Each scent in the shop is paired with a relationship or happiness tip - little reminders to help keep us grounded in the good stuff. Search for your scent + get a bite-sized relationship boost from Dr. Kara!
[Alphabetical; seasonal at the end]
When In Doubt, Good Wins Out
I’m a realist, married to an optimist. Sometimes it drives me crazy that my husband gives the benefit of the doubt to everyone so freely - except when I’m on the receiving end of it, of course!
Optimists are great for relationships because they do naturally what requires tremendous effort for the rest of us. They typically believe people are good at the core, that everyone is doing the best they can, and that there’s more than one valid perspective. They come pre-wired with what Dr. John Gottman calls positive sentiment override. When in doubt, the good wins out.
When we’re looking for the good in life, we see it everywhere. When we’re on the hunt for faults and setbacks, we find plenty of those, too. One of the most important choices we make in life is which lens to use.
But First, Coffee
Rituals Trump Routines
When 5 a.m. rolls around, my parents are brewing their morning coffee. It's been a ritual they've shared for decades, a way to connect and kickstart the day together. Whether you are plodding through sleepless nights with a newborn, powering through grad school, or enjoying a daily cup with your eggs, coffee is probably your fuel of choice.
People tell me (a non-coffee drinker) that beyond the nice jolt of caffeine, having a cup (or 3) is an important part of their daily routine. But when we take a pretty automatic routine and transform it into a meaningful ritual, it becomes more powerful. Dr. John Gottman explains everyday rituals, like having coffee together, help keep us connected. We come to anticipate and depend on them. They give us little pockets of quality time, and predictable experiences to keep us grounded, no matter how crazy life gets.
It's A Good Day For A Fresh Start
New year, new you? Not necessarily. You can have a fresh start anytime you'd like. In fact, some people use Mondays, birthdays, or the change in semesters or seasons to commit to big changes or new goals...and it works!
Dr. Katy Milkman and her colleagues have studied the fresh start effect and find that while we could make new resolutions any old time, we tend to do it at moments in time that feel significant to us. They help bookmark our lives into neat chapters. Maybe you changed jobs when you turned 40, or went back to college when your youngest started school.
These moments become memorable milestones, helping us draw a clear line between life before and life after the fresh start. We can imagine the "old" us before that day, with all our imperfections and missteps, and the "new" us ready to change, grow, and thrive on the other side.
Change Things Up. Find the Fun.
In the beginning, we pull out all the stops. We plan creative dates and romantic dinners and spend all week anticipating them. But after the "wooing" is done, we default to Netflix and the same restaurants because, well, it's easy. We use so much brainpower juggling our busy schedules that romance can shift to autopilot. Luckily, we can take back the controls anytime!
Research from PREP, Inc. finds lack of variety is one of the biggest enemies of fun. If you want to keep the spark alive, try new things together (and luckily, they don't have to be exotic or expensive!). Go to a drive-in movie, have a picnic on the beach, or solve your way out of an escape room. Think outside the box and tap into any common interests. Tagging along for your partner's favorite movie or hobby is fine occasionally, but you'll have the most fun when you find things you both enjoy doing together.
Plant Good Seeds + Watch Them Grow
When I was expecting the first time, I asked a close friend how she would describe motherhood. She sweetly replied, "It's relentless." Spoiler alert: She was right.
Being a mom is an exercise in agility and cross-training: top chef, maid, nurse, emotion coach, teacher, playmate, spiritual guide, and family organizer (to name a few). Yes, mothers are nurturing and caring, but they are innovative and gritty, too. They cover a lot of ground in a day (even if it feels like the same 10 feet, again and again!).
Through all its challenges and demands, motherhood cultivates a deep capacity for love, joy, resilience, patience, and grace in us. Stepmom or grandma? Godmother? Motherhood is beautiful in all its forms, and the world needs each of us carefully tending and fiercely loving on our people, wherever we’re planted.
Build A Life You Love
Traditions root us in our home, but more importantly, to the people who feel like home to us. PREP, Inc. encourages us to think of existing traditions (big or small) we want to keep – maybe a special birthday ritual or holiday tradition you had growing up – plus new ones it could be fun to add. Taco Tuesday? An annual turkey trot? Weekly game night? Choose anything, as long as it's enjoyable and meaningful to you.
Dr. Ovul Sezer and her team found a strong connection between our family rituals and how much we enjoy the holidays, too! Sitting in silence, or texting discretely under the table, don't quite do the trick. Part of what builds anticipation for special occasions are the traditions we look forward to. Cookie decorating, karaoke, or silly gift exchanges? Family rituals connect us, boost our happiness, and help us remember the way home.
Love Is (A Lot) More Than A Feeling
I remember our wedding day well. The weather was perfect, we were surrounded by loved ones, and my husband comically broke his boutonniere swatting a gnat on the altar. But beyond beautiful photos and a great party to look back on, a wedding serves a more important purpose – it’s a commitment signal. The money and time you invest to plan it. The public exchange of rings and vows. Marriage clarifies commitment in a way few other things can.
Dr. Scott Stanley explains that commitment is really the choice to give up other choices. After the big day, things shift. Instead of looking for greener grass, we focus on tending the yard in front of us, recognizing the work of keeping it beautiful is up to us. When we really dig into marriage, it’s some of the hardest, most humbling, joyful, and rewarding work we’ll ever do.
Solve What You Can. Grace For The Rest.
My husband is pretty introverted and laid back. I talk up a storm and run around with my hair on fire 24/7. As you’d imagine, these minor differences pose challenges for us occasionally. Maybe you’re a spender/saver, messy/tidy, or punctual/late pairing. If you have a tape you play on repeat (new day, same argument), those are probably perpetual conflicts in your relationship. Dr. John Gottman finds as much as 69% of marital conflict is perpetual and won't be resolved. But in some ways, that’s a relief, right?
Our job becomes managing the differences - not fixing. Ask good questions to better understand where your partner is coming from, and once you get below the surface, it’s easier to have more compassion. View your perpetual conflicts like chronic conditions for your relationship. How can you minimize flare ups and pain? Humor and grace, mostly.
Connect Through The Chaos
My children's love for me is rivaled by their love for pancakes. Needless to say, making sprinkle pancakes or going for weekend brunch have become fun little rituals for us. Maybe you prefer walking the dog together, movie nights, or Saturdays spent poolside. It doesn’t matter which ritual you choose - when you’re doing it, it’s special because it represents distraction-free quality time together.
Family meals are especially important. Research finds clear benefits of family dinners for kids - from an academic boost to a deeper sense of belonging and security. But many families are scheduled so tightly this feels impossible.
That’s exactly why family rituals matter though - so we don’t lose sight of each other in the chaos. While stress can drive us to disconnect, rituals pull us back in, keeping us connected to who – and what - really counts.
Create Fun Traditions That Stick
Whether you're watching a child eat cake by the fistful, or a newly married couple playfully smearing icing on each other's faces, cake is synonymous with celebrations and fun.
Dr. John Gottman stresses the importance of traditions, like birthday celebrations, in building a sense of shared meaning as a family. In our home, we have a special addendum to "Happy Birthday" that we always sing. My mom taught us growing up, we shared it with our kids, and I learned from my daughter's preschool that her class eagerly adopted it, too!
We can't freeze a fun tradition in time any more than we can freeze a clean house or great hair day. Traditions are solidified with each passing year, even if they change a bit during different seasons of life. When we're really intentional about it, we can cultivate connection and fun for the long haul.
Grateful People Are Happy People
While we like to think we have it all under control, we know the Beatles were probably on to something - we get by with a little help from our friends. Maybe it's a co-worker you can count on to cover your desk when you're out sick. Or a teacher or coach who goes above and beyond to encourage your child. Maybe it's a neighbor who looks after your home and pets when you're out of town. When you're really looking for those gestures of kindness and service, you find more than you ever bargained for.
Gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons finds even simple practices, like keeping a gratitude journal for a few weeks, can strengthen the immune system and boost feelings of joy and optimism. And when we focus on gratitude, we tend to be more compassionate and helpful to others. Practicing gratitude actually multiplies the good!
Do More Of What Delights And Inspires You
Whether you're skiing down a snowy slope, lounging on a beach with a fruity drink, or hiking at a nearby park, getaways offer us a welcome change of pace and scenery - bright spots on the calendar to anticipate.
Vacation is a time to check many of our responsibilities and stresses at the door and just relax...and the benefits to our mental and physical health outlast the trip! These special experiences can actually boost our productivity and happiness, too. We need those opportunities to fill our cups, so we have more to give when we return.
Getaways are often tied to big transitions, like a honeymoon or babymoon, or important rites of passage. They give us chances to build lasting memories as we connect with the people, places, and experiences that delight and inspire us.
Babyproof The Relationship
Real talk: babies are so cute and tiny! Also real talk: having a cute, tiny baby in your life 24/7 might rock your world a bit. Studies find 1/2 to 2/3 of couples experience a sharp drop in relationship satisfaction after baby's born. (Yikes, I know.)
But, when you’re sleep-deprived, you probably aren’t the most optimistic and energetic version of yourself. Plus, you’re adjusting to totally new roles. Add in hormones, endless laundry, financial changes, feeding on demand, so much crying (baby, and sometimes the grown-ups), and it’s no wonder conflict spikes and intimacy wanes for many.
LUCKILY, Dr. John Gottman's research offers proven tips for thriving across the transition! Including dad meaningfully in baby care, giving mom a break, staying close friends, and respecting your different parenting styles all go a long way!
You Deserve A Break, Too
We pride ourselves on not taking breaks...or vacations...or naps. But, life is full of stress. Traffic, extra projects at work, global pandemics, tantrums - the list goes on. Life is full of good stress, like new jobs, homes, and babies, too.
Release valves for all that stress are crucial. Once we get flooded with too much emotion or information, our higher order thinking shuts down. At that point, the only real option is to call a timeout and do something relaxing to reset.
Do what works for you: maybe a warm bath, reading, meditation, going for a run, or listening to some good music. Dr. John Gottman's research finds a break of at least 20 minutes can help your body return to a set point where you can problem-solve and engage more constructively again.
A little break goes a long way.
Fresh Air Brings Fresh Perspective
There's something undeniable about crisp weather and the smell of a crackling fire. Whether you spend time camping or just enjoy the occasional s'more in your backyard, getting outdoors feels good for the soul.
Many researchers find participating in leisure activities together can bring your family closer, especially getting into nature together. Whether you're pitching a tent or fishing off a dock, the triumphs and challenges of shared experiences have a way of bonding us.
Sometimes we feel more comfortable opening up in a more relaxed setting too, like on a nature walk or around the fire pit, than staring across the kitchen table at each other. Time in nature also helps reduce stress and boost our mood.
Head outside - fresh air often brings fresh perspective.
The Harvest (Seasonal)
Big Love Comes In Small Packages
Save a little bit each week and it will add up. Clean a little each day and you'll stay on top of the mess. So much in life demands ongoing attention and effort, but our relationships require the most. There especially, we reap what we sow.
You can find the reaping and sowing analogy throughout the Bible, and similar ideas pop up in relationship research. Dr. John Gottman hit on a magic 5:1 ratio. Even in conflict, happy couples tend to have at least 5 positive feelings or interactions for every negative. That ratio is closer to 20:1 during smoother times! That means we need to sow a LOT of good seeds to buffer our relationships from the inevitable misunderstandings and spats.
Luckily, love doesn’t have to be extravagant to count. It is diligent work we do a little bit each day by offering affection, support, humor, encouragement, and kindness to each other.
Evergreen Love Takes Everyday Care
While the trees around them change color and drop their leaves, evergreens are constant. Their fresh foliage is on display year-round, braving a whole host of elements. From pines to palm trees, our relationships can take some notes from the evergreens. They are steady and consistent; you can count on them, even under challenging circumstances.
For a relationship to thrive long-term, it requires a bit more maintenance, though. Dr. Laura Stafford explains that working on our relationships doesn't just hold them steady - it grows them! Relationship maintenance comes in many forms, like being generous, forgiving, affectionate, supportive, responsive, and having fun together.
When we tend our relationships well, they become evergreen - timeless - able to thrive in virtually any season.
Less Hustle. More Magic.
Few things compare to the wonder and excitement kids feel during the holidays. Snow days, hot cocoa, special gifts, and the whimsy of elves on shelves and red-nosed reindeer are all thrilling in their eyes. Even as adults, something about the chilly weather, holiday music, and twinkling lights rings nostalgic. Until we get wrapped up in all the planning and stress - we feel that magic slowly slip our grasp.
The secret is being present for it all - something kids do really well. Dr. Elyssa Barbash says when we live in the moment we tend to be "happier, calmer and more relaxed, and appreciative." During the holidays, our task is to linger in the joy and gratitude longer, to spend less time planning the "perfect" holiday and more time living it. The magic is always there, our own little Wonderland for the taking. All we have to do is slown down and look up.