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  1. - "Hi! Sorry, I’m late." - "You are always late and unreliable!!" - "Oh really?! That’s because you want to meet at impossible hours!!" - "Why do I even try to be on time?! You egoist!!" - "I hate you!" - "I hate you more!!” Personal relationships and conflict Personal relationships contribute to our happiness. But sometimes things can go wrong: we say and do things that create conflict between our loved ones and us.  There is a way to avoid or resolve conflicts, developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, Non-Violent Communication, or NVC. How does this method work, and how does it help us to be happier in our relationships?  "I care."  "I am concerned."  "I understand."  "I sympathise.” Non Violent Communication and Compassion NVC is based on the idea that we all have the capacity for compassion, and that we only use violence or harmful behaviour when we don’t have a more effective way to meet our needs. It tries to find a way for everyone to get what matters, without the use of coercive or manipulative language.  "I want to be loved."  "I want to show I feel with you."  "I want to be seen."  "I want to be happy.” Three aspects of communication NVC focuses on three aspects of communication:  self-empathy [awareness of your own experience]; empathy [understanding of the other with your heart]; honest self-expression [expression that inspires compassion in others]. Four aspects of Non Violent Communication Practitioners of NVC focus in their communication on four aspects:  Observation: what are you seeing, hearing or touching, without evaluating or judging? Feelings: what are your emotions, without thoughts or stories added? Needs: what do you desire, without thinking of the strategy to get there? Requests: what specific action would you like to ask, without demanding it? Constructing our communication using NVC The components of NVC work together. A typical NVC way of expressing something would be:  When you do A [observation] ... … I feel B [feelings] ... … because I want C [needs] ... … I would appreciate it if you would be willing to do D [request]. "When you are late, I feel neglected, because I want to use my time well. I would appreciate it if you could let me know when you’re running late.” NVC is useful for connecting with others and living in a way that is conscious, present, and in tune. And that, in the end, makes up all happier!  Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  2. What does happiness mean to you? Every person is their own world, so every answer is different: you may conjure up a memory, I may think of one person - some even relate it to a smile or a laugh. But how often does happiness make you think of others? The study asked 521 female participants the following question:  “What three words come to mind when you think of happiness?” While not the most original question, a new study titled "What does happiness prompt in your mind? - Culture, word choice, and experienced happiness", conducted between Korea and the United States, shows that it may be worth to sit down and ask ourselves this question more often. The method used in this study was free-association, shown to be an accurate indicator of one’s own self, and in it, evidence surfaced that one type of answer mattered more than others, when it comes to happiness. Unsurprisingly, it’s not money, success, fame, glamour, nor is it, sadly, raindrops on roses or warm woollen mittens. Rather, the most revealing words are social words, interpersonal words - in short, those related to other people. While knowing how often you associate these words with happiness seems to be a telling indicator of how happy you might be, the good news is that you can choose who these other people are (meaning that you can build your own social circle). This phenomenon seems to exist in a positive feedback loop, where fuelling social behaviour - especially helping others - may be the key to a higher life satisfaction. Words Associated With Happiness The study, conducted by the Yonsei University in Korea and the University of California, Santa Barbara (by researchers Ji-Eun Shin and Eunkook M. Suh, and Kimin Oem and Heejung S. Kim respectively) asked 521 female participants from both countries the following question: “What three words come to mind when you think of happiness?”  The test was conducted as a free association task, meaning that subjects were to produce some words (in this case, three) that came to mind related to a prompted cue (in this case, the word “happiness”). Researchers focused on answers they categorised as “social:” These social words, as viewed by the researchers, were ones that simply referred to things like interpersonal relationships. Some examples of the words used were:  for abstract values (e.g., “love") specific person (e.g., “friend" or “family") relationships (e.g., “dating”) The Ties That Bind Out of 1,563 words in total, Koreans wrote down social words more often (42% of the time) as opposed to Americans, who associated social words with happiness only 32% of the time. The most common word among Korean participants was also a social word (“family”) compared to the American words “smile” and “laugh.” Even when looking specifically at Americans’ preferred social words, they tended to be more on chosen social ties, with the words “friends” and “friendship.” This difference between our ideas of happiness is not new and had even been predicted by the researchers. What’s more, the study further mirrored findings that connected loneliness to a lack of family ties in collectivist societies, like in Korea, whereas in America loneliness was more often associated with a lack of friends and confidants.  Rather, the central question to be tested was whether participants who used more social words associated with happiness were in fact happier. It turns out; the answer is yes.  “In both cultures, those who mentioned more social words enjoyed significantly higher life satisfaction,” reported the researchers. This suggests that “defining happiness in social terms is beneficial to happiness in both cultures,” conclude researchers, adding that: The current finding affirms in a novel way that social experience is indeed a core block of happiness. So, how can we move towards greater social connection (whatever that may mean to you) and consequently, towards a happier life? The answer may be simple. Participants who had a higher incidence of social words and a higher reported level of happiness also reported engaging in activities to help others more often, and previous studies have shown that altruistic activities seem to make us happy. While researchers acknowledge that the results of this study are mostly correlative, not causative, they suggest that participating in such activities will start a positive feedback loop. Thereby making you happier, teaching you to associate happiness with social connectivity, leading you to seek out and provide social support, causing you to be happier, and so on. Have We Studied This Before? Happiness, its causes, and its components have long been a source of research interest. In academia, there has been extensive documentation and widespread agreement "that positive social experience is one of the most significant predictors of happiness,” write Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim. Some researchers even go as far as to suggest that social experience was the only condition for happiness, other than the absence of psychopathology (Diener and Seligman, 2002).  Previously used methods have been yes/no questionnaires, or longer, free-form essays; while both accurate to an extent, these methods often proved either too restrictive or not enough so. While seemingly simple, free-association, on the other hand, has yielded powerful results in the world of psychology, proving itself an accurate predictor of personality aspects and demographic characteristics. This is because according to researchers:  Words that are called up when we think about happiness are a sort of cognitive “package,” created based on our upbringing, culture, and personal experiences.  Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim’s work also asked participants to report on their level of happiness and social involvement. Global happiness was measured using the most widely used method, the Cantril’s Self-Anchoring Scale, while the rest of the study focused on establishing "the person’s level of interest, desire, and competence for developing a relationship with others,” with concepts like:  emotional support belonging loneliness optimism efficacy interpersonal closeness How Others Make You Happier Researchers Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim specify that their study is to be taken as a complement to previous work, noting that the primary objective is to draw a parallel between "beliefs about happiness and how they relate to actual experiences of happiness,” by delving into two countries’ deeply-held beliefs about the subject.  So, does linking happiness to social relationships give you a more positive outlook on life? Not necessarily. The study showed that in both ascribed (e.g. “family”) and self-chosen (e.g. “friends”) relationships, there was no difference in optimism by those who used more social words. However, these subjects reported feeling significantly less lonely, as researchers Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim note: "They believed that their selves overlapped more with others, desired more social belongingness, and presumably as a consequence, were less lonely.” Indeed, this stronger social connection (or, as the researchers put it, the content of happiness) seems to indicate a higher level of happiness: in other words,  If your definition of happiness is to spend quality time with others, the chances are that you will be happier. This held true for both American and Korean participants, indicating that “holding a socially rich theory of happiness is beneficial to the mental health of both Americans and Koreans,” explain the researchers, who conclude that  Fulfilment of social need seems to be a universally necessary condition of happiness. What Does It Mean? Social interaction is a tricky thing: for each person, some days and nights lend themselves to picnics, bonfires, dancing and socialising, and days that are fabricated more for some alone time with a book. With their study, Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim aren’t suggesting that the real key to happiness is only through social interaction. Rather, their research supports the idea that those who associate happiness with the notion of strong, reliable social relationships seem to be the happiest. So, how does one change one’s beliefs about what happiness means? Well, apart from continuing to read up on the subject of the key to a good life, you can jump-start a positive feedback loop by engaging in activities that foster strong relationships, preferably ones where you (yes, you!) can help someone else. Cultivating social ties, especially those where you can give back as well are proven to make you happier - or at least, less lonely - which in turn may change your whole perspective on what happiness means.     Modelphotos: colourbox.com and Jeremy Bishop  Written by Rae BathgateRae Bathgate is an American journalist based in Barcelona, where she enjoys sunlight, yoga, and bookbinding.
  3. Fulfilling relationships are about Communication Ask someone what they think of when you say “kink” or “BDSM” and, even if they’re not into kink at all, it’ll be something about pain or rope or leather. You’ll also talk about sex and fetishes. A lot of people focus on what makes kink stand out from non-kink. That’s the fun part for a lot of us, but there’s another level to many kinky and fulfilling relationships that anyone can benefit from doing in their own relationship.  Kink and BDSM don’t work unless both parties are willing to communicate with each other. You don’t have to be kinky for that to be good for your relationship. It’s both as simple as and as hard as doing very specific things:  Say what you feel - good or bad Communicate your desires, even the ones that are new to you or you’re ashamed of Share your fears - about sex, relationships, and everything else Listen to each other - without thinking of what you’re going to say next It’s important not to be judgemental about what the other person is telling you. They may admit to a curious desire to something you find repulsive. Instead of judging them based on how you feel about it, let them know it’s safe to talk you. We have a saying in BDSM: Your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is okay. The same is true outside of kink. You don’t have to want something for yourself for it to be okay for your partner.  Communication isn’t only about sex, though. Sharing fears, concerns, and worries that you have at work, at school, in your relationship, and in life bring you closer to each other. You’ll develop a trust and a bond that comes with knowing each other intimately.  Be Open to New Things In a BDSM relationship, we discuss both hard and soft limits, as well as our desires. A hard limit is something you have no desire to try, it may even disgust you to imagine it. A soft limit is something that you’re unsure of, maybe even nervous about, but you would try it - at least once. This works when you’re not kinky, too. Fulfilling relationships aren't always about sex. You may have a no-pet policy in your relationship, but you’d be willing to consider a goldfish. You may say you hate to travel, but if your partner was with you, you’d consider a road trip. The growth of a relationship is proportional to the growth of the people in that relationship. When you try new things - whether it’s a new sexual position or you ride a roller coaster for the first time - you learn something about yourself, and you grow.  Successful relationships, kinky or not, thrive on trying new things. It fosters communication, experimentation, new ideas, and new opinions. Every relationship can benefit from that.  Understanding Consent The quickest way to break someone’s trust is to violate their consent. Most of the time, we’re talking about sex when we discuss consent. In a kinky relationship, not everything we do is sexual. Sometimes it’s about the kinky play - being tied up, being blindfolded, or anything not directly related to sexual intercourse. When you say no, whether it’s a clear, “No!” or a safeword like, “Purple banana!” or you don’t enthusiastically say yes to any activity, that lack of consent must be respected.  It’s important to understand consent on a deeper level - for both parties. If you’re going to try something new, you’ll want to be able to give informed consent. This means that you have some idea of what to expect, what will happen, and what it will feel like. Your “new thing” could be a new restaurant, meeting someone new, or a new vibrator. We feel more at ease about our decisions when we have an idea of what to expect.  Saying yes to something blindly can lead to bad surprises. And having someone ignore you when you say no will too. It will also create a crack in your relationship that can be hard to repair, and may break your relationship. Consent should be informed, understood, clear, and, above all, respected.  Take Care of Each Other In BDSM, there is always a top and a bottom or a Dominant and a submissive. One controls, the other gives up control. One has the power, the other consents to that power.  What most people don’t realize, however, is that in the best BDSM relationships, each person takes care of the other. We fulfill each other’s needs as much as we can. We help each other. We build each other up, care for each other, and nurture our passions and goals. Every relationship can benefit from a bit of care.  Even if your relationship isn’t one you expect to last forever, while you’re together, genuinely try to make that person’s life a little better. It may only be better while you’re in each other’s presence, and it should never violate your own ethics and morals, but asking how their day went, giving them a hug, encouraging them in their goals - these are all ways to easily take care of someone.  Celebrate Your Differences Yes, compatibility is important in any relationship. If you didn’t have a single thing in common, things could get awkward and boring quickly. That being said, where you’re different are opportunities to learn and grow as individuals.  Don’t shame or allow yourself to be shamed for wanting or liking something different than your partner. Instead, use it as a place to begin a new journey for yourself, with your partner, or, if you’re interested in a more open relationship, with someone new.  An open relationship won’t work without openness, honesty, integrity, trust, and constant communication in your relationship. When people think about BDSM or kink, sex and fetish are usually the first things that come to mind. It’s what excites some people and turns others off. But there’s much more to kinky relationships than that. Look beneath the surface, and you’ll find bonds that run deep. Everyone can benefit and find satisfaction from the things that really make fulfilling relationships work.     Model Photo: Colourbox.com  Written by Kayla LordsKayla Lords is a freelance writer, sex blogger, and a masochistic babygirl living the 24/7 D/s life. She hosts a weekly podcast, Loving BDSM, where she and her Dominant talk about loving BDSM in a loving D/s relationship and share what they've learned and experienced as a kinky couple.
  4. Bisexual acceptance wasn't an easy thing to figure out. Since sexuality plays a big role in our search for happiness, we at Happiness want to share personal stories. Stories about people who have taken a brave step forward into embracing their sexuality. This one explores the first steps of acceptance and how it eventually lead to a more fulfilling life of happiness. How Bisexual Acceptance Gave Me Deeper Connection and Trust I thought my fantasies about women were normal. It wasn't until I was talking with a group of cis females that I learned what I thought and dreamt about wasn't what everyone else was dreaming about... I didn’t know I was bisexual until I was 25. This doesn’t mean that my sexuality changed. This means that it took me that a long time to figure it out. My assumption was that I was straight. (An assumption I think many people make.) I fell in love with guys and I thought my ‘girl crushes’ were just a normal thing that straight women had. Not once did I ever think it was unusual.  I did my fair share of fantasising about having sex with women, but I honestly thought that it was just something that straight women did. My ‘girl crushes’ seemed to be a little bit more intense. Instead of ‘wanting to be like her’, it was very much ‘wanting to be with her’. I never really talked about it because I genuinely thought everyone felt the same.  So you can image the shock I felt when I learned that not everyone was like this. I'd gone my whole life with this idea of everything I did, thought and fantasised about was normal. Then suddenly one conversation stole that stability out from under me.  I can remember the moment I realised that I wasn’t straight. Apparently, I have a unique feeling about my sexuality as I thought it was totally normal. This could come from the fact I had pretty high self-acceptance. I was comfortable with who I was and what I was. There were no doubts in my mind that everyone else felt this way. Many other people I've read about and talked to have had quite the reverse experience.  Instead of feeling like an outsider, I just didn’t act on my desires because I thought I was straight. Yes, it is confusing. You can only imagine how confused I was when I realised that this whole time, my identity had been bisexual but I had just been confusing it for heterosexual.  I can remember the moment I realised that I wasn’t straight. I was talking to a group of cis-female friends about homosexuality and none of them could picture ever going down on a woman. A few of them mentioned that their minds “went blank” if they tried to think about it. As if they couldn’t process the idea because it was never something they had imagined doing or ever wanting to do. Totally shocked, I asked:  But wouldn’t you want to try it? At least once? At this point, you can probably guess their answers, and my mind slowly started realising that I was the odd one out. I spent a few months thinking about my sexuality. Read countless ‘coming out’ stories, focusing on bisexual or lesbian women who only realised later in life. I poured over articles about how you can be bisexual without having ever acted on it.  It isn’t your actions that matter; it is your heart and brain. Just like if a bisexual woman marries a man, it doesn’t invalidate her bisexuality. Which is true about any sexuality. It's not necessarily something you can do much about, it's just who and what you are. Sort of like having green eyes, they're just green.  Even after all this research and self-reflection, it still took me a year to tell my boyfriend. I kept it hidden inside. Embarrassed by my delayed realisation, and terrified that he would be offended. The idea he might be worried that I would leave him because of it was unsettling.  I didn’t know how to handle this realisation for myself and I had no idea how someone romantically involved with me would handle that information either. It was a completely unknown field for me. Full of uncertainty and questions spinning around. When I finally did tell him his response was something I will never forget.  He told me, 'I want you to explore that part of you'. Lucky for me, none of my fears were validated when I did tell him. It hit the point in my mind where I couldn’t hide it anymore. Even if I never acted on it, it didn’t invalidate my sexuality. I couldn't continue hiding who I was. He held me close and thanked me for sharing. He asked me a bunch of questions and was a bit saddened that I had waited so long to tell him. Then he looked at me and said: “I want you to explore that part of you. I never want you to feel like you’ve missed out on part of who you are”.  I’m not going to go into the details about exploring my bisexuality together with my partner, but I do want to detail how close this made us. This new chapter of honesty with myself and with my partner took our relationship to another level. One that I've learned a lot from and can say has infinitely helped me in becoming a happier, healthier person.  Opening up about my sexuality was the icebreaker for so many parts of our life together. It made me feel lighter. I felt like myself. I had accepted my sexuality to the point of expressing it to the person I loved, and it made all the difference. As we continued to dig deeper into to each other, he opened up to me about his life in deeper ways, too.  We trust each other because we are able to communicate about everything. Together, we continue to speak openly and honestly about other aspects of our lives. We continue to explore different parts of our sexualities and kinks. We go on adventures together. Most importantly, we trust each other because we are able to communicate about everything. These things would never be possible without that first step of acceptance and honesty.  This openness and trust is not something that came about because of my bisexuality. True this was the initiation for it. The starting point, so to speak. Somewhere we could jump off into a deeper pool of trust in our relationship. That, in the end, made me look at myself and what I truly craved and needed to create a satisfying life. I was very fortunate to have such an open and accepting partner.  Realising and then accepting my sexuality made me love myself more for who I am. As well as deepen the connection to my partner. If I could change anything, I would have hoped to realise it sooner!     Model Photo: Colorbox.com  Written by Abi BrownAbi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewellery.