Is the Internet Running Your Life?



Maybe it’s time to put it in its place.

10 Steps to Take When Your Marriage is Failing



Alisa Bowman is a writer who wrote about her marriage coming to the brink of divorce and how she and her husband turned things around. She says her Ah Ha! moment came after ranting to a friend about how bad her husband was. Alisa was looking for permission from her friend to leave him. Instead her friend replied, “What have you done to save your marriage?”

Alisa couldn’t answer because she had done nothing. That’s when she got busy.

In couples counseling one of the first things I do is set the couple straight about who is responsible for the state of their marraige. Guess what? It isn’t the other guy. It’s you!

As Alisa discovered, taking personal responsibility for her part in their marital disaster was both a revelation and empowering. After much trial and error, she and her husband began to find their way back to happy re-committment. They discovered that “a lot of little changes can add up to a big improvement.”

On the Today Show last week Ann Curry interviewed Alisa and Mark Bowman. Ann listed the ten things Alisa recommends couples do to save their marriage and find their own happily ever after:

  1. Find yourself.
  2. Define your problem.
  3. Get your spouse on board.
  4. Stop fighting about old stuff.
  5. Get busy.
  6. Learn how to romance each other.
  7. Learn how to talk out loud,
  8. Not too load.
  9. Feel understood.
  10. Write your spouse’s eulogy.

If you want to read more check out Alisa’s book Project: Happily Ever After, Saving your marriage when the fairy tale falters.

 

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The Kindness Dividend



Courtesy sweenpole2001 via flickr

People whose work primarily involves service (and whose doesn’t) live for those moments when we learn that something we did made a positive difference in someone’s life.

Teachers, lawyers, civil servants, home health aids, doctors, therapists, parents, heck, you name it, get feedback for sure. Too often it is something of the “You aren’t doing enough! You need to do more!” variety. Some of it is negative and once in a while there’s that note of gratitude or appreciation that shines out like gold.

The other day I received this note on my Facebook page:

I saw your profile on fb… Your name sounded so familiar. If you are the person who was on WBFO that talked about the stress of caregiving and used the boiling frog analogy, I want to thank you. I am a social worker by training and understand the importance of self care. My caregiving responsibilities were so overwhelming that I had lost all perspective on what was doable. That radio spot did not necessarily change my life but it was definitely food for thought. After that I started giving myself more credit for what I was doing rather than being so critical of the things I couldn’t get around to completing. My mom passed away in November after a 20 year battle with Parkinson’s. So thank you if you are who I think you are; otherwise it’s an interesting story to tell your friends.

A commentary I recorded over a year ago touched someone in a positive way. Her story, similar to my own, implied many acts of kindness she did for her mother, inspired by her mother’s own kindness, no doubt. This listener then took the time to find me and let me know my words made a bit of difference to her. The delightful surprise of her comment lit me up. I wrote back my appreciation and asked for permission to share her note here. Her gesture made us both feel good and I like to think encouraged us to enjoy that glow of kindness and share it with others.

That’s the kindness dividend. When we do good for no good reason but to be kind, we are in a state of grace. When we remember to express our delight, appreciation and thanks to another, expecting nothing in return, we hope it makes them feel good because we feel good. The good feeling grows and gets paid forward creating a win-win-win to the gazilionth power!

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.
~Amelia Earhart (1897-1937); Aviation pioneer, author

7 Myths About Depression



If depression doesn’t effect you, chances are it effects or will effect someone you love. Preconceived notions of the nature of depression can make the depression worse. It isn’t uncommon for people with depression to believe they should be able to snap out of it on their own. By the time they call me they feel like they’ve failed; not realizing that the depression literally has a mind of its own and seeking proper treatment sooner defeats it faster. Too often people believe that if only they were stronger they could get out of the pit on their own. Allowing such thoughts to go unchallenged is like allowing someone to kick you, hard, when you’re already down.

This list of myths collected by John Grohol, PsychCentral founder and CEO, and his responses help to dispel some of these notions. He neatly explains why they are all false and what better, more sound thinking consists of:

1. Depression means I’m really “crazy” or just weak.

Depression can strike anyone, at any time — whether you’re “weak” or strong, it knows no bounds. Some of the
strongest people I’ve met are people who’ve coped with depression in their lives.

2. Depression is a medical disease, just like diabetes.

While it has neurobiological components, it is no more of a pure medical disease than ADHD
or any other mental disorder. Treatment of depression that focuses solely on its medical or physical components — e.g., through medications alone — often results in failure. Get to know the risk factors for depression.

3. Depression is just an extreme form of sadness or grief.

If [depression] were ordinary sadness or grief, most people would feel better just over time. In depression, time alone doesn’t help, nor does willpower (”Pull yourself up and stop feeling so sorry for yourself!”).
Depression is overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness, every day, for no reason whatsoever.

4. Depression just affects old people, losers and women.

While … more women than men are diagnosed with depression, men suffer for it all the more since
many people in society believe that men shouldn’t show signs of weakness (even a man’s own upbringing may reinforce such messages).  …depression is not a normal part of the aging process. In fact, teenagers and young adults grapple with depression just as much as seniors do. …successful people have also had to deal with depression, people such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Patton, Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, J.P. Morgan and Michelangelo. …being a loser is not a prerequisite to being depressed.

5. I’ll have to be on medications or in treatment for the rest of my life.

…most people who have depression do not need to be on medications for the rest of their lives (or be in treatment for the rest of their lives). In fact, a lot of research suggests that most people can be treated for depression successfully in as little as 24 weeks with a combination ofpsychotherapy, and if needed, medications.

6. All I need is an antidepressant to treat depression effectively.

Sorry, no, it’s not as easy as popping a pill. While certainly you can have an antidepressant medication quickly prescribed to you by your primary care physician, you’re unlikely to feel any beneficial effects from that medication for 6 or more weeks in most cases. In two-thirds of patients, that first medication won’t even work! Combined psychotherapy treatment with medication is the recommended gold standard for the treatment of depression. Anything else is going to be significantly less effective, meaning most people will suffer with theirdepressive symptoms longer than they need to.

7. I’m doomed! My parents (or grandparents or great uncle) had depression, …isn’t it inherited?

While researchers continue to explore the neurobiology of mental disorders like depression, having a relative with depression only marginally increases your risk for getting depression (10 to 15%).

Read the entire article 7 Myths of Depression

 

5 Life Lessons from Elizabeth Taylor



As glamorous as her life was, Elizabeth Taylor was a survivor. She experienced great physical and emotional pain, endured and overcame it all under the often unkind scrutiny of celebrity. When she turned 60 she said, “I’ve been lucky all my life. Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything. But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters.”

She seemed to enjoy reminding people she wasn’t any more or less human than the rest of us, while thoroughly reveling in the privileges of stardom. Her passions were epic, yet she had her own code of ethics. Asked why she married so often she said, “I don’t know, honey. It sure beats the hell out of me.”

She was gorgeous, had a potty mouth and a loud laugh. “I know I’m vulgar,” she once said. “Would you have me any other way?”

What could we learn from Elizabeth Taylor and how she lived her life?

  1. Be resilient. This important quality Miss Taylor had in abundance. She was knocked down by death, injury and illness but always got up before the count was out.
  2. Don’t take anything for granted. As the quote above says, she appeared to be aware that she was blessed and had the wisdom to be grateful.
  3. Give your passions a loose rein but don’t let go entirely. When her dependence on alcohol and drugs became apparent Miss Taylor checked herself into rehab. In this she was also a pioneer, being one of the first celebrities ever to publicly declare their addiction and need for help.
  4. Have a great sense of humor. She could laugh at herself and apparently did so regularly. This wonderful trait no doubt contributed to #1.
  5. Give back. Miss Taylor became an advocate for AIDS/HIV long before it was fashionable to do so. She took a risk and probably single handedly advanced HIV research by decades.

God bless you, Elizabeth Taylor. May you rest in peace.

Sarcasm: Funny or Mean?



A friend on Facebook was having a hard time dealing with sarcasm. Did the person who wrote on their wall mean to be funny or did they just disguise a put down under the guise of humor?

There are people who are truly able to see the humor in sarcasm, in giving and receiving it. Not me. I am not a fan of sarcasm. In my experience, personally and in my work, sarcasm is almost always passive-aggressive. A quick example…

“My wife critical? Heck no. She’s a saint. It’s just that I can’t even pick up my underwear right,” he says with a smirk.

“Wait a minute!” she protests.  “I never asked you to pick up your underwear.”

“Geez. It’s just a joke. Lighten up!”

If she laughs along with him she appears to be agreeing with his criticism, accepting that she is a bitch. If she doesn’t she’s Debbie Downer, without a sense of humor. That’s the trap of being on the receiving end of sarcasm.

Why is sarcasm so hard to recognize and what can we do to break the sarcastic habit?

When we communicate, there are [at least] two things going on. First, the person sending the message has intent, but the person listening is also an active part of the process. The listener interprets what he or she has heard based upon past experiences and past scripts. I tell my students it doesn’t really matter what your intent is in the message, the listener is always going to interpret what YOU say based upon these scripts/experiences (with you and with others).

Uh-Oh. Now what?

BE CLEAR. BE HONEST. BE OPEN to explanation.

~Kristen Brandon, Associate Professor, MSU Mankato

Teen Pregnancy On TV: Propaganda or Morality Tale?



 

Guest blogger, 16 year-old Vanessa, tells us what she thinks.

Contradiction is defined as the opposition between two conflicting forces or ideas.

Recently, I’ve observed that on the issue of teenage pregnancy society possesses just one huge message of contradiction.

Let’s start at the beginning shall we?

When you’re a just a child, a person drifting along through life without a care in the world there is never even any remote thought relating to or concerning the act of physical intimacy, as it should be. Then, you grow up and such ideas of purity and youth begin to be tested and questions start to arise. As you get more curious, the adults’ previous resolve to protect your innocence falters slightly.

Today, society does practically nothing to help steady parents’ nerves or to calm teenagers’ hormones.  Sure, schools always repeat the idea of abstinence and tell kids that teenage pregnancy is bad and will drastically alter your future. Adults tell kids that sex is a meaningful act that should only be performed with someone you love and when you are truly ready (and preferably older). However, the media completely out-weighs all of that sound advice by sending the seductive message that if teenage girls do become pregnant there is a possibility that it could make them famous!

You think I’m joking? Man, do I wish I was.

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Anxiety and the World News: Is It Just Me or Is It Getting Hot Out There?



My mobile phone stopped working. I couldn’t make calls out or receive them. Oddly my texting did work. I texted a friend who uses the same service.

Me: ‘Is your phone working? Mine is acting up. Can’t call or get calls.’

Friend: ‘Mine is out too. OMG! DO U THINK ITS RADIATION?’

My friend was genuinely scared. As I reassured her it was not radiation, just our wireless service messing up, I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling anxious about what was going on around the world.

Lately global events have challenged even the most calm person not to give in to anxiety. Like a tsunami, one disaster after another threatens to overwhelm all our best defenses and sweep us into the void.

Here are just a few of the things we have been bombarded with in the news this last month:

That doesn’t even touch the common everyday stuff we usually worry about:

  • Wars, lest we forget, still waging in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Global warming
  • China
  • The national deficit and budget woes
  • Drugs in our kids’ schools
  • Cancer, chronic illness, infectious diseases
  • Aging parents
  • Making ends meet, jobs,
  • Obesity
  • Taxes
  • Death

Yikes! No wonder we can’t sleep!

What can we do for ourselves to keep calm and functional for ourselves and our families?

Here are a few ideas:

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Five Ways to Find Grounds For Marriage



 

Photo by Dave977459 via Flickr

“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”

~Robert Anderson

1) Try to remember their positives as well as the negatives. The other day, when I was boiling mad at my husband my mind was busy listing all the things he does that drive me nuts. It is so easy when we are angry to allow an avalanche of all past hurts and all current transgressions to come cascading down. It takes some control to step back, take a deep breath and allow reason to have a say.

2) Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not every disagreement is worth confrontation, not all differences of opinion or manner are deal breakers. Do not treat them all with the same degree of importance.

3) Be direct. Avoidance is the silent killer of relationships. When you decide you do have to say something, then for God’s sake, say it! Do not stew and think your partner should know why you are upset. No, they cannot read your mind. The same goes for positive things. If you like the way they called to say they were going to be late, tell them right away how much you appreciate the call.

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Grounds for Marriage



Photo by Dave77459 via Flickr

“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”

~Robert Anderson

 

Four months after meeting the guy I would later marry, I proposed to him. We loved each other. We were both in our early thirties. We knew how rare this was and we both saw it going on forever.

He turned me down!

Shocked and disappointed, I asked him: Why? He said, “I love you. I want to be with you, live with you but I won’t marry you. I just don’t believe in marriage. I don’t know anyone who is happily married.”

My heart sank. Too proud to argue with him about why marriage was a good idea, I took some time by myself to think over what just happened.

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