Relationship Resolutions — Why They Are So Important to Your Happiness

…more people regard maintaining healthy relationships as the most important factor to their wellbeing.

Whether your circle of friends grows every weekend or has shrunk down to a handful trusted confidantes, it is undeniable that we are all social creatures who seek the comfort and support of others from time to time.

But as with many aspects of life, from diet to exercise, we don’t always pay enough attention to what we know will help our wellbeing – and relationships are no different. The neglect our social lives suffer is highlighted by new research released by the Mental Health Foundation to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. It shows that more people regard maintaining healthy relationships as the most important factor to their wellbeing than those who cited healthily, exercising or avoiding negative habits including smoking combined.

Nevertheless, 46 per cent of the 2,000 adults in the UK who took part in the survey also admitted that they regret not investing more time in their relationships – a figure which hits 50 per cent among men. And despite the fact that most people claim to value their social lives above their physical health, only 11 per cent of people surveyed made it the focus of their New Year’s resolutions.

In response to the findings, the Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to make a relationship resolution. Those who sign up on their website will receive a text on New Year’s Eve to check their progress, and prompt them to continue their efforts into 2017. “What we hear time and again from our supporters is how important friends and family are on the road to recovery from severe mental illness,” says Nia Charpentier, a spokeswoman from the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

“Having people in your life who are understanding and supportive, be they a full-time carer or just someone to share a cup of tea and a chat with, can make a big difference,” she says, adding that peer support groups are also a vital tool for many people.

As the taboos surrounding mental health have been gradually stripped away in recent years, the physical and mental impact of loneliness was thrust into the public consciousness by John Lewis‘s 2015 Man on the Moon Christmas advert, which depicted a young girl attempting to contact an elderly man enduring a solitary existence in space.

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, social interaction can cut the risk of mortality and developing certain diseases, and help individuals to recover more quickly from illness. However, socialising can be a daunting prospect for those struggling with their mental health. But it is important that people do not become withdrawn, explains Stephen Buckley, head of information at the charity Mind.

The 9 Best New Year’s Resolutions for Your Relationship

Don’t worry–I would never tell you to eat less sugar or start doing pilates for your New Year’s resolution (those sound hard), but if you set the right goals, the new year can bring amazing changes to your relationship.

1. Work on showing gratitude

Gratitude is incredibly important in any relationship. Just hearing a simple “thank you” from a friend or co-worker can brighten anyone’s day, but it’s especially great when your SO tells you how much they appreciate you.

I could be having the worst day ever, but when my fiancé tells me how grateful he is that I made dinner or that I took out the trash, it always brightens up my mood. Just knowing that someone notices my effort makes me feel appreciated and even rejuvenated, and I know that taking the time to notice my fiancé’s efforts goes a long way too.

This year, resolve to show gratitude to your partner more often. Whether you want to take time in the evenings to thank each other for something you did that day, or if you prefer to practice voicing your appreciation whenever you can, showing gratitude can strengthen your bond and make you both happier.

So go ahead, tell your honey how grateful you are that she emptied the dishwasher, tell your boyfriend how much you appreciate it when he makes you lunch. Give her a hug when he surprises you with a gift or give him a smooch when she picks up dinner.

It’s nice to appreciate your partner, and great to be appreciated.

2. Find hobbies that are all your own.

Sure, in an perfect world I’d do everything with my fiancé, we’d have all the same interests and spend all our time together. We’d be unbeatable tennis partners, perform in a two-person band (I’d play ukulele, he’d be on keyboard), and we’d have a TV show as a couple who remodel houses.

But in reality, no two people have all the same interests and, truth be told, there might be times when you don’t really want to spend time with your partner. I love my fiancé more than pizza, but sometimes I really want to do something by myself.

And that’s okay! Actually, it’s prefered. It’s healthy to spend some time without your beau and pursue your own interests or hobbies.

Maybe you want to take a woodshop class and perhaps your significant other wants to join a soccer league — perfect! Following your dreams will make you a happier person (and a better partner) and getting to do something all your own will allow you to bring something special to the relationship.

I like painting, and I love coming home from art class and showing my fiancé what I created. He’s really good with computers, and it always rocks my world when he fixes that darn internet.

So, this year, sit down with your partner and find different things you each want to do. Try to find activities that take place on the same night (so you aren’t missing two evenings of Netflix and chill together) and sign up for them. Are those book club meetings and monster truck fan club meet-ups on the same night? Excellent.

You’ll both learn something new, have fun, make friends, and at the end of the day, you’ll love telling each other all about your adventures.

Young romantic couple is having fun outdoors in winter

3. Show an interest in your partner’s work and hobbies.

I know, I know, I just finished telling you about how awesome it is to have separate hobbies…but that doesn’t mean you can’t be interested in what your honey does with his or her time.

I love telling my fiancé about my day and about the people I talked to, and I know it means a lot to him when I show an interest in his work.

Sometimes I may feel my eyes glazing over (a little) when he talks about his very complicated job with all the marketing terms and fancy reports, but I try to get to know more about his work so I can learn more about what he goes through during the day.

4. Try to be a better listener.

This might seem obvious, but being a better listener can make your relationship so much smoother.

You’ve probably been there before: you start telling a story about what your Aunt Mabel did at lunch yesterday, and halfway through the part where she threw the salad at the waiter, your significant other looks up from a magazine and says “were you talking to me?”

Or maybe your significant other was talking about how his friend Joe was on Cake Boss. The story reminds you that you need to pick up flour from the store so you start to think about the grocery list, and before you know it, you missed the whole story.

It’s the worst.

This year, resolve to work on your listening skills together. It’s something that requires practice, so remind yourself to stay engaged in conversation and understand, not just hear, what your partner says.

In the meantime, it’s also a good idea to let your partner know when something you’re going to say is very important. I know it can be hard to focus on each other when there’s a lot going on, but sometimes you need to set aside time for talking (and listening).

When I have a problem and need advice (or just want to vent), I’ll ask my fiance for five minutes to listen to me talk. He’ll take a minute to finish that chapter in a book (or save his video game) and then focus on what I have to say.

I love this tactic because it allows your beau a chance to wrap up what they need to do and give you the attention they need, and it also sends a message to your SO that what you’re going to say is important.

It’s a good way to set up for communication success.

5. Make sure you are happy and healthy.

I have a lot of stress in my life right now: I work all day and go to grad school at night (just thinking about my schedule makes me tired). But in this day and age, a lot of people find themselves overworked or overstressed. Maybe you struggle with anxiety, haven’t been getting enough sleep, or maybe you’re mourning a death in the family.

A relationship isn’t strong without both parties feeling good, so this year, resolve to take care of yourself with some kick-ass self love.

Therapy is a great tool for a lot of people, sometimes you just need a stranger to talk to. Going to the gym is great for stress relief, and if all else fails, scheduling a massage can do wonders.

Taking the time to take care of yourself will make you a happier person, and a better partner.

6. Let the small stuff go.

Just like Elsa, sometimes you need to let things go. If your boyfriend didn’t change the toilet paper roll the 367th time you asked him to do it, he probably won’t change it on the 368th time.

My fiancé never throws things away. He’ll bring a candy bar wrapper within two feet of the trash can, but it won’t actually make it into the bin. Meanwhile, I leave water cups everywhere. At any point in the week you can find at least one cup in the living room, one on the patio, three on the nightstand, and zero in the kitchen cabinet. In the beginning, little things like that drove my fiancé and I bonkers, but eventually, we learned to live with each other’s habits.

The truth is, no couple is perfect. Nobody is truly made for each other or completely compatible. Sometimes the happiest couples are just the ones that let the small issues go so they can appreciate the big things that make them such a great pair.

Maybe your husband is the worst  at sweeping the floor, but he’s also a great dad. You didn’t marry him for the clean floors. Let it go, and invest in a cleaning service.

fireworks In New Year's Mountain

7. Put your phone down.

I don’t mean to sound like a grandma right now, but it’s important to put your phone away… sometimes.

Imagine you’re at a restaurant with your love. You realize that you need to check your email, so you glance at your inbox and see an invitation to your cousin’s birthday party. You realize that, while you’re thinking about it, you should text him to see what he wants for a present. When you’re done texting him you see a message from your mom asking if you can pick up that box of old high school yearbooks.

By the time you put your phone down, all your food came, you had six diet cokes, the server dropped off the bill, and you’ve barely said two words to your partner.

Sometimes, you just need to put your phones away, and enjoy your time together. With such busy schedules and so many things to think about, it’s nice to have a meal where you and your beau can focus on each other.

Plan to have a phone-free meal once and awhile. If you only have time to go out to dinner once a week, make that the date where you put away your devices. You’ll be glad you spent that quality time together.

8. Try and find opportunities to volunteer together.

Lots of people make a New Year’s resolution to put in a couple hours at the soup kitchen or help plant some trees. But volunteering together doesn’t just help your community, it can help your relationship, too.

Every so often my fiancé and I will head over to our local food bank and help organize the donated food. It might not sound very romantic to spend a Saturday afternoon sorting through canned peas and boxes of macaroni and cheese, but we always have fun. We like spending the time together, and volunteering makes us feel good. It’s a far cry from the traditional dinner and a movie date night, and maybe that’s a good thing.

9. Spend time together in the kitchen.

Another popular New Year’s resolution is eating healthier. I make this resolution every year and it lasts about as long as it takes me to find a Taco Bell.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a food-based New Year’s resolution. One great idea is to resolve to make dinners together.

Making a meal together requires teamwork, communication, and coordination. Practicing skills like these can help you grow closer in your relationship. Making dinner at home can also save you money, and it could (brace yourselves) be a roundabout way of eating healthier too.

If you do this right, you’ll spend time together, save some cash, and maybe even cut down on calories all in one resolution. Win-win-win!

The new year is a great time to set goals and work on improving yourself, but with these resolutions, you can improve your relationship too. From learning to listen more closely to volunteering together, these resolutions will surely make your relationship even stronger. What a way to ring in the new year!

For more on setting good New Year’s resolutions for your relationship, check out Passionate Sex Every Day for The New Year—Here is How, Healthy Relationship, Healthy New Year… Here is How and 6 SEX New Year’s Resolutions for Couples.

Valentine’s Day Is Great, But Here Are My Favorite Ways to Show Love All Year Round

On a mission to set my marriage up for success, I’ve made a plan to bring Valentine’s Day to every month.

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day.

As a kid, I always looked forward to collecting paper Valentine’s Day (especially the ones that came with candy or temporary tattoos). As I got older, I loved going out for special dates and getting spoiled with gifts or flowers. Plus, no matter what my age or relationship status, I’ve always looked forward to the day after Valentine’s Day when I can score all the half-priced candy.

All around, it’s a good holiday in my book.

And yet, I’m always left wanting more. Not to say that the holiday is disappointing, but I wish that Valentine’s Day didn’t end so quickly. I want to celebrate my relationship, and have an excuse to do something special, all year long.

This year is my fiancé and my last Valentine’s Day as a unmarried couple, and as our wedding gets closer, we want to do everything we can to set our marriage up for success. So, we’ve been focusing on bringing the spirit of Valentine’s Day to every part of the year and practicing showing each other love whenever we can.

Boy, has it made a difference! It’s amazing what a small gesture can do, and how easy it is to make your partner’s day. It brings you closer together, makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and reminds you both of how much you love each other.

Here are some ways that you too can bring Valentine’s Day to every month:

1. If your partner likes flowers and chocolates… buy them more often

Valentine’s Day flowers

Last year, I made a point to make pies during the Summer. Why? I love pie, and I realized I hadn’t had a slice for months. I only thought to buy or make pies during November and December, because I thought of them as a “holiday only” dessert.

I had ten whole other months to enjoy pie that I wasn’t taking advantage of. And that’s just silly.

It’s the same thing with Valentine’s Day.

Every year when February hits, stores stock up on their flowers and chocolates. It’s always fun to see the heart-shaped candies and beautiful roses in vases, but we shouldn’t be waiting for February to get our partners some chocolates or buy them flowers.

If your significant other likes those chocolate turtles (don’t we all?), surprise him or her with a box of them any time of the year. If your honey loves fresh flowers, you’ve got a whole 12 months to buy them. Plus, different flowers will be in season at different times, so you can bring home a different bouquet every time.

I love dark chocolate, and it means so much when my fiancé brings some home just because. It’s a nice way to say he was thinking of me and getting a special treat always makes me happy.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit: some things are strictly seasonal. You’ll have to wait for that pumpkin spice latte and it’s hard to find peppermint bark in June. Just don’t miss out on an opportunity to surprise your sweetie with a special treat he or she loves.

2. Valentine’s cards aren’t just for February, share your thoughts whenever you can

I love Valentine’s Day cards. They’re cute, romantic, and sometimes a little dirty.

Giving your partner a card on Valentine’s Day is nice, but it might mean even more when you give them one out of the blue. Surprising your love by writing some nice things in a card and slipping it into their bag before work, or packing it with their clothes before a business trip, can go a long way.

It’s sweet, flirty, and could really brighten up their day. Play with the idea of getting a few romantic cards during the Valentine’s season, and using them all year. You can write a funny poem, list some things you love about your relationship, or write something sexy. It’s sure to make your partner feel special and appreciated.

Not into the card idea? Maybe stick to text. I’ll never forget the time my fiancé sent me some photos he’d taken of flowers in a garden, saying he was thinking of me. It was such a simple thing, and only took a minute to do, but it really brightened my day and reminded me of how much he cares about me.

3. Plan romantic date nights all year round

My fiancé and I are so busy with work, grad school, and life in general, that our date night dinners usually turn into scarfing down Chipotle in front of the TV before going to bed.

Oh, the romance.

You don’t have to wait until February (or you anniversary) to have a special meal together. Make a plan to have those romantic date nights on non-holiday times.

When my fiancé and I want to have a romantic meal, we love going to this cute little Greek restaurant down the street. But don’t assume that you have to go out to have a good time. You can stay home, dim the lights, pour some wine, and even light some candles.

If you and your honey work late or have kids, downsize the same idea to a late-night dessert. Even with less time, you’ll get the same benefit. You’ll spend some uninterrupted alone time together and get a chance to turn up the romance.

4. Breakfast in bed isn’t just for special occasions

make every day valentine's day

Speaking of meals, I love breakfast in bed. It’s one of those Valentine’s Day traditions that should really be an “everyday thing.” Yet, somehow, most of us have to go to the kitchen for breakfast every single day. Exhausting.

Make one day a week (or maybe one morning a month) a “breakfast in bed day.” It doesn’t have to be a big deal: toast a couple slices of bread, scramble some eggs, pour that coffee, and share it with your honey in your room. It could make a lazy Saturday the best day of the week.

Or, if you’re not sure you can get out of bed in the morning without waking your light-sleeping cutie, plan a stay-at-home breakfast date. I love to put on my cute pajamas, slip on those bunny slippers, and make breakfast with my fiancé.

You can flip pancakes while your honey squeezes orange juice, then sit down to watch some saturday morning cartoons. It’s a nice way to relax together, and this special date is the perfect way to show you care without breaking the bank.

5. Give “just because” presents

There’s always pressure to give gifts at holidays or anniversaries, but I find that the more I expect to get gifts, the less I really enjoy them. I already know I’m getting a present, so when it’s not exactly what I want, I might feel a little disappointed, rather than thankful, like I should.

And yet, whenever my fiancé brings home a DVD of a movie I wanted to see but missed in theaters, or orders me a funny cat t-shirt off Amazon, I’m always amazed and incredibly grateful. I wasn’t expecting anything, so even the smallest, silliest thing will seem so sweet.

Surprise your cutie with a little something every now and then, it doesn’t have to be much: maybe just grab a trinket the next time you’re in Target or buy a magazine you think your partner will like when you’re at the grocery store. A little can go a long way, and it tells your special someone that you were thinking of them, which makes it even better.

6. Walk down memory lane

Sometimes we forget to appreciate each other, and all the things we’ve done together. Bringing up a fun date night or looking at some old pictures can really spark those romance vibes and remind you of fun memories.

I like to surprise my fiancé with a framed picture from a special day or even just share a post on Facebook from this time last year. Looking back on memories you’ve shared can make you both feel especially appreciative of your relationship.

7. Plan an event

You don’t need to wait for a special day to plan an event. It’s popular to buy tickets for a show or concert to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but there are fun events going on all year.

Planning an activity is a nice gesture that tells your partner that you want to do cool things with them, and it’s a great way to bond over memorable experiences.

My fiancé and I love seeing comedy shows, so we’re always on the lookout for when our favorite comedians are coming to town. It’s so much fun to go out and do something extra special once in a while, and we get to share something we both love.

Of course, not everyone’s bank accounts will allow for an event every weekend, but getting tickets to a midnight movie or concert a few months in advance will give you something to look forward to together, and that’s half the fun.

8. Remember to listen

make everyday valentine's day

While little surprises and kind gestures will go a long way, communication may be the most important thing in your relationship.

I always try my best to show an interest in what my fiancé says, because I know how important it is to feel listened to.

There’s nothing more romantic, and nothing that will show how much you care, more than listening to your partner. Focus on their stories, ask questions about their day, and take care to remember what they talk about so you can ask about it later. Showing how interested you are in their successes, and their challenges, will mean so much to your beau, and will help your love thrive.

Because I always have so much fun on Valentine’s Day, I use these practices to bring the Valentine’s Day spirit to my relationship, and soon, my marriage, all year long. Hopefully some of my tips will help you and your partner to show your love all year round too.

Need some more ideas for Valentine’s Day? Check out 17 Ways to Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day if You’re Tired of Flowers and Candy, How To Show Love By Making a Difference This Valentine’s Day, or Perfect Bedroom Tips for Valentine’s.