Kids and Nutrition: Child of Mine and More

Wow! I knew Child of Mine was the coconut oil of books here on ADL, but I didn’t realize it was quite this popular until I compiled this list of topics where we’ve discussed it. Here are places we’ve talked about:

Raising Intuitive Eaters
Overweight Children: How to Help
Not Until You Eat Your Vegetables! Feeding Your Kid Your Way
Coping with begging
Childhood Obesity
Raising a good eater
Picky eaters
Instilling Good Eating Habits In Our Kids

And now introducing the definitive topic: Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. Log in to the forum, and join the discussion.

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Happiness Habit #7: Learning to Forgive

candy barI’m a bit late with this post. Please forgive me. (See, you’re getting practice already!)

This? Is going to be a hard month for me. As I reread this chapter to put together this summary, I realized that forgiveness isn’t something that tends to come naturally to me. I don’t really like this about myself, but yeah: I tend to hold a grudge. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s convenient to have somebody else to blame when things don’t work out the way you hoped? Even reading through the forgiveness tactics and getting to “imagine forgiveness” feels hard. What? I can’t even imagine how it would feel? (Tense. That’s how it feels. Tense. In my stomach. Wow, I’m really surprised I’m having such a visceral reaction to this chapter.)

What does forgiveness mean, and is it worthwhile to learn and practice it? Forgiveness may be the one factor that can disrupt the cycle of avoidance and vengeance in which we often find ourselves. Advocated by many, if not most, of the world’s religions (a common notion is that people should be forgiving in their life on earth because they have been forgiven by God), forgiveness involves suppressing or mitigating one’s motivations for avoidance and revenge (which often bring with them accompanying emotions of anger, disappointment, and hostility), and, ideally, replacing them with more positive or benevolent attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.

Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2858-2863)

Lyubomirsky goes on to list a whole catalog of what forgiving isn’t: reconciliation, pardon, excusing, condoning, or forgetting. So what is forgiveness?

It’s when you experienced a shift in thinking, such that your desire to harm that person has decreased and your desire to do him good (or to benefit your relationship) has increased.
Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2873-2874)

OK, but why bother?

Clinging to bitterness or hate harms you more than the object of your hatred. (Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.”) Empirical research confirms this insight:40 Forgiving people are less likely to be hateful, depressed, hostile, anxious, angry, and neurotic. They are more likely to be happier, healthier, more agreeable, and more serene. They are better able to empathize with others and to be spiritual or religious. People who forgive hurts in relationships are more capable of reestablishing closeness. Finally, the inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows a person to move on.
Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2888-2893)

How to practice forgiveness

Lyubomirsky freely admits that practicing forgiveness is one of the most challenging tactics she covers in her book, but she has some suggestions:

  1. Appreciate being forgiven. Think about a time you were forgiven– what did it feel like? Or ask someone directly for forgiveness.
  2. Imagine forgiveness. This is an empathy exercise. What would it feel like to forgive someone? Put yourself in their place, and try to imagine how they felt, why they did what they did. Then imagine what it would feel like to forgive them.
  3. Write a letter of forgiveness. (You don’t have to send it.) If it’s too hard to write, put it away for a few days, or just pick somebody easier to forgive for this practice exercise.
  4. Practice empathy. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  5. Consider charitable attributions. Give someone the benefit of the doubt, and assume that their motives are good.
  6. Ruminate less. (This is always good advice, no?)
  7. Make contact. Go ahead and send that forgiveness letter if you want to– but be prepared for it to backfire, since you can’t control other people’s reactions.
  8. Remind yourself. If you find yourself getting angry or bitter again, remind yourself that you have chosen forgiveness. Make it a habit.

Here we go, ready or not…

Image credit: candy bar by jonbro

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Happiness Habit #6: Coping Strategies

journal, pen 3June’s topic is Coping Strategies. This is a slightly scary topic to write on, because it’s about coping with personal tragedy, and I know a lot of people in the community are coping with personal tragedy, and I don’t want to be flip, even when just summarizing the book’s ideas.

Why even talk about dealing with personal tragedy in a happiness project? Here’s what Lyubomirsky has to say about it:

Fortunately, most, if not all, of the strategies that help you be happier—counting your blessings, cultivating optimism, practicing religion, nurturing relationships, savoring life’s joys, and so on—are also strategies that help you manage life’s lowest ebbs. ebbs. Furthermore, the two strategies described in this chapter, coping and forgiveness, are valuable not only in response to severe traumas but also as a way of dealing with the normal and expected daily challenges of life.
Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2538-2540).

and

Coping is what people do to alleviate the hurt, stress, or suffering caused by a negative event or situation.
Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Location 2547)

.. and it makes sense, right? If you can alleviate suffering, you’re, pretty much by definition, happier. Right?  If we’re looking at coping strategies, we can divide them up into two types, problem-focused and emotion-focused. Which will work better for you? It depends on the type of problem you’re facing. If you’re staring in the face of a cancer diagnosis or long-term unemployment, Lyubomirsky would probably suggest you use a problem-focused approach.

  • I concentrate my efforts on doing something about it.
  • I do what has to be done, one step at a time.
  • I try to come up with a strategy about what to do.
  • I make a plan of action.
  • I put aside other activities in order to concentrate on this.
  • I try to get advice from someone about what to do.
  • I talk to someone who could do something concrete about the situation.

Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2566-2569)

If you’re facing an overwhelming or uncontrollable situation, she might suggest you pick one or more emotional coping strategies instead, perhaps behavioral or cognitive. One approach is to try to see a silver lining. Another is to look at how you have grown as a person due to trauma:

Some of the common transformative experiences reported by such trauma survivors are as follows:
  • Renewed belief in their ability to endure and prevail.
  • Improved relationships—in particular, discovering who one’s true friends are and whom one can really count on. Some relationships pass the test, while others fail.
  • Feeling more comfortable with intimacy and a greater sense of compassion for others who suffer.
  • Developing a deeper, more sophisticated, more satisfying philosophy of life.

Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2658-2662)

Still another coping strategy, one that everyone here at altdotlife is probably familiar with, is seeking social support.

In sum, social support is pretty incredible, a strategy of almost magical proportions. Except that it’s not magic at all. Friends, partners, companions, confidants: All give you a place to belong, room to share feelings, opportunities to discover that you’re not alone in your troubles. Talking to others about a traumatic experience not only helps you cope and see the event with a new perspective but ultimately reinforces and strengthens your relationship.
Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2707-2710)

I know I’m not the only one who has found perspective, advice, and empathy here, from “friends in the computer” (many of whom are now not only friends in the computer). Another thing I’ve spent time in this community working through, is working through my world view, finding meaning in various life events— even if the meaning is just “I clearly need more practice in dealing with this gracefully.”

…it is undoubtedly terrifically hard to find meaning in a traumatic—and often seemingly meaningless and arbitrary—occurrence. Those who do, however, are better able to cope.
Quote from: Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Kindle Locations 2738-2739)

If what you’re looking for is a To Do list for the month of June, start here:

  • Find meaning through expressive writing: get out your journal, and start writing. As you write, you process traumatic events, synthesizing them into something that makes more sense. Do it for several days in a row, at least 15 minutes a day. (I find writing morning pages, a la The Artist’s Way to be helpful in this way.)
  • Construe benefit in trauma through writing or conversing: this one is three-part. Acknowledge the pain you’re feeling, consider how you’ve grown as a result, then think of how your relationships have improved as a result of dealing with it.
  • Coping via thought disputation: this one is pure cognitive behavioral therapy, and involves talking yourself out of your negative beliefs. (Check out the ABCDE strategy, which Martin Seligman pioneered and Lyubomirsky references)

Last month’s strategy of building social relationships was certainly the most fun for me, but I’m also oddly looking forward to tackling some hard things head-on this month, with a mix of the pragmatic and emotional tools Lyubomirsky has suggested. (As usual, it seems, with my journal at my side.)

What are your plans for the month of June?

Image credit: journal, pen 3 by JimileeK

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Happiness Habit #5: Nurturing Social Relationships

FriendshipAt the very beginning of the Happiness Habits project, I skimmed ahead to the fifth habit, Nurturing Social Relationships. Why? Because it sounds like the most fun, of course! (And that’s coming from a confirmed introvert.)

A few years ago, when my husband switched to a travel-heavy job, I spent about 6 months really concentrating on building a social support network. I set up regular weekly dinner/playdates with close friends. We switched from a drop-off daycare to a co-op preschool with a healthy parent community. I asked my mom to come visit once a month to play with the kids, have long talks, and babysit for date nights. It made a huge difference in my mental health and happiness.

These days, I’ve gotten a bit lazy about it. I keep saying I want to have a regular neighborhood potluck, but haven’t gotten around to even inviting neighboring friends over for dinner (until tonight, yay). I make a point of coffee or lunch with one of my closest friends every couple of weeks, but it’s not unusual for us to go that long without even talking on the phone in between. And these days, I sometimes catch myself mucking around with my iPhone while my youngest plays on the playground after preschool, instead of chatting with other parents.

No more! This month, I’m going to make a point to nurture those social relationships– or at least be mindful of when to nurture relationships and when to nurture my inner introvert.

Happy people are exceptionally good at their friendships, families, and intimate relationships. The happier a person is, the more likely he or she is to have a large circle of friends or companions, a romantic partner, and ample social support.

When it comes to tactics for nurturing social relationships, Lyubomirsky first focuses on intimate partners:

…what are the secrets of the successful marriages? The first is that the partners talk…a lot. The successful couples spend five hours more per week being together and talking. The first recommendation, therefore, is to commit to extra time each week with your partner, perhaps starting with one hour and working your way up toward more.

She has specific suggestions:

  • Before work, find out one thing your partner will be doing that day. After work, take a few minutes to ask how it went.
  • Set aside a regular time to spend together, and make it a ritual. Hire a babysitter if necessary.
  • Create a media-free zone, and use it for conversations only. (This? If I only picked on piece of advice to follow, it should be this one!)
  • For every negative interaction– nagging, criticizing, blaming– make sure you have five positive interactions– thanking, showing physical or verbal affection
  • Show your admiration and gratitude directly.

Looking for tips on nurturing relationships with your friends? She’s got those, too:

  • Make time: have a regular get-together with a friend, and prioritize it.
  • Communicate: talking about intimate thoughts and feelings nurtures a social relationship (especially for women)
  • Be supportive and loyal. Celebrate your friend’s successes.
  • Hug. “Frequent hugging is enthusiastically endorsed by popular magazines and Web sites as a means to increase happiness, health, and connectedness to others. If this is your cup of tea, the science is there to prove it.”

All quotes from:
Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2008-12-30). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

Image credit: simonglucas on Flickr

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