A Tipping Point For Holistic Nurses

I was recently featured in the American Holistic Nurses Association’s ‘Beginnings’ publication. Below is a reprint of the article, shared with permission.

In the cover story of the October 2016 edition of the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s magazine, hrm, Clive Fields, MD and Tim Barry address the health insurance industry’s move to value-based care and value-based billing reimbursement. The U.S. insurance industry is a multi-trillion dollar compilation of private insurers and payers that functions independently of the ever-changing political scene in Washington. These private insurers and payers control the cost of health care, as well as the manner in which health care reimburses providers for services rendered.

The hfm article begins with the following statement: “The tipping point. The point of no return. A critical juncture” (Fields & Barry, 2016, p. 1). This refers to the healthcare industry’s embrace of a value-based purchasing standard. Pay-for-performance programs place professional and financial pressure on medical providers by paying out reimbursements based on the providers’ past performance. Programs include:

  •  Inpatient Value-Based Purchasing
  •  Hospital Readmission Reduction
  •  Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier

What these three programs have in common is they all involve patient centered care. This means healthcare providers need to revamp their current patient care model to include prevention through incorporating patient health education, a cornerstone of patient centered care. The authors explain: By 2018, 50 percent of all Medicare payment will be tied to value-based alternative payment models, recognizing not only the volume of care delivered but also the clinical outcomes that care generates. Commercial carriers all have followed suit. (Fields & Barry, 2016, p. 1)

The impact of this tipping point on nurses, and holistic nurses specifically, is significant. For the first time, the U.S. insurance industry has endorsed a holistic approach to healthcare and disease prevention as a preferred model of medical delivery. This is forcing health care to move beyond the acutecare, symptom-based approach to include both disease prevention and patient empowerment through patient education for self-care. Nursing education is rooted in the holistic, whole-person care model developed by Florence Nightingale in the mid-nineteenth century. The nursing scope of practice, which includes patient health education, aligns standards and competencies with current healthcare philosophy, and mandates nurses to provide patient-centered care, prevent disease, and reduce acute care interventions, while improving outcomes and reducing costs (ANA, 2015). For decades, holistic nursing has encompassed principles of whole-person care, and at the core of this specialty practice, “holistic nursing care is person and relationship centered and healing oriented, rather than disease and cure oriented” (AHNA & ANA, p. 1)

A Stitch In Time

Now that the healthcare industry has started to embrace the bigger picture of how to deliver patient-driven health care, while reducing costs, the demand and utilization of therapeutic approaches that support this model are rapidly growing. Patient health education is at the core of the patient-centered care model, and no other clinically trained health professional is better poised to fill this role than the nurse – and more specifically, the holistic nurse. This is important for the following reasons:

  •  Patient health education is contained within nursing scope of practice.
  •  Physicians have very limited time with their patients.
  •  Nurses spend more time with patients and are often the first or last to have contact with them during a medical office visit.

Fields & Barry (2016) go on to clarify this bigger picture: Delivering primary care within a value-based model involves much more than changing contracts and compensation. It requires a proactive clinical focus, in which patients at high risk for disease progression are identified for early intervention, patient education services are expanded, care is coordinated across sites and specialties, and redundant, non-evidence-based treatments are eliminated—all with three key objectives: making patients healthier, providing high-quality care, and reducing the total cost of care. (p. 2)

More than a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine reported the need for ongoing education and training of health professionals to meet the changing needs of healthcare consumers. The report, “A Bridge to Quality” from the 2003 Health Professions Education Summit, called for innovative approaches in education to equip health professionals with new skills and roles in order to best respond to the shifting needs of populations (Greiner & Knebel, 2003).

Laboring in the Field For many decades, holistic nurses worked in acute care, as well as private care settings, carrying a vision of whole-person, patientcentered care as a dream for the future of medicine. While holding that vision, they served their patients with compassionate presence and a whole-person perspective often in facilities that had no time or attention for either the patient’s or the nurse’s needs as individuals. In 1976, a small group of holistic nurses and mental health professionals, who worked together in Boston, recognized a critical missing piece in healthcare delivery essential for authentically inviting and engaging patients more deeply with their own care. Health information needed to be demystified for patients, providing them with a “whole picture of health” that clarified the how and why of their particular condition or concern. Collaborating together, this group of pioneers developed whole health continuing education courses for nurses and health professionals, and the National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) was born.

Research and Accreditation

Since 1980, NIWH has been conducting hospital-based research on its patient health education model, which includes Behavioral Engagement with Pure Presence™ (BEPP), a health behavior change model. The most recent studies of this model were conducted with a Central Michigan University (CMU) group of patients and four physician practices (Clipper, 2015), and a Blue Cross Blue Shield-funded physician practice study at Michigan State University (MSU) (Aldasouqi, Clipper, Berkshire, & Lopes, 2016). Two medical researchers from CMU and MSU respectively utilized the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) Measure Survey both pre- and post-intervention to assess the effectiveness of NIWH’s BEPP model. The study demonstrated 27.5-35 percent improvements in both patient satisfaction surveys and physician satisfaction surveys (Aldasouqi et al., 2016). During the past 41 years, NIWH’s important and visionary work has blazed the trail for whole person care. Through its professional partnerships and
advisory board members, NIWH has worked to effect communication with the national commissions on nursing and physicians.

The NIWH tenets of whole person care include:

  • placing patients at the center of their healthcare decision making,
  •  treating the patient as a whole person, and
  • evidence-based patient health education for disease prevention and disease management.

The standards and subject matter for the NIWH Whole Health® Education Program are based on the Health and Medicine Division (HMD, formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) guidelines, referenced as “Population Health” (IOM, 1998). This specialty focuses on the leading chronic care conditions and the specific education and evidence-based knowledge nurses need to empower their patients with selfdirected health information and self-care skills. The NIWH curriculum educates nurses to look at the totality of the individual’s lifestyle and environment and help patients discern and choose what they can do to eliminate or reduce chronic conditions. NIWH’s 5 Aspects of Whole Health™ guide the course presentation, assignments, and testing.

The convergence of 21st century medicine with holistic care is an enormous opportunity for nurses to offer compassionate, patient-centered, holistic nursing. Nurses can work as patient health educators within medical practices, for hospitals or other healthcare facilities, conduct a private practice in health and wellness education, or work collaboratively with referrals from medical providers. By utilizing patient health educators, physicians can better serve their patients, comply with guidelines, and improve their practice income. Patients receive the information they need to take real control of their health while insurance payers save on avoided procedures and chronic care costs. Especially now as health care reaches a “tipping point” with new pay-for-performance standards, the NIWH patient health education model offers a win-win-win for patients, payers, and providers.
 

 For more information on the AHNA, visit www.ahna.org

What Your Sleep Position Says About You

In a BBC report linking certain sleeping positions with health risks, British scientists revealed that the sleeping position of an individual may provide clues to their true personality in addition to revealing health clues. It is an interesting theory and I became interested to learn whether a person's usual sleeping position could really hint toward character flaws or health symptoms. Here's what I learned through further study.

Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, analyzed six common sleeping positions that he believes are linked to specific personality types. "We are all aware of our body language when we are awake but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us" Professor Idzikowski noted.

The sleep study identified that most people are unlikely to change their sleeping position during the night. We are also creatures of habit. Most people sleep the same way every night. Only 5% of the study participants were reported to have slept in a different position on different evenings. Another interesting reveal of the study was that only one in ten individuals cover themselves completely with a blanket. Most people expose a leg, an arm, or both feet.

Professor Idzikowski also examined the effect of various sleeping positions on health. You may have read that some positions are believed to help aid digestion, while other positions are believed to promote snoring and restlessness.

Here are the six common positions studied by Professor Idzikowski. The study's findings related each position to certain personality traits and health implications. See if you agree with the findings based on your own sleep patterns.

  • Fetus position – A majority (41%) of the study participants, with 200% more females than males, sleep in this curled-up position. The personality appointed to this position is that the sleeper has a tough exterior and is shy and sensitive but warms up quickly.
  • Log position – This study identified that 15% of people sleep in this position. Sleeping on your side with both arms down suggests that you are a social, easy-going person who is trusting and possibly gullible.
  • Yearner position– The third most popular position, utilized by 13% of the participants, is the side-lying position with both arms out in front of the body. This position is considered to be open-minded and yet cynical. They can be suspicious and stubborn.
  • Soldier position – 8% of the sleepers in this study lie on their back with their arms down and close to the body. This position is paired with people who are reserved, quiet, not fussy, and hold themselves and others to a high standard. This position also has a higher rate of snoring due to the back position.
  • Free fall position – Only 7% of the sleepers lie on their bellies with arms under or wrapped around a pillow and their head turned to the side. These individuals were considered brash, outgoing, and uncomfortable with criticism.
  • Starfish position – Those who lie on their backs with arms near their head or pillow make up the smallest group of sleepers, with only 5% utilizing this position. Starfish sleepers are considered good listeners, helpful, and  uncomfortable being the center of attention. Sleeping in the starfish position is likely to lead to a poor night's sleep due to snoring.

It will be interesting to see how future studies add to the knowledge revealed by Professor Idzikowski. In the meantime, take some time to ponder whether the associated personality traits are accurate for your style of sleeping. Consider ways to remedy any undesirable traits or health consequences.  

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Healthy Habits: Eat More Colors

The living world around us is filled with color. Look around and you may see blue sky, green grass, aqua oceans, and an unlimited array of tress, flowers and plants bursting with intense, vibrant color. Health is associated with color as well. When we are healthy we have pink cheeks, bright eyes, and a healthy flush to our skin. Quite interestingly, aging is the gradual loss of color. This fading of color marks the slowing or ebbing of life vibrancy.

It is no wonder then that colorful foods are the healthiest foods we can nourish our bodies with. They contain nutritional benefit in the form of phytonutrients, which means plant nutrients. The fruits and vegetables with the most vivid colors contain the highest amount of these important plant nutrients. Their hues act as a table of contents for the phytochemicals found inside the plant.

Listed below is a color guide for choosing the fruits and vegetables that will provide these powerful healing plant nutrients. Make a conscious effort to include a variety of these healthy colors in your daily diet. Not only will you get more nutrients, but your meals will become more fun and enjoyable.

  • Orange = Contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports immune function.
  • Yellow-Orange = Provides vitamin C, which detoxifies and inhibits tumor cell growth.
  • Red = Holds lycopen, an antioxidant that reduces cancer risk.
  • Green = Contains folate and iron, which are essential to building healthy cells and genetic material.
  • Green-Light =Provide indoles and lutein, which eliminates excess estrogen and carcinogens.
  • Green-White = Hold allyl sulfides. These can destroy cancer cells and support a healthy immune system.
  • Blue (fruits) = Contain anthocyanins that destroy free radicals.
  • Red-purple (fruits) =Provide reservatrol, a plaque reducer and mineral chelator.
  • Brown (legumes, whole grains) = Are high in fiber, carcinogen remover and digestive aid.

Filling your diet with many colorful fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need to stay healthy, happy, and vibrant. Think 'rainbow' the next time you prepare your plate.

Learn To Love Yourself

With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation, and recognition in our society, we can easily become 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. That's why it is more important than ever that you learn to love yourself and recognize that the relationship you have with yourself is more important than any other.

Being happy with ourselves is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple and practical steps to develop habits of happiness. It starts with creating an environment 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 on the disorder and chaos that often defines 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 in creating 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 it will give us a reminder of how loved and cared for we are, allowing us to feel more content and happy with being who we are. This reminds you to stop and love yourself too.

 

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.

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Are You Stressed And Gaining Weight?

What Causes Stress?

If you find yourself feeling stressed and gaining weight, you are not alone. Prior to the early 1970’s, the majority of family units were structured as a one wage earner household where the male worked and the female stayed at home taking care of the house and family. Driven largely by social and socio-economic factors, all of that has changed. Now, the overwhelming majority of families include both parents working. We find ourselves on a treadmill of more work, more responsibilities, more demands and non-stop scheduling that has many of us in a state of physical and, at times, emotional exhaustion.

Added to the mix is our competitive culture, which often lends to isolation or “them against us” thinking. Isolation of this nature causes additional “hidden” stress. The perennial truth is that the whole world is one family. It is said that there is only one disease: the disease of separateness. The root cause is separating oneself from the awareness that as a member of the human family, we are one living collective organism. The drama created by a “one up” or “one down” dynamic, which we find in competitive societies, can lend to the exhaustion and the psycho-social behavioral issues that contribute to overeating.

Exhaustion and Obesity

The tipping point at which our bodies can no longer compensate for or adapt to the stress is based in large part on the threshold of nutritional competency and the state of integrity of our nervous systems. When our central nervous system, which governs every cell in our body and makes life possible, is not working efficiently, we have a decrease in bodily function and a decrease in the ability to adapt to the world.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, is rampant in our culture today and growing at an alarming rate because of the over stimulation and increased demands placed on our nervous systems. Add to this inadequate nutrition and a decreased ability of our bodies to digest and absorb properly because of the stress, and we see the building blocks of the epidemic of chronic disease currently being reported.

The Hard Results

What is so shocking for us as American’s is that while we live in one of the most affluent societies ever to exist on earth and have one of the most technologically advanced medical systems, we are ranked at approximately 26th in the “World Health Olympics”.

This is not the failure of our medical system but, in fact, our collective societal failure to live in our bodies mindfully and respectfully, taking time for rest, proper nutrition, reflection, intimacy with self and others and serving the common good of all. It is this imbalance that leads us to chronic stress, which leads to physical and, if you will, spiritual exhaustion that is producing the levels of chronic disease and rampant obesity we see today.

 

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

Forgive For Your Own Good

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We read and hear that forgiving is something we need to do for others, and that when we forgive others it allows us to let go of feelings of anger and resentment. There are now numerous studies that show when we forgive others, the biochemistry of letting go of the negative feelings we have carried around with us has the power to transform our own health and sense of inner peace.

In the daily news, we see the most unthinkable and unimaginable events occurring. We see people who harm and kill others, parents who violate and abuse their own children, and even children that murder their own parents. For most of us it is difficult to forgive even benign insults and events in our relationships (such as a rejection or slight), let alone something of horrible tragedy. The thought that a victim of such cruel violence could let go of a grievance against another person who has perpetrated such acts seems impossible.

The Danger Of Holding A Grudge

However, what science is now demonstrating is that the simple act of “holding a grudge” against another person can create chronic long term stress with accompanying feelings of anger and frustration. This chronic emotional and physical response to a perceived hurt or insult can lead us to become sick and even develop ongoing, chronic disease states such as hypertension, asthma or digestive problems.

The use of the term “perceived insults” or wounding is intentional. This is because while there are people in the world who do unimaginably horrible things to others, much of what we experience in our lives is a perceived hurt of rejection that causes us not to forgive another.

What Is Forgiveness?

In 2000, as a result of a lecture arranged at a hospital I worked at, I had the privilege to meet Fred Luskin, PhD, founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, and hear him present his work and research on the subject of forgiveness. Dr. Luskin is the author of the book Forgive for Good, and a world renowned researcher on the subject of forgiveness. His scientific studies demonstrate the healing power and health benefits from the process of forgiving others for either actual or perceived transgressions against ourselves, or to those we love.

Dr. Luskin was the lead researcher on a study in Ireland, which included individuals from both sides of Northern Ireland’s civil war. These individuals had all lost a loved one due to the country's civil conflict. In his groundbreaking book, Forgive for Good, he outlines what forgiveness is—and, what it is not:

“Forgiveness is for you and not the offender”
“Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you”
“Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel”

“Forgiveness is a trainable skill – just like learning to throw a ball”
“Forgiveness is a choice”

“Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness or poor behavior”
“Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful has happened”

“Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender”
“Forgiveness does not mean giving up your feelings”

So then what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness means being willing to find new ways to experience “justice” and to choose not to be victimized by other’s choices or actions. It can also mean experiencing an event from a different perspective, which allows us to reclaim our life even from the depths of our suffering, loss or despair.

The Benefits

Forgiveness has been scientifically proven to decrease depression, increase hopefulness, decrease anger, increase self-confidence, enhance relationships, decrease stress and physical symptoms of illness, decrease heart disease and increase immune function. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us live more peace-filled, healthier lives. There are many excellent books on the subject to assist with and facilitate the process of forgiving what seems to be the unforgiveable.

The Science of Heartbreak

science of heartbreakLike most healthcare practitioners, I often hear clients discuss their fear of loving or trusting another person after they have been terribly disappointed or hurt in a romantic relationship.

Being deeply hurt or emotionally wounded through deception, rejection or infidelity cuts to the quick of the human heart. Many of us would like to be able to just “put it behind us” and move on with our lives, but the research of a remarkable scientist now explains why it is so painful and difficult to bounce back quickly from a broken heart. The research also throws light on how difficult and sometimes desperate we can feel during that experience.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist, is a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the Internet dating site Chemistry.com (a division of Match.com). She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human love, sexuality, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

Brain Issues

Fisher’s research on heartbreak identifies areas of the brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, whose involvement in romantic love proves this deep-seated drive to be far more powerful and urgent than we may have previously believed. Fisher says that romantic love is “really a drive that is deeply primordial and primitive.” She explains that romantic love experiences “are way below the emotional center and in fact are not emotions at all, but rather a powerful drive and need that is shared by all human beings.”

Through thousands of imaging studies both in the U.S. and in China, Fisher and her research team has established just how important it is for human beings to be in relationships where they experience reward for their feelings and efforts toward the significant other. There are additional studies that show that the same portion of the brain, the anterior insula, is both the location of physical pain, as well as heartache. In a previous article I discussed a study that showed how Tylenol influences this part of the brain and can reduce the discomfort of heartache as well as a headache.

If you want to understand more about this fascinating subject and how to help yourself overcome the heartache of lost love, visit www.helenfisher.com, where a book list on her research is available. You can also download a free excerpt from the Amazon #1 bestselling, multi-award winning book Changing Behavior, by going tohttp://www.changingbehavior.org/

The Science of How What We Believe Becomes Our Reality – Part I

thoughts become things"Mind is the Master Power that molds and makes, and we are mind. And ever more we take the tool of thought, and shaping what we will, bring forth a thousand joys, or a thousand ills. We think in secret, and it comes to pass, environment, is but our looking glass."    James Allen

At some point we have all heard the adage "Thoughts are things," which serves as the central tenet of such popular New Age philosophies like the Law of Attraction, featured in best-selling books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. And while many skeptics have been quick to dismiss the idea of "As a man thinketh, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7) as nothing more than a pop psychology platitude, the ongoing findings of medical science are telling a different story.

In an article from the January – February 2013 edition of Harvard Magazine Cara Feinberg profiles the pioneering work of Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. In the article, Feinberg chronicles the exciting findings made by Dr. Kaptchuck and his team in conducting a "clinical drug trial" charting the effects of prescription medication vs. acupuncture in relieving the pain of the trial participants:

"Two weeks into Ted Kaptchuk's first randomized clinical drug trial, nearly a third of his 270 subjects complained of awful side effects. All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist.

In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn't get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients' pain ballooned to nightmarish levels.

"The side effects were simply amazing," Kaptchuk explains; curiously, they were exactly what patients had been warned their treatment might produce (emphasis added)." Even more startling, "…most of the other patients reported real relief, and those who received acupuncture felt even better than those on the anti-pain pill. These were exceptional findings: no one had ever proven that acupuncture worked better than painkillers.

But Kaptchuk's study didn't prove it, either – the pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the "acupuncture" needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn't aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes (emphasis added)."

Although Dr. Kaptchuk doesn't contend that patients can simply "think themselves better" his study – along with many others conducted on the placebo effect – does prove a very important, and critically under looked, fact in health care: "patients' perceptions matter, and the ways physicians frame perceptions can have significant effects on their patients' health."

Beliefs are powerful things and what we tell ourselves and others tell us can make us better or worse. We all have "our narrative" and we tell it over and over again both to ourselves and to others. We believe it, we expect it and we project it. When we change our beliefs and our story, we change the outcomes.

One of the better known studies which demonstrates how changing our narratives can change our outcomes (and our lives) is the 1980s breast cancer support group study that was written up in the journal Advances. All of the women had breast cancer that had metastasize before the study began.

Their prognosis was poor but they became a group who listened to each other's stories, supported each other, cared about one another and helped each other manage their symptoms and disease. They also helped each other change their story. It is not surprising that the women in this support group lived on average 18 months longer than breast cancer patients with the same degree of metastasis.

This article has previously appeared on Huffington Post

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.