Doing Life Together

footballBad news for the NFL. In September, a study was released that looked at the brains of deceased NFL players who had donated their brain to science due to suspicion of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Of the 91 players tested, 87 had signs of CTE. That is 96%.

A larger and more diverse sample of American football players (high school, college, semiprofessional or professional) were also studied. Researchers their also found evidence of CTE in their brain tissue. 131 out 165 players had CTE in their brain tissue. And just last spring, the NFL paid approximately 5000 former players 765 million dollars to settle a lawsuit over health claims.

The brain takes a beating when a person is hit over and over. In football, especially if you are a lineman, you are repeatedly hit. According to new research, this repeated hitting may cause more of a problem than even concussions.

Genetics and past injuries, along with repeated blows to the head, appear to play a role in who will develop CTE. And we also know there is a connection between brain trauma and depression. 

Now I realize this is a skewed sample since the donated brains of players were the ones suspected of having brain trauma. The study doesn’t mean 96% of players will develop CTE, but the high number is alarming. In order to really know how at risk football players are for CTE, we would have to study the brains of all players or a representative sample. And the problem is that you can only diagnose CTE after someone dies.

Even thought the NFL is doing what it can to reduce injury and concussions, you can’t stop the hits from coming because contact sports are just that-contact. In fact, the University of Pittsburg neurological surgery department estimates that an athlete in a contact sport has as high as a 19% chance per season of experiencing a concussion.

So am I being an anxious mom by questioning if my kids should play sports that allow them to be hit in the head a number of times? The younger the athlete, the more vulnerable the brain is to injury, leading to cognitive problems.

When should a child quit or should he or she even play contact sports at all? This is a personal decision for every family, but at least we can make it being informed.

For me, basketball is looking good!

Pr_25_-_TRS_-_23_04_10_0828Friendships! Do we nurture, appreciate and take care of them?

Having a friend you can count on is priceless, so perhaps we should pay attention to those important relationships that bring so much to our lives.

The other day I had to record spots for radio that we call the Mintle Health Minute. My producer, Pam Miller, had written copy for that spot. It was so good, I wanted to share it. Thanks Pam!

Ever heard the expression, “to have a friend, be a friend?” Most of us have. If you really want to be a treasured friend, why not visit the friendship spa?

Before you think this sounds crazy and expensive, I’m not talking about a real spa here. I am suggesting that just like a real spa though, you enlist some soothing treatments for your friendships.

Try this one: Why not soak your friend in prayer? Praying for someone builds compassion; it helps us see them as God does. How about this? Apply a liberal amount of encouragement. Just like aroma therapy, encouraging your friend’s abilities and strengths releases the sweet scent of trust and understanding.

Sometimes a friendship might need a deep tissue massage to get at the root of disagreement. But if you’ve been visiting the friendship spa, then the truth of Proverbs 27:6, where it tells that the loving reproof of a friend will only make us and our friendship stronger, will take effect.

So how about it, why not give the friendship spa a try!

textingMost of us realize that a good way to get a response from a child, teen or young adult is to text them. This is how they like to communicate.

There are benefits to texting communication: 1) Quick response 2) More convenient communication 3) Children feel more self-control when texting and thinking through what they want to say- they can rewrite their thoughts  4) People may have boldness to say things that might be difficult face-to-face.

But should we place convenience and preference over learning face-to-face skills? 

Texting is easier than facing a person. One of the complaints I hear from teens is that they can gather their thoughts, feel less tense and bring up issues by texting. But let’s pick this apart.

1) When you are in life situations, you can’t text your boss, your neighbor, your church member, etc. You have to learn how to speak on the spot. If you don’t practice this skill, how will you learn it?

2) What is wrong with feeling tension? We should feel tense when there is a problem, confrontation, bad decision or tough topic. The goal is to learn how to manage that tense feeling and work through it, not avoid it. This is why I believe we are seeing more anxious teens–they don’t practice sitting with anxiety, being offended, tolerating differences, etc. Instead, they want to avoid or make the problem go away. People need to learn to tolerate distress.

3) There is an art to bringing up issues or problems. Just ask any marital therapist. The way you approach a person–tone, soft start up, focusing on the issue vs the person, etc. is key to good conflict resolution. Texting doesn’t provide that practice.

4) People need to practice reading the nonverbal cues and tones of interactions and relationships. Otherwise, we create emotionally unintelligent people.

So in my mind, convenience and preference don’t trump learning emotional intelligence and practicing needed social skills.  Parents, be more intentional with helping kids put down the devices and look you in the eye to have face-to-face communication. It’s a life skill they need to learn.


Dr Linda Mintle is the author of We Need To Talk, a guide to helping people navigate conflict.

lonelyWhen you want to be socially engaged and yet are finding it difficult to do so, you can feel lonely. And when you feel lonely, you tend to isolate and interpret peoples’ actions as negative towards you. The brain actually goes negative and believes it needs to guard you against social threats.

The key to combatting loneliness is to do what Drs. John and Stephanie Cacioppo, psychologists at the University of Chicago, suggest based on their loneliness research. They tell us to retrain the brain using a technique called social cognitive retraining. They developed an acronym to help us learn how to do this. It is called EASE:

Extend Yourself: You are lonely and don’t feel like pushing yourself to go out but do it anyway. Invited to that party? Accept the invitation and go! Asked to participate in the food drive, do it. No matter how negative you feel about actually putting yourself out there, do it!

Action Plan: Develop one rather than sit there and feel bad about being lonely. If people are not coming to you, go to them. But you need a plan of action.

Share good times: Your plan involves finding people with similar values, interests and beliefs to share with socially.For example, find a church group or hobby. If you like to cook, take cooking classes. Want to teach in your church, talk to leadership about a role you could play.

Expect the best: Change the negative thinking from, “I don’t know if they really want to be with me” to “I’m glad we had a chance to be together.” Make the glass half full vs. half empty. Stop looking for reasons why people may not want to be with you (this is your brain guarding you against perceived threats) and shift your thinking (retrain the brain) to positive expectations.

Changing your behavior and your thinking changes the feeling of loneliness. Sitting back, feeling sorry for yourself, canceling plans because you aren’t sure of self or others, will keep your feeling lonely. Retrain the brain by pushing yourself to engage and think positive. You can do this!