How to Increase Your Productivity. Now. 

I often reflect on how to get more out of the time I’m allotted each day. Both in work as well as my personal life. So I flipped on a favorite podcast this morning called ‘Freakonomics’, and a productivity expert named Charles Duhigg was on. Sweet right!

Panorama experiement 90 degrees

(I’ve heard cool photos equal more readers, so here’s one from reddit I like.)

I often reflect on how to get more out of the time I’m allotted each day. Both in work as well as my personal life. So I flipped on a favorite podcast this morning called ‘Freakonomics’, and a productivity expert named Charles Duhigg was on. Sweet right! 

Duhigg had interviewed over 400 people for his bestseller ‘Power of Habit’ and boiled down the 8 things that came up again and again:

1. Motivation: we trigger self-motivation by doing things that make us feel in control.

2. Focus: we train ourselves to pay attention to the right things and ignore distractions by building mental models and narrating to ourselves what’s going on around us.

3. Goals: we need both a stretch goal and a goal that we can achieve tomorrow morning.

4. Decision making: the best decision makers tend to think probabilistically of multiple hypothetical futures, then try to think of which one is most likely to occur.

5. Innovation: the most creative environments are the ones that allow people to take cliches and then mix them together in new ways. The people best at this have their feet in a few different worlds and can figure out which ideas will best click together.

6. Absorbing data: sometimes the best way to learn is by making data hard to absorb. The harder we have to work to understand an idea, the stickier it becomes.

7. Managing others: the best way to tap into an individual’s unique talent is by putting the person responsible for solving the problem, closest to the problem.

8. Teams: who is on a team matters much less than how a team interacts.

Now go get ’em.

Get the full interview from the Freakonomics podcast here: http://stitcher.com/s?eid=43881554&autoplay=1.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | 2 Comments

Want to stop Anxiety? Start here.

Feeling stressed? Anxious? Restless at night?

I feel ya. No fun.

That tightness in the stomach. Rushing thoughts. Waking up and not falling back to sleep.

Irritable. Frustrated. Shorter temper.

It afflicts a lot all of us. And can spiral until we are left angry, depressed, exhausted. Seemingly small things set us off. Activities that were once a ton of fun just don’t seem as exciting or interesting anymore.

It took me years to realize that I also carry anxiety. I have always had a pretty positive, worry-free outlook on the world. So, if you had asked me if I was worried or anxious, I probably would have grinned and said, “What’s that?!”

I can remember the moment when I realized that I carry anxiety. I was dabbling in some yoga, still not totally sure that it was my thing or that it was really worth $18 per class. The pose was pigeon, which is basically a big, not super fun, hip stretch. Here I am trying to look like I’m not hating it:

Jeremi in Pigeon Pose.jpg

 

The teacher told me to notice my breath. I thought, “I can’t. There’s so many important things going on in my head that I need to figure out and take care of!!” Suddenly I realized, that’s my anxiety. That’s me worrying about stuff. That’s me getting my panties in a bunch. That’s me thinking I can use my brain to fix that thing that I want to be different. (Spoiler alert: that never happens.)

When I begin to discover how much anxiety/stress/worry I walk around with all day, it got me curious about what to do about it. Essentially, what are some things I can do so that I carry less anxiety around and feel less affected by it. 

So that launched what’s now been a decade of exploring exercise, movement, meditation, breathwork, mindfulness, self-talk, and a host of other methodologies that have a tremendous amount of research behind them. As well as people incredibly dedicated to each.  Sure enough, I discovered there are some incredibly effective things we can do about our anxiety. And it doesn’t have to take that much time or effort.

Here are my three favorite tricks for calming anxiety:

  1. Three audible exhales. Let’s do this one together: inhale deeply through your nose, gently open your mouth, “aaaaaaahhhhhh.” Repeat. And once more. Notice how you feel? A touch calmer right. It actually releases happy drugs into your brain (namely serotonin and dopamine) and turns down your nervous system so that you are in less of a “fight or flight” mode.
  2. Somatic awareness. Notice what your right hand feels like. Temperature. Tingly perhaps. Then notice your feet. What they feel like. The pressure of your socks or if they are bare the feeling of what’s underneath them. Tune in to the space between your eye brows. If it’s tight, let it soften. You can continue doing this to any part of your body, or return to the same ones. The reason this works is because it soothes the nervous system and slows down the mind. It has been proven that we are unable to multi-task. So when you are focusing on what’s happening in different parts of your body, you can’t actually worry about that thing you were worrying about.
  3. Present moment. Tune in to what is happening at this very moment. The screen that you are looking at. The sounds you are hearing. How your body feels. The shape of your breath. In doing so, you’ve brought yourself away from the thing that is causing you anxiety and into this amazing moment right now. That thing you are feeling stressed about won’t go away by thinking about it, so you can give yourself a break and savor this splendid moment.

Okay, and before I close, I’ll share a few more quick tips. Specifically on sleep. Cuz I love me my sleep.

Difficulty sleeping? Insomnia or restlessness at night – and this may come as no surprise – is also a product of anxiety. And there are so many nights I’ve spent awake. Thinking. Worrying about that thing. Anxious.

I should say I used to. Oh, the anxiety and stuff to worry about is still there. Plenty of it. I’ve just learned how to manage it instead of letting it manage me. Result: my anxiety is down and my sleep is up.

Here’s how:

Beginner level: count your breaths. Start by trying to count 10 breaths. Then move up to 20. And so on. Initially the thoughts will make it difficult to get past 10 or so without forgetting where you are. Eventually, you’ll become a ninja and it will be time to move up to the intermediate level.

Intermediate level: feel your skin. Not by touching it with your hands. But by actually noticing what your skin is feeling like. What’s the temperature? Does it feel tingly? Can you feel the covers or clothing against your skin? When the thoughts come crowding back in, return your awareness to what your skin feels like.

Advanced level: “watch” the space between your eyebrows. While keeping your eyes closed at the same time. Sounds weird right. That’s why this is some advanced level @#%! It took me a while to figure this one out, so expect it to take a while to make sense. At first when you close your eyes and “look” at the screen on the back of your forehead, it will just look black. But over time, you will start to “see” colors and shapes. I’ve noticed since practicing this technique for about 8 years now, it gets me to sleep within 10 minutes or so. And that’s even when restlessness is in full effect.

Did you or have you tried any of this stuff? Got any other tips or tricks you’d add? I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line below in the comments, or reach out to me directly using one of the links below.

Anxiety. Stops. Now.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

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My Friendship is Broke… how do I fix it?

Scenario 1: Something’s off in the relationship. Ya know, that thing that just doesn’t seem to be working right. We’re not talking the way we used to. Things don’t feel as close. There’s this unspoken awkwardness when we meet. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is broke. 

Or…

Scenario 2: I’m upset with my friend so and so. They were a “@!#$” to me and I don’t like them anymore. I just can’t believe they did that to me! And I might not have told my friends about this yet but it actually hurts. I think about it and it makes me anxious and I’m not totally sure what to do about it. But I am sure that I’m pissed with them. 

Totally.

Normal.

(I know, “Phew!” right.)

Happens all the time. People constantly hurt people. Friends hurt one another. Sometimes it’s pretty much an accident and sometimes it’s kind of not. When it happens to us, we usually do one of three things:

Method 1. We get up in their faces, confront, get loud and angry, tell them where they screwed up, make four letter references in their direction. Really let them have it. Sure, given the advent of modern technology, this often occurs via text or the social media vehicle of choice.

Method 2. We never talk about it. Sure we keep seeing the person, maybe a little less often or in groups or whatever. We just pretend that the thing never happened. They might know about it, they might not. It kind of eats away at us. It certainly causes some distance in the relationship. And that distance usually grows.

Method 3. We pretty much cut off contact. It might be abrupt or more of a slow fade. The abrupt version is straight up, “I’m never talking to/texting/calling/social media-ing that person ever again.” The slow fade is being less responsive to their attempts to make contact, not being available when they want to do something together, being somewhat distant or aloof when we do see them, and so on. In my experience, this method is the most likely choice.

Outcome in any of the three scenarios equals no more friendship.

broken friendship glass

Boy, that’s a sad phrase even to read. Or maybe I’m just a softie.

Anywhoo, these three scenarios happen all the time. And are an absolute virus to relationships. The hurt or disconnection eventually rears up and does a number on that friendship we once had. With it continuing to fester, it begins to get impossible to have a strong, safe, connected relationship with the other person.

Well that sucks, I guess that’s it and it’s all over, huh?

It could be. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, there is a fairly clear cut path back to making the relationship right. And though clear cut, it’s not necessarily an easy one.

I’ll share the how by telling you a story. It begins in the little city/town I went to college in. And the other character in the story is my dear friend Eric. As well as a royal screwup on my part. So royal that his trust was broken and the friendship was over. It went down in the big confrontation kind of way, or scenario #1 from above. BIG being the key word of that sentence.

I didn’t really know what to do. I knew I had messed up. Albeit initially I was a little reluctant to admit to myself, or anyone else really, how royally I had done so.

Then it started to settle in that I had lost a best friend.

It hurt. With a poor choice on my part, a sequence of events were put into motion that brought our relationship crashing down. Initially I back-peddled a little with our mutual friends, sort of pretended like it wasn’t a big deal or that I hadn’t really done anything all that serious. I also tried to make contact with Eric. I was a little half-hearted and he was a little distant.

Then I let some time pass. Looking back, I’m on the fence about whether I made the right choice here. Part of me says I should have gone to Eric not long after breaking his trust, and vulnerably attempted to do a repair (more on this in a moment). The other part of me thinks that he would not have been ready for it, and time needed to do some healing before fixing the relationship really could happen.

Here’s the “how-to” on repairing a rift in a relationship (then I’ll share what happened with Eric and I).

Method A: If you hurt them.

  1. Get clear in your mind first, that you want to be in an apologetic, vulnerable, listening space. Remember, your only goal is to repair the relationship and this is the best mode to be in to do this. And I will say that this is a difficult mode to be in when you’re experiencing disconnection from someone, and likely feeling a little defensive and cautious.
  2. Reach out gently and set up the meeting on their terms. I’m a huge fan of taking a walk for these kind of conversations, but try to be open to whatever they suggest.
  3. Open by letting them know how much you value them and how sorry you are for hurting them. Then open up the space for them to really vent their feelings with a question like, “I’d love to hear what your experience was like, if you’re open to sharing?”
  4. Listen and validate. Then repeat. You will probably have a different experience of the events, and occasionally want to jump in with your side or to correct them. Instead, nod along and try to genuinely understand that this is their real experience of what happened.
  5. Apologize. Reflect back to them the injury you committed after the apology. “I’m realizing now how much I hurt you by not being there for you when you needed me, and I’m really sorry.”
  6. Reiterate how important they are to you and that you are committed to this friendship. Even if it takes a while for the trust to be built.

Method B: If they hurt you. 

  1. First, get clear in your mind that your goal is to repair relationship. It is not to retaliate, or to go in guns blazing and really let them have it. Also, we often just feel angry or frustrated with the person. See if you can find the hurt or sadness you are feeling that’s underneath, and what specific thing he or she did that’s causing you pain.
  2. Reach out from a place of compassion – if you can find any in there – and let them know you’d like to get together to talk. Did I mention I’m a big fan of taking walks for these convos? If they don’t want to get together or say that they are busy, give them some time before you reach out again.
  3. When you sit down together, they might launch right into their defenses. This won’t feel very good. They might also offer a weak apology, and rush into everything being alright again. However they decide to start, see if you can ask for what you need. “Hey, I’d love to share my side of what happened, as well as some feelings it stirred up. Would you be open to hearing about it?”
  4. Share what hurt you. Phrases like, “I feel…” and “In my experience…” are really helpful. Words like, “sad”, “hurt”, and “scared” are as well. Try to avoid getting angry and blamey. This will be hard. Words like “why”, and “should” are best left out of this conversation.
  5. Let them know what you need. It could be something you’d prefer they didn’t do or something you’d really appreciate from them. It might sound like, “In the future, it would mean a ton to me if you would…”. Then fill in the blank.
  6. Close the conversation with a gesture that let’s both of you know you are good again. A hug and a “Thanks a bunch, you mean a lot to me,” is a great example.

You will know that you’ve successfully repaired the relationship if things don’t feel weird the next few times you hang out with your friend. And if you are not still regularly thinking about whatever hurt occurred. If you do still feel weird around them and think about it pretty often, that’s your way of knowing the repair is incomplete. Return to step 1.

You could open that second conversation up with, “Hey, I know we talked about this already. I’m noticing I’m thinking about it quite a bit and still feeling hurt. Would you mind if we tried to unpack it a little more?”

Okay, to finish the story about Eric and I…

So for a few years we were a little distant. Had the cordial, “how ya doing?” type relationship. We both knew there was a big elephant (AKA hurt) in the room anytime we were together. As a result, there was not the closeness and connection we once knew.

Then one day it got really clear to me how important Eric had been in my life and that I really wanted to repair the relationship. So I reached out to him and we made a point to get some time in person together. I let him know that I had really messed up and broken his trust. I also shared how important he was to me and how bad I felt knowing that I’d hurt him.

Eric was really receptive to what I shared. He did let me know he had been hurt, and vulnerably let me in on what his experience had been during our disconnection. He also shared that he could have done things a little differently so that our rift would not have been so large. Lastly, Eric reiterated how important the relationship was to him and that he’d like to be strong friends again.

Last week I got together with him and it was so so good to see him and spend time together. I didn’t feel any weirdness around him and haven’t in the decade since we repaired our relationship. It feels so good having his friendship for almost half of my life, and even better knowing the storms we have weathered along the way.

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts, additions, subtractions. Leave them in the comments below or reach out to me directly at JeremiMcManus.com.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

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What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from Harvard’s 75 year study on happiness

“What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life?”

In a recent survey, 80% of millennials say that their major life goal is to get rich and another 50% said it’s to get famous.

We are constantly told that we need to work more and work harder to have a good life. Most of what we know is retrospective – asking people to look back on their lives. But we know that memory can be pretty creative and not very reliable.

So what if we could track people’s lives from the time they are teens through late in their lives to get a sense of what really keeps us happy and healthy?

The Harvard Study of Adult Development did exactly that. For 75 years, it tracked the lives of 724 men asking about their careers and what makes them happy, year after year. Most studies of this magnitude do not survive due to funding, and researchers either retiring or moving on to other projects.

This one did. And about 60 of the participants are still alive and still part of this study that is currently led by Robert Waldinger.

The study tracked two different groups of men. One was from the poorest and most disadvantaged families in Boston. The other group began as freshmen at Harvard College.

Over the course of their lives, these men went on to become bricklayers and lawyers and one the President of the United States. Some developed alcoholism, others schizophrenia. A few of the men climbed the social ladder to its highest rungs, others went the other direction.

To get the clearest picture of these men’s lives, the researchers scan their brains, talk to their children, get their medical records, and talk to the men in their living rooms. They are videotaped talking to their wives about their deepest concerns.

It turns out that the lessons learned from this work aren’t about wealth, or fame, or working harder and harder. The clearest lesson we’ve learned from 75 years in this study is this:

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

We’ve learned three important things from this study about relationships:

  1. Social connections are really good for us and loneliness kills. People who are more socially connected are happier, healthier, and live longer. Loneliness, meanwhile, is toxic. People who are isolated from others more than they want to be find that they are less happy, health declines earlier, and they do not live as long. Unfortunately more than 1 in 5 Americans report at some point in their lives that they are lonely.
  2. It is the quality of our relationships that matters. Living in the midst of a bad relationship has negative effects on our health. High-conflict marriages for example, are very bad on our health, perhaps even worse than getting divorced. Living in warm relationships has protective benefits on our health. Middle age cholesterol levels did not predict whether or not one of the men would become a healthy octogenarian. People who were the most satisfied with their relationships at 50, were the healthiest at age 80.
  3. Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. Being in a securely attached relationship in your 80s, those people’s memories stay sharper longer. It doesn’t mean the relationship was smooth all the time, it was that they knew they could really call on their partner in a time of need.

So why is this so hard? We want a quick fix. Relationships are messy and complicated and hard work. Not very sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. People in their 70s who were the happiest had worked hard to replace workmates with playmates after retirement.

So what about you?

There isn't time.jpg

The good life is built with good relationships.

[This blog is a summary of a terrific Ted talk by Dr. Robert Waldinger titled: “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness”, and the quotes are taken directly from him. Check it out here: http://go.ted.com/CmnD]

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus  is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | 1 Comment

A few things I learned & relearned in 2015

  1. Relationships are #1. Keep close the people who love you, invest in you, and are there for you. And remember to offer them all of the same… even when they forget sometimes.
  2. Occasionally you will have to let go of a relationship that’s not working for you. It might suck. But it does open up more space for you to invest in the ones that are there. It can be confusing to figure out the difference between the friends that are just human beings and accidentally hurt us vs. the people that we need to let go of. Here’s a simple way to figure out the difference: if you are feeling hurt by or upset with a friend, talk to them about it. I like to call it a “repair conversation”. If you are able to work through things together, you’ll likely discover that your relationship is stronger than before it all happened. If they don’t seem able to work through things with you, it might be time to say goodbye. (And if you ever feel yourself feeling unsafe with someone, this lets you know that one of those repair convos needs to happen.)
  3. There aren’t any shortcuts. Want to achieve something particularly physically challenging? Keep at it. Make a business successful? Keep at it. Create a lasting partnership? Yep, same three words. There’s no quick fix, magic diet, weekend intensive, life hack, (fill in the blank) that’s going to make anything worthwhile and lasting happen in your life.
  4. Those who love you do not care any less about you because you failed. In fact, let them know about it and they’ll probably care more. I was pretty anxious about sharing with someone really close to me that a business I launched was not going gangbusters as I hoped it would be. In fact, it had a bunch of months where it lost money. But I decided to share what was going on. And she said, “Oh, thanks for letting me know. Gosh, I bet that’s stressful sometimes.” It was amazing. She not only said she appreciated hearing about the thing that wasn’t going so well, she also validated what I was feeling inside. A thousand bucks wouldn’t have felt better.
  5. Those who love you do not care about you any more because you succeeded. Whether you got the promotion or published the book or landed the relationship or achieved the thing, no one who already loves you feels any differently. They just love and accept you. Period.
  6. Responsiveness always wins. We are wired for attachment, so we love it when people get back to us. In little ways like texts and facebook posts. And in big ways like showing up for meaningful moments in our lives or when we really need a shoulder to cry on. My sister was often difficult to get in touch with since she was busy with work and school and friends and romance and all the other stuff that fills up our lives at a certain age. Then she had kids. And as busy as I know she (still) is, she has become incredibly responsive. If she can’t pick up the phone, she texts, “Hey, can I call you when I put the kids down for a nap?” Man, this kind of stuff means the world to me. We talk more. I think of her more. And our relationship has just moved to a whole other level. So good.
  7. Our bodies function as well or as poorly as the quality of fuel we provide to power it. Eight hours sleep, lots of veggies/whole grains/proteins, daily movement, doing stuff we’re passionate about, and hang-time with our favorite people will fuel a pretty incredible rocketship. Moderating sugar/substances/junk food/toxic relationships/screen-time will keep this incredible machine firing at 100%.
  8. Technology is cool, but has rapidly diminishing returns. People and connections are absolute magic. If you’re ever unsure about this fact, look at your phone screen for a few seconds. Then do the same thing into the eyes of any human being you meet. I know, magical right?! I got a brand new computer for my birthday. Awesome, flashy, Apple, fast, and lots of other cool words. As I sit and type on it a few months later, I rarely notice any difference vs. my old computer which was slow, old, heavy and lots of other not so cool words. But every time I share a warm “Hello!” or a longer lasting convo with someone, my heart just lights up. Never. Gets. Old.
  9. Reducing the preferences and particulars you need to feel content sets you up for a whole lot of goodness. The more of life that breezes by, the more specific we get about what we like, how we want things to go, and the preferences we have. Unfortunately, this sets us up for a lot of anxiety and disappointments. As one of my mentor’s voices often rings in my ear, “Life gets pretty easy if you don’t have any preferences.”
  10. Being judgy is easy but just doesn’t feel that great. On the other hand, being compassionate and seeing that beautiful detail you might have missed feels fantastic.
  11. Climbing a mountain is pretty daunting. You’ll notice though, that taking a few steps up a hill makes that mountain not seem as tall. Quick story: I sat down to write a book this past summer but felt remarkably scared/uncertain/lazy about doing it. So I decided instead to just write for a little bit then shut my computer and wait a day or two until writing a little more. About 4 months later I was looking at a completed rough draft of my first book.
  12. Set incredibly small goals. Big ones don’t get completed and leave us feeling more dejected than when we started. For example, I’ve always been intimidated as #$% at the idea of sitting still for any length of time. Then a buddy of mine did a sit for 10 days. Something like 13 hours of sitting still each day. (I know, “Yikes!” right.) For 2015, I decided I’d try to sit still and watch my breath for 4 minutes a day. Since that was actually successful, I’m proud to announce I’m bumping that number way up. You ready: all the way up to 5 minutes a day.
  13. We are tribal. Sure, there’s tens of thousands of years of history and anthropology to reflect this, but we don’t even need to get into all that. I just know it cuz I feel it. We like to share the errata of our lives and for people to let us know it matters. Then ask us about it next time we see them. And laugh about stuff we have in common. And gather around a table for a bite or a beverage. And lament that challenge. And high-five that success. Sure, our tribe needs regular investments. But man, the dividends it pays out are just ridiculously good.
  14. Try doing that thing for a few minutes or even seconds longer than you thought you could. I bet you’ll surprise yourself. Three years ago I set a personal goal to be able to do a certain type of inversion (handstand press-ups in case you’re a fellow enthusiast). Today I still cannot do this kind of inversion. But thanks to a dear teacher in my life, I’ve discovered I could hold handstand for a couple seconds longer than I thought I could. Then those seconds eventually turned into a whole breath. And as breath has now become breaths, I am confident that handstand press-ups are in my future. I’ll keep you posted:)
  15. Beauty is all around us.
  16. We humans are crazy resilient.
  17. Everyone has a story.
  18. I’m worth it. You are worth it.
  19. Closeness and intimacy beats distance and disconnection 10 times out of 10.
  20. We are getting older.
  21. When we shave away the outer layers, we are incredibly similar.

Happy 2016 to you.

What did you discover & rediscover in 2015? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus  is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mathematically Verifiable Tips for Finding Long-term Love

Love and mathematics. They are two words that don’t initially appear to be a good fit, yet, according to famed British mathematician Dr Hannah Fry – and a bunch of her fellow numerical and statistical geniuses – these two words are an absolutely perfect match. Like true love itself.

In fact, Dr Fry and Co’s faith in the combination of mathematics and affairs of the heart is so great, she goes so far to suggest that math can not only help you find and attract the perfect partner, it can also help you keep them.

And, incredibly, she appears to be correct. Very correct.

In her recent TED talk The Mathematics of Love (link below), Dr Fry concedes that “love doesn’t really work that way. Human emotion  isn’t neatly ordered or rational or easily predication but I also know that doesn’t’ mean mathematics doesn’t have something to offer us.

However, she continues, “Love, as with most of life, is full of patterns and mathematics is, ultimately, all about the study of patterns.

“I believe mathematics is so powerful, it has the potential to offer us a new way of looking at almost anything, even something as mysterious as love.”

So, Dr Fry has combined her exemplary mathematic skills, knowledge and experience with the work of fellow mathematicians, economists and psychologists to unearth “mathematically verifiable” tips for finding long-term love.

[pictures.4ever.eu] couple on the grass, hug, happy couple 156559

No.1: How to win at online dating

Those of us who’ve tried our hand at online dating instinctively know to put our best foot –and face – forward. We only write the most flattering things about ourselves and highlight our best features and attributes, and, it should go without saying, that we use only our best photographs. After all, we’re trying to look as attractive as possible to a possible mate, aren’t we?

However, as widespread and sensible this behavior may be, the data says this approach is wrong. In fact, Dr Fry says all this data proves that appearing too attractive on an online dating website may actually be a disadvantage, so it’s best to appear ‘normal,’ ugly even.

She cites statistics shared by the folk at dating site OkCupid, which was started by mathematicians who constantly tweak the site and hone its matching algorithms based on data, almost a decade’s worth. This data shows that if your image is too beautiful, you won’t necessarily receive the most messages requesting contact, but that you’re better off with an average-looking presence.

Yes, how successful your profile will be isn’t based on how many people find you very attractive, but the overall average spread of how attractive – or unattractive, people find you. So, if viewers consider you too attractive (say a 5/5), they may avoid contacting you assuming their chances of success will be lower, whereas if you’re average looking (perhaps a 3/5 or a 2/5), they would instantly feel they’d have a better chance of success with you and, therefore, feel more confident contacting you.

So, it’s actually more beneficial to receive lots of 3/5s and 2/5s and you may still end up with the same average as someone who received fewer 5/5s or 4/5s.

As such, ditch that Photoshopped image and “play up to whatever it is that makes you different,’’ says Dr Fry. “Even if you think that some people will find that unattractive because the people who fancy you will fancy you anyway!”

See, “how attractive you are does not dictate how popular you are and, actually, having people think that you are ugly can work to your advantage.’’

No.2: How to pick the perfect partner

Ok, so you’ve received lots of requests and have met someone nice. How do you convert that to long-term happiness?

Toss a coin? Maybe not. Go with your gut? That usually works! Maths? Yep, you’ve probably got a better chance of getting it right.

Take a ‘typical’ person who might start dating aged 15 and hopes to married by the time they’re 35. They’ll date a number of people, but know that the first few are, unlikely, keepers. This is the period in your life where you’re learning about relationships and how to act within them and are, basically, learning the lay of the land of love.

The thing is, this is also about the time you need to start implementing a little Optimal Stopping Theory, which suggests that you automatically reject the first 37% of suitors as long-term mates, then pick the very next person who’s “better than anyone you’ve seen before” as the one you marry. Apparently, this is the mathematically proven way to maximize your ability to choose the perfect partner.

Of course, this theory doesn’t work if your perfect partner appears in the first 37%, or if the first 37% are horridly dull and virtually undateable because the next person may only be marginally less dull, in which case you’re stuck with them for life.

But, says Fry, this 37% formula is so spot on, it’s even found in the wild with certain species of wild fish using this exact same strategy to find a mate. The thing is, as crazy as this sounds, us humans actually do this sub-consciously anyway!

“We give ourselves time to play the field when we’re young and then we only start looking seriously for potential marriage candidates in mid 20s to 25, so everyone’s brains are prewired to be just a little bit mathematical anyway.”

No.3: How to avoid divorce

Ok, you’ve used Optimal Stop Theory to marry your perfect mate, but now how do you avoid becoming the one in every two marriages that ends in divorce?

Argue. Regularly.

Yes, you read that correctly. In 2003, psychologist John Gottman recorded the conversations of hundreds of couples as well as factors such as facial expressions and heart rates and discovered that it was possible to predict the future success of their relationships based on how positive or negative each partners were being during the conversations.

The couples with the lowest risk of breaking up were most positive with each other in their conversations, while those who found themselves in ‘spirals of negativities’ rated more highly for a potential to break up. Once Professor Gottman teamed with mathematician James Murray, they were able to predict the future of these relationships with about 90 per cent accuracy.

The result of this research was a rather complex looking equation based on the mood of each person when they were alone, when they were with their partner and, most importantly, how much the husband and wife influenced each other during these conversations.

Dr Fry notes that, ironically, this same equations perfectly predict what happens between two countries in an arms race. “So,’’ she says, only half-jokingly “an arguing couple spiraling into negative and teetering on the brink of divorce is actually mathematically equivalent to the beginning of a nuclear war!”

The Negativity Threshold, which can, roughly be explained as how annoying a husband can be before the wife becomes annoyed (or vice versa), determines how likely the couple are to divorce. Though you’d think the best relationships were those where couples let things go and had a high negativity threshold, this isn’t true. The maths, however, show the exact opposite is.

“The best couples have a low threshold. They don’t let anything go unnoticed and allow each other room to complain… and they have a much more positive outlook on their marriage… they don’t let trivial things being a really big deal. “It’s quite interesting to know that there is really mathematical evidence to say that you should never let the sun go down on your anger!”

So, it seems that maths and love are, indeed, the most perfect of partners and, by taking Dr Fry’s learnings to heart, you can be too.

[Hannah Fry’s terrific Ted Talk on which this blog post is based is called The Mathematics of Love and can be found here.]

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus  is a Relationship CoachPsychotherapist, and Couples Therapist who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

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3 Things We Can Learn from Successful Couples About Relationships

I started reflecting yesterday on what this last decade of working with couples and relationships has taught me about creating successful friendships.

Young couple holding hands

I started reflecting yesterday on what this last decade of working with couples and relationships has taught me about creating successful friendships.

Three tools quickly surfaced. Simple, powerful and effective for creating the kind of closeness and connection that each of us desire in our relationships.

1. Invest. I love the analogy that Stephen Covey uses in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” as he equates relationships to bank accounts. He points out that much like bank accounts, we are asked to take a risk and make an investment before we can make a withdrawal of capital.

Investing relational capital has many forms: call a friend out of the blue to see how they are doing, let someone you really appreciate know it, or surprise a pal with flowers. Then, when you need to withdraw on that relational capital—a favor or a listening ear, you’ve got a friend who will be there. And much like financial capital, the ability to withdraw increases as the friendship is matured through time and ongoing investments.

2. Choose them. One of my mentors, also a couple’s therapist of 30+ years, once shared with me that the primary thing that successful couples do is choose one another. Conversely, she has noticed that the ones who stop choosing one another begin to fall apart, and experience so much pain and heartache in the process.

So, in moments when one partner would rather do an alternative activity (i.e. eat at some other restaurant or not bother with the dishes), they choose instead to do what their partner has requested. In doing so, their chosen partner feels like a priority and the relationship is provided the nourishment it needs to continue thriving.

Platonic relationships are incredibly parallel. A dear friend of mine comes to mind who consistently makes me a priority. He answers the phone when I call, or if he can’t, texts me right away to let me know he will call back soon. I love that. He is always game for my favorite type of food—Northern Indian, by the way—even though it’s not the top one on his list. If he tells me he will be there for a get-together that I’m having he always is, regardless of other demands on his schedule. I feel constantly chosen by him and in turn I choose him back. Herein lies the success of our relationship.

3. Altruism. This is one of my favorite practices, and comes from psychologist and relationship master John Gottman. As a way to increase intimacy and reduce conflict in relationships, he suggests that couples look at what their partner is doing through an altruistic lens.

In other words, we choose to believe that the intention of their action was intending good rather than harm. In day to day living, this altruistic lens sees our friend’s lateness as a result of bad traffic rather than because we are not a priority to them. It sees a forgotten birthday because our friend had a busy day and it simply slipped their mind. When they forget to pick up the ice we requested for the party, we choose to believe they just spaced and forgot instead of believing that the oversight means we don’t matter to them.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Looking for the quick summary? Here you go:

Invest in friends so that they will be there for you in the future, choose your friends so that they know they are a priority and watch those friendships flourish, see everything your friends do–even things that you initially perceive as hurtful–through a lens of altruism and kindness, and you will experience less hurt and more joy in your relationships.

Happy connecting.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus  is a Relationship CoachPsychotherapist, and Couples Therapist who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

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