Family in bumper car

Get More for Your Money

When you think of financial well-being, perhaps you think about having enough money in the bank for retirement or a stable job that gives you a regular paycheck. Or maybe it’s just being able to cover your expenses and save a little each month. Each of those examples are ways of calibrating financial well-being. I would like to suggest a new way to define financial well-being that focuses on the psychology of happiness. Happiness comes from a variety of sources, including the ability to create and enjoy memories and experiences. I propose that as part of building financial well-being that we carve out some of our finances to fill our lives with more of those things we so enjoy. When it comes to money, most of us like to think about how we are going to spend it. When the paycheck arrives, we first think about what bills we need to pay, what we want to buy, and—hopefully—what we plan to save or donate to charity. One thing many of us do not think about is how we might use our money to create more happiness in our lives by investing in gratifying life experiences. Though these experiences are often intangible, they can be appreciated for a lifetime. In one study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers from San Francisco State University found that before making a purchase, people stated that they knew that a life experience would bring them more happiness, but that they thought it would make more financial sense to buy the material item. However, the researchers also found that the same individuals’ opinions changed after they made the purchase. Most of the participants said that they realized the life experience would have made them happier and also had better financial value. It may not seem like it when you’re passing by the department store window, but when it comes to long-term happiness, life experiences instill the greatest memories and bring the greatest joy. Making memories with your family and friends is a great way to connect." Some of my favorite memories come from experiences such as the day at the theme park with my children and their look of pride when they finally went on the big roller coaster; or the time we went on a progressive dinner and ate an appetizer at one restaurant, a main course at another and dessert at a third! In my private practice, I have heard time and time again from clients how important and lasting life experiences have been to their happiness.I had a client, Sharon, who was experiencing some marital difficulties and considerable financial stress.Her husband had ruined their family financially, which left her in an extremely bad situation.She ultimately became a single mom and had to rebuild her life. She also needed to take care of herself on an emotional level.She found joy in baking and enjoyed spending that quality time with her children.She carved out money each month to shop for unique ingredients and decorations while her kids bragged that their family owned 52 kinds of sprinkles! Though the sprinkles may qualify as “things,” they were merely an add-on to the incredible shared experience and wonderful memories of baking that my client was giving to her daughters. The goal here is not to go out and buy the most sprinkles in the neighborhood or to spend money at a theme park. The goal is to put aside some money every month for the set purpose of creating memories that can move you and the people that you care about into an emotionally positive place—creating lasting memories along the way. This effort toward my version of financial well-being involves creating experiences that aren’t routine; they are about doing something special. Swim with the dolphins, travel, take up a new hobby, bake five different kinds of unusual cookies and share them with your favorite neighbors. Take tons of pictures and make memory books, absorb the sights, smells and tastes of something new. When I am doing these activities, I tell myself to take pictures with my eyes. What I mean by that is that I will take a moment to focus on what I am seeing or doing, and I try to take in what it looks like, feels like, smells like so that I can remember as much as I can when I recall the experience. Making memories with your family and friends is a great way to connect. You can continue that bond by talking about the shared experience far into the future. Another tip: Make sure to include all of the participants in the planning, because often the anticipation and organizing of the activity is part of the joy and fun. That said, making memories can be unplanned as well. Sometimes a spontaneous trip to the beach with a picnic lunch from your favorite sandwich place or a quick surprise night away can be perfect happy memory makers! So, the next time you get that paycheck, or some money lands in your lap, see if you can set aside a little spending money that will enhance your financial as well as emotional well-being, and go make some memories. This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Live Happy magazine.
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Many confident boys and girls stand together

3 Steps for Raising Resilient Children

In our fast-paced competitive world, children often struggle to maintain their emotional stability, growing up safe and secure. Today, kids face challenges and dangers most of us never dreamed of, online predators, mass school shootings, cyberbullying—all of which can lead to anxiety, depression and worse (the consequences for which can be horrifying), all reminding us that parents need to pay attention. In my new book 21st Century Parenting, I point out that successful, emotionally stable children have parents who pay close attention to what’s going on in their child’s world emotionally, socially and behaviorally. They equip their children with the necessary tools to respond effectively to various challenges, supporting their resiliency towards embracing new opportunities driving them to their highest level of success. However, there are several obstacles parents must contend with in achieving that desired result. Each day millions of children and adolescents enter their world with more than their books, pens and iPads, often toting emotional backpacks crammed with issues, concerns and influence impacting their daily efforts. Unprepared due to insufficient parental support, direction and coping skills, their inability to demonstrate the resiliency needed to respond to various life crises, often causes them to embark on a downward spiral leading to decisions that sabotage their success. Others have similar experiences but respond with healthy coping mechanisms their parents helped develop. As a result, they bounce back, make good decisions and progress academically, socially and emotionally, feeling loved and supported by their family. So, how can parents guarantee parenting and family success? A direction parents may want to consider is a new twist on an old theme. Remember the old 3 Rs: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic? Today, there’s a new set of 3 Rs, supporting a parental paradigm shift suggesting in order for children to be successful with the old three Rs, and more, parental attention should be focused on the influences and challenges affecting a child’s performance, health and welfare, and their inability to navigate through this “mind-field” of challenges without parental direction. The New 3 Rs The “New 3 Rs”, Reading, Regulating and Redirecting, provide parents a "Parenting GPS," leading to successful, emotionally stable children with promising futures who, when confronted with conflict or disappointment, make good decisions supporting positive outcomes with a sense of confidence control, and security. Reading identifies what parents must pay attention to, relating to what’s going on in their child’s world. By learning to read their child’s environment, their behavior, reactions and needs, parents come to recognize the challenges and conflicts their children are presented, knowing who and what influences them, and how this affects their performance and success. Regulating is where parents learn how to teach their child self-regulation. By recognizing the importance of teaching their children how to regulate their emotional temperature, parents can keep their children from slipping into negative mood states, as well as recognize how, if left uncontrolled, such responses can impact their child’s success, coloring the decisions they make and behaviors they demonstrate. Redirecting is where parents learn the importance of parental leadership, redirecting their child’s behavior in order to achieve positive outcomes, helping their children accomplish relevant goals that lead to a heightened sense of self-worth, self-assurance and motivation. So, today’s 21st-century answer to raising emotionally resilient children who bounce back from adversity and embrace new opportunities is adopting a new set of 3 Rs, Reading, Regulating and Redirecting a child’s environment, emotions and behavior, establishing present and future success and emotional well-being. Of course, this doesn’t come automatically. You can’t tweet, Google, FaceTime, Instagram or Snapchat your way to a healthy, successful family. Nor can you find parenting success on aisle nine at Target. Being a successful 21st-century parent mandates parents to recognize that what their children need most is the committed leadership and support of the single most influential people in their lives, their parents, supporting their development, safety and success—because if they don’t, no one else will.
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Kid comforting consoling upset sad boy in school yard

3 Tips to Teach Empathy to Your Child

As parents we often hear our child say something sharp or insensitive and we cringe worrying our child is going to grow up to be a boorish clod.Stories of cruelty and insensitivity flow back to us through the grapevine—one child teasing someone who doesn’t speak English as her first language, another tween needling a child on the bus until she bursts into tears, a young tween approaching a lunch table to see that it is full and feels the chill from her classmates who do not turn to soften the rebuff but simply seem oblivious as the girl skulks away from the table and has to find someone else to sit with.And as parents we wonder if these children are cruel, self-centered or if they simply are so oblivious and insensitive, they do not see the pain of others.There is an answer to this problem of bullying, social media vitriol and general rude behavior—we must teach children empathy and kindness. We all witness how cruelty and callousness divides a community—even if it is unintentional. Empathy is showing compassion and understanding another person’s experience and the ability to step into someone else’s shoes. Children who learn to feel empathy are less likely to bully, and more likely to understand and work collaboratively with others. So, ignoring a lack of empathy meansignoring a vital part of any social exchange. And the ability to show empathy is a life skill—if someone in your office does not receive a promotion you are expected to read the room and hold back your joy that you were promoted, if someone’s pet passes away you are expected to express sorrow—and when someone is in distress to ignore that distress does not win friends or make you a prospect for future management roles. Children who learn to feel empathy are less likely to bully, and more likely to understand and work collaboratively with others.” Environment, genetics, social and cultural factors influence our ability to feel empathy. Some children due to their own brain-based challenges do not read social cues, facial expressions and emotions, they don’t have the perspective or the self-awareness to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors. These children, for whatever reason, do not understand how they come across.Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.” Whatever the situation, teaching empathy must involve not only fostering a community to promote empathy and kindness, but also coaching children individually to help guide them toward greater understanding of what kind and empathetic behavior looks like. We can do this by modeling empathy and reinforcing it with all actions and messages children hear so they can learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” Here are Three Tips to Teach Your Child How to Be More Empathetic: Point out emotions and bring attention at the right time to the emotional experience of others and have conversations with your child about another person’s experience. In the minivan or on the go, continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings. For example: What do you think is going on in your friend’s life? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation? Collaboratively talk about your child’s behavior when he is rude or lacks empathy and ask him to interpret how his behavior made you feel. Ask your child: How do you think I feel when you correct me? What did you mean to do? Guide children to look at what another person’s situation or point of view may be; rather than preaching to care about someone, help your child step into the shoes of his peer and ask your child questions to help him reflect on other people’s state of mind. What do other people feel? What is the reaction to their behavior? What did the other people’s facial expressions tell them about their feelings? Some children naturally begin to demonstrate empathy as early as 12 months old; others struggle for whatever reason and may demonstrate rude and hurtful behavior. But the ability to understand other people’s emotions and respond with kindness is a life skill essential to help children be part of any group throughout their lives.
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Nurse helping a female patient in an emergency room.

The Courage to Care

What does it take to be a hero? Do you have to be faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive? While having uncanny physical powers doesn’t hurt, according to Carol Pearson, Ph.D., author of The Hero Within and Awakening the Heroes Within, all you need to be a hero is the ability to believe in yourself and the courage to do the right thing at the right time. In fact, not jumping on those opportunities in life, such as applying for the job that you’ve always wanted or asking out that person you have admired, can leave you with regret, self-doubt and quite possibly depression. “The heroic life is really based on the idea that you are here for a purpose and the purpose just isn’t for you, and you are going to be happier if you focus on that,” Carol says. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t thrive personally. In fact, very often when people are doing the thing that is most right for them, cosmically right for them, they thrive and do well. The artists paint great pictures that others relate to because they are coming from a place that is connected to the larger world.” While first responders practice their courage daily, and soldiers perform great acts of valor out of circumstance and duty, everyday heroism is something we can all engage in to make the world a better place. “Having courage is fundamental to living a happy life, because if you wimp out, life is going to get you,” Carol says. “It takes courage to be fully intimate with somebody. And to be seen fully and to fully commit to what you love.” The word “hero” inspires visions of the Homeric champion who fights an epic battle or the daring adventurer who returns to change the world with what she has learned. But everyone has the power to live boldly. Carol points out that doctors save lives every day, and parents make great sacrifices to pave the way for their children. “We need to stop just thinking ‘What can I get?’ and not see it as in conflict with one’s own good,” she says. “Very often we are most successful when we are doing not only the right thing for us, but what is good for others as well.” You don’t have to have a Bruce Wayne-esque tragedy in your life to turn you into a caped crusader warding off evildoers at night. More often than not, having a healthy and safe upbringing will give you the confidence and trust in yourself to save someone who has fallen into a river or, at the very least, to rescue a neighbor’s kitten from a tree. While it is not always the case, working on strengths like altruism and bravery will give you the mettle to act when the moment is right. Even if you didn’t know you could, your dormant hero will rise to the occasion. The Everyday Hero Ronnie McCarroll has been a firefighter for more than two decades. Although he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school, he was clear on what he didn’t want to do, and that was follow the family legacy into construction. With limited resources for college, he had to weigh his options closer to home. One of his high school football coaches happened to be a volunteer firefighter and often compared the firefighter atmosphere to that of a football team. Ronnie liked what he heard. He soon put himself through firefighter and emergency medical technician school and started testing for the fire department. “I had to sit back and think about what I really wanted to do, and maybe something that coach said made me think ‘This is it,’” Ronnie says. “Now, looking back, I think it is the best choice I could have ever made. I love the job, and it’s amazing and rewarding. I didn’t think about firefighters giving back, having a sense of duty to help. I never thought about those things until I got into the job.” Now Ronnie is a fire captain at the Flower Mound Fire Department in Flower Mound, Texas, with 24 years on the job. He mentors young firefighters on how to handle dangerous situations. He instructs all of his firefighters to be compassionate and treat all people they encounter on calls as if they were family members. When someone calls 911, more likely than not, it is probably the worst day of his or her life. “I don’t think you can be a good firefighter without [compassion,]” Ronnie says. “You have to constantly fight the urge to not become bitter and calloused. We get a lot of overdose calls where people aren’t happy with their lives. It is easy to sit back and say ‘I would do it this way,’ or ‘I wouldn’t live in this situation.’ For me, I think my compassion is too much sometimes, but I also believe that is what has helped me have a very positive career so far.” Ronnie is passionate about his duty to his community. He is well aware of the risk involved in his line of work, though he never knows what will happen next. “I have been in a couple situations where the thought crossed my mind that I might not get out of this, and I don’t think any of us truly know how we are going to act until we are in that situation,” he says. “But that is the commitment I have made to the people of Flower Mound where I serve. I think there have to be people like that in the world, there have to be people willing to sacrifice.” It hasn’t always been an easy road, he says, and firefighters see things people shouldn’t see. He once had a call to a residence where a baby had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There was nothing anyone could do. After that, he volunteered for a critical stress-management class and learned that he had to start dealing with it. “The good things that we do far outweigh the bad experiences,” Ronnie says. “To me that’s rewarding enough to keep plugging away.”                The Sacrifice in Saving Dr. Johnathon Berry grew up reading his dad’s Soldier of Fortune magazines and watching John Wayne in The Green Berets. His father served two tours in Vietnam and recounted stories about the Green Berets training and fighting alongside the Montagnards, the indigenous mountain people of that region. When the time came for John to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, the military was willing to pay for school, and he liked the idea of becoming the Special Forces soldier he so admired as a kid. Through his training, he discovered a knack for medicine. Special Forces Green Beret medics are the go-to physicians for everything from stabilizing battle wounds to dentistry and even veterinary medicine. After three deployments to Afghanistan, he was all too familiar with providing life-saving care on the battlefield. When his 20-year retirement mark in the military was approaching, he opted for medical school over the CIA, FBI or DEA, and eventually became an emergency room doctor. He now splits his time practicing at hospitals in Colorado and Texas. “Carrying a gun was something that I was good at at the time, but I didn’t want to make a career out of it,” John says. “As a father of two girls, it didn’t seem like a good option.” His decision didn’t come without personal sacrifice. When he left Afghanistan in 2002 to take his medical school entrance exams, his friend and fellow Green Beret, Chris Speer, replaced him. Three weeks after the replacement, Chris died of a head injury from a grenade explosion. John was given the honor of escorting Chris’ body back to the United States. John says he can’t help but bear certain responsibility, and it is something he will never forget. “I like to think that God had a different purpose and plan for me.” While his mission has changed and he is no longer risking his life to help others, he continues to save as many lives as he can. He attributes his character to his faith and a solid foundation. His grandparents raised him, instilling a strong sense of family and the responsibility to always look out for and care for others. “I’ve always had a lot of empathy for people,” he says. “So being a natural caregiver, I always have the compassion to want to help people and to be able to feel and understand what my patients are going through.” The Lady With a Lamp Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, the author of Celebrate Nursing: Human by Birth, Hero by Choice, has been a nurse for 25 years. There isn’t much she hasn’t witnessed, felt or heard when it comes to healing the sick. She has done everything from bedside care to taking on executive leadership roles. She knows how important it is for nurses to embrace their heroism. “[Nurses] have to be resilient,” Renee says. “I actually refer to it as hardiness. You have to go into to a workplace with the unpredictability that comes with health care, because you never know what you are going to get. And even when bad things happen, you have to be able to get back up the next day and go back in again.” Now a CEO of her company, RT Connections in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Renee speaks publicly about and provides education on nursing culture. She feels that being heroic in her field is essential because it’s not only good for the patients but for fellow nurses and hospital staff as well. “There is no way anyone in health care can take care of a person independently,” she explains. “If a person embraces their heroism and recognizes that everyone has value, then they are ready to deliver good, compassionate, effective health care. Everything that we do impacts the care that we can deliver to that patient.” With the long hours, sore feet and bereavement that often accompanies nursing, Renee says all of that negativity can be remedied by being positive and compassionate, a beacon of light for someone who is in the darkest of hours. “We have the opportunity to make a serious difference in the lives of other people, especially when they are at their worst,” she says. “There is no greater joy for a nurse than to hold a patient’s hand when they are going through something horrific and that patient comes back to you and says, ‘I wouldn’t have gotten through this without you.’ ” Every nurse has a story like that. For Renee, hers involved a woman with head trauma from a motorcycle accident. The patient could not communicate, and her situation was bleak. Aside from her normal duties, Renee also painted the patient’s nails, shaved her legs and gave her pedicures. Eventually the patient stabilized and was moved to another wing of the hospital.  A few months later, a woman who looked vaguely familiar was waiting for Renee at the nurse’s station. “This woman said to me clearly and articulately, ‘I just wanted to thank you; my daughter told me how you took care of me, and there is no way I can repay you for that,’” Renee recalls. “She gave me the biggest hug, and I cried. It’s just the miracle of life. This was a woman who couldn’t even respond and now she can tell me ‘thank you’ in her own words. That’s what keeps you going. You live for those moments.” How To Be a Hero You don’t have to run into burning buildings, dodge enemy bullets or bring someone back to life to be more heroic. Researchers like Phil Zimbardo, Ph.D., renowned psychologist and founder of the Heroic Imagination Project in San Francisco, and fellow researcher Zeno Franco, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, have been working on the topic for years. Their goal is to give families the tools to recognize and help turn around negative situations, making real positive change. To act heroically, it’s critical to increase the sphere of what you are paying attention to in your life, Zeno says. If you see someone being treated unfairly, and you truly believe it’s wrong and something you can speak up about, you will learn to step forward to help instead of saying “It’s not my problem,” he says. “Most of us in any given week have a chance to be a small hero, and over the course of our lives, we’ll have the chance to be pretty significant to somebody else several times,” he says. “Often we miss it and end up being a bystander unintentionally because we are not paying attention.” Failure to act can cause guilt, especially when someone is hurt physically or socially. Zeno says this can lead to self-doubt and negative feelings about your own character. “I think that everyone encounters risks for speaking out about what’s right,” he says. It’s important for people to realize they are still capable of taking action when required, even when it’s not comfortable, he says. For children, sharing stories where the good guys win helps them activate “their heroic imagination,” Zeno says. It can help them learn to not shy away from taking stands when they grow up. Happy Heroes Can being a hero make you happy? Zeno says yes and no. There may be positive satisfaction from saving someone from serious injury or death, but after the heroics are over you may feel as if you didn’t do enough, or you might go through withdrawal once the spotlight is off. Carol says that failing to trust in yourself or consistently act on your beliefs can make you unhappy. “People are happier when they have courage and confidence because they do act on what they want,” she says. Ronnie, as humble and grateful as he is about his job as a firefighter, says he is happier when he’s helping. “Sometimes I feel guilty for taking the accolades for the job that we do,” Ronnie says. “Why wouldn’t someone want to do this? It’s rewarding in itself.” John, the Green Beret medic, says accepting the risk comes with the territory. “When I loaded up on that helicopter or a truck to go on to a target, or when I stood up on that ramp at 25,000 feet at 3 a.m. getting ready to jump out of a transport plane, I was always at peace. I never once worried about my own death.” That risk can also give us perspective, reminding us to live our lives in the present and be grateful for the people we have around us. “When I see that 18-year-old who was in a drunken driving accident and his mom is standing there holding his hand because he has a brain injury that he will never recover from, I think to myself, ‘I’m going to go home and love my daughter, and I’m going to appreciate every single moment with my child,’” Renee says. “Because what makes me any different from this mom and this child? … It can be taken away in a moment. It’s a gift to be able to go home and really be mindful and in the moment with our family and friends."
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Happy Smiling Young People Hugging, Showing Heart Shape With Hands And Enjoying Each Other Outdoors.

Healthy Relationships Make Us Happy

How much do you value your close relationships? Do you fear your partner will reject you? Are you afraid to commit? How you answer these questions can give you valuable insights into yourself and the people closest to you. Relationship Check-in Research shows you can create distance in an intimate relationship two ways: anxiety and avoidance. Too much attachment-related anxiety, and you may worry your partner doesn’t feel the same way about you or that he or she may leave. Too much attachment-related avoidance, and you may fail to make a commitment and drive people away. When you take the Close Relationships Questionnaire, you can measure your level of attachment. Being happy in our relationships is crucial to our subjective well-being and knowing where you are will show you where to go. Thank You, My Love A study from the University of Georgia found that couples who express gratitude for one another regularly often have healthier, happier relationships. Furthermore, gratitude has a counter effect when a couple is engaged in conflict, such as when they’re undergoing financial stress. Gratitude protects the quality of the marriage, leading to fewer thoughts about divorce. Feeling appreciated and valued puts the same kind of protective coating on the relationship. Allen Barton, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research, says a good way for couples to make sure they are expressing enough gratitude is to ask each other, “Do you feel valued and appreciated, and if not what can I do to change that?” It's the Little Things We’ve compiled some of our favorite ideas to strengthen and cultivate healthy, happy relationships in almost every aspect of our lives. Journal with your spouse. Find a journal—anything will do, including a basic spiral notebook—and take a few minutes to write to each other. Remind your spouse why you love him or her, whether it’s generosity toward those in need or an unfailing ability to make you smile. Most of all, keep your writing positive and focused on each other. Send a greeting card. Sending a text message or email is a quick, easy way to say hello to a friend or relative, but sending a physical greeting card shows thought, effort and love. Plus, your recipient can post your card on his or her refrigerator or desk as a daily reminder of you and your relationship. Collect ticket stubs. Remember when you enjoyed the evening under the stars and listened to your favorite band play? Or when you saw that awful movie together? Keep the ticket stubs from wherever your life as a couple takes you, collect them in a glass jar and place it visibly in your home. When you add new tickets to your collection, take a couple of minutes to reminisce about the fun you’ve had together. Plan the ultimate family fun day. Mark it on your calendars. Treat it as seriously as you would a work meeting or soccer practice and escape the commotion of life for a day of family fun. Get the entire family involved in the planning—surprise the kids with a short day trip; attend a local festival; or maybe even spend the day at home baking, watching movies or building a fort. Your family fun day doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg; it’s more about the entire family spending time together. Advice from the Experts How can we communicate more effectively with our loved ones? “For more than four decades I have been privileged to share the five love languages with people around the world. Understanding this concept gives individuals the information needed to effectively express love. By nature, we do for our loved ones what we wish they would do for us. We assume they feel loved. When they eventually say to us, ‘I feel like you don’t love me,’ we are surprised. The problem was not our sincerity. The problem was we were not speaking their love language.”—Gary D. Chapman, Ph.D., author of The 5 Love Languages series What are some of the relationship-building benefits of the family dinner? “In today’s fast-paced, technology-steeped culture, having family dinner is the most doable way to hang out together; there are few other settings where the family gathers. …Family dinner provides a way to connect...a time to unwind, to check in, to laugh together, to tell stories. These benefits don’t depend on you making a gourmet meal, using organic ingredients or cooking from scratch. Food brings the family to the table, but it is the conversation and the connection that keeps the family at the table and provides the emotional benefits.”—Anne Fishel, Ph.D., author of Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids What is the single most important thing we can do to improve our relationships with our children? “Our relationships with our children improve the most when we work on our relationships with ourselves. When we find ways to be happy and calm and present, we are warmer and more responsive to our children, better listeners—and more consistent disciplinarians.”—Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work How can we create long-lasting, happy relationships? “Relationships thrive when there is an investment in an emotional piggy bank. Without a balance of positive feelings for each other, there is little to draw on during difficult times. The best way of allowing these positive feelings for each other to grow is to not deplete them. If you can have fewer negative emotions and reactions with each other in the first place, it can help preserve your positive resources.”—Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D., MFA, MAPP, author of Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir
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The Juggle is Real

As a mom who runs a business while nurturing seven kids, I have often felt defeated by the demands of both 21st century motherhood and a career. I can’t tell you the number of times I have thrown my hands in the air and waved the white flag of surrender. The image of a juggler, tossing and catching countless balls, captures the mood of modern motherhood. So many moms today are tired, stressed and pulled in a million directions. They are exhausted from handling endless tasks and responsibilities. When they invest more time at work, they feel guilty for neglecting their family. And when they invest more time with family, they worry about letting the office down or missing out on career advancement. The juggle is real. And sometimes it can feel impossible. Here’s the thing: hope is possible. Mothering, following your dreams and living your best life is possible—all at the same time. The reality is we have choices in how we respond to everything in our lives. It might not seem like it all the time, but the truth is we always have a choice—and it’s always ours. For the last ten years, I have run my own business while raising an increasing number of kids, each born approximately eighteen months apart. Every time a baby arrives, I redesign, reshift, and refigure unique ways to approach self-care, childcare and work. As a result, I have talked to countless women about “balancing it all.” Mothering, following your dreams and living your best life is possible—all at the same time." And balancing it all, I believe, boils down to two central themes: 1. Knowing what is important to you, and 2. Ensuring the activities in your daily calendar actually match your true priorities. Sounds simple, right? And in a way, it is! But identifying what is truly important to us, and ensuring we act in accordance with this, takes some inner searching and some discipline to carry out. And I have found one exercise incredibly helpful in starting this process. Let’s start with a quick definition of priorities. Priorities give rank and importance to things in our lives and often motivate us to action. If health is a high priority, we will make time in the day to exercise. If spending time with your spouse is a high priority, you will ensure that date night is a recurring habit. If our work is a great priority, we will log long hours at the office. But we cannot make everything a priority. You cannot just keep stuffing your life full of things and expect it all to fit. So what is the key here? How do you avoid an overstretched life? The key is you. You have to decide—and declare—what is most important. Then you must not only let your priorities inform your decision making, but also work hard to keep these ranked priorities top of mind. Anyone can say family is at the top of their list. Anyone can say health is a priority. But why do so many people struggle with keeping fitness as a resolution, and why do so many mothers lament the lack of work/life balance? Because goals are only as good as the behavior attached to those goals. And behavior takes motivation to become habit. So, are you ready to get some motivation? One of the most efficient ways to gain clarity on what is truly important to us is to look ahead to the future. Fast forward to your 65th birthday, where your spouse, your adult children, your grandchildren, your friends and the people you have impacted through your work are gathered to celebrate your life. What do you hope they say? What do you hope your years on this earth will have stood for? If you were to live your most ideal life, how do you hope it will be remembered? Doing this exercise, and examining how far the gap is between where you are now, and where you hope your life will lead you, is a great exercise in identifying what is truly important to you, and then beginning to ensure your daily activities stem from your unique ordering of priorities.
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African American man showing thumb up, telling story to interested attentive friends, sitting, drinking coffee in cafe together, smiling multiethnic friends discussing, talking, chatting

12 Ways to Show More Interest in the Lives of Others

One of my happiness resolutions this year is to make more of an effort to understand and share in the interests of my friends and family. When people get along harmoniously—whether at home or in the workplace—they make a point of showing curiosity about each other’s interests and experiences. What kind of interests? Well, one area where this issue often arises is when someone goes on an epic, life-changing adventure in a faraway place—only to feel let down when no one seems very interested in what they saw, thought or experienced. Part of being a good friend (or colleague or family member) is to show an interest, but this can be challenging. People are usually dying to talk about their trip, but often find it difficult to communicate their experiences or thoughts in a way that’s interesting to the folks who didn’t leave home. So, what questions can you ask to help a newly returned traveler talk about his or her trip in a way that’s interesting to you and also satisfying to them? (If you need ideas for questions, I’ve listed 12 below to help get the conversation going.) The point, of course, is not to fake an interest, but rather to find a way to be sincerely interested. And travelers, when you come home, what questions are you dying to answer? What do you wish more people would show an interest in? Because I’m not much of a traveler myself, I know that sometimes I haven’t shown as much interest in people’s travels as I could have. I plan to do better. HERE ARE 12 WAYS TO BREAK THE ICE 1. What was the best moment of the entire trip? 2. What are two interesting things about China (or wherever) that the average person doesn’t know? 3. Tell me about one person you met. 4. Now that you’ve been there yourself, when you think of China, what’s the first image that comes into your head? 5. Did anything go wrong that seems funny now? 6. What little, ordinary thing did you miss from your usual routine? 7. What did you learn about yourself? 8. Where are two other places you’d like to go? 9. Did you take photos? Show me a photo of one of the best experiences you had. 10. What was the biggest misconception you had about China before you saw it for yourself? 11. What advice would you give to someone else who’s thinking of going to China? 12. What made you choose China as your destination when you were planning your trip?
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Community Gardens Grow Happiness

After a day full of sunshine, the deep scent of rich, moist earth gently rises over the coastal community garden of South Laguna, California. As far as the eye can see, every one of the 54 raised beds that surround Katie Babcock is overflowing with lush, green vegetables—beans, chard, arugula and beet greens. Tomato plants bolt up climbing towers toward the sun, potatoes send up sturdy green shoots to feed tubers underground, and there’s even a rumor that blueberries are setting tiny fruits that will one day—please God!—end up in a pie. Some days it’s glorious just to be alive, and moving through the raised beds perched high on a sandy bluff above the Pacific Ocean is rapidly becoming one of those days. Tucked among the village’s shops and homes, the garden is a gathering place in which Katie and about 100 local gardeners grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits for their families—plus enough vegetables to help meet the needs of Friendship Shelter, a six-month residential program for the homeless. They also gather for community potlucks, gardening workshops and work parties. But whether they’re eating, weeding, watering or just burying their noses in gardener Silia Hatzi’s roses, it’s clear that the group members are united by their love of dirt, the bonds of friendship, the healthy promise of fresh vegetables, a commitment to care for those in need—and the clear sense that what they do here on the bluff infuses them with a deep sense of happiness. “Getting in the soil and making a bit of a mess and seeing a finished product is a joyful experience for me,” acknowledges Katie, an Australian production assistant who moved last year to South Laguna. “I grew up on a farm, and I really missed helping things grow. And not having a family here, well, I’d say the gardening community has become my family away from home.” She laughs just thinking about the cast of characters she’s found working in the South Laguna garden. “The people are so kind, so encouraging, so welcoming—it’s given me a sense of place and purpose in the community. The days when we all get together and work and have a laugh…that’s who I am,” she says. Sally Coffey, a retired college administrator who works with new gardeners, couldn’t agree more. When Sally decided to hang up her academic gloves, she realized that she’d been so busy for so many years that she didn’t even know her neighbors. “In this area, you either have to have a kid or a dog to get to know people,” she says. “I was concerned I wouldn’t have any friends to talk to once I left the college. Then one day I went to get breakfast at a coffee shop. I passed a bulletin board with a note on it that said some people were opening a community garden. They had one raised bed plot left. Well, I’d always loved the loamy smell of dirt—and when I was little, right after a rain, I’d go out and lick the sidewalk.” So Sally called the one name on the note that she recognized, then ran over to his office and signed up for the plot. But not only did she get the plot, she got an invitation to the guy’s Halloween party. “He’d invited everybody in the neighborhood, including all the gardeners,” Sally recalls. “I didn’t have a costume, so I just ran home, painted some whiskers on my face and went. I met a bunch of people from the garden. The next day I went down to the garden with them and built boxes for the raised beds. She smiles. “It was instant family.” The Love of Dirt Hanging out with a bunch of great people in the fresh, coastal air is enough to make anyone happy. But scientists have long suspected that we also have an innate attraction to nature that has evolved over the millennia—and that just walking into a garden or contemplating a flower has the ability to trigger a cascade of neurotransmitters that balance us and bless us with happiness, according to the 2013 article “Gardening as a Mental Health Intervention: A Review” in the Mental Health Review Journal. Some suspect that being in an environment with water, woods, plants and other natural materials that enhance our survival triggers this effect, while others wonder if being in a natural environment simply distracts us from the sometimes obsessive challenges of daily life, captivates our attention, shifts a bunch of neurotransmitters and allows us to relax. But distraction, at least the type that captivates our attention in a kind of total absorption that psychologists call “fascination,” isn’t the looking-at-your-watch kind of thing. It’s far more intense, and the effect is as well. “Watching a butterfly land on your hand or the wind moving through the trees—these are the kind of distractions that allow the brain to reboot itself,” explains Jean Larson, Ph.D., lead faculty for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, and manager of the university’s nature-based therapy arboretum. Ancient and modern brain systems trigger electrical impulses. The neocortex—the part of the brain responsible for complex thinking and reasoning—becomes engaged, and the brain’s synapses start firing on all cylinders. It’s a kind of neurological rebalancing act that, as Jean says, “allows us to be in our happy place.” Whether the calm happiness you feel in nature is the result of simply being in a life-supporting environment or rebooting your brain, the effect is powerful. Studies reveal that those who spend time in nature are less likely to be stressed or depressed, and that a few minutes working in a garden—even simply walking through one—can reduce severe depression and increase the ability to think, remember, plan and function. In a Norwegian study, for example, those with clinical depression who participated in a horticulture program cut their depression by 30 percent and increased their ability to think and function effectively by 14 percent. Given those kinds of numbers, it’s heartbreaking to realize that most of us spend around 95 percent of our time indoors. Jean shakes her head. “We’re so disconnected from nature,” she says. “Yet researchers in Scotland have shown that it only takes 30 minutes of being in nature each day to have an effect on how we think and feel.” The Children’s Sharing Garden Carly Sciacca, a full-time mom who grew up in Laguna Beach as the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of serious gardeners, is well aware of the spiritual and emotional effects of gardening. “The garden is so joyful,” she says, “and gardening is so therapeutic, particularly when you go through hard times.” That’s one of the reasons Carly brought her daughter, 7-year-old Alani, to plant, water, weed and harvest in the South Laguna community garden. Carly wanted Alani to know that when she hurts, she can drop her problems at the garden gate and get comfort from digging her hands in the soil. She can meditate on a ladybug, sit in the sun and breathe with the rhythm of the earth. But Carly also wanted Alani to discover something else in the garden—the joy of helping others. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 49 million Americans are not sure where their next meal is coming from, while nearly 7 million are already hungry. A natural organizer, Carly established a raised bed plot called “The Children’s Sharing Garden,” and invited parents in the community garden to bring their children to the plot every Sunday morning. Fifteen families responded, and Sunday mornings in the South Laguna garden have become a busy time. The children do most of the work—planting, weeding and meditating on the texture, smell and shape of everything that grows. It not only gives them an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature, but to also experience the joy of growing food for their families and others as well. It took the parents a while to sort out a delivery system, but now every Thursday, Carly, Alani and a group of volunteers gather fresh vegetables from the children’s garden and from a community plot dedicated to raising food for the hungry. They place their bounty on a large table, bag their offering, then take it to the Friendship Shelter for distribution. Some of the vegetables go straight to the shelter’s kitchen where guest chefs prepare them for those enrolled in the shelter’s residential program for the homeless, while other vegetables are transported to area food shelves. The Giving Garden Kids are a big part of The Giving Garden in Carrollton, Texas, as well. Daisy Girl Scouts, Eagle Scouts, National Honor Society students and children from the Aldersgate United Methodist Church all take a turn at cleaning up garden beds, composting, planting, mulching, harvesting and performing the 101 chores a garden demands. “We work these kids hard,” says Terri Barrett, a member of the garden’s board and director of missions at Aldersgate, “but they sign up and come back again and again.” What seems to draw the Carrollton children is the same thing that draws their elders—a strong sense of service to others. Every week—and pretty much year-round because of the moderate Texas climate—both kids and adults can be found bent over an acre of raised beds behind Aldersgate. Fifty percent of everything grown in the garden is given to local food shelves or needy seniors. Since the garden was founded five years ago, its volunteers have contributed 6,000 pounds of fresh produce to feed the hungry. “A few years ago a pastor here at the church realized that the back acreage of the church’s property was just sitting there not doing a thing,” Terri explains. “So he suggested it be used for people who don’t have enough to eat. People at the church thought it was a great idea, so we figured out how we could use the land, drew up a plan, and joined with Keep Carrollton Beautiful, which is the garden club for the community. “Keep Carrollton Beautiful became our umbrella organization so we could have nonprofit status,” Terri adds, then both the organization and the Aldersgate church donated funds. A number of individuals also contributed to the garden, and local businesses were generous. It was a true community effort. “Finally, in 2010, about 100 people—gardeners, architects and people like me who didn’t have a clue about building a garden—we all got together and built the first beds. “Now, the garden is where I find serenity and peace,” says Terri as she looks out over beds overflowing with lush, green vegetables. “It offers us the sense of community that we’ve lost in the electronic age. People meet and talk, we make friends with people of all ages and ethnicities we otherwise wouldn’t know, and we feed those who are hungry.” She smiles. “It’s such a healing place.”
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happy millennial man rest on sofa speak with elderly father enjoy leisure family weekend at home

Oh, The Things Dads Say

Whether it’s that reminder that he isn’t a chauffeur or that we can have an opinion when we start paying bills, dads sure have a funny way of handing out advice. Even though he may chuckle if we stumble, he’s always there to lift us back up. In honor of Father’s Day, our readers share their dads’ wacky and wise bon mots. Don't Worry... “Is it going to matter in five years?” —Jennie B. “Don’t work late. It will be there tomorrow for you.” —Kathleen H. Before he passed away, my dad always taught my siblings and me to “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” We were too young to understand, but one day it dawned on me exactly what he meant.—Bernadette B. Stay out of trouble... His way of telling us to make good choices was “always keep your nose clean.”—Charmayne S. Anytime I went out with friends, my dad would tell me, “Be good! And if you can’t be good, be safe!”—Missy L. “Keep your powder dry.” Because of his love for old cannons and guns, back when gunpowder was used, it was his way of saying, be safe, be prepared and take care.—Cindy H. Be happy... “Be the mailman, deliver!” Every morning as our boys walked out the door to school, my husband would say that. Our older son used it as his senior quote in the yearbook. —Terri T. “Never be afraid of change. If you don’t change, you don’t grow.”—Veronica H. At the end of all our conversations, my dad would say, “Remember, be true to yourself.” He passed away after Father’s Day in 2016.—Debbie W. My dad would always tell me how proud he was of me and that I was brave for the choices I made, yet I always stayed sweet and kind.—Christina A. And keep laughing! Growing up, my dad always said, “If your nose runs and your feet smell, you must be built upside down!”—Sarah C. “Never pass up a chance to pee.”—Missy M. My dad had a ton of sayings, but one of the most important is this, “You have to keep your humor. You have to be able to laugh at yourself often.”—Priscilla H. Happy lessons learned from fatherhood. Matteo Bussola is the author of the book Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast: Reflections on Fatherhood. This architect-turned-cartoonist lives in Verona, Italy, with his wife, Paola, and their three young daughters, Virginia, Ginevra and Melania. He writes about his family's adventures, as they serve as moving reminders to people all around the world to embrace the present and value every moment they share with their loved ones. Below he shares with us the valuable lessons he has learned from being a father. Dads are known for silly sayings or non-sequiturs. What funny sayings do you say to your children that make them happy? It’s not so much a silly saying, but an entire made-up language that I use. My three little girls have an “alternative language” made up of invented and seemingly meaningless words that we use within the family, as we are the only ones who understand them. But I will never confess what the words are—I still have a reputation to maintain after all! I think it’s through their children that dads discover the joy of play and tenderness again. Both things are banned from our adult world, especially the male one. I don’t understand why. What is the greatest part of being a father? The greatest part of being a father is listening to your children’s questions and becoming aware that each question holds a hidden opportunity for you. You simply have to refrain from giving them a ready-made adult answer and, instead, take the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. We need to understand that being a father isn’t just about educating your children; rather, they also educate you. While you try to give them rules to live in the world, children can teach you to look at the world with new eyes, without prejudice. Being a father teaches you a special kind of attention that you learn the moment you realize adults focus too heavily on the future, while children are always very present. Kids are different from us because they live in the moment. For them, what exists is now. That’s why the word that a child hates most is later. Being around kids reminds us that it’s very important to give value to every single moment, to be present, for them and for ourselves. The greatest realization you have as a father is that your child will only be 8 once and only 4 once and only 2 once, and every day, every hour, every minute, you find yourself watching a series of shows with no repeat performances. You can either be there and watch it while it happens and live it with your children or lose these experiences forever. What is the best parenting advice your dad ever gave you? And do you pass it down to your children? My father never believed in rules; he had much more confidence in improvisation and instinct. Sometimes he was right, sometimes he was wrong. He didn’t necessarily tell me exactly what to do, but taught by example—sometimes with his mistakes, even the ones he made when he thought he was doing the right thing. For example, he discouraged me from becoming an artist because he was convinced that it wasn’t the right path for me and didn’t offer any financial stability. This didn’t discourage me—rather, it pushed me to understand how much I loved drawing and made me persevere even more, until I achieved my dream of becoming a comic book artist. So one of the most important lessons I learned from my father, the one I’m trying to pass to my daughters, is that obstacles don’t come into our lives to stop us from doing things, but to show us who we are. Where is your happy place? It’s the one I choose every day. Here. With them.
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Free Play Benefits the Whole Family

When did you become the executive assistant to your kids? Do you schedule play dates, choose the activity and pick the participants? Do you pick out the outfit that they are going to wear? Do you spend all day Saturday and Sunday with your children facilitating their activities? Is this what you thought parenthood was going to be like as you excitedly prepared to welcome your little bundle of joy? If so, you might want to consider a different approach. Do you remember when your mom and dad used to say, “It’s a beautiful day, go outside and play?” They might not have understood why but they were onto something. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is related to mood. The higher the serotonin level the better your mood. According to a study in Australia, people had higher serotonin levels on sunny days as opposed to overcast or cloudy days. For all of you living in a cold weather climate, it did not matter if it was hot or cold outside, only sunny! With the increasing levels of depression in our country, let’s get these kids outside. Now, let’s address the notion of play. I am referring to “free play.” Peter Gray, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology (emeritus) at Boston College defines free play as play a child undertakes him- or her-self and which is self-directed and an end in itself, rather than part of some organized activity. Free play helps a child develop their own interests and sense of self. It teaches them how to make friends, navigate social interactions and work together towards a common goal utilizing negotiation and compromise. It helps a child learn to regulate emotions, tolerate discomfort and build resiliency. It is also just plain fun! Depression and anxiety are on the rise and the rate of suicide among children and adolescents is alarming. Expectations related to school, performance either athletic or artistic, social interactions/social media and the idea that the world is a dangerous place are all stressors that impact the lives of our children and lead to depression and anxiety. Where does all or at least most of this come from? Parents. To be fair, it is coming from a place of love. As parents, we want to provide our children with the opportunities we never had, set them up at the best school, guide them toward the best possible future and make sure they are safe. But, perhaps as a society, we are overdoing it. Think of all the demands put on us as adults and how that can make us feel that there is not enough time in the day. It can be overwhelming. We are putting similar demands on our children who have less of a sense of self and lack the necessary emotional maturity to cope. We are winding them tighter and tighter. Yes, school is important. Providing opportunities for children to try athletic or artistic endeavors is important. Providing guidance and support around social interactions and especially the challenges of the internet and social media is crucial. And, safety should be every parent’s concern. However, the backyards, playgrounds and neighborhoods are generally as safe as they have always been in the past. Sadly, the same can’t be said for schools. We need to find a balance between the expectations and concerns we have as parents with a child’s need for play and the associated benefits. The children will benefit if we learn to manage our own anxiety, stop hovering and allow them and opportunity to explore, make their own mistakes, develop self-efficacy and feel a sense of their own power to succeed. It will help them become a well-adjusted teen, adult and maybe a little less of a worried parent in the future. And it might give mom and dad a chance to breathe. All of this brings me full circle to the opening paragraph of this article. You were all individuals with your own needs and interests before you became parents. That does not need to end nor should it because you now have children. When you explore your interests and practice appropriate self-care you are modeling a healthy way of life for your children. Children need to understand that they are part of a family not the sole focus of the family. This will help you maintain the family hierarchy with parents on top, allowing children to feel comfortable in their role and be more likely to follow rules and meet expectations. Healthy children need healthy parents. Take time for yourself to explore your interests and allow your child to do the same. Don’t think that a little less control over the details of your child’s day will make you a “bad parent.” On the contrary, you will be providing space for your child to grow.
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