Category Archives: Relationships

8 Ways to Build Strong Relationships

originalIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day. But shouldn’t every day be like Valentine’s Day? We should let our sweethearts know we love them on a daily basis.

What makes a love last life a lifetime? Unlike the fairy tale stories about true love, real-life love takes work. Just like you must maintain your house for it to last, or improve your skills at your job to evolve in your position, you need to continue to build and grow your relationship.

Here are 8 ways you can strengthen and nurture your relationship:

Put your love first
You and your partner are a team. Think of yourselves as the two musketeers. It’s all for one and one for all. Your relationship comes first. Even the little things matter. If you’re having a discussion and the phone rings, let it go and finish what you’re saying. If your spouse wants you to go with them to a company party and you don’t really want to, go anyway.

Learn to compromise
Strong relationships are built on give and take. It can’t be all one person’s way. Like I mentioned above, having a happy, healthy relationship may mean making compromises. No matter how much you love each other, you may not agree on everything. You can agree to disagree. And sometimes you just have to let things go – and so does your partner.

Respect each other
For a relationship to work, you have to be friends. To have an enduring, loving relationship, you must respect each other. It’s important to respect each other’s thoughts, feelings and opinions. Every person is unique. You need to embrace and appreciate that uniqueness. As long as you and your significant other feel safe with each other, you can talk about anything.

Be honest
You may feel like you should spare your partner’s feelings from time to time. You don’t have to be mean about it, but you should be honest. If I ask my husband if my butt looks big, he will tell me the truth. I have learned not to ask him some questions. But I know that he will always tell me the truth – even if I may not like it.

Trust unconditionally
Trust goes hand-in-hand with honesty and respect. If you know your partner will always be honest with you and that he or she respects you, then you know that trust will be there. You probably have friends who constantly question each other’s motives and actions. Without trust, you cannot build a strong, lasting relationship.

Really listen
Make it a point to focus intently and listen to what your partner is saying. Hear what the person is saying and not saying. Watch facial expressions and body postures. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to fix dinner, texting or watching TV and not truly pay attention to what your partner is saying. And listen without interrupting. Sometimes the other person just needs someone to hear them vent.

Be comfortable with yourself
You’ve probably heard the expression, “True love only exists by loving yourself first.” You need to be at peace with yourself to be able to open up to your partner. Once you own who you are, you can give and receive love from your significant other.

Let go of expectations
We grow up with fairy tale images of what love will be like. We think that when we find our true love it will be all magic and happy endings. While being in a loving relationship is one of the most rewarding things on this earth, it’s not always easy. It can be messy. And it takes patience and hard work.

So, make every day Valentine’s Day. Give your sweetie a hug and a kiss, and let them know how much you love them!

6 Ways to Give Thanks this Thanksgiving

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude for the blessings we have in life. Gratitude puts everything in a fresh perspective and allows us to see and appreciate all of the things we grateful for.

The more you practice giving thanks, the better you’ll be at it over time. Like anything else, you can turn being grateful into a habit and a way of living. The fall and holiday seasons are an especially good time to practice being thankful.

Here are 6 ways you can get creative and give thanks this holiday season:

Invite others to your dinner
Many people are alone on Thanksgiving. If you know a neighbor, friend or someone at work will be by themselves during the holiday, welcome them to join your dinner. Your guests will appreciate the invitation and your gathering will be happier with a sense of fellowship and togetherness.

Share Thanksgiving memories
You can remember Thanksgiving’s past and ask family members to tell fond stories about Thanksgiving memories. You can invite your guests to join in and share their warmest Thanksgiving memories and family stories.

Create a thankful atmosphere
Decorating your home with lovely crafts can create a thankful and comfortable space for family and guests. You can incorporate organic materials, such as greenery, pine cones, stones, leaves or acorns, to create a festive atmosphere. Put out a platter of fruits, veggies, cheeses and nuts to embellish your table. You can even use scrapbook paper and have guests create Thanksgiving card placeholders, sharing the things that they are grateful for.

Do a good deed or volunteer
While Thanksgiving is considered a time for enjoying family and friends, it’s also an opportunity to share your blessings with others. You can do a good deed or volunteer to express your gratitude. Visit a hospital or nursing home. Put together gifts or treats to share with the patients. These small gifts can mean a lot to someone who may not have family to enjoy the holiday with them. You can also donate to a church or charitable organization to help provide for others at Thanksgiving.

Write handwritten notes to friends
When was the last time you received a real letter from a friend or family member? Or the last time you wrote one? You may have family and friends you’re unable to visit during the holidays. A handwritten note sent by mail is a precious way to show your appreciation and love.

Appreciate the little things
A kind word, heartfelt hug or peck on the cheek can express your gratefulness better than expensive gifts. Give compliments to your family and friends on Thanksgiving day. Hugs and kisses are a delight to the young and old alike.

Thanksgiving is a great time to share kindness, thankfulness and appreciation. Get your family involved in doing something good on this day. Teach the younger generous to be gracious and giving. Express your gratitude and say “thank you” to everyone you know!

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

Are Your Kids Stressed Out?

KidsHaveStressTooPicIf you’re like most parents, your list of errands and things to do never ends. You run from one activity or event to the next. You’re probably stressed out at times.

Guess what? Your kids may be stressed out, too. The start of school – after a summer of being on vacation – can be a particularly stressful time.

How do you know if your kids are stressed?
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have ongoing stress.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to determine if your child is stressed:

  1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
  2. Do you notice more fatigue, irritability, headaches or stomachaches?
  3. Is your child sleeping poorly or having more nightmares?
  4. Does your child seem angry?

What can you do to help your child cope with stress? Here are 8 stress relievers you can teach your kids:

Think positive
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of negative thinking. You may also be teaching your kids to think in the negative instead of the positive. Rather than saying, “I hope I don’t fail the test,” put a positive spin on it and say, “I have studied, and I will pass the test.”

Show by example
Kids are perceptive. They watch you and pay attention to what you’re doing. If you show them that you can manage stress in productive way, they will learn that stress is something they can deal with. Make sure they see you finding effective methods of handling stress in your life.

De-stress early
Most people wait until they’re stressed out to use stress-busting techniques. You can teach your kids to know the signs early or take a preventative approach to dealing with stress. For instance, you can use healthy eating, exercising, meditating or other techniques to help  cope with stress.

Unplug
While we rely on technology in many aspects of our lives, it can also add to our stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology cut-off time. Limit screen time for kids, including TV, movies, mobile phones, tablets and social media. You and your kids may be surprised by the things you can find to do when you’re unplugged.

Eat together
At least once a day, make it a point to eat a meat together. It can be breakfast if everyone is up and about at the same time. Or plan on sitting down to eat dinner in the evening as a family. You can learn quite a bit about what’s going on in your kids’ lives if you sit down regularly for a meal and conversation.

Spend time with friends
As adults we spend time with our friends to unwind, complain about our boss or just goof off. Your kids should also build healthy friendships that allow them to be themselves and blow off steam. They can hang out at the park, have sleep overs or just play in the yard.

Take up a sport
Sports are a great way to relieve stress. Playing a team sport can also help your kids build relationships, exercise and have fun.

Enjoy creative activities
Art, music or other creative tasks can help alleviate stress. Even reading a book can be a stress buster.

Relationships can help kids build resilience. Spending time with parents or grandparents playing board games, cooking or tossing a frisbee can help kids handle stress. And it creates happy memories for everyone!

6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

Are You a Good Listener?

80946-71556Did you ever have a teacher tell you to “put your listening ears on?” The fact of the matter is that most of us aren’t good listeners. Studies have shown that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency. We let a lot of information go in one ear and out the other.

The good news is we can improve our listening skills. You may currently be focused on the mechanics of listening – nodding your head, making eye contact, and mumbling uh-huh or okay as a person talks.

You may be missing out on the art of being a good listener. Listening is a crucial part of creating solid and meaningful relationships. You have multiple conversations every day. You may talk with your spouse, partner, children, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and even strangers. Are you taking the time to truly listen?

Here are 8 good listening habits that you can practice every time you take part in a conversation or discussion:

Be present
When you’re fully present and aware in the moment, you’re more likely to retain what you’re hearing and respond intelligently. This means put down the cell phone, stop running through your to-do list in your head, and really pay attention when someone is speaking.

Concentrate
Good listening is hard work. It’s not simply nodding along. Your senses are being bombarded by sights, sounds and smells all the time. You must ignore these stimuli and concentrate on the verbal sounds and any visual cues you are receiving from the speaker.

Show empathy
Part of effective listening is making the effort to empathize with the person who is speaking. Put yourself in the other person’s position. Think about what it must be like for them. You can connect and truly understand another person’s point of view if you can put yourself in their shoes.

Have an open mind
Everyone has their own thoughts and feelings. Our diverse backgrounds and histories make our thought patterns unique. Good listeners keep an open mind about the opinions and belief systems of others. Even if you don’t agree, you need to take the time to listen and understand another person’s thoughts.

Ask questions
While an important part of listening is just letting the other person vent or get something off of their chest, providing relevant feedback is one of the best ways to let someone know that they’ve been heard. Good listeners validate the feelings of others by asking questions and finding out more details.

Paraphrase
Another great way to show that you’re listening is to restate what you’re hearing. You don’t need to repeat everything a person says, but by paraphrasing the speaker’s main thoughts, they know that you’re getting the message.

Avoid defensiveness
You need to be able to get comfortable during a conversation even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you’re thinking about how to respond or defend yourself, you’re not giving the conversation your full attention. You may have to mentally step back and take a moment before responding rashly.

Listen without advising
You may be in the habit of thinking that everyone wants your advice. You’re listening only to solve their problems. However, the speaker may just want to fill you in, give you their opinion, or vent on a topic. If you’re not sure, wait for the person to ask for your thoughts or opinions.

Good listeners focus intently and hear what others are saying – and what they aren’t saying. It’s easy to get distracted or let your mind wander. Make it a point to be a better listener. Try it today!

11 Ways to Stay Healthy This Summer

summer33It’s hard enough to keep a healthy routine going on a daily basis. Summer can definitely bring its own challenges. Your routine may change based on school or work schedules. There are more daylight hours, along with hot and humid weather.

You can maintain your healthy routine and incorporate summer fun into those long, lazy days.

Here are 11 easy ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy this summer:

Set a schedule
When school gets out, your routine may go out the window. Or, you may change your work hours to enjoy more of the summer weather. Keep up your good habits, such as eating regular meals, exercising and getting enough sleep. With additional daylight hours, it is tempting to spend more time on the run and get to bed later.

Fuel up with breakfast
Start the day with a healthy breakfast. A balanced breakfast includes protein, carbs and fiber. You and your kids will have a sharper mind, more energy and better nutrition to tackle the day.

Protect your skin
Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach or swimming pool. You need to apply sunscreen any time that you’re going to be outside, even on a cloudy day. You may spend more time outside during the day than you realize. You want to especially protect your most exposed areas, such as your face, ears, neck and backs of hands. These areas are most affected by skin cancer.

Stock up on healthy snacks
Studies have shown that kids gain less weight during the school year. That’s because schools have scheduled meal times, portioned meals and prevent kids from snacking through the day. Adults also tend to grab unhealthy snacks on the go during the warm summer months. Having healthy snack options on hand can be good for your entire family to create healthy eating habits.

Drink plenty of water
We know that drinking water helps promote good health. With warmer temperatures, it’s even more important than ever to stay hydrated. Even if you’re simply relaxing outside, your body temperature is still rising. Drinking water keeps your body functioning properly and can even help you lose weight.

Eat together as a family
A family that eats together stays healthy together. Dinnertime can be an opportunity to build your family relationships. Kids may be having a rough time with friends or other concerns. The dinner table is a place for kids to express themselves, which can help kids learn to talk about problems rather than turn to unhealthy eating habits. Regular eating times and dining together can also allow you to encourage healthy eating habits. It’s a chance for adults to relax and unwind, too!

Limit the Internet
You and your family may spend too much time on computers, tablets or smartphones surfing the Internet and playing games. Make it a point to turn off the devices and spend more time together as a family. You can have a picnic or go watch an outdoor movie. You can declare dinnertime or family fun night device-free zones.

Get outdoorsy
Exercise is great for the whole family and can be more fun when enjoyed together. You can pick different outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, swimming, playing frisbee or starting a neighborhood baseball game. Many city parks have ball diamonds and sand volleyball courts.

Sleep well
With the long summer days, it can be tempting to stay up late. Keep up your good sleeping habits and stick to the same bedtime and wake-up schedule.

Take a vacation
Spend some time relaxing and enjoying what summer has to offer. Even if you only have a few vacation days, you can still find time to unwind. You can plan a stay-cation and camp out in the back yard or spend time at the local swimming pool. Take a day off during the week and go to an amusement or water park.

Have fun!
Try something new. Make it a point to unplug and spend time relaxing over the summer. Get outside, enjoy the weather and act like a kid again!