Tag 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!

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!

Is Your Life in Balance?

zen-still-life-605551-mI have been feeling really pressed for time this summer. I am working full-time and chauffeuring three kids to multiple sports activities and events. There just isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything I need to do.

I went on vacation a few weeks ago and worked a few hours every day that I was gone. I feel like I neglect my kids and husband some days, and I haven’t spent time with friends in months.

When your life gets out of balance, you may feel burnt out, unsatisfied, angry, depressed or stressed.

On the other hand, when your life is in balance you have better over health, you’re more fit, you have a positive outlook, and your relationships are strengthened. You will have greater peace of mind, feel in harmony and be excited to embrace each day.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if your life is out of balance – and what you can do to bring it back into balance:

Do you feel overwhelmed?
If you feel like pulling the covers up over your head in the morning and hiding from the world, you may need to reevaluate your priorities. Stress and anxiety can keep you from feeling balanced. It might be a good idea to take a break, step back and give yourself some down time.

Here are 9 Intriguing Things to Know About Stress

Do you have a social network?
And by social network, we don’t mean Facebook or Twitter. When is the last time you spent time with friends and just relaxed? Do you spend quality time with your family? Our relationships are important to our sense of well-being. Neglecting friends and family, or having conflict within your relationships, will make it difficult to find life balance. Make sure you take the time to nurture the relationships that matter to you.

Your friendships matter. Here are 7 Reasons Why We Need Friends

Are you out of shape?
Lack of exercise and poor eating habits will take their toll on your mind and body. Letting yourself get out of shape can impact your quality of life and lead to negative feelings that impact your mood and attitude. Eating right and exercising are good for the body and soul.

Get some workout tips at 15 Exercise and Fitness Do’s and Don’ts
Want some healthy eating tips? 10 Healthy Eating Myths and Facts

How is your energy level?
Do you find yourself yawning and wishing for a nap about halfway through the day? Do you wake up groggy in the morning or toss and turn at night? Your sleep habits can impact your life balance. It’s important to establish good sleep habits and make sure you are getting plenty of rest.

Need more reasons to get a good night’s sleep? Here are 8 Serious Dangers of Sleep Loss

Are your finances a mess?
Are you living beyond your means and feeling the pressure of debt? Your financial situation can cause stress, as well as put added strain on your relationship with your spouse. You can get control of your finances by taking a look at your spending habits and creating a budget to help you get back on track.

Want help creating a budget? Read more: Tips to Achieving a Balanced Budget

Do you have bad habits?
Are you controlling or overbearing to your friends and family? Maybe you’re a perfectionist and expect everyone else to be that way, too. Do you smoke, chew your fingernails or overeat? If there are things about yourself you would like to change, then do it! With time and some patience,  you can change those bad habits and replace them with good habits.

Need to overcome bad habits? Learn how: 7 Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

What do you want to accomplish?
What are your goals in life? We all need dreams and plans to keep us excited and motivated. Set goals for yourself and accomplish them. Then, set new goals and challenge yourself to continue to grow and expand your horizons.

Read our blog: 9 Tips to Set and Achieve Life Goals

Finding and maintaining balance in your life is a journey. It’s something you must work at every day. You will have bad days and obstacles will crop up in your path. Give yourself a pat on the back when you accomplish your goals and appreciate the good moments in your life. Continue to seek and strive for balance in your life. You will find that you are happier, healthier and more at peace.

How to Be a Good Friend

True friends relationshipsAs I have gotten older, I have a smaller circle of friends, but I feel like I have closer relationships with those friends. When we’re young, we consider anyone we know to be a friend. Case in point: the typical teenager has 300 “friends” on Facebook.

Your true friends are the people you call when you have big news or just want to gripe about your day. They stick with you through thick and thin – the good times and the bad.

Are you truly a good friend? Could you be a better friend? Here are 9 ways you can strengthen your relationships and become a great friend:

Stop giving advice
Sometimes your friends may just want to vent. They may need your support. You may think that being a good friend means telling your friend how to solve all her problems. However, your friend may start to feel like you’re lecturing her. Let her bounce ideas off of you. Try to offer your opinion only when a friend asks for it.

Excerpt from A Completely Balanced Life:
“Take the time to understand the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of someone before offering advice. Recognize what makes a person unique and encourage their strengths and talents to help them reach their potential.”

Accept others
As human beings, we tend to judge. Your friends may make decisions you don’t agree with, or have bad habits you don’t like. No one is perfect. And, as the saying goes, you need to walk a mile in your friends’ shoes to understand what they have been through. A true friend accepts people for who they are.

Find time
Make time for your friends. We can get caught up in work, family and other obligations. Set aside time for your close friends. Both you and your friends will benefit from the time you spend together.

Be dependable
One of the most important traits of friendship is dependability. You want friends who are consistent and trustworthy, rather than flaky and unreliable. To be a good friend, you need to mean what you say and follow through on your commitments. True friends are the ones you can count on – in good times and bad – no matter what.

Celebrate the good
Friends want to celebrate with you when good things happen. Sometimes, we can be jealous of our friend’s success. Acknowledge your jealousy, then put it aside and be happy for your friend. Real friends are there to cheer on the triumphs of others and share in their joy.

Be there for the bad
This is the true test of a good friend. Fake friends are there for the parties and celebrations. Real friends are there during the difficult times. Your friend may be going through a job loss, divorce, death in the family or depression. True friends stick out the tough times, too.

Just listen
The art of listening is hard. You may think you’re listening when you’re really not. You may already be thinking about what you want to say instead of focusing on your friend. In addition, your friend may not always say what he means. You may need to listen closely to understand what is really bothering him.

Be honest
Close friends are honest with each other. You need to be honest about how you feel. Being honest is not the same as being blunt or hurtful. You can nicely tell a friend that her outfit isn’t very flattering. Or if your friend has been drinking too much lately, you can tell him you’re concerned about it. If your friends know that you have their backs and are looking out for them, they know that your criticism is meant with the best of intentions.

Do little things
Take the time to do little things for your friends. Send a text message to a friend who’s having a rough day. Drop by a friend’s office with a cup of coffee. Invite a friend to lunch, or offer to watch her kids while she goes grocery shopping. Little gestures and acts of kindness can mean the world to a friend.

Creating strong, lasting relationships takes nurturing and hard work. Good friendships require balance – give and take on both sides. Could you be a better friend? What tips do you have for being a true friend?

6 ways to beat stress for better health

Stress juggling too many responsibilitiesWe all deal with stress. It can be a juggling act to balance all of our responsibilities. Your boss just dumped a bunch of work on your desk on Friday afternoon. The car battery died. One of the kids is sick. The property taxes are coming due.

Sometimes everything piles up at once, and you feel overloaded. You may not be able to keep all the balls in the air, and it seems like too much to handle. You can’t avoid stress. It’s just part of life. However, you can control how you deal with it.

Stress can cause you to gain weight and can even shorten your lifespan. By learning to manage stress, you can live a much happier, healthier and more productive life.

Here are 6 ways you can make changes in your life now to help you beat stress for better health:

1. Balance your lifestyle
How you live your life affects your stress level. If one aspect of your life is out of balance, it can lead to stress and dissatisfaction – not only in that area of your life but also in other areas. For instance, if your work schedule has become extremely hectic, it will impact your personal life. Your spouse may wish you could spend more time together. You may miss your kids’ sports or school activities due to work.

Here are some areas to work on to help you find more balance and reduce stress:

Look at your schedule. It’s important to create a balance between your personal needs, work, and your family and friends. Our relationships with others are an integral part of our happiness. Start by looking at your commitments. Maybe you need to adjust how and where you spend your time. Make more time for you. Or plan more activities with your family or friends. There may be things you don’t need to do at all. Sometimes just saying no when you’re feeling overwhelmed can be the greatest stress reliever.

Get enough sleep. Your body uses sleep to rest and re-cooperate from the stresses of the day. Your body and mind need sleep for many other healthy reasons, too.

Eat healthier. By eating healthier you have more energy, may lose weight or maintain your weight, and will feel better about yourself. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and protein can also help boost your immunity. Staying healthy is one of the best defenses against stress.

Make the time to exercise. If you can work exercise into your daily routine and make it habit, you will feel healthier and reduce stress. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can help lower your stress level.

Find a sense of purpose. You may feel stressed if you aren’t doing anything that’s meaningful to you or that you truly enjoy. You may find a sense of purpose through your family, friends, a hobby you love, work or by volunteering. Your purpose should make you happy to get out of bed in the morning and fulfilled at the end of the day.

These are a few of the areas in your life that can get out of balance. It is also important to make sure you are financially and spiritually balanced. You may find it helps to set goals and improve your habits in order achieve more.

2. Get organized
Being surrounded by clutter can also contribute to stress. If you feel you are constantly searching for things or simply feel overwhelmed by all of the “stuff” in your life, then take the initiative to clean up the clutter and reduce your stress.

You can also improve your time management skills. I know I am often guilty of procrastination. I put things off or do unimportant tasks to avoid what I should be doing. The next thing I know, I haven’t gotten anything worthwhile done. By managing your time more effectively, you can prioritize what is urgent and what can wait. You can also get more things done in a shorter amount of time. That leaves more time to do the fun things!

3. Change your mindset
It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking. Situations that are out of your control or not even your fault suddenly start to cause you unnecessary stress. Negative thoughts can trigger your body’s stress response. Changing your mindset to more positive thinking can help you cope with stress more easily.

4. Learn to relax
When you feel stressed, take time to relax. It may mean simply closing your eyes, breathing deeply and thinking positive thoughts for a few minutes. You can envision yourself in a place that makes you happy and relaxed. Sit outside and soak up the sun for a few minutes. Go for a quick walk and let your mind wander. You can also use different types of relaxation techniques to help you reduce tension.

5. Disconnect
We live in a plugged-in world. While all of our high tech devices – TVs, cell phones, computers, tablets – can help us stay connected and make work and life easier, they keep us connected all the time. Turn off the computer and cell phone and take a break from technology every once in a while. Spend time with family and friends without the distractions. Go outside and do nothing. Enjoy just being.

6. Reach out
If you start to feel too overwhelmed, reach out to friends and family. Simply talking to someone and venting your frustrations can help you feel better. You can talk to people you know from church or a religious leader. You may reach a point when you want to talk to a counselor or therapist. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help when you need it!

You can beat stress and live a more balanced, healthy and fulfilling life. How do you cope with stress?

The secrets to happiness

The Secrets to HappinessUnless you’re Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, you probably want to be happy. We all strive to be happy but sometimes happiness can seem hard to find. In today’s world, we have never-ending responsibilities and so much stress.

As a society, we have become more materialistic and focused on collecting “things” to make us happy. But as the saying goes, “money can’t buy happiness.” Although, I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy retail therapy. Buying a new pair of shoes, a fun outfit – or practically anything – certainly does boost my mood.

However, material happiness is usually fleeting. What is the secret to lifelong happiness? What makes us truly happy? Is it something you either have or you don’t have?

Research shows that we all have the potential to be happy. It seems that there are certain characteristics that lead to a sense of well-being. You can create your own happiness by focusing on these traits:

Optimism
Happy people are filled with hope. Optimistic people embrace all of life’s experiences even if that means making mistakes. They don’t feel like mistakes are a personal failure. Rather, when things go wrong or life gives them a setback, optimists see it as a fluke or something out of their control and an opportunity to try a new approach.

Optimists who see the glass as “half-full” also tend to be healthier which can contribute to greater happiness. Check out our blog, The Power of Positive Thinking, to learn more about the health benefits of a positive outlook.

Self esteem
Happy people have learned to like themselves. Studies have shown it’s not about having friends, close family relationships, or material things. If you can accept yourself with all your flaws, you are more likely to find happiness.

I tend to repeat myself over and over when I’m having a conversation to the point that my friends and family will say, “Okay, I’ve got it!” Or, I blurt out things I wish I hadn’t said and then stew about it later. You have to love your physical traits, too. I am so pale that when I visit someone in the hospital, nurses ask me if I need to sit down. I am learning to accept these things I don’t like about myself, even find humor in them,  and then let them go.

Proactivity
Happy people search out new experiences that will make them happy. They don’t wait around to find joy in life. They have a curious nature and make their own happiness. Think of all the things you’ve discovered that you like or enjoy doing just by trying them, especially when you were younger. As we get older we get more cynical about new experiences. Take a chance and try something new!

A sense of control
People who believe they are in control of their own destiny tend to be more happy. Feeling like you are in charge of how you live your life leads to a greater sense of well-being. Of course, there are things that are out of your control. You can’t control the weather, traffic or other people who annoy you. However, you can control what you wear, how you drive and how you react to annoying people. The more you make your own decisions and manage your own time, the happier you will be.

Extroversion
Outgoing people are happy people and have a greater satisfaction in life. Being extroverted also ties into being self assured. If you are confident and like who you are, you can walk into a room of strangers and start up a conversation. Extroverts also tend to be more content and have a larger circle of friends.

I am more introverted my nature and spend a lot of time “in my own head.” I have had to work at being more outgoing and trying new experiences. I do feel it has built my confidence and made me a happier person.

Love
Having a sense of compassion for others and knowing you are loved is one of the biggest predictors of happiness. We need relationships – whether they are romantic love, the bond we have with our children, or the acceptance of friends. Spending time with others strengthens these connections and contributes to our sense of happiness.

Friendship
Our friends help us accept ourselves for who we really are. When they accept us, flaws and all, we are better able to be more comfortable in own skin. We find happiness from spending time with other people, and from supporting others when they need us. Read more about the power of friendships in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends.

A contented feeling
A feeling of security or contentedness comes from feeling good about where you are in life. It’s recognizing that you can be happy without being rich, having the biggest house on the block or being the most popular. Happy people are simply content with their current situation. It’s okay to have goals, wishes and dreams but your happiness doesn’t have to hinge on them. You can be happy right now.

Spirtuality
People who are spiritual tend to have greater life satisfaction. Life may have a bigger meaning beyond our knowing, so it’s not worth worrying so much about the little things. Religion can have a positive affect on both your mental and physical health. Studies show that those who pray or attend religious services regularly are less likely to have hypertension, anxiety disorders or depression.

Altruism
Giving without expecting anything in return is one of the truest ways to find happiness. Because even though your reasons for giving are altruistic, you can get so much in return. Having a positive impact on someone else’s life can help you feel better about what is going on in your own life. For more details about the rewards of giving, read our blog 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back.

A purpose
Happy people enjoy what they do. They don’t do it for money or glory. They do it because they love it. Your purpose should be your passion. It may be the work you do for a living. It could be your purpose is being the best mother and wife. You may enjoy teaching kids or mentoring others. Your purpose makes you excited to get out of bed every morning. Simply put, it makes you happy.

We all have the potential to be happy. By focusing on these traits and characteristics you can create your own happiness. What makes you happy?

8 ways to build strong relationships

build strong relationshipsHappy Valentine’s Day! Since today is about letting our sweethearts know we love them, it seems like a good time to talk about relationships.

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, give your sweetie a hug and a kiss today, and let them know how much you love them!

14 secrets to living longer

living longerMy husband and I have very different views on aging. He wants to live as long as possible – on the condition that he is in good health. He has made it clear to me that if he were on life support and there was no chance of regaining quality of life, he wants me to pull the plug.

I, on the other hand, want to live forever. Since that’s not possible, I at least want to live to 100. I have told him he is – under no circumstances – to pull the plug. I could be one of those miraculous survivors who beat the odds.

I know this is a rather morbid subject, but if you are like me and want to live your longest life, you want to know what you can do to make it to 100. After reviewing studies, research and even tips from centenarians, here are some secrets to longevity:

Be conscientious
Having a conscientious personality and attributes like attention to detail and persistence may help you live longer. Studies have shown that conscientious people do more things to protect their health  – such as exercise, eat healthy and avoid bad habits – and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers.

Make friends
Be grateful for your friends. As we mentioned in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends, your friends may help you live longer. But, be picky. You want to have friends with good habits, such as exercising and healthy eating. Otherwise, a friend’s bad habits, like smoking or overeating, can rub off on you.

Take naps
This may be one of my favorite secrets on the list. I now have permission to take naps! There’s scientific evidence that napping may help increase longevity. A recent study suggests that by taking naps you are 37% less likely to die from heart disease. So, go take a siesta!

Get married
There is some debate about whether being married will help you live longer, but having a partner in life may have its benefits. With marriage, you have a friend and your own support system. In addition, being married may mean you are more financially stable, which can make you feel more secure and give you more opportunities to do things you enjoy.

Eat a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Studies have shown that this type of diet can help reduce obesity, lower blood sugar, decrease blood pressure, and help lower your chances of heart disease and diabetes.

Lose weight
Belly fat seems to be particularly bad for your health and longevity. So, work on slimming down and deflating the spare tire. The health benefits can include protecting against diabetes, heart disease and other life-shortening conditions. One way to lose weight is to eat less. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Eat less meat and eat twice as many fruits and vegetables. We know we need to eat better, so add living longer to the reasons you should adopt a healthy diet.

Keep moving
According to studies, regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and depression. Exercise may even help you stay mentally sharp as you age. You should aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. You can break that down to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even if you can only get in 10 minutes at a time, it all adds up to increase your lifespan. Here are some tips to Get Motivated to Exercise in 2013.

Drink in moderation
Yes, heart disease is less common in people who have a drink or two a day than those who don’t drink at all. However, you need to remember that alcohol is also empty calories that add to that belly bulge. The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. If you don’t drink currently, you shouldn’t start.

Quit smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Not only is there a greater risk of cancer, you’re also taking years off of your life. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to quit smoking.

Have faith
Having faith seems to help you live longer. By having strong spiritual beliefs, you are able to better deal with stress and difficult times. It may also offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems. In addition, the strong social network that you create when you worship with others may contribute to overall health.

Manage stress
We always hear that stress is bad for you, but moderate stress can be a good thing. It means you are probably busy, active and involved. Rather than being sedentary and ambivalent, you are persistent and dedicated to getting things done. However, too much stress can be harmful if it causes anxiety, insomnia or digestive issues. Are you too stressed? Read our blog Do You Have Chronic Stress? 6 Major Signs.

Sleep more
As you may have read in our blog, 10 Reasons Get More Sleep, getting plenty of rest can help you fight disease, lose weight, look better and build your brain. Getting enough good quality sleep can even lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders. Sleep will also help you recover from illness faster.

Offer forgiveness
Just let it go. Offering forgiveness has surprising physical health benefits. Forgiveness can help you reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Have a sense of purpose
There is something to doing what you love. We all have days when we need a reason to get out of bed. Having a sense of purpose leads to a higher quality of life. You may love your work and look forward to it every day. You may have hobbies and activities that have meaning for you. You may find that volunteering makes you feel fulfilled. For more benefits of volunteering, see our blog, 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back. Basically, doing what you love may contribute to a longer life.

So, now you know what you need to do to live your longest life! Do you know someone who is 100 or older? What are their secrets to longevity?

How a budget can help you create balance

balanced budgetEvery January, I panic over the amount of money I spent for Christmas. I start looking at the bills coming due and our monthly income, and I panic even more.

After a more careful review of 2012, I know that we have over spent and could live more frugally and responsibly. Why does it matter?

First, we can live without some of the things we buy. We don’t need all the “stuff.” Second, I have noticed that my kids seem to feel a sense of entitlement. If they want something, we should just go out and buy it for them. It would be good for them to understand the importance of living within a budget.

In addition, if our finances are out of balance, we will feel out of balance. It can affect relationships, stress levels and sleep habits. Here are a few more reasons to establish a budget, balance your finances and live a balanced life:

Uncover waste
When you create a budget, you see – in black and white – where your money is going. For example, without a detailed account of your spending, it’s easy to ignore how much money you are paying for meals at restaurants and on take-out. After working on my budget, I was shocked to see how much we spend on fuel (gasoline and diesel) in a month. I know I have to do a certain amount of driving, but it makes me think about planning my trips and grouping my errands together.

Reduce stress
As the person who pays the bills, I know when our funds are tight for a particular month. It stresses me out. I lose sleep at night. By having a budget in place, I can be more prepared for the bills and unexpected expenses that come up. I won’t be guessing if we have enough money for a large purchase, or if we need to wait a few months. And I will know that we have the money available to pay all the bills.

Guide spending
Your budget can help you see where you can reduce spending on extras you may not need. At the same time, you may be able to put more funds toward eliminating debt and into savings.

Eliminate debt
There is good debt, and then there is bad debt. How can debt be good? Your home mortgage is a good debt because you are building equity in real estate, which has value. Your car loan is good debt if your loan payment is reasonable. Credit cards are considered bad debt. If you have outstanding credit card balances, creating a budget can help you pay off these debts. You may also be able to put extra funds toward mortgage or car payments to pay down the loan principal and reduce the amount you pay in interest.

Set priorities
A budget helps you get a big picture view of your finances. Your spouse may have different financial goals than you do. You may want to reduce debt, and your spouse may want to save for a vacation. By seeing your budget on paper, you can discuss the priorities you each have and find a way to align your priorities with your budget.

Build new habits
By working within a budget, you can develop new spending habits. You may think about that pair of new shoes or – in my husband’s case – new power tool before you buy it. With the big picture in mind, you realize that your budget plan is more important than these items.

Grow savings
Savings can include your emergency fund or the money you invest for retirement. If you think about saving from every dollar earned, it becomes easier to put the concept of savings in perspective and increase the amount you set aside. You can add your emergency fund and retirement contributions to your budget and make them as important as the house payment and the electric bill.

Give back
Making donations to your church or a favorite charity should also be a part of your financial plans. If you add it to the budget, then it is top of mind and is included in your monthly finances. You’ll feel good knowing that you are improving your financial situation and helping others.

Now that you know WHY it’s important to establish a household budget, next week we will write about HOW to create a budget. Do you have other reasons for living within a budget? Do you have tips for making a budget? Let us know!

7 reasons we need friends

best friendsDo you remember your first friend? I do. Her name was Jennifer. We met on the school bus on the first day of kindergarten. We were among the first kids on the bus and usually the last ones off, so we formed a bond. We were friends all through school, but then lost touch after graduation. I haven’t seen her in over 20 years.

Friendships come and go. Sometimes they form out of convenience, like riding the bus together. You may also be friends with co-workers, but those friendships can fade when one of you moves on to a different job.

Then, you have the friendships that can last the better part of your lifetime. These are the friends who will be with you through a bad break-up, divorce, miscarriage, illness or death. They will also share your joys: a promotion, marriage or a new baby.

So, what are the benefits of having good friends?

Fight illness and depression
Friends are important to your overall health. Studies have shown that people with a good network of friends are better able to fight diseases, such as cancer. In fact, friends may have a bigger impact on your physical and emotional well-being than your family relationships. It’s also harder to become depressed when you have friends to listen to you and help you through the tough times.

Live longer
Research shows that older people who have a large circle of friends have a greater chance of living longer than those with fewer friends. Your friends will encourage you to get out and do things you might not do by yourself. They can provide emotional support, a mental challenge and keep you physically active.

Relieve stress
Have you ever called a friend when you’ve felt like you couldn’t deal with one more thing? Our friends have our backs. If you’re mad at someone, they will be mad with you. If you’ve had a bad day, they will lift your spirits. If you just need someone to listen to you unload, they will listen. One of the best stress relievers is to get what’s bothering you off your chest and have someone listen unconditionally.

Boost your confidence
When you need a boost, your friends will tell you that you look fantastic. They will tell you that you are right and your spouse or significant other is being a jerk. They will agree that you deserved that promotion. Knowing your friends are behind you can give you the confidence to face your challenges and make changes in your life.

Tell it like it is
On the other hand, your friends will let you know when you are out of line. They will call you on your bull. True friends will be honest when honesty is what you need. They may tell you that you are putting on weight. Then, they’ll give you some healthy recipes or offer to exercise with you.

Test your limits
Good friends will push you to test your limits and try new things. It may be something as simple as eating sushi or going to a Zumba class. They may talk you into skydiving or taking a road trip to Vegas. Your friends will push you out of your comfort zone and make you a more well-rounded person.

Feel loved
Our friends love us. And while you may not tell each other all the time, you know. Your friends will be there with you through the good times and the rough patches. That’s what makes them your friends.

I’m going to call my best friend now. Who will you call?