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Mindful Magic Tips for Married Life

Mindful Magic Tips for Married Life

By Ashima Sharma, Clinical Psychologist

In this week’s blog post, Ashima has some great tips for incorporating Mindfulness into your intimate relationships. We’d love to hear what you think – if you try some (or all) of Ashima’s tips, comment to let us know how they work for you and your partner…or maybe you have other ways of practicing mindfulness with your partner.

Mindfulness practice has been scientifically proven to improve our mental and physical health, enhance our individual well-being and have a positive impact on interpersonal relationships. The effects of using mindfulness to enhance relationships is miraculous, according to research done in the University of North Carolina. It was seen that couples who practiced mindfulness in their relationships had a higher “relationship happiness” score, as compared to those who did not. In addition, these Mindful couples experienced healthier levels of “relationship stress, stress coping efficacy, and overall stress.” This goes to show that Mindfulness is the key to turn marital distress into Eustress, also known as positive stress. 

Here are some tips for practicing Mindfulness together:

1) Morning Medley: Make it a point to spend 5-10 minutes together every day, to engage in breathing meditation together. You could guide yourself using and audio, or just be silent, as you may like it. Doing this  before the start of the day is like a magic wand which can have a positive effect on your day, as well as your relationship. You will get that powerful gap between stressors and reactions, which leads to mindful responding.

2) Mindful Gratitude Routine: Make it a habit to keep a Gratitude Jar for each other. Keeping it visual helps with adherence. Every day take a Mindful breather and write down 3 reasons you are grateful to be with your partner. This helps you appreciate each other more and keeps negativity out of bounds. Do this every day on a regular basis – this practice makes the other person feel valued and helps you to be more compassionate and loving. It’s a win-win practice.

3) Keep Calm and Meditate Together: Developing a formal 15 minute meditation routine is a great way to stir things up for the better. This can be done on a daily basis, or you may wish to indulge in weekend retreat dates for longer meditations. Meditation is an extremely effective way to get to know our thoughts by slowing down and paying attention. It helps us become familiar with our mind. This also helps generate compassion and understanding towards our partner. It elevates mood and helps us drop the extra baggage we carry within our marriages for no useful reason. If we stay in the moment with our partner, we are far less likely to build a case against them, to catalogue their flaws or turn against them in times of conflict or stress. 

4) Mindful Music Matters: Music can be a powerful way to experience the present moment. Even if we listen to music all the time, we really just hear it and do not go deep into it. At the end of the day just tuning in to a piece of music is a great way to unwind. It only takes about 3-4 minutes, but it helps us to drop our unnecessary daily hassles from work, kids, home, marketing, etc and we are able to dissolve them away, instead of putting them on each other. All you have to do is find a song. I usually recommend  instrumental pieces, since I feel words add a whole other layer, but it’s up to you. Pay full attention to the music. The idea is to be fully aware of the music, and not to get swayed by it. Keep noticing the beats. Notice any thoughts or feelings that come up. Notice the melodies in the music, or the sound of each instrument, or the speed of the piece. You might find you need different music each day, or that repeating the same piece is a sort of touchstone to a quiet, calm place inside yourself. You may practice this together or separately. It transforms one’s mind space rapidly.

5) Mindful Nature Time: Spending time in nature, is well known for its benefits. Make it a habit to hit the park whenever you can, take a weekend away at the nearest beach, or just sit and observe a leaf together. Spending time with nature helps to release stress and improves happiness and health. Mindful walking, Mindful observation, Mindful yoga, or any other activity, when done within nature’s bounty has very nurturing effects. You may try putting it in your to do list as once a week bonding activity.

The practice of mindfulness helps you develop a greater love toward others. When you think about the interest of your spouse and their emotions, it automatically becomes so much easier to make the necessary adjustments in your own behaviour to enhance their happiness and enjoyment.

Is there really something called a “Happily Married Life”?

Is there really something called a “Happily Married Life”?

Our Clinical Psychologist, Ashima, has written our latest blog post – all about relationships.

Is there really something called a “Happily Married Life”?

This is a question which has been put to me many times in my life. And perhaps some of you can relate to it as well.

The truth is…There is truth in being happily married, and there is truth in finding your happily ever-after. But we have to understand a marriage in baby steps, and we have to see through the differences and similarities couples share. That is the secret to be decoded. 

One of the biggest landmarks in an individual’s life, is marriage. It can be ‘Heaven’ or ‘Hell’.

It takes compromise, time and joint effort to build a successful marriage. Dealing with today’s high paced lifestyle can often be overwhelming and, at times, cause a strain on the couple’s relationship.

It is very easy to tip work-life balance and start taking each other for granted. It is very easy to project our stress from work or other daily chores onto each other without meaning it.

Marriage brings many challenges for both men and women. Living with another person day and night for the rest of your life is very different from dating that person. Leaving one’s own cosy zone, stepping into each other’s personal space and daily routine, figuring out roles, time to spend together, expectations, decision-making processes and balancing work with one’s new marital life are big challenges.

For this reason, relationship counselling or seeking support when you feel you cannot do this alone is always a good option.

Knowing that there is help and support and that you are not the only one’s going through this is very satisfying. 

5 Tips for Better Relationships

1. Play it as a Team

Both of you have to understand that now there is no more ’YOU’ and ‘I’, its  just ‘WE’ and ‘US’. Knowing that you both function as a team and not separate entities is vital for a good marriage.

2. Mindful Communication

Everyone knows communication as an important aspect. However, when it is done mindfully, it brings it to another level. Mindful communication implies paying attention, listening to your partner and talking openly about your feelings, hopes and desires. And when your partner is talking to you, try not to dismiss your partner or his/her feelings. Sometimes, you just need to be ‘ALL EARS’ to your spouse and not try to ‘fix things’. Just be there for each other. Without honest and open communication, no team would progress.

3. Mr. or Mrs. Always Right: Remember that you play it as a team

In our relationships, we often indulge in conflicts with our partners. However, most conflicts can act as building blocks to understand your partner and his/her needs. Resolving conflicts can also help your partner understand you and your needs by expressing, sharing and receiving information in a positive manner.

4. Have set points of your relationships

Make sure you have certain set-points in your love relationship and stay in discipline of not going below them. For me I have a set point of one date night per week/one movie per week. These should not be compromised, but if you do end up falling behind a set-point, make sure you add a little extra next time to gear yourself back. This will keep you from feeling stagnated.

5. Have fun and pick up an activity together religiously

Relationships don’t have to be full of do’s and don’ts nor be completely serious – make them as fun as you can, and let loose your fun inertia by engaging in activities you like together and keeping it light. It could be anything from meditating together to exploring caves. Just remember to keep the fun alive.

These techniques help enhance your relationship bond. 

And, who knows … you might just manage to get your happily ever after!!!!!!!


Time to Talk Day 2018

Time to Talk Day 2018

Yesterday (Thursday, 1st February) was Time to Talk Day, an initiative by Mind hk to encourage Hong Kong to talk about their mental health – similar to R U OK Day in Australia.

So, obviously, I’m a little slow off the mark with this, given that the Day was yesterday. I can’t keep up…these days there are days for this and days for that, and I think it’s great that people are being encouraged to open up about important things like mental health; or encouraged to find information, support, connection, testing or treatment for various traumatic life events, illnesses, losses or gains (Multiple Birth Awareness week, for example). A quick Google brings me various lists of awareness days/weeks/months, and in Australia alone, I counted 42…and that didn’t include the well-known Movember, so it is clearly not comprehensive!

So, this slight digression into lists brings me, sort of, to why I’m writing this the day after Time to Talk Day, and not ON Time to Talk Day. I can’t keep up! One minute I remember, then next I’m distracted and, the thought’s gone. It wasn’t until I was on the train on my way home that my attention was drawn back to it. As I was scrolling through Facebook (or maybe Instagram) on my phone, I saw some #timetotalkhk posts by a couple of my therapist friends. ARGHHH!!! I forgot (insert eye roll and steady flow of negative self talk about how I ALWAYS do this kind of thing)! 

When I realised I’d forgotten, my first instinct was to rush home and post something, anything, to show my support. But the more I slowed down and thought about it, the less I thought this was a good idea. What occurred to me, as I continued my journey home, was that it doesn’t really matter if I’m a day late to writing my thoughts about Time to Talk Day, or mental health. What does matter is that I participate in keeping the conversation going. I can do that publically or privately; in my home or at work; on social media or in person. Mind HK has started the conversation by launching Tiime to Talk Day. Now, we (mental health professionals, doctors, teachers, students, friends, lovers, parents, children…anyone…everyone) need to keep talking.

 Confession: I did post something – a ‘repost’ of one of Mind hk’s pictures, with a caption saying that I wanted to say more about it later…I’m not immune to the pressure to get it right! 

While being distracted and forgetful at times is not a major mental health crisis for me, being on top of things is something I wish I was better at. If left unchecked it could easily spiral into a negative belief about my whole self, which could then spiral further and who knows where it could end up. To counter this forgetfulness, I write notes and lists, I repeat things to myself. I share with others (especially people with good memories!). Sometimes things still slip through the cracks, but if I have these things in place, I can see a forgetful moment for what it is – a lapse, a distraction – rather than a character flaw or worse. It’s one way I look after my mental health.

Time to Talk Day was created to help to raise awareness of mental ill health, and to reduce the stigma surrounding it. If we can feel free to talk about our mental health struggles and triumphs, we can reduce the impact of shame that comes with it. This, hopefully, will lead to more people getting the support they need. According to Brené Brown, shame researcher & writer, shame thrives on silence, and cannot survive being spoken. So, Hong Kong, let’s keep the conversation going. It’s Time to Talk.

I’d love to hear your mental health stories. How do you look after your mental health? When have you managed to rise up against shame? How did you do it? What replaced it? What difference did it make in your life?

If you’d like to share your story, but remain anonymous, you can email me your stories at alison@integratehk.hk. Otherwise, please post in the comments.

If you have no-one you can talk to, please call the Samaritans on 2896 0000 (in HK), Lifeline (Australia) on 13 11 14, or crisis hotline in your city.

Love Over Fear

Love Over Fear

In our first blog post, our counsellor, Ali, talks about conquering fear with love. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time now – but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to write about, and how to tie it in with what we do here at Integrate hk. Well, today (while drinking my second coffee) I had a revelation. I suddenly felt compelled to write about love. Not romantic love. Human love. The love that people show for one another, regardless of who they are, where they’re from, what their story is, even whether or not they know each other. This type of love is kindness, care, compassion. Empathy.

As a counsellor, love is the crux of what I do. The place it comes from. The very heart of it. I don’t need to know my clients to love them. That is, to treat them with kindness. To care for them and show them compassion. To listen with an ear and an attitude brimming with empathy and Unconditional Positive Regard (thanks Carl Rogers!).

But I don’t want to talk about my clients or even my practice here (ethical issues aside!). The idea to write about love came from me thinking about fear. When I think about the things that are going on in the world at this moment in history, I am filled with dread and fear. Most of these events don’t affect me directly, but they still affect me. I’m saddened for the people that are being turned away from help because of where they’re from – because of fear. I am despairing for the displaced, the unloved and the unlovable. Fear and hate seem to be sweeping the world right now, so I figured the only way I can counter that in one small, but hopefully effective way, is to love. To show love, to talk about love, to encourage love.

This quote from Fred Rogers really resonates with me. Looking for the helpers is looking for the people acting in love. When we look for the helpers, we shift our focus from hate to love. And when we seek out love, we find love in little, every day things.

Lately I’ve been seeing love in the kind acts of friends – an offer of help, an encouraging word, a timely message. I’m trying to show love by doing the same for friends. For strangers, I’m trying to remember to do little things like smile when I meet someone’s eye, give up my seat on the train to someone who needs it more. Let people in when there’s traffic. When you shift your focus, where are you seeing everyday signs of love? How are you spreading love in small ways?