Better Health and Optimism from a Cookie?

When was the last time you cracked open a fortune cookie?  Those little slips of paper, filled with uplifting, motivational messages, always seem to brighten our days.  Snippets of inspiration such as “you will be sharing great news with all those you love”, “be patient – success is near” or “happiness awaits you” get posted on our bulletin boards as a reminder of possibilities yet to come.  These little harbingers of imagined visions or destiny spur us on and make us think, “what if it really could happen?”

By taking that one minute out of your day to pause and reflect on the fortune cookie’s positive message, you might suddenly stop and realize – this may be the first affirmative message you’ve received all day!  Amidst the hustle and bustle of looming deadlines, grid-locked traffic and disgruntled coworkers, somewhere from the vastness of space and time, this little paper has provided a ray of light and a reminder of those filed-away visions and dreams.

But this seemingly random and well-meaning message invites an even deeper question:  What are we getting from these little fortune cookies that we are not getting in our day to day encounters that may be essential to our spirit, our sense of well-being and even our health?  When was the last time you got this kind of a message from your friend, or from your partner?  Positive reinforcement can relay a possibility of hopeful outcomes or imagined dreams being fulfilled.

Optimism has been shown to be an important part of good health and wellness. Without such sparks of inspiration or encouragement we can tend to forget that life can be more than just the daily grind of work and responsibility. We can lose our optimism, our wide-eyed wonder at things which inspire us, lift our spirit or open our hearts.

There is something significant to this power of suggestion and optimism. Reasonable optimism has been scientifically proven to impact nearly every aspect of our lives – from living longer to doing well on a test, to enjoying success in our work.  Likewise, pessimism has been shown to contribute to feelings of depression, illness and withdrawal from the world.1

We can all become someone’s fortune cookie message by bringing hopeful messages to those around us. We can offer words of encouragement to a coworker struggling with a tough project.  We can give our spouse-partner a shoulder rub and tell them how much we appreciate having them in your life.  We can share moments with each of our children and let them know how great their latest efforts in school are or how much you enjoyed the dinner they prepared, or how well they did at soccer practice.

We can choose to be a person who communicates just how special and valued others are in our life, and reinforce their deeply-held hopes that good things will come soon.  By sharing meaningful communication and hopeful affirmation with those we love, our words become a soothing balm that makes the bitter stings of the bad news and turmoil in our everyday lives not so disappointing.

  1. http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/03/05/us-optimist-health-idUSTRE5247NO20090305     Optimists live Longer Happier Lives

Handling Conflict in Relationships

Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but the way we handle and respond to it is not. Some of us try to avoid dealing with conflict, while others want to immediately resolve things head on. Instead of trying to avoid the conflict, it can be constructive to objectively write down our thoughts and feelings and share them with the other person in a way that expresses how we feel, and in a style that makes us comfortable, such as possibly in a letter, a greeting card or by e-mail.

For those of us who tackle conflict “head on”, it can be helpful to take a step back and discern if this issue is something that must be resolved immediately, or can we give ourselves time to process what has occurred and see the conflict from the other person perspective.

Respecting your partner’s or friend’s experience of a particular conflict doesn’t mean you “go along to get along” or that you should not express your own experience or feelings about it. It does mean that you respect and consider the other individual’s unique experience of what has occurred and that they want to be seen, heard and valued just as much as you do.

By being open to accepting what the other person is feeling and what they have experienced, you send the message that you sincerely care about their feelings. And, while you may not agree with their feelings, you bring integrity to the relationship that allows them to be who they are and express how they feel in a safe and non-hostile environment.

Would You Rather Be Right or Be Loved?  An important question to ask ourselves when we are dealing with conflict in a significant relationship is would we rather be right or be loved. This is a simple litmus test that can help us to find a balance and a win-win situation for both the parties in a conflict, and also allows us to reflect on what is important in both our life and in our relationships.

Communication is a key to successful relationships and to solving relational conflicts. For a free chapter download to better understand why others behave as they do (and why we behave as we do) as well as for well-researched information about how to improve your relationship communications, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

Genes and Physical Attraction

During the summer my apple trees, with their sweet droppings all about the orchard, produce an enormous population of fruit flies. Apart from being occasionally annoying and making a bit of noise, they would not be a topic to capture one's attention. At least I never thought so, until I read a fascinating study about fruit flies that indicated our gender may be largely connected to our genes.

Geneticist Barry Dickson and graduate student Ebru Demir, of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria made a small change to a genetically altered gene that they engineered into female fruit flies. This very specific gene alteration that was integrated into the female flies would always produce male fruit fly protein.

The genetically altered female fruit flies behaved like amorous male flies – perusing other female fruit flies and wooing them with the species elaborate courtship display. This gene altering and its subsequent behavioral results were reported in the scientific professional journal Cell.

The engineered females rejected males that tried to mate with them and began to imitate the multi-step male courting dance which is truly fascinating but a bit too racy to describe in this article – I am not kidding! The two scientists hypothesize that the altered genes set into motion a cascade of genetic changes to re-program the female fruit flies sexual behavior.

One of the most spell binding books I have ever read about behavior and genetics is Melvin Konner's brilliant and stunning book, The Tangled Wing. His book is about humans and not fruit flies. So, if you are fascinated by how our amazing hormones and genetics create and effect our thoughts, behaviors and even sexual preferences, this book is a must read.

It is also an amazing book to read to better understand the wide range of “masculinity” and “feminine” behavior that exits in men and women. When we explore the science of how our brains function through our biochemistry and how this biochemistry is in control of the actions and behaviors it helps us to be more understanding and compassionate about ourselves and others.

The renowned behaviorist, B.F. Skinner, stated many decades ago that our hormones were the most powerful movers of how we lived our lives. More recently, Candyce Pert, PhD, author of Molecules of Emotions, has done the research that demonstrates exactly how the brain’s neuropeptides achieve our behavior outcomes.

For those interested in the subject of behavior and brain function, Melvin Konner’s and Candyce Pert’s work is highly recommended. For a free download of the bestselling, award winning behavior change book, Changing Behavior, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

What Happens to Relationships When We Don’t Feel Understood


When couples are asked what it is in their relationship that makes them feel fulfilled, the answer is inevitably that they feel “understood and cared about”. Contrary to what many of us believe, having misunderstandings is not the problem in our relationships. It is not having a misunderstanding that is what creates bad feelings and unhappiness in relationships, but rather not feeling that the person we are most intimate with and care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

In order to feel loved we must first experience that others understand us and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If our significant others do not understand or get who we are and how we feel, that leaves us with a feeling of being misunderstood. It can also lead to our feeling alone because only someone who truly knows us, rather than just thinking they know us, can truly love us for who we actually are.

When we are in a relationship we do not want to continually explain ourselves to another person, or justify our values, beliefs or the choices we make in our lives. If after a time, that person cannot be really present to us, listening to what we have to share and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship quickly deteriorates. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening to them and that you are really “present” to them as well – that means they have our full attention.  And by giving them our full attention, we can more authentically understand how they feel and what their point of view and opinions are about the important discussions that make up all relationships.

A key component of active listening is when we reflect back to the other person what we understand they were communicating to us so that we can be sure that we understand and not mis-interpret their communication. When we do this, we ask questions to clarify, such as “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you had said it didn’t matter if I went or not?

By working together so that the listening partner and the speaking partner both understand that clarifying their understanding of what is being communicated and also participating in active communication as well as active listening, the relationship can take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment. Effective communication is always the key to any good relationship. For a free chapter download from the award winning, Changing Behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

Being Happy with Who We Are


With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation and recognition in our society, it can become easy to be discouraged or disappointed with who or what we perceive ourselves to be, especially in how we stack up in the “pecking order” with those around us.

Being happy with ourselves is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple, practical steps to develop habits of happiness. It starts with creating an environment for us to work and live in that reduces our stress and work load, and brings order and ease, making our work and our living easier.

This uplifting environment can also provide us the experience of soothing tranquility rather than focusing us on the disorder and chaos that often becomes the working and living environments we find ourselves in.

Cleaning out desk drawers, closets, discarding excess and re-defining what is important to keep and what feels good to get rid of is a first step to creating a peaceful and happy living or working space. Creating an environment that truly resonates with our values is like building an oasis in the desert. By eliminating the need to accumulate more and more “things” around us, we can unburden ourselves, have a more orderly, relaxing and peaceful space to live and work in.

This is also true with friends and acquaintances. Just like with material things, we can also accumulate unnecessary or unwanted relationships that can make demands on our time and energy and often insert negativity or sap our physical or financial resources. Clearing out the toxic or unhealthy relationships we may have can bring personal renewal and further our sense of happiness and contentment.

Take the time to appreciate family. For most of us there are few individuals who have done more for us than our family members. This includes anyone and everyone in our family who support us, are there when we need them and provide a “safe harbor” throughout our lives.

Losing loving family members can be devastating but no more so than when we fail to appreciate them as they are helping us along life’s bumpy road. By taking time to give back and express our gratitude to those who care and nurture us will not only bring them pleasure and a sense of being appreciated, but will give us a reminder of how loved and cared for we are, allows us to feel more content and happy with being who we are.

For more information about this topic you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.changingbehavior.org.

Research on Love, Sex and Romance

With help from Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post, AOL, and AARP, along with Pepper Schwartz, PhD, from Yale and James Witte, PhD, from Harvard, screenwriter and author Chrisanna Northrup, not to be confused with women’s health specialist Christiane Northrup, MD, has done interesting and revealing research on the “secrets of happy couples”.

Ms. Northrup and the doctors from Yale and Harvard put together a survey that was then taken worldwide by over 80,000 participants. The survey revealed fascinating surprises about love and romance surprises.

The research findings were the basis of her book, The Normal Bar, which reveals fascinating aspects of romance that many of us may have had an inkling about, but how now been shown to be grounded in the day to day reality of relationships. Some of her revealing “romantic secrets” have shown that:

1. Two-thirds of couples don’t agree with each other’s politics
2. 56 percent of people say they never or rarely passionately kiss.
3. 70 percent of couples in England say they laugh often or all of the time
4. Two-thirds of men say their female partner criticizes them a lot
5. 75% of men and women in France and Italy keep secrets from their partner
6. 25 % of men and women do not talk to their partners about how much they earn
7. Over half of men and women pretend they’re happier with their partners than they really are
8. 33% more men than women around the world say it bothers them "a lot" that their significant other isn't more romantic.

9. Men are much more likely than women—48% vs. 28%—to fall in love at first sight.
10. The richest couples surveyed were less likely to be happy than those with less money. In fact, couples who earn $20,000 or less argue less frequently than couples who earn $250,000 to $500,000.
11. 57% of those in unhappy relationships still find their partner extremely attractive.
12. More than 33% of men and women say they have watched a TV show or movie that affected them so much they considered breaking up.
13. Those who put their partners in the category of a “good teammate” were most likely to describe their relationships as slightly unhappy.
14. Nearly 60% of both men and women who were unhappy with their relationships say they would still be happy to spend eternity with their partners.

For a free download from the award-winning book on transforming your relationships, Changing Behavior, visitwww.changingbehavior.com

Three Things You Can Do This Weekend to Change Your Life

The most important relationship we have is with ourselves. The way we think, eat, behave and use our resources define the quality of life we live. We all want to thrive and enjoy a healthy fulfilling life. Yet, in our over scheduled, frenzied personal environments and ever encroaching culture, the simple, basic, no-cost things we can to do to have an excellent relationship with ourselves and a happy, healthy life are often overlooked.

Here is a list of 3 simple immediate actions any of us can do immediately to improve and restore our well-being and enhance our health.

1. Buy with Cash -

Over the last 5 years, most of us have had a reality check regarding the corrosive nature of debt. It can cause stress, anxiety and sleepless nights, robbing us of our well-being and causing us to lose control over our relationship with money.

One of the fastest and easiest ways of “turning the ship around” when it comes to debt is to commit to using only cash for purchases and cutting up the credit cards. While we can have an emergency card or line of credit squirreled away for a real emergency, by reining in our spending habits and eliminating debt we can do more for our sense of well-being and health than following the latest health trends and starting an exercise program.

Yes, it’s true – reducing and eliminating the crushing stress of debt accumulation is the number one act of self-care we all need to commit to. Studies show that chronic stress and worry will make us sicker and even cause life threatening events such as stroke and heart attack more so than any other lifestyle behavior. Also, by paying in cash you are more aware of what you are actually spending and have the opportunity to ask yourself – “Do I really need to make this purchase?”

2. Clean out Your Closets

In our consumer drive environment we are invited daily to buy, buy, buy and can find ourselves living with closet, attics and basements overflowing with “stuff”. Much of this stuff we do not even use and may not even remember we have.

One of the most satisfying experiences is to clean out closets, drawers, basements, attics, garages, storage areas, etc., and thin out all the excess material possessions we have and do not need or use. Giving things away to the local “swap shop” or donating these unnecessary belongings to Goodwill or the Salvation Army will not only free up room and space in our homes but will also provide a greater sense of control over your living space as well as provide a sense of orderliness and cleanliness – all good things for our health and happiness.
 

3. Post Your Life Goals and Affirmations

We all have goals and dreams we want to realize. One of the fastest, proven ways to achieve those goals and manifest our dreams is to write them down and post them throughout our whole working and living environments. Take the most urgent and important goal you have at this time and focus on it daily using post-its or other reminders of what you want to manifest.

This no cost, proven method for creating the things we want in our lives can become an excellent life-long habit. When one goal is realized or achieved we can identify the next important goal and work on that specifically, using our desire and unconscious mind to manifest our dreams. After all, thoughts really are “things” and by repeatedly thinking on something, we can create it into reality. Everything was a thought before it became a reality – the chair you are sitting on was a thought in someone’s mind before it was created. We can and do create our lives with our thoughts – so post away and realize your goals.

Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?


Most people identify themselves as a “glass half full” kind of person.  We don’t intentionally set out to wreck our moods or think ourselves into unhappiness… do we?  However, we can feel like tumbleweeds in the wind, our moods – which can create stress may quickly shift from the impact of a difficult work environment, a nagging spouse, or even something as seemingly benign as the weather.  And all these mood stressors impact us on a physical level too – by increasing the body’s production of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol initiates a vicious cycle of food versus mood, wherein we crave sugary, carb-laden foods and shun healthier alternatives like fish and vegetables.  Of course, eating all this garbage makes us feel more depressed and more negative, which floods the body with more cortisol.  But the good news is that you can break the cycle – and it all starts with something as simple as a thought.

As it turns out, the more frequently you have negative thoughts, the more depressed you feel [1].  Conversely, the happier you feel, the more your health and your mood improves.  Classes in understanding happiness have even sprung up on college campuses.  Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D ., an associate of the Harvard Psychology Department teaches the single most popular course on campus – a course about how our levels of happiness and unhappiness are rooted in our thoughts, deeds and words.[2]

But can we really learn to be happy?  A new school of thought put forward by psychologist Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association believes that we can all be happier by recognizing how our thoughts and words contribute to our moods.   The good news is that you can start feeling better today by following a few proven steps that boost your body’s natural “happiness chemicals”.

According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic,[3] you can quell a bad mood almost instantly by:

·         Holding hands or hugging – A 20 second hug with your spouse releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin, which in turn helps you relax and feel calmer.

·         Get social – Resist the urge to hibernate in your home alone and grab a pal (or two, or three) for an evening out.  When women are emotionally close to their friends, the hormone progesterone is increased, which subdues anxiety and reduces stress.  Men get the same benefits whether they’re with their buddies or with women.

·         Enjoy more of nature – The fresh air, the trees, the crisp leaves under your feet, the warmth of the sun on your face… getting out into nature revitalizes your body and mind while clearing out the cobwebs of too much time spent indoors.

·         Laugh out loud – Rent a comedy movie or listen to your favorite comedian. Boisterous laughter releases endorphins which help you feel happier and more at ease.

Feeling happier is not a matter of willing your body to do so.  Your brain is smarter than you think, and no amount of telling yourself “I am happy…I am happy” is going to change your mood.  Instead, combine your affirmative statement with a reason – such as:

Today I am going to feel happy BECAUSE…(I’ll finish that big project at work / I’m grateful for my family / I’m taking better care of my health, etc.)

Back to the cortisol culprit – how do you slam the breaks on a seemingly never ending cycle of cravings that can disrupt your mood?  Follow these tips, from the Food and Mood connection by the Mayo Clinic [4]

·         Keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day by consuming more whole grains, fruits, and leafy green vegetables

·         Avoid alcohol as it can interfere with your body’s natural ability to get a good night’s sleep

·         Eliminate caffeine as you’re likely to experience a “crash” later when your blood sugar takes a nose-dive

·         Consider eating 5-6 smaller meals per day rather than 3 large ones as this also contributes to better blood sugar levels.

Overall, you can learn to improve your mood and well-being by taking these simple steps. Try it out and let me know your results in the comments below!

[1] The Effects of Reducing Frequency of Negative Thoughts on the Mood of Depressed Patients
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/620107

[2] Tal Ben-Sharar: The Secret to Happiness:
http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

[3] The Cleveland Clinic: Mood Boosters: Think Happy Thoughts to Boost Your Mood
http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/mind/moodboosters/Pages/ThinkHappyThoughtstoBoostYourMood.aspx

[4] The Food and Mood Connection:   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-mood/my00716

Copyright 2013 G. Donadio
 

How Happy Couples Behave

 

 

It is not a coincidence that happy couples share many of the same behavioral patterns. Often we think that being happy means we have fun sharing the same hobbies or doing everything as a couple. While sharing activities enhances relationships, the most important components to successful relationships is found in how the individuals within the couple treat each other, and in large part it has to do with communication and behavior. Listed below are some of the most important aspects of having a successful relationship with your significant other.

  1. Friends – Being friends and genuinely liking your partner is one of the most important components of a happy and successful relationship. If you don’t like the other person, how can you truly love them?

  2. Enjoying your friend and partners company – Laughter is not only good medicine but it is also the glue that binds relationships and creates memories. Laughing together and even crying together is meaningful in good relationships.

  3. Be spontaneous – All of us have preferences, likes and dislikes. To be spontaneous about trying new food, travel plans, places to visit and so forth we expand our personal horizons and show respect for our spouse’s or partner’s preferences as well. Life is more interesting if we can be spontaneous together!

  4. Have your own life - Developing a healthy relationship is about two independent and emotionally mature individuals joining company to share their lives together. Sometimes our needs can become interjected into our relationship in a way that creates a co-dependent dynamic and this can derail happiness in an intimate relationship.

  5. Be Fully, Purely Present to Your Partner – It has been said that there is not greater gift than our full, complete presence to another. By being authentically interested and attentive to the other person is a hallmark of a healthy, happy relationship.

  6. Show and express affection – Physical touch is an important part of happiness and fulfillment in relationships. Couples will often express that just holding hands or sharing affection with their partner is the very important part of their feeling loved and cared for.

  7. Be caring and kind – It cannot be stated enough that kindness, compared with criticism or complaints, is one of the most attractive things about another person. When we are kind not only do we feel good about our behavior but the person we are in relationship with feels good about our behavior as well.

  8. Be Honest – If we give our partners a sense that we are devoted and loyal to them and they provide that for us, we create the foundation of a truly lasting and loving relationship. Many times marriages or relationships break up because of trust issues. Trust is the foundation of a all good interactions.

  9. Be committed – When we are committed to someone it means that we are there for them and we can be counted on to support them and be there in times of need. This is what we all want from our relationships and in order to get that we need to give that as well.

  10. Communicate – By actively communicating with your partner on an ongoing basis you can avoid many of the problems that arise in relationships before they occur. By being proactive and checking in with each other on a regular basis to see how things are for the other person, this will go a long way is preventing and avoiding conflicts and unmet needs.

Creating and sustaining a loving, trusting and lasting relationship is one of the most fulfilling experiences most of us long for and look forward to. While it is not a complicated process it does require awareness and cultivation, just like raising a child or growing a garden. If we keep the weeds from infiltrating the flow beds we can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty of our longed for relationship and reduce the work and wear and tear that neglect can produce. Relationships take time, caring and commitment, but they are truly worth it. For a free download on communication skills for enhanced relationships visit www.changingbehavior.org

 

 

Love Can Be Fattening



I ran across a great article, written by Nicholas Bakalar, about a study that was published on the relationship between the weight gain of women who live with a mate in comparison to women who do not. Rather than excerpt material from the article, I would like to share it with you in is entirety. Hope this information is useful for you or someone you know.

Study Says Women With Mate Get Heavier
by Nicholas Bakalar

It is widely known that women tend to gain weight after giving birth, but now a large study has found evidence that even among childless women, those who live with a mate put on more pounds than those who live without one.

The differences, the scientists found, were stark.

After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions.

There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study.

This does not explain the still larger weight gain in women who became pregnant. The lead author, Annette J. Dobson, a professor of bio-statistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, suggested that physiological changes might be at work.

“Women’s bodies may adjust to the increased weight associated with having a baby,” Dr. Dobson said. “There may be a metabolic adjustment that goes on when women are pregnant that is hard to reverse. This would be more consistent with our findings than any other explanation.”

The study covered more than 6,000 Australian women over a 10-year period ending in 2006.

At the start, the women ranged in age from 18 to 23. Each woman periodically completed a survey with more than 300 questions about weight and height, age, level of education, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, medications used and a wide range of other health and health care issues.

By the end of the study, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, more than half the women had college degrees, about three-quarters had partners and half had had at least one baby. Almost all of the weight gain happened with the first baby; subsequent births had little effect.

Also by the end of the study period, there were fewer smokers and risky drinkers than at the beginning, more women who exercised less and a larger proportion without paid employment.

But even after adjusting for all of these factors and more, the differences in weight gain among women with and without babies, and among women with and without partners, remained.

Despite the study’s limitations — weight was self-reported, for example, and the sample size diminished over time because people dropped out — other experts found the results valuable.

“It’s interesting and brings out some important points,” said Maureen A. Murtaugh, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Utah who has published widely on weight gain in women. Perhaps, she suggested, a more active social life may help explain why women with partners gain more weight.

“Think of going to a restaurant,” Dr. Murtaugh said. “They serve a 6-foot man the same amount as they serve me, even though I’m 5 feet 5 inches and 60 pounds lighter.”

The study included only women, but the researchers cited one earlier study that showed an increase in obesity among men who had children, adding further evidence that social and behavioral factors are part of the explanation.

Dr. Dobson said the finding of weight gain among all the women, with families or without, was troubling.

“This is a general health concern,” she said. “Getting married or moving in with a partner and having a baby are events that trigger even further weight gain.

“From a prevention point of view, one can look at these as particular times when women need to be especially careful.”
© 2013 BlueCross BlueShield Association – All Rights Reserved.