ONE WORD AN­SWER #52

Men's Health (UK) - - MH Calssified -

The Chi­nese-amer­i­can poet Chen Chen once de­scribed fam­ily meals as a de­scent into a “slap­stick meets slasher flick meets psy­cho­log­i­cal pit” – words that call to mind the no­to­ri­ous din­ner-with­Grandpa scene in The Texas Chain Saw Mas­sacre. You may love your fam­ily, but who hasn’t groaned at the thought of Dad’s bad jokes, Aunt Sally’s tact­less in­sin­u­a­tions about your stalling ca­reer, or be­ing forced into an end­less po­lit­i­cal de­bate by your home-made-maga-cap-wear­ing un­cle (“Make Ac­ton Great Again”)?

You choose your friends, your part­ner and the col­leagues you go for a drink with af­ter work. Yet your fam­ily is some­thing you’re born into – and, at times, it can feel like hav­ing a con­gen­i­tal con­di­tion that you have to learn to live with.

Fam­ily is, how­ever, less a con­di­tion in need of a cure than a cure in it­self. Our re­la­tion­ships with our broth­ers or sis­ters, for ex­am­ple, are among our most emo­tion­ally nour­ish­ing bonds. Psy­chol­o­gists at Brigham Young Univer­sity found that close­ness with your sib­lings pro­motes the de­vel­op­ment of sym­pa­thy and in­creases “lev­els of al­tru­ism”. Young men who sit down for din­ner with their fam­ily do bet­ter at school and are half as likely as their peers to smoke or drink al­co­hol – while those who have strained re­la­tion­ships with their fa­thers have a 400% higher chance of abus­ing drugs*. Spend­ing qual­ity time with your rel­a­tives also re­leases your brain’s at­tach­ment chem­i­cals, such as oxy­tocin and opi­oids**, which lower anx­i­ety and feel­ings of ag­gres­sion – even if the strug­gle for the TV re­mote at your par­ents’ house on New Year’s Day can bor­der on to­tal war­fare.

Dads, mean­while, ben­e­fit from in­creased psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing if they’re close to their kids, and are sta­tis­ti­cally more likely to en­joy greater job sat­is­fac­tion† and higher pay‡ as a re­sult. So, whether you’re still the baby of the fam­ily or you have ba­bies of your own, your near­est and dear­est will en­rich your life. No one has a per­fect fam­ily, but look beyond any bones you have to pick. In the words of play­wright Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, “If you can­not get rid of the fam­ily skele­ton, you may as well make it dance.”

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