Monthly Archives: November 2015

The 10 Key Behaviors That Will Ensure Strong Family Bonds Over the Holidays Part One

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


Like most families, my family has had its ups and downs. During my teenage years my household had its turbulent moments. There were times when we spoke in anger and communicated poorly. There were times when we felt unheard and misunderstood.


As I’ve matured and reflected on the part that I had to play, I realize that my approach to my family has changed over the years. I’ve learnt assertiveness and developed the capacity to both say sorry and forgive quickly. I have tried to empathize and understand my parents as best I can. I’ve made a point of spending quality time with them and have expressed my love more.


But even the strongest of families can have difficulty over the holidays, when stress is high and tensions fraught. Visits from extended family and the desire to host ‘the perfect Christmas’ all serve to add pressure to an already stressful time of year.


I realize now that there were ten key behaviors I fostered to deepen my family bonds. Use these behaviors to ensure your family bonds remain strong over this holiday season, allowing you to navigate the holidays with grace and ease.


How to Forgive Your Friends

If you’ve ever had one of your friends hurt you, you will know it can be heart wrenching. One of the best ways to open the door to forgiveness is to try to understand the person better, taking into account everything your friend was going through at the time and how he or she must have felt. Remember that your friends are only human and they have flaws just like everyone else.


The issue of forgiveness is a very complex one but ultimately when we forgive someone release the pain and resentment we are harbouring – this is very liberating and makes what is often a hard process worthwhile.


When do you need to say sorry? (and why it’s important to know)

As I’ve grown older I’ve realized that there are many ways someone can say sorry. Growing up I often thought of an apology as an outright admission of guilt and wrongdoing but I’ve learnt that there are many shades of grey. Of course you can say an outright apology and accept complete blame but it’s also possible to honestly assess the role you had to play in the conflict and apologize for your part.


Did you speak insensitively or in anger? Were you sarcastic or passive aggressive? Did you intentionally hurt them when you were upset? Did you ignore them?


According to Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas there are five different types of apology we can offer and often when we don’t offer all five the recipient of the apology may not value or recognize the sincerity behind the ‘I’m sorry’. The five different types of apology are:


How to Be Healthily Vulnerable in Friendships (and why it matters)

In recent years I’ve come to learn that being vulnerable takes a considerable amount of strength and courage. In my twenties I would often hide behind my smile during times of depression and laugh and joke as if nothing were wrong. Not only did this add to my feeling of isolation but it inadvertently harmed my friendships because  I didn’t give my friends the opportunity to connect with who I truly was or what I was going through. On reflection, this left little room for an authentic, deep bond between us.


Since my breakdown in 2009 I realised that this coping mechanism wasn’t working for me at all and I started to become more open with my friends with how I was feeling. It was very scary at first to be so vulnerable but almost immediately I felt lighter and deeply loved and comforted by my friends. It was a truly liberating experience to finally take off my mask. As a result of this simple but significant shift my friendships grew and the bonds I had with my friends became deeper because I had been brave enough to expose my core self.


Why Building Strong Friendships is Important for Our Health Part Four

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock


Last week we explored the importance of empathy, support, thoughtfulness and expressing your feelings in developing strong friendships. This week we explore some tough but nevertheless important key behaviors in friendships; apologizing, forgiving and being inclusive.


8. Be quick to apologize


When you have caused one of your friends hurt, be quick to accept responsibility and sincerely apologize. This will limit resentment and minimize damage to the friendship.


Three Thoughtful Behaviors which Your Friends will Thank You For

One of the most kind things we can do for our friends is to be thoughtful towards them. For example, when one of my friends was really sad and having a hard time adjusting to living in America after moving from the UK I decided to put together a happiness gift pack, with ‘The Happiness Project’, ‘Happier at Home’, some pampering toiletries and a ‘5 Year Gratitude Journal’. Below are three ways that we can show thoughtfulness towards our friends.


Buy Meaningful Gifts


When ever I have been low or have had something in my life which was important to me I have been lucky enough to have friends who have shared in my joys and supported me through my pain. When I had my breakdown in 2009 two of my best friends visited me in the facility I was staying in and bought me treats – this was incredibly supportive and showed me that no matter what I was going through my friends were there for me. Likewise when I had one of my articles published in Cosmopolitan magazine South Africa another one of my best friends sent me flowers to congratulate me. It is these thoughtful acts which deeply impact and nourish friendships.


Three Ways to Be Supportive Towards Your Friends

Being supportive towards our friends is important as it builds trust, strengthens our bond and helps us during times of stress when our demands in life are high and our resources are low. There are many ways we can offer support towards our friends, below are just three ways we can help our friends during life’s trials.


Words of encouragement and hope


It is one of the most basic human needs to have hope for the future. In times of despair one of the best ways we can be thoughtful towards others is to lift them up by offering encouragement and hope. Words can be very powerful and the act of encouraging your friends can give them hope for a better future, empowering them to make positive changes which will improve their lives.


Three Ways to Increase Empathy and Enhance Your Friendships

One of the most fundamental building blocks for any great friendship is empathy – the ability to see things from others perspectives and understand their emotions, conflicts and struggles. Below are just five ways that you can enhance your empathy, thereby improving your friendships.


Help others whenever you can


We are all given unique strengths and abilities which we can use to help others. I have often been complimented on my resume, and I have offered to help many of my friends with theirs. I help homeless people by giving them food, treating them with dignity and listening to them. One of my strengths is organizing and so I’m planning one of my best friends baby showers.


There are so many ways we can help others and in doing so, not only do we reap the rewards of increased self-esteem, happiness and fulfillment but we also learn to place ourselves in others positions, cultivating a greater level of compassion, kindness and empathy.


Why Building Strong Friendships is Important for Our Health Part Three

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock


Last week we looked at the importance of regular contact with our friends, asking questions and listening intently. This week we explore what role empathy, support, thoughtfulness and expressing your feelings play in developing strong friendships.


4. Empathise


It’s important that our friends feel understood. Actively listening improves our understanding of our friends reasoning but we also need to imagine how we would feel if we were in their situation, we need to see things from their perspective.



The memory game: How to remember what’s important to your friends

If you follow Accessible Psychology you know that I used to be bullied for many years when I was younger. Though I have completely recovered from that time in my life the traumatic experience has negatively impacted my memory, as most trauma almost always does. One of the best ways I have found to overcome my bad memory is to keep a diary listing everything I want to remember, including appointments, to do lists and texting or calling friends. If you struggle to remember the finer details of your friends’ lives, take heart, you’re not alone and it certainly needn’t mean you don’t care! Thankfully I created what I now call ‘The Memory Game’ to remember what is important to my friends and it’s proven invaluable.


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