Month: July 2015

Relationships from a Man’s Perspective

Want to better understand relationships from a man’s perspective? Dan Umphress’ contributed “One Man’s Marriage Advice to Women” for Kim Bowen’s counseling blog, The Marriage Place, gives some great insights:

Excerpt from One Man’s Marriage Advice to Women:

“Ladies, I write to you as a man with the hope of helping you to understand how many men function in relationships, on behalf of men everywhere.  We need your patience.  We weren’t taught these relationship skills, and most likely, we have not witnessed them in action. This is new to us, but we are willing to learn.  So please, if you can, give us a chance to catch up.” Dan Umphress

Secret Garden

The following photos are part of the gallery, “Healing Spaces,” contributed by fellow Houstonians. Each photo represents natural spots around Houston that draw us outside and calm our spirits. Thank you, Kelsey, for sharing your beautiful photos of a  “secret garden” with us.

Secret Garden, Contributed by Kelsey

“These two photos were taken on a walk around the Houstonian Hotel. My husband and I were celebrating our one year anniversary, and enjoying a late afternoon walk. It was peaceful, beautiful, and romantic. I especially love the door, a very ‘Secret Garden’.”

secret garden
The Houstonian
secret garden
The Houstonian

I would love to know of more natural spots around Houston that draw us out and calm our spirits. I would love to showcase your photography and the significance of the places in the photography. If you are interested in contributing to the “Houston Healing Spaces” gallery, email photograph for consideration to and include

  • Subject line: Houston healing spaces
  • Name (optional)
  • Details about what this particular spot means to you

Healing Spaces in Houston

“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere—in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves.” John O’Donohue

Houston is full of beautiful spaces. With traffic and buildings everywhere, the beauty may be hard to see at times. But natural beauty is all over our city.healing spaces

Why is this so important?

Nature helps us heal.

In 1984, Roger Ulrich published an article about the effects of our environment on the healing process. He studied patients who had gallbladder surgery. Half of the patients recovered from their surgery in a room with a window overlooking a grove of trees. The other half each had a room with a window that faced a brick wall. The experiment noted that the patients facing the trees had less negative comments toward their nurses, needed less pain medication, and left the hospital a full day earlier than the patients who looked at a brick wall.

Herman Park, Houston
Herman Park, Houston

Most of us have experienced this healing power intuitively. Many Houstonians are drawn out of the city limits to the crashing surf and swooping pelicans of Galveston. Thousands of us crave sunny days under the loping trees at Memorial park. A long hike. A bike ride. Our bodies already know exactly what we need, and we naturally feel a little bit better.

Scientists and psychologists echo what we have already discovered: beauty is restorative to the brain and the body. Esther Sternberg works in the fields of immunology and neurology. She has collaborated with a number of scientists, including Irving Biederman, to create a hypothesis that when we are in the presence of natural beauty, “endorphins are released in that part of the brain that recognizes a beautiful or preferred view.”

“A number of studies have shown that viewing natural environments containing trees for just a few minutes, or even looking at pictures of trees, can lower blood pressure, relax muscle tension, lower levels of fear and anger, reduce pain, ease stress, and shorten recovery time from surgery. (Bays, J.C.)”

After a full day of normal stressors (emails, traffic, homework, and fluorescent lights) our bodies can get depleted and fatigued. Time spent in the presence of beauty can rejuvenate and calm the body, mind, and spirit. We may even think of time spent in beauty as medicine for the soul.

With this in mind, I have incorporated photographs of beautiful Houston “healing spaces” throughout my website. I would love to know of more natural spots around Houston that draw us out and calm our spirits. Just this past week, I happened along a healing space as I drove peacefully along Bissonnet under a canopy of shade trees. I think it would be fun to collaborate with other Houstonians and create a gallery of favorite natural spots around the city. I would love to showcase your photography and the significance of the places in the photography.

Email photograph for consideration to and include

  • Subject line: Houston healing space
  • Name (optional)
  • Details about what this particular spot means to you


Helen's Park, Houston
Helen’s Park, Houston

This is a photograph of a park bench in Helen’s Park located on Stella Link Road. The park has several quietly placed shady benches located around a babbling brook and fountain water feature. Nice place to bring a good book and take a deep breath.

Memorial Park, Houston
Memorial Park, Houston

This photograph is taken at Memorial Park. In the spring a number of places throughout Houston showcase Texas wildflowers. The fresh colors and warm spring breeze remind me of new beginnings and the adventures in store for the coming year.

Things to do:

Connect with beauty. Notice any changes in the body before and after time spent in nature.

  • Search for beautiful or calming spaces.
  • Take a walk at a local park.
  • Drive down to the coast for a day.
  • Find a hiking trail.
  • Bring nature indoors by adding a few plants to the decor.

Also, for those Houstonians interested in some quirky Houston history, my friend, Cale Ownby, has a terrific podcast, Platypus Houston, filled with fun facts about what makes Houston so uniquely Houston.

For more on this topic visit these podcasts on the healing power of beauty:

The Science of Healing Places with Esther Sternberg. On Being with Krista Tippett. September 27, 2012.

John O’Donohue: The Inner Landscape of Beauty. On Being with Krista Tippett. January 26, 2012.


Bays, J.C. (2011). How to Train A Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness.

Ulrich, R. S. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science. Vol. 224. Issue 4647. (April 27, 1984).


Jennifer Christian CounselingJennifer Christian, M.A., LPC

Give Yourself A Break

I recently received “Give Yourself a Break” in the mail and immediately read over half of it. It is wonderful. Kim Fredrickson’s book about self-compassion explores God’s compassion for us from a balanced perspective that includes both truth and grace.

Compassionate self-talk has been shown to calm the threat-detection system and allow us to be more understanding with others. Kristin Neff is an expert in self-compassion. Her research found that “people who can first give themselves emotional support and validation will be in a better position to be giving, accepting and generous to their partners.” She also found that “people who nurture self-compassion have better overall psychological and emotional health, experience less anxiety and depression, are more motivated to achieve their goals.” (Randall, 2013)

Here is a little taste of a book packed with wisdom, words of grace, and practical ways to apply self-compassion:

“As children we’re taught to treat others the way we would like to be treated. But as adults, we often need to turn that old maxim around. We’re good at showing compassion to other people – but many of us have trouble showing that same compassion to ourselves.”

“Self-compassion is absolutely essential for healthy, balanced living. It provides huge benefits including emotional resiliency, stress reduction, contentment, and healthier relationships. Without it we are vulnerable to the opinions of others and find it difficult to deal with and let go of our mistakes. It is tough enough to go through a difficult situation, especially when we think we had a part in creating it. It is another kind of torture to never be able to let go of self-criticism and blame… God’s heart is tender toward us in our suffering, frailties, and mistakes. He is our perfect example of balancing truth and grace. He knows we are but dust and is merciful (Ps. 78:38-39).”

Build Trust in Relationships

Trust is an essential ingredient in healthy relationships. But how do we build trust in relationships? In the following videos, John Gottman, one of the foremost relationship experts, shares why trust is so important and gives some practical tools on how to grow trust with one another.