relationship advice time out

Marriage Advice: Time Out For Better Relationships

Marriage advice: This simple piece of advice could save your relationship

Sticks and Stones

I once did a talk in a bookstore and noted that the phrase “Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us” was inaccurate—thoughtless and cruel words can cause lasting damage, leaving emotional scars that fester long after broken bones have been healed.

There was a songwriter in the audience named Sarah Malcom; she subsequently wrote a song entitled: “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Break My Soul.” Time outs are important in relationships because they give time to gather thought and make words PROACTIVE INSTEAD OF REACTIVE.

anger management, happy marriage, couples. marriage advice, marriage quotes strugglingHolding On To Anger Is Like Drinking Poison and Expecting the Other Person to Die

Instead of holding on to this negativity, you can consciously choose to behave differently. Let’s visualize it together. Picture yourself in that heated moment when you are flooded with anger, resentment, and judgement. What if you were able to feel and acknowledge those emotions without reacting destructively toward yourself or your partner? Remember that you don’t need to be physically or even verbally abusive to be violent.

Even thoughts can be destructive, especially because they are inadvertently reflected in our attitudes and behaviors. For instance, you will become withdrawn and critical during an argument when you’re thinking toxic thoughts. The other person’s negativity feeds off yours, and vice versa, and before you know it you’ve probably both said or done regrettable things. You focus on what is WRONG with your partner and forget what is RIGHT.

Practice observing your brewing emotions and thoughts without getting caught up in them. Instead why not strike when the iron is cold? Let yourself cool down and cool off, and share your feelings and thoughts when you are ready and are capable of clarity and compassion.

You won’t regret it.

Time Outs

Research has shown that time-outs are important for couples. I have worked with several couple who have a code word or sentence. For example, you can say, “We know where this kind of talk ends.” Take a break, take a walk, visit a neighbor. Make agreements that you will return to the subject when cooler heads prevail.

Practice Inner Peace

 You never do anything to your partner that you are not doing to yourself. Let toxic feelings blow through you and then pass. Ride out your mental storm. It’s just a cascade of chemicals based on fear. These are waves that wash over you. Haven’t you noticed that it’s much easier to stay afloat when you relax your body rather than when you tense up and panic in the water?

  • Storms always pass. There is no need to panic or fear.
  • Ride out the storm. Feelings blow through me… feelings blow out of me…
  • Later I will analyze the storm. Now I need only observe it. Now I will hang on and pull through.

Later, you will have the clarity of mind to sit down and better analyze the storm, and to understand what caused it. You can also discover the lessons you learned by observing the storm: what feelings and resistance did you notice? What helped you pull through? How could you make this transition easier in the future?

Use the storm as an opportunity to gain new skills to temper your emotional upheavals. Above all, remember that storms are a part of life. You have the power to navigate your way through them. YOU can return to calm clear skies. 

 “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer.” camus

To learn more about mindfulness, read an excerpt of “Change Your Story: Change Your Brain” on Amazon.

Dr. Linda Miles is a leading expert on relationships and mindfulness. She is a psychotherapist, author, media expert and speaker. She has studied and worked in her field of counseling psychology for over 30 years and often speaks about mindfulness, stress reduction, mental health and relationships. Dr. Miles is personable and accessible in her books, articles and talks about how mindfulness and loving kindness can positively change your brain, your chemistry and your life. She can be reached at or followed on Twitter.

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loss and grief

Where Do You Put The Pain?

Dr. Linda Miles reviews the children’s book, Cry Heart, But Never Break and discusses what it teaches us about death, loss and grief.

  • Do you feel numbed or overwhelmed with pain?
  • Are you wondering how to deal with loss or grief?
  • Are you afraid of facing your pain or grief, for fear of being swallowed by your suffering?

An Empathetic Death

Much of the best self-help is found in great literature. As a former English teacher and psychotherapist
for over 30 years, I have collected stories. There are many stories, as quiet and as brilliant as
gemstones peeking from the ground, that deal with the momentous theme of mortality, the meaning of
life, and the meaning of death. Some of the most powerful and poignant of these are children’s
books. One such riveting tale was written by Danish author Glenn Ringtved. It is stirringly entitled: Cry,
Heart, But Never Break.

The story tells of Death’s house call to four small children who live with their grandmother, whom they
love very much and who is dying. In the story, Death is portrayed as a remarkably tender and
empathetic character, who leaves his scythe at the door so as not frighten the children, who
compassionately accepts their invitation for coffee because the children believe that this will delay and
deter him from his mission, and who seems genuinely heartbroken by the duty he must do.

To brace them for the reality of their grandmother’s impending departure, Death shares a story with the four
children, giving them hope by revealing a different way of seeing things. Death’s story is about two
brothers—named Sorrow and Grief—who lived in a dark valley and “never saw through the shadows on
the tops of the hills”… until they met and fell in love with two sisters, aptly named Joy and Delight.

Perfectly balanced, with the boys and girls completing each other, these two couples reenact the theme
of essential balance in the universe: day and night, health and sickness, sun and rain, life and death, and
so forth. This narrative is Death’s way of gently reminding the children that death itself—helps us
appreciate and enjoy life. When the children head upstairs and realize their Grandmother has died,
Death whispers: “Cry, heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.”

Apart from depicting the balance of life and death, Cry, Heart, But Never Break subtly illustrates the
power of human perception in dealing with and overcoming loss and grief. This can also be described by
the idea of sacred spaciousness.

Sacred Spaciousness

Sacred spaciousness means that you make room for the pain—as well as for the other emotions that will
similarly flood in once you open the floodgates of your heart. You do not deny the pain. You create
space within yourself for all emotions, and choose to include those which bring you joy and peace. You
drink in all the goodness of all the blessings: giving thanks for the humans who are alive, for the sun, for
the rain, for the traits of bravery and integrity and generosity that exist in the world.

You can sit with the pain, to let it wash over you before it ebbs away, coming and going as naturally as a wave.


Mindfulness is an awareness practice that trains the brain to notice feelings as they ebb and flow without judgement. You can practice sacred spaciousness by imagining that feelings of pain and loss can float in your mind while making room for blessings that surround you. This practice allows you to remain open to new life.

Cry heart, but never break.

To learn more about mindfulness, read an excerpt of “Change Your Story: Change Your Brain” on Amazon.

Dr. Linda Miles is a leading expert on relationships and mindfulness. She is a psychotherapist, author, media expert and speaker. She has studied and worked in her field of counseling psychology for over 30 years and often speaks about mindfulness, stress reduction, mental health and relationships. Dr. Miles is personable and accessible in her books, articles and talks about how mindfulness and loving kindness can positively change your brain, your chemistry and your life. She can be reached at or followed on Twitter.


Out of Your Head and Into Your Soul

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn

. . .

Do you fear that you’re missing out on life?

Are you waiting for something? To be loved? To be successful? To be happy?

Do you often feel like life is simply carrying you along, as something beyond your control?


In ancient Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful youth who caught sight of his reflection in a pond one day and became completely enamored with it. It is said that he lay down by the water to gaze at his face, growing obsessed with his own image. Since he was unable to obtain the object of his desire, he died where he lay, overcome by grief. Sounds pathetic, but in many instances it’s a frighteningly accurate metaphor. The term “narcissist” is derived from this myth, and it tellingly refers to a person who is self-enamored and self-preoccupied, often to an obsessive and dangerous degree.

In his novella The Beast in the Jungle, author Henry James introduces us to exactly such a character: John Marcher, an extremely self-centered young man who is convinced that he has been selected by fate for a special event that will occur in his lifetime. He encounters a sensitive and intelligent young woman, May Bartram, who listens to John’s theory concerning his personal foreboding and conviction that he’s destined for greatness. May offers her friendship and agrees to watch and wait with John until this special fate comes to fruition. For many years, John sits idly and refuses to let May get close to him, ignoring the love of a good woman and killing time as he waits for his “spectacular fate”.

The story unravels to become a tale of lost life and lost love; it is only after May dies that John realizes that he’s missed most of his life—and the opportunity for true love—while waiting for a rare, strange, and self-concocted “event” that never happens. By living in his head and focusing on a fantasy, he missed the true meaning of life. He missed out on friendship, love, purpose, adventure, discovery, and self-growth. Gambling for nothing, he lost everything.

Narcissists typically do not empathize nor can they appreciate the beauty of the life that surrounds them. They exist at the opposite end of the spectrum as opposed to mindfulness. John “woke up” when May died; this was the emotional event that triggered his realization—too late—that life extended beyond himself.

Mindfulness is about exactly that: waking up to the world and connecting with life.

. . .

“By breaking down our sense of self-importance, all we lose is a parasite that has long infected our minds. What we gain in return is freedom, openness of mind, spontaneity, simplicity, altruism: all qualities inherent in happiness.” –Mathieu Ricard

. . .

As a teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the University of Massachusetts’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, Jon Kabat-Zinn says:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

By cultivating conscious awareness of the present moment, we extract ourselves from our own toxic thought patterns. By learning to sense and see and appreciate life, we need not regret an unfulfilled existence. Mindfulness is a practice that can immediately ground us back into the world, helping us delve within ourselves while simultaneously shifting us beyond ourselves.

As mindfulness is all about “living in the now”, the idea suitably circles back to the NOW philosophy:

  • Notice.

Look around you and experience the life and love that surrounds you. It is right beside you! If you haven’t seen it, open your eyes and your mind. It’s easy to remove those mental blinders and barriers, as long as you truly want to.

  • Opportunities.

Seek out and you shall find opportunities to grow and connect with life without judging yourself. By staying in the moment with those who are nearest and dearest to us, we can cultivate compassion, love, kindness, and morality within us—and then extend this compassionate attitude towards others.

  • Within.

By becoming more mindful, you will achieve a stronger inner peace. It is foremost beneficial to you, and then—from you—it explodes tenfold out into the world around you. You can be deeply affected by the people around you, and can gain insight from and power over their thoughts; never forget that this is mutual—so work to make a positive impact.

. . .

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” –James Baraz

. . .

Not sure where to start? Dr. Kabat-Zinn lists the following simple exercises as key components to mastering mindfulness:

  • Pay attention to your breathing in the present moment.
  • Notice what you’re sensing right now—use all of your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste? Increase your awareness of your body’s physical sensations to better ground yourself in the moment.
  • Understand that your thoughts and emotions are like clouds. They will come and go and will always pass through; they need not define you.
  • Keep a look-out for negative thought patterns so that you recognize them and then can make changes.

Get out of your head and get into your soul. Don’t waste life—live it. And begin living it now. If you do it now, you will always have time.

. . .

“In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.” –Victoria Moran


Choose Joy: Using Mindfulness to Increase Joy in Your Life

  • Do you want more joy in your life?
  • Do you dwell on the negative in your day?
  • Do you want to live more in the present moment?

“For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-lived life.”


Leah, a middle-aged administrative assistant, had a history of depression. She had experienced problems in her past relationships and isolated herself because she felt like a loser. She did not want to repeat that pattern, but her new partner began to complain that she was always negative.

Leah sought help to learn mindfulness to help her become aware of her negative thought patterns. She tended to apply a negative filter to her thinking. Cognitive psychologists have found that this type of despondent thinking is prevalent in those with depression and can be changed. Negative filter thinking refers to when we focus on the negative and discount the positive. The brain is like glue for negative and Teflon for positive. Leah started to notice the Teflon effect when she was given compliments or positive attention, and she observed the frequency of sticky negative thoughts.

Leah realized that she learned this way of thinking as she grew up and the fact that she could change her thinking and behavior gave her hope. Many people were raised in households with little joy and ample negative thought and behavioral patterns. Our models for thinking about the world are formed at young ages and become unconscious. By gently shining a light on inner-injurious thoughts without judging herself, Leah was able to become aware of why she felt and acted as she did. Through her practice of mindfulness, she could live more fully in the present moment.

By slowing down and experiencing the moment it is possible to feel more alive, and you’ll find that sensory perceptions are heightened. It is too easy to rush through life and not take a few minutes to enjoy the simple things. Leah began a practice of staying in the present moment and experiencing joy in simple acts like washing dishes. She let herself take in the lemony aroma of the soap. She slowed down for a few special moments to experience the feeling of the soap on her hands.

By developing mindfulness skills she learned to be able to focus on the now and the pleasure of the moment. Joyful moments began to be sticky while her negative thinking became more like Teflon. Since thought and feelings are meant to come and go, she practiced letting go of  the detrimental glue of her negative preoccupation. As her focus changed to appreciation and celebration of life, she began to notice joy, love, and miracles in the everyday.

As Leah’s inner experience began to change, she smiled more and spoke more positively about life. Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman has shown that couples who thrive over time have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive interactions over negative ones. Leah’s relationship improved as her negative filter weakened and she could expand her experience of  joy. Research has shown that mindfulness practice can help those suffering with depression. Symptoms of depression are reduced with a regular practice and parts of the brain associated with negative arousal shrink in size. Volume and activity in brain centers associated with calm awareness are increased.

Choosing Joy

  • Savoring moments of joy, like holding the hand of a baby, playing with a puppy, or stepping on fall leaves becomes a thought habit and the brain likes to repeats habitual ways of thinking.
  • The feeling of joy is a practice; As you practice, your brain wires neural networks to fire in the direction of joyful thinking.
  • As neuroscientist Dr. Wayne Drevets observed, “In the brain practice makes permanent.” Fortunately because of neuorplasticity, we can reroute our brains in the direction of gladness at any age. 
  • Notice if your thoughts are Teflon for positive and glue for the negative. Imagine letting thoughts pass through your mind like clouds overhead.
  • Imagine a neural railway and that you’re laying track toward enticing stations.
  • Look for joy in everyday things; open your eyes and imagination. Practice staying present in your body. Learn to focus as you experience moments in the day. Let your attention come into your senses as Leah did by smelling the soap when washing dishes and feeling her hands in the water.
  • Develop a simple practice of mindfulness and practice it daily to increase your ability to feel joy in the moment. So much of life is spent replaying what happened in the past or imagining what might happen in the future that people do not fully experience the present.
  • As you practice mindfulness you begin to realize that you can choose joy in the moment by getting away from repeating negative thought patterns and using your senses to fully experience the gifts of the present moment.

Your Turn

Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm. Let your attention scan your body. Notice places of tightness or tension. Imagine that the tension is a knot and in your mind release the knot gently. Let it go. Feel the tension loosen.

Imagine a time when you were very happy. Allow yourself to experience that feeling. How does your body change as you recall this memory? Open your eyes and look around the room until you see something that gives you pleasure—a picture, a book, flowers. Allow your attention to linger on that sensation.

Train your brain to go to places of peace and joy. Set an intention to focus on joy instead of attack thoughts. As you do this you may experience small changes in your mood. Over time, your ability to choose joy and peace of mind will increase.

You will find if you practice this throughout the day, even for a moment at a time, you will see objects in more detail and begin to experience peaceful joy.

There is no right way to practice noticing your past thoughts and recreating them in the present. Keep trying this until it feels right for you. This is a very simple practice, however most people do not do it long enough to really make a difference. Make a commitment to set a time to practice. You can set a chime to ring on your phone as a reminder. You can do this alone or with others.



Change Your Story, Change Your Life
by Dr. Linda Miles

Do you feel as if someone else is writing the story of your life? Learn to program your brain to live with purpose. Change Your Story: Change Your Brain is a guide to living more fully in the present moment. As you live with greater intention, you can literally change the structure of your brain.

Click here to learn more.