As we breeze into fall and find the holidays on the horizon, now would be a good time to talk about what makes a healthy family, and look at how we can leverage holiday rituals and traditions to bring that healthy family closer together.
What is a “family”?
Family includes people we love, and those who love us — parents, children, grandparents, and siblings. “Family” can also include close bonds with friends and neighbors. No matter who you consider “family,” it all boils down to those we feel connected to through a shared history and experience.
Why is a strong family important?
Our family teaches us how to function in the world. Children learn manners and appropriate socialization skills from their family. They learn how to communicate, how to cooperate, and how to problem-solve. They learn empathy and trust, find meaning in shared values, and take on responsibility. At its best, family members provide unconditional love and support to each other.
What are the characteristics of a healthy family with strong bonds?
Researchers from the University of Nebraska conducted a study on the characteristics of strong families, and they recognize six major qualities that all contribute to family happiness and strength:
Commitment: They make their relationships a high priority. Put the welfare of other family members before yourself. If everyone chooses a path of selflessness, the family as a whole benefits. When you hold yourself responsible for valuing another person’s feelings and needs over your own, that empathy grows to become the foundation for a strong family bond.
Appreciation: They let other family know, daily, they are appreciated. Use appreciative language and gestures with each other. Greet everyone warmly as they walk in the door. Ask them about their day. Thank whoever cooked dinner. Go out of your way to be kind.
Communication: They talk to each other about issues both big and small. Keep your communication positive, listen to all opinions, and don’t forget to lighten the mood with laughter when tensions are running high.
Time Together: They are deliberate about planning activities. It’s the small daily family rituals that are often the most meaningful. Eat dinner together. Watch a movie on Friday nights. Walk the dog together.
Spiritual wellness: They believe in a greater power and have shared beliefs. Model acceptance and tolerance. Share your views about your beliefs, and why they are important to you, but also be open to learning more about the beliefs and values that your loved ones hold dear.
Crisis and stress: They are able to cope with difficulties and crises because they are resilient together. Everyone processes stress differently. Give everyone room to vent and work through their stress in their own way. Just be available to provide support as needed.
How do we develop and cultivate the traits of healthy families?
Here are seven simple keys to growing healthy families:
The power of modeling. What kids see you do as they grow up is what you’ll likely see them do when they’ve grown up.
Giving the gift of time. Set aside special time for individual family members. Take an interest in their passions, and introduce them to your hobbies. Be curious and open to new ideas.
The power of nourishing love. Cherishing and nourishing your family are two very different things. Cherishing means to value and care about it. But do you express it? Nourishing is the action that expresses that love, and reinvigorates the relationship.
Cultivating an encouraging environment. An encouraging environment is one in which you spend more time building and encouraging your loved ones than you do scolding and correcting them.
The gift of healthy anger. When a person understands anger and learns how to express it in healthy ways, it can be an ally and actually lead to increased trust, greater intimacy, and stronger relationships. While we may have minimal control over when we experience anger, we have total control over how we choose to express that anger.
Nurturing quality communication. Good communication doesn’t just happen. Healthy families set aside a regular time for focused communication, where individuals really listen to what others are sharing, and show sensitivity to each other’s feelings. Quality communication also recognizes the importance of nonverbal aspects of communication — hugs, laughter, tears, etc.
Conflict — a pathway to intimacy. Most of us haven’t learned the value of conflict, and interpret it as an attack. When we avoid healthy conflict, we avoid growth. Instead, make your primary goal of conflict to understand the other person. Take a few minutes to acknowledge, discuss, and define the conflict, and then LISTEN. Ask yourself “What is MY contribution to this problem?” And finally, commit yourself to understand what the issue looks like through the other person’s eyes. It is through this journey of empathy that you will be able to resolve conflict.
How do rituals bring a family closer?
It is important to actively find ways to bring your family emotionally closer. In his book, “The Intentional Family,” family therapist William Doherty focuses on the idea that the way we enact our family relationships through rituals is just as important as how family members speak to each other.
So what exactly is a ritual? Doherty defines a family ritual as an activity that has meaning, has coordinated activities that are significant to the family, and is repeated. Not all family rituals necessarily involve the whole family. Some rituals involve just two members (ie: a grandparent/grandchild playing a game together), some involve the larger extended family, others include close friends of the family, and still others connect the family with a larger community such as a church or synagogue. Family rituals give us:
Predictability: A ritual brings a sense of order to family life, and that brings calm to the environment. If there is no predictability to a ritual (ie: reading a bedtime story EVERY night), then the ritual loses its power.
Connection: When a family feels connected to each other through rituals, it’s because they have built trust within a shared experience. (ie: the bedtime ritual is often the primary one-on-one time between parent and child)
Identity: Rituals provide a sense of belonging and defines what is “special” about the family. Maybe your grandmother once knit matching sweaters for everyone, and now your family has taken the tradition to a new level by all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters at the holiday.
Values: Values demonstrate what we believe and hold dear, and religious rituals are a good example of the way rituals enact values for a family.
According to Doherty, the idea of the Intentional Family is to create rituals that reflect your family’s own unique values, histories, religions, and cultures, and to leverage those rituals to consciously plan your life together.
What are the different types of family rituals?
Let’s examine the five different types of rituals identified by Doherty:
Family rituals: Not all family rituals involve the whole family. Some rituals involve just two members — a married couple going out to dinner or a grandparent reading to a child. Successful intentional families learn to ritualize everything from pairs to large community families (church group or volunteer group).
Connection rituals: These offer everyday opportunities for family bonding, such as family meals, morning and bedtime routines, or family outings.
Love rituals: These focus on developing one-to-one intimacy, and make individual family members feel special. They can be divided into couple rituals and special-person rituals. Examples of couple love rituals are anniversary celebrations or date nights. Special-person rituals generally center around birthday celebrations, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, etc.
Community rituals: These have a more public dimension than connection and love rituals. They include major family events such as weddings and funerals that link families to their communities, as well as religious activities in churches, synagogues, or mosques. In addition, community rituals include conscious efforts to connect with a wider social network than the family, to both give and gain support. The healthiest families give to their communities and receive support back in good measure.
Holiday rituals: Thanksgiving and Christmas have evolved into a special category of family ritual, involving three functions of rituals — connection, love, and community. There are the grand rituals of the calendar year for the majority of families, Christian and non-Christian alike.
So while we still have a few months before Thanksgiving and Christmas, why not take the time to assess the rituals your family keeps, and create or change them in response to the way your family has grown and changed over time. Multi-generational families are a gift, and it is a delicate art to balance the weight of tradition with the desire to incorporate fresh rituals as new members join the family with their own values and opinions. Major transition times in family life are good opportunities to review your rituals. Focus on the needs of the group, and the values you want to promote. Building and maintaining a strong family bond is a process. Enjoy the journey together.
At OHI, our caring staff members are eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.
“The Intentional Family” by William J. Doherty, Ph.D.
“7 Keys to Building Strong Families”, Dr. Gary Oliver, iMom.com
“What makes a family strong?, Gail Innis, Michigan State University Extension, December 2, 2016, canr.msu.edu
Optimum Health Enterprises (OHE) is a third-party vendor who offers colon hydrotherapy services at OHI San Diego and OHI Austin. In Texas, prescriptions are required to receive a colonic, therefore OHE provides practice management for a licensed medical doctor to supervise colonic services at OHI Austin. California does not require a medical doctor for supervision; however, we recently identified a local holistic medical practitioner in San Diego, Dr. James Novak, to provide supervision of colon hydrotherapy services for OHI San Diego community members.
Get to know Dr. James Novak with our quick Q&A…
Q. Why did you join Optimum Health Enterprises (OHE)?
A. Many of OHI’s staff and guests have been my patients over the years, so I was well-acquainted with their program. I knew they had always offered guests colon hydrotherapy service via a certified colonics therapist (either a licensed vocational nurse or a registered nurse) using state-of-the-art hydrotherapy equipment. During the pandemic, there were times when OHE had to put a pause on their colonic hydrotherapy services because it was not overseen by a medical practitioner, and therefore it was not considered an “essential” business. To make sure guests are never inconvenienced by a pause in services in the future, I joined OHE as the medical specialist overseeing the colon hydrotherapy practice in San Diego. I have been so impressed with OHI’s immersive body-mind-spirit detox program over the years that I was inspired to join their team.
Q. Give our guests a little background on yourself.
A. I earned my undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and I received my medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1980. I was an NHS Corp physician for three years, working predominantly on Native American reservations. I started an Integrative Medicine private practice in 1985 in Pacific Beach, CA., and as of this month have been a licensed, practicing family physician for 40 years.
Q. Why did you start practicing holistic medicine in conjunction with Western medicine?
A. I had patients who felt they had reached a dead end in allopathic medicine. Those with chronic health conditions like auto-immune diseases or Lyme disease were seeing practitioners who were treating their symptoms as opposed to finding the root source of their problem. I approach a new patient by trying to find the upstream causes of the current problem, and look to the foundations of good health to activate self-healing — a nutritionally dense diet, adequate sleep, challenging exercise, exposure to natural sunlight and clean oxygen, and a strong mind-body connection. I want to improve the bio terrain of the body — strong gut health, clean blood, a solid detox of the liver, lymph, and kidneys, and a reservoir of healthy fats in the body. That restores the physiologic processes that have been interrupted, and optimizes the innate healing power of the body.
Q. How will you interact with OHI guests?
A. Guests at the San Diego campus who are interested in receiving colon hydrotherapy will meet with me to take a medical history, and get a brief exam. I evaluate whether it is safe for a guest to do a colonic. Those who have intestinal or rectal issues like anal fissures, active hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, colitis, or are taking blood thinners are really not appropriate candidates for colonics. I refer guests who are good colon hydrotherapy candidates to our colon therapists. It is my goal as an experienced holistic practitioner to always ensure colonics are given in a healthy and safe manner.
Q. What does colon hydrotherapy do for the body?
A. Colon hydrotherapy assists in detoxing the body by cleaning out the colon. When the intestinal tract is empty and clean, it sends a signal to the liver. The liver cleans your blood and breaks down old or damaged blood cells, as well as plays a central role in all metabolic processes in the body by breaking down fats. The cleansed intestinal tract lets the liver know it is ready to process more waste. Colon hydrotherapy accelerates this detox process.
Q. Are there any other new healing modalities that you’ve had success within your practice that would dovetail with OHI’s detox program?
A. Yes! I have had great success with a variety of oxidative therapies over the last few decades that I hope to incorporate into the OHI detox program. In particular, I feel ozone therapy would be a great addition to the program. At its most basic level, ozone stimulates an adaptive response in the body that increases mitochondrial energy production, increases white blood cell immunoregulatory function, stimulates improved blood circulation, and improves hormone balance in the thyroid and adrenal glands. It also down regulates inflammation throughout the body. Through these processes, it helps to remove microbes and toxins that don’t belong in the body. I think it would be a great addition to the current detoxification aspects of the OHI program.
Q. Any final thoughts as you join the OHI team?
A. Quite frankly, I think the body-mind-spirit teachings at OHI are the most important aspect of their overall program. The effects of psycho emotional healing are absolutely vital to good health. I’m proud to be a part of this life-changing program.
Welcome Dr. Novak! We are so happy to have you!
Although colon hydrotherapy services are not required or an essential part of our holistic healing program, they are readily available to you if you choose to add them and enhance your experience. These services are delivered by professionals on-site for your convenience and many of our patients find that they really heighten the benefits of the program. While colonic services are available daily, it is best to schedule appointments in advance, as sessions fill up quickly.