A Big Enough Reason

Recovery ButtonMaking a change is hard. Habit, routine, addiction, convenience, or a thousand other reasons keep us doing the same thing over and over again, even if it’s terribly unhealthy. Or dangerous. Or even deadly.

It takes a big enough reason to endure the anxiety, setbacks, difficulty, or even pain that may be involved in making a lifestyle change. Sometimes that reason is positive, where the outcome you desire is enticing enough to work hard for. Sometimes that reason is negative, where the pain of remaining where you are is big enough to force a change.

We usually respond better to positive reasons for change. But when severe enough, sometimes a negative reason will do.

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Doctor, Doctor: The Hope Factor

Happy GirlWe all hope for something.

At least I HOPE you hope for something. The loss of hope is dangerous – of course mentally, but also physically. Hope is an especially powerful force for good in our health.

Science has been able to demonstrate the very real biologic effects of hope. Believing and expecting that something good can happen, for example, can block physical pain. With even a little bit of hope the brain releases endorphins and enkephalins – substances that act like morphine in eliminating pain and providing a sense of well-being. The pain lessens a little, which increases hope that the pain may lessen even more. It creates a positive cycle leading to healing.

Hope can also change the function of the autonomic nervous system, which controls many physical functions that we don’t usually think about, such as heart rate, gastrointestinal function, and our level of tension or relaxation. It can alter the chemical function of portions of the brain.

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Step-Parenting for Adults

MemoriesParenting is forever. Sure, the details change through the years. And for the most part the load often gets lighter. But children are always on your heart. You will ALWAYS be a mom or a dad.

And the same goes for step-parenting. Some of those realities have become especially clear to me recently. I married late in life – I was 48. My husband had two adult sons with families of their own. I became a step-mother under perhaps the easiest of possible circumstances. And yet there was still a very real process of adjustment in becoming a family.

I had it easy. My husband was very clear about where I stood in his heart, and I never felt I had to compete with his boys for his affection. His sons and their wives welcomed me gladly into the family, and we never felt any resistance from them about our marriage. There have been no fights with an ex-spouse, no shuffling kids back and forth between two parents, or any of the other painful dramas many step-families must address.

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Wisdom to Know the Difference

Praying HandsSeptember is Recovery Month. That means something to millions of people who have been or are part of a 12-Step program of recovery from some type of addiction/dysfunction, or many related programs. If you’re one of them, it’s almost certain you know – and probably can recite – the Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Don’t we get into trouble when we neglect any of those three points? When we fight against those things we cannot change we only wear ourselves out. We become miserable to be around. We become frustrated, anxious, and often angry and bitter. Getting into a negative emotional rut is almost certain. And if you’re fighting an addiction, all that misery certainly sets one up for a relapse.

When we shrink from doing what is within our power to change we are no less miserable. Waiting for anyone, even God, to do for us what we CAN do for ourselves leaves us feeling hopeless and powerless, while becoming weaker all the time. You wonder why things seem to work out for everyone else but not for you. And again, if you’re fighting an addiction it’s a setup for a relapse.

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Five Daily Choices in your Relationship

Happy CoupleLet’s be honest – sometimes we just don’t feel like it. We don’t feel like being kind, or loving, or healthy, or spiritual, or much of anything else. Sometimes it feels easier to just snap! Or pout. Or go away somewhere.

Yes, there are times we all feel like binging on self-pity, or anger, or negativity. It may feel just as appealing as binging on potato chips or ice cream. And just as damaging!

There are a few basic things we each need to pay attention to in preserving our mental health and keeping our relationships strong. Most of us need enough sleep, reasonably good nutrition, and a measure of physical health. We need to be in relationship with other people who care about us and are supportive when we need them. We need mental stimulation, spiritual nurturing, and a growing relationship with God. The more of those factors are missing in our lives the more emotionally vulnerable we will be, and our relationships will most certainly suffer.

But even though we may feel like acting badly, we have a choice. And that is never truer than in our closest relationships.

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