Get Back to the Basics

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to first take care of our physical health before we are able to focus much energy on our emotional well being. When our physical needs are being met and our bodies are functioning well, we free up energy to focus on our emotional needs.

I challenge each of you to return to the basics of physical health and find balance in your life by making small improvements in each of the following areas:

Exercise: Engage in physical activity of a type that you have found enjoyable in the past. Exercise has many healing effects including a) the release of endorphins to increase our sense of euphoria, b) stress reduction, c) decrease in sensitivity to emotional and physical pain, and d) improvements in our ability to sleep more soundly.

Nutrition: Eat healthy and regularly. Be sure that you are eating balanced meals in healthy portions. Make improvements to better manage your protein, carbohydrates, sodium, fiber, sugars, cholesterol, calorie, and caffeine intakes. Eat foods high in the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Learn more about antioxidents and omega 3’s. Get your recommended daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals (C, E, iron, calcium, betacarotene, etc.)

Sleep: Get an appropriate amount of sleep — the average person functions best with 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Keep your sleep in check: a) manage both the quantity and quality of sleep you are getting each night, b) optimize your sleep environment, c) build healthy sleep routines.

Sunlight: Get some amount of sunlight every day. The sun serves to nourish and energize us. Studies show that vitamin D is produced as our skin absorbs sunshine. Vitamin D is important because it is healthy for our bones, circulatory system, immune system regulation, maintaining healthy body weight, and can increase serotonin levels in the brain.

So take a personal inventory of where you stand in each of these areas and challenge yourself to do just a little bit better. For one person, improving physical exercise might mean parking a little farther while for another person it may mean training for a marathon. Likewise, improving nutrition for me might mean not eating any Twinkies this week, while for you it might entail 100 grams of protein, switching to tofu, and increasing your Omega-3’s. It doesn’t matter where you start from, as long as you start to improve your physical health. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel as you target each of these physical needs. Good luck!!

Note: You may want to schedule a physical exam with your doctor to help accurately identify how to best meet your physical needs. Many insurance policies cover one wellness visit to your doctor per year.

Preparing for the Holidays After Losing a Loved One

The holidays are quickly approaching, are you ready? Is the shopping done? Have arrangements been made for your visitors? Is your house ready to go and looking nice? Are the dinners planned? How’s your mental health???

For some of us, the holidays can be really tough not just because we are trying to deal with crazy Aunt Judy and her disapproval of our life choices, but because we are still mourning the loss of one of our dear friends or family. If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one and how to face the holidays without them, try out the following tips from “How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies” by: Therese A. Rando.

1. You cannot skip the holidays. Face them squarely and make plans with your family.

2. Make plans for this holiday. Don’t look forward to all the holidays to come. There is nothing you do that can’t be changed next year.

3. Think about doing something symbolic to honor your memory of your loved one during the holiday. Whether it is beginning a new tradition or carrying on an old one, make your loved one a part of your celebration.

4. There are always unrealistic expectations during the holidays. Don’t let yourself get caught up in these. Accept what is normal for you.

5. Take care of yourself! Holidays usually mean extra fatigue, partying, visiting. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the holiday pressures.

6. Remember that you are grieving. You will feel joy, pain, and bittersweet memories. Let them come.

7. Plan ahead. Make lists, Take advantage of your good days.

8. Let yourself cry when you need to. Doing so will not ruin the holiday for yourself or for others. Do what comes naturally for you. Holding in your emotions can be destructive.

9. It may be helpful to set limits. Let others know what you need and how they can best help you. Don’t be forced into doing something because someone else thinks you should.

10. Give yourself permission to have joyful times as well as mournful times. They are normal, not a betrayal or source of guilt.

11. Discuss your holiday plans with your family. Decide what traditions to keep, what to change, what to discard. Make your goals small. Don’t over commit yourself. Take it slow and easy.

12. Go over your plans. Why are you doing them? For you or for someone else?

13. Do some kind service for someone else. Even though you are feeling sad because of your loved one’s death, reaching out to others can often bring you a certain holiday fulfillment.

I hope you find those suggestions helpful. If there is more you would like to talk about, please call to schedule an appointment and let’s get you really prepared to face the holidays this year.

Marriages are like Gardens

I came across a great analogy while I was sitting in church today.  After spending time in my own garden this week watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting my vegetables; the following quote really hit home.  The full article can be found in the Ensign, but I would like to share the following section on the similarities between caring for a garden and caring for a marriage and family.

This “law of the harvest” connects behavior and its consequences together in an unbreakable relationship that has direct impact on every aspect of our lives—and especially on our marriages.

Like the flowers, fruits, and vegetables we grow in our gardens, our marriages reflect the nature of the seeds we have planted. If we have tried throughout our married life to plant seeds of love and harmony, then we are more likely to enjoy a rich harvest. Of course, the opposite can also be true. At any given moment, we are the sum of all our sowings.

 

It’s important to realize that marriages thrive where replanting is a constant process, where both husband and wife realize that a one-time planting at the beginning doesn’t ensure a perennial harvest. Each new day should be filled with planting, cultivating, and weeding. One day missed can lead to a week, or a year, missed—and the garden may soon become overgrown with weeds. However, as with gardens, neglected marriages can be renovated with careful replanting, meticulous care, and a great deal of patience.

I realize that I wouldn’t be enjoying my zucchini, beans, tomatoes and corn for dinner today had I not put in the time, energy and resources needed to nurture those vegetables every step along the way.  Like gardens, marriages need similar nurturing and attention every day.  Also, be sure to pluck the weeds out of your marriage so you can have a bountiful harvest and reap your own sweet rewards.

Uniting Couples

Here are a few ideas I like to share with couples that are seeking help in therapy: Being married, like many things in life, is at the same time both a tremendous blessing and a difficult challenge. Though we wish for sweet matrimony and perfect harmony, the truth is that we are joining together two individuals with their own perspectives, family backgrounds, and for lack of a better term baggage. Now as a couple there is an opportunity to create your own family paradigm. I recommend that many couples begin with a mission statement and identify what they want to create together. There is a great article by President Spencer W. Kimball that I often ask LDS couples to read in order to get a few ideas. (“Oneness in Marriage”, Ensign, March 1977 or October 2002).
Once the honeymoon is over, the next task at hand is figuring out how to live together. Many seasoned couples may feel they have accomplished this task, however, it is certain that this challenge will continue to come up at every phase of the marriage—newlyweds, becoming parents, dealing with teens, launching kids, becoming grandparents, retirement, old age; it also resurfaces with the trials and challenges of this life such as grief, sorrow, stress, economic struggles, etc. In order to navigate these transitions and challenges smoothly, it is important that the marital foundation is strong and united so that the couple’s “hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2).

Most of the couples I see in therapy complain that their relationship is riddled with poor communication, and as a result they are not on the same page. Without clear expectations, boundaries, and understandings constantly being properly communicated, the potential for hurt and disappointment explodes exponentially. It is easy to forget the principles of good communication so here are a few reminders:

As the partner bringing a concern/problem/issue to the discussion, remember to recognize that this is a personal concern and does not represent absolute truth. Keep it simple. It is easier for the spouse to stay engaged and attentive in the conversation if they hear only 50 words versus 5,000. Along the same lines, sticking to one topic at a time focuses the conversation, increasing the likelihood of understanding and clarity. The purpose of sharing is to improve the relationship and be closer as a couple, not to blame or offend. And finally, be aware of the impact of your statement.
As the listener, remember to seek understanding by reviewing, restating, and reflecting back your partner’s statement. Be sure to acknowledge their right to have their own feelings by showing respect through nonverbal communication—volume and tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact. As you listen to their statements, try to see the issue from their perspective. Beware of slipping into a mode of: defensiveness, interrogation, assumptions, and judgment. Remember that your partner is trying to improve the relationship, not tear you down, so extend that same courtesy back to them—restate and validate.
Communication is a skill that needs to be developed over time. It is important for couples to realize that just like learning any new skill or talent, they won’t be very good at it at first but through sticking to the aforementioned guidelines and lots of practice, they will become more talented at communicating effectively. The leading researchers in the field of couple’s communication are John and Julie Gottman. I recommend that many of my couples begin reading their book 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage.
This is just the beginning of a journey towards strengthening couples. Please try out these principles and if you need more help call a therapist to schedule an appointment so you can target the specific roadblocks and best fulfill the couple’s needs.

Emotional Wellness Strategies

I’m meeting with a group of women tonight to discuss how to handle difficulties in their lives. I’m focusing a good chunk of my presentation on strategies to promote emotional wellness. I think we can all benefit from these, so I thought I’d share with you:

1.Return to the basics of physical health and find balance in the following:
a.)Engage in physical activity of a type that you have found enjoyable in the past. Exercise has many healing effects including the release of endorphins and improving sleep.
b.)Eat healthy and regularly. Be sure that you are having regular and balanced meals with the appropriate nutrients. Remember to eat healthy portions as well.
c.)Get an appropriate amount of sleep each night. Keep your sleep in check: schedule, quantity, quality. Stay away from too much and too little sleep. Build healthy sleep routines.
d.)Get some amount of sunlight every day. The sun serves to nourish and energize us.

2.Get together with people that are important to you. Don’t suffer in isolation; reconnect with others. Start with small steps and build from there.

3.Talk it out. Rather than bottling things up, share your feelings, concerns, and frustrations with someone you trust. Prayer is also a good way of talking things out, and is always accessible.

4.Take a few minutes to count your blessings. Savor the dignity and worth inherent in being a unique human being. You can train yourself to see the good in your life and increase your gratitude.

5.Stand up for your rights to have opinions and feelings; to speak and be listened to; even to make mistakes. Give yourself permission to say “no” to burdensome or unreasonable requests and demands.

6.Don’t let feelings of hurt and anger rage inside. Learn to express your feelings timely and appropriately. This may feel awkward at first but will come easier with practice.

7.Do 5 acts of kindness every day. Focusing your thoughts and actions on others will help take the pressure off of your own troubles. You will also feel that euphoria that comes from serving others.

8.Take responsibility for your difficult feelings. Begin to take control of these feelings rather than letting them control you. Begin by identifying what factors are contributing to your difficulties. What is within your control to decrease or eliminate the impact of those factors?

9.Don’t measure yourself against others. Each of us has different experiences; judging yourself to be either better or worse than other people is not fair to anyone.

10.Set realistic goals. Set yourself up for success by breaking your goals down into small steps. Smaller steps are more manageable and can greatly decrease your rate of burnout or giving up due to feeling overwhelmed. Acknowledge the progress you are making.

11. Know your emotional family history. It’s important to understand what tendencies run in our families, how we have learned to view the world, and what we are most susceptible to. Take the opportunity to learn how those you love and trust have managed their own emotional struggles.

12. Practice acts of self care each day. Take care of yourself so you can offer your best self to others. It’s difficult to run on an empty tank so remember to strengthen yourself so your own reserves don’t go dry.

13. Make time to journal. It’s good practice to release your emotions on paper so they don’t churn inside of you. You can have a separate journal for posterity and a “Free write” journal where you are free to write down any and all feelings you are facing, even the scary or embarrassing ones.

14. Let go of perfectionism. Nobody is perfect! While working hard, learn to appreciate and even celebrate when you are good enough, okay, and pretty great. Celebrate your successes all along the way. Recognize your efforts made rather than the distance still to go until the unattainable perfection.

15. Learn to ask for and accept help from others. Get over yourself. Recognize that each of us has tough days and today just might be a challenge for you. Just as you would reach out to someone else when they are struggling, allow others to assist you in your time of struggle.

16. Plan ahead. Know what things are likely to trigger feelings of depression and plan how you can be aware of and compensate for their effects in advance.

Reconnecting with Your Family

There was an interesting show on Oprah last Monday called: Stripped Down with Peter Walsh. Peter is a life organization expert and best selling author with some wonderful ideas on how to strengthen your family and live a better life. The premise behind the show was that the typical American family has become disconnected from each other due to all the “stuff” in their lives that overwhelms them. In particular, this “stuff” manifests itself in the form of television, cell phones, YouTube, PDAs, laptops, video games, Facebook, ipods, texting, etc. I really appreciate this concept. So often we allow our “stuff” (and by the way it’s all important stuff isn’t it?) to get in the way of our relationships and prevent us from living our best life.

Peter invited a family to accept a week long intensive challenge to help them reconnect with each other. The challenge was based on adhering to the following 5 rules: 1) eliminate all use of cell phones and texting; 2) discontinue use of computers, email, television, computer games, ipods, and electronics; 3) prepare and eat healthy meals together; 4) clean and organize your house; 5) hug and say I love you to each member of your family each day.

He also gave the family two Stripped Down assignments: 1) organize and carry out a fun family activity; 2) wash and put away all the laundry in the house. I thought the laundry challenge was interesting in that this type of physical disarray in our homes can bring about emotional disarray and tension with each other. Peter encouraged the audience to strip away the physical clutter in life so you may begin clearing the emotional clutter in your relationships.

I agree with this idea in that I feel that often we find ourselves trying to cover up that emotional awkwardness or fear by focusing our time and energy on all our precious gadgets and “stuff”. What might happen if we redirected that energy onto better understanding each other, addressing our fears, improving our lives, and connecting with each other? An honest disclosure of concerns, fears, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses to a partner who is seeking to better understand you, can work wonders in bringing a married couple closer together and reunite them on the same page.

What might you be hiding behind that is preventing you from “living your best life?” Try shutting off the distractions of technology, clutter, and convenience, and begin connecting with your loved ones again. Just because you are busy doesn’t mean you are connected with others or even living a fulfilling life. Fill your life with goodness, not distractions.

If Peter’s original 5 rules seem a bit too harsh or unrealistic to thrust on your family, try the practical revisions he gave that can (and dare I say should) be followed by most families:

1) No cell phones or texting in the evenings between 6 and 9pm
2) No television or computer play before school or during meals
3) As a family prepare and eat at least 3 healthy dinners together each week
4) Work together as a family to have a regular Saturday morning clean up of the house
5) Continue to hug and express your love to each member of your family each day.
6) Schedule a weekly family night and monthly date night for the couple

He concluded the show with the following statement. “As you spend time together, are more active, and eat more healthy, you will start to transform your life in every way.” Give it a try for yourself!

For more information on this show check out: Oprah

Laughter is the Best Medicine

One of the health insurance companies I work with forwarded me this article.  It’s got some great points.

“Energizer Bunny Arrested, Charged with Battery”
By:  David Brown, Ph.D.

 

I saw this quote the other day and started to chuckle. My haphazard chuckle suddenly escalated to a “gut-wrenching” laugh. I thought I was losing my mind.  The bunny joke was funny, but not worthy of that kind of belly laughing.  It didn’t take me long to figure out what happened. At that particular moment in time, I had to laugh.  If I didn’t, I was probably going to cry.

 

Sometimes, we take life too seriously.  We quit smiling. Nothing is funny- we see the glass as half empty. I had forgotten that laughter is a deadly weapon. It’s a natural-born- killer of stress and depression.  It seems to perform some type of emotional release like turning on a faucet to let the stress pour out.  Now you can actually find a plethora of research supporting the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.”

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.  It also improves circulation, stimulates the nervous system, strengthens the immune system, lowers blood and makes the heart stronger. 

Don’t want to get fired from your job- try having a sense of humor.  Human resource personnel almost always consider humor to be one of the key attributes of a desired employee. It helps boost morale and thus leads to increased productivity.  Humor in the workplace builds relationships and facilitates communication.  Many employees are fired because of their inability to communicate and get along with their colleagues.

 

When we were kids, we laughed about 400 times a day.  As adults, we’re lucky if we laugh 10 times a day. By growing up, we somehow lost hundreds of laughs a day.  By learning to smile and laugh again, more easily and often, we can keep life in perspective. It will have a profound effect on our mental and physical health.

 

Even if you don’t feel like laughing, fake it. Your body will respond to pretend laughing just as though you were genuinely laughing. So there’s no excuse! If you don’t feel it, fake it for awhile! You will soon see you really do feel better.

 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Look in the mirror and laugh at yourself daily

  • Practice laughing 5 minutes every day- fake it till you make it
  • Smile- it puts you closer to laughing
  • Laugh when others laugh
  • Seek out entertainment that makes you laugh
  • Do one silly, non-conforming thing a day

Laughter is contagious. So go ahead and laugh- simply because you can…

5 Tips for Getting Your Kids Ready to Go Back to School

The following are some suggestions I found for making a successful transition for you and your family this year:

It’s almost that time of year again. Believe it or not, your kids will be heading back to school in the near future. You can almost taste it! But making the transition from summer to fall means that you’d better think ahead. There are a lot of changes that must be managed. Here are five back to school tips to help you and your kids make the shift as easy as possible.

1. Bedtime
Gradually start getting the children to bed earlier and earlier, so that one week before school starts, they are on their fall schedule. Once school begins, bedtime should be the same every night. Weekend times for bed, of course, can still be a little different from the rest of the week.

2. Homework
If you have youngsters who handle homework on their own (yes, there are children like this), leave them alone or say something like: “Boy, you really did a good job last year doing your schoolwork by yourself.” With other children, sit them down and discuss how homework will be handled every day. Good rules of thumb are same time, same place and try to get it all done before dinner. TV is not allowed while doing schoolwork, but many kids do better while listening to music.

3. New Schools
If you have a child who is going to a school they haven’t been to before, make sure you take them over for a visit. Take them to their new classroom and— even better—see if you can meet their new teacher. Even if you can’t, try to find at least one friendly person in the school that your child can talk to for even a little bit. Your visit—and that friendly memory—will help to counter some of your child’s fears of the unknown.

4. School Supplies

Make a fun shopping trip out of buying school supplies. One-on-one shared fun is the best parent‐child bonding method in history. That means ONE child plus you go shopping and to lunch, not THREE kids plus you. Kids cherish being alone with a parent, and for you the pleasure is partly due to the fact that sibling rivalry in this situation is impossible.

5. Listen and Talk

While you’re out getting things for school, or anytime really, be a sympathetic listener. Ask your child how it feels to be going back to school. “What’s good about it and what’s not so hot.” Then, from time to time, fill your young one in on what it felt like for you to be going back to school at about her age. Don’t be scared—be honest!

Source: 1-2-3 Magic Newsletter by Dr. Thomas Phelan © 2012 To learn more visit 123magic.com . Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning, bestselling 1-2-3 Magic Parenting Program.

Kids Won’t Listen?

Below, is another great article I found that might help parents keep their sanity while disciplining.

KIDS WON’T LISTEN?  TRY THIS

If you’re a parent living with small children, you may often feel like you’re invisible to your kids. After spending a day cajoling, reasoning, threatening and even screaming in an attempt to get your kids to behave, you may feel as if they never listen to you, much less respond. But all that talking is precisely the problem. If you feel like you’re invisible, you’re probably way too audible. When it comes to discipline, silence often speaks louder than words.
Many parents complicate the job of discipline by setting for themselves two goals instead of just one. Their first goal is to get the kids to do what they’re supposed to do, which is fine. But when kids don’t respond right away, many parents add a second goal: getting the youngsters to accept, agree with, or even like the discipline. So Mom and Dad start reasoning, lecturing and explaining.

ONE EXPLANATION IS FINE

All this extra talking accomplishes only two things—both of them bad. First, it aggravates the kids, and second, it says to the children that they really don’t have to behave unless you can give them four or five reasons why they should. One explanation is fine. But the mistake many parents make is trying to reason with their kids as if they were “little adults,” and too often adultlogic does not impress or motivate young children. Once you say “No” to an obnoxious behavior, you should save your breath. Further pleading will irritate you more and give the child a chance to continue the battle— and the behavior.
Source: 1-2-3 Magic Newsletter by Dr. Thomas Phelan © 2011 To learn more visit 123magic.com . Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning, bestselling 1-2-3 Magic Parenting Program.

“What is the Single Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health?”

I came across an amazing clip today that I wanted to share with my readers because I think it’s incredibly clever, as well as remarkably true.  Dr. Mike Evans from the University of Toronto shares with us one simple change we can all make that will benefit our lives in remarkable ways. Please watch:

Preventative medicine, in this case daily exercise, is often the cheapest and most effective way to feel good and avoid diseases that cause pain, frustration, and even death.  It’s amazing to consider all the physical health risks you can avoid by just 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Now what do you think it might do to your mental health?  When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a feel good chemical that interacts with the pain receptors in your brain.  Essentially the endorphins diminish your perception of pain.  This can in turn reduce stress, boost self esteem, and strengthen your ability to manage feelings of anxiety and depression.

Take the challenge.  With just 30 minutes a day you could save your life.

Four Steps to Help Parents Reduce Holiday Stress

Below, is a great article I found on handling the holidays with a house full of excited kids.
Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning, best-selling
1-2-3 Magic Parenting Program.
The holidays are coming up, and although many parents look forward to having their children home from school, they also find that after a few days it isn’t so easy having the kids underfoot all the time. The youngsters are all excited about Christmas, they start fighting more often, and when they’re not doing that they complain to their parents that they’re bored. The Christmas holidays are one of those odd times that combine a lot of fun with a lot of stress. It isn’t easy having the children right on top of you again, especially when they’re all pumped up about the presents they’re going to get and can’t seem to leave one another alone. Here are a few ideas for maintaining sanity during these both enjoyable and difficult times.

1. Help Kids Plan or Structure Part of Each Day

With school‐age kids, help them plan or structure part of each day, then let the youngsters figure out what they are going to do to entertain themselves for the rest of that day. Do not fall into the trap of seeing yourself as the resident entertainment committee! You might help Emily by allowing her to have a friend over to eat dinner, watch a video and then sleep overnight. The rest of the day your daughter decides for herself what she’ll do. Or you might take Ryan out to lunch and then to a movie, but the rest of the day he entertains himself.

2. Be Clear About the Rules From the Start

Make the above rules clear as soon as the vacation starts, so when the kids come up to you and say, “There’s nothing to do,” you can reply, “You and I will be going out at 4, but in the meantime I’m sure you can think of something.” Above all, don’t keep making suggestion after suggestion after suggestion, only to have a child shoot down each idea as soon as it’s out of your mouth. Making a lot of suggestions to your children for what they can do implies that you are responsible for their keeping busy and feeling entertained.

3. Plan Lots of One‐on‐One Fun

Plan lots of activities one on one with your children. Just you and one child—no spouse or siblings. Not only does this eliminate the fighting, it offers the opportunity for real closeness and bonding. Most parents find that it’s a lot easier to have fun when it’s just you and one child, rather than the whole family together. This may sound funny, but family fun is overrated! Kids love having a parent all to themselves, and under these circumstances each youngster is usually much easier to get along with.

4. Avoid Feeling Guilty

Don’t feel guilty if—two days before December 25—you find yourself wishing the kids were back in school already. You have lots of company! It’s not easy having a lot of wound‐up little ones chasing each other around the house.

Source:  1-2-3 Magic Newsletter by Dr. Thomas Phelan © 2011      To learn more visit 123magic.com .

Thanksgiving Continues On

November is the month of Thanksgiving, the time of year when many of us turn our thoughts towards the many things we are grateful for.  Throughout the month I have read many blogs and updates from friends who have taken on the challenge to post their thoughts of gratitude online every day of the month.  Now on day 30, I would hope that they have created a habit and continue in their attitude of gratitude.

New research shows that practicing gratitude may be the fastest single pathway to happiness, health, long life, and prosperity. In a remarkable study performed by Dr. Emmons, people who kept a gratitude journal for just 3 weeks measured 25% higher on life satisfaction afterwards. They exercised more, drank alcohol less, and their families and friends noticed that they were nicer to be around. And the effects lasted for several months beyond the initial 3 week study. Other studies on gratitude are confirming these results. People who take the time to notice and appreciate the good things that come their way through grace, or luck, or the goodness of others are happier and more peaceful. They do better on cognitive tests and tests of problem solving skills. They practice healthier habits, have better relationships, are more optimistic and live longer. Gratitude is one powerful emotion.

So here are a few ideas on how to continue livng your life with an attitude of gratitude every day of the year.
  1. Keep a gratitude journal:  jot down just a few items that you appreciate having in your life.
  2. Pray: give thanks to God for the blessings in your life
  3. Enjoy the beauty around you: look at your surroundings with big eyes
  4. Give a hug: showing love is a great way to show appreciation
  5. Live mindfully: take the time to savor what you do and experience life with all your senses
  6. Send a thank you note: send off a card, email, post-it note, or letter to someone you appreciate
  7. Look in someone’s eyes, smile, and say thanks: personal connections warm two souls at once
  8. Reflect on happy memories: see the good things you have experienced and relive that joy
  9. Offer a compliment: acknowledging someone encourages you both to succeed again.
  10. Be kind to yourself: do something nice for yourself and be grateful for being uniquely you!

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.” 
 —Melodie Beatty

At the close of this month remember that Thanksgiving is more than just turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie…Thanksgiving is a way of life.  What are you thankful for?

Finding Lessons in What is Around You — Survivor

One of my favorite shows on TV is CBS’s Survivor.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s about 16 strangers that are sent to a deserted location (usually an exotic island) to fend for themselves for 39 days and see who can outwit, outplay, and outlast their competitors.  With limited supplies and no comforts from home, they are required to build their own shelter, gather food, and survive the elements of nature.  Every three days they compete in physically and mentally strategic challenges to determine who will have immunity from getting voted off the island by their fellow tribe members.  Then they meet for a tribal council where the host asks pertinent questions that stir up a bit of drama and controversy among the players, but also helps the audience get a glimpse of the emotions, alliances, and feuds that are brewing in the game.  And yes, I realize it is ultimately a game where players are trying to win a million dollars, but I also find a lot of life lessons come through the TV each week as I watch.

 

One of the aspects of the show that intrigues me the most is the development of relationships among the players of the game. It appears that to be successful in the game you first need to be savvy in public relations in order to get along with your teammates. There is also a strong component of building alliances of trust and loyalty with others to elicit a strong sense of your value to others, so that they will keep you in the game. To some degree this appears to be similar to our experiences with friends, coworkers, and family.  As we show our kindness towards others and nurture trust and loyalty, we too build alliances where we can regularly turn for support and comfort in our times of need. In doing so, it seems rather important to conduct ourselves appropriately so that we are showing others respect.  This will often require some personal filtering of emotions internally before we interact with others.  In essence, taste your words before you spit them out.

Through a series of physical and problem solving challenges in the beginning of the show, contestants must learn to work together in teams.  The most successful contestants seem to be the ones that are honest with their own strengths and weaknesses and know how to best manage those for the team’s best interest. In life I find that I am most successful when I too am honest with and aware of my own strengths and weaknesses and utilize them effectively.  In these challenges there is also a certain sense of knowing when to lead and when to follow that brings about success in these challenges.  I liken this to the different roles of communication and knowing when to lead with our thoughts and insights or when to follow the other person in trying to understand their perspective.

I was reading an article by the show’s executive producer and host, Jeff Probst, about his take home message from the 11 years he spent hosting the show.  He says:
     “I’ve learned a few things:
         (1) It’s in our nature to trust.
         (2) It’s also in our nature to lie.
         (3) The liar typically wins the battle but rarely wins the war.
         (4) You are not the center of the universe.
         (5) A smile will get you a long way in life.”
I find his insights to be quite accurate not only to finding success in the game of Survivor, but in achieving success in the realm of personal relationships. He talks about the liar typically winning the immediate battle but rarely winning the long term war.  Lying may get you what you want in the short run but usually creates a detriment in the long term outcome.

What Is She Really Saying to You? Ladies, Be Careful With The Hidden Messages in Your Communication

This is a sample of some of the hidden messages we find in our communication when we don’t really mean what we say.  I pulled this off of a funny email that a friend sent me. I have to admit, that I’ve dished out a few of these myself. Ladies, be careful with what you are saying and how you say it.  Men, if the women in your life are communicating this way, we need to get you some help so the words that are said match the meaning intended.  In the meantime, hopefully this will help you translate.

What Women really mean when they say…
Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing, usually end in fine.

Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don’t Do It!

Loud Sigh: This is not actually a word, but it is a nonverbal statement. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot, and is wondering why she is wasting her time arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to the meaning of nothing)

That’s OK: This is one of the most deadly words a woman will say to a man. That’s OK actually means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

Thanks: Believe it or not, that means she is thanking you. Do not question, or faint. Just say you’re welcome. (*NOTE* That is unless she says thanks a lot. –which is actually sarcasm, and she is not actually thanking you. If she tells you this, DO NOT say “You’re welcome”. That will bring on a whatever.

Whatever: Watch out, because this really means you are in trouble and roughly translates to SCREW YOU!!!

Don’t worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement to men, which means this is something that she has told a man to do several times, but now is going to do it herself. This will later result in the man asking her “what is wrong”. Which will return the answer nothing (refer to the meaning of nothing)

Summer is Coming to a Close. What Now?

Hopefully you have had a great summer and you are now headed back into the routines of your regular life. For many families this includes kids going back to school. As a kid I remember being so excited for summer break to start and then not more than about two weeks into the break, I found I was bored out of my mind. Come August, I found myself counting down the days until I went back to school. For many kids going back to school in the fall is a time of excitement: summer boredom is over, they get to see their friends every day, new school clothes, new classes/teachers/friends to become acquainted with, etc.

However, with all that excitement comes the responsibilities of homework, reading, studying, tests, and completing projects. Many kids can get bogged down in the requirements of school and we find that their excitement quickly gets suffocated by the demands of academia. Guess what? There are ways to help your kids manage their school responsibilities while still keeping the excitement and happiness shining in their little faces. Here are a few of my recommendations:

First: Help your kids take care of their personal needs of getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, being outside, and laughing every day. These regular strategies help us feel better physically and emotionally so we can face the challenges of our day.

Second: Talk with your kids every day about what they are doing, how they are feeling, and their opinions on how things are going for them. Don’t try to solve their problems or give them advice, instead try to really focus your efforts on listening to them. This is going to be the gateway to helping them feel understood and consequently keep you as a parent from being in the dark as challenges begin to arise.

Third: Establish good work habits and organizational skills. Teach your kids how to effectively use binders, folders, notebooks, planners and other tools to organize their papers and assignments. It seems that half the battle with homework is knowing what to do and where the assignment is.

Fourth: Set clear expectations for how your child is to spend their time after school. Set up a routine that helps them know what to do and when to do it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following advice on developing good homework and study habits for your kids:

• Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Youngsters need a permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that offers privacy.

• Schedule ample time for homework.

• Establish a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time.

• Supervise computer and internet use.

• Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.

• Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.

• If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.