Tag Archive for well-being

All Work & No Play…

You’ve heard it said that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” I always wondered who “Jack” was…now I know he is all of us. But “all work and no play” does more than make “Jack a dull boy.” It also makes “Jack” an unhappy boy. In fact, a study involving participants from three different countries found that working hard for achievement had no impact on happiness. On the other hand, study participants who focused on creating the freedom to do things they enjoyed experienced a 13% increase in well-being. They experienced better sleep quality and life satisfaction as well. And those who focused on relaxing so they could engage in the hobby of their choice reported an 8% improvement in well-being. They also experienced a 10% decrease in stress and anxiety.

In other words, when “Jack” balanced his life and allowed himself the freedom to “play,” he experienced greater well-being and happiness. Balancing our lives to include opportunities to relax and pursue personal interests results in greater happiness, relaxation, and life satisfaction.

Why, then, has achievement become so important in our society? Why do we believe that achieving at school, competition, or work is the secret to happiness? We have seen time and again that this “achievement strategy” without the balance of relaxation, fun, and relationship actually leads to greater stress, isolation, and sorrow. Yet we continue to pursue achievement. Why? I believe there are at least 2 reasons (and I hate to admit to them).

  • Fear. We fear the future. We fear “not having enough.” We fear being unimportant and forgotten. In response to our fear, we strive to achieve. We believe that achievement will guarantee our security now and into the future. Unfortunately, we believed a lie. Achievement, at best, only brings achievement. We may have success but no time to enjoy the success, money but no one with whom to share the pleasures. We already said that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” but “Jack” also finds “it’s lonely at the top.” The very actions we take in response to our fear lead us to a place in which we have lost the two most important components for relieving fear—contentment and relationships.
  • Pride. We take pride in our achievement. We come to believe that the company, the team, the church can’t get along without us. We are important, needed…absolutely needed. Without our efforts and wisdom, everything would fall apart. It’s not true. It’s only our pride whispering a lie into our hearts. I learned this lesson early in my career from an excellent supervisor. I worked with families who were in need. I became enmeshed with meeting their needs and trying to solve their problems. One day my supervisor asked me, “How long did they survive without you? How long did they survive before you came along?” The fact is, they survived a lifetime before me; and, as my years of work progressed, I learned that they survived after me. I could only serve, not heal. I could help, not save. And really, being available in a healthy way to help was, and is, enough.

Fear and pride interfere with our well-being and life satisfaction. They drive us into the compulsion to achieve. They steal us from our families. Our spouses and our children suffer as a result. However, balancing achievement with the freedom to relax and pursue those things we enjoy will increase our well-being and our life satisfaction. It will increase our ability to be present for our work… and probably achieve more as a result. Even more important, it will increase our ability to be present for our family and that will increase our spouse’s sense of worth and our children’s sense of security. It will allow us to be involved more with our families. That, by the way, is the best goal worth achieving.

Have a Conversation & Call Me in the Morning…Doctor’s Orders

All of us want to enjoy a happy, low stress life. Perhaps even more, we want our children to have a happy, low stress life. I’d like to say if found a way to make that happen 100% of the time…unfortunately, I can’t.  But a recent study suggests that one simple activity, done on a daily basis, will lead to a greater sense of well-being, reduced stress and greater happiness. 

The study involved 900 participants and revealed that engaging in one quality conversation during the day led to a greater sense of well-being at the end of the day. If the person engaged in more than one quality conversations during the day, they experienced an even greater sense of well-being.  Not surprisingly, “face-to-face” communication was more closely related with well-being than electronic or social media contact. A quality conversation may include catching up with a friend, joking around, listening, discussing a meaningful topic, sharing opinions in a manner to promote mutual understanding, or offering sincere compliments. With this information in mind, how can you encourage daily conversation for your family members? After all, doing so will contribute to a greater sense of well-being for your spouse and children.

First, enjoy conversation within your family. I know it sounds obvious but talk to one another every day. Talk about your day, current events, or future plans. Share your fear, joys, sorrows, and moments of pride with one another.  Remember, you don’t need to agree to have a quality conversation. You do need to listen, understand, appreciate, and accept.

Second, encourage friendships. Allow your family to get involved in various groups in which they can develop friendships. Your children and your spouse (even you) will benefit from opportunities to have meaningful relationships and meaningful conversations outside the home. To help your child do this, you may become their friendship coach.

Pretty simple, right? Enjoy conversations within your family. Encourage friendships in which family members can enjoy conversations with those outside your family. As the authors of this study said, the “more you listen, the more you show you care, the more you take time to value other people’s opinions, the more you connect, the better you… will feel at the end of the day….” and so will your family.

The Blog I (Kinda) Hate to Write

Yes, this is the blog I hate to write. I guess I don’t “hate” to write it…I’m just a little reluctant. And I hope my wife doesn’t see it. She likes to dance, but me, well, I’m not really much of a dancer. I mean I danced in the living room with my children when they were young. I’ll do a slow dance with my wife now and again. But all those eyes scare me. I get self-conscious. Still, after reading an article from Greater Good, I might have to change my ways and start to dance. Why? Well…

  • Dancing can improve our sense of well-being and energy. One study completed in 2004 compared the effects of dancing, yoga, and listening to a biology lecture. I thought the biology lecture would come out on top, but dancing and yoga reduced the participants’ stress and negative emotions. Even more, only dance increased positive emotions! In fact, another study showed that only dancing with a partner to music had the effect of reducing cortisol (a stress hormone) in response to the music and increasing testosterone in response to dancing with a partner. Who doesn’t want a greater sense of well-being and energy for themselves AND their spouse?
  • Dancing can also help decrease depression. In fact, a 2012 study split participants into three groups: one group learned the tango, a second group practiced meditation, and a third group remained on a waiting list. The tango and meditation groups both experienced a decrease in depression. But only the dance group experienced a reduction in stress as well. I’d love to engage in an activity that could buffer feelings of depression for myself AND my spouse…wouldn’t you?
  • Dancing can increase intimacy. We get in sync when we dance with people…and it seems to be related to moving together in response to common music. A study in 2016 showed this by splitting participants who danced to music in their headphones into three groups: in one group everyone listened to the same music and learned the same moves; in a second group, participants learned the same moves but listened to different music, and in a third group participants listened to the same music but learned had different moves. Only the group that listened to the same music and learned the same moves felt in sync. They felt closer to one another. They grew more intimate in their relationship. A more intimate relationship—I’m always looking for ways to grow closer to my wife. Sounds like a good option.

A greater sense of well-being, more energy, a decrease in feelings of depression, reduced stress, and greater intimacy…yes, I might have to take up dancing with my spouse. How about you?

Attending What Will Do What?

I am always on the lookout for fun ways to improve our families’ lives…and research from the School of Psychology and Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University found a way you’re going to love. This study looked at the data from 7,209 people ranging from 16-years-old to 85-years-old. The results indicated that attending live sporting events resulted in higher scores in two major measurements of subjective well-being.

  1. Those who attended live sporting events reported higher levels of life satisfaction and a greater sense of “life being worthwhile.”  In fact, the increase in people’s sense that “life is worthwhile” from attending a live sport’s event was comparable to that of gaining employment! And greater perceived life satisfaction scores are associated with better physical health, more successful aging, and lower mortality rates.
  2. Those who attended live sporting events reported lower levels of loneliness. Loneliness is worse for a person than obesity and as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (See Inoculate Your Family Against the Epidemic of Loneliness | Family by God’s Design.) You can see how significant it is to reduce feelings of loneliness.

I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of increasing my children’s sense of “life being worthwhile.” I relish the idea of my spouse feeling a greater sense of life satisfaction. I love the opportunity to help every one of my family members feel less loneliness. And, to think we can do all that simply by having fun attending a soccer game, baseball game, football game…you name the sporting event your family might enjoy. In fact, this study showed that attending any sporting event from free amateur events all the way through professional games had similar effects on the participants life satisfaction, sense of “life being worthwhile,” and loneliness. So, grab your family and go watch a game…live, not on TV or YouTube. Stand on the side lines. Sit in the bleachers. Cheer for your team. And enjoy a greater sense of life satisfaction with your family.