Archive for Celebration

Savoring X 3 Equals a Stronger Marriage

Traditional marriage vows included the phrases “to have and to hold” and “to love and to cherish.”  After reading the abstract and a short review of a study on cherishing, I think we need to add another phrase, “to have and to savor” (To Have and to Savor: Examining the Associations Between Savoring and Relationship Satisfaction). The authors of this study defined savoring as the “tendency to attend to and enjoy previous, current, and future positive events.” They also noted that savoring consisted of three facets: savoring in anticipation of an event (future), savoring in the present moment (present), and savoring in reminiscence of an event (past). Based on the results of this study of 122 undergraduate students in monogamous dating relationships, all three facets of savoring were associated with relationship satisfaction. Anticipatory savoring, however, had the strongest association to relationship satisfaction. In other words, attending to and enjoying (savoring) positive events and activities with your spouse leads to a happier marriage. No surprise there, right?

How can you savor times with your spouse in the moment, in reminiscing, and most importantly, in anticipation?  Here’s a few ideas.

Savoring your marriage in the moment:

  • Get a babysitter to watch your children and go on a date with your spouse.
  • Put the cell phone away and focus solely on your spouse. (For sure, Do NOT Text and Date.) Enjoy conversation with your spouse.  Flirt. Stare into one another’s eyes. Enjoy the romance.
  • While enjoying a date with your spouse, leave the planning, disagreements, and heated discussions for another time. Focus on those things you enjoy together and the moment of being in one another’s presence. (This will help you Make Date Night Spectacular!)
  • Hold hands. Sit arm in arm. Cuddle. Physical contact can help you remain focused in the present and savor the moment.
  • Take some pictures during your event. These can be used when you “savor your marriage by reminiscing.”

Savoring your marriage by reminiscing:

  • Open the photo album or pull up the pics you took while on previous outings (remember the pictures you took while savoring the moment?) or during previous times in your life as a couple. Look at the pictures of the past events and activities you shared with your spouse and enjoy retelling the stories of those events.
  • Even without pictures, talk about your favorite vacations, your favorite dates, your times of joy and pleasure. Retell the stories of obstacles you have overcome and joys you have experienced together.
  • Enjoy reminiscing about the beautiful story of your life together with all the ups and downs that have brought you closer together. (And enjoy sharing that story with your family…it’s The Story That Will Change Your Family Life.)

Savoring in anticipation (the savoring with the greatest impact on marital satisfaction):

  • Plan an outing for you and your spouse several days in advance. Let it be a surprise. Do not tell them what it is but give daily hints as the event approaches.
  • Plan an outing with your spouse. Talk about your anticipation for the outing.
  • Plan a vacation with your spouse. As a couple, learn some about the history and culture of the place you plan to visit on your vacation. Look up some restaurants and points of interest to visit. Talk about various activities you would like to engage in as a couple during the vacation. 
  • Talk about where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years. What do you want to be like as a couple? Where would you like to visit as a couple? What would you like to do together…as a couple?
  • All in all, Put the Zing of Anticipation in Your Marriage.

Practice these 3 ways to savor your relationship and grow a stronger marriage. You’ll love the results!

A Gift Couples Must Share to Enjoy

Some gifts are meant for couples to share. They just aren’t as good when your spouse doesn’t share them with you.  For instance, it’s hard to celebrate a victory when your partner is down in the dumps or a “kill-joy.” Researchers at Florida State University uncovered another gift that is meant for couples to share. Not sharing this gift is a subtle but powerful “kill-joy” for a marriage. The gift meant to be shared is gratitude; and gratitude left unshared, a lack of gratitude, is a powerful “kill-joy” that hinders marriage.

This finding comes from a study of 120 newlywed couple who filled out surveys reporting their happiness and satisfaction in their marriage as well as how much gratitude they felt and expressed. The couples were followed for three years. After the first year, they retook the gratitude survey. And, every four months they retook the survey of happiness and satisfaction in their marriage. 

The results revealed that each individual’s level of gratitude impacted the relationship. Specifically, if both partners express gratitude on a regular basis, the couple was more satisfied with their marriage in three years. However, if one partner was grateful and the other ungrateful, marital satisfaction declined steeply over the three-year period. In fact, their marital satisfaction declined more than it did for couples in which both partners were ungrateful!

Individually, those individuals married to a grateful partner tended to be more satisfied after three years but ONLY IF they were grateful people themselves.  If they were not grateful themselves, they became less satisfied with their marriage to a grateful person.

In other words, when it comes to marriage, it takes two grateful people to benefit from the joys of gratitude. If one partner is ungrateful, it pulls both people and their marriage down. Gratitude is meant to be shared within a couple. So, why not decide, as a couple, to increase the level of gratitude in your home? Sit down as a couple and agree to nurture gratitude in your relationship. Commit to sharing gratitude with one another every day. Here’s a simple plan for doing it.

  • Talk with your spouse about all the work that gets done in your home and for your family—everything from laundry, cleaning, repair work, employment to support the family, shopping, transporting children, etc. The list goes on. Write it all down as you go. Take time to thank your partner for the work he or she does in the home and for the family. Keep the list. Look at it each week and add to it as ideas come to mind. When you do think of another contribution your spouse makes to the family, verbally thank them. 
  • Commit to taking 10 seconds three times a day to write down three things you can thank your spouse for today. At the end of the day, tell your spouse at least one of the things you wrote down. (This is actually part of a Math Equation To Save Your Marriage.)
  • Every day take time to review the day and consider what your spouse has done to contribute to the family and the home. Write it down. Then verbally thank them for that contribution.

It takes a little work, but these practices can build an environment of gratitude in your marriage. Sharing mutual gratitude with your spouse will strengthen your marriage. It will also model gratitude for your children who will naturally begin participating in this environment of gratitude by adding their own thanks to the mix. Give it a 30-day trial and let us know how it goes.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for GOOD NEWS!!

I have good news. It comes from a study completed by Yoshihiko Koga, a professor at Kyorin University in Tokyo. He gave a group of people three spoons of ice cream to eat upon waking and then gave them mental acuity tasks to complete on the computer. The other group simply got up and completed the mental acuity tasks. And guess what?! Those who ate ice cream exhibited improved mental performance and faster reaction times than those who did not eat ice cream. They were better at processing information and exhibited an increase in alpha waves, which are associated with concentration, relaxation, and mental coordination.

Next, Professor Koga compared those who ate ice cream with those who had cold water to make sure the improved performance was not the result of being “shocked into alertness” by the cold of the ice cream. Once again, those eating ice cream performed better than those who simply had cold water.

Professor Koga believes the ice cream may trigger positive emotions and added energy, thus producing the results noted above. (Ahhh…ice cream does bring back wonderful memories and good feelings.)

Another study conducted by neuroscientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London scanned brains of people as they ate vanilla ice cream. They found that eating ice cream immediately activated the same areas of the brain lit up by winning money or listening to a favorite piece of music. (Imagine how it would light up if we eat ice cream while winning money and listening to our favorite music.)

If you’re like me, you might be rejoicing that science has already shown what I have always wanted to be true: Eating ice cream is good for you. And, even better than I ever imagined, eating ice cream for breakfast is good for you!! Now that’s some good news. Maybe we should all give our children 3 spoons full of ice cream before they go to school in the morning. Can’t hurt, huh?

If you’re hesitant to go the ice cream route, remember that the researchers believed the ice cream had this effect because it triggered positive emotions. So, you can help your children prepare for the day by eliciting positive emotions in the morning. Make the morning a time of positive interactions. Here are some simple ways to do it:

  • Lay out clothes and pack any necessary school supplies the night before so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning.
  • If you’re not a morning person, get up a little earlier so you can be fully awake and pleasant before your child awakens.
  • Keep the conversation encouraging, friendly, and supportive.
  • Have a good breakfast. (Add some ice cream in if you want…it will really brighten your children’s morning!)
  • Share a simple hug or some show of affection.
  • And of course, break out the ice cream!

The Best Christmas: Honor, Grace, & Celebration

Christmas has suddenly appeared on the horizon. I don’t know about you, but it seems like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas gets shorter every year. The hustle and bustle of crowds and traffic seems more pronounced. Because the spirit of Christmas so easily eludes me, I need to take the time to reflect on Christmas and what it means to me. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few things, only three, about what Christmas means to me. And, these three aspects of Christmas can become Christmas themes to practice all year round.

Christmas tells of honor. Mary, the mother of Jesus, exemplifies honor in so many ways. When the angel told her that she would have a baby who would “reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end,” she accepted his word. She obeyed the call of God. She even said, “May it be done to me according to your word.” She trusted. She obeyed. She honored.

One of the greatest gifts we can share with our family at Christmas is the gift of honor. We can honor our spouse and our parents by accepting their influence in our lives, by learning to submit to one another in love. We honor our children by modeling a reputation of integrity, generosity, and love.

Christmas tells of grace. We see grace in Joseph’s devotion to Mary. In the days of Jesus’ birth, a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock was a scandal deserving death. But Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, did not want to “disgrace Mary.” He did not want to make thigs harder for her than it already was. So, he determined to quietly end their engagement. However, an angel confirmed Mary’s baby was Jesus, who would “save His people from their sins.”  With this word, Joseph took Mary as his wife. It didn’t matter what other people might think or what they might say. He would devote himself to her and to raising her child. His devotion reveals his grace.

Of course, we also see grace given us from Jesus at Christmas. He “did not consider equality with God a thing to be used to His own advantage, but rather made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7, NIV). We see grace in Jesus, who gave up all to give us all, who left home to bring us home.

You can share the gift of grace with your family all year long. Accepting each one in spite of differences and even in light of shortcomings. Giving generously of your time and availability to each of your children and your spouse. Taking the time and energy to grow emotionally connected to one another. Each of these actions is a grace given to your family.

Christmas tells of celebration. God arranged an angelic choir to sing an anthem in response to Jesus’ birth.  In response, the shepherds ran to the manger and celebrated the birth of their Messiah. Later in the story, wise men “came from afar” to bring gifts in celebration of the “newborn King.”

When we share the gifts of honor and grace with our family, we find the gift of celebration comes naturally. We celebrate our love by sharing gifts. We also celebrate our family by serving one another, encouraging one another, and comforting one another all year long.

We celebrate Christmas day once a year. But the spirit of Christmas extends throughout the year when we share honor, grace, and celebration with one another. Have a merry Christmas…and let it last throughout the year in honor, grace, and celebration.

Make a Little Christmas Hygge

Last Christmas I receive The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. I love it. It describes one of the things we seek most in life, hygge.  “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down” (page 6). I love hygge. I’d like more of it in my life. I work to bring it into my family. And Christmas is one of the best times to create some hygge. In fact, Christmas is one of the most hygge times of the year. Christmas is the one time a year in which “hygge is the ultimate goal of an entire month” (page 218). To make Christmas truly hyggelig takes intentional planning, thought, and effort. But it’s worth the effort because everybody wants a hyggelig Christmas. So, here are a few ideas to make your Christmas an extra hygge Christmas as well.

  • Fire and candles. Hygge is always greater with the natural light of flickering candles or a glowing fireplace. The natural warmth and the dancing flame that cast shadows upon all those gathered to share the Christmas season is truly hygge. So, if you have a fireplace, light it up. If not, put some candles around the room and bask in the dancing shadows of their flickering light while sharing conversation with family and friends.
  • Food and drink. Food is important to hygge and Christmas is a great time for food. Enjoy your Christmas dinner along with Christmas cookies and pies. You might even enjoy some special beverages like eggnog, wassail, hot chocolate, or some other family drink tradition. You can share cookies with friends and neighbors, swapping your favorites with one another. The important thing about Christmas, hygge, and food is to enjoy it all together. Share food, company, and conversation to let the hygge flow.
  • Comfy clothes. No need to dress up or put on uncomfortable clothes. You’re with friends and family. Put on some comfy clothes for relaxing. Your company is much more important than your dress when it comes to hygge. The interaction and the shared experience are the key ingredients of joy, not the fancy clothes. So, hang up the tie and the put away the high heels. Put on the comfy clothes and enjoy one another’s company.
  • Music. Music always adds to hygge. Play some music in the background. Share your favorite songs. If you enjoy playing or singing, have a sing-along. Take it on the road and do some caroling. Of course, when you finish caroling, enjoy some hot chocolate, eggnog, or some hot buttered rum as you talk about your caroling adventure in the light of candles.
  • Company: Friends and Family. You may have noticed how often company, friends, and family were mentioned in the above ingredients. Hygge just isn’t hygge without our loved ones around us. Enjoy your time together. Put away the phones and the I-Pads. Forget the video games and PlayStations. Pull out a board game instead. Enjoy a game of cards or “salad bowl.” Talk. Reminisce. Dream. Laugh. Enjoy one another’s company. You know it doesn’t get any more hygge than this!

Have a very merry Christmas this year, a Christmas filled with hygge, family, and friends.

Lack of Gratitude Will Sink Your Marital Ship

An “attitude of gratitude” is a powerful aspect of a happy family life and life in general). Expressing gratitude improves the mood of the one giving thanks and the one thanked. So you can see how expressing gratitude will improve your marriage.

A lack of gratitude, on the other hand, is like a torpedo aimed at sinking your marital ship. Researchers from Florida State University showed this in a study of 120 newlywed couples. They followed these couples for 3 years. At regular intervals the couples completed surveys measuring satisfaction with their marriage and the degree to which they felt and expressed gratitude toward their partner. Based on initial surveys, couples were placed into one of three categories: both partners high in gratitude expression, both partners low in gratitude expression, or a partner high in gratitude expression married to a partner low in gratitude expression.

After three years, the study revealed that individuals did not succumb to their partner’s level of gratitude. Instead, individual remained consistent in their expression of gratitude over the three years. More important for me is what expressed gratitude did for marriages?

  • Marriages in which both partners were high in gratitude expression had happiness levels “well above average.” Their relationship satisfaction was high and remained high over the entire three years of the study.
  • When one or both partners were low in gratitude expression, their marital happiness started off average and declined to below average over the three-year period. Notice, this decline was not confined to marriages in which both partners exhibited low gratitude expression. Having only one partner within the marriage who did not express gratitude led to a decline in happiness. In other words, it only took one ungrateful partner to sink the ship. One ungrateful partner was like a torpedo aimed at sinking the marital ship.

What’s a person to do if their married to an ungrateful spouse? What if you are the ungrateful spouse? How can you keep your marital ship afloat? Here are a few ideas.

  • If you are the grateful spouse, continue to express gratitude. Also, talk to your spouse about the importance of expressing gratitude. Discover what makes it difficult for them to express gratitude. Explore what you can do to help them grow more comfortable expressing gratitude. Lovingly encourage them to practice gratitude more often. Don’t nag. Don’t push. Trust that they will work at becoming more expressive of their gratitude. When you hear them express gratitude, thank them for doing so.
  • If you are the ungrateful spouse, take time to recognize how your lack of gratitude harms your mood and your spouse’s mood. Consider how growing in gratitude wills strengthen your marriage, your family, and your relationships.  Intentionally practice gratitude. Put it on your “to do list” or set an alarm on your phone to get started. Every night write down three things for which you are grateful. Every day look for one thing your spouse or family member does for which you can tell them thank you. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but people, including your family, will respond positively.

An ancient writer once said, “In everything, give thanks” (Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). He knew that giving thanks would lead to greater happiness for you and your family. Giving thanks would lead to a happier, holier world. Don’t be the torpedo that sinks your family ship. Lift it up. Give thanks.

Kiss Your Spouse & Live Longer!

Kissing has a long history. For generations couples have enjoyed the “feel-good” benefits of kissing. But, did you know that for generations people have known kissing adds years to your life as well? In the late 1960’s, Dr. Szabo, a professor from the University of Kiel, collected two years of data from physicians and leading German insurance companies. From the data collected, he found that “kissing husbands” earned 20-35% more income and used less sick time than husbands who did not share a “good-bye kiss.” Ironically, not kissing one’s spouse before leaving for work was also associated with a significant increase in the possibility of a car accident. And, those who kissed their spouses before going to work in the morning lived an average of five years longer than those who did not kiss their spouse before leaving for work. 

Perhaps that sounds crazy to you. But a 2009 study noted a decrease in total cholesterol when couples increased the frequency and duration of their kissing. Dr. Szabo and his associates did not believe kissing in and of itself resulted in these outcomes. Instead, they believed it was part of a “positive attitude” that both contributed to the kissing and was enhanced by the love shared in the kiss. In other words, the strong marital bond that promotes regular kissing, and the regular kissing that enhances a stronger marital bond, helped  create a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle that promoted safety, hard work, and life longevity.

What’s the “take away”? Build a stronger marriage and add years to your life, give your spouse a great big kiss today!

Is There a Hole in Your Marital Roof?

Roofs are important.  More specifically, roofs that don’t leak are important. Roofs with no holes. Roofs that protect. My family and I stayed in a cabin at St. Johns. We liked to eat on the deck. It had no roof, but it really wasn’t a problem until an iguana climbed onto a branch above my daughter and well… “relieved” himself in her cereal. A roof would have been nice.

Or, the time my family and I went camping when I was a kid and it started raining. I mean pouring. It always did when we camped. Of course, we had the tent and a dining canopy to keep us dry. But they were old school and as soon as you touched them, they started leaking. Drip…drip…drip. Drip on my head. Drip on our game. Drip on the table. Yeah, a solid roof would be nice.

Recently my wife and I visited a beautiful location in Cartagena.  They had a nice outdoor dining area. A mango tree grew just outside the walls of the roofless dining area and its branches offered some shade. Nice…until mangoes started dropping off onto peoples’ heads.  Needed to add a roof for protection.

Yes, it’s nice to have a roof…even in your marriage! Paul, a first century Jewish evangelist, tells us that “love bears all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). Interestingly, the Greek word for “bears” (“stego”) means to “cover, to protect.” It’s the verb form of the Greek word for “roof”! In marriage, love is like the roof over our heads. Love takes action to cover, to protect, to preserve. A roof protects the security of our home by keeping weather, animals, and other harmful menaces out of our house. But what does love protect our marriage from? More specifically, what does love protect in your marriage? 

  • Love protects our reputations. Rather than talking trash on a spouse, love lifts a spouse up. Love elevates a spouse to others. Love speaks words of admiration about a spouse. Love does not broadcast a spouse’s shortcomings or mistakes but works first and foremost to resolve them in the private intimacy of their relationship. Love stops the gossip that threatens reputation and seeks the truth that can replace that gossip.
  • Love protects us from hurtful words. Love offers words of blessing rather than words of cursing. It offers words of encouragement rather than words of discouragement. Love does not drown a spouse in impolite, angry words but showers them with words of kindness and love. Rather than criticize and put down, love lifts up and encourages.
  • Love protects from outside forces that interfere with a healthy marriage.  Love keeps those things that do not belong under a marital roof out of the marriage—things like pornography, unhealthy people, and overscheduled lives. Love strives to keep the marriage a safe haven, a place where nothing interferes with a growing love and intimacy.

Yes, a roof protects. It covers. It keeps the unwanted out and enhances safety and security within. It allows us to be vulnerable and grow more intimate without fear of outside factors interfering. Love does the same. Love is the roof over your head.

Thank You, Body

Our society sends conflicting messages about their bodies, mixed messages that seem to develop a love/hate relationship with our bodies. As a result, a large percentage of people are dissatisfied with their bodies. Perhaps we need to change the focus from external appearance to function and character. We need to teach our children that what a body does for us is more important than appearance alone. We need to teach our children to be grateful for their body. With that in mind, I wanted to share this “body prayer” from Body Prayers: Finding Body Peace—A Journey of Self-Acceptance by Rebecca Ruggles Radcliffe (Copyright©1999 EASE). Share it with your children and let’s begin to raise a generation that appreciates their body.

Thank you hips for carrying me forward this morning.

Thank you legs for being strong enough to push on through the distance I choose to go.

Thank you feet for holding me, lifting me, supporting my every step.

Thank you ribs for sheltering my precious lungs.

Thank you lungs for taking in the sun-filled morning.

Thank you arms for embracing my life, for grabbing onto what is important to me.

Thank you face for feeling the wind and the sweetness of the day.

Thank you eyes for taking it all in, for keeping me centered, grounded, and here today.

Thank you brain for coordinating this amazing journey.

Thank you fingers for being able to stroke my child’s back, fingers, face, hair…

Thank you mouth for swallowing my morning tea.

Thank you heart for being so dedicated, so loyal, so loving.

Thank you soul for wanting so much more.

Thank you stomach for sorting out all that I put in, good and bad.

Thank you intestines for clearing out all that I do not need.

Thank you endocrine system for keeping me balanced, healthy, alive.

Thank you skin for containing me in one miraculous package.

Thank you hair for blowing free and helping me to dream.

Thank you neck for keeping all the communications in my life flowing.

Thank you womb for making me creative, life-producing, feminine, changing, growing.

Thank you teeth for enabling me to bite off what I like and growl at what I don’t.

Thank you ears for listening to the higher voice.

Thank you tongue for helping me to sing.

This is my beautiful body today and always.

Kissing for Health? Hmmm…

If you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more.  A 2009 study completed by researchers at Arizona State University suggests kissing your spouse can do all that…and it’s fun. The study involved 52 couples. Half were asked to increase the frequency and duration of kissing their partner “to a notable degree” for 6 weeks. The other group made no change in their behavior. Both groups completed various surveys as well as having fasting bloodwork taken before and after the six-week testing period.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another reported an increase in verbal affection and overall relationship satisfaction. They also reported less conflict, less difficulty communicating, and less arguing in general. In other words, kissing increased their intimacy as a couple and their satisfaction with their relationship overall.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another also exhibited a decrease in total cholesterol between the bloodwork taken before and after the 6-week “kissing period.”  Kissing actually correlated with a decrease in cholesterol. In other words, kissing promoted health!

Let me say again: if you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more. Just start enjoying some good old-fashion kissing!

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