Healthy families celebrate. They need to celebrate. Celebration creates even healthier families. How does celebration build a healthier family? “Let me count the ways.”
- Celebration fosters an abundant family life filled with joy. It’s just plain fun! And fun adds abundance and vitality to life.
- Celebration helps families balance their approach to one another and life. Celebrating families learn to not take themselves or one another too seriously. It frees them to experiment with new activities, to explore the world around them and learn about themselves and one another.
- Celebration enhances and restores intimacy in your family. Celebration helps us set aside disagreements for a time. It lets us have an experience of joy with the one who disagreed with us. Those who disagreed find themselves in harmony as they celebrate together. They discover a basis on which to restore the intimacy of their relationship, even though they might disagree. Plato reportedly said, “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in an hour of conversation.” I think it’s true for celebration as well as play. Try it out and see if you agree.
- Celebration refreshes our perspective of other family members. While we will likely encounter frustrating interactions with family members, celebration teaches us that the same person can laugh. They have an inner playfulness. We learn a whole new side of the people with whom we celebrate. We learn that we celebrate similar things even though we might have disagreements in other areas. We can disagree and celebrate. We can disagree and live at peace. We can disagree and love.
- Celebration will energize your family. It culminates in a renewed vitality for life. When we celebrate accomplishments, relationships, or effort, we encourage continued effort. The celebration of effort and achievements revitalizes the desire to keep trying and do more. Why? We all enjoy being recognized and acknowledged.
- Celebration reveals and strengthens your family’s priorities and values. We celebrate those things we value. And, we engage in those things we celebrate most often. Celebration will increase behaviors that match your priorities.
- Celebration creates an upward spiral of positive experiences and joy for your family. It reinforces the priorities, encourages repeating the priorities, and increases the joy of celebrating those priorities. Celebration will help drive your family toward a future of more success and joy. Who wouldn’t want to do the right thing when you know it will be acknowledged and celebrated?
Yes, healthy families celebrate. Celebration creates an even healthier family. Why not start celebrating your family today?
I enjoyed a short hike along Cedar Creek with my wife and two nieces (6- and 7-years-old). We joined the trail where the picturesque Cedar Creek flows out of the woods and into the Youghiogheny River. We hiked a short distance “up creek.” With a 6 -year-old and a 7-year-old it was not a quiet walk. But, it was beautiful and very relaxing. We smiled and laughed. We enjoyed the trees and the “cliff.” We even saw some fish and a few caterpillars. When we returned home, I felt more relaxed, happier, even a little energized. Apparently, I’m not the only one to have this experience. A growing number of physicians prescribe park visits and hikes to their patients. Studies show that taking a hike in the woods improves mood and self-esteem, decreases tension, clears the head, and decreases anger and depression. Researchers have also found that taking a “nature walk” decreases repetitive negative thoughts about ourselves. Living in areas with high amounts of “green areas” or “natural spaces” decreases the chance of experiencing depressive symptoms by 20% and suicide attempts by 28% when compared to those who live without “green areas” or “natural spaces.” (Read Take Two Hikes and Call Me in the Morning) In other words, a hike through “green areas” leads to a better mood, greater happiness, and a greater sense of calm. Sounds like three great goals for our families: 1) better mood, 2) greater happiness, and 3) a greater sense of calm. And, it’s not hard to work for those goals. Simply take the family to your local park and go for a walk! You’ll enjoy fresh air and good conversation. You’ll learn more about one another’s lives and grow more intimate. You’ll come back home in a better mood, happier, and calmer. That is my kind of family activity! (Learn more about hiking and happiness in Hike to a Family Fun Night.)
Fall has arrived…and with it the fall frenzy of family fun activities. In case you’re stumped on ideas for fall family fun, try one of these 10 ideas.
- Have a campfire. Nothing warms a cool fall night like sitting around a bonfire. Invite another family or enjoy s’mores with just your spouse and kids. You can even limit it to your spouse and make it a romantic evening. Either way, gather round and enjoy the fire for family fun. (Read S’More Family Fun for more)
- Go for a family hike. Enjoy the crisp fresh air, the colorful fall leaves, and time with family on a hike through your local park or a regional trail. (I enjoy Frick Park or the Laurel Highlands in our area. Where are the great hiking trails in your area?)
- Enjoy a high school or college football game. Put on your favorite team colors, buy some nachos, and cheer for your favorite team. You may even invite another family who supports the opposing team and give one another a little friendly ribbing at the game.
- Carve a few pumpkins. Sit down with your family and carve some decorative pumpkins. See who can come up with the most original carving. While you’re at it, roast some of the pumpkin seeds. Delicious family fun.
- Go on a hayride. You can even enjoy some hot cider while you’re on the ride. After the ride, why not find your way through a local corn maze? Laugh and have fun as you explore and discover your way through the maze.
- Enjoy some hot drinks. You can go someplace for the drinks or make them at home. Try hot cider, gourmet hot cocoa, pumpkin spice latte, or maple cinnamon coffee. Get a different drink for each family member and share. Drink up…cheers. (Read about the extra benefits of this hot drink for your family in A Family Fun Night with Amazing Health Benefits)
- Bake a pie together. While you’re at it, bake two and take one to your neighbor or a shut-in you know. (Celebrate your family with pie for a year!!)
- Attend a band festival. It is great entertainment to watch a variety of school band put on their marching musical shows. Enjoy some hot cocoa while you’re there.
- Rake the leaves in your yard into a pile and jump into the pile.
- Host a fall harvest party. Invite other families. Make it potluck and enjoy everyone’s favorite dish. Build a bonfire and enjoy the warm fire, delicious food, and great company. (Just so you know, going on a double date builds greater intimacy and a stronger marriage for both couples! Plug in for Family Hapiness )
Fall can become a frenzy of family fun with these ideas. Or, you can modify each one to have a romantic getaway with your spouse. Either way, enjoy your fall and the opportunities it brings to build a stronger marriage and family!
Just came home from the 2017 family camp weekend at Camp Christian. If you weren’t there, you missed a great weekend of fun, fellowship, and learning of God’s will for our family lives. Ken and Laurie Muller honored us with practical teaching focused on becoming part of the “Kingdom Family.” Using Psalm 128:1 as the primary verse, they described our “one job:” to walk and obey. We also learned about the importance of balance in our lives as we had the chance to walk a “tightrope” that was simply drawn on the ground. Although walking the tightrope drawn on the ground proved nearly impossible, the balance in our lives and our families can be found through the three P’s of prayer to God, provision from God, and peace by God. We then had the opportunity to ride a “bicycle built for two” (really, we got the chance to ride a tandem bike) and learn how communication helps us keep our balance as a couple. We also learned how the three R’s (respect one another, respond to one another, and react to problems with love) help our family run like a well-trained team…with an honoring voice and attitude proving an important aspect of precision teamwork. We even had a visiting knight, William, who encouraged us to be strong in our faith by wearing the full armor of God.
You can see we learned a lot…and we had a lot of fun. I love to see families smiling, laughing, sharing, and worshipping together. And I observed of all four this weekend. As the weekend came to an end, Ken and Laurie gave us “carry out orders” to go. (How often do you get to leave camp with a Chinese takeout container?) This “carry out order” is a great tool to help us “carry out the orders” of our King, making us stronger kingdom families! Like a said, if you didn’t get to be with us this weekend you missed a great weekend of fun, fellowship, and learning how to live as a “Kingdom Family.”
Jim and Terry, thanks for organizing another great weekend. Ken and Laurie, thank you for sharing God’s wisdom in such a practical and meaningful way this weekend. And, thanks to “Bald Greg and the Dirty Pirates” (the name given our worship leaders by one of “bald Greg’s” students) for leading us in wonderful times of worship. I’m already looking forward to next year.
Seems today you can find an app for anything. People even feel the need to have an app before they do anything.
- Don’t want to call certain people in a drunken stupor…”there’s an app for that.” (I think it might be better just to avoid the drunken state, but….)
- Want to track your bowel movements (related diet, stress, bowel texture) and share “all that crap” with friends…”there’s an app for that.” Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s true.
- On a slightly different note, want to keep track of every place in the world you have “taken a poop” (or would that be “left a poop,” anyway)…. Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Tired of playing games on your device while your cat sits idly by lounging on the floor…”there’s an app for that.” Your cat can “catch” a digital mouse or fish depending on the app you choose. Now you can play your games without the guilt of your lonely cat staring at you with those big eyes. Hmmmmmm.
- Find your teen’s behavior irritating? Show them whose boss (or whose best at irritating teen behavior) by irritating them with high frequency sounds…Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a movie but you don’t want to miss anything good? Well, you guessed it, “there’s an app for that.” This app will tell you the best times to run to the bathroom during a movie and fills you in on what you’ve missed during your trip.
See what I mean? You name it, “there’s an app for that.” Sesame Street even has a song to help teach its viewers “there’s an app for that.” By the way, in case anyone out there can help create an app, I have a couple ideas for family apps to help families practice honor, grace, and celebration. I want in on the act, but I don’t know how to create an app and, I guess there’s no app for that.
In the long run, though, you don’t need an app to build a strong family. In fact, focusing on your phone and internet device to play games and monitor bowel movements can really get in the way of family life. So, I wanted to share just a few “app-free” ways to build a healthy family. The nice thing about each of these tools is you “don’t need no app for that!”
- Sit down as a family and play a board game or a card game. While you play, talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh.
- Go for a walk. Get outside and walk along a creek or through a patch of woods or across the field. Walking in nature has a healing effect and it provides an opportunity to share. Take a walk to the store just to buy a drink. Talk and share as you walk.
- Prepare a meal together. Then sit down and eat together. (Check out the benefits of this activity.)
- Get your favorite book and read it out loud to one another.
- Go fly a kite. You’d be surprised at the benefits of flying a kite.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Sit on the porch and watch the birds together (I’m doing that as I write this blog).
- Have a campfire. Make some s’mores. Enjoy one another’s company and conversation. (A great family fun night.)
- Go to the zoo…or the museum. Then talk about your favorite parts over some ice cream.
- For more ideas, read this.
You get the idea. These activities are simple and there are many more. Even though they are simple, they build family togetherness. They increase family intimacy. And, you “don’t need no app for that!”
I’m always on the lookout for ways to promote happiness in my family and teach my children how to live happy lives (Family Fun Night). Researchers from the University of Zurich just added another tool to my Family Happiness Training Toolbox (Generous People Live Happier Lives). In this study, fifty people were given 25 Swiss Francs each week for four weeks. Half of them pledged to spend it on others and half pledged to spend it on themselves. According to Functional MRI’s, simply pledging generosity activated areas of the participants brains’ associated with altruistic behavior and areas associated with happiness. In other words, simply pledging to use the money generously increased the pledging person’s happiness. Over the course of the four week experiment, those who pledged to spend the money on others made more generous choices. They also showed an increase in self-reported happiness. Interestingly, generosity did not have to be extraordinary or exorbitant to increase happiness. Just a “little more generous” produced greater happiness.
Why not use the knowledge to promote happiness in your family? Just bring up the idea of doing something nice for someone when you meet with your family. Maybe you can bring it up while eating dinner or while driving home from an activity. The suggestion could be as simple as:
- Wouldn’t it be nice to give some cookies to your teacher next week?
- I hear Mr. Smith isn’t feeling well. How about we cut his grass this weekend?
- I have an extra $10 this week. If you could do something nice for someone with $10, what would you do and who would you do it for?
- Let’s write the church pianist a thank you note for playing this week. Which card do you think she’d like best…or would you rather we make the card?
You get the idea. Be creative. You could come up with the idea or ask your family to come up with an idea. After you have the idea, enlist your family’s help in getting it done. Then get out there and do it…. You will have done a nice thing and that will increase your family happiness.
One last caveat…. You might find your children really like this kind of activity. They may start coming up with all kinds of ideas to share generosity. When they do, seize the moment. Jump on board. Work with them to make it happen. When you do, do you know what you’re doing? You’re teaching your children how to create happiness in their lives…and that is a lesson worth teaching!
Let me just give you the quote right here, at the beginning of the blog. “The mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.” This is the finding of a study out of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas, Austin. In this study, participants were assigned to one of three groups while taking a series of tests geared to measure the brain’s ability to hold and process data. One group took the test with their cell phone turned off and left on their desk face down. The second group had their cell phone turned off and in their pocket or a personal bag. The third group had their cell phones turned off and in another room. Those participants who had their phones in another room did significantly better than those who had their cell phone on the desk and slightly better than those who had the cell phone in their pocket or bag. In other words, “the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning….” The presence of our cell phone takes up our mental space and “dumbs us down.”
The process of pushing thoughts about who might call, who might text, when might it ring, or “I could look that up” takes up space in our brains and takes our attention and concentration from some other task. When we take our cell phone on a date night, it robs us of the mental space needed to have intimate conversation and enjoyment with our spouse. In other words, our cell phone robs our spouses of the full attention and intimate interaction they deserve. If we really want to have an intimate date with our spouses, leave the cell phone in the car…or at home. Give your spouse your full attention. Concentrate on intimate interactions with your spouse. Don’t let your cell phone rob you of a precious date!
A middle school boy told me what he liked and didn’t like about his family. Interestingly, he liked the family dinners they used to have. He disliked that they no longer had those family dinners. Even as a middle school boy, he missed family dinners! Family dinners provided him the time he desired to slow down, talk, and connect with his whole family. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised to hear a middle-school-aged child talking about missing family dinners. Nonetheless, he made an excellent observation. Family dinners provide time to reconnect and bond with our families. They are a time to relax, tell stories, and talk about our daily lives, laugh, and even make future plans.
- Regular family meals help reduce the rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression in adolescents.
- Families that enjoy regular family meals see their children attain higher grade-point averages.
- “Dinner conversation” boosts vocabulary more than reading does!
- The stories of personal victories, perseverance, fun moments, and family times help build a child’s resilience and confidence.
As you can see, family meals offer a smorgasbord of benefits for families and their children. So, if you want your family to grow more intimate…if you want your children to grow up happy…if you want your children to grow up physically and emotionally healthy…if you want your children to have a higher grade-point average, set aside the time to enjoy regular family meals. Here are a few tips to help you plan your family meal time:
- Include Your Whole Family in the Meal Process. The family meal process includes making the menu, preparing the meal, setting the table, and cleaning up afterwards. Include the whole family in these activities. Make the menu together. One day a week, allow a different family member to pick their favorite food items for a meal. Encourage the whole family to help clear the table, load the dishwasher, wash the dishes…and make it fun with conversation and laughter. Come up with your own creative ways to include the whole family in the family meal process.
- Enjoy Conversation While You Eat. Save topics you know lead to arguments for another time and focus on conversations that will build relationships. Talk about the day’s activities, each person’s dreams, memories of fun family times, and things you’d like to do in the future. Really, the topics available for discussion are limited only by our
- Plan a Few Dinner Surprises. Your family might enjoy dinner for breakfast or breakfast for dinner. Plan one “ethnic meal night” per week and travel the globe with culinary surprises. Eat your meal backwards, starting with dessert. Plan an “Iron Chef” night and let each family members cook one dish…the family can vote on best taste, presentation, and creativity after the meal. You get the idea. Do something different now and again. Make it a surprise…and have fun.
- Turn off the Technology. Turn off TV’s, video games, phones, and any other technology that has the potential to interfere with the moment’s face-to-face interaction and family interaction. Learn to enjoy each other in the moment with no interruption.
Put it all together and you have a family meal, the special ingredient of healthy families.
The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a series of studies exploring the connection between leisure time, busyness, and status (Lack of Leisure: Is Busyness the New Status Symbol). The authors found busyness associated with a perception of high status in the United States. In other words, the busier a person’s life, the more important his he is in the eyes of his peers. In addition, using products and services that “showcase one’s busyness” (like online shopping and grocery deliver) made people appear more important, more in demand, and thus of higher status. So, if you want people to see you as important, keep busy.
The World Leisure Journal, on the other hand, published a study suggesting leisure time spent with family at home was a significant “predictor of happiness for families” (Pleasant Family Leisure at Home May Satisfy Families More Than Fun Together Elsewhere, Study Finds). Taken together, these two studies raise an interesting conundrum for many families. Success and status are associated with busyness; but family joy and intimacy is associated with leisure time spent as a family. And, if you haven’t noticed, our families are caught right in the middle of this dilemma. Children and teens live busy lives. They rush from one activity to another, participating in one program after another program so they can build a resume with enough “status” to impress any university of their choosing. They become so busy that parents rush through the drive-thru to order dinner on their way to the next activity. Parents are not immune from their own busyness either. They not only rush the children around; they also take on more assignments at work to increase their status and reputation in hopes of getting the promotion and the raise that will fund their family’s hectic lifestyle. Status for children pursued through involvement in multiple activities. Status for parents rests on busy children and is further pursued through busyness at work and community involvement. The whole family achieves the status of importance and “in demand” but forfeits family joy and intimacy. Family joy and intimacy requires leisure time spent together as a family. Family happiness grows slowly in the soil of leisure time spent talking, laughing, and sharing together.
These two studies really do present a conundrum for the average family. Finding the balance is not simple. I guess we have to ask ourselves a question: “What is more important to me and my family, status or family happiness?” Then choose your lifestyle accordingly…for “what does it profit a man if he gains reputation and status but loses his own family along the way.”
Baseball season is fast approaching and that’s good news for marriages. Let me explain. In the early 1990’s Howard Markman, director of The University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, conducted an informal study of cities with major league baseball teams (See Baseball Preserves Marriage). He discovered that cities with major league baseball teams had a 28% lower divorce rate than cities that did not have teams but expressed an interest in getting one. Even more surprising, Denver’s divorce rate stood at 6 divorces per 1,000 people the year before they were awarded a major league baseball franchise. Ten years later, 7 years after the Colorado Rockies played their first game, the divorce rate had dropped to 4.2 divorces per 1,000 people (a 20% drop). Lest you think that 20% decrease was just a product of the 10 year time span, the divorce rate for the United States had only declined by 15% over that same time period. Interesting…. Markman does not believe baseball saves marriages. But, he does believe that “going to a baseball game and… having fun and talking as friends is one way to protect and preserve love.” In other words, having fun as a couple strengthens your marriage. Said another way, “couples who play together stay together!”
Baseball aside, enjoying playful times as a couple really does strengthen marriage. It increases effective communication and conflict resolution. It enhances relationship satisfaction. Play promotes spontaneity, reminds us of our positive relationship history, and builds additional positive history for us to look back on with joy. Play also builds friendship and enhances commitment. In general, if you want a healthy, happy marriage, engage in copious amounts of play together. Enjoy fun activities. Be silly. Tell jokes. Tickle. Have a pillow fight. Laugh. Anything you both find fun and pleasurable provides an opportunity to play and grow more intimate in your relationship…which brings us back to the 7th inning stretch. Baseball may not save your marriage; but the playful conversation, light-hearted teasing, and plain old fun you have at the game will definitely contribute to a stronger, more intimate marriage. So sing along. Everybody now, “Take me out to the ballgame….”