As you know, Vida is celebrating its 10th year creating love and magic for singles. A 2015 survey found that 89% of Americans like to celebrate the birthdays of loved ones and those close to them, and I suspect this applies to large part of the world, but how about you.. do you enjoy celebrations and a good old knees-up? Or are you of the mindset of ‘why bother’?’ ‘What’s the fuss?’
Well, research shows that celebrations bring people together, eliciting a sense of connection with those around and momentarily punctuating the daily grind, I mean, daily routine. It is a direct contribution to our mental well-being. Not only does the act of connecting with others foster a sense of belonging, but also, and perhaps more crucially, it gives us an opportunity to feel cheerful or excited about something pending. Positive anticipation, however small, contributes to us feeling more upbeat and energised. Even if you don’t like celebrating your birthday, a small part of you is likely to feel happy at the thought of it even if it is for a brief moment.
Think of our mental state as a battery, it can be fully charged, totally sapped or somewhere in between. When fully charged, you are likely to make better decisions, tolerate difficult people, be more alert and focused, feel more enabled and confident. A drained battery leads you down a more pessimistic path, where you are less able to contain your anger, frustrations and stress, you feel more despondent and hopeless about life, more tired or agitated and generally low. In psychology we call this battery ‘ego strength’, some refer to it as will power.
I did a study once on ego strength and the effects of breaks and pauses in the workplace. It showed that taking breaks during the work day contributed to people feeling better able to do their work than if they took no, or had very few, breaks. Sleep resets ego strength, but there are additional actions you can take to restore or ‘charge’ your ego strength while you are awake. Taking breaks is one, going on a restful holiday or celebrating something are others. A full battery, or abundance in ego strength, otherwise sapped by work deadlines, unruly kids, energy vampires, impossible traffic, bills, to do lists, fears and worries etc. can be partially restored by what we might call positive psychology practices, such as mindfulness, grounding, acceptance, appreciation and gratitude.
The principle applies very much in relationships too. Psychotherapist Esther Perel highlights the importance of creating rituals (as opposed to routines) within the romantic relationship to keep desire and passion from dying out. She says “Routines are concrete repetitive actions that help us develop skills while creating continuity and order. Rituals are routines elevated by creativity, driven by intention, and imbued with meaning.” We need to practice and honour the celebrations and rituals we create in order to fully appreciate and make full use of the joy we can harvest to get through an otherwise unpredictable and challenging life.
Essentially we need to invest into our relationships through play, curiosity and imagination and perhaps most interestingly, the anticipation of these things. The twist being that it may not be so much the holiday or celebration you take, but the anticipation of it that is the true ‘happiness generator’ or ‘ego strength filler’. If you think about it, this is why westerners feel happier about Fridays than Sundays. Fridays have the anticipation of a couple of days off, whereas Sundays remind you of the looming work week ahead. Studies show that the value of anticipation increases the sense of value we have for something and that waiting for the event generates an experience of pleasure and joy. Nevertheless the act of coming together mindfully on an activity that requires your full attention, which breaks the daily stress or the hum drum, and also recharges your ego strength. Double whammy. Positive anticipation of celebrations and rituals plus the actual indulgence in them.
So what sorts of things are these in romantic relationships? I asked the team and their partners what relationship rituals they engaged in to keep their passion with each other alive. Here are some of the responses:
- Dancing! We dance all the time. During Covid it’s been tough because there hasn’t been live music, however we made due with cranking up the volume and busting out moves in the kitchen. Sticky notes – we do this one often! I have a collection of notes from him that he would leave around the house, and I’d do the same.
- Lots of cuddles, we have regular music nights in – play records, have a drink and dance. Make each other hot drinks in the evenings.
- We are affectionate with each other. We always go to bed together and say I love you…for some reason, that feels like the best ritual we could have. She’s incredibly easy to keep on falling in love with.
- Cheeky weekends away. Spontaneous texts to say “I love you” and planned date nights.
- He is better than me at rituals! He brings tea every morning and comes to say goodnight before I go to sleep (we have different bed times!) We always hug/kiss before one of leaves or arrives. Our relationship is strongly built on respect and fun. We both talk about our work a lot, finances, our goals etc. We bounce ideas off each other a lot. We make time to play games every week- this brings out the fun and non-work side of us.
- Making small things special such as lighting candles and getting nice wine for dinner at home, putting together a really lovely bath with music and our favourite books. Intentional quality time.
- Cooking for each other, buying each other gifts, cuddling, hugging, kissing, spending time together, watching Netflix, traveling
- Sharing tunes we like. Spooning. And also NSFW (not safe for work!!)
Each couple have different ways they adopt rituals with each other, but most importantly they do things that charge the relationship with energy and passion.
Now if you are reading this and thinking ‘but I don’t have a partner’, don’t despair, please use this information to ensure that when you meet someone you can apply this knowledge straight away. All too often I find that my clients assume that their partner knows that they are loved. We need to constantly check in and top up each other’s relationship-strength (I made that word up, but you know what I mean, we have ego-strength to look after, and a great source of ego-strength is when your relationship is looked after). If you are in a relationship and feel that you are not as happy in it as you would like to be, perhaps try curating rituals together, allow to celebrate one another. Perhaps create an anniversary you can indulge in; go ahead and boost your mood, relationship and mental. Get in touch today.