Five Ways to Enhance Your Relationship

Relationships can seem so easy at the beginning. Love comes naturally. But over time, other parts of life start to compete for your attention. Pretty soon, the relationship isn’t getting much focus. You and your partner both start to wonder where the good times went.

Considering the joy that can come from a healthy relationship and the potential challenges a failed relationship can present, you want to do your best to stay happy together. This is even truer if there are children involved.

Try these strategies to quickly put your relationship back on track:

  1. Make time for each other. Remember when you first fell in love? Your relationship was a huge priority. You made time for the other person. There wasn’t much you were going to let stand in your way. After a while, time together became the thing in your life that gets attention after everything else has been taken care of.
    • Setting aside time for a date night once a week or even every other week can be enormously helpful. If you have kids, maybe you can swap babysitting nights with another couple.
  2. Volunteer together. If contributing to others’ lives is important to both of you, this is a wonderful way to enhance your relationship. Sharing an experience that’s positive and meaningful can strengthen the bond you share. Time spent like this also allows each of you to view the other in a positive light.
  3. Play together. Find something you both enjoy and do it together. Intimacy is gained during those lighter and happier times, not just when life feels heavy and dramatic.
  4. Improve how you deal with conflict. When there’s conflict, are you good at working through this together? A good way to measure this is to consider whether the conflict is likely to happen again. There’s no reason to keep having the same conflict over and over again. If that happens, you didn’t really resolve anything.
    • Instead, focus on finding solutions. The fact that there is a conflict doesn’t suggest that someone is wrong. It simply means that there is a misunderstanding or a disagreement about something. Choose learning and happiness over the need to be right.
  5. Take responsibility for yourself. This may be the most important thing you can do for your relationship. Instead of expecting your partner to make you happy, find ways to take care of you own needs.
  • The other side of this is not spending all your energy trying to make your partner feel happy and secure. You can only contribute to their happiness, not create it.

After you’ve been together a while, your relationship will naturally start to take a backseat to other things. However, for your health as a couple, it’s important to find enjoyable and meaningful ways to spend your time together.

No relationship will sustain itself for long without tending. Our partnerships require care and attention, just like anything else worth having. And as is often true, the more you put in, the more you get out.

Try some of the tips above to devote some much-needed energy to your relationship. You’ll be amazed at how much joy a little attention to your partner will bring.

Family Fitness: Staying Healthy Together

In these days of fast food dinners and hours spent sitting at computers and video games, families need more than ever to work together to stay healthy. As a parent, you have a responsibility to teach your kids the importance of being physically active every day.

Exercising together as a family ensures kids will grow up with this healthy practice deeply ingrained. In addition, when your family shares time together, regardless of the activity, it also secures and reinforces emotional bonds.

Be creative when it comes to planning family fitness activities. You might be surprised at how positively your family responds to new types of exercise together!

Examine these ideas for family fitness and commit to trying some of them:

1. Bike-riding. If your bicycles are gathering dust in the garage or shed, clean those bicycles and get them tuned up. Then, plan a family bike ride twice weekly.

• Vary the times of day you ride until you find the hour that fits best for everyone. Mornings on the weekends and in the summer might work. Alternately, try late afternoons before dinner or early evenings after the meal.

2. Swimming. Most children love playing in a swimming pool. Once all your kids know how to swim, take the family to the pool a couple of times a week, weather permitting.

• Swimming expends many calories and provides plenty of opportunities afterward for the family to just hang out in the pool to talk and spend quality time together.

3. Alternate walking and running. Sure, a family walk is a nice, leisurely activity. But what if you changed it up a bit and alternated walking 3 minutes then running 3 minutes? Most kids love to run, and would even happily race you for the few minutes you’d be picking up the pace.

4. Mini-biathlon. If your family likes to run and bike, bike and swim, or run and swim, plan your own mini-biathlon. Parents can design easy and fun training schedules for everyone.

• Engage the entire family in planning, training, and completing your mini-biathlon. You’ll spark your children’s interests in physical activities while sharing special moments together.

5. Calisthenics, Yoga, or Tai Chi. It’s nice to have some ideas for indoor fitness activities in case of a rainy day. Depending on the age of your children, many types of exercise can provide an enjoyable family fitness experience indoors.

• Stretches, modified push-ups, sit-ups and leg lifts will all provide physical challenges for you and your children when there’s inclement weather. Practicing Yoga or Tai Chi is also challenging and healthy without being too boisterous for inside the house.

• Use mats or blankets on the floor to make floor exercises more comfortable. You’ll get in some quality time and conversation with the kids while doing indoor exercises as a family.

6. Dance DVDs. One of the most enjoyable, carefree fitness activities to do with your kids is dancing. After all, who doesn’t love to dance?

• There are tons of dance DVDs on the market right now. From dancing to the oldies to learning to salsa to trying new hip-hop moves, you’ll surely find some DVDs that your family will love to do together.

Demonstrate that fitness is fun, challenging and invigorating and you’ll help your kids develop real excitement about staying active! When you educate your children from a young age about fitness and the advantages of staying in shape, these lessons will endure for their whole lives.

Body Language: Speak Volumes Without Saying a Word

Believe it or not, most communication is nonverbal. Are you really saying what you think you’re saying? If you often find that people misunderstand you, perhaps your body language is communicating different thoughts than what your voice is saying!

Adjusting your body language can strengthen your communications and help you make a better impression in all kinds of social and professional settings. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture all communicate certain meanings. When your body language agrees with your words, what you say is much more powerful.

Whether you wonder what messages you’re sending with your body language or you just want some tips to brush up on your communication skills, here are some techniques you can try.

General Principles

  1. Match up your body and speech. To appear authentic, you want your body language and speech to be consistent. If you’re telling someone you enjoyed the date but you’re anxiously rubbing your forehead, you’ll create some doubts.
  2. Mirror others. When people are on the same page, they naturally start mimicking each other’s expressions and movements. You can make it easier to connect with people by doing this intentionally. Do this sparingly, though; too much mirroring and your efforts will start to look like a comedy routine.

  3. Double check your assumptions. As you become more knowledgeable about nonverbal messages, keep in mind that different causes can produce the same behavior. You may want to use additional cues to discern their real meaning.
  • For example, if someone is looking around the room while you talk, they may be bored with what you’re saying. Or they may be too tired to concentrate on anything. Or maybe they’re especially interested in the interior decorating! Asking them questions can lead you to the correct meaning of their body language.

Adjustments for Your Head

  1. Make eye contact. While there are cultural differences, subtle eye contact is often interpreted as being friendly and honest. Look people in the eye when you’re first introduced. As someone is talking, meet their eye from time to time to show interest, while also looking away for appropriate intervals to avoid staring.
  2. Hold your head up. Looking at the ground all the time may give people the impression you’re depressed or trying to avoid them. Keeping your head up enables you to look more approachable.
  3. Nod judiciously. Nod your head slightly to let someone know they have your attention and you agree with what they’re saying.
  4. Smile. A smiling face is your best asset, whether you’re at a job interview or trying to resolve a family conflict. Our relationships become more harmonious when we reassure people that we like them. Smiling is a primary way to do this.

Adjustments for Your Body

  1. Work on your hand shake. Palm to palm contact is the most important ingredient in your handshake. Ask a friend for their feedback to ensure your handshake sends the message you want.
  2. Control your hand gestures. Hand gestures can reinforce what you’re saying and make your presentations more effective. Make your gestures with confidence so you look composed and engaged.
  3. Stand straight and relaxed. Good posture has important health and social benefits. Press your navel against your lower back, open your chest and relax your shoulders. You’ll come across as open and self assured.
  4. Keep your arms and legs open. Crossing your arms and legs can seem defensive and distant. If you often adopt this position because your office is chilly, try wearing a sweater or a layer of long underwear instead.

  5. Slow down. We can easily get caught up in rushing from one task to the next. Pausing briefly or intentionally slowing down your movements can help you feel more poised.

  6. Lean forward. Inclining slightly toward someone is a great way to show that you like them and that you care about what they’re saying. Just facing someone while they talk can help. When you’re addressing a group, shift positions occasionally.

  7. Respect the personal space of others. Be sensitive to their comfort zones. Back up a little if you sense that someone is feeling crowded.

Body language is an important interpersonal skill. By taking conscious control of your nonverbal communication, you help yourself to feel more confident and you put others at ease.

7 Ways to Get Unstuck

Everybody experiences rough patches in life. Perhaps you had a less-than-ideal childhood or endured challenging situations as an adult. If letting go of your past has been difficult, living in the present will bring more joy and fulfillment to your life and set you up for a brighter future.

Regardless of your past experiences, you have the ability to move forward and begin living in the present. Admittedly, this will require some time and effort, but you can practice any time you like.

Try these suggestions to inspire your desire to stay in the moment:

1. Accept the past. Whatever the situation that has you stuck, now’s the time to make peace with it. The event has already happened.

• Maybe it was something you couldn’t control. Perhaps you were a victim or survivor. Or maybe you made a mistake. How did the situation make you feel at the time? How do you feel about it now? Once your feelings are clear to you, you can move forward.

2. Recognize that your past doesn’t define you. We’ve all heard people who’ve experienced a challenging event say, “It’s made me who I am.” If taking that stance works for you and you can move on with your life, that’s great. If not, know that the situation doesn’t have to make you who you are.

• You have the power to define your own existence. From now on, you can be whomever you choose.

3. Let go. Allow thoughts and feelings about the situation to float away. Use visualization to imagine a large black balloon filled with the troublesome event. Let that situation and your feelings float away from your world.

4. Take a detailed look at your life. Do you live where you want to live? Are you doing the kind of work you want to do? Maybe you’ve spent enough time wishing, hoping and researching. On the other hand, maybe when you examine your existence, you’ll realize you already have all the elements of a great life.

5. Right now, start to create the life you want. If you’ve already got what you want, great! You’ll have less work to do. If you’re unsure, read on.

• We’ve all heard a story about how someone saved the good china to use for special occasions. Years passed, the china stayed in the cupboard, and guess what? The china wasn’t ever used. No occasion was ever gauged as “special” enough.

• Do you regard your life in the same way? Are you waiting for the future to come so you can live in the place of your dreams, pursue your beloved goals and take part in the activities you want to do? There’s no time like the present to live the life you want.

6. Immerse yourself in each moment. Regardless of the list of things you have to do, spend your moments fully engaged in whatever you’re doing right now. You’ve probably experienced the frustration and irritation of being involved in one activity while you’re actually thinking about another task or activity you need to complete.

• Make a special effort to focus on whatever’s going on at any given time. If you’re watching a movie, totally focus on the plot, scenes and characters. If you’re working on a project for work, screen out everything else and put your all into it.

7. Consciously connect with your emotions. Examine how you feel. Are you energized? Is your mood melancholy? How do you feel about what you’re doing right now? Increase awareness of your own emotions throughout the day as you go from task to task. Living in the present means living consciously.

When you live in the present, you’ll enjoy your life more. So wherever you are, be there in body, mind and soul.

When you allow yourself to feel however you do about an event, task or situation, you’re acknowledging to yourself you deserve the time to live your life to its fullest. Learning to live in the present will empower you to experience the fulfilling life you desire.

Renew Fading Friendships

A function of maturing and making your way through life is that you’ll occasionally leave behind someone you really care about. It might be your best friend from high school, your old neighborhood buddy, a college dorm roommate, or even a past co-worker you connected with.

Over time, you may find yourself yearning for another conversation, a lunch out or evening spent with a long-lost friend. But after so much time has passed, how can you renew fading friendships before they disappear completely?

Consider these suggestions to re-connect with a friend from your past:

  1. Give your friend a call. You might freeze up at the thought of calling because, after all, it has been so long. However, the only way of renewing your friendship is to make contact. Just do it.
    • Tell her you’ve missed her. Mention you’ve been thinking about the fun you had shopping and playing tennis together and that you want to maintain your friendship. Listen to how she feels about the relationship. Inquire about what’s going on in her life.
  2. Persevere. If you don’t have your friend’s telephone number, call his parents or drive by the last residence where he lived. Knock on the door and inquire of the residents if they know what happened to him. Contact a mutual friend and ask where your old friend is living now or how you might get in contact.
  3. Set up a rotating commitment. Once you contact your friend and discover he wants to continue your friendship, suggest the two of you get together on an ongoing basis to keep your relationship going.
    • For example, meet for dinner every other Wednesday evening. Get together one Saturday a month for lunch. A standing appointment keeps you both looking forward to spending time with one another.
  4. Be willing to make the extra effort. If your friend lives 90 minutes away by car, when you call, say you’d love to drive over and spend some time with him. Show you’re willing to do what’s necessary to see your friend occasionally. Hopefully, your friend will eventually be willing to drive over to see you as well.
  5. Write a letter and send it by snail mail. A hand-written letter shows you put some time and thought into what you wanted to say. Plus, your friend will have a tangible representation of your attempt to contact him, which means he’ll notice your efforts to get in touch.
    • This method is particularly helpful when you don’t have the person’s telephone or cell numbers.
    • Send a letter every other month for 6 months or so and include all your contact information, such as your cell phone number, home phone number, e-mail address, and home address. Doing so will make it easier for your friend to contact you using whatever method he prefers.
  6. Once you’ve established initial contact, use technology to stay connected. Find out from your friend if he uses e-mail and texting. If so, send him an e-mail every few days. If your friend prefers a quick text, use texting to stay in touch.
  7. Consider Facebook. After you’ve made your initial contact, find out if your friend is on Facebook. If so, “friend” him and use Facebook to keep in touch.

It’s a great feeling to discover an old friend wants to renew your relationship. Go ahead and be the one who takes the first steps to rekindle an old friendship. Use these methods to re-connect with that wonderful friend from your past.