Saturday, March 15, 2014

Give Empathy Hugs every Morning and Night

spring is almost here!
I love reading about relationships, and I hate that I can't remember which book I read this in, but there is a fantastic practice I've been working into my routine lately, and I just had to share it. 

It's called an "Empathy Hug."  And here's how it works. 

In the morning, right away when you wake up and greet your spouse, hug them for a few moments and really try to think of how they are feeling--what they might be worried about, excited about, focused on, working on, etc.  Really try to cultivate empathy for them in that shared moment.  Then, when you wake your kiddo (if you have kids!), do the same.  Hug your kiddo for a few moments, and really try to get into their mind and think about what they might be thinking about, feeling, worried about, hopeful about, planning for, etc.  For that moment, try to take their perspective.  Then, at the end of the day (before bed, for example), do the same thing. 

It might seem a little strange at first, but I really find that trying to take the perspective of my loved ones as a part of my regular routine really makes me think of them all day with more love and care.  It builds loving connection whether we are together all day or not.  

Also, I find that if I'm trying to think about things from their perspective but I'm not sure what their concerns for that day might be, that spurs me to ask them specifics like, "What's on your plate for today?" or "What are you looking forward to today?"  And then, once I know something specific about their day (for example, my daughter was excited that it was her teacher's birthday today, and she had made her a card.), I find myself wondering during the day how that went, and just generally feeling  more connected to them all throughout the day, just because I know a few little specific things that they were thinking about that morning. 

Also, sometimes if my hubby or daughter have mentioned a concern that morning, and then that evening they seem upset or irritated, I find that I more often have an empathetic response (rather than an angry why-are-you-in-a-bad-mood response!) because I have already tried to think about things from their perspective that day. 

So often, I think that our thoughts shape our responses to our loved ones.  So when I make a habit of cultivating empathy, I think it's easier to feel connection and caring and to respond with patience and understanding.  But when I'm busy and only thinking of the thousands of tasks to check off my to do list in my head, and don't take time to cultivate empathy, I'm much more likely to respond with annoyance or irritation. 

So, what do you think?  Is it worth a try?  Give it a month, and see if you don't feel closer and more connected to your family members just by giving two little "Empathy Hugs" per day.  (And then let me know how it goes by leaving a comment!)

What helps you have greater empathy toward your loved ones?  When do you feel the most "connected" to your family members?

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