By CHRIS COPLEY
4:28 PM EST, December 20, 2012
Want to live a long, healthy life? Strengthen connections with family members.
That's right. Healthy relationships make for a healthier life, according to Harvard Women's Health Watch.
"People who have satisfying relationships have been shown to be happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer," the medical journal reported in December 2010. "In contrast, having few social ties is associated with depression, cognitive decline and premature death."
Yikes! So do I have to build a relationship with Cousin Clara, the family gossip? Do I have to listen to Grampa tell the same stories again? And how can I get the grandkids to talk to me at all when their noses are glued to smartphones?
No one said family members are easy to get along with, but it's worthwhile. Families share a culture, a family tree. Members might move away or branch out, but their roots are connected to yours. It's interesting to explore those connections.
Here are two ideas for getting to know family members better:
Do things together — Go somewhere. Do something active. Play a board game. Walk around the neighborhood or hike in a park. Make dinner together. Attend a church service. There's a lot to do this coming week — check out the calendar on our Community page to see what's scheduled.
Talk together — When you're eating dinner or relaxing, take turns talking and listening. Tell personal stories. Talk about family history — where the family came from, when and why forebears moved to the family's current home, the values that made the family unique.
Use this Fabric of Family Life chart to help start conversations. When family members get together for the holidays, ask one person to interview other family members. Ask how things were when they were growing up, and record their answers. Write down each person's name in the left-hand column and their comments under each heading.
Post the filled-out chart in a place where people can read it and see what life was like for other generations.
The chart can be included in a family scrapbook as an archive, but it can also spark conversation. Ask questions about younger or older family members. What color was your car? Who were your friends at church? What other games did you play with the family? Did the kids help Mom in the kitchen? Who helped Dad work around the house?
Get to know family members better — love them more — and you might have a happier holiday and a longer, happier life.
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