Friday, February 17, 2017

Spending time with the one you love

My husband and I try to have lunch together at least once a week. He and I are fortunate enough to work only a few blocks apart, and that Tuesday lunch is a treat. It is wonderful to see him in the middle of a busy working day.

But we can't always make that lunch date. There have been many times when one of us has to cancel and it is really hard to reschedule it (Sorry, Honey!).

The important point is that we try to carve out additional couple time, which researchers say is increasingly difficult to do. Researchers tracked couples' time spent together (exclusively) and with their children across the U.S., Spain and France and the results are mixed. Parents in France and Spain are spending more time with their partners, and parents in Spain and the U.S. are spending more family time together.

While the study didn't make direct correlations, it did indicate that factors like working outside of the home and the cultural norms of the country influenced the time differences. Families in France and Spain, for example, spend about 80 minutes on a meal together. (I don't think I spend that much time on a meal if you include all the time it takes to cook, eat and clean up afterward.)

While this is all great to know, it doesn't provide me with any tips of how to spend more time with my wonderful husband. So, I guess he and I will have to put our heads together over a Tuesday lunch sometime soon and work that out together.

How do you carve out time for your spouse? Tell me in the comments. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Starting the substance abuse conversation

A few nights ago at dinner (heavy topics always seem to come up at dinner), my son asked me why people would want to smoke. We talked about smoking being bad for people's health and all the negative effects it has. He was able to list a lot of them as we talked, but then he pressed a little further. "But if people know it is bad for them, then why do they start?"

I tried to find the language to explain that people will oftentimes try anything to alleviate their stress, but I'm not sure I got out the right words. Also: We were in a restaurant and it was time to eat. The subject was dropped, but I am sure it will come back one day soon, so I am doing research now to be better prepared for next time.

In my research, I stumbled across this article describing how Iceland invested in health and wellness programs for their youth to drastically cut the amount of substance abuse. And it's working. Although the authors and researchers concede that it would be harder to implement in the U.S., there are some key takeaways that all parents can incorporate into their own households:

  • Increasing the amount of family time.
  • Implementing a curfew to keep kids off the streets.
  • Helping children explore activities (sports, music, robotics) in group settings that are supervised by adults.
These seem so simple and yet so complicated, as the schedules of working parents, logistics and money are all huge factors.

But, I think about my son's questions now and how I need to be better prepared to discuss topics like substance abuse. He's definitely worth it.

How do you handle preventative discussions on substance abuse with your children? Tell me your tips in the comments.

Monday, February 13, 2017

To sleep and forget about it

My little bear hears his alarm, turns it off and shuffles out of his bedroom to my desk where I write this blog. He scrambles into my lap, we snuggle and I ask him some basic questions to determine his morning mood.

(Bad mood days are generally turned around by showing my son pictures of cute baby animals or amazing videos of how scientists believed that the Moai of Easter Island were walked into place.)

The first thing my son usually wants to talk about is if he remembers any dreams and how well he slept. We have talked so many times about the importance of sleep and that no one is 100 percent sure of all the functions of sleep. He knows that we think we sleep so our bodies can rest and cells can recuperate and so we can retain what we've learned.

But now I get to tell him that there is research that suggests that we also sleep to forget. (Warning: There is a lot of talk about mice brains on that link.) If this is true - our memories get pruned at night - then it makes sense as to why most people don't have instant recall for everything that happens to them. It is also a little weird: How do our brains know what we need to remember long term and what we need to forget?

I'll add this bit of information to our ongoing discussions of why we sleep (a conversation we often have at bedtime). Maybe if I repeat it all enough times, his brain will choose to remember it.

Does everyone in your household get enough sleep? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Moving your way to happiness

I recently went through my work calendar and made a whole lot of appointments with myself to move more. I figure that if it is on my work calendar I will be more likely to do it, and it will also prevent someone else from getting on my schedule if I show as booked. I then went the extra step (no pun intended) of recruiting someone at work to do this with me. (I have found that accountability helps me stay on task.)

For a long time, I've known that I need to move more in my day. I've struggled with a lot of excuses, but I also know that I am generally focused on the benefits to my weight and energy level. I often skip over the potential boost to my mood.

Because, for most people, getting up and moving around puts us in a better mood.

There's a lot of science I could write about here to back that statement up and there is anecdotal evidence I could provide as well around a time that exercise led to happiness. But, I think we all know that this is a benefit that we don't talk about enough.

It's time to get up and shake off our bad mood. For me, that will be one calendar appointment at a time.

What do you do to remember to move more during your day? Share your tips with me in the comments.