4 ways to bring your family closer together

4 ways to bring your family closer together

The paradox of families is that the people we love the most are the ones we most easily take for granted. If the loved ones in your life have become more like the tapestry of your home than the tapestry of your life, it’s time to take action. Shake things up by introducing some small and simple disciplines that could have a profound effect on your relationship together.

Eating together is one of the great rituals of human beings, yet it’s a ritual that’s slipping away for many of us. Busy days, unsynchronized schedules, the ease of fast food and take outs, and the decline in cooking skills are all part of it. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Further reading: The Importance of Eating Together

If you cannot have dinner together, make sure you gather around the breakfast table instead. And then, of course, use the opportunity to talk with each other. Ask everyone about their day, what they have done – or what they are expecting of the day if it’s breakfast time. It’s a great way of staying involved in each other’s lives rather than acting like ships passing in the night.

You can also try The One Conversation Rule at dinner time as Michael Hyatt has written about on his blog. This is where you only have one conversation at a time, allowing for everyone to be heard and for a deeper, more meaningful conversation to take place.

Families have a tendency to bring out the best – and the worst – in us. When we get into an argument with a family member it’s all too easy to shout or stomp off and slam doors, behavior we would be embarrassed to display towards anyone else.

Apologizing when you are in the wrong is a simple, but profound gesture. It’s a great way to puncture a possible conflict before it gets a chance to escalate, and it opens the way for forgiveness when there has been animosity. We should all take greater pride in being able to say I’m sorry than in carrying a grudge. Admitting to one’s faults is strength, not a weakness.

Not everyone has mastered the art of giving a sincere apology, but it can be learnt. The best way to teach your child this is by example. If you’ve lost your temper with her, ruined her favorite teddy bear in the wash, accidentally hurt her or similar, get down to her level and tell her you’re sorry. And, this is very important, say it without making a disclaimer. No “I’m sorry, but …” or anything else that will lessen your apology. Just stop talking after you have said you’re sorry.

Further reading: Learning to Say “I’m Sorry”

The same goes for your partner of course. Just because your partner is an adult and understands rationally that your sudden flare of anger was due to low blood sugar or fatigue doesn’t mean he or she won’t appreciate an apology when you have calmed down again.

Social media is a great way of keeping you together when you are a part, but it can also keep you apart when you are together. Consider introducing a house rule that states that all screens are off at certain times. Dinner time should be a minimum, but you could also set it from the kids get home from school until after dinner. No blaring TV, no Netflix marathon on the iPad, no obsessive checking of mobile phones – for kids and adults alike.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics, studies have shown that “excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.”

Further reading: AAP on Media and Children

If you’re a family of screen addicts, expect some arguments, some boredom, maybe even some awkward moments, to start with. But give yourself time to be screen free and relearn how to be together, to talk, hang out, and do non-screen activities, together and apart.

It’s something to be said for getting out of the house and your familiar surroundings to see things afresh. However, it doesn’t have to involve long journeys or exotic destination; it can be as simple as putting on your shoes and going for a walk. As I have mentioned before, movement can aid your creativity. It can also get conversations going. Or maybe you get to discover things together.

Further reading: The benefits of walking with kids

Make a habit of going for walks together, whether it’s around the block or on hiking trips. Let the journey together be the objective of the walk, not the destination or the time spent. Allow for surprise findings, sudden sights, deep conversation or just plain silliness.


Do you practice any of these disciplines?

What little things does your family do to stay united?

How one single push-up can make all the difference

How one single push-up can make all the difference

Can you get strong by doing one single push-up? Surely not.

What if you did that one single push-up a couple of times a day? Every day?

What if you after a while found you had enough strength to do two push-ups? And then five? And then ten? And twenty?

Small disciplines can lead to great changes. And if you combine small disciplines with tiny habits you can transform your life (should you want to – you might be quite happy where you are, thank you very much).

From tiny to habit
The phrase “tiny habits” were coined by Dr. BJ Hoggs and refers to a method of creating new habits by breaking them down into ridiculously small sizes. This can be the single push-up I mentioned earlier, or flossing a single tooth, writing one sentence, reading one paragraph, tidying one single shelf and so on. You simply make the task so ridiculously tiny that you give yourself no reason to avoid it.

However, you might want to make sure you settle on a “tininess” that makes sense to you. To me, things can get too small, to the point where I cannot be bothered to pull out the flosser if it’s only to floss one tooth (yes, I am that lazy). I would need a slightly bigger section to be bothered to do it, such as the teeth in the bottom left part of the jaw or similar.

– Behavior and behavioral changes are not as difficult as people think. They are systematic.

BJ Fogg

behavior scientist

You also need to be motivated if you are to have any success implementing the tiny habits into your daily routines. If you feel you ought to do something, but you are not really bothered about it, you probably won’t be able to establish a habit.

        TIP! Only implement one or two habits at the time.

Trigger makes the habit
In addition to creating the tiniest task you can perceive yourself doing, you need to find a trigger that will make you do it. This can be anything, although you will probably want to work with some logical sequences such as “after I get undressed for the evening, I will remove my makeup”.

However, you might also have success making unusual connections, such as “after I put on my shoes to leave the house, I’ll do one sit-up” or “after I’ve used the toilet, I’ll read one paragraph of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu”. The quirkiness could make it easier for you to remember to do your tiny habit.

Either way, the important factor is that your new habit comes after an existing and well-established action.

Further resources

BJ Foggs TEDxFremont-talk on Tiny habits

Tiny Habits – the website

BJ Foggs Behavior Model 

How I did it
When I first heard about tiny habits, I went overboard and wanted to change it all – and change it now! I was creating sequences for exercises, for drinking water, for taking my vitamins, for flossing a tooth, for tidying up my hot-spots. You name it, I tried it.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go very well. There were simply too many new things for me to remember.

So I scaled back and settled on one thing: getting stronger in time for my new baby. And so I started doing push-ups against the kitchen counter after I had placed the moka a pot on the (I was eight months pregnant at the time, I wasn’t going to start doing push-ups on the floor.)

That baby is now a 15 months old toddler and I still use the time when the coffee is brewing to exercise. It is no longer purely countertop push-ups, but rather any type of strengthening exercise I can do in short burst. If the coffee is brewing, you will find me on the kitchen floor doing squats or lounges or hip-lifts or whatever.

The tiny habit has become a regular habit.

These tiny daily exercises haven’t transformed my body, mainly because I am not motivated by the changes in my physical appearance. But I feel stronger in my body, more prepared for the everyday challenges I’m faced with as a toddler mum. And my posture has improved.

Now I just need to get that flossing habit sorted …

Have you tried the tiny habits method? If not, which tiny habit would you implement if you were to try it?

Multitasking the right way

Multitasking the right way

I am a horrible multitasker. I’ll surfe the net while talking to my sister on the phone, or I’ll be waiting for my favorite show to come on telly only to check Twitter as soon as it starts. I end up with only a vague idea of what the show or the phone conversation was about and no idea whatsover what I have just “read”. It’s ridiculous! And science agree.

Studies have shown that people who do media multitasking (like reading this blog while watching TV ), are not able to filter out what’s relevant and what is not. Other studies have shown that there is a time cost involved in multitasking, that rather than being more efficient, you are actually hindering your productivity by attempting to do more than one task at a time.

So why am I still doing it? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s certainly not because I think I am being more efficient, because I know I’m not. It’s rather a compulsion, one that I’m trying to stop, and it’s probably due to my shallow brain.

How to multitask properly

And yet here I am, writing about the right way to multitask. Have I lost it? Nah. Because while the studies bring up valid and important arguments to keep in mind, there are still ways of doing several activities at once without losing out.

The studies indicate that the detrimental effect of multitasking occurs when we shift out attention from one task to another or from one media to another. To make multitasking work for you, you need to avoid this situation. So instead of shifting between two projects, you combine two tasks and do them at the same time.

There are essentially two ways of doing this. You either combine physical activity with mental or social tasks or you utilize forced waiting time to do micro tasks. By combining activities like this, you get to do more in less time, allowing you to achieve more.

Still not sure what I’m talking about? No worries, I’ve made a list of examples of how you could do several tasks at the same time without losing out:


Biking with a friend is the right way of multitasking. You combine being social and exercising in one go.

Have a walk-and-talk meeting.
Studies indicate that lack of movement, whether it is due to you sitting or standing all day, is detrimental to your health. While many tasks have to be done in front of a computer these days, not all meetings need to be conducted in an office. With a walk-and-talk you get to exercise at the same time, plus many find that the movement is beneficial to their creativity.

Go for a bike ride with a friend.
You get to hang out and be social with your mate and you can cross of exercising of your to-do list.

Learn a language while brushing your teeth.
You brush your teeth twice a day (I hope …). Why not use the time to accomplish something more than aimlessly staring at your own reflection in the mirror. Put up a list of French irregular verbs or Spanish nouns or German phrases or whatever language you are trying to learn on the inside of your cabinet doors and go through them every morning and evening when you brush your teeth.

Get fit playing with your kids.
Work up a sweat by dancing vigorously with your kids or chase them around the house or build up strength by using your toddler as a weight. Most kids love physical games, especially with their parents, so they’ll have a lot of fun and you get to have a work out for free.


What could you do while your coffee were brewing?

Get strong while making coffee.
When I work from home I make coffee in a Bialetti moka pot. This usually takes a couple of minutes or so to brew. Inspired by Dr BJ Fogg and his tiny habits, I have taken to do pushups or squats while waiting for my coffee. What could you do in the time it takes for your tea or coffee to brew?

Clean your inbox while waiting for the bus or the train.
You might be stuck at the bus stop or train station while you wait for your transportation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get things done. Delete spam, answer quick e-mails, move others to the archive. Aim for the inbox zero.

Educate yourself while commuting.
Most of us have to commute to work in some form or other. Use the time in transit to learn new skills, get a deeper understanding of a subject or to stay up to date with the changes in your sector.

Keep a book at hand.
Whether it is a physical book, your kindle or an e-book on your phone, having a book ready  at all times makes it easy to catch up on your reading. Instead of flipping through a two year old magazine waiting at the dentist, wouldn’t you rather read something of your own choice?

Are you a multitasker, for better or worse?

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