Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.
HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
It’s often great to connect with family and friends during the holidays, but it can occasionally feel like you’re drawn into old—sometimes negative—ways of communicating. If you only see your family now and then, they might view you as you were when you were younger instead of as you are now. Just being together in the same place can even ramp up old issues. Planning ahead for how to deal with situations can help you navigate them better and bring peace.
- Think about potential friction points with loved ones.
- Decide how you want to respond.
- Be patient with others.
- Stay positive and true to yourself.
Gratitude comes in different forms and has many benefits. There’s that thankful feeling when you receive a gift. Gratitude can also spring from awareness and appreciation of what’s really important. You can also express thanks to acknowledge that you value others, their actions, or how you benefit from others’ kindness.
When you express gratitude, you form tighter bonds with others and invest more in those relationships. Naturally, you take care of little things that help your relationship work. For example, expressing gratitude daily to your romantic partner for three weeks helps you care more about your loved one. When you say thanks, your partner is more likely to feel that there’s a fair split with household responsibilities.
If you’re feeling grateful, you might want to assist others. You could likely help someone with a personal problem, offer emotional support, and work cooperatively. You could also face what’s hard and feel more comfortable in voicing concerns to a friend or partner—partially because you’re in touch with how important that person is to you. Feeling gratitude increases your satisfaction with life and helps you remember what matters most—relationships, not material things.
The benefits of tapping into gratitude don’t end with better relationships. Writing down what you’re grateful for every day for three weeks can improve your mood, coping abilities, mental health, and physical well-being. Gratitude can also strengthen your belief that life is manageable, meaningful, and sensible. Thankfulness can help you feel less sad or anxious, as you experience more joy, enthusiasm, and love. It can even lower your blood pressure and risk of stroke, reduce stress hormones, and improve your immune system.
Last week, we discussed how loneliness can be isolating and suggested ways to connect with one person. This week, we’ll add a few more strategies to your arsenal—and help you turn loneliness into a motivating force:
- Go out to public places, especially by yourself. Doing so can give you more opportunities to connect with others. You can also make virtual connections online or through social media.
- Join an activity group or faith community that aligns with your interests or beliefs. Volunteer for a cause. Choose something you value and attend in-person, or find an online community.
- Adopt a pet if possible. If not, try helping at an animal shelter or rescue group. Pets can provide important mental and social benefits. Owning a pet can actually lead to an increase in oxytocin, a “feel-good” hormone.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. For example, don’t just rely on your unit members for social plans. Build meaningful and lasting relationships with a variety of different groups such as your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Each can offer something different to enhance your life.
Whatever your goals are, keep in mind that they’re easier to accomplish when they’re SMART goals:
It’s a well-established method for fitness-oriented goals—to lift a certain weight, cycle a century, or run a marathon in a certain amount of time—and it works equally well in other areas of life. Maybe you want to reach a specific rank at your job or finish college by a certain date. Goals aren’t just for dreaming big; they’re for achieving.
- think through exactly what you’re aiming for;
- determine if this goal is a good fit for you;
- measure and track your progress;
- use success-oriented language to think and talk about your goal; and
- break down the end goal into manageable steps.
It’s possible to feel lonely even within a big family or when constantly surrounded by others. Sometimes you can feel even lonelier. But you can feel better if you focus on strengthening a connection with at least one other person. Here’s how:
- Pick someone in your life. Choose someone you want to be close with or feel like you share a lot in common. If you’re married, you’d ideally pick your spouse.
- Open up. Tell that person how you’re feeling and what’s on your mind. You could also start the conversation by asking how they’re feeling.
- Keep the conversation going. Ask follow-up questions and share your own thoughts and feelings.
- Be curious and focus on the other person. Hopefully, they’ll express interest in your ideas and emotions too.
Next week, we’ll offer more tips on combating loneliness and staying connected!
If you’re a grandparent transitioning into the role of parenting your grandchildren, it’s probably stressful. But you can face this stress. Start by acknowledging why this round of parenthood is different. The emotional support you have available now is likely different than when you were parenting earlier in life. Before, your peers were other parents raising children at home, whereas this is less likely now.
Contact with friends might drop off. Family tensions might exist. Other common challenges include changes in routine, more physical fatigue, less privacy, and less time to get things done. Your situation can, at times, feel like an invisible burden. It’s normal to sometimes experience resentment, which can easily be misdirected towards your partner or others around you. These stresses can take their toll on you and your relationships. Be proactive.
Help is available if you need it. Consider local or online support groups or even parenting classes to get refreshers on discipline styles and communication. Single grandparents can learn useful strategies in a parenting class, and partners can learn to develop a unified parenting approach. As your grandchildren get older, you could consider parenting refreshers on drug use and sexuality. You might also learn about modern parenting dilemmas associated with technology and social media.
Some grandparents seek individual, couples, or family counseling to address possible tensions. Despite the challenges, many grandparents in similar situations report feeling a greater sense of purpose. Consider checking out family resources available to you via HPRC, and the University of Wisconsin's resources specifically focused on grandparents.
Forgiveness can help you adapt, embrace flexibility, be happier, and move through resentment in your relationships. Balancing children, career, and your marriage is difficult enough; adding deployments to the mix can lead to eruptions with family members. Meditation has been has been shown to help people lower stress their levels and become more forgiving. To reduce friction with your partner or children, consider following these steps associated with forgiveness meditations:
- Take a time-out, and find a quite space to calm down.
- Relax and focus on slowing your breathing.
- Recall times of closeness and connection with your spouse and children.
- Develop awareness of your reactions, and patiently find your way to forgiveness.
Children and teens face a lot of challenges these days, but exercise can help, even in such seemingly unrelated situations as bullying, a form of peer aggression. Bullying recently has come to the forefront as a public health concern. While the best solution is to prevent it, there are ways to cope and manage the effects of being bullied (such as depression, sadness, and decreased self-worth). Exercise can serve as a buffer against effects of being bullied. Bullied teens who regularly exercise at least 60 minutes a day, 4 days a week, are less likely to experience sadness or hopelessness. That’s important when you also consider that these feelings sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts among teens. Encouraging your child to participate in some kind of physical activity can help him or her conquer social obstacles while building good habits for a healthy adulthood. By also making physical activity a family matter, you can lead by example. Learn more about how to prevent bullying and consult a healthcare professional and a school counselor if you’re concerned that your child might be a victim of bullying.
If you’re considering giving birth at home, make an informed choice, including a plan that lays out expenses, your nearest hospital, your delivery team, and more. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) both say that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places for birth in the U.S. However, they also recognize the right to make a medically informed decision about where and how to give birth. If you’re considering home birth, here are some specific suggestions to help you make safe decisions. Read more here.
Do you know that some self-help books have been scientifically shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and change behaviors? “Bibliotherapy” uses books in two ways: First, it can inspire you to reflect on a certain topic, often by identifying with a story’s character. Second, it can give you structured approaches to address specific problems. Bibliotherapy can be useful for self-help, but it’s often most effective when paired with expert guidance or psychotherapy. The approach can target everyday concerns and is effective with adults of all ages, dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, addictions, insomnia, eating disorders, and migraines. Bibliotherapy can also help children and even assist parents to help their children become less anxious.
For structured approaches, the emphasis is often one of the following:
- Experiencing new ways to think about your situation so you also can explore new emotions and new behaviors.
- Letting your values guide your behaviors while you tune into and accept whatever difficult emotions you’re facing.
- Recognizing how you usually relate to other people and making thoughtful choices about how you want to relate to others moving forward.
If you decide to use the self-help approach without a therapist, it’s likely to be most helpful if you’re already feeling motivated and energized to invite change into your life. Bibliotherapy can educate and empower you or your family, boost your awareness, and enable you to make self-directed change.
If you think bibliotherapy might be useful to you, consult a mental health professional and/or a librarian for recommendations. You also can explore the American Psychological Association’s Bibliotherapy page, as well as the Department of Veteran Affairs Bibliotherapy Resource Guide.