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What are the Rewards of A Balanced Life?

First in a series by Joseph Cohen, co-author with his son, Jared, of Write Father, Write Son : A Bond-Building Journey

A life in balance occurs when mental health is considered interconnected with physical well being, and equally as important.

From a holistic perspective, a balanced life is realized when the mind and body harmonize with the spirit.

Since the counterculture revolution of the late nineteen sixties and early seventies, the mindfulness and holistic health movement has grown exponentially in the United States.

Amongst other recent influential advocates, former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama led a campaign recognizing that mental health is on par with physical health. However, some experts believe that public understanding is lagging and hasn’t kept pace with the recent evidence.

“Scientific evidence is now demonstrating that experience becomes embedded in human genes and that early life experiences affect the expression of genes,” wrote Marianna Klebanov, JD in Men’s Mental Health Needs, an article in Living Well Magazine. This genetic coding can last a lifetime and be passed along from one generation to the next.

“Evidence, including the groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences Study out of Kaiser Permanente (“the ACE Study),” which Ms. Klebanov cites in The Critical Role of Parenting in Human Development, co-authored with Adam D. Travis, M.D., Ph.D, “has also shown that adverse childhood experiences which may include things like divorce, childhood neglect, parental mental health issues, among other things, affect physical health, including even leading to an increased risk for cancer.”

Excess Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain is a report published in 2005 by The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Scientists have shown that intense and/or prolonged stress “can overwhelm the human brain to the degree that a number of physical and mental disorders can develop, and that the brain and body of a developing fetus or young child is particularly sensitive to developing such abnormalities.” It explains the impact of intense stress during this period becomes “wired into the young child’s developing brain circuitry, potentially causing multiple lifelong issues, including cognitive and learning disorders, and dysfunctional stress systems which interfere with day-to-day functioning.”

While the brains and bodies of males and females obviously differ in some critical ways, the feelings and behaviors of men and boys stem from their brain and body patterning, as they do in girls and women. Both develop neural connections that control functioning for a lifetime.

Kids and Parents Bonding

Recent developments in modern industrialized society have ushered in change, leading to the evolution of female and male roles. Women are now leading successful careers in professions that had been male dominated while men have become more involved with child rearing.

Studies exist that have shown children with fathers who are involved and loving have brains and bodies that develop to be stronger and healthier emotionally and cognitively. “With increased male involvement in the home, the brains of the children of these fathers develop with more intellectual capacity, with stronger, healthier, more efficient neural connections through which signals travel more efficiently,” says Ms. Klebanov.

Recent books and magazine articles focus on the paradigm shift relative to parenting roles, and have shown that effective communication between fathers and sons has become more prevalent.

Father Son Relationships

I co-authored Write Father, Write Son : A Bond-Building Journey , with my son, Jared. His contribution included short stories, letters and part of the introduction which is italicized below.

Most of the book consists of letters I received when I was younger. Only the last chapter is my contribution, but the rest is my foundation. Our hearts led us to write, and it helped our relationship to grow. That is the beauty, the essence, of this book.

This book is about the power of communication, the power of words, and the influence that clear expression can have on the development of children into young adults. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but my father’s devotion to my own development allowed me to take pride in myself and strive to pursue my interests.

Within these pages lies the root of my development, caring words from my father structured into letters. It is a testament to my father, who showed me the importance of speaking my mind and confronting problems head-on. These words have shaped my experience and understanding of the world, shown me the power of language, and guided me even before I knew I was on a journey.

In contributing to this book I have come to understand that there are few things more powerful in the realm of expression than a thoughtful letter. If you can devote time to organize and construct your thoughts in the way you see most perfectly fit, not only can you say everything  you need to say but your words will remain, symbols of your liveliness, as reminders and reflections to look back on.

Although the conflicts and challenges that sometimes arose between us led to inevitable differences, it was our willingness to openly communicate that fostered the harmony and balance of our relationship.

About Author: Joseph Cohen is the co-author with his son, Jared, of  Write Father, Write Son: A Bond-Building Journey. It explores fatherhood through the correspondence between a father and son. Through the letters and stories, we see how a man struggles to be a better, more accessible father than the one he knew. We see a boy mature and become a young, responsible man of insight and compassion. Through this compelling book, we see how much the world needs fathers. Good fathers.

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