strengthening family bonds

How to Avoid Living by Default and Design Your Ideal Life Part Four

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


Last week we looked at the areas of body and health, hobbies and interests and relaxation in our life audit. This week we explore the areas of family and friends and romance.


7) Family and Friends


Relationships are critical to our psychological and even physiological health. At the time of conducting my first life audit I hardly ever saw my friends and family. It was clear this area of my life needed a great deal of work. I scored a four out of ten.


Since becoming aware of how seldom I saw friends and family, I prioritized seeing them on a regular basis and the relationships in my life are now much stronger as a result.


Why displaying affection towards family is important

Not all family’s are as affectionate as mine. We hug, say I love you often and are very open with our affections towards one another. It’s true though that not all family’s are alike when it comes to displaying affection, some are rather more reserved but this doesn’t necessarily mean that all types of affection are therefore inappropriate.


Below I have listed all of the different ways we can be affectionate towards our family as we approach the holiday season, the list begins with the most reserved means of affection and ends with the most openly affectionate gestures.


Why it’s important not to confuse down time with quality time when it comes to family

As I’ve grown older family has become much more important to me. One of the things I’ve noticed is how often most of us, myself included, confuse down time with quality time. I often find myself having a coffee engrossed into my favorite book with family around – but is this really quality time?


Like many things in life there are many shades of grey. To me what constitutes quality time is when we really connect with one another, strengthening the bond we share. So no books or newspapers, unless you are having an interesting discussion about the content. Similarly, if you are simply in each others company but not really doing much or even talking I would argue that this is down time and not really quality time. It’s so important to spend quality time together as opposed to just down time as during quality time we share our interests and passions – strengthening our bond and showing our love for one another on a deeper level.


How to compromise with family over the holidays

Over the holidays family members can get stressed with all of the expectations of a perfect Christmas. When strong characters clash, tension can arise and conflict can occur. If you would like to eliminate some of the holiday stress please read my article titled ‘Tis the season to be stressed; how to leave stress behind you for good’.


One of the key ways we can reach compromises with family members is to respect the rights of others whilst protecting our own rights by using assertiveness.


In her book ‘A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness And You’ Anne Dickson lists the following as our intrinsic rights:


Why understanding family roles can improve your family dynamics

In 2008 I got married. Nothing could prepare me for how much that little piece of paper would change everything. Suddenly I was consumed by the fact I was now a wife. My identity changed. Everything was colored by what a good wife would do. Immediately I thought about my mother and how amazing a wife she was to my dad and how I should cook my husband meals every night like she did. The only thing was that just wasn’t me – I was a square trying to fit into a round hole – it wasn’t going to work.


Similarly when we become parents we reflect upon what our parents were like, what they did well and how we would do things differently, if at all. Our role and identity in life changes as we enter a new phase. Being a mother, father, big brother or the youngest child completely changes how we interact with the world and our family. Although I firmly believe our self-esteem should not be wrapped up in the roles we inhabit they nevertheless impact our behavior and worldview. So it’s important to acknowledge the roles we inhabit whilst not allowing them to define us, thereby celebrating our individuality.


Realizing the roles we and our family members inhabit does however help us better appreciate where they are coming from. In order to fully understand our family we, somewhat paradoxically, have to both view them as individuals and see them in the context of their role within the family.


Shifting perspectives – how to empathize with family

As a twenty something I always thought my parents were on my case. I’m an only child and I used to view their attentiveness as being overly fussy and too much. Looking back, I hadn’t developed the maturity to effectively empathize and see things from their perspective and I can now appreciate just why they were worried for me (in my twenties I was a binge drinker).


After several years of therapy and having quit drinking I better understand my parents and the concern they had for me all those years ago. What helped me to empathize with my parents most was trying to understand their perspective better. I took into consideration their life experiences, their generations perspective and how it would feel if I were a parent myself. I started seeing my parents as not just mom or dad but people in their own right, doing the very best they could. And I was lucky, my parents cared for me deeply and their concern was born from their love for me.


Family Matters – How to use your body language around family to improve relations

Throughout the years I’ve learnt to love that my family knows me so well. They know my mannerisms, they understand my quirky sense of humour, my ‘concentration face’ when I’m trying to focus or I’m absorbed into something. Unfortunately, they also know when I’m feigning interest, am distracted or irritated. In order to live an authentic life and foster deeper intimacy with family it’s important to be open, honest and assertive, expressing your feelings, thoughts, opinions and beliefs in a diplomatic and respectful way.


I’m certainly not suggesting we should cover up our true feelings or put on a mask by using body language strategically, rather what I am suggesting is that by consciously being aware of our body language we can emphasise our interest or even stop aggressive body language which often fuels disagreements.


Below I have outlined some common body language which can serve to keep the peace or show your interest: