Want to fix a relationship(link is external) and get closer to your children, sister or brother, parents, or friends? Feeling close to our loved ones feels good. It’s neurochemical; each moment of connection spurts oxytocin into your system. Oxytocin is a chemical your body generates that: makes you feel good; promotes bonding; and enhances your sense of self-confidence and security.
Secure close-feeling attachments with friends and family members are enhanced when we do things together. Oxytocin rises in our body at these times, giving us a sense of safety, of belonging, of feeling valued, and of being part of something bigger than ourselves.
As fellow PT blogger Loretta Breuning writes, even animals like to feel connected. Their oxytocin leads them to pair-bond and form packs, flocks, and troops because being connected with others helps with finding food, raising offspring, and surviving predators.
So how can you enhance your friendship and family connections for all-the-more secure feelings of closeness?
Start by clearing the state if there are any negatives you’ve been fostering, like criticizing or being irritable. Apologize for these, and figure out how to cease doing them in the future. The residue from hostile interactions can block positive energy from being welcomed.
Once potential blockages have been cleaned up, you’re ready to increase the shared words, activities, and body contact that can enhance feelings of connection, and of being special to each other. Here are 10 ways to get there:
- Words. Talking together helps people feel closer. Interweaving ideas creates a sense of partnership. So does sharing information about more private feelings like fears, concerns, and affection. When people say, “We have a great relationship,” it usually means, “We like to talk with each other.” Pay particular attention to sentence starters that send positive vibes like, “I agree,” and “Yes…” These words weave you together as you talk. So do questions about others’ thoughts and feelings, especially if your questions begin with How or What: “How do you feel about…?” What‘s your thinking about …?”
- Verbalize the positives that you think or feel. Expressions of gratitude glue all relationships closer—parent-child, friends, couples, and spouses. So do expressions of agreement. (For more on positivity in relationships, see my post on 10 Ways to Radiate Positivity.)
- Shared time in almost any activities enhances bonds. Painting a room puts two people in close physical proximity in addition to giving them a shared project. Cooking, eating, and cleaning up together all intensify feelings of partnership. Sitting on a child’s bed at night is an especially high-impact moment for bonding.
- Enjoyment Any kind of shared fun builds closeness. People who laugh together like being together. Enjoyment doesn’t need to cost money; it’s not dependent on “entertainment,” though doing together things that are entertaining can do the trick. Hanging out after dinner and sharing stories of what each of you did during the day can work just as well.
- Newness and fright. Slightly anxiety-producing activities, and any activities that feature newness, like going to a different restaurant, or travel, have an especially strong bonding impact.
- Helping each other strengthens bonds. “Here, let me carry those grocery bags,” goes a long way to enhancing partnership feelings. As my astute sister recently said to me regarding how long it is taking me to stop tearing up when I think about my father, who died last year, “We feel especially close to those we take care of.”
- Skin-to-skin. An arm around your loved one’s shoulder, a touch of hands, standing or even sleeping side-by-side, or a bit of cheek-to-cheek pleasure, all induce increases in affection and connection.
- Eye contact. Eyes that meet are especially potent inducers of a spurt of oxytocin, the chemical that creates feelings of connection. How often to you look straight into the eyes of your loved ones? Maybe try to add eye-kissing to your exit and re-entry routines in the morning and evening?
- Shared smiles. Smiling, especially with simultaneous eye contact, increases feelings of closeness.
- For couples, sexual enjoyment. When loved ones are a couple, the ultimate producer of oxytocin is from activity that connects them sexually. If sexual activity decreases to excessive infrequency, or dies off altogether, beware: It then becomes critical to pump up all the other ways of connecting, lest the core connection itself wither and become too frail.