Last month, I wrote about Self-Care. The September topic Relationships closely relates to Self-Care, as the better you look after yourself and strengthen the relationship with yourself, the better your relationships with your family and friends will become.
On my journey to simplifying my life I noticed that the more I let go of physical stuff, the more important my personal connections became. I found that there were some people in my life I wanted to spend less time with, as they drained me and left me with a negative feeling.
I have a big vision for the next ten years with building a global online business that will allow me to travel, to work from anywhere and to spend time with people I like and admire; people who see the best in me and encourage me to follow my path of exploration and self-discovery.
This month's topic reminded me of the book Minimalism - Living a meaningful life by Joshua Fields-Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists, who I discovered in 2014. I remember doing the exercises to evaluate my current relationships and specifying what kind of relationships I wanted in the future. While I jotted down what I expected from my most important relationships, I knew deep within me that the relationship with my husband had become more and more unfulfilled and dissatisfying. However, at that time, I was not yet courageous enough to follow my heart and live my truth.
Start changing yourself
I reread the chapter about relationships and came across a paragraph, which I had highlighted in yellow three years ago:
"The only person you can change is yourself. When you change yourself – when you lead by example – often the people closest to you will follow suit. ... If the best version of you shows up to the party, you'll be able to bring the best out of people."
At the beginning of this year, I came to the point where I felt that I couldn't keep pretending and play the role I used to play in the past 16 years. I was unhappy and felt trapped in my marriage. I made a conscious decision to live my truth and change myself to become the person I need to be to attract the kind of people I want in my inner circle.
Similarly to making a vision board for your yearly goals, the Minimalists suggest painting a vision of your ideal relationships. Take a piece of paper and answer the following questions:
- What do you really want?
- What must not occur within the relationship?
- Who do you need to become to attract this kind of relationship?
Then, revisit this vision daily so that you stay focused on what you are looking for, what to avoid and how to develop yourself to become the person you want to be.
Seek relationships that make you happy
Reflecting on my experience with these exercises, I became aware that it took me three years to work out what I wanted and finally come to a decision regarding my primary relationships. I took all my courage and the first step into the unknown. But I felt deep within me that it was the right decision, and I got first glimpses of what new relationships can look like. The Universe keeps sending new people my way, people who make me happy every time I see them.
As the Simple Year programme emphasises, "research has found that we need close, strong relationships to lead healthy and happy lives. Relationships allow us to feel cared for and understood, and they offer validation, security, and can be a source of support during difficult times."
5 Tips to show your affection
Once you have worked out who the most important people are in your life, concentrate on showing them your affection and making them a priority. Here are the five things you can do to show that you care:
- Send a hand-written card or letter
I love stationary and keep a box of selected cards for different occasions at hand. There is nothing more joyful than receiving an unexpected hand-written message from a good friend. In our digital age, the lost art of handwriting can make all the difference in building meaningful relationships
- Hug often
I recently read an article in The Collective Magazine about cuddle parties where people attend to practise hugging others, people they don't know at all. According to the author, hugging and cuddling have many positive side effects. When you hug someone for more than 20 seconds, the hormone oxytocin is released in your body, strengthening your immune system and lowering your blood pressure. Plus, oxytocin, aka 'love molecule', can improve your self-esteem.
- Be vulnerable
Easier said than done, but my experience has shown me that opening up to others can lead to magical outcomes. So dare to share your feelings and, if you need more encouragement, read Brené Brown's bestseller Daring Greatly.
- Look up from your digital device and engage in conversations
This advice is self-explanatory. Do just that, and you will see a difference in your relationships. If you need help in the art of powerful conversations, I highly recommend reading You Should Have Asked by Stuart Knight.
- Make time for your loved ones, whether that's going for a walk or just listening when they need you.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Don't hide behind your busyness and mobile phone as an excuse to spend time with the most important people in your life.
Who do you need to become to improve your relationships? What are you going to implement today to show the people in your life that they matter?