A friend of mine came to me sometime back with an issue that he was having with his wife. Everything had been going great since they’ve been married, but she, unfortunately, had a habit of constantly complaining. This meant that she targeted everybody at work and then targeted him at home.
”I just find it difficult to constantly hear her moan about other people and then about me; I feel like I’m always treading on eggshells around her”, he said.
It worried me that this was what had become of their relationship, but then I realised that this kind of relationship is what most people would consider normal. To be honest I couldn’t imagine myself being in a relationship with someone who had that kind of mindset and trust me I have met a lot of people like that.
I once met a young girl who was beautiful, smart, talented, and who most would consider a catch. But after becoming friends, I learned that she had the same habit of being constantly critical of everything and anything.
In her legal profession, this helped her a lot, but outside of work, people avoided her and her friends hardly ever spoke their minds in fear of being targeted.
I remember vividly on one occasion we were sitting in a Café and one of her cousins walked in with her husband. In the one-minute exchange, she had with her cousin, she had told her that she needed to fix her hair, her posture needed improvement, and that she should do something about those bags under her eyes.
So to battle this kind of behaviour, I gave my friend a specific questioning technique that would help him steer the direction of his wife’s thinking. I told him that he would need to make this into a bedtime ritual and over time he should notice his wife’s behaviour changing.
My friend called me one month later to tell me that his wife is slowly turning back to the person she was when they first met and he couldn’t be happier. I explained to him then that this will only continue to work if they make it a habit because questions direct our thinking and the way we think is the way we live our lives.
What is thinking but asking and answering questions? If you can ask better questions and you get better answers, then you get better thinking. Better thinking will not only change your life but also the life of those around you.
So if you want to give your significant other a happy ending each night, check out the three questions below you should be asking each other before hitting the sack.
Northern Highlights of the Day
If you have the wonderful habit of writing in your journal each night, then this is the perfect tool to direct your mind towards the positive.
The RAS system otherwise known as the Reticular Activation System is a network within your brain that is responsible for filtering out the information you receive from all around you.
At every second of your waking life, your brain is filtering through thousands of pieces of information coming in and deciding which is important and which is not.
In other words, whatever you focus on is what your brain will feed you. A great example of this is when you see a car you may have not noticed before but are now thinking of buying. All of a sudden you begin to notice this car everywhere.
You see it on the road, in the parking lot, and even meet people who drive this particular car. This is your RAS doing its job of feeding you what you are focusing on; as the circumstances around you have not changed concerning how many of these specific cars were on the road, but your brain was told to start focusing on it so it began to provide you with information.
Why is this important right now? Because we will start to use the RAS to our advantage and train it to focus on the good in our lives instead of the bad by way of introducing a new daily activity of writing down or better yet, discussing the good things that have happened in your day.
I told my friend to make it a habit of asking his wife each night what goods things had happened to her during the day. It was difficult at first because by habit she would say ”nothing” and then start talking about all the people that had annoyed her.
But I told him to keep digging and digging until he found even a small thing, like someone smiling at her or receiving a small compliment.
Once you have successfully found the positive experience in your partner’s day, then do the following:
#1 Get more details on what happened
#2 Find out what impact this had on your partner
#3How did this make him/her feel – Really focus on the experience and try to get as much information as possible
#4 Ask questions that focus on all of the senses – What did this look like? How did it feel? How did it sound? etc
#5 Anchor the positive feelings to her – the easiest way of doing this is to tap them on the shoulder or arm during each positive experience. Learn how to anchor positive emotions
#6 Have a go yourself – This isn’t a one-sided game, you need to share too so do the same and even anchor these feelings to yourself
It usually helps if you anchor these feelings to a specific spot each time. As the days go on you will notice that you have started to stack all of these good feelings and the beauty of this is that you can recall them with just a touch.
Just this one activity will greatly shift your and your partner’s thinking; not to mention it’s a fun exercise to do before bedtime. I found that this worked particularly worked well with children; especially if it is made into a game.
Turn it into a Game
This might not be for everyone but one great experience I have had with a couple was to turn these highlights into a game. It is pretty simple; all you have to do is rack up as many positive highlights to your day and the one with the most on that day wins (you can decide the prize between the two or three of you).
Why I encourage this is because when I first tried this strategy myself I found something amazing happened. Your brain starts to look at opportunities to create your highlights instead of waiting for something good to happen to you.
You start to create your own happiness and it subconsciously teaches your brain that actually happiness is something that you can create for yourself, that happiness is in fact a verb, not a noun.
The last person I told to do this, went out of their way to buy coffees for their entire team and marked down everybody’s smiling faces and gratitude as a highlight.
Someone else enrolled in a course they had been dreading to do for years (but feared they weren’t smart enough) and marked that action as a highlight. A friend of mine even went out and bought tickets to take his children to a theme park that very weekend; having no previous intentions or plans to do so. You see how becoming more proactive makes all of the difference in your life?
This type of game is hugely effective on children as not only does it set them up with a much healthier mindset but also teaches them that life is not what happens to you but what you happen to life. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.
Discuss your Darkest Dreams
Following on from the last exercise the next thing that works really well is discussing your hopes and dreams before bed with your partner. During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep the brain does an amazing job of creative problem solving (University of California). Discussing your goals and dreams also means that whilst asleep, your brain spends the rest of the night finding ways to make these come true.
As well as this, it further enhances the good feelings as we have gone from what went good today to what good we wish to happen tomorrow.
Research done by Shawn Achor (author of the very popular book The Happiness Advantage) found that feeling happy opens up the brain in many creative ways, so by adding this to the REM sleep, we are just stacking all the good in our favour.
I’m a very big fan of stacking positivity on top of each other so much that the brain becomes overwhelmed to the extent that it cannot do anything but feel positive.
We now have two positive activities stacked on top of each other already before we get to the final one.
Anticipate all Night and Day
By far one of my most favorite techniques and one I use still to this day.
For this it helps if you have a pen and paper or better yet, you can use the notepad on your phone. Here I want you to list all of the things you would be looking forward to, that week, followed on by that month, and then that year.
That’s right, I want you to have a looking forward to list. Research has shown that the mind sends more happy chemicals in anticipation of an upcoming experience than the memory of it; this could be an upcoming holiday, a break from work, or simply just a walk in the evening sun on a Tuesday. The experience itself does not matter as long as there is a good healthy amount of anticipation for it.
Every Sunday evening as I’m planning out my week I open my social calendar for the week too. Here I will review what socials/meet-ups or experiences I have booked for myself in the upcoming week and make arrangements.
The beauty of this is that if my calendar is looking empty, I can make a few calls to meet up with friends, arrange a movie night or plan some kind of do to try and make my calendar look as healthy as possible.
I even go as far as checking experience days websites or voucher websites to see if there is something on offer that I could purchase to do with some friends.
Not only is the anticipation fun, but arranging activities with friends and families or touching base with people I may have lost contact with itself usually is very fulfilling. Talking with your partner about upcoming experiences or planning to do something together/with others at night will fill up your mind with all those happy chemicals we crave so much.
Wrap it Up
I always say you should try and anchor positive feelings to other people so that whenever they need a positive bump you’re there to touch them in that special place which would get them feeling all good for no reason at all.
You can learn more about anchoring positive emotions to other people through touch here.
It only takes a few simple questions and activities to truly change your day. If you change a good amount of days, before you know it you’ve changed your whole life.
Why not start off with one of these tools before bedtime with your significant other and see where it takes you? I’d love to hear your experiences so be sure to let me know in the comments if this has helped you in any way.