In my last blog I gave you some great reasons why it is important for a long life to have happy relationships, specifically focusing on marriage.
John Gottman PhD and his Wife and research partner Julie Gottman from the University of Washington have some great tips I wanted to share with you on keeping your marriage a happy one.
Most couples think that a marriage should be “fair”, like if I scratch your back, you should scratch mine. But those with this mind set are usually in serious trouble. John Gottman says: “We become emotional accountants only when there’s something wrong with the relationship.” In 1977 a study was done by Bernard Murstein where he discovered that this kind of thinking was a characteristic of a failing relationship rather than a happy one. He found that in the best marriages a partner is really invested in the other’s partners interests, as opposed to just their own. The happiest couples have a high level of trust, which lets them give without expecting anything in return because they know their partner has their back.
Another important tip is that your partner isn’t a mind reader, so you should tell him or her exactly what you want, but it was found that in many successful marriages couples also understand each other’s feelings and needs without having to be told all the time. There is a balance that you must try and take on between communication, but also understanding your spouse verbally and non-verbally.
Do you and your partner raise your voice or have screaming fights? This doesn’t always mean you are headed for divorce. The Gottmans label three types of “happy-stable” marriages as “Volatiles”, “Validaters” and “Avoiders”. Each of these three styles have their pros and cons. Conflict avoiders as you might expect, avoid conflict, avoid expressing what they need from each other, and congratulate their relationship for being generally happy. They usually have clear boundaries and are separate people with separate interests. “Volatiles” which are basically the opposite of Conflict Avoiders,can be very passionate couples who argue a lot and they run the risk of devolving into constant bickering. The key is that even though happy volatile couples can have intense fights, they still balance arguments with kindness and attentiveness. Their debating can be characterized by a lot of laughter, shared amusement, and humor. They seem to love to debate and argue, but they are not disrespectful and insulting. Lastly the “Validating” couples have interactions characterized by ease and calm. They are somewhat expressive, but mostly neutral. They are kind of the intermediate between avoiders and the volatile couples. They put a lot of emphasis on supporting and understanding their partner’s point of view, and are often empathetic about their partner’s feelings.
On the flip side there are two types of Non-Happy, Non Stable types of Marriages. These are “Hostile” and “Hostile-Detached”. If you fall into one of these categorize you have more probability of a divorce in your future. “Hostile” Couples are like validators, except there are high levels of defensiveness on the part of both partners. There is usually a lot of criticism, “you always…” and “you never…” statements and whining. There is also a lot of contempt in the relationship. And the last type, “Hostile-Detached” are couples who are like two armies engaged in a mutually frustrating and lonely standoff. They snipe at each other during conflict, although the air is one of emotional detachment and resignation. Between both of these Non-Stable type relationships the “Hostile-Detached” couple are more likely to end in divorce because the “Hostile” couples regulate their negativity while “Hostile-Detached” do not.
Do you regularly feel the need to talk things out until both you and your spouse agree with each other? In reality sixty-nine percent of marriage problems are managed rather than solved, according to John Gottman’s research. “The Common lore is that conflict avoidance is a bad thing, but it really works for a lot of people to just ‘agree to disagree,” he says. The key is to avoid a “gridlock” conflict in which you can’t make headway in a recurring fight. At the bottom of these issues, the Gottmans have found, are core value differences that take couples by surprise. For instance, a fight about finances isn’t just about the cash but about the meaning of money, power, freedom, and security. You might not be able to find the perfect compromise, but by creating an open dialogue, you can discuss the issue without hurting feelings.
Think that gender differences are behind your mega fights? Men really are not from Mars and women from Venus.. we’re all just from Earth. As it turns out, “men are just as in touch with their emotions as women,” Julie Gottman says. “On the other hand, some women are very reluctant to express their negative emotions. So it balances out. There are more similarities than the culture believes.”
Feel like you are destined to repeat your parents’ relationship problems? How you carry your childhood baggage is more important than the fact that you have any. “Nobody escapes childhood without some crazy buttons and triggers, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great relationship.” John Gottman says. Tom Bradbury, PHD, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, coined the phrase “Enduring vulnerabilities” for those historical triggers. Certain words and actions might dig up old feelings and provoke a reaction. Make sure you and your partner understand what sets the other off, and avoid those weaknesses. Circumstances from your past could also prompt what psychologist call projective identification – an example is taking something you resent from your childhood and applying it to your partner. If you had a distant, cold parent, for instance, you might assume your partner is being distant and cold too. Instead of blaming your partner’s character, explain how the actions make you feel and what he or she can do to help you feel better.
I thought these were some great tips to share with you today, to help you keep your important relationships happy, which has been shown to help you lead a longer and healthier life.
Did you know that your relationships can actually effect how long you live? Did you know that being unhappy in a relationship is actually dangerous to your health? A study of 105 middle-age British Government employees found that woman and men with more marital worries had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as higher levels of stress and high blood pressure – factors that raise risk for heart attack and stroke.
When the University of Utah researchers studied video-taped conversations between 150 husband and wives – and also scanned their blood vessels – they found that spouses whose exchanges were angry and mean-spirited were also 30 percent more likely to have arteries clogged with heart=threatening plaque. Other studies show that an unhappy relationship can raise your odds for weight gain, depression, lowered immunity, stomach ulcers, and heart disease risk.
In contrast, a happy marriage may protect your health because spouses imitate each other’s healthy habits. When Brigham Young University researchers checked up on 4,746 married couples aged 51 to 61 years old, they found that couples mirror each other’s health status: A man in his early fifties in excellent health had a very low chance of having a wife in fair to poor health. But a fifty-something man in poor health had a 24 percent chance of being married to a woman with so-so health and a 12 percent chance of being married to a woman in poor health. Why? Couples live in the same environments when it comes to food, exercise, and stress reduction. They also share emotional stress.
If your union has been unhappy or hostile for a long time, pay extra attention to your mental health and your heart health. Creating a happy marriage can lead to a longer, healthier life. A University of Pittsburgh study of 7,524 women ages 65 and older found that simply being married cut their risk of dying over a six-year period by 17 percent. Why? Married people are more likely than a single person to take simple health promoting steps on a daily bases such as eating breakfast, wearing seat belts, getting physical activity, having regular blood pressure checks, and not smoking. And be patient: In another study most unhappy couples who simply stayed together were very happy within five years.
Happy marriages deliver on most every conceivable health benefit: Lower risk of major diseases, longer life, less stress. Then there are the emotional benefits: Happiness, fun, joy and intimacy. A close, loving relationship is among the best things in life for your long-term health.
Here are some suggestions for you to stay happing in your relationships:
Stop expecting perfection from your mate. Experts say most couples – even those in happy marriages – have 6 to 10 areas of disagreement that may never be resolved. Your marriage may not be broken at all – just normal!
Keep your love account in the black. According to various experts, it takes 5 to 20 positive statements to outweigh the damage wrought by a single negative remark – or even by a steely squint or impatient harrumph! Concentrate on positive statements to keep your account in the black.
Don’t try to change your partner. When things aren’t going right, change the way you act. Marriage experts say that trying to force your partner to change rarely works, and worse, it creates lots of resentment. If you take good-hearted steps to improve, it’ll be noticed – and often, will cause your spouse to respond in kind.
Touch. Human touch triggers the release of feel good endorphins – for giver and receiver alike.
Study the art of small acts of love. You know how to push Mr. or Mrs. Right’s hot buttons, and if you think about it, you know how to push his or her joy buttons, too. That doesn’t mean sex, but it’s not a bad place to start. Greet him with a glad-to-see-you hug and kiss when you get home. Surprise her by delivering coffee, bedside, some rainy Thursday morning.
Spend time together every day. You clear your schedule for hair appointments, favorite TV shows, and your book group – how about your spouse? Spend 20 to 30 minutes a day chatting together about your daily lives, your dreams, your plans. And make time for intimacy – even if it means scheduling it in a day planner.
Skip the blame game. Setting your partner up as the bad guy ignores the 80 to 90 percent of him or her that’s really wonderful. Criticism, contempt, confrontation, and hostility don’t help anything. Instead, express concerns by calmly and honestly taking about how you feel.
Listen Carefully to your spouse. Don’t try to defend yourself or argue… just respect what he or she had to say. This alone can go a long way toward ending the fights and finding a healthier common ground.
Raise concerns when you both have time and energy to discuss them. Late at night, when your rushing out the door, or when you are hungry isn’t the right time.
And above all remember that you are in charge of your own happiness. You can decide to be happy right now in whatever situation you are in. No one else is responsible for your happiness. Only you are. Everything that you think your spouse is saying or doing is only your thoughts or your interpretation and you can change your thoughts in a moment. You just need to be aware of them, and aware you are in charge of how you think.
Do you find yourself often in locations that have smoke in the air? Many places in the United States no longer allow smoking in public areas, but not all countries are as lucky. Did you know that Eight hours of exposure to other people’s smoke – at work, at home, or out with friends – is as damaging to your cardiovascular system and lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day? After just 30 minutes, secondhand smoke makes platelets in the blood stream stickier and more prone to clotting. Every year, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 60,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,000 from lung cancer. If you grew up in a household with smokers, your own lung cancer risk is 3 to 11 times higher than normal. It also raises your risk for respiratory infections and even nasal sinus cancer – and could elevate your odds for cancers of the cervix, breast, and bladder.
The fallout for your cardiovascular system is even worse. When Harvard University researchers tracked the health of 32,046 non-smoking women for 10 years, they found that those who regularly breathed in other people’s smoke at home or at work were 91 percent more likely to have heart attacks than tose who weren’t exposed. Clearly secondhand smoke kills.
Cities are taking a stand. When the town of Helena, Montana banned smoking in public places in 2002, heart attack rates among residents fell 58 percent in just six months. Just as with a smoker’s, your body will begin purging the poisons and returning to a healthier state within hours after you stop breathing in smoke.
Removing yourself from smoke-filled environments results in reduced risk for heart attack. Earlier detection of COPD will also help ensure that you can receive treatments to stop lung damage. The same is true for lung cancer. Catching it early will increase your odds of successful treatment. Bonus: You’ll feel better, your clothing and hair won’t smell like smoke, and your eye won’t burn from smoke exposure. All win-wins.
Here are some ideas for stopping your exposure to secondhand smoke:
Insist that the smokers in your life step outside. There are only two ways to deal with smoke in the air: get rid of the cause of smoke or remove yourself from the location. Today, most cultures call for smokers to accommodate nonsmokers, and not the other way around. Don’t feel awkward asking the smokers among you to take it outside. If it is a family member they should care about you enough to keep the smoke away from you, and especially if there are children present in the home.
Patronize smoke-free restaurants and bars. You should choose social places where smokers don’t congregate. An increasing number of restaurants are either entirely smoke-free or segregate smokers.
Get tests if you have been extensively exposed to secondhand smoke. If there were smokers in your household when you were young, or if at any time in your life you were heavily exposed to daily smoke, talk with your doctor about screenings for lung cancer and for a breathing problem called Chronic Pulmonary disease (COPD). Your doctor might use computed tomography (CT) equipment to get a detailed picture of the interior of your lung function to see how much air you’re breathing in and out – and how much oxygen you’re absorbing.
Many of us have refrained from taking up a habit of smoking or have quit smoking, but it is also important to stay away from surrounding smoke. It is also a great time to remind those smokers around you, whom you care about, that it is not only their lives that their smoking habit is affecting but yours as well.
Do you feel like you are worried and stressed out each day more than you are feeling happy? This is something you need to take care of now. Anger, stress, and worry release a cascade of stress hormones that increase your blood pressure and blood sugar, depress immunity, slow digestion, and make you feel downright mean. Nature intended stress to be a short-lived fight-or-flight response to a threat. But modern life can lead to chronic stress- and to far-reaching impacts on your health.
Studies at the University of California, San Francisco, show that excess cortisol – an important stress hormone – prompts your body to store extra fat around your abdomen and to overeat high-fat sugary foods. Both raise your odds for heart disease and diabetes. Meanwhile, stress hormones make cells throughout your body less sensitive to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar levels. And in a three-year Harvard Medical School study of 516 people with coronary artery disease , those with the highest anxiety levels were 6 percent more likely to have a heart attack or die than people who said they felt peaceful most of the time.
In a Duke University study of 127 healthy men and women, those who scored highest on test of anger an hostility had levels of c-Reactive Protein (CRP) – a marker of heart-threatening inflammation – two or three times higher than calmer study volunteers. The more negative their moods, the higher their CRP levels, and the greater their risk for future heart disease and stroke.
So, as you can see it is very important that if anger and worry is a big part of your life now, it is time to take some action to turn things around. Here are some things you can do right away.
Train yourself to stop getting stressed so easily. You’ve heard it often: Stress isn’t created by people or situations; it’s entirely caused by how you react to them. You can let an obnoxious child, boss, or sales clerk get to you, or you can take a deep breath and decide not to let yourself react strongly or emotionally. So next time you feel a stressful situation emerging, work hard at managing it and staying cool. In time, you’ll succeed wonderfully!
Learn a formal stress-relief process. Among the most proven are yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Consider these essential tools for health, no unlike aspirin for a headache.
Try progressive relaxation. Close your eyes, breathe calmly, and release tension in each part of your body beginning with your feet and working up into your neck and head.
Rediscover your Optimism. No one is born a pessimist; it is a learned behavior. Regaining your sense of hope a go a long way toward stifling stress or regaining a sense of happiness.
If stress is taking a significant toll on your attitude and health, talk to a cognitive therapist. You’ll learn how to see yourself and your thought process in a new, more objective light.
Eat healthy and exercise. A healthy lifestyle does wonders for your ability to manage stressful situations.
Enjoy a relaxing hobby. Knitting, building model airplanes, making pottery… whatever you love and that can immerse yourself in will calm you down.
Rediscover silliness. One of the secrets of achieving happiness is to acknowledge that in every grown man resides a young boy, and in every mature woman, a young girl. Our bodies may age, but our spirits needn’t, and on some matters, shouldn’t! So don’t suppress your sense of fun and silliness. At any age, it’s perfectly appropriate to laugh at comedians, have a pillow fight, make silly faces at each other, and get a little saucy with your intimates. If you have lost your sense of humor, you need to do what it takes to bring it back, even if it’s just renting goofy movies. Treat it as a doctor’s prescription for your health!
Today I want to talk about something that I think most of us do. Ignoring health problems and symptoms. It’s one thing to be neglectful of one’s health when things are going fine, but to ignore symptoms and “let nature take its course” when health problems emerge is highly risky. Your immune system can battle back against minor infections well enough, but beyond that, nature taking “its course” often means you get worse, not better. Everyday symptoms like headaches, lethargy, dizziness, or chronic coughs can often be indicating the emergence of more serious diseases – including life-threatening heart attacks, strokes, and cancers.
Yet, people ignore symptoms all the time. In a recent survey of 1,100 men, 30 percent said they wait as long as possible before taking troubling symptoms of any kind to the doctor’s office. The problem with waiting? You lose the opportunity to get small health problems treated before they become they become big health problems. Catching many cancers early boosts your chances for survival significantly. Reversing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar as soon as possible lowers your odds for fatal heart attacks, strokes, and a wide range of scary, diabetes-related complications such as kidney failure, blindness, and amputations due to infections in feet and legs. Even ignoring seemingly small problems like bleeding gums could raise your risk for serious gum infections, which contribute to diabetes and heart disease.
If you have your health, then you are lucky – no clear damage has come about as a result of your self-neglect. Still, get yourself to a doctor today! A full checkup and a new approach to health, in which you are highly mindful of your body’s health signals, are in order.
Early diagnosis of chronic problems is worth far more than you can imagine. So is losing the uncertainty related to your undiagnosed symptoms and health problems. These benefits far outweigh the financial and emotional costs of consulting a doctor.
Here are some tips to help you start being more proactive with your health care:
Change your attitude. So many men – and plenty of women too! – have an I-don’t-need-a-doctor attitude, as if suffering in silence is a virtue and going to see a doctor a defeat. It’s time to change that. Just as success in business almost always relies on a team, so does success in health. Your doctor is essential to your achieving long life and long health. Treat him or her as a welcome participant in your successful future.
See your doctor at least as often as your car sees an auto shop. That means at least once per year. Ask for an annual physical with a blood workup. Women should also see their gynecologists.
Don’t forget your eyes and your teeth. Once a year is the minimum for seeing your eye doctor and your dentist, too.
Resolve to take aches and pains seriously. Pain specialists agree that early pain relief is best. Left alone, chronic pain can create hard-to-break feedback loops in your brain.
Set a two-week limit. Do you have an odd-looking mole? An abnormal bulge? Unusual bloating? Take any strange symptom to your doctor’s office if it persists for more than two weeks.
I confess that this year I have been guilty of ignoring my health. I cancelled my yearly doctor visit because I was “too busy” and never made another appointment. I am going to recommit right now to making and keeping my yearly doctor checks today. How about you?
Today I want to talk about a huge hurdle when trying to live a longer life and one that needs to be talked about. It is called Sun Exposure. Nearly 80 percent of lifetime sun damage occurs before the age of 18 so even though you may be well past your first 18 years, this is something so very important to pass down to your children and grandchildren now. The more sun exposure you had, the more likely you are to face wrinkles, splotches, freckles and skin discolorations when you look in the mirror at age 50. Even more dangerous is your heightened risk for skin cancer later in later decades.
Your odds of developing skin cancer are higher if you have pale skin, blonde or red hair, and or blue eyes. These are all signs that your skin has low levels of protective melanin. If you endured three or more blistering sunburns before age 15, you’re at higher risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Five early sunburns doubles it. Having a job that kept you outdoors for at least three summers during your teens or twenties – such as lifeguarding, being a camp counselor, or working on a farm, in a park, or at a construction site increases your chances as well.
Oddly, so does a history of being careful. If you were one of the first to jump on the suntan lotion bandwagon in the 1950’s and 1960’s, you may have felt free to stay on the beach longer because the lotion kept you from burning quickly. What you didn’t know is that until recently most tanning lotions and sunscreens only protected against UVB rays and did nothing to guard skin from damaging UVA rays. UVA rays are weaker but penetrate deeper into the skin and may play a role in triggering melanoma; experts know for sure that they contribute to skin aging, wrinkling, the development of brown spots and blotching.
Can you undo this deadly sin? Unfortunately this is one you can not.
Sun Damage cannot be erased, but you can take steps to prevent further damage, to reduce your odds for developing skin cancer, and for spotting potential cancer in its earliest most treatable stages.
Taking steps now will help you prevent further damage to your skin and help ensure early detection of skin cancers. You’ll also experience reduced skin inflammation, meaning less strain on your immune system.
Here is a repair plan for prior sun damage
So the best advice here is to continue to be careful in the sun and watch your body for skin changes, by yourself and your health care providers. I would imagine that no one can say they have not participated in potential skin damaging activities in their past so this is advice that applies to everyone. You need to also take the time now to educate the children you are responsible for or in contact with: your younger siblings, your children, your grandchildren and your nieces and nephews. By stepping in and teaching them how to stay protected from the sun you could be giving them the greatest gift of all - longer life!
Allergic to Water?
So, of course you aren’t allergic to water, but if you are like me, you really don’t care for it very much. This can be a big problem when it is so important for good health. If you barely drink any water you may be living on the verge of dehydration- or flooding your body with hundreds of extra calories a day if you instead are drinking mostly juices and soft drinks.
Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired. It can also lead to constipation and even chronic headaches. Over time, dehydration can raise your risk for a heart attack simply because your blood may be slightly thicker and more likely to clot. If you’re taking a diuretic to control your blood pressure, or you take laxatives, you may need to drink extra water to maintain a healthy fluid balance in your body. Dehydration can happen faster with age, because your body already contains about 10 percent less water than it did when you were younger- so there’s less of a safety margin.
Sounds to me like water is pretty important. What do you think?
So if you are like me, drinking more water just is not that easy. I need some tips and some alternatives.
Here they are:
Aim for five to six glasses of pure water, herbal tea, and juice per day. Sparkling water of club soda with a splash of juice or a spritz of lemon counts, too. Experts no longer believe that everyone needs eight glasses per day.
Eat Juicy fruit. Enjoy Watermelon, oranges, peaches, berries.. the juicer the better.
Check your urine every time you relieve yourself. If it’s pale and has almost no odor, you’re probably getting plenty of fluids. If It’s dark, strong-smelling, or you simply don’t urinate very much or very often, you probably need to drink more water.
Always have a glass of water first thing in the morning, and with each meal and snack. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to have a drink – sense of thirst grows fainter after age 60, but your need for fluids remains the same of increases.
Drink when you’re active. Have a glass of water before you exercise, every 20 minutes while you exercise, and again when you’re finished.
Treat yourself to a fruit Popsicle on a hot day. You need an extra glass of water on a hot day, and the fluid in a fruit pop will fill the bill.
Stay alert to signs of mild dehydration. These include sudden thirst, fatigue, a headache, dry mouth, muscle weakness, dizziness, and light-headedness. At the first symptom, start drinking water.
I, for one, am going to start trying out these tips today to try and increase my water intake. I know I always fall short, so I really like the thought of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning… that way no matter what happens as the day goes on, I have the first glass down already.
Giving you the most current and up to date advice on living a longer and active life.
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