Eight Minutes to a Happier You: The Call That Can Change Your Day”

In a world where technology often leads us to feel more isolated than connected, a simple, eight-minute phone call to a friend or loved one can be a powerful antidote to loneliness and the stressors of daily life. This seemingly small act of reaching out can have profound effects on our mental well-being, offering a quick yet meaningful way to enhance our mood and strengthen our connections with others.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry (Kahlon et al., 2021) sheds light on the impact of these brief, empathy-driven conversations. Individuals who received empathetic calls for just four weeks reported significant reductions in feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. These findings highlight the remarkable power of human connection and the potential of a simple phone call to offer comfort and understanding on our busiest days.

The concept of an eight-minute catch-up call is not just about checking a box on our social to-do list; it’s about creating a space for genuine connection and support. Here’s how you can make the most of an eight-minute phone call:

1. Clear Boundaries: Setting a specific timeframe provides a clear beginning and end, making it easier to fit into busy schedules.

2. Focused Connection: Knowing there’s a limited time encourages both parties to focus on meaningful conversation, enhancing the quality of interaction.

3. Reduces Overwhelm: The brevity avoids the potential for the call to feel like a burden, making it more likely for future connections.

4. Avoids Missing Wrap-up Cues: With a predetermined limit, both individuals are on the same page about when the conversation will end, avoiding any awkwardness.

5. Encourages Regularity: The ease of committing to eight minutes can lead to more frequent check-ins, strengthening relationships over time.

Initiating the Eight-Minute Catch-Up:

Simply ask, “Do you have eight minutes for a quick catch-up?” This question sets the stage for a focused, meaningful conversation that respects each other’s time and commitments. In times of uncertainty or when the weight of the world feels too heavy to bear, knowing that someone is just a phone call away can make all the difference.

As we navigate the complexities of modern life, let’s remember the value of picking up the phone and reaching out. Just eight minutes can brighten someone’s day, deepen our relationships, and remind us of the joy found in simple human connection.

Laura Moore, MPsy., is an integrative therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences. 

Kahlon, M. K., Aksan, N., Aubrey, R., Clark, N., Cowley-Morillo, M., Jacobs, E. A., … & Tomlinson, S. (2021). Effect of Layperson-Delivered, Empathy-Focused Program of Telephone Calls on Loneliness, Depression, and Anxiety Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 78(6), 616-622. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.0113

LIFE TRANSITIONS

Major life transitions can occur at any stage in life. Whether it is starting university or college and living on your own for the first time, starting a new job, becoming a parent, or experiencing a death or loss of a loved one, life transitions can evoke many complex feelings. When we experience a big life-altering change, we are often faced with many unknowns and a sense of unpredictability regarding our future. Confronting the unknown and uncertain can evoke feelings of stress, worry, fear, self-doubt, grief, and depressive experiences. While these feelings are normal when faced with a major life change, they can still feel intense and overwhelming. To support yourself or loved ones during a time of major life transition, it is important to remember to: 

  1. Acknowledge and validate your feelings—Sometimes our emotions can feel so overwhelming and intense because we don’t yet know why or what we are experiencing. Acknowledging that a life transition is likely to evoke strong emotions and finding new and healthy ways to identify and validate your feelings can help you navigate change. 
  1. Accept the inevitability of change— We are constantly changing, growing, and evolving in our lives and relationships. Change can be difficult and overwhelming, but it can also provide an opportunity for self-growth and development. Through experiencing change, we can discover new possibilities and parts of ourselves, which can be exciting and motivating!
  1. Reach Out and Connect—Sometimes experiencing a major change in your life can feel lonely and isolating. Connecting with loved ones, members of your community, or others who may be experiencing a similar life change can help you to navigate this difficult time. Engaging in psychotherapy can be another way to address any difficulties that you are facing because of a major life change. In the process of psychotherapy, you can learn new ways to navigate difficult emotions, and develop a deeper understanding and meaning about what this major life change means to you. 

If you are experiencing a major life transition, and wanting to better understand and navigate your experience, CFIR has counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists who are available to support you!

Jennifer Bradley, M. A. is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at CFIR. She works with individuals experiencing a wide range of psychological and relational difficulties including life transitions, anxiety and stress, trauma, depression, mood and grief, interpersonal difficulties, and issues related to self-esteem. Jennifer is an integrative therapist with a particular interest in existential, relational, and psychodynamic approaches to psychotherapy. 

Attachment Styles – Why Are They Important?

By: Dr. Sara Antunes-Alves, C.Psych.

Human beings are hardwired for connection. Unlike other mammals, we rely absolutely on our attachment figures for survival, for an extended period of time, from birth. Without secure connection, our health is at risk. 

When we experience trauma, the wiring for connection is disrupted and we develop adaptations in order to feel safe. It is important to note here that trauma needn’t necessarily be a “Big T” trauma, which include disturbing experiences that happened to you, such as sexual abuse, loss of a loved one, and violent crimes, but also “little t” traumas, especially ones that repeat throughout our development. “Little t” traumas are ones that cause us distress and uncertainty and can also include experiences that didn’t happen to you but should have. A lack of emotional availability from an attachment figure – even if they had the best of intentions – can be traumatic. 

Our attachment style refers to the behaviours we engage in to feel safe with others. Attachment exists on a spectrum, and we may be a mix of different attachment styles, and with different people. Disruptions in attachment tend to originate from our early developmental years, within our families, but can also be affected by harmful experiences later on, such as with a painful romantic relationship or being bullied in school.

There are four attachment styles, and they are briefly described below:

Secure Attachment:This is the “ideal” attachment leaning, manifesting as a healthy level of interdependence with another and comfort expressing emotions openly; relationships are a place of thriving, but being alone is also not necessarily a distressing place. You feel comfortable relying on another for support and having them rely on you.Avoidance and anxiety are low.

There are three forms of insecure attachment:

Dismissive-Avoidant:This attachment leaning manifests as (emotional) distance from others, valuing a high level of self-sufficiency and independence; closeness feels threatening and efforts to push another away can be prevalent; emotions are generally suppressed and denied. You feel triggered by closeness and intimacy. Avoidance is high and anxiety is low. 

Anxious/Preoccupied:This attachment leaning is characterized by high needs for intimacy and a fear of abandonment and rejection. These are managed by high attunement to another’s emotions and pronounced efforts to meet the other’s needs, often at the expense of their own. Eventually, protest behaviours to feel reassured may occur. You feel triggered by distance and uncertainty. Avoidance is low and anxiety is high. 

Fearful-Avoidant/Disorganized:This attachment leaning manifests in a push-pull dynamic. The individual desires connection with another and simultaneously fears it, leading to inconsistent and ambiguous behaviours in social bonds. Emotions are not regulated well and a sense of shame is prevalent; both closeness and distance can feel triggering. Here, anxiety and avoidance are both high.

The above insecure attachment styles represent clever adjustments as a result of important developmental needs not being met. They reflect humanity’s impressive propensity for survival through adaptation. However, at some point, you may find that these adaptations are no longer useful to you and may in fact be causing you or your relationships harm. 

The good news is, attachment styles are not fixed; they can change. 

If you find yourself identifying with an insecure attachment style, there is hope. It is not a life sentence. With greater awareness of your attachment style with another, what makes you feel threatened and how you find safety, you can learn to pause and choose to respond in more adaptive and secure ways. It is an effortful and sometimes lengthy process of re-learning, but it is never too late to choose. 

Dr. Sara Antunes-Alves, C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Sara provides therapy to individuals experiencing a range of psychological difficulties, and especially enjoys helping others understand their relationship to self and others, and how attachment (trauma), especially in formative years of development, affects adults in their current functioning. Her approach to therapy begins with building self-awareness, which she believes is necessary for meaningful change. Sara makes efforts to highlight the importance of having a more integrated perspective of one’s functioning, including one’s intellectual, emotional, and physiological states of being. She incorporates interpersonal and psychodynamic psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to help clients achieve their therapeutic goals.

Long-distance relationships: Four pillars to boost the possibility of success

By: Anya Rameshwar, B.A., R.P. (Qualifying)

Please note that the worry and sadness associated with a long-distance relationship can vary significantly from person to person — and no two experiences are exactly alike. For more, we recommend consulting with a mental health professional. You can find resources at the bottom of this post. 

A long-distance relationship is a romantic relationship between people who live far apart and cannot meet frequently. Most couples have been confronted with this dilemma at some point, whether it be ongoing, temporary, unexpected, or anticipated. The experience brings heartache, sadness, and even anxiety in any scenario, with doubts, fears and “what will become of us” questions. 

But don’t let those lingering worries and late-night ruminations overwhelm you. Having to separate from your romantic partner(s) means learning to navigate long-distance relationships. 

Focus determines direction. Focus on maintaining your relationship(s) while apart, and you’ll be successful. 

To help you navigate these changing dynamics, here are relationship cornerstones you can focus on when building up and strengthening your partnership(s).

The 4 pillars of a long-distance relationship. 

  1. Passion – Nourish the passion in your relationship(s). This contributes to greater fulfilment – both in and out of the bedroom – as well as happiness and well-being. 
  2. Romance – Enhance the romance in your relationship(s). Preserve some of the elements that were present from the early stages of your attraction. 
  3. Communication – Share what you need, what you want, and what you don’t want with your partner(s)— actively discussing the relationship(s) and assuring ongoing commitment. 
  4. Trust – Be honest and forthcoming. Be transparent and allow space to explore topics that might trigger your mistrust. Keep and follow through on commitments you make. 

Maintaining and Building Healthy Relationships Virtually During COVID-19

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the whole world changed rapidly and drastically, which can invoke feelings of fear as well as uncertainty. A particularly crucial yet psychologically difficult element associated with COVID-19 is the worldwide efforts of socially distancing to limit the spread of the virus. As human beings, we have a fundamental need and drive for interpersonal connections and relationships. During social distancing, it can be common to feel loneliness and disconnection from others. However, with modern technology, we can build and nurture new and existing relationships that have evidence-based findings to improve our mental health and overall wellbeing. Healthy relationships are linked to reduced production of stress hormones such as cortisol, a greater sense of purpose, and healthy coping behaviours.

During times like this, it is crucial to utilize the psychological benefits of social relationships by:

  • Scheduling times to connect via FaceTime, Skype, or virtual platforms. This activity can serve as a wonderful substitution for face to face interaction. 
  • Sharing our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and experiences with friends and family. Doing so allows us to feel heard, understood, and increasingly connected to others.
  • Create time for individual hobbies and self-care; however, include scheduled time for family activities such as game nights or think of some creative ideas on date nights you can create with your partner at home.
  • Reconnecting with friends or relatives that we haven’t had much time or opportunity to connect with as frequently in the past.
  • Keeping in touch with colleagues or employees during these uncertain times and offering support.

Clinicians at CFIR are offering confidential, secure video therapy or teletherapy therapy, which can help support you with maintaining social relationships during COVID-19 as well as working through feelings of loneliness, loss, or uncertainty, amongst others.

Edgar Prudcoi, B.A. is a therapist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto and is near completion of his Masters degree in Clinical Psychology at the Adler Graduate Professional School. He supports individual adults and couples to deal with difficulties related to emotion (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger), the effects of trauma, loss and grief, conflict resolution, and relationship functioning.

Social Support and Its Role in Mental Health

by: Stephanie Azzi, B.A., Counsellor

Humans are social beings; we all rely and depend on the support of others to help us deal with the difficulties we encounter in everyday life. Social support is a concept that encompasses the physical and emotional support we receive from our surrounding social worlds (e.g., our cities, neighborhoods), as well as from our personal relationships. We may receive social support from romantic partners, relatives, friends, coworkers, as well as from our social and community ties (Taylor, 2012). 

To better understand what effective social support looks like, it is important to look at two aspects of social support: received social support and perceived social support. Received social support refers to the emotional or physical support that is provided to a person by others, usually in a specific context or situation, and that is not always appreciated by this individual receiving it (Uchino, 2009). Perceived social support refers to a person’s beliefs about how available support is to them when they need it, and to how much they believe they are receiving it in different situations (Uchino, 2009). 

Social support can have positive effects on our physical health (e.g., reduces the risk of mortality; Holt-Lunstad, Smith & Layton, 2010) and on our mental health (e.g., reduces anxiety; Harandi et al., 2017); however, not all social support appears to be beneficial at all times. Whether or not social support is positive and beneficial appears to depend on various aspects of the support, such as who provides it and whether it is considered appropriate for the situation (Taylor, 2012). Certain forms of support may be more valued when they are provided from different individuals. For example, emotional support (i.e., providing empathy, affection and caring towards someone; Kent de Grey, Uchino, Trettevik, Cronan, & Hogan, 2018) seems to be most appreciated when received by close family members, spouses, and friends but may be perceived as unhelpful and unwanted from acquaintances (Dakof & Taylor, 1990). 

While we all need some form of social support as we deal with the vicissitudes of life, when reaching out for certain types of social support it is important that we consider who you are reaching out to and what type of support you are needing.

Stephanie Azzi, B.A., is a Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Ottawa. She is currently completing a practicum at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Ottawa, under the supervision of Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych. Stephanie works with individual adults and couples, providing psychological assessment and treatment services for a wide range of presenting issues including depression, anxiety, and interpersonal difficulties.

Emotional Dialogues in Couples: 9 Steps to Greater Emotional Communication and Connection!

Learning how to experience and express our emotions and needs to a partner can be very difficult, particularly if in our own family of origin, our inner feelings and needs were not addressed. Working through feelings and emotions requires adequate time and space to complete these types of interactions.  Couples often struggle and elevate distress when trying to engage in discussions of feelings and needs while multi-tasking (e.g., cooking, driving, shopping, taking care of the children). 

Discovering how to efficiently and effectively process your partner’s and your emotional experience is essential, so each of you feels understood and seen by the other. Picking the right time to have these dialogues is crucial, taking turns so that each partner feels sufficiently validated in their experience and their needs resolved is also important. Emotional accessibility and responsiveness to our partner’s emotional experiences and needs help our partners distress to lower and deepens the connection between partners. To be accessibility means to be able to be present and engaged sufficiently with your partner’s emotional experience. Responsiveness involves interest and engagement in identifying and resolving the underlying needs associated with emotions. These types of interactions are the essence of secure attachment.

The clinicians at CFIR support couple clients to develop emotional attunement through nine different steps. Learning how to complete these types of emotional interactions can lower distress and stress levels when partners have a guide to help them to process their emotions and needs. Come learn how to emotionally communicate and connect using steps developed by clinicians at CFIR’s offices.