Category Archives: health

Harvard Study: What Makes Men Happy for Life

morguefile walking coupleI do not refer in this article to what women can do to make men happy. Nope, men are responsible for their own happiness, as are women. That being said, a 75-year-long Harvard study provides some great insights into what it takes for men to live a happy life. And not surprisingly, relationships have a great deal to do with this earned happiness.

The study began in 1938 and followed 268 male undergraduates into their old age. Many factors, of course, influence their happiness. Following are some of the more surprising, helpful or interesting findings:

1. Alcohol use is by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness among the study’s subjects. Alcoholism was also the single strongest cause of divorce between study participants and their wives. Together with cigarette smoking, it was the #1 greatest cause of morbidity and death.
2. While some of the participants successfully recovered from a lousy childhood, memories of a happy childhood were a lifelong source of strength. (This should help parents understand the importance of those early days with our children.)
3. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.
4. Habits developed before age 50 were more important to physically aging well than heredity.
5. Having “warm relationships” was critically important to health and happiness in later years. Even more surprising, those who scored the highest on the warm relationships scale earned $141,000 a year more during peak salaries than the men in the lowest scale.
6. Men who had warm childhood relationships with their mothers earned much more than men whose mothers were uncaring. Those who had poor relationships with their moms were much more likely to develop dementia in elder years.
7. Men who had warm relationships with their fathers had lower levels of adult anxiety, enjoyed vacations more, and had increased satisfaction with life after age 75.
8. Men who did well in old age did not necessarily do well in midlife, and visa versa. (There is always time to make a change in your life.)

Study director George Vallant summarized that the $20 million study boiled down to one conclusion: Happiness is love. Vallant details the findings in a book titled Triumphs of Experience. While money and social class did not impact lifelong happiness, the ability to “take love in and metabolize it” certainly did.

You knew that already, right? With so many goals to consider for 2014, a renewed focus on love may be the most important to your happiness.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Is Anxiety Affecting Your Life and Marriage? 10 Tips to Ease Stress

Since 1980, diagnoses of anxiety disorders have increased 1,200%, reported Nancy Snyderman, MD, on this morning’s Today Show. (See American Anxiety.) The state of the economy, marriages in trouble, overly busy schedules, and a culture that is too constantly “plugged in” were all cited as common reasons Americans have sought help for problems with anxiety.

Another key reason people experience anxiety problems is due to the gap between their high expectations and their ability to fulfill them. Please, take note of this and evaluate your expectations for your life, spouse and family.

Experiencing panic attacks and inability to sleep, racing blood pressure and heart rate, and feeling so worried you can’t move forward on tasks are some of the ways anxiety might get in the way of living life to the fullest–or even being able to leave the house. Thankfully, many patients who have sought treatment from their physicians have been able to relieve some of their symptoms and function better. Only about a third of people who need help seek it out, say experts.

Stress, as compared with anxiety, is often a motivator for accomplishing our goals. Experiencing stress is not necessarily a problem, and usually does not require medical treatment. It may be a sign that changes are needed, though. Take marriage as an example. If you’re feeling stress that you haven’t connected with your spouse lately, this might help motivate you to take a positive action and schedule time together.  On the job, a looming deadline might make you feel stress, but also motivate you to complete the project.

Be aware of your own state of mind, as well as your spouse’s. If one of you is experiencing too much stress, work together to discuss and find solutions.  (I’ll include some practical ideas here.) However, if you or your spouse is experiencing what may be an anxiety disorder, a doctor’s help may be needed.

Our world can often seem too hectic, as if we may never get the chance to take a deep breath. Even on vacations, we may be worried about the work piling up for us back at the office. Following are some ways you may be able to reduce stress in your life:

1)      Dr. Snyderman suggests unplugging at least one hour before bed from all electronic devices including TV. I’ve written a lot about making time to unplug to benefit your marriage and to have time to focus on each other. Another benefit is improved sleep. Keep the TV out of the bedroom. Put the smart phones, ipads, laptops, etc. in their chargers. Facebook can wait until tomorrow, and you can finish your emails later. It’s important to your health and to your relationships to have this hour block before sleep to read, think, talk and to begin your nighttime routine.

2)      Plan your meals. We all have to eat, and waiting until you’re hungry for your next meal is a bad time to be planning what it’s going to be. You’re more likely to grab something unhealthy on the go, or to eat the first thing you find. It takes much less time to plan a few days of meals than it does to run to the store or restaurant each day. In our house, we often make a double or triple batch of something (like tacos, soup, lasagnas, chili, quiche, etc.) and freeze for future meals when we might be rushed. If you have an hour on a weekend, you can make up a few meals for use during the week. Honestly, it doesn’t take much effort, and you’ll be glad you have a homemade meal ready to heat. And it’s less expensive when you buy in bulk and freeze for later. If you have kids at home, teach them to cook and get them involved in helping in the kitchen. Benefits to better meal planning can include improved health (if you choose wisely), saving money, and making your spouse and family feel cared for.

3)      Exercise. I’ve not always been a big fan of exercise, although I force myself to do it even when I don’t feel like it. Truthfully, we all feel better when we’ve gotten some exercise and we’re taking care of ourselves. In the last couple of years I’ve started to really enjoy tennis, and I’ve taken up running short distances. Family walks and bike rides round out my not-too-strenuous routine. The research I’ve read on living longer shows it’s important to keep moving rather than worry about completing marathons. Find an activity you enjoy, such as gardening, swimming or horseback riding, and you’ll be more likely to make time for it. Exercising together can be good for your relationship and can improve your sex life when you feel better about your body.

4)      Nurture social relationships. I’m all about nurturing and investing in your marriage and family. It’s also important to cultivate friendships and in-person social activities, such as volunteering, church groups, neighborhood groups, etc. The research is very clear that social networks help us live longer (see The Longevity Project). And doesn’t time with friends reduce your stress? Just try to avoid comparing how busy and stressful your lives are! Instead, take a walk or take in a cultural activity together.

5)      Many people like me find prayer and/or meditation helps them reduce unnecessary worrying, and stay more calm and positive throughout the day.

6)      Make time to hug and kiss your spouse throughout the day. This non-sexual touch is a known stress-reducer. Also, make time for sex, which is also beneficial and releases bonding and stress-reducing hormones.

7)      Try to reduce travel time by commuting during off-peak hours or working some or all of the time at home if your job will allow it. Combine your errands to save time (and gas). Bring reading or busy work with you for those times when you’re forced to wait, like at the doctor’s office.

8)      Reduce the busyness of your life by cutting out extraneous activities (the fourth birthday party this month) and making time for what you want to be doing. If you don’t have one or two free nights a week, seriously consider paring back.

9)      Make your home a pleasant place to be. Save a little energy and kindness for those closest to you. Take a minute before you enter the house to clear your mind and have a positive word for those at home. Try to reduce clutter and stay on top of regular tasks, like laundry. Encourage everyone in the family to pitch in by assigning small tasks. For example, my kids sweep the kitchen floor, take care of the cat, and make their beds (usually). I do the laundry, but everyone puts their own clean clothes away. My husband and I share the shopping and cooking duties. We have a white board for tasks, so that I don’t have to constantly nag.

10. Before you do any of these, you have to decide you want a less stressful life, and then commit to making some small, doable changes. You might even consider bigger changes, like earning less money in exchange for a less stressful lifestyle.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Happy Marriages for those with Chronic Illness

If you or a friend are married and struggling with a chronic illness, today’s post is for you. The Christian Marriage Bloggers Association recently featured a new blogger, Helena, with the Chronic Marriage Blog. Helena is a counselor and also lives with Muscular Dystrophy. She shared this post, Beyond the Fairy Tale with advice for all those married couples in which one of the spouses has a chronic illness. She shares the statistic that sadly the divorce rate exceeds 75 percent for those with a chronic illness.

Having a close friend with MS, and having interviewed couples with depression and other long-term illnesses, I can see the challenges it can bring to the marriage. Helena’s advice is right on target. I have also been blessed to see how some couples handle these difficulties with grace and love and are positive examples of marriage. For instance, in my book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, I wrote about a young wife whose husband experienced a brain injury after a bike accident. He was left with physical impairments and an inability to communicate in the same manner. Yet, his mind was still astute, and his love for her never waned.  While her challenges have been intense (read Challenges for Spousal Caregivers), she says it has made their marriage more extraordinary.

Even those without a chronic illness will likely go through at least a period of illness at some point during their marriage. This may include recovering from pregnancy or the common flu. Or they may include cancer treatments, joint replacements or other times in our lives when we must rely on others for care. It is during these rough days, months or years when our character as a spouse is known, and the depth of our love and commitment is shown.

Check out the CMBA blog and the Chronic Marriage blog for some great tips.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Note: I just saw that Amazon has First Kiss to Lasting Bliss currently discounted at $13.95 for a hard copy and $8.19 for the Kindle edition!

Simple Solutions for Busy Families—Get Back Hours a Day Starting Today!

Even with the school year winding to a close, most of the families I know are struggling with lack of time to do all they would like to do, or even all they feel they must do. It’s such a pervasive issue that affects marriages and families of all ages that it’s worth spending some time to see if there are solutions.

I was prompted to write this from a couple of things I’ve read recently, the most recent of which was a blog post by Kathleen Quiring on “The Importance of Not Being Busy.”  She makes many good cases for striving to be less busy, including the fact that busy people are less likely to give their time to help those in need. (FYI, this isn’t just her opinion; it’s been shown in research.)  Also, busy people are more likely to get into accidents, to sleep and eat poorly, to yell more, and to waste more resources in the name of convenience.

Yes, these are all important reasons. I think even more important is the fact that your family needs you to be present and available, and to do that you need to have time to give. Most of us don’t even have wiggle room in the schedule. When we are rushing from one event to the next, it’s hard to be present and loving—let alone patient and kind. A marriage needs time to be nurtured. We need time to go on dates, or even to watch a movie at home together. We need time to talk and to make love. For those of us with kids, we need time to have real conversations, not just discussions of homework and the schedule of supervised activities or sports. I read a stat today that I seriously hope is wrong that says the average number of minutes per WEEK that parents spend in meaningful conversations with their children is 3.5. I wonder how many minutes per week we spend in meaningful talks with our spouses.

Is there a way out of this busyness trap? Of course. But when I said the solutions were simple, I didn’t say they were easy. They are doable! What would you do with an extra 20 to 30 hours a week? Would it fall through the cracks or would you spend it with your husband, wife, friends, sleeping, or enjoying your hobbies? Could you use the time to better organize your home or family so life doesn’t seem so chaotic? First decide what you would do with that time so you have the motivation you need to make changes.

Today I’ll focus on the absolute biggest time waster for the average American family, then I’ll add some additional tips later in the week.

Your TV May Be Stealing Your Family Life

Nielsen surveys say that say the average American watches four hours of TV per day. That adds up to two months non-stop in a year, or nine years of your life up to age 65. Nine years! The TV is on for six hours and 47 minutes a day in most American homes. And about half of Americans say they think they watch too much TV. Two-thirds watch it while eating dinner.

The average adult male watches 29 hours of TV per week; the average adult female watches even more–34 hours per week. And remember the kids having less than four minutes a week having real talks with their parents? They watch an average of 1,680 minutes of TV a week. When I shared this with my son, he said, if that’s the average, then lots of people watch even more than that! My daughter chimed in, “I’m glad we’re not average.”

I’m not saying TV is terrible in itself. But it’s what we are giving up to have so much of it. What is the opportunity cost for you? What could you accomplish with an extra hour or four extra hours a day? You get to choose what you think is most important in your life. In my experience, TV shows can feel pretty addictive. We get into patterns and they are hard to break. We think of the characters as friends, even as we neglect our own friends. Even the marketing campaigns convince you it’s “must-see” TV. But if you stop watching the new shows, they can’t pull you in.

During the last few years, my husband and I have drastically cut down on TV time. Even when he is traveling on business, he only watches TV if he’s in the exercise room working out. I enjoy a few minutes with Matt Lauer in the mornings, and TV helps me pass the time on the treadmill, but most evenings the TV is not turned on.  I’ve used my extra evening time to write a book (see the end of this post), read many great books, take tennis lessons, and enjoy more time with my family. And I often write this blog in the time that used to be eaten up by TV. I do sometimes miss a show I wish I’d seen. But by the miracle of the Internet, if I really want to see it later, I can watch it commercial- free online. I’m not a fan of TIVO, because I think it encourages more TV watching. My kids watch less than an hour a week and don’t seem harmed by it in the least.

If you and your spouse enjoy the same show, at least you can enjoy it side by side and maybe trade back or foot massages. I cringe when I see that often one spouse watches one TV while the other watches something else in a different room. Every night.

OK, my last point is regarding TV in the bedroom. I’ve said it before, but research shows couples with a TV in the bedroom cut their sex life in half. An Italian study showed having no TV in the bedroom doubles the couple’s sexual frequency.

I can hear people saying, “but TV relaxes me” or “I need to veg out after a long day of work.” But it’s just a habit that’s been formed. You could just as well relax by taking a walk or having a glass of wine with your honey on the porch. What new habits could you form that would be fun for you and would benefit your family?

If you’re not a big TV watcher, first ask yourself if that’s really true or if you just aren’t adding it all up. But if TV isn’t an issue or you aren’t willing to cut back, stay tuned for other solutions this week.

Please share if you have found cutting back on TV helpful for you or your family—as well as other solutions for your busy life.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net

Study: Personality Changes Boost Happiness More than External Factors

Happy Life; Happy Marriage

How many millions of people bought lottery tickets last week, hoping for a chance at the $500 million pot, and dreaming of what kind of happiness that could buy? (My hubby even bought them, and he rarely plays.)  After failing to win the big one (better luck next time), many turned to hopes of a raise or a new job as ways to boost their happiness. However, new research based on a study of more than 8,600 Australians concluded that personality changes were much more meaningful to life satisfaction that other factors, such as financial gain. In fact, personality changes explained nearly double the changes in life satisfaction of all the other characteristics studied.

You may ask whether your personality is fixed—or, at least very difficult to change? It turns out that is isn’t. Our personality shifts much more than we realize. “Compared to shifts in these external circumstances, a personality change is just as likely to occur and contributes much more to improvements in our well-being,” says The Atlantic of the study, which was completed at the University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science.

Participants answered questions on life satisfaction and personality at two different points in time, four years apart. Personality characteristics related to openness to experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism were measured. External factors were also measured: shifts in income, employment, and marital status.

So, if you are looking to boost your happiness, consider making small positive internal changes, and realize that you can alter your personality, hopefully reducing negative aspects and improving positive aspects. These efforts can be rewarded with far greater boosts in happiness than that work bonus you may have been holding out for or other lifestyle factors.  Check out the full study here.

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Photo by graur razvan ionut courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.

Is Low Body Image Harming Your Marriage?

Most of you do not like your bodies, according to a new poll that surveyed men and women. Is your dislike getting in the way of intimacy with your spouse?

Fitness Magazine and Yahoo! surveyed 1,500 American men and women aged 18 to 64 and found 57 percent of women think they look fat naked, and 81 percent of adults have a body part they hate.

It may not be surprising given that approximately 68 percent of adults are overweight (with men being more likely to be overweight than women). However, women’s body confidence issues were more likely to be with certain body parts rather than their overall weight.

Thighs were the “most hated body party” among women and men (14 percent), followed by arms rears, with 11 percent each.

Men appear to have a higher body confidence, with 48 percent of the men reporting that they think they look good when they glance in the mirror. The full results are in Fitness Magazine’s February issue.

I’ve written about body image before (see Improve Sexual Sparks with Better Body Image) but this new research is a reminder that our self-image related to our bodies is not getting any better. In fact, advertising is well known for using editing software to make models look thinner and to change features to fit with a “cultural ideal.” What we look at we begin to see as normal and acceptable. For this reason, be careful about the media you consume and the images that get entrenched in your mind. The cultural ideal changes with the fashion and the time. We can’t all be expected to fit a random ideal, nor would we want to have everyone looking the same. (I just saw on CNN that one of the current top models for female fashion is actually a tall, thin male with no curves. If you don’t believe me, here are his runway looks.)

Boost Body Image

Men and women need to compliment their spouse’s physical attractiveness on a regular basis. Be honest, but find features that you love and be vocal about your appreciation. It’s important for both men and women to hear compliments. However, for women it may be more important to have a positive body image if they are to relax and enjoy sexual intimacy with their husbands. It may even be a reason why the wife doesn’t initiate more if she is embarrassed to be naked, or if she spends her mental energy worried about how she looks.

Remember that confidence is one of the most attractive features we have. Men are visual and appreciate the female body.  I have heard from a few readers about husbands who denigrate or put down their wives for their bodies, which is so harmful to self-esteem and only creates a downward cycle. Never put down your spouse, even if you are trying to encourage a positive change.

If weight loss is a goal, try to work as a family and adopt healthier eating and lifestyle habits. Go for a walk instead of watching TV, or make small lifestyle changes that you can continue. Be encouraging and complimentary of progress your partner makes. I find that even if my body stays the same, I feel more confident and energetic when I’m on a regular exercise program. My husband also feels better about himself when he’s eating right and exercising. (He needs fewer reminders than I do.)

On the whole, though, I hear from men who say they love their wife’s body as it is, even if it has changed over time or after childbirth. They wish they could convince their wife of this. Women should appreciate more the power of their body’s capabilities and accentuate their strengths. Find clothing and lingerie you feel good in. Wives should be willing to hear their husbands out and let their message of love sink into their hearts and under their skin.

Your homework:

  1. Compliment your spouse’s body at some point today. “You look great in those jeans,” or “I love the way you take care of your body,” or “I love to see you naked” are a few examples.
  2. Compliment yourself. Don’t let negative self-talk bring you down. Focus on your positive features, and celebrate your strength.

With spring break around the corner, many of you are thinking about whether to plan a vacation or where to go. This post from Simple Marriage offers great insights into Why Vacations Make the Best Dates!

To read about 12 inspiring couples who used adversity to improve their marriage, check out First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. Details at www.LoriDLowe.com. Or, go to Amazon.com or your favorite e-reader site.

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

How to Naturally Increase Oxytocin, and Why This May Help Your Marriage

Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that helps you and your spouse feel bonded together. It has lots of other nice perks, too, like decreasing feelings of pain, reducing anxiety, lowering stress levels, promoting growth and healing, increasing feelings of trust, and stimulating positive interactions.

I read about an interesting study that showed by increasing oxytocin levels with nasal inhalers, participants became 80 percent more generous than the ones who inhaled a placebo. (Read about the study here.) Generosity has been shown in recent studies to be the secret to a strong marriage. It can also lead to increased intimacy, sex and bonding, which leads to higher levels of oxytocin. So, it’s a big, happy cycle.

This oxytocin stuff sound really great, doesn’t it? How can we get more of it? While there has been some talk of medical use of the hormone (in creams, inhalers and pills), there is much debate about its efficacy and its ethical use. Thankfully, lots and lots of natural actions can effectively increase oxytocin in your body. An increase could mean better feeling of wellness along with stronger feelings of bonding with your spouse.

Top Ways to Boost Oxytocin

Intimacy—Oxytocin is probably most well-known for stimulating labor and milk production in nursing mothers. It is also released by men and women at orgasm. It turns out that sex along with an emotional/loving connection provides a much stronger and longer response of oxytocin than does sex alone. More touching and kissing during lovemaking also makes the effect stronger.

Touching—Massage is a surefire way to boost oxytocin levels in the bloodstream. Lots of other kinds of loving touch can have a similar effect, from holding hands to hugging and snuggling.

Daydreaming about your spouse—A study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found happily married women quickly released a dose of oxytocin when asked to think about their husbands.

Pets—The touching benefit also works when petting your dog or cat. Lower your blood pressure and increase your oxytocin levels by petting and cuddling with your pet. (This doesn’t seem to work with my aquatic frogs, FYI.)

Sensory Experiences—Enjoying sights, sounds and smells that bring you comfort can boost oxytocin levels. Smells of foods you enjoyed while growing up, the sounds of the ocean waves or certain lighting can be effective, for example. When senses have a positive emotional connection, that seems to be the point of success.

Activity—Walking, swimming in warm water and physical exercise work well to boost oxytocin levels, says Kerstin Uvas-Moberg, PhD.

Deep interaction—eye contact with intimacy and “deep interaction” are also advised by Dr. Uvas-Mosberg.

Spirituality—Research has not proven this, but Dr. Uvas-Mosberg says prayer, contemplation and meditation may also increase oxytocin levels. Many of us would agree based on personal experience of positive feelings during or after these activities.

Adversity—This one also needs more study, but if you talk to individuals who have experienced a major crisis together, such as a plane crash, being held as POWs, or a natural disaster, they often feel extremely bonded together. Couples I interviewed and wrote about in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage expressed that instances of adversity—from losing a child, to financial crisis,  overcoming cancer, living with a brain injury, and much more—made them and their spouses feel closer together.

All but the last action items are pleasurable experiences that can boost your oxytocin levels, while the last item is often unavoidable, but it can strengthen your bond if you work together to overcome the adversity.  To read about how a dozen couples used real-life experiences to improve their marriages, you can find First Kiss to Lasting Bliss on Amazon.com or in various e-book formats. The marriages didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of hope and resilience that are great role models for the rest of us.

What do you think about the role of oxytocin in your marriage?  Is it really about feeling good, or is there something scientific that helps you stay bonded?

Order in time for Valentine’s Day: First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you already have the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Celebrate Each Day With Your Loved Ones

I want to wish a Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate. As we reach the holiday season again, I’m reminded that I haven’t lived up to my aim to celebrate each day of 2011 in my own way. Many days, I was caught up with the to-do list and didn’t have my heart leaning into celebration. I’m re-reading those tips and trying to take them more to heart. I hope you will, too.

My friend Debi Walter recently wrote about the famous Jim Croce song, Time in a Bottle here at The Romantic Vineyard. The lyrics that struck me were: “But there never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do once you find them. I’ve looked around enough to know that you’re the one I want to go through time with.” Listen to the song, and let it remind you that we can’t save time in a bottle and spend them again with those we love. We just get the one shot, and before we know it, another year has passed. 

When I was young, my mother and I used to watch the soap opera, Days of our Lives, which always began, “Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Thankfully, I gave up soaps long ago! But I think of those words as I look at the hourglass in my son’s room. Please share your ideas for making each day really count, both as we finish up 2011 and as we make plans for 2012. Blessings to you.

Online florists offer flower delivery to help people show loved ones they care.

4 Tips to Boost Libido

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

For couples in which one or both partners are experiencing low libido, a frequent question is how to boost that libido. Dr. Oz offered a few quick tips:

  1. If you are getting less than 7 ½ hour of sleep per night, your lack of sleep can be affecting your hormones and lowering your libido. Fatigue also adds to the problem.  Go to sleep one hour earlier to help get your body on track. (Preferably, go to bed together.)
  2. If your body mass index or your glucose levels are too high, this also changes your body’s hormones. Excess fat changes testosterone into estrogen. The lower testosterone reduces libido. Work with your doctor on a plan to get your BMI and glucose levels into the normal range.
  3. Consider taking zinc (8 mg/day) to help improve hormone function.
  4. Set one day a week for sex. “Sex begets sex,” says Dr. Oz.

Other frequently mentioned advice includes increasing exercising, reducing stress, and spending more quality time together.

LINKS:
Recently, I shared Which Foods are Best at Boosting Libido.
Read Kissing is all about the chemistry from USA Today for information on the science of kissing.

Photo by Leticia Wilson

Which Foods Can Boost Libido?

“Keep the Sparks Alive” Series

Sometimes a change or dip in libido has more to do with hormone or energy levels that have changed. Other times, it’s a matter of exhaustion or being overscheduled.  Experts say particularly for women, scheduling time for date nights and intimacy is key to maintaining a strong connection.

For an increasing number of couples, ubiquitous technology and inability to unplug is making it difficult to physically connect and interact with others in a human way. (Achieve True Connectivity.) Share at least an hour of your day with your loved ones while you are disconnected from technology, including TV, cell phone or computer. (Read Is the Cell Phone Impeding Your Relationship?)

If you’re getting enough rest, and giving each other dedicated time, you might find certain foods affect your level of desire. It’s certainly worth supplementing diet before looking to modern medicine. Some foods have smells or shapes that affect us, and others can alter our body chemistry. Quite a lot of foods can have a substantial affect on our sex drive. Experiment with how certain foods make you feel.

Let’s start with my favorite. Chocolate has long been considered a love drug, because the ingredients phenylethylamine, tryptophan and anadamine make us feel good. In addition, the caffeine in chocolate may boost female libido. Dark chocolate is the most effective. A 2006 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who ate chocolate on a daily basis had higher sexual function than those who didn’t. In addition to the ingredients above, it contains serotonin to boost your mood. Husbands, you have a very good reason to keep your mates supplied with dark chocolate. Wives, a small amount is ideal.

A great summer treat, watermelon helps improve blood flow to the heart and genitalia because it is rich in citruline, which helps relax blood vessels.

A yummie vegetable that helps increase sex drive in men and women is asparagus, which is rich in folate. Folate helps increase production of histamine, which is essential to maintaining libido. Avocados also increase libidos in men and women due to their B6, folic acid and potassium levels.

Researchers believe figs, which are high in amino acids, can increase libido and increase sexual stamina.

Oysters are said to increase libido in both genders, but those who (like me) dislike them can take a zinc supplement—or they could try pumpkin seeds, also rich in zinc (and without the sliminess).

Sauerkraut is another proven libido booster, at least for men. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that 90 percent of men felt a noticeable libido boost after eating sauerkraut.

Eggs, nuts, chilies, nutmeg, turkey, brown rice, garlic and fish (especially salmon) all contribute to healthy sex lives for both partners.

For MEN:

Foods high in zinc boost sperm production. And naturally enhancing your diet can help maintain testosterone levels. Ideal foods include broccoli, steak, beans, bananas, pine nuts, and celery.

For WOMEN:

Libido-enhancing foods help us maintain estrogen levels. Soy has been shown to boost women’s sex drive. Please note: Women with a history of breast cancer should not eat large amounts of soy due to increase recurrence rates. Basil is said to stimulate female fertility and boost libido. Foods that help maintain testosterone levels can also help.

Effective SCENTS

The following SCENTS are helpful because they increase penile blood flow: lemons, doughnuts, and licorice. (However, eating the doughnuts has the opposite effect.) For women, smelling licorice and cucumbers or baby powder provides powerful pheromones.

Sources: You Being Beautiful by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., Libido-Increasing Food, and Love Hacks.

 Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com