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How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science

How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science
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If you are in a long-term relationship, have you ever wondered about what really makes it work? Is there actual scientific evidence showing that honesty, commitment, and romantic feelings all contribute in a positive way to a relationship? The answer is that there is a lot of psychological research which backs all this up. Here are 9 scientific finding that can help improve your relationships. Science to the rescue again!

1. How committed are you?

How many times have you heard your friends say there was no commitment from the other partner? This is a very common explanation as to why relationships end.

What does commitment mean in real terms? It means that you and your partner will be able to weather any storm,  are in it for the long haul, and will support each other, come what may. It is the true mark of a great team where the health of the relationship is put first and the individual partner in second place.

There is a very interesting article in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin which backs this up. The researchers, Arriaga and Agnew, found that the idea of being in it for the long term was an essential element to a stable and lasting relationship.

2. Is a kiss just a kiss?

Research on our nearest animal relatives, the chimpanzees, shows that kissing is a much more powerful bonding element than we may have thought. There are powerful physical changes which take place. For example, a passionate kiss can set off a whole chain of chemical reactions which involve hormones and neurotransmitters which start rushing through us. Dopamine is one of the most powerful neurotransmitters set off by a kiss and can put you on a very natural high. Adrenaline and serotonin are also triggered into action.

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Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between the frequency of kissing and the quality of the relationship. The more the merrier.

3. Viewing your partner as an attachment figure

The supreme example of an attachment figure for a child is a loving parent. That is the figure to whom s/he turns to seek validation and support. Siblings and friends can also be important attachment figures. A similar process happens when you form a romantic relationship with someone. It is made stronger by physical intimacy and bonding. These figures fill the spaces in our lives and they are the first we seek out to celebrate our successes and console us in our failures. The stronger the attachment, the better the chances are of the relationship being a stable and a happy one.

4. Do you have positive illusions about your partner?

 “Love is not blind-It sees more and not less, but because it sees more it is willing to see less.” – Will Moss

Most people would say that if you have any illusions about your partner this might prove to be negative in the long run. But science has shown that the opposite may be true. Romantic love is full of positive illusions which makes you see an idealized version of your partner. But is this healthy and wise?

A positive image is typical at the beginning of a relationship but time will reveal your partner’s defects, bad habits, and other negative features. Studies show that the more you know, the less you are likely to stay in love. Certainly, this is true for divorcees who shudder when they think how on earth they could have fallen head over heels in love with him or her.

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Research is now favoring the view that certain positive illusions can help the relationship to last the longest. Studies show that these couples argue less and are happier.

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” – Ingrid Bergman

5. How independent are you?

Most relationships seem to function better when there is a certain amount of autonomy in the relationship and the couple feel they do not have to act in tandem all the time. There is no feeling of coercion in making choices. You may want time and space to pursue a hobby or interest or even meet with friends.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want makes it very clear in her book how autonomy can lead to less stress and greater happiness.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”- Socrates

6. Have you told any lies today?

Normally, lying is considered toxic for any relationship, as it can erode any trust you may have built up. Psychologists, however, draw a distinction between two types of lying.

The first is anti-social lying and here you can lie to manipulate a situation in your favor or simply to deceive your partner. This is always regarded as a betrayal of trust and can destroy a relationship

The second type is called pro-social lying and this is where you lie to avoid breaking bad news at the wrong time or simply to avert a nasty situation or not to hurt your partner’s feelings. This is regarded with tolerance and is often known as a ‘white lie.’ Sometimes these lies can help to protect a relationship from breaking up. This was the conclusion reached by researchers led by Robin Dunbar at Oxford University.

7. Never underestimate the power of physical affection

Did you know that a calming hormone called oxytocin is released when we kiss, hold hands, or simply hug each other, and also when orgasm is reached during sex? The physical benefits can only enhance feelings of well-being and will be an important element in helping to build a happy and more stable relationship. It is also important in reinforcing a sense of trust which is crucial for any long-term liaison. Physical contact is a boon. Studies show that there is a very strong link between high-quality relationships and frequent physical contact.

8. A great investment for your health

Experts are now telling us that it is well worth your while to dedicate time and effort in building a stable and long-lasting relationship such as marriage or other type of civil partnership. Why? The physical and mental health benefits are so great that they will positively affect your quality of life and help you live longer

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Researchers at Cardiff University say that women benefit from better mental health while men seem to be physically healthier. They regard it as a sound investment and well worth the effort.

9. Learn how to grow the relationship

Probably the biggest threat to any stable relationship is the risk of getting into a rut. Following the same old routine in going out, in lovemaking, and in eating guarantees that boredom will set in. Boredom is like a virus and often takes a hold resulting in dissatisfaction and conflict.

The statistics do not lie on this one. Relationships are more relaxed and happier when new things are explored together. Simple things like having a regular date night may appeal to some couples or taking up a new hobby together can set the tone for discovering new and wonderful things in your life.

Let us know in the comments how you manage to improve your relationships.

Featured photo credit: couple in love in autumn via shutterstock.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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