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Archive for the ‘Healthy Living’ Category

5 Things Strong Families Have in Common

SOURCE:  Sanya Pelini

The perfect family is a myth. Every family experiences stress-provoking changes time and time again. Some families, however, are better able to cope with tough times. Science defines these families as “strong families.”

Several studies have found that strong families share similar characteristics. Here are five characteristics of strong families.

1 | Strong families spend time together

Families that spend time together are more likely to build stronger ties than those that don’t. However, that time doesn’t count if it’s spent sitting passively together in front of a screen. It also doesn’t count if it’s spent arguing. In other words, quality trumps quantity.

Reaching an ideal work-life balance is often a challenge for many parents. However, installing simple family routines can ensure that you get to hang out as a family even when you’re busy parents. Simple everyday activities such as playing games together, taking walks together, sharing meals, sharing household chores, watching a movie together, etc. help strengthen family bonds. There is evidence that having everyday or regular routines provides family members with roots and helps families overcome moments of stress.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Little pieces of time matter too. Take advantage of the moments spent in the car or in traffic to talk to your kids about your day and ask them about theirs.
  • Create your own family rituals.
  • Schedule “hang out time” in your to-do list.

2 | Strong families foster optimism

Positive psychology research has proven that strong families have positive emotions. They have a more optimistic outlook and believe that they are equipped to adapt to change. Strong families are able to “withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges” and are also more ready to accept the things that cannot be changed.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Focus on solutions rather than on problems.
  • The book “Beliefs: The Heart of Healing in Families and Illness” states that “family belief systems powerfully influence how we view a crisis, our suffering and our options.” Considering challenges as opportunities to strengthen family bonds can make it easier to overcome life’s challenges
  • Explore all possible options when a problem arises.

3 | Strong families work on their emotion regulation skills

There is evidence that strong families consider stress and change normal and set up processes to help children adapt to changes and distressing situations. Strong families do not attempt to shield their children, but give them the skills to adapt to everyday situations as well as to traumatic life events. When families learn to regulate their emotions, there are more likely to respond effectively to traumatic experiences.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Develop your family’s emotion regulation skills. Emotion regulation means knowing how and when to express emotions in a respectful manner.
  • Provide your child with tools to manage his/her own strong emotions.
  • Teach your kids that while it is normal to experience strong emotions such as anger and anxiety, each individual is responsible for how he or she reacts to those emotions.
  • Teach your kids to respond appropriately to emotions by modeling these reactions yourself.

4 | Strong families promote open communication channels

Multiple studies have highlighted the importance of promoting open communication channels. A common characteristic of strong families is that they adopt an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting requires parents to hold high expectations, but to also be flexible and attentive to their children’s needs. Children raised in such family settings are less likely to turn to drugs and also have better academic, social, and psychological outcomes.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Set realistic expectations for your kids. Expect neither too little nor too much.
  • Clearly communicate your expectations to your children.
  • Foster mutual respect.
  • Be flexible. Remember that you too were once a child.
  • Listen, then react.

5 | Strong families show their appreciation for each other

We are all the best versions of ourselves when we feel appreciated. In strong families, the members know that they are appreciated. They know that their family would not be the same without them. Showing our kids we appreciate them is also likely to reinforce positive behavior and it may even help them develop a positive sense of self.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Focus on your child’s positive behavior.
  • Give praise where praise is due.
  • Celebrate your family’s accomplishments.
  • Establish gratitude routines to celebrate family members.
  • Show your children you think they’re awesome.

5 Steps for Handling Life’s Frustrations

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

Many of our biggest mistakes in life can be traced to handling disappointment in unwise ways. In times when we’re emotionally low, it’s easy to slip back into the habits that wreaked havoc on our lives in the past. Sometimes, we just need better coping mechanisms!

Here are five simple steps for dealing with frustrations in your life, based on the Bible.

1.  Ask yourself, “Did I cause it?”

The Bible says, “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV). Many things in life frustrate us because we brought them on ourselves. We don’t have anybody else to blame.

It’s frustrating to run out of gas on a trip. But if you didn’t stop to get gas before you left, or decided to push your luck, who’s to blame?

2.  Ask yourself, “What can I learn from it?”

Use the irritation as an opportunity to grow in character and become more like Christ.

How does God produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life? He places you in the opposite situation. If God wants to teach you love, he will put you around unlovely people. If God wants to teach you peace, he will put you in a situation of total chaos so you can have inner peace.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . ” (NIV). There are many bad things in the world, but all things work together and even the negative God can turn into a positive if we will let him.

3.  Thank God in the situation.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks” (NKJV). You don’t have to be thankful for a bad situation. But you can be thankful in a bad situation. That frustration, that irritation, that inconvenience, that interruption, may be a blessing or an opportunity in disguise.

The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach, but God took him to Rome to be in prison and write the letters that formed the New Testament. Paul was frustrated, but God saw it as an opportunity to make him sit still long enough to write the Bible.

4.  Turn the frustration into a funny, humorous event.

The Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”  (Proverbs 17:22 NIV). A sense of humor is God’s antidote for anger and frustration.

5.  Ask God to fill you with his love.

Why? Because 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, [Love] is not easily angered” (NIV).  Love is self-giving, not self-serving. We get irritated because we think everyone and everything has to revolve around us. Love concentrates on the other person.

Jesus faced constant frustrations in his life, but he always made time for people. We get so preoccupied with our own things; we forget that people are the priority in life.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV).

Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Terry Gaspard/Gottman Institute

Ben and Alicia are both waiting for the other person to change. I see it all the time in my private practice.

“I’ve been miserable for years,” complains Ben. “I’ve asked Alicia to give me space, but things don’t appear to be changing. It feels like I can’t breathe.”

“Ben has his friends over every weekend,” Alicia reflects. “He doesn’t consider my needs and I feel so alone.”

If you want your partner to change, start by accepting them for who they are. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman says, “People can change only if they feel that they are basically liked and accepted the way they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves.”

Instead of criticizing your partner, remind yourself of all of the things you appreciate about them, and share those things with them. Be genuinely interested in learning about why they see or do something differently than you, and be open to respecting and even celebrating what makes each of you unique.

Of course, there are some things that should never be tolerated in a relationship, like abuse, addiction, or infidelity. These behaviors should be addressed in a loving and direct way with the help of a professional. Even in those cases, it is possible to accept the person even if you do not accept their behavior.

Vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand

What Ben and Alicia don’t realize is that they aren’t really arguing about the amount of time they spend together. The underlying issue in their marriage is that neither partner is able to express their needs in a non-blameful way.

They had never discussed what alone time and time together meant to each of them. By talking about this in my office, Ben finally understood Alicia’s fear of being alone. His understanding led him to carve out time to spend together on the weekends.

Couples seeking a deeper emotional connection need to understand that vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand. In other words, intimacy can only occur when partners are vulnerable enough to share their deepest hopes, fears, and dreams without judgement.

Change starts with you

Do you spend more time questioning your partner’s words or actions than examining your own? Blaming your partner can feel good in the moment, but it’s dangerous because it can lead to anger and resentment.

Conflict is not a bad thing in relationships. After watching thousands of couples in his lab for over 40 years, Dr. Gottman discovered a simple truth: all couples argue. The difference between the couples that stay together and the ones who divorce is the way they repair after conflict. The Masters of relationships take responsibility for their role in the issue and change their own behavior.

Dr. Gottman explains, “The couples that don’t repair those hurts end up with festering wounds that grow bigger day by day, the month, and the year until they finally break the couple apart. Repair is absolutely crucial in any kind of relationship, particularly intimate relationships.”

Here are four things you can do instead of trying to change your partner that can change your relationship for the better.

1. Be a better partner
Many people stay in bad relationships with the desire to change their partner. In Marriage Rules, Dr. Harriet Lerner writes, “If you don’t change your part in a stuck pattern, no change will occur. Change comes from the bottom up: that is from the person who is in the most pain, or who has the least power, or who has lost or compromised too much in the relationship.”

2. Focus on the issues at hand
When you focus on changing your partner, you miss the opportunity to work together to come up with a solution. You’re no longer on the same team. Instead, focus on the issues at hand to meet both of your needs.

Anger is usually a symptom of underlying hurt, fear, and frustration, so speak in I statements and focus on expressing your feelings in a vulnerable way that invites your partner to understand your pain, rather than pushes them away.

3. Take responsibility
We are responsible for how our words and actions make our partner feel. Apologize to your partner by taking responsibility for the problem, even just a small piece, and this will validate their feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on.

4. Complain without blame
In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Dr. Gottman explains that criticizing your partner is one of The Four Horsemen that predicts divorce. It is different from offering a critique or voicing a complaint. A criticism attacks the core of a person’s character while a complaint focuses on a specific behavior.

Successful couples remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt and consider that they are both doing the best they can. In The Science of Trust, Dr. Gottman advices couples to talk about their feelings in terms of a positive need, instead of what they do not need. By being good friends, you can build a healthy bond that will help you repair and navigate challenging moments together.

There is a saying to be the change you wish to see in the world. Gandhi advises us, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” I believe this to be true in relationships as well.

Instead of trying to change your partner, be the change you wish to see in your relationship.

7 Ways To Protect Your Children From Sexual Abuse

SOURCE:  Joshua Straub

A few months ago, I spoke at an event on the principles of emotional safety, where a representative from the National Organization of Victim’s Assistance (NOVA) happened to be in attendance. Since then, we’ve been working together on a few projects and becoming good friends.

The mission of NOVA is to champion dignity and compassion for those harmed by crime or crisis. They work quite frequently on behalf of abuse victims.

One evening, my friend and I were carpooling back to our hotel from an event and I asked him a personal question.

As a dad,” I began, “how can I best protect my kids from sexual abuse?

Here are seven answers he gave me.

1.   Have surprises but don’t keep secrets. We don’t keep secrets in our house. We only have surprises. Think about it, secrets are never told. Surprises are always revealed. If I take our kids to get their mommy a birthday present, we’re not keeping it a secret from her; we’re getting her a surprise that will be revealed on her birthday.

Most child predators tell children that the acts are to be kept a secret between the two of them. If secrets are not allowed in your family, it’s unlikely for your child to buy in to someone asking them to keep something secret.

2.   Over 90% of perpetrators are people we love and trust. Aunts. Uncles. Stepmoms. Stepdads. Grandparents. Moms. Dads. Coaches. Teachers. Pastors. Family friends. Be vigilant of who your children are spending time with—or who wants to spend time with them.

3.   Trust your child’s instincts. If your child is skittish towards a relative or friend, don’t push or force him to like and trust that person. Too often we assume that since we trust that individual, our child should too. Allow trust to happen naturally over time and under your supervision. There could be a legitimate reason for your child’s apprehension of an individual. Don’t force it.

4.   Use the appropriate names for private parts. It’s not a “willy,” a “pee-pee,” or a “dingy.” Teach your son he has a penis. The same is true for our daughters. Calling a vagina by its proper name is important because sexual predators often use “cutesy” names to lure children. They need to learn the appropriate terms. If your children know the names of their private parts, they can more accurately, and with no confusion, tell you if it hurts or if someone touched that area inappropriately.

5.   Teach them the appropriate situations for private parts to be seen. Just as they need to be told the appropriate ways to speak to others, use a fork, or share toys, our kids need to learn the appropriate situations for private parts to be seen and touched by others. For the most part, this shouldn’t go beyond bath time at home with mom or dad or an examination at the doctor’s office.

6.   If your children ask questions, answer them. Don’t ignore or deflect questions they have about their penis or vagina. Our children are curious about everything, including their body parts. Ignoring their questions or concerns will only increase their curiosity and, at worst, lead to feelings of shame about their body, as if it’s something they shouldn’t discuss. Age-appropriately, answer their questions. Knowledge is power.

7.   They don’t have to hug and kiss everybody. There’s always the overzealous aunt or grandma in the family who wants to pinch cheeks and plaster lipstick all over our children. Many times we comply and force our poor kids to do this. If your child doesn’t want to give hugs and kisses to family members, neighbors, or friends, respect that boundaries and don’t force them. Lord knows, you probably don’t want to hug and kiss them either.

We Don’t Need “Mother” and “Father” Anymore?

SOURCE:  Amy K. Hall/Stand to Reason

The Huffington Post celebrates the idea that non-traditional families are breaking down our understanding of gender differences: “We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents.”

Gay and lesbian couples and single moms and dads by chance or choice embody changing ideas about sex and sex roles, they are also transforming the gender based definitions of parenting. They are challenging us all to reevaluate the terms of marriage. Along with single parents raising children, they are also transforming the nature of parenting — and showing how Americans have transcended the gender-based definitions of parenting. We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents….

Yes, the terms “mother” and “father” do still usually convey a biological distinction between who inseminates and who gives birth, but the rise of donor insemination and surrogate pregnancies open debate even on that.

Whether we acknowledge it willingly or not, the differing social roles the mother-father nouns once designated are rapidly converging. Certainly, there are still things that fathers undertake more than mothers, such as teaching a child to ride a bike. Some things often seem to fall more to mothers, such as arranging childcare. But each parent can, and does, tend to everything.

The differences between the sexes are more than just biological. And they certainly go beyond preferences for particular tasks. All you have to do is reflect on your own experience to see that this is so.

Did your father tend to enforce standards? Did your mother encourage emotional intimacy?

Did your father push you to mature? Did your mother tend to nurture?

The list could go on and on because the differences between the sexes are as deep as who they are, what they value, and how they relate to people. These differences show themselves not merely in the tasks each sex chooses, but in how each approaches any particular task. Of course either parent can do any task, but what they teach their children in and through the completing of each task will be different.

Men and women are complementary. The lessons learned from both parents are valuable and unique to the strengths of each sex, and children are in desperate need of both. The obscuring of this is not something to celebrate. But it’s exactly what must be done in order to promote same-sex marriage, so you can expect to see more of it.

5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Shaunti Feldhahn/Family Life

A few small actions carry surprising power in building a lasting relationship.

Not long ago, the marriage of some close friends—I’ll call them Daniel and Jessica—suddenly imploded. We did everything we could to stand with them in their crisis to speak hope for their future together. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t survive.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Jessica one day. Through her sobs, she said, “He worked so hard for a year to take us on that amazing vacation to Hawaii. But all I really wanted was for him to put his arm around me at church!”

Huh? Do you think in the midst of all her pain that she was thinking clearly? Actually, I do.

I could fill in lots of other details, but ultimately the pattern is a sadly common one. You may have seen it too. Daniel was a godly, well-intentioned husband who showed his love in several ways, including working long hours to provide for his family and to do nice things for them. You see, for him, providing is love.

Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that what he was working so hard for wasn’t what Jessica most needed—and in some ways was actually robbing her of the closeness she needed the most. (And of course there were ways she didn’t know she was hurting him.) What she needed most, more than all the expensive vacations in the world, were a few simple, specific day-to-day actions.

But as simple as loving gestures in public? you wonder.

Yes! My research on happy couples showed that an extraordinarily high percentage of them were (often without realizing it!) doing a few little specific actions that were making their spouses feel deeply cared for. Jessica, as it turns out, is like nearly all other men and women in her deep rooted desire for these surprisingly meaningful gestures.

Day-to-day actions

Clearly, a few small actions won’t fix deep relationship problems. But for most of us, a handful of simple day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t. There’s just enormous power in that!

For nearly every man or woman, the same few small, gender-specific actions not only matter but have a huge impact on a couple’s level of happiness. But these little actions take on even more power when accompanied by those that matter to your spouse individually.

Let’s begin with the few small actions that the surveys indicate matter a lot to almost every man or woman—what we might call the Fantastic Five.

When individuals were asked on the survey if a particular action made them happy, the affirmative response numbers were staggeringly high for five specific actions for each gender, even among the struggling couples. Close to 100 percent of all husbands and wives said these actions mattered, with between 65 and 90 percent of all husbands and wives saying these actions would deeply please them.

In other words, you are very likely to make your spouse feel deeply cared for if you make a habit of doing the same five things consistently.

The Fantastic Five for him

A wife will have a big impact on her husband’s happiness when she does the following:

1. Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it. (For example, she says, “Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside.” Or, “Thanks for playing with the kids, even when you were so tired from work.”) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

2. Says “You did a great job at __________.” This deeply pleases 69 percent of all men.

3. Mentions in front of others something he did well. This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

4. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. This deeply pleases 85 percent of all men.

5. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy. (For example, she expresses appreciation for something he did for her with a smile, words, a big hug, etc.) This deeply pleases 88 percent of all men.

The Fantastic Five for her

On his side, a husband will have a big impact on his wife when he does the following:

1. Takes her hand. (For example, when walking through a parking lot or sitting together at the movies.) This deeply pleases 82 percent of all women.

2. Leaves her a message by voice mail, e-mail, or text during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. This deeply pleases 75 percent of all women.

3. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public (at church, at a restaurant with friends, etc.). This deeply pleases 74 percent of all women.

4. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” This deeply pleases 76 percent of all women.

5. Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something, instead of withdrawing. (This doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry or need space; it means he tries to pull himself out of it.) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all women.

Keys that unlock any door

Did you notice that all these happiness-inducing actions are simple, learnable, and doable by any wife or any husband? If you put each of the five biggest little things to work every day, I’m betting your marriage will improve—in some cases, radically.

And here’s more great news: All these small but powerful actions matter regardless of what the person’s love language is. For example, most wives (82 percent) are affected when her husband reaches out and takes her hand, regardless of whether physical touch is her thing.

There’s no looking back for our friends Jessica and Daniel. But I’m so thankful that God is good. He is always at work to redeem our broken hearts—and I know He’ll do it for our friends. Still, a corner of my heart mourns the heartbreak that might have been prevented if they had truly understood the power of doing these best little things.

We all know that small, thoughtful acts are not a magic cure-all for every marriage problem. But having talked to so many who nurtured much happiness with simple but powerful actions, I know all of us can build that all-important foundation that helps us believe that our mate notices and cares.

Because as it turns out, believing that the other person cares is far more important to building a happy marriage than most of us ever realized.

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Adapted from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn

The Benefits of Positivity

SOURCE:  John Townsend

One of the most beneficial, quickest and cheapest things you can do for yourself, your life and your leadership is to engage in positivity. Positivity is the habit of doing what is necessary to maximize your positive outlook and emotions. This can make a significant difference in outcomes that matter to you. Here are some of the benefits:

• Increased energy
• Better concentration and focus
• Healthier relationships
• Improved problem solving
• More creativity

There is a ton of research on positivity, and one finding is that we need to have 3 times the positive emotions as we do negative emotions to optimize ourselves. Think about that: in your last 24 hours, were your feelings of love, happiness, ambition and joy triple those of the anxiety, anger and sadness you felt? Most of us don’t have that ratio in our experience.

It’s also true that negative feelings are an important part of life, and are actually very helpful to us. We need anxiety to avoid mistakes, anger to protect the good, and sadness to honor our losses. But we also need healthy doses of the positive. Here are some tips to help your 3:1 ratio:

1. Intentionally “think positive” in the morning, afternoon and evening. During your day, look at the good as well as the crummy aspects of your situation, for example: “I like what I do for a living and it helps the world”; “I am so grateful for my friends and family, and who they are as people”; “I have good goals that mean something to me.” This isn’t being in denial or a Pollyanna at all. It’s experiencing all of reality, not just one side of reality.

2. Engage in positive activities. When we do things we enjoy, our brain secretes substances that act as a natural antidepressant. We feel energy and hope. What do you love to do, that you haven’t had time for lately? I had lunch with a well known celebrity couple yesterday, whose time is much in demand. I asked them, “So what do you guys do for fun?” They looked sheepishly at each other and said, “Nothing, we’ve been so busy.” I challenged them to take some “me” time and they jumped at the fact that someone external to them was actually giving them permission. It can be working out, stamp collecting, painting, rowing, or going to shows. But do something that actually “feels good.”

3. Maximize your positive relationships, and minimize the negative ones. We literally become whoever we spend time with. Relationships feed us lots of ingredients for life, the same way the soil feeds nutrients to a tree. But negative attitudes, complaining, blaming and helplessness will slow things down. Make sure most of the people you hang out with are fundamentally positive people. We all have a few people in life who struggle greatly, and we owe it to them to love and support them. But don’t make that your entire relational world.

I’m “positive” that you will see things change quickly with these three tips. Best to your life and leadership!

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