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April 25, 2019

How to Build Interpersonal Synchronization in Your Relationship

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Couples often find themselves in a rut in which bickering and frustration become the norm. They’re so exhausted by the demands of work, family, kids and personal commitments that they have no patience left for one another. Or they’ve allowed small frustrations to build up without addressing them so they snap at one another over seemingly innocuous things. It follows that many couples desire a reset. They want to start over with a blank slate, but despite the intension, they struggle to reconnect.

Jess joined Jeff & Carolyn this morning on Global TV’s The Morning Show. She walked them through an exercise she tends to use on couples, but she made an exception this time. Here’s how you do it:

  • Sit or lie next to one another with your foreheads touching and start to breathe in sync for eleven deep breaths.
  • It will likely feel a little weird and distracting at first (and if you don’t brush your teeth you might feel self conscious), but as you slip into the 3rd and 4th breath, you’ll likely start to feel more relaxed and close to another.

Research shows that when you touch your partner, you experience a physiological ‘interpersonal synchronization’ – your heart rates and breathing rates sync and pain subsides.

Skin conductance, a common way to track how physiologically arousal – also syncs when you sit close to your partner.

So go ahead and get in sync. And if it takes longer than 11 breaths to sync up, that’s okay. Stress from the day, distractions, work, your mood, your general health — all of these factors can play role in connection, so don’t put pressure on yourselves to feel the results right away. You can try it a few times and see how it affects you or try it again tomorrow if today just isn’t right.

You breath affects your mood and physiological state:

When we breathe in less oxygen, our body and cells also receive less oxygen, forcing our heart to work harder to pump oxygen throughout the body. Our lung capacity naturally declines with age, starting at age 30 and By the age of 50, our lung capacity may be reduced by up to 50 percent. BUT you can improve lung capacity and one of the ways to do so is through breathing exercises.

Breathing is elemental to activating the relaxation response, which is a positive physical state of deep rest considered the opposite of our stress-induced flight or fight response. Harvard physician Herbert Benson’s research suggests that this response gives rise to a sense of calm, pleasure, refreshment, and overall well-being as your blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones decrease. As your mind is cleared of clutter and your levels of anxiety and stress plummet, your body becomes primed to respond to physical and sexual stimuli.

Follow-Up Questions…

1. For people at work, how can they reset?

  • Look for social and interactive opportunities that don’t specifically intersect with work (e.g. team building, lunchtime games, social gatherings) so that you can see your co-workers in a different light. They’re not just the person who tends to interrupt in meetings, they’re also a dad who loves classical music and is struggling with a divorce.
  • Move out of your environment. Take a meeting walking in the neighbourhood or in a park. Creativity and empathy can increase when you simply move around.

2. How can friends reset when they’re feeling tense or experiencing friction?

  • We’re often not as clear about our boundaries and needs with our friends as we are with our intimate and business partners, so an airing of grievances can help. You’re more likely to be conflict-avoidant with a friend than with your spouse, but this hinders intimacy, so speak up when something is bothering you. Talk about the past so that you can let it go and look to the future.