Want to fix a relationship with your children, sister or brother, parents or friends so that you feel closer? Feeling close to loved ones feels good. That's neurochemical; each moment of connection spurts oxytocin into your system. Oxytocin is a chemical that your body generates that a) makes you feel good b) promotes bonding, and c) enhances your sense of self-confidence and security.
Secure close-feeling attachments with friends and family members are enhanced when we do things together. Oxytocin increases in our body chemistry at these times, giving us a sense of safety, of belonging, of feeling valued, and of being part of something bigger than ourselves.
As fellow PT blogger Loretta Breuning writes, even animals like to feel connected. Their oxytocin leads them also to pair-bond and form packs, flocks and troops because being connected with others helps with finding food, raising offspring, and surviving against predators.
So how can you enhance your friendship and family connections for all-the-more secure feelings of closeness?
Start by clearing the state if there's any negatives you have been doing like criticizing or getting irritable. Apologize for these, and figure out how to cease doing more in the future. Residues from hostile interactions can block positive energies from being welcomed.
Once potential blockages have been cleaned up, you're ready to increase the shared words, activities, body contact, and more that can enhance feelings of connection, of being special to each other. Here we go!
1. Words Often people think that talking together will help them to feel closer. They are right. Interweaving ideas creates a sense of partnership. So does sharing information about more private feelings like fears, concerns, and affection.
When people say "we have a great relationship" it usually means "we like to talk with each other." Pay particular attention to sentence starters that send positive vibes like "I agree..." and "Yes....". These words weave you together as you talk. So do questions about others' thoughts and feelings, especially if your questions begin with How or What. "How do you feel about...?" What's your thinking about ...?"
2. Verbalize the positives that you think or feel. Expressions of gratitude glue all relationships closer--parent-child, friendships, couples and spouses. So do expressions of agreement, like "Yes, I agree that..." For more on positivity in relationships, check out my blogpost on 10 Ways to Radiate Positivity to strengthen bonds.
Yet words are only part of your connection apparatus. Read on for additional options.
3. Shared time in almost any activities enhances bonds. Painting a room puts two people in close physical proximity in addition to giving them a shared project. Cooking dinner together, eating together, cleaning up together all intensify feelings of partnership. Sitting on a child's bed at night is an especially high impact moment for bonding.
4. Enjoyment Any kind of shared fun builds a sense of closeness. Folks that laugh together like being together. Enjoyment needn't cost money. It's not dependent on "entertainent" though doing together things that are entertaining can do the trick. Hanging out together after dinner and sharing stories of what each of you did during the day can work just as well.
5. Newness and fright Slightly anxiety-producing activities and any activities that have newness like going to a different restaurant or travel have an especially strong bonding impact.
6. Helping each other strengthens bonds. “Here, let me carry in those grocery bags,” goes a long way to enhancing partnership feelings. As my astute sister recently said to me regarding how long it is taking me to stop tearing up when I think about my father who died last year, "We feel especially close to those we take care of."
7. Skin-to-skin.. An arm around your loved one's shoulder, a touch of hands, standing or even sleeping side-by-side, a bit of cheek-to-cheek pleasure all induce increases in affection and connection.
8. Eye contact. Eyes that meet are especially potent inducers of a spurt of oxytocin, the chemical that creates feelings of connection. How often to you look straight into the eyes of your loved ones? Maybe try to add eye-kissing to your exit and re-entry routines in the morning and evening?
9. Shared smiles Smiling, especially with simultaneous eye contact, increases feelings of closeness.
10. For couples, sexual enjoyment. When loved ones are a couple, the ultimate producer of oxytocin is from activity that connects them sexually. If sexual activity decreases to excessive infrequency, or worst dies off altogether, beware. It then becomes critical to pump up all the other ways of connecting lest the connection itself wither and become too frail.
Best of all, do all of the above. Do them often. Cherish those you love. Actively. Loved ones are for loving.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a graduate of Harvard and NYU and a clinical psychologist in private practice in Denver, is author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage. Her current project is an interactive website, PowerOfTwoMarriage, that teaches the skills for relationship success.