11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship

Each and every day as a therapist, I talk to couples who are having issues. Issues serious enough that they have reached out for help. My job is to help them come to a decision about whether to move forward together or separately, which can be difficult. Sometimes, I have found, love and communication are not enough to stay together.

This article will help you understand what IS enough to stay together — what’s required to create and maintain happy and healthy relationships.

1. Get back on track with communication

No relationship, romantic or other, is going to proceed without conflict. What ends up getting the relationship back on track is good communication. Communication, therefore, is the single most important factor in the health of a relationship because it represents the relationship’s ability to self-correct. But what makes for good communication? Entire books could be written on this, but for now let’s keep it simple:

  • Preemptive: Easier to be upfront because then problems can be spoken about instead of experienced.
  • Consistent: No point in communicating some of the time, or only on certain issues; it only works if it’s always happening.
  • Honest: Good communication is a trust-building act, bringing you and the other person closer (see below). Dishonesty has the opposite effect.

2. Start with trust

A relationship must have a foundation of trust to succeed. I could make a logical argument for why this must be the case, but instead, imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with someone you fundamentally mistrusted. Not enjoyable, am I right?

A lack of trust often initiates a vicious cycle. The one who is distrustful often causes the other partner to become secretive, even about things he or she does not need to hide, just to secure some privacy and control. This gives the suspicious person more to suspect.

Overall, a lack of trust or a breach of trust is one of the most difficult situations to overcome in a relationship.

Learn how to build trust from this article: 5 Things You Can Do To Build Trust Quickly

3. Align on core values

Core values can be defined simply as those you cannot tolerate a partner NOT to share. Most relationships can have healthy disagreements about a wide variety of subjects, but each person has their “non-negotiable” beliefs. For some, this might be politics; for others, it might be whether to have children; between friends, it might be a matter of ethics.

Whatever your non-negotiables, it is important that your partner share them; otherwise you will constantly feel as if you are compromising on a deeply personal level.

However, keep in mind that not all beliefs are set in stone. If both people are willing to hear each other out, they might be surprised at the compromises they discover.

Check out these tips if you think you and your partner are slightly different from each other: How to Stay Together When You Are Different From Each Other

4. Use intimacy as a gauge

Although intimacy often stands in for sex in the psychological community, it can mean much more than that. I would define intimacy as an ability to communicate in a uniquely interpersonal level with another person, which can certainly happen between friends and family members as well as romantic partners. One subset of intimacy is sex, though, and in a romantic relationship this is one of the major readings of its health and happiness.

Sex in a relationship is similar to flossing, in that people who floss tend to live longer. It is not that flossing increases your life expectancy directly, but rather that those who tend to floss also tend to care for themselves in other ways, all of which lead to a longer life. Same thing with sex: a healthy sex life does not equal a healthy relationship, but it is an indication of many other positive things going on in addition to the benefit it brings by itself.

If your sex life is not where you’d want it to be, use it as a starting point to figure out what part of your relationship could change for the better.

5. Nurture vulnerability

One of the cherished things about being in a close relationship is that you can share things with another person that you do not share with anyone else. As a therapist, I am acutely aware of how much this contributes to our mental health. Simply being able to confide in someone about all the small and big things of your life is of enormous value — and the major reason why we enter into relationships in the first place.

Being able to share intimate details relies on a willingness to be vulnerable. This is a two-way street. Both you and your partner must develop an ability to be open as well as accept, nurture and respect the other’s openness. Vulnerability depends on this positive, reciprocal cycle.

You can find more benefits of being vulnerable here: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

6. Discuss the future: Children

Surprisingly, sharing a common past does not necessarily result in better relationships across the board. But sharing a vision of the future is essential in certain key areas: children, finances, and lifestyle. All of these are intertwined, of course, but it is important to understand your partner’s vision for each of these things.

One of the most common scenarios is a married couple who cannot agree on whether to have children. As you can imagine, both people feel very strongly about having or not having children. The heartbreaking thing is that there may be love, good communication, trust and shared values, but over time the couple cannot find a compromise for this extremely important life decision.

7. Discuss the future: Finances

At first, it is difficult to see how finances have anything to do with a relationship, but among couples and even among friends, differences in attitude toward money can create a serious rift.

Two friends who have two very different attitudes toward spending, for example, will have a hard time deciding what to do together. A couple in this situation will have a constant stressor on their hands, especially if finances become tight.

While it is not absolutely necessary to have identical attitudes toward money and spending, it is an important topic to discuss.

8. Discuss the future: Lifestyle

Lifestyle is sort of a catch-all phrase that includes aspects of life outside of children and finances that a couple will have to negotiate. This includes big things like how to spend leisure time or whether to be exclusive sexually as well as seemingly little things like diet or sleep. The point is that we all have preferences and needs, and when another person enters the picture with their own preferences and needs, we are forced to compromise.

When it comes to lifestyle, I have found in my practice that those who meet in their younger years have a harder time adjusting to their partner’s lifestyle. This is probably because our preferences and needs crystallize as we age. Couples who meet when they are older have a greater knowledge of their likes and dislikes, and tend to factor this into whether they would be compatible with each other.

9. Find a balance between dependence and independence

As mentioned in the trust section, the ability to rely on each other is a sign of strength. In fact, a relationship will stagnate without it. But as with everything, there must be a balance.

Too much dependence is just as tiring as too much independence. Without any dependence, neither partner feels as if he or she is part of a team, whereas with too much dependence, one or both partners is likely to feel overwhelmed.

In short, each member of the relationship has the responsibility to maintain a balance between relying too much on the other person and not relying on the other person at all.

10. Remember friends and family

This is an often-overlooked feature of a happy relationship because much of the beginning part of the relationship does not involve family and friends. Two people get to know each other by themselves and find they are beginning to form a strong relationship. But then comes the next stage when that person meets the other important people in their lives.

Couples tend to forget that how they fit into each other’s friends and family groups is important. As with core values, the important thing here is tolerance. Even if the person does not get along perfectly with your family and friends, is it tolerable? Can everyone basically get along?

Of course, the more seamlessly they fit into your circles the better, but this only really becomes a problem when the fit is so bad that you hesitate to bring them around.

11. Maintain commitment

In the beginning of most relationships, very little commitment is needed. Everything is rosy and you cannot imagine anything going wrong. I see many couples who are just coming down from their dating or marriage highs and are lacking one key component: a commitment to each other.

Commitment may be defined as a willingness to stay with the other person through times where it is no longer fun or easy to do so. Successful long-term relationships weather many such periods. Here are some other things to keep in mind about commitment:

  • Commitment is easier when we appreciate qualities in a person that do not change with circumstance — when we appreciate their sense of humor, for example, instead of their salary.
  • Too much commitment can be harmful. It can cause many people to stay in abusive relationships far too long. Healthy commitment is keeping a perspective on the qualities of the person that you love, whereas unhealthy commitment is elevating commitment itself above your happiness.
  • Commitment is also a two-way street: it is more sustainable to stay committed to someone who is staying committed to us.

Hopefully you have recognized each item on this list as at least a factor in your relationship. Problems are especially troublesome when you or your partner are not even aware of them.

If an item or two on the list jumps out as being problematic in your relationship(s), return to item #1: Use communication to get back on track. Communication or the relationship’s ability to self-correct is always the starting point for change.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them)

We all have interacted with some people that seem to have a lack of empathy, at some point of our lives. I know that those experiences can leave us feeling frustrated, unsettled, angry, disappointed, and even betrayed, mainly when we need support.

It gets even harder and more painful if you are in a relationship with someone who is unable to put themselves in your shoes, or when we consider some of these people our friends, or maybe even worse, when those people are family members and we have to be in contact with them frequently.

In this article, I will share with you the signs when someone is lacking empathy, why some people seem to lack it, and how to deal with them, so you don’t feel so frustrated and disappointed, and you can lead a happier life.

  • What exactly is empathy

    According to Dictionary.com, Empathy is:

    the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

    The word originates from the Greek word “empatheia”, meaning physical affection or passion.

    PsychologyToday.com defines Empathy as:

    the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.

    They go on to say that Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner.

    In other words, empathy is when you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s position, both at an emotional and intellectual level.

    Additionally, Empathy is one of the defining characteristics and foundational pieces of emotional intelligence.

    True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it ~ Daniel Goleman

    Signs that someone lacks empathy

    Even though human beings are social creatures by nature, empathy doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Some people are more empathetic than others. In more extreme cases, some people suffer from Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD).

    As Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC. said,

    Empathy Deficit Disorder is a pervasive but overlooked condition. In fact, our increasingly polarized social and political culture of the past few years reveals that EDD is more severe than ever. It has profound consequences for the mental health of both individuals and society.

    He explains that when you suffer EDD, you are unable to step outside yourself and tune in to what other people experience, especially those who feel, think and believe differently from yourself. That makes it a source of personal conflicts of communication breakdown in intimate relationships and of adversarial attitudes – including hatred – towards groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life from your own.

    Here are some signs that will help you identify if someone around you lacks empathy:

    • They jump fast into criticizing others without putting themselves in other people’s shoes.
    • They seem to be cold or just out of touch for people that are suffering or are less fortunate.
    • They believe 100% in the rightness of their own ideas and/or beliefs, and judge anyone who does not hold their beliefs as wrong, ignorant or stupid.
    • They have trouble feeling happy for others.
    • They have trouble making or keeping friends.
    • They have trouble getting along with family members.
    • They feel entitled to receiving favors and use you to serve their needs without showing appreciation. They will even get offended if they don’t get their way.
    • In a group setting, they will talk a lot about themselves and their lives without really caring about what other people share.
    • They do or say something that hurts a friend or a loved one, and tend to blame his/her actions on them. They truly believe that the fault is in the person receiving the hurt because they reacted poorly, were rude or were oversensitive.

    The truth is that without empathy, it is hard to create deep emotional connections with others.

    Why some people lack empathy

    Empathy is an innate and a learned skill that is shaped by how we are wired when we are born, and our own environment and life experiences. To experience empathy to some extent, it means that we have to get in touch with our emotions.

    People who lack empathy were probably raised in families who were avoiding to get in touch with their feelings and even condemned others for feeling their emotions. Some people have learned to shut down their feelings early in their lives to such a degree that they closed off their hearts and can’t even feel their own feelings – they certainly can’t relate or feel other people’s feelings.

    As a result, these people end up lacking self-compassion, self-love and are disconnected from their authentic self and divine connection to source. They are probably not even aware that such disconnection is like a defense mechanism from their ego because if they empathize, they need to relate, get in touch with their feelings and feel the pain.

    In most cases, developing and cultivating empathy is possible only if the individuals are willing to change how they relate with others, and consciously choose to retrain their brains. Due to our brain’s neuroplasticity, we can create new brain patterns.

    However, there are other cases in which lack of empathy is associated to severe disorders such as narcissism, anti-social personality disorders, and psychopathy. In these cases, these individuals need to get professional help if they are open to it.

    How to deal with people who lack empathy

    I know how difficult it can be to deal with people who lack empathy being a sensitive and caring person. When you try to express your feelings, instead of compassion and understanding, you get anger or judgment back.

    It’s painful because sometimes we can get stuck in a vicious cycle where the more they don’t understand you, the more you feel hurt, and the more you want them to understand your feelings. It’s almost like pleading for validation.

    Here’s the thing: Most of the times, talking with these people will lead you nowhere, and will leave you feeling completely depleted.

    Here are some easy-to-follow steps, so you can deal with people who lack empathy:

    1. Don’t take their anger or judgments personal.

    By doing this, you can get off the emotional roller coaster. It’s not about you. Remind yourself that they are the ones that have a problem connecting emotionally with others at a deeper level. There’s nothing wrong with you!

    2. Don’t try to make them understand your feelings.

    Trying to instill empathy or insights in them is a waste of your time and energy. This will only increase their anger and judgement.

    3. Talk about facts with them.

    Instead of talking to them about how you feel, or how something they did or said made you feel, talk about facts and what you think. It’s easier to communicate this way because they won’t feel blamed or shamed.

    4. If you don’t live with this person, try to distance yourself from their company.

    You don’t have to end the friendship or stop visiting your family member, but you need to set some boundaries and be mindful of your interaction with them. Keep the connection superficial to avoid arguments and don’t expect depth and understanding.

    5. Cultivate or nurture relationships with people who you trust.

    Spend time with people who you trust and make you feel safe to share your inner world and your feelings with. Those who might have shown signs of empathy in the past.

    6. Know that your value and worth does not depend on their validation and opinion of you.

    Our self-worth should never be based on approval or validation from others. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you realize your true value: How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

    7. Take loving actions towards yourself.

    Offer yourself kindness and practice doing things that reflect self-love – eat healthy, get enough rest, pursue your dreams, work on yourself, develop a spiritual life, surround yourself with loving and positive people.

    To give you more ideas, here’s a list of 50 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Really Love Yourself

    8. Ultimately, if you feel too overwhelmed, get professional help.

    Find a caring and compassionate therapist or coach who can be there for you and offer guidance during painful times. Unfortunately, our friends and family can’t always provide all of the emotional support that we need at times.

    If the person that you’re dealing with shows a willingness to be more open to change and become more empathetic and caring, then you have a real opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.

    Summing it up

    There are many reasons why some people lack empathy. Dealing with these people is not easy and may leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed. But with my advice, you learn that you can’t change someone, however you can change your attitude towards them.

    Remember that you can’t save everyone but you can love yourself enough to not let people who lack empathy to overpower you. Set boundaries and do what makes you happy. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to get professional help when you are overwhelmed.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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    15 Lessons on How to Surround Yourself With Good Friends (and Less Enemies)

    Be honest: how many good friends do you have?

    If you are a man, the chances are slim that you have a tribe of good friends. As men New York Times article we tend to become isolated. [1]

    Women, in spite of their natural ability to connect to other women, in our tech age are also losing deep friendships. “The number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades,” [2].

    You may have hundreds of social media friends. But how many of them can you call at 2 AM to help you in a crisis?

    In this article, I’m going to tackle, step by step, how to gain more solid friendships and how to ditch your enemies. If you’ve always wanted to be surrounded by people who bring you up rather than pull you down, then read on.

    How to Thrive in Friendships Using the ROC Formula

    I started out in a small Vermont town. Everyone knew everyone… and each others’ business. There were not many places to hide, and I felt secure in knowing others were watching out for me.

    I can remember years ago living in Phoenix sobbing as I read a Vermont Life magazine article. A town rebuilds a farmer’s barn because the previous week it burnt down to the ground. In that moment I longed for community and close friends.

    Not having close friends since high school, I created a plan to develop them.

    I cheated. I started a men’s group. What we discovered with our Sandpoint Men’s Group is going international. We are helping other men start groups and develop deep friendships.

    The core of what we learned was the ROC formula: Relax, Open and Connect. They are the first three strategies to generating close friends.

    Step #1: Relax

    We live in a world that continues to run faster with more to do. Your nervous system starts to habituate to that pace along with all those around you. You don’t realize how fast your body or mind are going or their effects on you.

    Once you begin to accept and experience your pace you can start to relax. In relaxing, you may feel anxious. That is OK. That is your body feeling what it couldn’t feel when it was on its treadmill.

    This is a lifelong process. You don’t need to be a master at it. You need to start to see results. Mindfulness is a great tool to speed the development of this skill. By slowing down, you are more able to do the next skill.

    Step #2: Open

    Once you begin to accept your body, mind and emotional experiences you have more room to open up to being vulnerable to others. This is THE KEY to close friendships. Without vulnerability you don’t have a relationship, you have interaction.

    Brene’ Brown, the champion of vulnerability, describes how all close relationships–be them romantic or friendship–start with vulnerability.

    It’s scary. You may be rejected, hurt or shamed.

    Without vulnerability, another person has nothing to connect with other than your external mask.

    With vulnerability you are real, you are human. Sure, some will not like you. Though, many more will and they’ll want to be vulnerable with you.

    Step #3: Connect

    Once you relax and open, you are ready to reach out to connect to another. If vulnerability is the key, connecting is the door. When you step through your fears to reach out to another while being present and vulnerable, you upped your game.

    Shifting from being passive to active by moving forward to connect has you give up some control. Sure you can connect from your hyper-persona, but you know what that will get you. If you want more friends sooner, apply these three steps tomorrow.

    The Key Points of ROC

    Creating a Safe Space

    This is critical to the ROC formula and friendships. To the extent you feel unsafe your physiology will shift into its survival state. When your body believes it’s at risk, you aren’t naturally oriented to friendship.

    If you feel unsafe, there is a good chance the other person feels unsafe. You can push your way through by denying your physical and emotional feelings. Or you could slow down to allow yourself to feel the lack of safety AS your risk to move forward towards connecting.

    When you speak to what’s happened, so it’s not hidden or denied, others can relax. When you say “I’m nervous”, others relax because you admitted to a vulnerable experience. A safe space is the fertile soil for friendship.

    Clarify What You Want

    When you slow down to connect to the kinds of friends you want you are more likely to create them. Rather than hoping, you get clear so you can create a plan.

    If you want friends that enjoy nature, hanging in bars may not be the place to meet them. Joining a hiking club would set you up to meet nature lovers.

    Say No to What You Don’t Want

    With clarity comes taking a stand for what you want. That often means saying no to friends that aren’t giving you energy. Sure, a good friend is there for another when he or she is not receiving from the other.

    You know what I mean. It’s the friend that always call in a crisis, not willing to listen or do what it takes to shift his or her life. When you see his caller ID, you hesitate to pick up.

    If you fill your life with relationships that suck you dry you will have no room for those that can nourish you. Start speaking up. Start saying what you truly feel and want. Sometimes the truth will set one of these people free.

    Others speak of having good boundaries. I say fill your boundaries with all of your feelings and wants. Be courageously authentic and the need to work on strong boundaries will be irrelevant. The people you don’t want as friends will avoid you. Those that you would want will be attracted to you.

    Go for Something Bigger Than Yourself

    We are attracted to people who have a purpose in life. We read books and see movies about people who stand up for something that puts them at risk.

    Go for more than finding your passion. Explore what you want to live and die for. Go for it. It’s less that you are achieving it and more you are going for it that will draw people to you.

    Enjoy Your Solitude

    The more you enjoy your own company, the more others will. When you don’t need others, they will be more attractive to you. We’ve all met that needy person who you don’t want to hang with.

    The more you enjoy being by yourself the less you have misplaced needs. We instinctually and biologically, let alone psychologically, need others. I’m not talking about being the isolated hermit. I am speaking about being OK with your own company.

    Connection Can Be Critical

    • We are trained to understand, diagnosis and fix a problem. That’s a great strategy for fixing code. It doesn’t work well for developing friendships. We are social animals; we are hungry for connection. We want to be heard and witnessed, not analyzed and lectured to.

    The next time you find yourself not being heard or see yourself go into problem-solving mode, slow down. Use the ROC formula to reorient. Back away from seeing the person as a problem. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What did it feel like when your boss told you that?”

    Listen less for understanding and more for connection. Encourage the person to express vulnerable feelings with your actions and words. If it feels right, you may touch the person. Research proved that touch is a powerful connector that can immediately tell someone they are OK.

    • Shared moments of heighten connection. When a situation has intensity and possibly perceived danger we will move beyond our hesitations to reach out for help. Studies were down during the bombing of London in the Second World War. Rather than people fighting each other for the limited resources they bonded together to share.

    Going on a strenuous hike with another can cement a friendship. Maybe you got lost. Once you rediscover the trail, you start laughing at all the mistakes you both made. Those mistakes become your shorthand to remind each other about the experience and how good it felt.

    Plan special moments to catalyze a friendship.

    • Creating connection rituals can be repeated shared moments. We need predictability in our lives. When the predictable is planned it’s a ritual. In lieu of no positive rituals, our unconscious will use negative rituals.

    A couple may have a date night every week. Through the week each person, rather than daydream about the last argument, can reflect on their weekly date that will be relaxing and connecting.

    Plan activities with friends that bring you closer. In our weekly men’s group, men look forward to spending four hours together. Most would not have thought hanging with other men would be fun. It is because these men aren’t hanging, they are being vulnerable and connecting every week. They know if something tough happens, they have their group.

    • Listening may be the best quality of a deep friendship. Your ability to listen allows another to go deep into their experience. But how many people do you have that can sit with you for an hour and listen?

    When you look at listening as a mental task, it looks boring. When you look at listening as emotional intimacy, it can be scary or exciting.

    As the person speaks, feel your response. Notice how your body responds. Notice how you are opening up. You can reflect back to the person the impact what they are saying is having on you.

    When is the last time you were truly heard? When is the last time you got someone else’s world?

    • Fun is the magnet that draws others to you. Laughter a social phenomenon opens us up. To have fun, you need to relax and express.

    For many of us, we don’t know how to generate fun or laughter. I was one of them. It was when I started being like a kid that I started having fun. When I teased people in a loving way and laughed at myself that I started having fun.

    We are drawn to those who are fun. To be one of those people you need to risk making a fool of yourself. You will at first do or say something that is not fun. Write it off as learning. Keep putting yourself out there. Your failures will feel worse for you than others. Others will appreciate the risk-taking.

    • Be your own friend first. Practice the above behaviors with yourself. Have a weekly fun activity. Use the ROC formula with yourself.

    If you are doing a lot of negative self-talk, go to the underlying emotions. Feel them so you can release them. Shift your state, get your body moving. It’s less talking yourself out of a negative state and more accepting your experience.

    Often as kids when we had no one to console us, we did it for ourselves. Now as an adult you have more choices. Choose to feel and express as you move through life. Give yourself the voice you didn’t have as a kid. Stand up for yourself, as you would for a good friend.

    Others will sense how you take care of yourself which sets them up to believe you could do it for them. They will naturally trust you more.

    • Give—to others knowing you may not get anything in return. Give the most precious gift, gift of yourself in vulnerable ways. Reveal not to get attention. Reveal to be the first to take the emotional risk.

    Give a compliment when it doesn’t benefit you. Tell the woman at the checkout she looks good in her dress. The more giving becomes a habit, the more you will be the person others want to be around.

    You want to have good friends in your life, first be a good friend to others. Take risks when others don’t. Be real, be vulnerable when others aren’t.

    Be willing not to have others like you. Like in business when they say a product for everyone is a product for no one. So is trying to be everyone’s friend can turn people off. Have your focus be less on making friends and more on relaxing, opening and connecting.

    Take on one of these skills every day. Play with them. As Bucky Fuller used to say, you’re not learning unless you are making mistakes. Go out of your comfort zone. Put yourself in new, possibly mildly scary, situations to expand your repertoire of friendship skills.

    If I can do this, a guy who grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia, and a speech impediment, you can do it. Have fun.

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] New York Times: The Challenges of Male Friendships
    [2] Time Magazine: How Many Friends Do I Need?

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    Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships

    Relationship anxiety is probably something you’re already struggling with but you don’t know much about it. It is a type of anxiety that gets in the way of having a healthy and fulfilling bond with another person.

    If you suffer from relationship anxiety, it’s important to become aware of it. Without self-awareness, you will fail to commit to someone and your relationships will be short-lived.

    In this article, we will look into the reasons why relationship anxiety occurs and how you can begin addressing this issue. It is your responsibility to deal with your anxiety and make sure you don’t start building a family on negative emotions like fear or lack.

    What is relationship anxiety

    If someone’s parents did not provide them with the love and care they needed as a child, they grew up confused and insecure.

    Moreover, if both parents were dealing with their own mental health issues and were not able to met their children’s needs, these children took on the false belief that they were undeserving of love, support and care.

    In addition to feeling undeserving and insecure, they might also struggle with trusting people. They grow up expecting others to hurt them or break their boundaries like their own parents did.

    If these people avoid conflict and distance themselves from their loved one when they should be intimate, they are probably anxious in a relationship.

    The cause of relationship anxiety: Your attachment style

    This anxiety manifests itself through attachment behaviors. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, there are four types of attachment behaviors.[1]

    Knowing some things about each attachment style might shed a light on your fears and relationship phobias. Here is a attachment style matrix illustrated by Riskology:[2]

    Let’s look at each of the attachment styles in details:

    Secure attachment

    People who were safe and comforted by their mother as a child would have a secure attachment with others. These people’s needs were met as soon as they expressed them. They felt acknowledgment from their parents for who they were growing up. This acknowledgment created an inner safety and comfort about who they are.

    In romantic relationships, they feel safe and trust the other person to be there for them in times of need. They acknowledge their partner’s individuality and independence but, at the same time, are able to say ‘I need you to pick me up from work’ or ‘I feel so sad about your cat dying. This reminds me of a dog I had growing up who got sick. I miss her a lot.’

    Anxious preoccupied attachment

    In this case, people were made to believe that their needs as a child were not important. Perhaps, whenever they were angry or hurt, their mother walked away from them instead of comforting them.[3]

    This made them feel unsafe growing up. They weren’t showed how to cope with emotions. Which threw them in the cycle of fight or flight. When they are taught that emotions do not matter, they become fearful of them.

    Thus, when these people get hit by a wave of anger and they don’t know how to express it or communicate it to others, they stuff it. That leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety because the mind thinks that they are trying to escape a very dangerous emotion.

    Dismissive avoidant attachment

    A person who has a dismissive avoidant attachment style might be emotionally unavailable. Folks in this category deny the importance of their loved ones and make them feel unloved by ignoring them.

    They also brush conflicts off like they were not essential to the relationship’s growth.[4]

    Fearful avoidant attachment

    Those who have a fearful avoidant attachment style are stuck with ambivalent feelings: they crave for love and attention from their beaux but are afraid to let him/her get too close.

    They certainly want their partner but they are scared of getting too close to the core of the intimacy. They think that the core will burn them and they will end up disappointed and hurt. They try to avoid this disappointment by ‘running away’ from the person they love. Avoiding feelings, thoughts and relationship problems is what they do.

    If you’re this type, you’re not alone. I too am sometimes fearful of getting attached to people, especially men. The idea that I will be disappointed by them like my own mother disappointed me is heartbreaking. However, you should know that there are ways to manage these crushing feelings.

    How to get over relationship anxiety (and create happy relationships)

    Even if you do get disappointed by someone you love and trust, you can get over this. It is not the end of the world if your partner does something hurtful. You will live!

    You can follow the tips below to get better at keeping your relationship anxiety at bay and even cultivating happiness and fulfillment.

    1. Know that you have a problem.

    You have relationship anxiety and, by acknowledging this fact, you will shed the confusion you have been carrying around for years. You will no longer be asking yourself Why am I so bad at relationships?

    2. Find out what your attachment style is.

    If you are a fearful avoidant, you might want to think of ways of confronting your relationship fears.

    Go back mentally to your childhood time and remember how your relationship with your mom was. Were you excited to be with her? Did you play a lot with her? Did she care for you when you were angry, fearful or sad or punished you for showing natural, human emotions? Keep a journal to document these memories.

    3. Challenge yourself.

    If you are brave enough, challenge your attachment style by seeking emotionally healthy partners and friends.

    Go where these folks usually hang out and try to connect with them. Can you do that? Why? Why not? How did you feel during this challenge?

    4. Practice mindfulness.

    When you have relationship anxiety, you shift your focus from your body, needs and emotions to your partner’s needs, thoughts and emotions. You worry about what he/she might think of you or you try to not upset them so they will not leave you for someone else.

    Instead of being codependent, spend more time alone to become independent. Seek out support groups that deal with unhealthy behaviors like codependency (if you have relationship anxiety, you are probably a codependent)[5] and toxic or narcissistic relationships.[6]

    Learn how to practice mindfulness from this guide: A Simple Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners

    5. Make a habit of asking yourself daily ‘How am I feeling today?’

    Are you angry, excited or sad about a current event in your life? If you are in a toxic relationship, ask yourself how does the body react to your partner? What is your intuition telling you about him/her? Are you happy with him? Would you feel better if you were alone?

    Use your journal to mark down your feelings and build a more positive relationship with your thoughts. You can also incorporate meditation in your daily schedule to get more comfortable with difficult feelings.

    6. Even better, seek help from a therapist

    Seek help from a therapist who is experienced in family relationships and trauma. He/she will know the best way to move forward from where you are now.

    Muster your courage to face relationship anxiety

    It’s not easy to deal with relationship anxiety each time you find yourself dating someone new. But knowing that you learned this anxiety from your connection with your parents or caretakers will take a load off your chest. You can turn your life around by starting a healthy relationship with your own self so you can be in healthier, happier relationships with others.

    Don’t be afraid to seek professional help for your worries. Everyone struggles with personal issues when it comes to relationships. Getting help is a sign that you take your issues seriously and want to improve the quality of your life.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    The post Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships appeared first on Lifehack.

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    How Mindful Meditation Can Improve Your Parenting Style

    Are you looking for ways to improve your parenting?

    Of course; we all are! Anyone who is a parent is always looking to take their parenting skills to the next level and improve the balance in the household. Parenting styles don’t have to complicate our lives, but which style of parenting we choose does have a direct impact on how harmonious our lives with our children are.

    Everyone has heard the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness”; but, were you aware that mindful meditation can bring about an amazing transformation in your parenting style?

    It’s true! With just a few simple tips on meditation and being more present, your parenting style can see an amazing transformation in just a very short time.

  • Mindfulness Matters

    Meditation is the practice of calming and centering the mind. Mindful meditation originated in India thousands of years ago as part of Hinduism.

    Over the centuries, its amazing ability to transform our mind, body and soul have been taken on by Buddhism as well as many other cultures and religions.

    Today, countless cultures around the world have embraced the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that mindfulness can bring to our personal lives.

    The Secret of Stress Free Parenting

    Let’s face it, parenting can be hard and stressful!

    It can also be quite amazing and rewarding to see the best aspects of ourselves standing in front of us in the form of our children.

    To be the very best parents we can be, it’s crucial that we find productive ways to manage our stress. After all, our kids learn best by watching our behavior (this is called “modeling”) and if we don’t handle stress well, neither will they.

    Adding a mindful meditation practice to your life, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, can transform your parenting style in several incredible ways:

    • You will feel a greater sense of calm and peace
    • You will be able to ebb and flow around daily challenges more easily
    • You will naturally be more patient with your child and yourself

    Science Backs Up The Benefits

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD conducted a recent study on the effects of a mindful meditation practice and it’s impact on stress and well-being. Their research looked at over 3500 people, and what they found was astonishing! [1]

    They found that “the negative effect (of Anxiety, depression, and stress/distress) is improved in mindfulness programs”.

    They also found that “mindfulness-based stress reduction reduces (physical) pain severity to a small degree” and that “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety”.

    Yet another study published by the National Institutes of Health found that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program “may have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms in generalized anxiety disorder, and may also improve stress reactivity and coping”. [2]

    Clearly many experts recognize the ability of a mindful meditation practice to reduce stress and anxiety; and since parents seem to have an endless stream of stress and anxiety, this can certainly help make some positive changes.

    Meditation Changes Our Brains

    A recent study by the University of California in Los Angeles examined the links between aging, brain deterioration and meditation.

    What they found was nothing short of amazing!

    In their study, they reported that “meditation is brain-protective and associated with a reduced age-related tissue decline”. [3]

    They went on to say that there is “scientifically solid evidence that meditation has brain (and mind) altering capacities (which can help with) healthy aging, but also pathological aging, such as is evident in mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease”.

    In short, if we focus on adding just a few minutes of mindful meditation to our daily rituals we can literally transform our minds and positively impact how our brains age.

    We can then apply this to all aspects of our lives, including how we parent.

    The Effects on Kids May Surprise You

    Children face enormous pressures today compared to when we were kids.

    Social media and technology can affect the brain negatively to create anxiety and stress that simply didn’t exist in past decades. We also have epidemics of ADD & ADHD and out of control rates of adolescent depression.

    The good news is finding ways to incorporate a mindful mediation practice into your child’s life can have a significant impact.

    A recent study by Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that “using the techniques of Sahaja Yoga Meditation . . . showed improvements in children’s ADHD behavior, self-esteem and relationship quality.” [4]

    They went on to say that “Children described . . . better sleep patterns, less anxiety . . . and at school more able to concentrate, (and had) less conflict. Parents reported feeling happier, less stressed and more able to manage their child’s behavior”.

    While kids may not have the patience for a daily or lengthy practice of seated meditation, just a few minutes several times a week can bring about a profound change in mood, attitude and stress-reduction!

    The Magic Behind Mono-tasking

    Mindfulness has come into fashion over the past decade.

    Essentially it’s the practice of focusing our attention on what we are doing in the moment. With mindfulness, we focus on being 100% present to a person or action, instead of allowing our minds to be scattered across many thoughts and tasks.

    Mindfulness removes the illusion that multi-tasking somehow makes us more productive. Instead it replaces that idea with mono-tasking: being laser focused on one thing at a time.

    In doing this, we become more accepting of what we can’t change. We become more patient, caring and empathetic. It also naturally causes our relationships to improve as we will become more present and connected to those we interact with.

    To dive deeper into exactly what mindfulness is take a look at the 10 Easy Ways To Practice Mindfulness .

    Applying Mindfulness Makes Your Life 10x Better

    In terms of how mindfulness can improve your life, let’s review the biggest positive impacts:

    • It helps regulate our emotions
    • It heightens our sensitivity to others and the world around us
    • We will more easily replace expectations with appreciation
    • It can strengthen our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem

    In short, by making a choice to practice mindfulness and mindful meditation we are taking charge of our lives, our emotions and our minds. We are no longer simply reacting to the world around us, but taking responsibility for how we want to live our life.

    3 Simple Ways to Start Meditating Today

    So mindful meditation sounds great, right?

    But, how do we incorporate that into our daily lives? More importantly, how can we practice mindfulness in a way that doesn’t eat up a lot of our precious time?

    The answers can be surprisingly simple.

    There are likely a million different ways to practice mindfulness and no one way is best.

    In truth, what works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Therefore, find what works for you and don’t worry if you’re doing it the “right” way.

    The primary goal of mindful meditation is to calm your mind and clear away all the distractions and thoughts.

    While practicing mindful meditation you may want complete quiet. Others, though, may like the challenge of tuning out a certain amount of background noise. And yet some others may prefer to listen to gentle music in the background.

    Listed below are 3 incredibly easy ways to add a mindful meditation practice to your life:

    #1 Seated Meditation

    The easiest way to add a mindful meditation practice to our lives is to simply set aside anywhere from 5-15 minutes in your daily routine. Almost all of us, no matter how busy our lives, can spare an extra 5 minutes. Wake up 5 minutes earlier to start your day, so that you ensure you have plenty of time to practice.

    Find a place with limited distractions and sit cross legged. The important thing is to try and eliminate all the distracting thoughts and focus your mind on one thing.

    Focus on your breath, breathing in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth. Also, focus on a maintaining a strong and upright posture with the crown of your head pointing to the sky.

    Many meditators like to focus on the pineal gland, or what’s known as our third eye.

    The pineal gland is located inside the brain, but the gateway to it, the third eye, is considered by many to be located on the forehead in between our eyebrows. The pineal gland is where melatonin in our body is produced; thus focusing on it can help improve sleep regulation.

    No matter what helps you quiet your mind, stay focused on that one thing.

    When you find your thoughts drifting towards what to make the kids for dinner or last’s night’s spat with your spouse, simple breathe out and come back to your focus.

    Even the most seasoned meditators occasionally find their thoughts drifting. So, be kind to yourself and clear your mind as often as is necessary. Don’t worry that you aren’t doing it perfectly.

    #2 Practice Tai Chi

    Think of Tai Chi as a form of moving meditation.

    While it is a traditional Chinese martial art, it is a solo practice that does not (typically) involve contact or partner work. It is also a very slow and gentle practice that allows the practitioner to focus on breath and healthy movement.

    Of course you can find a local Tai Chi class, but there are also plenty of YouTube videos that allow you to practice at home.

    Unless you’re an expert, start with what’s called the Yang style short form which is features 24 different movements rather than the traditional 108 long form.

    To dive in deeper, take a look at the 10 Benefits of Tai Chi .

    #3 Practice Yoga

    Yoga, too, is a centuries old practice.

    It also comes in many styles, some more rigorous than others. What they all tend to have in common, though, is a calming and focusing of the mind through breath and healthy movement.

    Like Tai Chi, you can certainly find a yoga studio near your home or work, but you can also find a multitude of videos that will enable you to practice at home.

    The more rigorous among you may want to look into Bikram or Hot Yoga classes, which can be a very full bodied workout. For a more gentle approach you may prefer Hatha or a restorative “yin” style yoga.

    But like any mindful meditation practice you will naturally see benefits physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Dig deeper and learn What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity .

    You’re Never Too Busy to Meditate

    We all feel the pinch in our busy weeks of trying to find the time to add one more thing.

    It’s clear from what we’ve learned that the benefits of adding a mindful meditation practice into our lives can be an amazingly transformational experience!

    But how do we fit it into our busy and ever-increasing schedules?

    Like anything else it has to be simple and it has to be something that doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing.

    We also need to be willing to fake it until we make it. In other words, like any new practice it may feel unnatural at first and it can take anywhere from 21-28 days (or longer) to form a new habit.

    So be patient and stick with it.

    Once you’re past the initial stages and the new habit is formed, mindful meditation will naturally and seamlessly become part of your new everyday routine. Here’s how to begin:

    1. Set a clear parenting goal or intention (to be more patient, to be more loving, to be more calm, etc.)
    2. Make your goals 1-3 things (remember we’re keeping this simple!)
    3. Write down your goals somewhere (the fridge is a great place)
    4. Start by dedicating just 5 minutes each morning to meditation (use whatever method you prefer; seated meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, etc)
    5. Push through on those mornings when you don’t want to do it (we all have those mornings)
    6. No matter which practice, focus on your breath and emptying the mind
    7. Close your eyes (to minimize distractions)
    8. Be kind to yourself (when you get distracted)
    9. With every breath try and release more tension in your body

    As you start to get the new habit ingrained, you’ll start to see the tangible benefits of mindful meditation. Then you can begin to devote more time to it.

    Just a few minutes a day really can make a big difference!

    If you can meditate with your kids, then it becomes a family tradition and you all grow stronger together!

    Become a Model Parent with Meditation

    Meditation reduces stress and anxiety while bringing a greater sense of calm and patience to both you and your child. You will see amazing benefits from starting a mindful meditation practice.

    In truth, adopting a mindful approach to life can not only improve your parenting style, but can bring about a positive change to all aspects of your life. So, don’t delay, begin practicing mindfulness meditation today and reap the incredible benefits for both you and your children.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately

    Barbara Bush was wise when she said the following about having a meaningful existence in life:

    At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.

    The struggle to strike a good balance between family time and work time is real. This struggle can leave many with deep feelings of anguish and guilt. Am I spending enough time with my kids so that they feel secure in our relationship? Is our family time meaningful and considered quality time?

    The good news is that there are solutions and tips you can implement today to strike a good balance between work and family time. Below are these tips for you so you can maximize your family time:

    1. Make family events a priority

    If you are not a life saving surgeon and currently on-call, then your work can likely wait. Most of us aren’t in the business of life saving. That gives us some legitimate flexibility in our off-work time. You don’t need to be tied to work 24-7.

    When your kid has a little league game on a week night, then don’t work late that night. Make your family events a priority. Get there so you can be present in your child’s life. In order to be a good parent, it means you need to be there.

    If you are working all the time, you are missing out on the family events that you can’t replace. Kids grow up fast and they don’t get to repeat their childhood.

    That little league play off game may be the only time they make it to play offs. Their piano recital may be more than just showing their level of skill, it is their time to shine and show their parents how hard they have worked so that their parents can be proud.

    Being present at family events shows your spouse or partner and children that you care. Love is shown in actions. Make sure your actions are showing love, by showing up for holidays, birthdays, family nights, and the kid’s games and performances. These things matter.

    Even if they act like it doesn’t matter (like most teens will act), know that it does in the long run. They will remember that you showed up time and time again, that you put family in front of work and you make family your top life priority by being present.

    Quality time is a wonderful thing but it is difficult to achieve without having quantity time. Make sure that you are spending time with your family so that you can develop deep relationships that are meant to last a lifetime.

    Those relationships will be even more important when life hits rough patches for any of your family. Death, job loss, moves, etc…they all have a huge impact on your lives and you want your family to be the ones you can count on. Developing relationships, as the kids grow up, is what will help each of you when your lives hit rough times.

    2. Schedule it on the calendar

    We put our work stuff on the calendar because it is important. But what about family time, family events and kid’s activities? If you aren’t putting those things on your calendar, you may want to ask yourself why not?

    If you value your family, then the activities that involve your family should be on your weekly schedule. Put in those ball games, ballet recitals, family date nights, holiday parties, and more.

    You need to make sure you have time for your family. If your calendar is getting filled up with work stuff every week, then plan ahead. Find out your kid’s activities’ schedules when they start, as most of us get a schedule for the semester or year when they begin practice. Then take that schedule and put the important games or performances on your calendar so that time slot can’t be taken in the future because of a work obligation.

    Making time for your family means making things a priority before they come up. Scheduling can be one of the biggest obstacles, so having things on the calendar well in advance should help you immensely.

    3. Establish work boundaries

    You need to be a team player at work, but you also need to be a team player for your family. Don’t allow your work to over-run your family time.

    When you have family activities on the calendar, then be willing to speak up when you are asked to stay late for the third night in a row. Know your boundaries with your boss, so that you aren’t jeopardizing your job, but you also don’t want to minimize the value of your family and your time that you have scheduled.

    This is why it becomes important to place the important activities on the calendar, so you know which nights are more important than others at a glance. If it’s not on the calendar, it becomes easy to forget until that date pops up.

    Don’t allow your family to be trumped by your job when it doesn’t need to be that way.

    4. Have a weekly scheduled no phone time

    One of our good family friends is a CFO of the world’s largest property management companies. He is obviously a very busy guy. Yet he is purposeful about making family time on the weekends.

    Every Saturday evening, he disconnects from his phone and does not reply to texts, emails, or phone calls (unless it is a true emergency). He does not reconnect with his phone and communications until Sunday evening, long after the kids have been tucked into bed. This allows for his focus to be devoted to his wife and children during those 24 hours.

    He is present during the week as well, but he disconnects from his phone and other electronics for a full 24 hours once a week to dedicate his entire focus to his family.

    What he does is a great example to all of us. What if we could dedicate 24 hours of the week to disconnect from our devices in order to reconnect with our families?

    There are 52 weeks in the year. That would give us 52 days of true, 100% focus of what is most important to us, which is family.

    We can work hard to provide for our families, but if we never connect, nor do we develop strong interpersonal connections, what is the point? Then our work and efforts are in vain.

    Work hard for your family, but also play hard with them to make the time count.

    5. Have purposeful family time

    Make your time with family have purpose. If you are all at home, yet you are all in different rooms doing different activities, it doesn’t count as family time. The best kind of family time is when you are engaged with one another in an activity. This way meaningful discussions can take place.

    Other options include side-by-side activities. Either help to create bonds and relationships within the family unit. The goal is time together, doing things together.

    Being at the same place, but not together is not helpful to creating relationships. Therefore, if you go someplace outside the home, such as a museum or art gallery, make it a priority to stick together to experience things as a family.

    Below are suggested activities for you and your family to do together. Create variety to make things interesting and fresh for everyone. Schedule these activities on your calendar, so that work doesn’t come up and take you away from your family time together:

    • Play board games
    • Go hiking
    • Do family yoga
    • Go indoor rock climbing
    • Pick a family movie to watch together
    • Visit a state park
    • Visit a national park
    • Go to a museum
    • Go to an outdoor concert
    • Go to a play
    • Take an art class
    • Go to a make-your-own pottery studio
    • Get manicures or pedicures
    • Check out local events in your community
    • Go fishing
    • Play a backyard sport like softball or soccer
    • Attend church
    • Go swimming
    • Rent a boat
    • Go camping even if it’s in your own backyard
    • Go biking
    • Go to a beach
    • Take a scenic drive
    • Go to a park
    • Go on a picnic
    • Play lawn games like croquet or badminton
    • Go to an art gallery
    • Plan and cook a meal together
    • Make holidays and birthdays a celebration
    • Read books aloud (especially great for families with smaller children)
    • Complete craft and art projects (there are at least a million ideas on Pinterest)
    • Go to a fair or theme park
    • Attend a craft fair

    6. Don’t sweat the small stuff

    Many times in life, we allow the small stuff to get the best of us. We get upset about things that won’t matter a year from now, or for that matter, even a week from now.

    If it doesn’t matter in the long run, then let it go. Some things are not worth getting upset about which in turn get the rest of the family upset. Usually if one parent is upset, it creates an upset in the entire family. Don’t let your time together as a family get upset by things that shouldn’t.

    A bad day at work? Leave it at work, don’t bring it home. A fight with a friend? Forget about it for now, and commit to have a conversation with the friend after your family time. Your teen is not completing their chores? Let them know they will do it after family time, but don’t guilt them so that it ruins your family time.

    If it isn’t something that must be dealt with immediately, then don’t allow it to interrupt your family time. Chances are the problem will still be there and in the same condition when you get back to it later. Deal with emergencies, but let other stuff slide and get to it later.

    Make your time and focus intentional on the family, rather than extraneous junk that can be dealt with later.

    7. Make kindness and forgiveness a policy

    It becomes difficult to have quality family time if there is arguing, anger, hostility, and other negative emotions going on between family members.

    If you have serious issues that impede on family time habitually, then it’s time to get some family counseling. If it’s bickering, lack of forgiveness, and/or general lack of kindness, then a policy needs to be established so that family time is a time for everyone to get along.

    Meanness or lack or kindness will not be tolerated. The example begins with the parents. Teach your kids by talking about kindness, but also by being an example of kindness to your fellow family members.

    If things start getting unkind, then have a key word that helps family members remember that they are supposed to be kind to one another and not to bicker, argue, name call, or be unkind. Our family’s key word is muskrat. You can think of your own word and perhaps make it funny to lighten the mood when undesirable behavior does arise.

    8. Make sure time away from work is time off

    Are you taking your work home with you every night? Are you playing catch up after hours? Are you still returning work calls and emails after work? If this is your daily habit, then you may need to access your situation.

    Can you begin to wean yourself from bringing home work and doing work activities after work hours? If you can’t stop cold turkey because the panic that rises inside you is too overwhelming, you can begin to wean yourself from afterhours work. This means you find ways to cut these things more slowly from your evening routine, so that you are giving more time and priority to your family in the evening.

    If you are working tirelessly in your job and it is not humanly possible to get it all done during a normal working day, maybe it’s time to talk to your boss. Make sure you have legitimate examples and a breakdown of how your time at work is spent, so that they can see your point of view. Present it in a way that they can step into your shoes and see things from your perspective.

    Not all bosses will understand, but there are also laws surrounding work hours and wage. If you aren’t certain if your employer is violating wage and hour laws, but you think there is likely a problem, then you can contact the US Department of Labor, Division of Wage and Hour via their free hotline at 1-888-487-9243.

    9. Use family meetings for deep discussions

    When tough topics come up, like setting rules and dates for family time together, make it a family meeting at the dinner table. Sit together and discuss things, free of electronic distractions, so that you can all understand one another and the goals.

    When you say “family meeting time”, everyone should know that it’s time to gather around the dinner table for an important discussion. If you have never done this before, then you can call your first family meeting to discuss your plans to have weekly family time and come up with ideas together.

    Our twins are only four years old and they are always included in the family meetings. These meetings can start at a young age, that way each family member knows that they are valued from a young age. Their opinion and inclusion in discussions is important, because they are part of the family, regardless of age.

    10. Make the time enjoyable and not a punishment

    Don’t ever use family time as a threat. Time together as a family should never be perceived as a punishment. If it is, your approach or the activities together are not right.

    Find activities that everyone can enjoy to some extent. You will never find something everyone loves to do, but you can find activities that all will like to do. The goal is an enjoyable time together where you are bonding together through activities and interactions. The more face to face interactions the better. Games can be of great value because they require more immediate interaction.

    Make your goal of family time to be enjoyable and fun, so that everyone looks forward to that time together. Include your children (especially the teens) in your discussion of how family time should be spent, so that you have an idea of what everyone finds enjoyable.

    You will end up with great family memories because your family activities were a positive experience. You will also be forming bonds that will help strengthen family unity.

    11. Be committed to regular family time

    Making time for family shouldn’t just be reserved for birthdays and holidays. If those are your guidelines for defining family time, then you are missing out on the rest of the year.

    Time with family should be a regular weekly commitment. If you want family ties and true family relationships, you need quantity time and not just quality time on the rare occasions.

    Showing up for birthdays and holidays is simply not enough to make meaningful connections and deep relationships (ask any kid who has been in a divorced situation and only sees one parent on those special occasions). The relationships lack depth if everything is always on the surface level.

    In order to develop relationships below the surface, time must be invested. Making a commitment to things like dinner as a family several nights a week can make a huge impact on family relationships in the long run. If you can’t all be home for dinner, think about other options that don’t take long periods of time, such as half hour family walks in the evening several days a week.

    The time commitment isn’t huge, but doing it consistently is what makes an impact. You get to talk about what is happening to your kids throughout their week and not just highlights on the weekend when they may have forgotten about what happened during their week.

    12. Family dinners are a wise investment of your time

    If you can make one thing a priority in family time, it should be doing family dinners at least several times a week.

    Michigan State University examined research studies about family dinners and found that kids from homes that did family dinners at least three times a week had better grades, were less likely to develop eating disorders, had better language development skills, and better health.[1] They also stated the following of importance:

    Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs. Additional associations include lower incidence of depressive symptoms, suicidal thoughts and better grades in 11 to 18 year olds.

    Dinner time not only helps form relationships and meaningful conversations during the week, but also has overall benefits that affect the development of children and teens.

    You have to eat meals anyway, so its something that won’t cost your family anything extra to do together. Don’t allow electronics to be a distraction at dinner time, keep them away from the dinner table to keep the attention on family conversations and interactions.

    12. Put distractions aside

    The biggest distractor from family time is the phone. If you have teens with smart phones, it becomes an easy distraction from family time, which means family relationships are being disrupted. The quality time needed to form meaningful relationships is non existent.

    Make rules, for adults and minors to abide by when it comes to phones and other electronics. Make family time as distraction free as possible. They can check their email and texts after family time. If an emergency comes up, you will know it because the person will likely call repeatedly.

    Everything else can wait until after family time. It likely will not affect your life, work, or social life if you have to pause your phone activities for a few hours. If you can have a basket in the house for everyone to place their phones during family time so that you all are completely distraction free, then you are truly winning!

    Keep the devices away and you are likely keeping the distractions away, so that everyone can be present in mind and body during your family time together.

    13. Make family time a judgement free zone

    Life is hard enough. We get judgement from the rest of the world all day long. Time with family should be a safe haven from judgement.

    Make a rule about passing judgement on one another when you are having family time. If there is a serious issue that needs addressing, call a family meeting to discuss the issue. Otherwise, let it be.

    Let your family be themselves, warts and all, and let them know they are accepted and loved for just the way they are. Because isn’t that what family is supposed to be about?

    At the end of your life

    Friends tend to come and go, but the people who tend to stick the closest from birth to death are family. We don’t get to chose them, but we can make relationships stronger, closer, and more positive by implementing these above tips on creating positive family time together.

    The bonds created when your children are small can last a lifetime. The key is making meaningful bonds and loving relationships that are built on positive experiences and quality time interacting together.

    Time in the same home, yet never interacting makes you roommates. Doing activities together, having meaningful conversations, having quality weekly family times and doing life intertwined together makes you a family with bonds connecting you for a lifetime.

    Kids go from zero to 18 quickly. If you are buried in your work, you may just miss out. Make family a priority today by choosing family time and getting it on everyone’s calendar right away.

    Calling a family meeting is the best way to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget to ask your children what they would like to do for family time to get started on the right foot.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Michigan State University: The value of family meal time

    The post How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately appeared first on Lifehack.

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