The Secret to Desire in Relationships

According to Esther Perel:

“For [erotically intelligent couples], love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning. They know that they have years in which to deepen their connection, to experiment, to regress, and even to fail. They see their relationship as something alive and ongoing, not a fait accompli. It’s a story that they are writing together, one with many chapters, and neither partner knows how it will end. There’s always a place they haven’t gone yet, always something about the other still to be discovered.” 

Watch the TedTalk here.



Engage and Enjoy (Tips continued)

Here are a few more tips from Ryan Howes, Ph.D. for getting the most from therapy. If you missed the last post, find it here.

What do I Want? How do I Feel? These two questions are home base for clients who feel stuck. If you find yourself lost and don't know what to talk about, revisit these questions and you're bound to find material to discuss.

Learn to Fish: A lot of people want advice from their therapist. Therapy is more about helping you come to your own conclusions than having the therapist make decisions for you. This benefits you in the long run but may seem disappointing at the time. 

Ask Why: Let your inner 3-year old out and ask why you behave/think/feel as you do. Why do I hate my boss so much? Why am I so anxious before sessions? Why does the therapist's shirt bother me?

Say the Odd Thought: Therapy is one place where strange thoughts are acceptable. In fact, the odder the better. Have a sudden impulse? Say it. Flash to a certain memory? Talk about it. The phrase some things are better left unsaid doesn't apply here so speak freely and you might learn something interesting.

Go Deeper: If you find yourself running through mundane details of your week or hitting awkward silences, maybe there's a deeper issue you're avoiding. Ask what it is you're not talking about and talk about it. Discuss what you're discovering about yourself. Take the time to explore who you are, what you feel and why you do what you do. Push beyond it is what it is or whatever and tackle some deeper questions. Try: "I wonder why I ___" or: "Deep down, I really feel ___".

Allow Change: Some people ask for change but feel uncomfortable when it actually happens. Accept that if you're seeking change, things will probably change, and it might require more change than you thought. An eating disorder, a sexual problem, interpersonal conflicts, an addiction - these may require a major life overhaul, not just a little tweak.

Engage and Enjoy: Therapy is like enrolling in a course where you are the subject matter. If you're curious, teachable and motivated to do some work, it can be one of the most challenging and rewarding courses you ever take.



Making the Most of the Hour

As the title of this website might suggest, therapy is more than just time spent each week in the office with your therapist. You can enhance the experience (and hopefully the outcome) by doing a few things between and during your sessions. Following are some tips from Ryan Howes, Ph.D. for getting the most out of your "hour". I've featured seven tips here. More to follow in the next blog post. Thanks for reading! 

Take the Whole Hour: We call it a therapy hour but it's only 50 minutes. Get your money's worth by arriving 10 minutes early to catch your breath, collect your thoughts and prepare for your session.

Forget the Clock: Show up early, but let the therapist be in charge of ending the session on time. You've got enough to think about during the session, the therapist can be responsible for wrapping up.

Make it Part of Your Life: Therapy works best when you take what you've learned and apply it to the rest of your week. Between sessions, notice areas in your life you'd like to explore. Maybe you'd find it helpful to engage in...

Journalysis: Use a journal to reflect on your sessions and jot down things you notice about yourself during the week. It doesn't have to be the "Dear Diary" of your youth, just a place to record a few thoughts or feelings. It may help to bring it to session with you.

Ask Anything: Clients sometimes censor their questions because they believe asking is against the rules. You're allowed to ask whatever you want, let the therapist explain their boundaries. Want to know a personal detail, professional opinion or an explanation for something she said or did? Go ahead and ask. You might not get a straight answer, but you should get a reason why not, and you might learn something about yourself in the process. 

State of the Union: Check on your status any time during your therapy. How are the two of you working together? How well do you understand each other? Is therapy helping or hurting at this point? This is ideally a two-way discussion, with both of you sharing your thoughts.

Try New Things: Therapy is a great place for thinkers to try feeling, listeners to practice talking, passive people to be assertive, etc. Want to rehearse confrontation? Practice asking someone out? Let yourself cry in front of someone? Therapy is a great place for this.



Reboot, y'all

I'm happy to say that I've been on my mat almost every day this year. Happy, and a little surprised too. I might have alluded to this in my post about morning yoga, but I wasn't too convinced the habit would last. But here I am, at the end of February, with what I would call my very own yoga practice. (Whaaat?) I've done a couple of things that help me stay mativated (that's a lame pun, I know). First, it feels damn good, so why stop? Since I started a daily practice, I feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally. And my work can get stressful, so it's much needed.

Second, I have a great teacher and guide. Yes, she's on Youtube, but it helps to have someone to practice with, even via the internet. If you haven't already (and you're at all interested in yoga), check out Yoga with Adriene. She's got a program out now called Reboot. You can find it here.

Lastly, I decided to supplement my home practice with a bit of studio time. I eased into it by visiting the class of an instructor I know and love, Lynn Rescigno. I got acquainted with her through an Ashtanga class a couple of years ago. She's incredibly knowledgeable, but also lots of fun. If you're in Pittsburgh and want to check out a class, she teaches at several spots around town, including Bend Yoga and BYS Yoga

As Adriene would say, "Let's get moving!"




Connection and Vulnerability

Before I posted or shared one word on this website, I was scared and full of doubt. I asked myself: Will I seem full of myself? Is what I have to say important? What will people think? What if it turns out I'm boring? I had a lot of shame, but I wanted to connect. With encouragement from my partner and some courage of my own, I posted it anyway. I won't go on about this because Brené Brown says it better than me. She leads by example, and it's only 20 minutes.



On(line) Friends and Inspiration

I've got some pretty cool friends. This post is about some of the ones with websites. Christina White is a bad ass. Seriously, this lady is strong. You can be too.

Kevin Boyle designs things and knows a lot about coffee too. And our buddy Sam is awesome.

My friend Deidre loves language. She was this prolific in high school.

Mindy wants to stick you with needles and you should let her.

Stu writes and makes music. He's also off to teach English abroad soon.

Ted Lincoln makes art and it's beautiful.

I don't actually know Neghar, but I like what she's got to say about fitness and food.

Though it may seem like it, this post isn't just about shameless friend promotion. It's about the inspiration we draw from others and our environment. Getting inspired can be therapeutic, especially when feeling lethargic and unmotivated. I mean, isn't that why people love Pinterest so much? So what if your cupcakes don't look like owls, you created something!

Who (or what) inspires you?



On Mental Health

A smart man once told me there are five key things related to improving (and maintaining) mental health:

1.      Psychotherapy that changes the way you think that leads to changes in behavior.

2.      Meditation, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, or some kind of emotional self-regulation.

3.      Exercise – he specifically mentioned martial arts, but it's really about finding something you love so you're more likely to do it. (If you haven't tried it, boxing or kickboxing is great for relieving stress and anxiety).

4.      Medication – it usually takes trying 2-3 different kinds to get it right and staying on it for at least 6-9 months.

5.      Five or more important people in your life that you can talk to or turn to with things. Count them up and cultivate these kinds of friendships in your life.

At different times in our lives, we may need some of these more than others, such as psychotherapy or medication. And some of us may never need medication, while others may need it daily, and that's okay. Other things on this list are ideal for daily practice. No one is perfect, so don't beat yourself up if you don't fit in exercise or meditation one day. For me, the negative self-talk becomes more damaging than the thing I didn't do.

Of these five things, what are you already doing?

Today is a great day to try something new.



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On Rituals (and Vitality)

I think it’s important to have daily rituals. No, you don’t need a sacrificial goat. I’m talking about the small things you do every day to feel good. The activities that make you feel vital. Something from a Ted Talk stuck with me: “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.” It inspired me to think more about the meaning of that word, vitality, cause it sounds pretty good. Here are some definitions I found:

1. The power to live, grow, or develop.

2. The state of being strong and active; energy.

3. The characteristic, principle, or force that distinguishes living things from nonliving things. (whoa)

I don’t know about you, but I want some of that. In the article “What Happy People Do Differently” from Psychology Today, the authors write, “Yes, being happy might be healthy – but craving happiness is a slippery slope. As well-being researchers, we don’t deny the importance of happiness – but we've also concluded that a well-lived life is more than just one in which you feel ‘up’. The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as well autonomy, mastery, and belonging.” So the next time you’re feeling something other than happy, maybe even something awful, think about vitality and do one small thing that makes you feel strong or energetic; even if that means just taking some deep breaths and sitting with those uncomfortable feelings for a bit. (Look for a post soon on breathing).

I didn't expect to get into depression, happiness, or vitality when I started writing about rituals. It’s amazing where a cup of coffee cherry tea can take you. That’s been my morning ritual lately. What’s yours?

p.s. Click on the links to be transported through cyberspace. Or to buy some of that damn tea I keep talking about.

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Morning Yoga

I’ve found lately that my days are much better when my mornings go well. For the past two days, I’ve gotten up early to do yoga. I know, I’m really on a roll. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never been a very good yogi. I get distracted easily. My mind wanders. I get bored. As it turns out, these are the very reasons to do yoga, not reasons to avoid it as I have in the past. Then at the end of last year, I found Yoga with Adriene. I love her approach – the practice is about “finding what feels good” and “shining light in the dark places.” It doesn’t sound as cheesy in the middle of downward dog, I promise. Thanks to Adriene, I’m more motivated to get on the mat and more focused during my practice. Heck, I’d never even thought about yoga as my practice before.

If you’re looking for a place to start, check out her 20 minute vinyasa flow or the 10 minute morning sequence, because therapy (and yoga) doesn't have to take an hour. Let me know what you think.