Here is January's installment of "Ask Shelby" from Chester County's own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
If there is one thing I can do this year to improve my family relationships, what would you suggest?
Signed, Really Simple Resolutions
Dear Really Simple Resolutions,
One thing? That’s an easy one: exercise. I know, most people might think about communicating differently, or going on weekly dates, but hear me out. Exercise not only helps to prevent a slew of illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, cancers, dementia, etc.), it helps to improve your relationships in so many ways.
- It is one of the best forms of self-care you can engage in. It is a wonderful way to honor your body, decrease stress, improve your mood, and get some much needed alone time.
- It is a great way to spend time with others. Walk with your mom, ride bikes with your kids, lift weights with your spouse, meet your friends for Zumba and yoga. It is a great way to connect with others and build memories.
- It will increase your patience. You will be a much kinder version of yourself if you are engaging in regular exercise. Your spouse and kids will thank you. Just make sure you eat enough and don’t over-exercise, or this will no longer be true—it will be the exact opposite—your kids and spouse will hide from your cranky self.
- You will improve your "bedroom" life. Exercising because you love your body will help you actually love your body. You will feel sexier, have more energy, and have more stamina for the bedroom.
- You will improve your sense of self, which also allows other people to see you in a better light. When you exercise, your mood improves, and you get the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal. Yes, I ran 2 miles today. Yes, I pushed hard during cycling class. Your posture will improve, both from the physical changes and from the pride you will feel. Your spouse and kids will notice this, and their sense of you will improve, too.
- You will increase your energy. Because you had the energy to get through your to-do list in a productive way, you will have time to play cards with your daughter, help your son with his homework, and still go for a walk with your spouse. You will not only have the time to do these things, but you will have the energy and motivation to do them. Laying like a lump on the couch will be a thing of the past, or at least reserved for rainy Saturdays when a Project Runway marathon is on.
- You will model great habits for your children. They are watching you. Make sure they learn what a great relationship with yourself and your body looks like.
- You will connect with parts of yourself you didn’t know were there. Salsa dancer? Who knew! Meditative yogi, yeah, you’re that calm. Rock climber…yes, you are braver than you thought. There are so many different forms of exercise, and so many different parts of yourself to explore. Competitive racer, graceful ballerina, powerful lifter…the options are endless.
I know finding the time to exercise can seem hard. I have resolved to exercise every single day this year, to prove to myself all of my excuses are just that: excuses. I invite you, all of you, to join me. It could be a spectacular year!
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC. She is currently the President of the Pennsylvania Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby's website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.