos, and even genres can help keep your attention on your work.


Change it up once in a while.


Just like with a workout playlist, after multiple listens, it can get repetitive. Make sure to keep your playlist fresh by adding and removing songs as you see fit. Or, you can even make a new playlist every once in a while to make sure you don’t fall into the same monotonous trap.


Let a music service do it for you!


If creating your own playlist is too daunting or time-consuming, let others help. Spotify and Songza are both great music services that allow you to choose a “mood” that matches what you are feeling, and a pre-made playlist will be on queue. You can even choose specific songs to add to your personal library and make your own playlist from there. Pandora is also a good service that has channels based on your taste in music genre or artist.


A lot of the work in creating a playlist comes down to trial and error. Test out songs in a real situation and don’t be afraid to try something unconventional. Happy listening!

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Confessions of a Type A personality: what to expect when you encounter one

The first time I recognized that I had a Type A personality was when I read a Huffington Post article called “16 Signs You’re A Little (Or A Lot) Type A” and realized that fifteen of the sixteen signs they mentioned applied to me. Luckily, I outgrew biting my nails before I entered adulthood.


Type A individuals are often misunderstood. The mind of a Type A person works in mysterious way, and communicating with these forward-thinking, nail-biting, and fast-talking people can be challenging.


Here’s a list of traits that I and many other Type As exhibit (both the good and the bad):


Lists are your life (irony intended)


It wouldn’t be an article authored by a Type A without the inclusion of a list.


List making is one of my favorite ways of organizing all of the information that travels into my brain. Part of it stems from a fear of forgetting to do something, but most of the list making comes from a craving for fulfillment. The fulfillment of crossing off an item on a to-do list is just as satisfying for me as a piece of chocolate cake.


Type As like having a sense of accomplishment, no matter how long it lasts, which is likely to be fairly short-term, because there is always a next step or goal a Type A person wants to strive for.


The word “nothing” doesn’t exist


Every time my mom talks to me, somewhere in the conversation she asks “what are you thinking?” or “what are you doing?” I am always doing something, or have that “itch” to do something. There are feelings of guilt if I ever start feeling lazy or bored. My mind scrambles to think of something productive to do, because I’d rather be doing something than nothing.


While this means procrastination is a rarity, you can imagine how tough it can be to quiet my mind when I’m trying to sleep. This is why you should never ask a Type A individual to “relax.” Never. It’s another word on the banned list. (I said we have a list for everything, didn’t I?)


There’s always a chance the world is ending


One of the warning signs that caught my attention in the Huffington Post article was “you’re a catastrophist.” Something can get set off in my brain and my life can become one of those apocalyptic disaster movies.


I am mentally wired to strive for and accept nothing less than what I consider to be “perfection.” If something falls short of what I wanted or hoped for, disaster can strike.


They like to get to where they’re going


Type A individuals are quick on their heads, feet, and emotions. My friends always comment on my fast walking, and while this is plus for competing on The Amazing Race, taking a nice leisurely stroll is not my style.


Type As have laser focus, and it can be hard to take a step back and appreciate the view. Type As don’t enjoy the journey to the destination; they hurry up and reach the destination and then start contemplating their next journey.


Type As do get a bad rap. But, they do have the ambition, the determination, and the drive to get to where they want to go.


So, when dealing with these somewhat difficult individuals, what should you do?


It’s simple. Don’t push, but gently remind them that everything is going to be all right. Our habits may be unbreakable, but taking a break is necessary. Just don’t suggest that they “relax” or “do nothing” for a change. Suggest that they do an activity that doesn’t fall on their urgent to-do list. Everyone, even Type As, needs to straighten out what is most important to them at some point!


-Don't push, but gently remind them that



Read more about Type As here and here.

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Can you name your top strengths?

Can you name your top strengths?

We often spend a lot of time on criticizing parts of ourselves that we wish to change, alter, or correct. Our concept of self-esteem can only be established after serious self-reflection. Our shortcomings can be presented in the form of physical weakness, appearance, or lack of knowledge or skill.


I certainly am guilty of this in high school. I would constantly scrutinize myself and focus on what I thought was wrong with me rather than the positive qualities that I felt I possessed. My self-esteem definitely suffered because of this. And my self-confidence, in effect, suffered as well. I was unable to enjoy what I really enjoyed doing because my thoughts were consumed by thoughts of what was not right.


But our constant obsession over our flaws is not only unhealthy, but also unproductive, according to Tom Rath in his book StrengthsFinder 2.0.


Rath collaborated with Gallup to create the StrengthsQuest test, a 30-minute online assessment where you have to go with your first instinct by choosing between two choices for each question.


At the end of the test, your top five strengths are revealed, with the philosophy that we should focus on exercising and developing our strengths rather than focus on our weaknesses and areas we wish we could improve. The strengths that the StrengthsQuest test highlights are not only applicable in your career, but in your personal life, particularly in relationship building and maintenance.


When I started college, one of the first things I did as a Hokie was take the StrengthsQuest test, and I have come to understand firsthand the logic behind the argument.


My top five strengths, and their descriptions according to StrengthsFinder 2.0, are:


Learner: “You love to learn. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the ‘getting there.’”


Discipline: “You set up routines. You focus on timelines and deadlines. You break long- term projects into a series of specific short-term plans, and you work through each plan diligently.”


Achiever: “You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more.”


Developer: “You see the potential in others. When you interact with others, your goal is to help them experience success. You look for ways to challenge them.”


Harmony: “You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum.”


In my own life, I have tried to incorporate my top five strengths more prominently into my daily life. By doing so, I found that I am more confident in my own abilities and less insecure about parts of myself that I’d like to improve. Rath also reports that people who do focus on strengths training are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life.


Utilizing these strengths to their fullest potential, Rath argues, will also positively affect your job satisfaction and performance. According to his research, “people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs.”

-You are braver than you believe,


So, while you cannot take the test unless you have an access code through your company, take some time to make a list of qualities you see in your self that you are proud of, not ones that you wish to fix. Then, think of ways to incorporate what you see as strengths into your life more consistently. Rath boils it down to one simple equation: talent x investment of time = strength.

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Are You Living Your Life on Purpose?

A month or so ago, I read a great essay discussing how no one knows what to expect from dating anymore.  Essentially, we have become so de-structured when it comes to dating that we have ceased to be intentional with our courtship. For example, a USA Today study demonstrated that a striking number of people don’t know if they’re on a date while out on a date.


As a therapist, one of my overarching goals with nearly all my clients is try to help them become more intentional about their choices. This seems obvious.  We make choices based on our values, goals, opportunities…right?  Unfortunately, all too often, we become caught up in what is happening around us, and are guided by convenience and fear, rather than intent and purpose. We struggle with the distinction between doing what we want to do, and doing what we think we should do.


We can find ourselves falling into our lives, with little sense of direction. So often I hear folks say, ‘it just sort of happened.’  And I’m not talking about the outfit they wore that day or the cupcake they ate for breakfast.  I am talking about major life decisions—career, relationships, education.  They sort of happened. As in, with very little intent on the individual’s part.


Granted, there are certainly events that are completely outside our control—the company we work for goes under or a loved one passes away, for example. However, we sometimes attribute to the universe or to chance choices that we ourselves have made.  We don’t—as related by study participants in the opening of this essay—end up on an ambiguous date.  We make a choice to spend time with someone, and we make a choice not to define what that time together means. Which, if it works for you, fine.  But personally, if I was on a date, I would want to know it (as would my husband!)


To break the cycle of living life in reactive mode, it takes a concerted effort of living with intention. Below, I have identified what I believe are some of the key steps to living life on purpose, and being directed by what matters to you, as opposed to ease or circumstance.


  1. Identify Your Values.  The first step to living intentionally is identifying your values.  Values here are not only a matter of morality but determining the overarching principles and concerns that will orient your actions.  Values are the compass that guide our choices. Ask yourself, what is important to you? What do you want to accomplish in your work life? What qualities do you want to demonstrate as a spouse or a parent? What hobbies or interests do you want to explore? Once we have identified our values, it makes it easier for us to make decisions going forward.
  2. Develop SMART Goals.  After you’ve clarified your values, you can then develop goals that are in line with the qualities you have recognized as important. I encourage clients to develop SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  Let’s say that you have identified feeling close to your partner as a value. Instead of the rather vague goal of, ‘I want to feel more connected to my spouse,’ you can say, ‘I will plan at least one date night per week for me and my partner, starting next week.’ You then have a created a specific goal (date night each week) to bring you in communion with your value (feeling connected to your spouse).  Here’s a tip: if you can’t tell whether your actions are moving you closer to your goal or not, then you do not have a SMART goal.
  3. Check in with Yourself.  It’s very easy when we are living our daily lives to become unaware of our present surroundings.  However, to know that we are on a path that right for us, we have to pause from time to time and ask ourselves how we feel about our current choices. We have to ask ourselves if we are acting in accordance with our values and larger plans for our lives. If you find yourself having difficulty remembering to take that pause, I recommend making a note on the calendar to check in with yourself on a set date.
  4. Mind Your Language. One of the things that I feel strongly about is the power of language.  I encourage clients to use active language that fully owns their choices. Instead of saying, ‘I want to leave my job, but it’s not going to happen this year,’ I urge folks to say, ‘I am choosing not to leave my job this year.’  You would be surprised how powerful this simple shift in language can be. Suddenly, the issue at hand is not something happening to you, but a course of action that you have agency over.  You acknowledge and accept your choice instead of laying it at the feet of the universe.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Gears.  This may be the most important and difficult component of living intentionally. Sometimes, our decisions and life circumstances lead us to unexpected places.  They can be places that we find we love better than our initial goal.  They can be places that distinctly make us feel that we took a wrong turn.  Regardless, I have seen folks get stuck on their original plan, insisting that they must follow through even if that path no longer fully makes sense for them.  Step back, and evaluate whether the choices you have made are really working for you.  If you have ended up somewhere unexpected but it seems to fit, then perhaps it is actually a better sync with your values.  If you have made all the choices you thought were appropriate, but find yourself at odds with your present circumstances, then take a look at your original goals and ask yourself if they truly suit you.

Develop SMART Goals copy


Living life on purpose can be tough.  It requires a basic understanding of self, a diligence in continually evaluating your decisions and goals, and courage to do what may be difficult or uncomfortable in order to develop what works best for you.  However, the rewards—focus, accomplishment, fulfillment—are undoubtedly worth it.



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Laughter truly is the best medicine

Laughter truly is the best medicine

I really love reading, especially fiction. There’s something so therapeutic about taking a break from your reality and being transported into a story. However, recently I have become very fond of reading non-fiction, particularly autobiographies of female comedians.


Quite frankly, these non-self help biographies really do offer some great life and relationship advice. Here are some of my favorite tidbits, not courtesy of health and psychology professionals and researchers, but from some of our time’s most popular comediennes.


“Don’t waste your energy trying to change opinions … Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” –Tina Fey


Tina Fey’s Bossypants is chock-full of empowerment advice like this quote. I definitely relate to this quote and think that it is great advice to live by. What gives you happiness is individual. You can’t let anyone else tell you how to act or how to feel. Do what is natural and “right” for you.

Do what is natural and -right- for you (1)


“You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.” – Tina Fey


Happiness truly comes from within, and this quote exemplifies that. Being comfortable in your own skin is really all we could ever want out of life, isn’t it?


“Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years.” – Amy Poehler


Laughter really is the best medicine. It’s scientific fact, and we could all use a little more laughter in our lives. And, it actually does increase our lifespan, according to this study. But more than that, it encourages a life of positivity and optimism. Amy Poehler’s book, Yes, Please, definitely got this right.


“Later, when you’re grown up, you realize you never really get to hang out with your family. You pretty much have only eighteen years to spend with them full time, and that’s it.”— Mindy Kaling


Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, offers some excellent advice, particularly for teenagers. I definitely see this quote in a new light now that I have finished my first year of college. I value and cherish the time I do have with my family even more so now that I have grown up and lived away from them an extended period of time.


“I used to feel really bad that I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school and I used to spend a lot of time thinking about that –and thinking, ‘What was wrong with me?’ and that was a huge waste of time.” – Mindy Kaling


I definitely shared Mindy’s insecurities about not being in a relationship before college. But I have definitely grown more confident in myself and realized that it is not worth it to dwell on what’s missing in your life or what is wrong with you, but rather to focus on what you do have and appreciate it.


These comedians could quit their day jobs and become self-help authors. Kidding, we love them in their day jobs.


Unconditional Forgiveness: A Gift for Yourself and Others

This is a guest post from writer Melissa Davis.

The luckiest people in the world are those who know how to forgive. To let go of the negativity and hurt that others have caused us, is to enable ourselves to grow and live and a full and happy life. Forgiving ourselves, however, can be a much more challenging task, since far from involving an absolution of past actions, it involves bravely facing them, accepting responsibility for the harm we have caused, and moving forward in a more enlightened manner.

-To let go of the negativity and hurt

According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness wields many positive benefits, including healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological wellbeing, lower blood pressure, lesser symptoms of depression and better heart health and immunity. We can avail of these benefits by forgiving others and ourselves.

Experts say that the first step in the process of self-forgiveness, is accepting that we have done wrong and seeing how our actions may have hurt others or ourselves. At this stage, we should not judge ourselves too harshly; we should always remember that all human beings are better than their very worst action. All humans make mistakes.

The next step it to try to let those we have harmed, know that we are sincerely sorry for our actions. We should let them know that we regret what we have done, and that we intend on behaving differently in the future. We should be prepared for a negative reaction; for some people forgiveness can be incredibly difficult, especially if apologies and forgiveness were not forthcoming in their own homes as they were growing up. Even if we are rejected, we should be completely committed to treating others with kindness, empathy and compassion. True forgiveness is unconditional, so that when we aim to forgive ourselves, we should not be dissuaded by negative reactions from those around us.

Finally, we can reaffirm our decision to live more positively by using imagery exercises. We can imagine ourselves as a child in a beautiful field, whom we approach slowly. When the child turns around, we should approach them and embrace them, letting them know they are worthy of unconditional love and forgiveness. It is never too late to live a more dedicated, committed life, or to be kinder and more empathetic towards others. In order to do so, we need to clear the emotional blockages that stand in the way of forgiveness.








Selfies as Self-Care

With the launch of Kim Kardashian’s new book, Selfish, this month selfies and selfie-culture is on everyone’s mind.  Or at least it’s been on my mind.  I should confess that I’ve always been fond of self-portraits and let’s face it that’s what selfies are- quick, modern self-portraits.  Long before Kim K. was publicly sharing her books for Kanye with the rest of us, I have been known to make a (private) book or 2 for my own husband.  While most of my selfies never make it from my phone to the internet and I doubt any will ever be compiled into a book, I am a selfie lover.


I’d venture to say that Mrs. Kardashian-West and I share little in common.  From lifestyle to family origins to our professional paths to the size of our bank accounts (and other assets *wink*) – we are pretty far apart.  And I know that we’re not alone in this selfie craze.  Millions of us are busy snapping pics of our selves all over the place- whether we post them to Instagram or Facebook or not.


So, what is it about selfies that is so attractive to so many of us?  Contrary to what many might say, I don’t think it’s an inherent narcissism in the human race or even American’s obsession with celebrity and fame.  While there is truth to both these points of view, I’d like to propose that selfies are in fact a form of self-care.


Before you dismiss my idea as just another therapist putting a happy spin on self-indulgence, hear me out.


I’m not alone in my assertion that by stopping to photograph ourselves we are in fact taking time to be mindful and present and acknowledge our own beauty (whether we use a filter or not).  In a recent article for, associate editor and body image advocate Margarita Tartakovsky, MS says,


“If we’re taking a photo of an object or our natural surroundings, we’re paying attention. We’re listening. We’re absorbing an object’s lines, a park’s multicolored leaves.  If we’re taking a photo of ourselves, we’re seeing ourselves. Really seeing. We’re listening, too. We’re acknowledging.”


It is in the acknowledging of ourselves that self-care becomes part of selfies.  As women we are encouraged and trained to turn our focus outward.  We see the beauty and goodness in others and care for and nurture their best parts.  But self-care is about turning that compassionate focus inward and acknowledging the beauty and goodness within.  When we take a picture, even a quick snap with our cell phone camera, we are stopping for a moment to honor the beauty, joy, contentment, and awe that our subject brings to life- be it that first cup of Starbucks in the morning or your child’s smiling face.


With self-care selfies, we are focusing on finding those same amazing qualities, however briefly, in ourselves.  Sure we can Photoshop and add filters and crop just right to make theses pictures look “flawless” but even with the enhancements, the moment you capture your own image you remind yourself that you matter.  Take those books I made my hubby- yes they were gifts for him but the process was almost more rewarding for me.  In the process of creating images to show my love, I had to stop and appreciate what I love about myself.  From pretty eyes to long legs, to a great smile, or gentle hands- every one of us have beautiful and amazing features.  And they deserve our admiration occasionally.

-Self-care is what allows us to grow and

Too often we treat self-care as either indulgence or selfishness, or worst yet, both.  Self-care is what allows us to grow and thrive and love the ones around us.  It is also what allows us to truly love ourselves. So I invite you all to join me this month in a #SelfCareSelfies challenge.  Follow me and TheDCLadies on Instagram and share your #TDCLSelfCareSelfies with us.  Show all the parts of who you are that bring joy and beauty into the world. (the PG parts only please! *wink*)


After all, as Marianne Williams said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”  So step into the light ladies… and then take a selfie to share with the world!


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Are you ready for the ultimate “next step” in your relationship?

It’s summer, which can mean a lot of different things for different people – no school, beach time, vacations, etc. It can also mean wedding season! A lot of people choose this time of the year to take the next step in their relationship and make the ultimate vow to each other. In life, the general format for marriages involves several steps. You start out with a simple interest in someone, they catch your eye somehow and you develop a “crush” on them. If the interest is reciprocated, this is normally followed by a period of time that my generation refers to as “talking.” You go on dates, constantly text, maybe FaceTime, etc. If the interest continues to grow, eventually one of you takes the initiative to ask the other to be your SO. As time goes on and your relationship continues to do well, maybe you move in together. Finally, a proposal comes along and, hopefully, a life you live happily ever after. But how do you know if you are ready to get married?

I am only 22 years-old and although I am in a very happy relationship, I am far, far, far, far from this experience and feel way to young to even think about marriage for myself. Please keep in mind that I am writing based off life observations! Having said that, many people my age are getting engaged left and right, or even getting married. I have seen that as time goes along and the original excitement slowly wanes, the anxiety starts up. People start to second guess if they are making the right decision, which can bring great stress to the self and to the relationship.


Some fears people have about marriage are lack of freedom, being tied down, and making the ultimate commitment. They say “Why ruin a good thing?” They say “We live together, we do everything together, it’s basically like we’re married already.” They say “Why do we need a certificate to prove we love each other?”

Marriage is a special ceremony that should not be jumped into without thinking it through carefully first. Just because it seems like the next step for your relationship, does not mean you need to do it. Just because everyone around you is getting married, does not mean you need to too. Humans have an innate trait for competition and social acceptance. We naturally want to feel like we belong.  For generations, marriage and starting families has been the end goal to relationships and to life. But society has evolved. We have become more ambitious and are embracing new gender and socioeconomic roles. Although marriage is something many of us still strive for, other dreams are being realized as well.

Let’s go back to the fears of marriage I brought up earlier. These thoughts have come from the evolution of society. We no longer feel the need to be married because we find satisfaction in the established bond we have with our SO. To some, just having someone to love and be with everyday is enough. To others, that ring and symbol is needed to fully satisfy them. Each couple is different, so we cannot compare ourselves to each other. It gets hard to do, what with the #relationshipgoals trend going on nowadays when couples are spotlighted for being cute, talented, etc, but it needs to be realized that the relationship you should be dreaming for is your own. The relationships you should be in should be based off of what you want out of another person, not based off of couples you want to be like. Marriage should be something YOU want and not based off of others’ expectations.

Marriage should be something YOU want

Proposals can be expected, or they can be a complete surprise. One thing that should be established before a proposal ever happens is what each person wants out of the relationship and out of life. At this point in relationships, you and your SO should have spent hours and hours talking and getting to know each other. Some may think that talking about marriage and the future can jinx relationships, but this information can be collected through casual conversation. The best thing for entering marriage is knowing that you both want it. This will eliminate all of the fears that I mentioned before. Marriage is beautiful and should not be something to fear, but it is a decision that should definitely be something to be completely sure of.


Summer is here!! Time to Kick Back & Relax .. But not too much!

3 Easy Ways to Enjoy Summer and Stay Active too!


It’s that time of year again.. Summer!! How exciting!! When I think of summer, it’s the time of barbeques, lightning bugs & ice cream, but I think it’s safe to say what we, college kids, are all really thinking about . . Sleep, our Beloved Couch and more Sleep.


While we definitely should kick back and relax for a few days or maybe even a week… especially after all of those all- nighters and what seemed to be endless studying for our exams, it’s also important to keep ourselves active (physically & mentally) and make the most of this exciting time!


  • Make a Bucket List & Stick To It! We’ve all had those days where we are all talk and no action. However, making a list and keeping up with it is a great way to stay active and keep you busy (in a good way J). Get together with your friends & family and make a list of 50 fun things you would love to do and when you have a day where you can just lay on the couch, choose to try something new instead! Roast some marshmallows, have a picnic in the park, go on a nature walk… This way you are making the most out of your time, staying active and having fun all at once.


  • Soak up the Sun! It’s easy to use the heat as an excuse to not go outside.. However, let us remember the everlasting, freezing winter that has taken so long to leave us! Enjoy the warm weather that is finally here. Go for a hike, take a dive in the swimming pool, kayak a river! Even something as simple as walking your dog is a great way to get outside and keep active. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

-Live in the sunshine,

  • Enjoy the season’s fruits and vegetables! Being summer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a vacation state of mind! But…you’ve been so health conscious! Don’t let this summer state of mind let you stray away! Take advantage of what summer has to offer. Take a trip to the local farmers’ markets. Go strawberry picking and make jam with your friends! Grow a garden in your own back yard. This is a great way to keep up with your healthy eating habits and getting outside too.


Of course summer is a time to enjoy and you should! That’s what summer is all about. However, keeping in mind these quick tips is a great way to maximize your summer and keep busy and active J. It’s easy to get into the same routine and swing of things, but choose to make the most out of your summer! Enjoy summer while staying active in every way possible. Happy Summer everyone!



5 Daily Tasks to Better Connect with Your Spouse

As we know, it can be difficult for couples to find time to spend together—with the demands of children, work, and running a household, there never seems to be enough time for each other.  Sometimes just a few hours together in the midst of a crazy week seems like an impossible feat.  Before you know it, it’s been weeks or even months since you really connected.

In his bestselling book, Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman outlines a five hour weekly plan to help couples improve and maintain the quality of their marriages.  The “Magic Five Hours” as he puts it, consist of a few minutes each day being interested and appreciative of your partner, along with date night and demonstrating affection.  While five hours may be an easy prescription for some, I know from talking to friends and clients and living my own life that it just doesn’t always work out that way.  Sometimes you need to simplify even furtherSo I’ve reduced the five hours into five daily tasks that just about anyone can fit into their lives:

  1. What are you doing today? How often do you find yourself in a fight or annoyed with your partner’s bad mood at the end of the day only to later find out that they had a negative review at work or are still sore from the dentist visit at lunch?  Discussing the highlights of your spouse’s agenda each day is one way to avoid these issues.  When you know what’s on your partner’s to-do list, you have a road map to point out the potential landmines later on.  And most important of all, it sends your spouse off into the world knowing that you are genuinely interested.  Just knowing that you care is already a great start to their day.
  2. Ask about their day and then… Just listen. At least once a day offer your partner 10 minutes of quality listening.  Gottman would say 20, but I’ve found if you commit to 10 you’ll see a big difference in your relationship.  Everyone needs an opportunity to talk about whatever is on their mind without being offered solutions or opinions about what to do next.  Your spouse may not start out with much to say, but give it a chance.   One of my favorite examples of the evening check-in is from the movie The Story of Us with Michelle Pfieffer and Bruce Willis.  Each day they would play the “high/low” game with their kids—each person shares the high and low points of their day.
  3. Say thanks. Find at least one thing every day that you appreciate or admire about your partner and tell them about it.  We all need to be reminded of how much we value each other and it rarely takes much time to say so.  Just ask yourself either each morning or at the end of the day, what did my partner do right today?  There is always something, whether they did the dishes or got the kids ready for bed—find something to appreciate and tell them about it.  Your partner will feel good and so will you.
  4. Kiss your partner. Or hug them, or hold their hand at the grocery store, or rub their back while you watch Dancing with the Stars—just make a point to be affectionate. Sex is great, but both partners can also benefit from touch outside the bedroom.  Besides, who knows where all that hand holding might lead before the day is over.
  5. Fantasize about date night. Even if there is no way for you two get out alone together, take a few minutes to really think about what you would  It can be as simple as imagining visiting your favorite pizza shop or going to see a new movie, or as elaborate as a weekend getaway in the mountains—either way share your daydreaming with your spouse and get their opinion.  This opens the door for planning a date and also gives you both a chance to talk about what you enjoy most about your time together.  Of course, at some point we must go from thinking about date night to actually doing it, but until you get there, don’t give up on the fantasy.

Making time together can be tough.  Hopefully, putting these five tasks to work will help make the time you and your partner do have together more meaningful, and also put you on a path to a better connection.

“A little consideration, a little


Want more relationship and wellness tips? Check out our blog!  Also, register for our fun and informative lunch for couples—Communication is Not Your Problem.

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