Author: Taryn Hewett
Hi, I’m Taryn! I'm a certified professional coach who helps people live lives of passion, purpose, and fulfillment. I'm an avid believer that holistic happiness is the key to everything we want to achieve in life. When we're happy and fulfilled, it causes a positive ripple effect in all areas of our lives: family, work, community - you name it. I am so honored and excited to help others along their own journey to happiness.

Give Yourself More Credit (We Are Our Own Worst Critics)

Give Yourself More Credit (We Are Our Own Worst Critics)

Raise your hand if you beat yourself up for not accomplishing everything you want on a given day, week, etc. What if you’ve ever found yourself weighed down by self-doubt when faced with something you should be confident about? I don’t know about you, but I’ve got both hands way up! The truth is we are our own worst critics.

 

So, knowing that, what can you do to give yourself more credit? Learn to recognize when self-doubt or self-judgment is present and challenge yourself to look for the good you’ve done first.

 

Don’t get me wrong. There can be value in holding yourself to a high standard. People who do this are often successful and goal-oriented. On the flip side, you might often push yourself to the point of burn out, as well, focused too much on unrealistic expectations. It can be easy to become so focused on self-judgment that you get frozen in place, your success and goals stuck in limbo.

 

In this article, we’ll discuss how giving yourself more credit and focusing on small achievements can help you break out of the negative emotions associated with self-judgment and help you progress more rapidly toward your goals.

 

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What Does It Mean To Not Give Yourself More Credit?

This can be summed up briefly in words like self-judgment or self-doubt, with an added lack of self-empathy. You focus on what you haven’t done right or can’t do rather than the great things you’ve already done. In fact, it’s almost as if all the good things you’ve ever done never existed.

 

When you’re in this place of self-judgment and not giving yourself enough credit, your thoughts might read something like this:

 

  • I should have gotten up early to work out. This is the third day I’ve missed this week. Obviously, I’m not doing well sticking to that goal.
  • I told myself I’d take a lunch break every day. Now it’s the end of the week and I haven’t taken any. Another fail.
  • I’ve been horrible about calling my family recently to check in. I’m an awful daughter.
  • I can’t believe I gave in and had those cookies last night. Why don’t I have better self-control?

When we focus on self-judgment, whatever failure we’re focusing on becomes the end of the story. You’re a horrible daughter. Period. You’re never going to meet your goals. Period.

 

We all know that’s not the end of your story, but you need to recognize that too. By becoming your own cheerleader instead of your own worst critic, you can overcome these feelings of inadequacy and embrace the high performer you truly are.

 

Why Giving Yourself Credit Is Important

What the example thoughts above don’t account for is all the wonderful things you DID do or why you didn’t meet some of your goals. One great way to shift your thoughts is to analyze the reason for all the supposedly bad things you’ve done. For example:

 

  • Did you workout any days this week? If so, you still took action towards your goal.
  • Is your workout schedule new or recently updated? If so, it’s understandable that you’re still building that habit.
  • Did you miss your workout goals for a reason, like you were exhausted or work got in the way? Maybe that’s an indicator that you simply need to tweak your schedule or just be kind to yourself if it WAS an unusually busy week.
  • Did you miss taking your lunch breaks because you forgot to step away or because you got pulled into unexpected meetings? Maybe it was something else entirely? The reason gives you a clue as to how you might improve this as a next step.

Do you notice anything about the questions above? They’re probably the same questions you’d ask a friend or family member who was down on themselves. You’d tell them to give themselves a break, right?

But when it comes to judgment of ourselves, we tend to be dramatically less forgiving. And that’s the problem. Because when you focus on self-judgment then you can’t focus on potential solutions.

When we start to forgive ourselves and give ourselves credit, it expands our ability to find solutions and new ways of looking at things.

 

Why Is Self-Compassion So Hard?

So much of our self-judgment as adults is rooted in experiences we had in our childhood. That doesn’t have to mean that your parents or anyone in your life did anything wrong. Everyone in your life could have had all the best intentions and even been completely wonderful people. 

 

But the reality is that we spend so much time in our formative years observing others and how they act around us. From each of those observations we form our own thoughts about what other people’s reactions must mean about us and the kind of person we are. 

 

Whether those judgments we make are right or wrong, they become a part of our personality and shape how we view ourselves as we get older. That means that by the time we’re adults, we’ve spent a long time honing that self-judgment habit.

 

If you find yourself in a particularly deep bout of self-judgment, I recommend doing with a quick exercise to boost your self-confidence.

 

Make a list of all the things you’ve done right today or this week. No holding back! And you MUST count things that didn’t go as planned but did come with good intentions.

 

For example, maybe you set your alarm so you could do an early morning workout, but you didn’t work out. Setting the alarm still goes on the list because it’s still an action you took that’s a step further than not setting the alarm at all.

 

How Do I Start Being Kind To Myself?

The first step I recommend is to start paying attention to the times when your self-judgment rears its ugly head. 

 

If you’ve never paid attention to this before, it can be helpful to keep pen and paper nearby or a note-taking app on your phone. That way, you can quickly make note of the feeling as it comes up and look back at it later when you have more time to examine it.

 

In your examination, try noting the physical sensations of your self-judgment or self-doubt. How does your breathing change? Do you hold your body more tensely, perhaps in your neck or shoulders? Do you feel any specific sensations in your chest or other parts of your body?

 

Once you’ve identified these sensations, you’ll be better able to recognize when your self-judgment is present.

 

Once you’ve got that down, comes the fun part! Each time your self-judgment or self-doubt flares up, challenge yourself to think of 3 things you do well or have done well related to the situation.

 

Fair warning, this may be difficult the first few times you do it. 

 

All of this – recognizing your judgment and challenging yourself to look for what’s positive first, is counter to how your brain typically works. Our brains are wired to look for what’s negative first, so doing exercises like this is similar to how you build a physical muscle at the gym.

 

When you first start, this mental muscle will be weak, and the exercise will be difficult. But the more you do it, the stronger the habit will become, and the easier this will be. Before you know it, you’ll be able to catch your negative self-talk before it becomes persuasive, focus on all your great accomplishments, and shift into a more positive mindset.

Let Go Of Self-Judgment

One of the most important things to remember is that every day presents a new opportunity to hone your sense of accomplishment and give yourself more credit. 

 

If you find yourself reading this article and you still feel overwhelmed, I recommend starting with the self-compassion exercise above. Taking just 5 or 10 minutes to focus on all the amazing things you have accomplished and done well today, or this week can prime your mind to do the longer work that’s needed to truly break this self-judgment cycle.

 

If you’re having a particularly difficult time completing this exercise, you might also try these tips for breaking out of a negative headspace.

 

And remember, all of this can be done at your own pace so take the time that makes sense for you. I promise you, it’ll be worth it at the end when you not only feel better and more confident but you’re getting more done and making true progress toward your goals.

 

Have questions or need additional support? Shoot me an email at taryn@happythoughtscoaching.com or click the Chat button in the bottom right corner to direct message me.

 

Until then, have a happy, kind, and judgment-free day!

 

Related Reading

For additional tips to work through a particularly challenging situation or progress more rapidly towards your goals, check out the related articles below:

 

How to Get Out of A Negative Headspace: Stop Your Toxic Thoughts

How To Get Out Of A Negative Headspace: Stop Your Toxic Thoughts

It’s easy enough to talk about happiness when you already feel good. But what about those days when you’re in a negative headspace or succumbing to negative self-talk?

 

One of the most helpful ways I’ve found for how to get out of a negative headspace is to make a happiness list you can reference and utilize during those tough times.

 

When we’re legitimately angry, frustrated, or sad, it’s often difficult to think of anything else. In those moments, our emotions cast a dark hue on everything around us.

 

So what can you do to break through that darkness? Keep reading to learn more about cultivating a truly powerful happiness list that can serve you in more ways than one.

 

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How Does A Happiness List Help You?

Making a happiness list is one of the quickest, easiest exercises you can do to help break yourself out of a negative mindset after a bad day, week, or even month. 

 

When we experience negative emotions like anger, sadness, or frustration, it’s difficult to focus on any positive thoughts.

 

Think of those emotions like an injury. If you cut your finger, blood rushes to the cut and your body starts the healing process automatically. Your brain works similarly when you’re under stress. It releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which focus your brain and body on managing the stressor. 

 

Of course, none of us wants these negative feelings. In many cases, there may even be an external need to move through them quickly in order to address a separate task or situation.

 

Creating a happiness list in the moment or referencing a happiness list already created is a way of shifting your attention out of that negative mental state. It’s similar to how someone with an injury might be told to take deep breaths to calm down and refocus their thoughts and energy. 

 

The beautiful reality though, is that a happiness list is more than just a distraction. It brings you back into the present moment. When you truly focus on what brings you joy, your brain often releases a completely different set of hormones – ones like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones optimize how your body and brain function, bringing relief and a release of pressure.

 

When we’re in a more positive mindset, we tend to be more creative, more solution-focused, and see things in a different way. So, by shifting your thought process, you automatically shift yourself closer to a frame of mind that is better equipped to address what’s causing your angst. We’re able to see the situation with greater awareness and a focus on positive outcomes.

 

Make A Happiness List

At a basic level, a happiness list is exactly what it sounds like – a list of the good things in your life and everything that makes you happy. In reality, the best happiness lists take time and thought to truly build but are also the most impactful.

 

There are 3 steps I recommend for both cultivating and utilizing a powerful happiness list:

 

For the first step, do a brain dump of all the things, people, places, etc. that bring you happiness. 

 

When you first start, try not to spend too much time on any particular idea and give yourself permission to build the list without self-judgment. There may be some things on the list that you or others perceive as silly, childish, or dumb. That’s okay! This list is only for you and no one else ever needs to see it.

 

Making this list is helpful or adding to it in the moment is helpful, but it’s really the next steps that make this exercise so impactful.

 

When you find yourself in a negative headspace, focus on the list. 

 

This could be as simple as actively thinking about the things that are on the list. In fact, giving yourself time to focus on each item one by one and hold it in your mind can bring a tremendous sense of inner peace under the right circumstances.

 

In other situations, the most impactful action you can take is to introduce something from the list in the moment. For example, taking a walk in the fresh air, playing with your pets, going for a long run, reading a favorite book, etc. Find something on the list that you can focus your time and energy on.

 

Finally, pay attention to what helps or doesn’t help in different circumstances and make note of that for future reference.

 

I love reading and if I’m stressed out about negative things I can’t control or impact then reading often serves as a great distraction. But sometimes my more negative mindset presents as my brain “spinning” – jumping around between all of my unhelpful thoughts. I’ve found that trying to read when during a negative spiral is no help at all. 

 

In this state, I’m unable to focus on the book and will often realize that I’ve reached the end of a page without really reading anything on it. Knowing this helps me understand when this particular item on my happiness list is going to help me and when I should utilize something else from the list.

 

As you can see, this is not a one-and-done kind of exercise, but rather an ongoing experiment you engage in and continuously tweak. The more time and attention you put into truly cultivating this list the more it will help when you need it.

Tricks To Think Of Happy Things

The most helpful question to start with when you’re first creating your happiness list is probably obvious.

 

What makes you happy?

 

It’s funny how a question can be so simple and so complex at the same time, right?

 

For now, let’s put aside the more complex concept and focus on the simple: literally identifying the great things that stir up emotions you associate with happiness. These could be emotions such as:

 

  • Joy
  • Excitement
  • Enchantment
  • Peace
  • Humor
  • Love
  • Nostalgia
  • Freedom

Hold those emotions in your mind and think back to times when you felt them. What were you doing? Who were you with? If you’re at home, take in the space around you. Does your home decor spark anything? What about pictures? Do you have items laying out related to a hobby? What kind of physical activity do you enjoy and why?

 

Remember, this is a brain dump so the goal is to get as many ideas on paper as you can without judgment. As you make your initial list, try adding notes that highlight key details that strengthen the joy you feel.

 

The list below is an example of what I came up with the first time I dabbled with this exercise. Some items will make sense to most people, some won’t but it doesn’t matter because this list is for me.

 

  • My husband (and cuddling with him, playing games, talking, etc.)
  • My dogs (and playing with them, petting them, seeing their joy after a walk or as they play)
  • My books (especially some nostalgic ones from my childhood like Anne of Green Gables)
  • Pictures with friends and family
  • Wine bottles I’ve picked up on different trips and now use as decorations
  • My running shoes
  • The feeling of putting my hair in a ponytail
  • Being outside
  • Tall trees that look like they’ve been around forever
  • Hiking
  • Treasure maps
  • Old skeleton keys
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Watching others dance and have fun
  • Dancing on my own and singing

Again, I could go on but the point here is demonstration and inspiration.

 

Why Emotion Processing Is Important

One thing that absolutely must be discussed here is that everything shared above is a great way to cope with negative thinking. Another great way of coping is to try journaling for resilience.

 

To truly see long-lasting change in your life, additional emotion processing may be necessary.

 

So what’s the difference between coping with and the processing of negative emotions?

 

The positive thing about coping is it serves to provide immediate relief that allows you to function, focus on other things, or even just feel better temporarily. Processing involves addressing the root cause of your anguish and seeking to resolve that situation.

 

Coping has immense value because real processing and resolving of these emotions and situations can take time and you may not always be able to do it in the moment. And, of course, in some situations, coping may be the only step necessary.

 

If you’ve had an unusual fight with a friend, for instance, you’ll probably want to address it with them. The happiness list above and other coping techniques will help you move through your anger more effectively so you can quickly resolve the argument. In a situation like that, no deeper analysis may be needed.

 

If, on the other hand, you find yourself in a trend or recurring negative event, feeling the same emotions the same way on a regular basis, emotion processing may be called for. Using coping only in a recurring situation, may indicate a level of avoidance and could disguise itself as positive thinking. You may feel better in the moment but you’re sure to feel crummy again later because the root cause of your negative emotions has not been resolved. 

 

It might be helpful to understand why you’re avoiding addressing the issue. Avoidance can come from many places – a desire not to unbalance what otherwise seems to be a good situation, a dislike of conflict, fear of change, etc.

 

Understanding the reason for your avoidance allows you to ask yourself the next pertinent question – what serves you more at that moment? Leaving the situation unresolved and knowing it will probably occur again or doing the work of processing your emotions and resolving the issue to move forward?

 

Unfortunately, neither option is easy.

 

Of course, if you’re avoiding the situation out of a fear for your safety, that can be an entirely different scenario. In those instances, I highly recommend seeking additional support, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233.

 

Create Your Own Happiness List

So now that we’ve addressed the importance of emotion processing, let’s jump back to that happiness list. Using my list as an example, what comes to mind for you? What are some small things that make you happy and, therefore, might be helpful the next time you find yourself in a negative situation?

 

If you’re in a sharing mood, feel free to add some of your own examples in the comments. You never know if that could spark a moment of inspiration for someone else.

 

And, of course, if you do find yourself in a situation where you have a larger issue to resolve, don’t forget that I can help with that, as well. One value of the happiness list and other coping mechanisms is that they pull you out of the negative emotions, which helps you have a more well-rounded view of what’s happening. Despite that, it could still be difficult to be fully objective when emotions are high.

 

The good news is, that’s where I come in! My role as your coach is to stay objective and help you see nuances of the situation you might not see for yourself. As we work together to understand what’s happening, we’ll also create action-oriented solutions that help you resolve the situation and move forward with intention.

 

Negative emotions and thoughts are a normal part of life but they don’t have to rule your life.

 

If you want to learn more, schedule a consultation or email me at taryn@happythoughtscoaching.com. I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

Until then, I wish you all the happy thoughts there are.

Journaling for Resilience

Journaling for Resilience

They say that change is the only constant in life. Of course, the type of change and how it impacts your life is always unknown. The pandemic situation we’ve dealt with over the last two years has created a time of monumental change for all of us. To make it more challenging, many of the changes we’ve faced have occurred suddenly, with little-to-no time to prepare. 

 

So what do you do when you find yourself in the face of adversity or a difficult situation? I recommend journaling for resilience as an outlet for the negative emotions you’re sure to have. This is a great way to forge your own path through the transition rather than being swept away by it.

 

In this article, we’ll dig more into this specific exercise of journaling for resilience and its power to help you navigate transitions and lead a happier life.

 

Table of Contents

What Is The Relation Between Change And Choice?

One of the biggest challenges with transitions or negative events is the feeling of helplessness or powerlessness they can create. You didn’t choose to have this upheaval, after all. Or maybe you did but it hasn’t gone the way you expected. 

 

The weight of all that “unexpectedness” can seem, at times, like a giant wave crashing down upon you, keeping you from standing up again. It often leads to higher stress levels and increased blood pressure, neither of which helps address the negative effects of that stress.

 

The first step I’m always going to recommend in a situation like this is journaling for resilience to help choose how you want to react.

 

I know many people may bristle at that statement. After all, if we could choose our emotions, reactions, etc. at any given moment then wouldn’t we all just choose to be happy?

 

Let me be clear. Our emotions are real. Our emotional responses to hard times are normal, valid, and completely to be expected. More importantly, those responses serve a purpose – to protect us, comfort us, etc. 

 

But regardless of what our emotional response may be, we can still choose how we react. In fact, that ability to choose our reaction is an important part of how we build resiliency to life’s changes and it’s one of the key goals of journaling for resilience.

 

Studies show our ability to bounce back from difficult times has a direct impact on our overall happiness. In fact, the organization, Action for Happiness, finds the positive effects of resilience to be so high that they list it as one of their 10 Keys to Happiness.

 

So what do I mean, exactly, when I say you can choose your reaction?

 

Most of us react to upheaval subconsciously. That reaction is often a direct result of our initial thoughts or feelings about the situation, which is completely understandable. But when we let that reaction stay at a subconscious level rather than a conscious level, we also allow those thoughts and feelings to happen to us rather than for us.

 

Choosing your reaction doesn’t necessarily mean changing your reaction. It means bringing awareness to what you’re feeling, acknowledging how that response does or doesn’t serve you, and making a conscious choice to keep that reaction or change it.

 

 Let me share what I do to journal for resilience and, in fact, what I did a while back when I had a situation to work through. I won’t share the specifics of my situation, for a number of reasons, but I think you’ll get the gist. One of the most important things to know is that I did this writing exercise soon after finding out about the difficult situation, when I had only limited information available. 

 

You may often find yourself in a similar situation, so know that this writing exercise can be done any time you need it, and it doesn’t take much time to complete.

 

What Are Some Journaling Questions?

I’ll start with sharing the questions and answers I used when journaling for resilience in this difficult situation. This dynamic process served to help me organize my thoughts. 

 

The questions are in italics with the answers in plain text to differentiate between them. Hopefully you’ll see the progression of how one set of questions and answers feeds into the next:

 

  • What can I control right now?
    • How I react
    • What I do next
    • How I let whatever happens next impact other aspects of my life
  • How do I want to react? (Note: There’s a ton of value in detailing what you mean for each answer here. In this example from my personal life, I’ve provided a modified versions of the clarifying statements I used, but you can see how each fleshed out statement provides another layer to what I was thinking and feeling in the moment):
    • By taking responsibility – I made a mistake. I own that and I can’t change it now but I can learn from it.
    • With self-forgiveness – The mistake I made was understandable and easy to make, given the circumstances. I am human and it’s okay to make mistakes, even big ones.
    • With acceptance – What happened has happened. It’s a horrible situation, and I’m angry and frustrated about it but I can’t change it. I accept that, along with anything that happens as a result of it.
    • With grace – Everyone involved in this will make the best decision they can with the information that’s available to them. I will accept those decisions with respect and grace.
    • With hope and faith – I know who I am and the value I bring. Mistakes like this are a rare occurrence for me so I will have hope and faith that the good I’ve done in the past will outweigh this mistake. If it doesn’t, then I have hope and faith that all of this is happening for a reason.
  • What do I want to do next?
    • I won’t list my answers here because they were specific to this private situation, but I literally made a list of everything I could think of that could be potential next steps based on how I’d chosen to react. Then I put them in order of priority and began knocking them off one-by-one once I had finished journaling.
  • How do I want to let whatever happens next impact other aspects of my life?
    • I want it to have the least impact possible.
  • Where can I anticipate unintended impact happening? (Note: I had several answers here but I’ve shared one as an example)
    • My biggest concern is my health. I’ve been trying to eat better and work out more but this is a high-stress situation and I know those are often the first things to drop when I’m stressed.
  • So what can I do to ensure those stay on track and don’t make the situation worse?
    • I know that eating unhealthy and NOT working out would ultimately increase my stress, not decrease it, so I need to focus on pre-logging my food, as I’ve been doing, and taking time each night to plan the next day’s workout so I don’t fall off track.
  • What’s the worst that could happen as a result of this?
  • (After answering the above question) If that were to happen, what would I do?

Now that I’ve walked through that real resilience journal example, let me hit on a few key points.

Obviously, the questions for your situation, especially the follow-up questions, may be very different. However, there are a few journal prompts that can probably be used across the majority of situations when you’re journaling for resilience. Some of them are reflected above but I’ve compiled a full list below that you can pick and choose from, as applicable:

 

  • What can I control?
  • How do I want to react?
  • How do I want to let this impact (or not impact) other areas of my life/job/relationship/situation/etc.?
  • How does this situation jive (or not jive) with my values and what’s most important to me? 
  • If it doesn’t jive with my values then what can I change to get more alignment?
  • How does this situation take me closer or further from what’s most important to me? 
  • If it takes me further then how can I change that or what action do I want to take?
  • How can I make this situation help me?
  • What thoughts am I having right now?
  • What feelings am I having right now?
  • How are those thoughts and feelings serving or not serving me?
  • If they’re not serving me then what are some new thoughts or feelings I might want to have that would serve me more?
  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • What would I do if that did happen?
  • What do I want to do next?

How Does Journaling For Resilience Help?

There have been a lot of recent studies done about the promising effects of positive writing and other expressive writing interventions, like keeping a gratitude journal. In fact, a recent article posted at the National Library of Medicine goes in depth on a number of studies being done with higher education students, who have been found to be particularly susceptible to higher stress levels and mental health challenges.

 

The scientific results of these studies showed that frequent use of journal interventions led to a significant increase to students resilience over a relatively short period.

 

And while this is something that can definitely be beneficial with daily use, it can also be an effective means to boost resilience in unique circumstances.

 

In the personal example I shared above, I was eager to change my reaction and find a different way to think about it. I had just been made aware of the situation in question and I was panicking, my mind was spinning, and I couldn’t think straight because of all the negative emotions swirling through me.

 

I knew I needed to have a productive reaction quickly and, therefore, letting myself “sit” in that spin cycle would not serve me.

 

Completing this exercise brought a level of relief that is indescribable. If that was the only value I found from journaling for resilience, that would have been enough. More than that, though, my journal made significant differences in how I handled what remained of the challenging situation I faced.

 

In my example, I started this exercise crying, feeling hopeless, and uncertain about what would happen next. By the time I finished, my tears were dry, I was breathing normally, and felt prepared to face what was happening. Working through these journal prompts had made room for more positive emotions to come in, like hope and confidence.

 

No matter what occurred next, I had a firm grip on what I could control and I was determined to hold on to that. I also had actionable items I could do right away to keep myself from lingering too long in the negative feelings that had overwhelmed me.

 

Even though this had a dramatic impact on how quickly I moved through this change and how much it impacted me, it did still impact me.

 

I still spent the next several days in tears. I still beat myself up. I still experienced anger, frustration, despair, hopelessness, etc. I still experienced all of that because I’m human.

 

It’s completely normal for us to have these emotions and to truly feel it when something unexpected happens in our lives.

 

However, when those negative emotions surfaced, I also had this incredible resilience journal exercise to go back to remind me of the bigger picture. So, I could remind myself to be forgiving; I could remind myself to maintain hope; and I could remind myself that I had a plan.

 

You Have The Power To Be Your Own Solution

No matter who you are or what change you’re going through, I hope this helps you manage your mental health and your own building of resilience through journaling. Think of it as one more possible way to achieve greater life satisfaction, even in the darkest of times.

 

Of course, if you’re not seeing your resilience change as quickly as you’d like, I’m just a click away and ready to offer my support.  You can always email me at taryn@treasuretroveofhappythoughts.com or schedule a consultation to learn more about how I can partner with you with this or other appropriate interventions that might help you get where you want to be.

 

We all need some help every now and then.

 

Until next time, be safe, happy, and well!

How To Be Intentional With Your Partner

How To Be Intentional With Your Partner

Do you ever find yourself feeling lonely, despite being in a romantic relationship? Or maybe you don’t feel lonely but you feel disconnected, sad, or like there’s something missing between you and your partner? If so, you’re not alone! This is extremely common and something that most couples will experience at some point in their relationship. These feelings could indicate that action is needed for you both to become more intentional with each other.

 

The question is, how to be intentional with your partner? A great place to start is to get clarity on what you both want and need from the relationship. Then, agree on a way you’ll work together to achieve that. From there, continuously check in with each other to modify that agreement, as needed. 

 

In this article, we’ll help you better understand how to be intentional with your partner, along with actionable tips and practical ways to help you navigate these discussions together.

Table of Contents

What Is Being Intentional In A Relationship?

In a recent article, I shared tips for how to live with intention. Being intentional in a relationship is very similar to living intentionally. To do it well, you have to:

 

  • Understand what’s most important to you in your relationship
  • Clearly communicate with your partner about your wants and needs
  • Come to a mutual agreement for how your wants and needs will be fulfilled in the relationship
  • Continuously evaluate how well your agreements are working and adjust your approach, if necessary

It’s important to remember that both partners should have an equal voice in these meaningful conversations. Even if one partner is the one seeking this more intentional approach, it’s important to make room in the discussion for both of you to share your thoughts and feelings on each of the bullets above.

 

It’s also pivotal that you have flexibility and be open to different ways of achieving the results you want. There’s no right way to spend intentional time together. In fact, it may take several attempts and lots of trial and error before you figure out the best approach for you and your relationship.

 

How Do You Show Intentional Love?

Intentional love is best shown through understanding and well-honed effort. You continuously seek to understand what your partner needs and how you can give that to them, and then you make a conscious effort to provide that in the best way possible.

 

One of the biggest mistakes any of us makes while interacting with other people is to assume others think the same way we do and, thereby, also assuming we know exactly what they want and need. This can be especially challenging in relationships because, presumably, you do know your partner well so that must make it easier to understand them, right? 

 

If only!

 

I can attest to that from my own personal experience. After 10 years of marriage, I still find myself learning new things about my husband and I’m sure it’s the same for him. After all, people are not stagnant creatures. We grow, change, and adapt continuously throughout our lives so it makes sense that our needs and wants will also change over time.

 

So how do you strive to understand your partner? Put simply, you have intentional conversations in which you ask questions. If you knew nothing at all about your partner, what questions would you ask them to better understand what they’re asking for?

 

Not sure where to begin? There are a few key areas you can focus on right away that are sure to round out the quality of your relationship, how you can support each other, and, how you can show intentional love:

 

  • Understand your partner’s love language. Not familiar with the concept of love languages? Learn more about them here and you can even take a quick quiz to understand yours! Does your partner’s love language align with yours? If it doesn’t, ask them what you can do differently to show them you love and care about them.
  • Understand how your partner reacts to stress. What stresses them out? When they’re stressed do they eat more? Are they quicker to anger or emotion? How can you recognize stress in them without them having to tell you? When they are stressed, what helps? How could you support that and offer it to them proactively?
  • Understand your partner’s values. What’s most important to them? How is that different from your own values? How is it similar? Once you know this you can better understand why they ask for certain things.
  • Understand how your partner enjoys themselves. What fulfills them? What helps them decompress or relax? What brings them joy? Knowing this will help you proactively introduce more of these things into your relationship.

Remember back at the beginning of this article when I mentioned that it’s important to continuously evaluate how things are going and adjust accordingly? That step makes a huge difference when navigating this concept of understanding and effort. This is a process of trial and error. Even if you understand what stresses your partner out, for example, that doesn’t mean the first thing you try to help them de-stress will work well. If it doesn’t, take time to ask what didn’t work and what you can do differently the next time.

 

And just as it’s important for each of you to make an effort here, it’s just as important that those efforts be recognized. Showing appreciation for effort made, even if it didn’t have the intended result, goes a long way in ensuring your partner will keep trying. That appreciation is also critical for YOU as the recipient of that effort. Every attempt to be intentional, no matter the result, is an indication of how much your partner loves and cares for you. Take time to enjoy that.

 

What Is A Healthy Amount Of Time To Spend With Your Partner?

The answer to this will be different for every relationship. And even more important than the amount of time spent is the quality of the time you spend together. If it’s low-quality time, it’s actually possible to spend enough time together and still feel unsatisfied or unloved.

 

The best way to judge what is a healthy amount of time to spend with your partner is to evaluate your own thoughts and feelings. 

 

You may need more quality time with your partner if:

 

  • You feel bored or disconnected from your significant other
  • You feel a lack of excitement thinking of the time you do spend together
  • You can’t remember the last time you did something fun with each other
  • You struggle to remember what you once had in common
  • You find yourself thinking that your partner feels more like a roommate than a significant other
  • You feel disconnected from what’s happening in their life or that they’re disconnected from what’s happening in yours
  • You feel lonely even when you’re in the same space as your partner
  • You are not particularly excited to spend time with them

One thing to note here is that the signs above may not indicate only that you need more quality time with your partner. They could also indicate that you need more quality time for yourself, doing things that are important to you. 

 

A good indicator that this may be part of your challenge is if you also:

 

  • Struggle to find anything to talk about with your partner
  • Feel bored or disconnected with life in general
  • Can’t remember the last time you did something you really enjoy
  • Have hobbies, interests, or friends you haven’t engaged with in a while

Healthy relationships are the ones where you have a strong balance between quality time with each other and quality time for yourself. 

 

Sure signs that you’ve reached that healthy amount of quality time together include:

 

  • You’re excited to share your daily life with your partner
  • Thinking back on recent time you’ve spent together or apart brings a smile to your face
  • You’re looking forward to regular date nights, whatever that looks like for you, and spending more time together
  • You have plenty of topics to talk about
  • The time you do spend together feels effortless and easy

How Do You Tell Your Partner You Want To Spend More Time Together?

If you’ve been feeling lonely, frustrated, or disconnected with your partner it can be easy to fall into blame mode and focus on all the reasons you think your challenges are their fault. But the reality is that difficulties in a relationship are rarely the fault of only one person. And going into hard conversations like this with blame or judgment will rarely result in a productive conversation.

 

Instead, try focusing on what you can both do differently and what you hope you’ll both gain from the change. Framing it as an effort on both sides – which it will be – acknowledges the need for both of you to equally participate.

 

It can also be helpful to focus the conversation around a specific change you’re hoping to see. Plan to come with an idea or two in mind while also being open to their suggestions. Below are some examples of conversation starters that might help:

 

  • I’d like to get out of the house to do more fun things together. What do you think about aiming for one out-of-the house night a week?
  • I’d love to have some dedicated “us” time every night where we’re not distracted. What do you think about putting our phones away during dinner so we can catch up on each other’s day?
  • I really miss how nice it is when we’re cuddled up together. What do you think about planning to always cuddle up when we watch our favorite show?
  • Remember when we used to go for walks together when we first started dating? I really miss that. What if we tried going for a walk after dinner each night?

If this more subtle way of approaching the subject doesn’t seem to work, then it may be time to have more of a heart-to-heart. Let your partner know how you’re feeling while also making sure they know you love and care about them. While still avoiding blame or judgment as much as possible, let them know very directly that you think a change is needed and invite them to work with you to figure out a solution that you can both try.

 

How Can I Spend Intentional Time With My Partner?

Once you’ve established the goal of the quality time you’re looking for, it’s time to start coming up with intentional ways to spend time with your partner. 

 

A great way to do this is to answer the “5 W’s:” Who, What, When, Where, and Why as they pertain to your specific request. These questions can take a few different forms, depending on the situation and may spark additional questions to consider. For example, say it’s important to you that you have some dedicated time together without phones or other devices distracting you. The 5 W’s might look like:

 

  • Who anticipates having a harder time with this? Why is that and what are some challenges you might anticipate, as a result? How will you address those hurdles as they occur?
  • What does this device-free time look like? Does it just include phones or does it include television too? Can devices be used if they’re contributing to the time? For example, maybe your phone provides music during this time or maybe you can look at your phone to answer a question but then quickly put it away.
  • When will this device-free time occur? Would you like it to be a daily occurrence? To last a certain amount of time? To occur at a certain time of day, such as during a meal?
  • Where would this most effectively be put into practice? Maybe this aligns with your “when.” If you want your device-free time to be over dinner then the dinner table would be a reasonable location. Or maybe it’s easier to walk your significant other in your neighborhood after dinner so you’re less tempted by the television.
  • Why is spending device-free time together important to you? Why do you believe this will fulfill what you’re looking for?

Wrapping It Up

Once you’ve settled on a plan to be more intentional with your partner, you may think all the hard work is done, but really it’s just the beginning. At the end of the day, this is a new habit you’re building and, just like any other habit, it will take time to establish it and even more time to fine-tune it.

 

During this “establishment” period, be gentle with each other. Especially at the beginning, you’ll need to remind each other what you agreed to. If things don’t seem to be working at first, then don’t give up. That’s simply an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and tweak the plan to try something different.

 

And remember, you’re never alone! If you need help being more intentional with your partner, email me at taryn@happythoughtscoaching.com. I’d love to help!

 

If you still feel lost or unsure how to begin, then there may be deeper feelings and issues to work through. You’re always welcome to schedule time with me so we can discuss how we might work together to help you reach the greater intimacy and intentional relationship you’ve been looking for!