A recent study of 1,981 middle age heterosexual couples supports the saying, “happy wife, happy life” plus more! What could be more? Well, it’s not just about wives. “Happy husband, happy life.” “Happy wife, happy life.” They’re both true! A happy spouse contributes a healthier life over time. In fact, the principal investigator of this study observed that “simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to be happy oneself.” (Read having a Happy Spouse Could Be Good for Your Health for more on this study.) Having a happy spouse may contribute to health because:
- Happy spouses provide stronger social support.
- Happy spouses encourage their spouses to get involved in activities that promote good health.
- Happy spouses may simply make life easier.
So, if you want a healthier life, work to increase your spouse’s happiness. If you want to encourage your spouse’s health, enhance your own happiness. Here are four ways you can do just that!
- Develop an atmosphere where everyone expresses gratitude on a daily basis. Express gratitude for what your spouse does for you, for your family, for your home.
- Develop a home environment of service. Seek out ways to serve your spouse every day. Serving your spouse may be as simple as washing dishes, changing diapers, or working in the yard. Doing little things every day will add to your spouse’s happiness.
- Develop an environment of emotional connection. Take time to emotionally connect with your spouse every day. Respond to your spouse’s attempts to interact and connect. Initiate interactions with your spouse. Support their interests and share your own interests with your spouse.
I’m sure you can think of many more ways to enhance your spouse’s happiness and your own. These four tips simply point to one important fact: enhancing your spouse’s happiness centers on doing little things for your spouse every day. So, do the little things every day. Make your spouse happy because “happy spouse, happy (and healthy) life.”
Cell phones have become the enemy of sleep for many teens. It’s no surprise when you consider these stats:
In addition, the blue light of cell phones and other mobile devices decreases the release of melatonin, a neuro-hormone important for sleep (Read Blue Light From Electronics Disturbs Sleep, Especially for Teens for more info). In fact, using any mobile device within an hour before bed is associated with an increased need to take an hour or more to fall asleep (Screen Time May Damage Teen Sleep explains more). If you want to conquer the enemy of sleep, try these tips.
- Avoid cell phones and other screens before bedtime. Do not use screens within 90 minutes of bedtime. Instead, read a book, relax, take a bath, and enjoy conversation. These activities will also limit the amount of blue light experienced before bedtime.
- Turn your phone to “do not disturb” for the night-time. No need to answer every text or message received through the night. Set the phone to only allow certain numbers to get through, like messages from your children or parents…for emergencies only.
- Remember the importance of sleep. A good night’s rest is much more important than Facebook or Instagram. Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep/night (Learn more in Teenagers, Sleep and Blue Light). Lack of sleep limits a teen’s ability to listen and learn, contributes to acne, and increases agitation, even aggression. Lack of sleep also interferes with motivation, memory, and concentration. It even slows reflexes (Your Teen & the Importance of Sleep for more on the impact of sleep deprivation on teens). Recognizing the importance of sleep can increase our motivation to help our children develop a healthier pattern of sleep.
- Curb cell phone usage in general. Set “phone boundaries” around meal times, family times, fun times…times when you will set the phone aside to focus on interactions with your family. Put the phone away so you can build intimacy and relationships.
Follow these four tips to defeat the digital enemy destroying your teen’s sleep. You might just gain a more rested—and pleasant—teen.
I don’t want to come across as extreme or sound too alarmist, but look at these statistics.
These are alarming and devastating statistics. Something is missing I our son’s lives. I believe our sons desperately need to receive at least four gifts to change these disturbing statistics. And, they receive these gifts from us, the adults in their lives!
- Strong families. Strong families begin with strong marriages, marriages that reflect mutual love, sacrifice, and service. Strong families also include actively involved fathers. Active fathers teach their sons how to treat others, how to manage their emotions, how to engage the world with honor, and how to live with dignity as a male.
- A sense of purpose bigger than themselves. Our sons need an honorable vision of their place in, and contribution to, the world. Parents help nurture this sense of purpose by sparking interests, nurturing dreams, and supporting thoughtful responses to injustices that arise. This can be as simple as encouraging our sons to befriend the “odd kid” at school or volunteering with our son to feed the hungry, visit the lonely, or care for the needy. Our sons’ lives and visions must go beyond the sports arena, the garage band, or valedictorian status. We need to help them develop a vision of how they can respond to the needs of those around them. Another way to build a sense of purpose involves helping our sons experience awe, to stand amazed at the vastness of the bigger world that surrounds them. We must help our sons realize they are an important part of a much larger and vaster purpose, which leads me to the last two gifts.
- A deep sense of connection. Connection with other people, family in particular, is protective, nurturing, and sustaining. Connection protects against addiction(Click here for more information). It mitigates pain. It boosts immunity. It nurtures positive values. It enhances a positive self-concept. It encourages more intimacy and continuing connection. Connection with God brings a greater sense of purpose and awe. Connection with nature brings a sense of awe contributing to less self-centeredness and more patience (Read Using the Power of Awe for more info). You get the idea. Our sons need a deep sense of connection to their families, their God, nature, and the world of others around them.
- The freedom and support to express a full range of emotions. Our sons need a life filled with laughter, love, and joy. They also need to know it’s alright to experience deep sorrows, fears, and frustrations in life. Boys benefit from learning to accept the joys and the sorrows, the laughter and the tears. They grow stronger as they experience and learn to express happiness and emotional pain, ecstatic joy and moments of anger in beneficial ways. They learn this skill in strong families that freely accept emotion, connect through that emotion, and teach respectful expression of that emotion.
Our sons have a deep, even desperate, need for these four gifts. Our world has a desperate need for our sons to receive these gifts so they can grow into strong men. You, the fathers and mothers of our sons, have the joy and responsibility of giving these gifts to your sons.
I recently had the opportunity to speak on marriage with a local congregation during their worship service. The passage for the morning was Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Even though this passage speaks about Paul, it also describes a powerful foundation for marriage—the love of Christ. As believers, the love of Christ compels us to interact with our spouse in a powerful, virtuous manner. Think of it:
- The love of Christ compels us to love our spouse with a sacrificial love rather than a self-serving love.
- The love of Christ compels us to seek ways of giving to our spouses rather than taking from our spouses…to ask “what can I do for you today?” rather than “what have you done for me lately?”
- The love of Christ compels us to accept our spouses instead of striving to make them what we want them to be…to love them “where they are” rather than trying to shape them into the person we imagine.
- The love of Christ compels us to show our spouses grace rather than demanding they earn our acceptance, respect, or forgiveness.
- The love of Christ compels us to seek out ways of expressing our love and initiating that expression rather than expecting our spouse to “love us first,” “make the first move,” or “treat us right first.”
These bullets only begin to touch on ways this passage invites us to love one another as married couples. And, we could write for hours to expand on each bullet. But, you might get bored listening to me. Instead, I invite you to grab your spouse, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down together to discuss what these bullets call you to do in your marriage. That will prove a whole lot more fun than reading any explanation I would offer. And, it will be specific to YOUR marriage. So, have some fun learning how the love of Christ compels you to love your spouse!
Recent data from Extreamist showed children between 2-18 years old stream about 1.8 hours of content from Netflix, Hulu, Your Tube, or other online services each day. This adds up to 650 hours per year. On the other hand, data from the National Wild Life Federations suggests children spend an average of 4-7 minutes playing outdoors each day. That only adds up to 24 to 43 hours per year. In other words, the amount of time children spend streaming and watching shows is 15 to 27 times greater than the time they spend in unstructured outdoor play. (Read Kids Watch Services Like Netflix 15 Times as Much as They Play Outdoors for more on these statistics.) They spend more time watching cops and robbers on a screen than they spend playing cops and robbers…more time watching fantasy stories created and filmed by others than they spend creating their own imaginative stories. The unstructured, imaginative play they miss out on by watching streaming videos is the very activity that helps fuel their emotional maturity and makes them “a head taller than themselves” in self-control and emotional management (See Make Your Child “a Head Taller Than Himself” for more.)
Another study, led by a professor at the University of Montreal, reveals a few more specifics about the impact of watching TV, especially for toddlers (Couch Potato: Chilling In Front of the TV as a Toddler Can Lead to Being Bullied Later in Life.) This study examined the connection between time spent watching TV as a 29-month-old toddler and the same child’s social experience as a 13-year-old. The results suggest that every 53 minutes of daily toddler TV exposure increased the risk of peer victimization, social isolation, or aggression in that same child at 13 years of age. In other words, the more a toddler watched TV, the greater the risk of poor social interactions as a 13-year-old.
Overall, the more time children spend watching TV, the less time they spend engaging in the creative imaginative, and interactive play that is so crucial to healthy development. Maybe we, as parents, need to ask ourselves some difficult questions:
- Do we want our children’s minds, imaginations, and emotions shaped by half-hour sitcoms and frenetic cartoons or by the interactive, imaginative play engaged in with others?
- Do we want our children’s intellect and thought life stimulated by the subtle innuendos of shows streamed into the home or by the undivided responsive interaction of friends and family?
- Do we want our children’s values to mimic those learned on the internet (where someone can be thrown across the room and stand up unharmed) or those learned from interactions with “real-live” people with real emotions and real consequences?
I’m not suggesting our children never watch TV or stream shows. However, our children will benefit greatly when we learn to limit the streaming and encourage their creative, imaginative interactions with other people.
The perception of marijuana has changed dramatically in recent years. With this change in perception, teens increasingly report a belief that marijuana is completely safe and, in fact, seem to believe it enhances their lives physically and mentally. Parents also seem more open to their children using marijuana. With all this in mind, I wanted to share what research has discovered about the impact of marijuana use for adolescents.
- Persistent marijuana use interferes with adolescent brain development. Individuals who started using marijuana in their teens and smoked persistently showed an average 8 point drop in their IQ between the ages of 18 and 38 years…even if they stopped using! Teen brains are not fully formed. They are still developing. And, persistent marijuana use interferes with their development. (Read study review here.)
- Some studies suggest that regular marijuana use during adolescence may increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. These same studies suggest that the areas of the brain associated with planning and impulse control are the areas experiencing greater long-term affects lasting into adulthood. (Read study review here.)
- Teens who smoke marijuana daily for about three years experienced poor working memory, which predicts poor academic performance, and results in poor performance on memory tasks. These decreases in ability lasted until at least the early 20’s—the college age when academic performance becomes increasingly important. The young adults who abused marijuana as teens (and were now two years marijuana free) performed about 18% worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who never abused marijuana. (Read study review here and another one here.)
- Individuals who started using marijuana prior to 16-years-old experienced arrested development in the prefrontal cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, reasoning, planning, and critical thinking. In other words, marijuana abuse beginning prior to 16-years-old interferes with the development of skills important to impulse control, planning, and academic performance. (Read study review here.)
- Marijuana use may interfere with a person’s ability to empathize with another person’s emotion. This, in turn, could greatly impact the ability to form intimate relationships. (Read study review here.)
- In one study, 18- to 25-year-olds who regularly used marijuana seemed to demonstrate impaired processing of social norms. They seemed less aware of social norms and exhibited a reduced capacity to reflect on or react to negative social situations. (Read study review here.)
- In another study, those in their mid-twenties who were heavy users of marijuana (using dependently for 7 years) exhibited a compromised dopamine system in their brain. Specifically, this could impact working memory, impulse control, and attention span. (Read study review here.)
- Marijuana use dampens the brain’s reward system over time. In other words, people who use marijuana feel less reward, less enjoyment, from positive, pleasurable experiences. This may increase their risk-taking behavior and the chances of addiction. (Read study review here.)
- Although teens often seem to believe marijuana use decreases their depressive symptoms, studies suggest that it has no effect on depression. In addition, marijuana use starting at a young age (under 17-years-old) led to “abnormal brain function in areas of the brain related to visual-spatial processing, memory, self-referential activity, and reward processing.” (Read study review here.)
- Many teens seem to think marijuana use enhances creativity. However, recent studies suggest that regular users of marijuana are worse at creative thinking. They also performed poorly on tests in which they had to detect their own mistakes. (Read study review here.)
More research needs done, but perhaps these studies can begin to help us gain some understanding of the potential effect of marijuana on our teens’ developing brains.
Popular culture encourages us to be kind to ourselves, give ourselves a pat on the back and reward ourselves for a job well done. While this advice may hold some merit, it will not make us happy. Quite the opposite, research reveals that being kind to others makes us happy. As the author of one study points out, “Substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosocially on others” ( Read One of the Best Ways to Boost Your Mood Revealed by Psychologists for more). When we perform acts of kindness to others, we feel greater joy, contentment, and love. We also nurture positive social relationships. So, if you REALLY want HAPPY kids, teach them to be kind to others!
- Model kindness in your relationship to them and to others, in both word and deed.
- Perform kind deeds as a family. Bake cookies for a friend. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Help mow the grass for an elderly neighbor. Be creative in your kindness.
- Provide opportunities for your children to do kind deeds for others. For example, encourage them to hold the door open for others, carry someone’s tray in the cafeteria, offer a word of encouragement, bring a sibling a drink, or any other act of kindness that arises in everyday life.
Practicing these three tips will help create an environment of kindness in your home and promote more kindness in your family. That’s good because kind kids are happy kids.
Kevin Leman published a book entitled Sex Begins in the Kitchen. (Read the review here.) It’s not really a book about sex. But, it does make an important point about sex—if you want to enjoy sexual intimacy with your spouse, start preparing outside the bedroom. I mean way outside the bedroom. In fact, the most enjoyable and satisfying sex life is firmly established on factors that, on first glance, seem totally unrelated to sex and the bedroom. Let me give a few examples.
- A satisfying sex life is premised on responsiveness to your spouse’s needs and requests OUTSIDE the bedroom. This responsiveness will result in you serving your spouse. Taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, running the vacuum, and even cleaning the toilet become ways to respond to your spouse’s need for help and cleanliness. Responsiveness will also lead you to honor your spouse and her need for a break, his need to develop friendships, or her need to go out “with the girls.” You can learn more about the impact of this type of responsiveness on the quality of your intimacy by reading Increase Your Spouse’s Sexual Desire.
- A high quality sex life is built upon communicating admiration and fondness for your spouse on a daily basis. You don’t have to plan some extravagant show of admiration, just simple statements like “you look nice,” “thanks for dinner…you’re a great cook,” “you do a nice job on the yard,” or “thank you, I like working by your side” show fondness and admiration. Simple shows of affection (like a hug, holding hands, or a kiss with no expectation of anything more) are nonverbal ways to show admiration for your spouse. These simple shows of fondness and admiration communicate love. They build trust. They let our spouse know we desire him or her. They create an atmosphere conducive to intimate sharing and abandoned trust.
- An intimate sex life is enjoyed when we learn to accept invitations from our spouse to connect throughout the day. We offer up invitations of connection all the time. Some invitations are explicit; others are implicit. Questions like “Want to go for a walk” or “can we talk” are explicit, direct invitations to connect. But the day is filled with indirect, implicit invitations as well…like, “nice day, isn’t it?” or a gentle touch on the shoulder, a smile, or a sigh. Each of these statements, questions, or actions invite us to connect with our spouse. Each time we respond with genuine interest we stoke the fires of intimacy and open the doors for deeper relationships.
- Take #3 a step further by connecting emotionally to really boost your sex life. We all want to “feel” understood. We want to be known at the deepest level, to be heard in the silence of our hearts. When we acknowledge our spouse’s emotions and let their emotions impact us, we connect more deeply. When we respond to our spouses based on their emotions they feel heard, valued, connected. Sharing emotional connection builds an intimacy outside the bedroom that carries over into the bedroom.
At first glance, these four factors may not seem directly related to our sex life. But, our sex life is built upon and premised on our daily words, actions, and interactions. It is an outgrowth of our intentional responsiveness, communications of admiration, and connections throughout the day.
“Controlling parents create mean college kids.” Having taught at a local college for several years and having two kids in college right now, that headline caught my attention. I have known quite a few mean college kids. The worst were the ones who engaged in what psychologist call “relational aggression.” They were not physically aggressive, but they could crush someone’s feelings or sabotage a person’s social standing with a well-spoken rumor, a strategic exclusion from some event, or nonchalantly embarrassing them in public. A study out of the University of Vermont suggests one way parents may contribute to this type of behavior. Specifically, this study of 180, mostly female, college students found that parents who use guilt trips or threat of withdrawing affection or support to influence their children contribute to the creation of the mean college kid who uses relational aggression. In other words, parents who control their children with guilt or threat of abandonment create mean college kids. Today, parents can practice this style of controlling influence from a distance, without even seeing their children, with the use of cell phone…just as our children can crush a peer through social media.
Rather than creating a mean kid through guilt inducing and controlling parenting styles, try these ideas:
- Accept your children’s unique opinions and lifestyle. No need to try controlling their interests, ideas, and passions. Accept the fact that your children may not keep the hairstyle you like. They may not share your interests or political views. They may choose a different style of dress than you taught them. They may choose a vocation you never expected. Allow your children to be themselves. Accept their uniqueness. Enjoy your differences. Celebrate what you can learn from one another.
- Respect your children enough to let them make their own mistakes. Do not make them feel guilty for the mistake, let them learn from the consequences of that mistake. Don’t control their every move in an effort to prevent “the same mistakes I made.” Instead, give them the dignity to learn from their mistakes without an “I told you so.” Empathize with the pain they experience as a consequence of their mistake, but let them have their own experience of, and opportunity to learn from, that pain. In fact, let them tell you what they learned and acknowledge the wisdom they gained.
- Be available without clinging. Let your children know you are available to them any time they express a need. You can listen, share experiences, brainstorm ideas, even give advice if they ask…BUT you cannot live their life or make their decisions. Most importantly, whatever they choose, you still love them and remain available to them…without the guilt trip.
In other words, loosen the reins just a little. Appreciate their uniqueness and let them practice some decision making. Let them have some slack and let them learn from mistakes. Most important, always express your love and support.
I love to watch parents interact with their children. Over time, I have observed at least three ways parent tend to interact with their children.
- The parent points out a toy or some object in an effort to direct their child to play with that particular object. If you watch closely, you’ll see their child’s eyes wander and the child ultimately gravitate toward toys he likes in spite of his parents’ desires and effort to “direct” their child’s focus.
- The child picks a toy he likes and, before beginning to play with it, brings it to show his parents. His parents briefly acknowledge the toy before quickly turning their attention to another toy, a text, or something else in the area. They give very little attention to their child’s activity. The child continues to play, but moves from toy to toy rather quickly.
- The child picks out a toy he likes and, before beginning to play with it, brings it to show his parents. His parents not only acknowledge the toy, they join in the play. This parent attends to the child’s manner of play and even follows the child’s lead in play. The parent and child enjoy their playful interaction.
Research by Yu and Smith (read more in Infant Attention Span Suffers When Parents’ Eyes Wander During Playtime) suggests that each of these patterns of interaction will influence your child’s attention span! Parents who constantly direct their children’s play or parents who let their own attention wander during play time (as in scenario #1 and #2) raise children with shorter attention spans. Children who played with toys while their parents actually attended to them, them play, and their play object (Scenario #3) exhibited four times the attentional skills. In fact, the longer a parent attended to some toy with their child, the longer the child continued to attend to that toy, even after the parent stopped!
Based on the findings of this research, you can influence your children’s attention span by becoming a responsive student of them. Pay attention to what interests your children. When you see some object or activity “catch your children’s eye,” attend to that object or activity with them. Follow their lead. Join them in their interests and their world. Be curious with them. Engage in the play they initiate. When you tune in to your children’s interests and coordinate your attention with theirs, you actually train their ability to focus and pay attention—you encourage the development of their attention span!