5 Ways to be Generous & Build a Happier Marriage



1. If you are getting a cup of coffee for yourself, offer to fill his cup too. My sister’s husband actually makes the morning coffee and brings it to her before she even gets up out of bed! Every morning! I know! And guess what? They’ve been happily married for over thirty-five years. Coincidence?

While my brother-in-law is a prince among men, most of us do very well at the breakfast table just by holding the carafe up and asking, “Would you like more coffee?” Even that little gesture of generosity is appreciated. Look for those opportunities throughout the day. “I’m going tot he store. Can I get you anything?” “Let me pick up the kids this time.”

2. Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Contrary to the rumors those words aren’t just for company. Being courteous to those closest to us shouldn’t be so hard. Try sprinkling these magic words more around the house and feel the atmosphere soften.

3. If you think something like, “His butt sure looks cute in those jeans,” or “She is one of the smartest people I know,”say it out loud! Somehow it is so much easier to blurt out the negative criticisms, “Can’t you just once call me if you’re going to be late?”, and hold back on the compliments. Make a little effort to generously reverse the pattern.

4. Surprise your partner with random acts of kindness. Change the dead lightbulb in the closet, empty the dishwasher, change the diaper, before being asked!

5. Smile, touch, laugh without any agenda beyond the moment. Nothing is as generous, or intimate, as a light rub on the shoulder as you pass by or a smile and wink over the kids’ heads as they babble on about their latest exploits. Tiny shared moments like this are as important as nuclear hot sex when it comes to building a happy marriage. Really!!

Tara Parker-Pope wrote ‘Is Generosity Better Than Sex?’ siting research done at the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project. The investigators defined generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly.” W. Bradford Wilcox, principle investigator, said, “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

It’s not that hard. It just takes a little thoughtfulness to put a good idea into action.

 

Photo by petalouda62 via Flickr

10 Ways to Bring Christmas Cheer to Your Loved One In the Hospital for the Holidays



324281561_c801fdbcf9 Disease and trauma do not take a holiday. Many of us have loved ones in the hospital for all kinds of reasons. We want to do what we can for our children, brothers, sisters, friends, who find themselves in strange surroundings during this supposedly most  joyous of times.

Fifteen years ago, a few weeks before Christmas, I was suddenly admitted to Women and Children’s Hospital.

I was five months pregnant with my daughter and I was very sick. With my history of kidney disease and scleroderma, I chose a maternal-fetus specialist to be my OB-GYN. Trained in situations like mine, where the mother has chronic illness which makes the pregnancy high risk, I had every faith in Dr. Margaret McDonnell. My first pregnancy had gone off without so much as a cold. This time Margaret said,

“You have to be ready for this baby to come early.”

What was she saying? “Margaret, you’re scaring me.”

“We’ll keep you in the hospital. The longer the baby stays in you the better.”

The doctors didn’t know what was causing the problem. It could be my kidneys shutting down or preeclampsia, a condition that is dangerous if not treated. If caught in time it clears up once the baby is born.

All we could do was wait and hope our baby would just settle down and stay put.

I was ordered to complete bed rest. After over two weeks of not being allowed to get up even to pee, I was scared, depressed and a little crazy. My two year old son wasn’t allowed on the floor. I missed him with a pain I can’t describe. And it was Christmas time.

Friends and family helped my husband and I keep it together. My daughter was born a few days after Christmas. She was one pound thirteen ounces and was able to breathe on her own. The doctors assured us she was strong.

Two days later my symptoms cleared up and I was discharged. My daughter came home three months later.

Hospitals and the medical staff are sensitive to the holidays but they have jobs to do and shouldn’t be expected to provide holiday cheer. Family and friends can make a huge difference, however, so I collected ten suggestions for those of you who may have a loved one in the hospital this season:

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What We Can Learn From The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying



“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I realized it sooner.”

~ Colette

Two events that I had no control over mightily influenced how I live my life. Both happened when I was in my twenties. One was the sudden death of my best friend. The other was landing in the hospital with what turned out to be chronic kidney disease a few years later.

Woven in and out of my life since then is the awareness that happiness is a choice for those of us fortunate enough not to have to struggle for our existence.

Of course there are those days when I am angry, anxious or depressed about something or another. But if I remember that things like hot water coming out of the tap at my command is nothing short of a miracle, I eventually manage to find my happiness again.

What does this have to do with anything? Honestly I’m not sure, except that it’s what came to mind as I read this article by Bronnie Ware who worked for years in a hospice setting. In Regrets of the Dying, she shares what she learned from all the people she cared for in their last days. The common theme in all the regrets of the dying is the understanding that they had more power to live a happier life than they realized. Keep in mind as you read them that no one does anything perfectly. We all have our limitations and so can only be expected to do the best we can:

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way…

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence…

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others… although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

…It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

What Rats Can Teach Us About Empathy



Courtesy Big Fat Rat via Flickr

Just because we are human, and expected to have empathy automatically, we could still work on our empathic powers. Today take a little time walking in someone else’s shoes: your kid, your spouse, a friend, a co-worker. You might discover something new and feel better too!

Cagebreak! Rats will work to free trapped pal.

Begin with Yes!



Be afraid, but don’t be stopped.

Be confused, but don’t be stuck.

Be worn out, but don’t give up.

You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.

~Paul Boynton, Begin with Yes

Four Ways to De-Stress During the Holidays



Photo by Robert the Noid via Flickr

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dylan Broggio, LCSW, EWN therapist.

A few losing games of  ‘Paper, Scissors, Rocks’ with my husband, and I was tripping over my bottom lip all the way to the laundromat to do the dreaded chore of washing comforters (boo hoo).

Feeling sorry for myself and beckoning the dryer to for-the-love-of-God! DRY FASTER!  – I spotted a woman with a copy of  “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

OH.  MY.  GOOD.  THAT BOOK!  We instantly struck up a lengthy conversation about the utter simplicity and sheer depth of these teachings. It was so impactful that we both re-read the book every few years for a refresher on how to simply live happier.  Stress, depression, relationships, family issues, anxiety, job stress, you name it – this book taps into all of them and you close the book feeling lighter and, dare I say, happier?  So, I took this serendipitous moment as a sign it was the perfect time to review it (holiday season stress and all) and share it with you…

The Four Agreements. Taken from ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of southern Mexico:

1.     Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say what you mean, and only that. Recognize that your words are powerful; they can make you feel great or crummy. Be aware of what you say to yourself and toward others, and work to eliminate negativity. This is the simplest and also the most difficult to uphold. Try it out for just one day!

2.     Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is based on what is going on in their worlds, not yours. So, if your boss is being short and inconsiderate in a meeting, don’t assume it is because of you. It is most likely something going on with her, and that is her’s to own.

3.     Don’t make assumptions. We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. However, when we do that we’re making things true in our minds that aren’t necessarily true at all. This causes a lot of suffering in the mean time. Don’t assume. Instead, clarify. Ask questions. Communicate as clearly as possible to avoid miscommunications, stress and unnecessary drama.

4.     Always do your best. That old saying we hear our teachers and parents say “just do your best”, is actually super important as adults too. By doing your best in any given situation, you avoid any self blame, judgment and regret. Go easy on yourself too. Know that your “best” will be different in times of stress or illness than times when all is going smoothly.

There we go! Four ways to create a happier life. Sounds simple right? A book you can read in two hours and only four agreements? Sure, done. Next?

Well, I will say that as simple as they sound, it does take some work, awareness and willingness to change your thoughts and actions. Hence the rereading (a.k.a. kick-in-the-pants) once a year or so. ;)

Try just one out for a day, even half a day, and see how it feels. It just might make your season brighter!

Dylan Broggio, LCSW specializes in counseling teens and their families. She also enjoys working with adult individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression or are overwhelmed by life’s stresses. 

 

15 Things Happily Married People Know by Alisa Bowman



Photo Courtesy of Extra Medium via Flickr

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Alisa Bowman is the author of the popular blog Project Happily Ever After. That Alisa isn’t a trained couples therapist always amazes me. She deserves an honorary degree! I couldn’t resist sharing this particular post with you. I totally agree with everything on her list. I especially like the first ones that have to do with facing conflict gracefully and with respect. In fact, now that I think of it, a lot of these points could apply to any close relationship, with a sister, say, or a close friend.

Do you agree? Would you add anything?

What Happily Married People Know

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