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Archive for February, 2015

Changing the pesimist

You keep beating your heads against brick walls. Everything within you protests against you. Isaiah 1:5 (MSG)

 

Jason Wachob and David Mazzapelle[i] suggest seven things a person can do to become more optimistic.  Yesterday we considered three of them.  The other four are:

  1. They surround themselves with upbeat people. It is true that birds of a feather flock together. If you surround yourself with people who are pessimists it can be draining. On the other hand, if you’re around optimists, it is very contagious and it can be positive. Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton said that, “Optimism is a happiness magnet.”
  2. They don’t listen to naysayers. Optimistic people don’t take the opinions of others too seriously when they don’t agree with them. What that means is that naysayers will tell you that you can’t achieve your goals.  As Mezzapelle says, “Don’t let it affect you. It’s their reality, not yours.”
  3. They forgive others. Optimists have an ability to forgive. As Mazzapelle explains, “The easiest way to forgive is to reflect on the fact that the past is the past.  Make peace with it so that it doesn’t spoil the present.”  As someone said, Forgiveness does not change your past, but it will more than likely change your future.
  4. They smile. Smiling creates a happy environment that attracts others to you and adds to your happiness. The good thing is that happiness, even in small doses, releases serotonin which is a hormone that contributes to the feeling of well-being.  In addition, smiling also has health benefits.  A study from the University of Kansas found that cracking a smile, even when you don’t feel like it, reduces the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.  Even forcing a smile – for instance by putting a pencil in your mouth sideways and holding it between your teeth, results in a positive feeling of wellbeing.

 

Father God, life is truly beautiful and there’s much to be thankful for.  Help me to maintain a positive, optimistic view of all I am and all I have so that my own feelings will be healing to me and to others around me.

[i] Ibid.

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Delayed hope makes one sick at heart, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 (GW)

 

Optimists don’t just see the glass half full. They also make more money than pessimists, get fewer colds, have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and enjoy a longer life, writes Stephanie Vozza.[i]  Interestingly enough, children are born optimists but circumstances change and cynicism sets in; nevertheless, most of us would rather be optimists. David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism, says that while some people are naturally more optimistic, even somebody who is negative or pessimistic can control it and improve upon it.

Jason Wachob, cofounder and CEO of the healthy living website MindBodyGreen.com says optimism is something you need to practice every day. He and Mezzapelle share seven traits optimists share and the habits you can implement to become one, too:

  1. They express gratitude. Optimists are grateful even for the smallest things in life. For instance, it may be raining, but that’s what cleans the air and makes trees and flowers grow. Optimists also find good in hardships, obstacles, and failures, because they give you strength and resilience.
  2. They donate their time and energy. Whether it’s helping at the local soup kitchen or being available to people you know, optimists are used to and enjoy giving back to others. As Wachob says, “This helps you feel grateful for what you have; it’s a good place to start if you want to become more optimistic.”  Mezzapelle adds that, “the spirit of altruism can make you feel optimistic about your own life.”
  3. They’re interested in others. When people hear about the challenges others have faced and how they have managed to come ahead it gives them hope, and as Mezzapelle says, “hope is the foundation of optimism.” Wachob adds that even just reading inspirational stories can help. “There are so many amazing stories about amazing people who overcome incredible odds.”

 

Father God, helps us to look at things in a more positive light because there is so much good in life and because it will help us to have a better life.

[i] http://www.fastcompany.com/3042025/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/seven-habits-of-optimistic-people?lang=en&utm_campaign=10today&flab_cell_id=2&flab_experiment_id=19&uid=19455910&utm_content=article&utm_source=email&part=s1&utm_medium=10today.0211&position=3&china_variant=False

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Love for a lifetime – 3

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. 1 John 4:11 (MSG)

 

  1. Be a little old-fashioned. Instead of being idealistic, ask yourself questions like: Is this person likely to be a good provider? Can they manage money? Are they likely to be a good parent? As Pillemer argues, this is important, “Because marriage is a financial arrangement in addition to a love one and one in which your economic future is entwined with somebody else’s.”
  2. Observe your partner while playing a game. Watching the other person’s reaction during play can be very revealing and “extremely diagnostic.” You get a chance to observe how someone behaves under stress, whether they’re honest, and how they handle defeat.
  3. Do a sense of humor check. Watch to see what makes your partner laugh. What jokes make them laugh and which ones they frown on. Do they have a hearty laugh or seem to suppress it. As small as it may seem, it’s a simple test of whether your world views align.
  4. Watch for the big warning signs. These wise-old seniors told Pillemer that one act of violence means you should get help and get out of the relationship. Is he/she critical of you, particularly in public? Do they put you down or devalue you?  Beware of contempt, where a partner is communicating in a way that is degrading, sarcastic, or excessively teasing, and uses “the vulnerability of marriage to be hurtful.”
  5. The “in-love feeling” is important. You have to have an overpowering, gut-level sense that this relationship is right for you and that your partner is the person with whom you want to be, is how the elders described it to Pillemer. He writes, “They say, look deep into yourself and see if you have this in-love feeling. If they had it, the relationships progressed pretty well. If they didn’t, looking back it was the key to a relationship being wrong.”

Look over these ten lessons from those who have been married for a lifetime and see if your relationship would pass the same test.

 

Father God, bless us that our love for each other may last a lifetime.

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Love for a lifetime – 2

We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. 1 John 4:19 (MSG)

 

As Karl Pillemer[i] learned from his interviews of more than 700 Americans, ages 63 to 108, he learned from them about their views on love. Here are a few more of the lessons they shared.

  1. Physical attraction is important. Pillemer writes, “Everybody across all walks of life said the relationship begins with a physical attraction of some kind.” Of course that doesn’t mean you have to be movie-star handsome or beauty-pageant quality. Instead it means staying a healthy weight, looking as good as you can, dressing properly, and being clean and well-groomed. That’s especially helpful if you want to keep the sexual spark alive in a relationship.
  2. Beware of the strong, silent type. While a quietly strong personality may be appealing at first, you may not want to spend the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t communicate easily. What the elderly Americans in love recommend is that you talk, talk, and talk some more. Ask a lot of questions and provide lots of answers about family, finances, traditions, preferences, likes and dislikes. As Pillemer states, “Even the toughest old guys said you have to be able to convey your feelings and talk about important experiences, especially when there are difficulties in the relationship.  As one old fellow said colorfully, ‘Keep yapping at one another.’”
  3. Step outside your comfort zone. Don’t simply settle for the bare minimum or the routine. When you’re getting serious about someone, propose an activity that challenges both of you more than usual. Go camping, take a long car trip, or paint a room together because that’s when you get to know the real person and they see you as well. The dating period is that time you spend getting to know the other person as a possible life companion, which is why the same formula applies if you want to keep the spark alive in a long-term marriage.  A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found similar results, with couples more happy with their relationship after taking part in “exciting” activities.

 

Father God, help us to keep the fire of love and newness in our relationship all the days of our life together.

[i]Ibid.

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Love for a lifetime – 1

Enjoy the wife you married as a young man! Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose— don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. (Proverbs 5:17-20 MSG)

 

Karl Pillemer[i], a gerontologist and professor of human development at Cornell University, interviewed more than 700 Americans, ages 63 to 108, about their views on love. Married for an average of 43 years, they talked about everything from how to find the right person to what keeps the spark alive.

As Pillemer explains, “Almost all of the people I interviewed were still very deeply in love, felt that love had grown and changed over the time they’ve been together and, surprisingly, felt that intimacy often was as good or even better.”  At the same time, they wanted young people to know that staying married for a lifetime is tough.  We will consider ten of their lessons on love:

  1. Opposites may attract in the movies, but they don’t make great marriage partners. The elders told Pillemer that you should choose a mate with whom you enjoy a lot in common. Among the important things in which you should be closely alike are their spiritual beliefs, their core values, their interests, and having a similar outlook on life. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that when people choose a partner, they prefer someone of a similar level of attractiveness, wealth and status, and commitment to family and monogamy.
  2. Pay attention to what your friends and family say. If nobody likes your possible future spouse there may be good reasons for it. So if your loved ones have lots of reservations, don’t get defensive but listen to why they feel that way. There is wisdom in the feelings and concerns of those closest to you. Don’t ignore the red flags they are pointing out.  And remember that when you marry someone you are also marrying into their family; if they are not particularly pleased with your choice now their feelings or attitude may not change for the better later.

 

Father God, help me to find someone with whom I have the most important things in my life in common, particularly my love for and faith in you.

[i] http://www.today.com/health/10-secrets-lifetime-love-couples-married-decades-2D80476930?cid=eml_tes_20150210

 

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Too much too late

For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer. (1 Peter 4:7 NET)

 

Neuroscientist Dr. Frances Jensen[i] reflects on teenagers’ access to constant stimuli.  As she explains, we, as humans, are built to seek novelty and want to acquire new stimuli. When you think about it, social media provides a wealth of new stimuli that you can access at all times. The problem with teenagers is that because their frontal lobe is not completely developed yet they may not have the sufficient judgment to know when to stop. They don’t have the wisdom to decide which sites not to visit or which information they should not absorb. They are unaware of when to supervise themselves.

In addition, Jensen recommends teenagers should not be allowed to have their cellphones at night.  It may be challenging to enforce it, but there are very good reason for doing so.  When they’re trying to go to sleep they have this powerfully alluring opportunity to network socially or be stimulated by a computer or a cellphone which ends up disrupting their sleep patterns.  In addition, it’s not a good idea to have multiple channels of stimulation while you’re trying to study and memorize information for a test the next day.

You also need to consider that the artificial light of the cell phone or other device can affect their brain by decreasing some chemicals in your brain that help promote sleep, such as melatonin, Some studies show that reading books with a regular warm light doesn’t disrupt sleep to the extent that using a Kindle does.

You should have a conversation with your teen and suggest that they don’t go under the sheets and have their cellphone on and be tweeting people late at night and right before they go to sleep.  Their body, specially their brain, needs all the rest and rebuilding sleep it can have to rebuild it’s strength for the next day’s activities and to ensure they make the best and wisest decisions during these years of their life.

 

Father God, give me wisdom as I try to help my child control the amount and the time when they use the technological devices available to them so their brain and their entire body will get the rest they need.

[i] http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/28/381622350/why-teens-are-impulsive-addiction-prone-and-should-protect-their-brains?lang=en&utm_campaign=10today&flab_cell_id=2&flab_experiment_id=19&uid=19455910&utm_content=article&utm_source=email&part=s1&utm_medium=10today.0129&position=7&china_variant=False

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Those young brains

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in disclosing what is on his mind. (Proverbs 18:2 NET)

 

According to Dr. Frances Jensen[i] says “The effects of substances are more permanent on the teen brain. They have more deleterious effects and can be more toxic to the teen than the adult.”  Some people have come to believe the myth that “teens are resilient, they’ll be fine. He can just go off and drink or do this or that. They’ll bounce back.” But in actually, it’s quite the contrary. The effects of substances are more permanent on the teen brain. They have more deleterious effects and can be more toxic to the teen than the adult.

In the same way, binge drinking can actually kill brain cells in the adolescent brain where it does not to the same extent in the adult brain.  What that means is that for the same amount of alcohol, you can actually have permanent brain damage in an adolescent for the same blood alcohol level that may cause bad sedation in the adult, but not actual brain damage.

Of concern to every parent is the teen’s use of marijuana and how it affects their IQ.  Jensen explains that people who are chronic marijuana users between 13 and 17, and who use it daily or frequently for a period of time, like a year plus, have shown to have decreased verbal IQ, and their functional MRIs look different when they’re imaged during a task. What that means is that there’s been a permanent change in their brains as a result of this that they may not ever be able to recover.  The common believe was that whatever IQ you have stays stable for life.  However Jensen found out that during the teen years, approximately a third of the people stayed the same, a third actually increased their IQ, and a third decreased their IQ, and that one of the things that make your IQ go down is chronic pot-smoking.

Consuming drugs and alcohol is not just damaging the body-temple of the Holy Spirit in a spiritual sense; it is physically damaging the brain irreparably.  These are not innocent, harmful habits but very dangerous to anyone, but particularly to young people.

 

Father God, bless my children and shield them from the temptation to consume drugs or alcohol.  May they instead give their entire life, mind, and spirit to you and for your service.

[i] Ibid.

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The teen brain

Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalms 139:13 NET)

 

Why is it that teens don’t seem to be able to control impulses and make quick but smart decisions like most adults can? Research into brain development shows that n a teenager the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls decision-making, judgment, and moral choices, is built but not fully insulated and therefore signals move slowly.

According to Dr. Frances Jensen,[i] a neuroscientist and author of The Teenage Brain, “Teenagers are not as readily able to access their frontal lobe to say, ‘Oh, I better not do this.'”  She adds that, “We have a natural insulation called myelin.  Cells have to build myelin, and they grow it around the outside of these tracks, and that takes years.” This insulation process starts in the back of the brain and moves toward the front.

Brains aren’t fully mature until people are in their early, or mid 20s, and for some even the late 20s and maybe even later, Jensen says. “The last place to be connected, to be fully myelinated, is the front of your brain. And what’s in the front? Your prefrontal cortex and your frontal cortex. These are areas where we have insight, empathy, these executive functions such as impulse control, risk-taking behavior.”

Her research also explains why teenagers can be especially susceptible to addictions, including drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices.  This is also reason to discourage early dating since their frontal lobe is not really mature enough to make some of the most important decisions in their life such as whether to become intimately involved and all the potential resulting complications this could bring.

The woman’s advice to her friends, in the Song of Solomon, is very wise during these tender teen years:  “Oh, let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem: Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you’re ready. (Song of Solomon 8:3-4 MSG) We need to help our children so they will learn how to control their impulses and make wise decisions during this time in their life.

 

Father God, bless my children and cover their brain with your protection that they may be careful with the decisions they make each and every day of these years and all the years of their life.

[i] http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/28/381622350/why-teens-are-impulsive-addiction-prone-and-should-protect-their-brains?lang=en&utm_campaign=10today&flab_cell_id=2&flab_experiment_id=19&uid=19455910&utm_content=article&utm_source=email&part=s1&utm_medium=10today.0129&position=7&china_variant=False

 

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Close but far apart

So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been heard. (Jeremiah 38:27 NKJV)

 

According to the Pew Research Center in 2014[i], around eight in ten 18- to 49-year-olds owned a smartphone. As with other media, increased connectivity also brings the potential for problems. For instance, some people develop an addiction-like use of devices which begins to affect their lives and their relationships.

According to Brandon McDaniel, there are certain things about the individuals who adopt a certain type of technology and also use it frequently. Younger adults and men are more likely to adopt new technologies, although the gender divide is quickly narrowing, and women are just as likely if not more likely to overuse these technologies.

Even if you are not constantly checking your devices you may be interrupted by their sounds and notifications while you’re interacting with other people. The interruptions caused by technology can sometimes be annoying, in particular when you’re with the people you care about the most. Even if the interruptions are unintentional or unconsciously done, they still send a message that the technology device is more important in that moment than one’s romantic partner. If this happens frequently, the relationship could suffer. You can make a few changes to avoid these technologically-cased challenges to your relationship:

  1. Set mutually agreed upon rules, especially during times when you are together.
  2. Ask yourself honestly how often you use your device during family time and if it is absolutely necessary. More importantly, how do you think your partner or family feels when they see you get on your device or hear its notifications during family time?
  3. Choose some technology-free times each day to just be with your loved ones. For instance, turn off all devices when you return from work and put them someplace out of sight.

 

Father God, help me to give my loved ones the love and attention they need and deserve when we’re together and not allow others, people or devices to interrupt us.

[i] http://family-studies.org/technoference-how-technology-can-hurt-relationships/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=99f6ea8eca-Newsletter_67&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-99f6ea8eca-104541745

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But I hope to see you right away, and we will speak face to face. (3 John 1:14 NET)

 

The average American spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook. It’s probably safe to assume that number is higher for teenagers, who by contrast spend only an average of 4.2 minutes a day reading.  Almost one-fourth of teens report logging in to their Facebook accounts more than 10 times a day.[i]

As spouses, we should be concerned about the way that Facebook is affecting our relationships, too.  A 2010 study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of divorce lawyers have seen an increase in Facebook as a reason in divorce cases. In 2008, one in five divorce proceedings cited “Facebook.” By 2011, that number had risen to one in three. Another study that year found that one-third of those with a social network report having contemplated leaving their spouse, as compared to less than one-fifth of those without a Facebook page. Presumably that’s partly because the network helps people keep potential partners on the backburner.

Recent studies have shown that Facebook seems to make people feel less happy in general, probably because of the way it encourages comparison. People use Facebook to promote and exaggerate the happier and more appealing aspects of their lives, which leaves others feeling like the lives of others are far better than their own.

When we stop to think about it, nobody is always happy, and nobody’s life is always perfect and flawless, even if it appears to be so online.  It is wise for us to stop comparing our life to that of others and measure our happiness and satisfaction based on what others post on their Facebook status.  It would be better to log off and remember all the good things you have going in your marriage and in your family.  You may not be doing all the “fun” things others are doing, purchasing all the items are buying, or eating all the food others are consuming, but neither are you feeling their pain, experiencing their loss, or sharing in their problems.

 

Father God, help us to be more appreciative of what we have in our marriage and our family so we may be more content with what we have and wish less for what others seem to have.

[i] http://family-studies.org/families-on-facebook/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=99f6ea8eca-Newsletter_67&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-99f6ea8eca-104541745

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