Personal Growth

Be a Kindness Ambassador

 

Two thoughtful friends of mine have established a challenge: 50 Days of Kindness. Whoever would like to participate is tasked with deliberately doing something kind for 50 days (the number of repetitions needed to establish a new habit), sharing ideas and experiences with a like-minded Facebook group, and noticing how being intentionally kind feels (emotionally and even physically).

The idea has great merit. Even if you’re a generally nice person, committing to this challenge brings kindness into specific focus—sort of like keeping a gratitude journal enhances thankfulness more than just being a grateful person in general.

The day that I was invited to join the challenge, I reflected on a simple kindness I had shown someone the day before. I had run into Target for a few things, and the checkout clerk shared with me that it was her last day. I asked her, do you have another job lined up, or are you going back to school in the new semester? No, she replied, I’m seasonal help and this is just my last day. She was looking for another job.

So I said with a smile, “Well thank you for being here, and all best wishes for whatever your next chapter will be!” She seemed genuinely pleased to have been heard and acknowledged.

I thought about how my kindness was so ordinary, that I would actually feel sort of funny about sharing it on the group’s Facebook page. I don’t need to receive praise for it, and I don’t think it’s particularly inspiring.

But, one of the other group members posted how she finds grocery stores to be great places to share kindness, even if it’s just giving someone an uplifting compliment, or passing up a great parking space so that the person behind you can have it. Simple, right?

Sure enough, later that day I went to a grocery store, and there was someone right behind me as I drove down my chosen parking aisle. Because of what I had read, I was inspired to pass up a primo parking space so that the person behind me could have it. I parked a little farther away, which helped me get some extra steps in for my fitness—a win-win.

I hope the person behind me felt lucky to score a parking spot so close to the entrance. I felt pretty good about performing a random act of small generosity. I always try to do something nice when I have a chance. But now, I will try harder to do a least one thing every single day.

What if everyone we knew joined in this challenge? The world would be a kinder place. At least each of us would experience 50 extra acts of thoughtfulness—whether we give, receive, or observe others, we all benefit!

If you’d like to be a kindness ambassador, here’s a link to the Facebook group. www.facebook.com/groups/177744486156215/

The challenge officially started on January 1st, but don’t worry—you can jump in at any time. The world needs more kindness every day!!

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Let’s Stop Wasting Food!

 

The first time I went to Trader Joe’s, I was so drawn in by the variety and the cute packaging and the great prices, that I bought and bought and bought.

Now, YEARS later, I still have some of those cute packages in my pantry. What was I thinking?

Truth is, I wasn’t. Those impulse buys led to a lot of food waste, and according to experts, we all do it. In fact, in our country, some 40-50% of the food we buy gets thrown away. And grocery stores reject food before we even have a chance to buy it, because it’s too “ugly.” Restaurants, hospitals and schools are notorious for throwing food away—more than we ever see.

This is, obviously, a waste of food. It’s also a waste of energy in growing, harvesting, packaging, shipping, pricing, displaying it, etc. We add to the deforestation of our planet to grow more food we don’t need. And the wasted food breaking down in landfills adds to the greenhouse gases that are heating up our planet.

But, there’s good news: we can all make some fairly easy changes and help eliminate food waste. Here’s how to start:

1. Buy ugly! Some grocery stores have started offering perfectly good but less-than-perfect-looking produce in discounted bins. Maybe we can pressure our local grocers to do that!

2. Shop smart. We can also do more to grow our own food, and shop at farmer’s markets to support local growers and cut down on packaging and shipping. But wherever we shop, we need to have a plan and stop buying more than we need. And start USING what we buy.

Think about the week ahead—could you use half of a roast cauliflower in an Italian dish tonight, and the other half in an Indian curry tomorrow?

3. Eat leftovers. Store things in airtight containers and keep them toward the front of the fridge. And then don’t forget to eat them—such easy and delicious lunches or dinners for busy days!

4. Store properly. Some fruits and veggies do better on the counter than in the fridge. Keep fruits and veggies where you can see them in the fridge so you don’t forget to eat them! (By not over-buying, we can avoid clutter.)

5. Check expiration dates. Usually “best by” dates are for freshness, not safety. Use common sense. Of course it’s not worth getting sick by eating spoiled food, but it’s also a waste of money to toss something before its time.

6. Make soup. If some produce is just a bit past its prime—maybe a pepper whose skin is starting to wrinkle, for example—toss it in a pot to make a nice soup or veggie broth. If you can’t eat a whole carton of fruit before it goes bad, freeze it and keep it for a future smoothie or baked delicacy.

7. Eat leaf to root. Carrot, celery and radish greens, for example, have nice flavors for salads and sauces. Crush extra herbs and add a little oil; store the mixture in the fridge to extend their shelf life.

8. Monitor what you throw away. Literally, make a list. Put a value on what you’re tossing with a $, $$, $$$ system. This can be very motivating to change our buying and eating habits!

9. Eat it up. Make one meal per week a clean-out-the fridge challenge. You can do an internet search for recipes using ingredients on hand. Be creative! Isn’t that how meatloaf was born?

10. Donate. If you find stuff in your pantry you know you’re probably not going to use, give it to a food pantry. Ask local farmers if they can take any types of scraps to feed to their livestock or use for fertilizer.

11. Compost. I learned how to make compost buckets—it’s easy, the food scraps break down super fast in our Florida heat and sunshine, it doesn’t smell, and it’s simple to use the wonderful rich soil for fertilizer. If you want to learn how, just ask me! See pics below!

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre recently showed Anthony Bourdain’s inspiring new documentary “Wasted: The Story of Food Waste.” Here’s a link to the trailer; hopefully the film will be available to all of us at home soon!

 

 

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Happy Holidays!

I think most of us, at least in theory, love “the holidays.” What a wonderful season! Starting with Thanksgiving at the end of November, December celebrates Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and many others. So many opportunities to celebrate love and friendship and family and gratitude!

Sadly, our culture has put so much emphasis on more, especially shopping and especially for Christmas, that “the holidays” have almost become a stressful time of the year. We feel like we are failing if we don’t get more decorations, more gifts, more special foods “for the season,” more parties and pageants and festivities, etc.

Perhaps the best strategy is to simply tune out all that noise to the best of our abilities, turn a blind eye to the endless ads, let go of other people’s expectations, and create space to focus on what is really important to each one of us.

The best present of all is simply to be present. Breathe. Relax, even if you think you don’t have time to. Go outside for a walk with a friend. Play with your children and give them the gift of your time, even if the house is a mess and the meal is not planned and tree is not perfectly trimmed. Call a loved one you haven’t seen for a long time and give yourself this moment to talk and laugh and get caught up.

I read an article in early November about the “holiday season” as it relates to retail—what people will be selling and buying: trends, strategies, predictions. Of course, that’s what business analysts do. But we don’t need to buy into it. We don’t need to start thinking about Christmas in November. We really can just enjoy November in November, right?  And I hope we can enjoy December in December. One day at a time. One holiday at a time. One moment at a time. My wish for you is to that you may be fully present, peacefully celebrating love and gratitude and all our many blessings.

Happy holidays to you!!

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Gratitude Is Good for Us

 

We all know that saying “thank you” is good manners. But did you know that being truly grateful is actually good for your health?

Needing to give thanks and be thanked is as vital to us as needing to be respected and feeling connected to others. In fact, gratitude helps build community, experts believe, because when we appreciate the goodness we receive, we feel compelled to give back.

Establishing an actual gratitude ritual improves our outlook and even our physical health in numerous ways:

We feel happier. Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and is a pioneer in the field of gratitude research. In one of his studies, subjects who wrote down one thing they were grateful for every day for just three weeks reported being 25% happier for six full months afterward. In another study, people who wrote thank-you letters to someone who had done something important for them (but were never properly thanked) reported significantly decreased symptoms of depression for as long as a month later.

We enjoy better health. A gratitude practice has been linked to improved kidney function, reduced blood pressure, a drop in stress hormone levels, and a stronger heart. This is likely because when we truly appreciate our health, we take better care of ourselves. Grateful people avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, exercise an average of 33% more, and sleep an extra 30 minutes per night.

We have more energy. In Emmons’s gratitude journal studies, participants who regularly wrote down things they felt thankful for consistently reported feeling increased vitality. (Control subjects who kept a general diary enjoyed no such increase.) No solid conclusion was reached as to why this is, but it may have to do with their increased physical health. When we feel better, we have more energy. I personally think our mental state has as much to do with it as physical health. It’s very common for people with depression to feel lethargic. On the other hand, being in a great mood is very energizing!

We’re more resilient. When we consistently appreciate kindness and the good things around us, we rewire our brains to seek out the positive in any situation, even dire ones. That makes us better at recovering from loss or trauma. “A grateful stance toward life is relatively immune to both fortune and misfortune,” Emmons says. We truly count our blessings instead of only seeing the negatives.
We are nicer. When someone expresses appreciation, the recipient experiences a surge of dopamine. When we feel good about doing good, it makes us want to do more good! So when we thank a loved one, a neighbor or a coworker, he or she feels grateful in return, and the back and forth continues. We almost can’t help but pay gratitude forward!

We improve relationships. Similarly, a large study showed that people in a partnership who felt appreciated were more likely to appreciate their partner in return, and enjoyed longer lasting relationships. If we are grateful for the things that are going well, we are calmer and less likely to fly into fight-or-flight mode when something challenging comes up. We can’t be thankful and resentful at the same time.

How to Journal

One of the best ways to experience the rewards of being grateful is to write a gratitude journal. Emmons says that recording our thoughts, whether by hand or electronically, helps us focus on them. That which we focus on grows. Here’s how to grow the goodness of gratitude:

Create a journal that’s specifically for reflecting on gratitude. Have a special notebook or a separate file/document on your computer.
Write consistently. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it does need to be at least once or twice a week.

Be a little deep. A simple list of nice thoughts is not very inspiring, and those types of journals are easy to abandon. Give some thought to what you truly appreciate, write a bit about it and really savor it.

Write freely. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This is just for you to express your appreciation.

Think about others. This is an opportunity to think about nice things other people have done to support us. Emmons says, “It’s not all about us. This may be the most important lesson about trying to become more grateful.”

My challenge to you (and myself!) is this: in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s start a gratitude journal. I intend to write a little each day between now and Thanksgiving (November 23) about people’s kindness and life’s gifts that I’m truly grateful for.

It doesn’t have to be much—just a sentence or two each day unless you feel particularly inspired on a day when you have more time. Are you up for it? I know it’s a busy time of year, but the benefits are many. And then we’ll have even more to be grateful for!

“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” —Rita Schiano

Source: “What Gratitude Can Do for You,” by Louisa Kamps, in TIME Special Edition: “Mindfulness: The New Science of Health and Happiness”

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

On Being Spontaneous

 

Here in St. Augustine, autumn weather has finally arrived. Refreshing cooler, drier air gives us a much-needed break from the uncomfortable sticky heat of summer.

One day on Facebook, a friend remarked how absolutely gorgeous it was outside, and encouraged everyone to get out and enjoy. A friend of hers replied “I would, but no time. On my way to yoga!”

That same day, another friend posted a photo of her adorable cat curled up on her lap, and asked, “how can I possibly leave to go work out?”

I was struck with a “Seize the Day!” reaction. Maybe you don’t have to leave to workout right this minute, I thought. Maybe if a pet or a loved one is offering us a moment of perfect, genuine affection, we could just allow ourselves the time to take it in with appreciation.

Maybe instead of rushing to an indoor yoga class, on a particularly beautiful day we could go for a nice walk and do some gentle stretching afterward at home. Or do our own impromptu yoga routine outdoors!

I mean, I understand the importance of setting goals and being disciplined. If you’re committed to a yoga practice or workout routine, I’m not suggesting that you consistently blow it off to indulge in whimsical pursuits.

But don’t we all say life is short, and it’s the small, quality moments that count? Can we allow ourselves a little flexibility to be human BEings instead of human “doings”?

My Seize the Day attitude was put to the test about two days later. I was exercising on my garage elliptical, enjoying a pretty good workout thanks to the cooler temperatures. I spied a neighbor across the street who is only in town part of the time. I had a little thank you gift for him, and I hadn’t been able to connect to give it to him in an embarrassingly long time.

He was outside starting to put a piece of furniture together. Then his partner drove up. Now I had a chance to deliver the gift and say hi to both of them! But I didn’t want to interrupt my great workout. Besides, I had a full day planned, and I would have to “ruin” my perfectly ordered schedule if I interrupted myself to go across the street.

Could I be that spontaneous?

I decided yes. If I would advise others to enjoy the small moments that life presents to us, then I needed to be flexible enough to do the same. I paused the elliptical, ran inside and got the gift, and went over and enjoyed a wonderful, short visit with my neighbors. It was actually perfect timing, as they had questions about hurricane damage and roof repair options.

I was able to modify my schedule easily. I completed my workout with a happy heart and rearranged my day a little to accommodate the slightly later finish time.

This is just a small, somewhat silly example of creating time to experience joy. The point is, I always have a to-do list. I often feel anxiety about getting everything done to the best of my ability in the time I have available to me. I feel like I can’t relax and be happy until later, after a sufficient number of items is checked off my list. And that IS silly.

It’s a beautiful day. Whether you’re doing something on your list or modifying your list to allow for spontaneity—I hope you, and I will appreciate the beautiful moments we have in this day.

 

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Death Cleaning

 

An elderly client of mine has a cello for sale. She asked if I knew anyone who would be interested—a special someone who could properly appreciate a rare, gorgeous, 400-year old treasure.

A retired musician and music teacher, she is no longer able to play much except for an occasional short jam session on her beloved piano. She has other instruments, stacks of sheet music, and many other items that make her home feel cluttered, especially now that she’s having some trouble getting around. Little by little, she is trying to find new homes for things she still loves but can no longer use.

She confided in me that as she began to itemize which of her belongings she was ready to part with, one of her adult children complained, “MOM, you’re not DYING!”

Truthfully, she is in declining health. But even if she weren’t, I reassured her that it’s actually a great idea to deal with these things NOW! If it’s something she truly can’t use anymore, and it could bring someone else happiness, then she could spread joy, and lighten her load, and maybe make some money—a win, win, win!

And right after my conversation with her, an article about “death cleaning” popped into my Facebook feed! From a blog shared on treehugger.com, “In Swedish, the word is ‘dostadning’ and it refers to the act of slowly and steadily decluttering as the years go by, ideally beginning in your fifties (or at any point in life) and going until the day you kick the bucket. The ultimate purpose of death cleaning is to minimize the amount of stuff, especially meaningless clutter, that you leave behind for others to deal with.”

And while it might seem a little morbid at first, the idea has a lot of merit. I know from my own experience, moving into a small house in my 50s and purging stuff in favor of downsizing and living lean was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done.

Sources from the “New York Times” to “Forbes” Magazine have been running articles like, “Memo to Parents: Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” And oftentimes, nobody else wants our parents’ stuff either—except maybe for those serial bargain hunters who frequent estate sales and accumulate stuff that their kids have to sell off in estate sales of their own one day!

Consider this quote by Linda Morman Stichtenoth: “I spent the first 2/3 of my life acquiring stuff that doesn’t matter only so that I can spend the last 1/3 getting rid of it. What a stupid game of consumerism we Americans play.”

Are you ready to do some death cleaning? Go for it!! But if you know of anyone who’s not finished acquiring, who might be in the market for a high-end cello, please let me know!

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

When “Healthy” Habits Aren’t

 

I applaud anyone who makes a commitment to improving their wellness with healthy lifestyle changes.

But what is “healthy”? It isn’t always as simple as it sounds! It’s certainly possible to overdo it with exercise, which leads to injury or to make dietary changes only to find out that today’s recommendation is tomorrow’s no-no.

The information is a growing, changing body of knowledge, and the best we can do is stay informed and be flexible (literally!). I also think it’s a fallacy to believe that one ideal will work equally well for everyone. For example, many people like eating small amounts of food several times a day rather than three bigger meals. But some folks really don’t care for that, or don’t find it practical, and that’s OK! Or, if everyone you know is into an exercise class that doesn’t appeal to you, do something that YOU enjoy instead!

And take everyone’s advice—even mine!—with a grain of salt. (Just not too much salt because, you know, watch your sodium intake.) Here’s a fun list from an article I read recently about habits that might seem supportive of good health, but really aren’t.

Brushing our teeth right after we eat. It might seem like it would be a good idea to brush immediately after eating, before the bacteria has a chance to multiply and do any damage. But the Academy of General Dentistry says if we eat or drink something that’s acidic like citrus, tomatoes, or soda, brushing within 30 minutes can actually “scratch” the acid right into the enamel of our teeth. This helps erode the enamel and leaves us susceptible to more harm. Better to rinse with water immediately after eating, and wait a half hour to brush.

Avoiding fat. For years “experts” told us if we wanted to lose unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight, we needed to eliminate fat from our diet. But selections low in fat are usually loaded with sugars and salt to make them palatable. And not eating enough fat causes other problems, from dry skin and constipation, to difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and even decreased brain function. See a nutritionist to get the latest science-based information on balancing healthy nutrients in your diet, which might include some fats like olive oil (and even butter!), certain nuts and seeds, and avocado.

Always putting our best face forward. While lashing out is never a welcome reaction, it’s not good to stuff down our feelings either. Sometimes feeling angry or irritated is appropriate, and holding it in can increase our chances of developing depression, high blood pressure, increased pain sensitivity and other ailments. When the time is right (usually not in the heat of the moment), there are healthy ways to engage in constructive dialog, such as “When you did X, it made me feel Y.” Let’s always try to offer solutions or alternatives.

Reusing grocery totes. OK, taking our own bags to the store is actually a great thing to do! But we need to wash them regularly!! And putting them in the dryer can help kill bacteria. If we don’t wash them, they get pretty gross.

Exercise—when we do our favorite workout ALL the time. If we do the same routine every time, we run the risk of injuring ourselves from stressing the same muscles over and over again. It’s far better to mix it up. We reduce the chance of overuse injury, and we really benefit from alternating cardio, weights/resistance, flexibility, and balance work.

Stretching before working out. Theories about stretching have really changed over the years. The most current research shows that stretching while muscles are cold could strain or tear them, and stretching before an athletic event can leave some joints more lax—which leads to injury. Better to warm up a bit slowly before more rigorous exercise, and stretch after our workouts while our muscles are still warm.

Source: “Healthy Habits that Can Haunt You,” by Stacey Colino, “Parade” Magazine, September 24, 2017

 

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Do You Need a Tech Time Out?

 

 

We hear a lot about cleansing detox programs these days. Many see the value in eating clean, ridding our bodies of pollutants that cause inflammation, and flushing out toxins.

Have you ever considered how cleansing it might be to give our brains a break from technology and devices?

Checking emails, texts and social media gives us a shot of dopamine similar to other drugs and pleasurable behaviors. So it’s easy to get into the habit of overdoing it. And, as with other addictive habits, too much tech time is hard on our brains. It keeps us stimulated.

It might be wise to cut back and give our minds some rest—and time for different kinds of input and experiences. But how?

A book by Nancy Colier titled “Power of Off” outlines a tech detox plan that focuses on the psychology behind why we might have an unhealthy attachment to technology. Rather than trying simply to quit or cut back just because we think we ought to, Colier recommends peeling back layers of what’s really motivating us to overdo it.

By reflecting on our reasons, we can more easily make changes to our behavior. She suggests the next time you want to check your phone stop yourself and ask—am I doing this out of habit? Do I really NEED to check it right now? If your answers are yes and no respectively, redirect yourself to do something else. Because your habit is impulsive, almost more involuntary than meaningful.

The next step is to think about how you would feel if you didn’t check your phone. Would you feel bored? Would you be anxious? Are we distracting ourselves from something uncomfortable? For example, if you’re supposed to be studying or writing a blog, do you check emails, texts or social media just to give yourself a break from the work? But when you really reflect on it—is it a quick, pleasant break, or is it really interfering with your focus?

People who commit to giving up technology at least part of the time enjoy significant benefits. For example, if you really did need a break from working or studying, what if you went for a quick walk outside instead? You’d get fresh air and vitamin D, a little exercise and a chance to clear your head. If we check our phones every time we ride an elevator or wait in line, we miss opportunities to rest our brains so we have more mental energy available when we need it.

Right before bed is another time to put tech in time out. Devices keep our brains stimulated, and we need to wind down. If we listen to music, read an old-fashioned book, or talk to each other (if you live alone, call a friend rather than text her or him). All of these help us feel calmer and more connected to real people.

Here are two other ways to detox:

Make the first hour of each day after waking completely tech-free. Checking our email first thing in the morning puts us in a reactive state, which can make us more anxious throughout the day.
Try to enjoy the moment when you’re at an event. Put down your device. We get so caught up in recording our lives that we forget to enjoy them.

Source: “The Health Nut,” by Amy Brightfield, Better Homes & Gardens, August 2017

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Recovering from a Hurricane

I survived staying put through my second hurricane in eleven months and, like most Floridians, I am now regrouping and recovering from Irma.

For me, the damage was largely emotional. I lost power at home for just 3 days and found respite in my office with A/C and working outlets to recharge devices. My business sign blew down US 1 in tiny pieces. A total of 3 shingles were pulled off the roof of my house. Small branches broke and many of my plants looked like they had taken a beating. Because they had!

Although physical damage was minimal, I felt like I had taken a beating as well. I was already working through a couple of personal and financial crises when the storm approached. Even though I deliberately avoided sensationalized news outlets and checked in only periodically with data-based weather websites, tracking the storm’s changing forecasts was unnerving. Uncertainty is like that.

When the storm raged outside, I reminded myself that fretting doesn’t help. I focused on my breathing. I imagined that my guardian angel was hugging the outside of the house, literally wrapping her wings around the structure for protection. And I visualized the inside of the house being so completely filled to the brim with love, that there was no way the house could collapse. I would calm myself by self-talk like: instead of wondering “what if” something awful happens, imagine instead “what if” everything is perfectly fine?

I would start to feel pretty safe and optimistic. And then that small voice in my head would pipe up and ask, yea but what if a piece of the roof does fly off? Which part of the house do you run to? Do you just go and save yourself, or do you make sure the kids wake up and get to a safe area as well? Do you just go to the nearest closet, or do you make sure you grab the important documents and a gallon of water on the way?

Then I would repeat the process of breathing and meditation and visualization. I dozed off. Then my phone blasted me awake with the warning siren. It was a flash flood warning. I was thankful it wasn’t a tornado warning.

And that’s why I had trouble remaining calm—because the threat was real. I was in fight-or-flight mode. I did my best not to make it worse with unnecessary worry. But our nervous systems are hard-wired to keep us safe, and that means being alert when our nervous systems feel like it’s important for us to be alert.

After the threat has passed, we have to deal with the aftermath. There’s a chemical process that happens with re-balancing adrenaline and cortisol and all the stress hormones. If you’ve ever been in a car accident or had a bad fall, you might recall the feelings of shock and soreness afterward, sometimes days afterward. These processes happen after any kind of trauma.

Self-care is especially important at a time like this. I re-shared a post on Facebook yesterday addressing the possibility of adrenal fatigue—when our adrenal glands are too stressed to help us cope with stress. The author writes, “You could feel some of the following symptoms: more fatigued, then normal, more emotional, less ability to handle stress, have low back pain, hormonal imbalance, restless sleep, low sex drive, dizziness, and have less strength and stamina physically.”

Here are the tips she shared for dealing with adrenal fatigue:

Sleep. Get some rest. If we feel extra tired, we need to give our bodies what they require by going to bed earlier, sleeping in later, and/or taking naps.

Go easy on the exercise. You might be eager to get back to your workout routine, but this is not the time to push for new personal bests. Go a little slower, push a little less, allow more time for things like yoga or Tai Chi.

Release emotions. Cry, journal, meditate, have a massage or reflexology or acupuncture session. While we all want to “get back to normal,” it’s not “normal” to go through a night wondering—with good reason—whether our home/community/livelihood/way of life will be destroyed. We need time to heal.

Take supplements. There are supplements to help adrenal glands recover. While this is outside of my scope of practice, I think it’s worthwhile to ask your doctor or nutritionist about it. And certainly, eating healthy to give our bodies the nutrients we need to for strength and wellness is always a good idea.

The article concludes: “Ignoring symptoms and just pushing through will only make you more exhausted in the long run…. When you go through a stressful incident or experience trauma you need to let yourself heal and recover.”

I agree. If you need solitude, give yourself permission. If you need to laugh with a friend, reach out to someone. People are stressed right now. We need to be gentle and kind to each other—and to ourselves!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Finding Joy

 

Last week I was reminded to find joy every day, even if it’s in little things we really enjoy, such as savoring a delicious cup of coffee peacefully in the morning.

“What makes you happy?” we were asked. People said kids, exercise, helping others, laughing with friends. Happiness doesn’t just come from monumental occurrences. We were challenged to think about the last 24 hours and recall three good things that happened that made us happy. And to be specific. Where were we, what was said, how did we feel? Writing down specifics helps us remember and draw on those good feelings again whenever we need to.

It reminded me of an exercise a friend tasked me with several years ago: make a list of 100 things you’re grateful for. A gratitude list.

Try it! Literally take out paper and pen or pencil and number line by line from 1 to 100. At first, I found myself “cheating” in ways like naming each of my kids separately rather than having “my kids” as just one line item.

But as I kept at it, ideas started flowing almost faster than I could write them down. Think about indoor plumbing. How great is it that we can turn a handle and have running water anytime we please? And in most cases, it’s very clean water. We can choose hot, warm or cold. We can drink it, cook with it, draw a bath or run a shower, flush our waste away in a toilet, wash our clothes in a machine that does the work for us with a push of a button!

Not everyone has clean, running water, and I’m extremely grateful for it. I’m grateful for the eyeglasses that help me see clearly. I’m grateful for air conditioning. I’m grateful for my garden and the butterflies and bees and hummingbirds that visit daily. I’m grateful to live in a wonderful community, where I feel safe and am surrounded by natural beauty. I’m grateful to have so much energizing sunshine (have you ever lived through a gray, gloomy winter?) but I’m also so grateful when we get a nice rain. I’m grateful that I have a super comfortable rocking chair. I like to read in it—I’m grateful that I know how to read! I’m grateful for my health, family, home, car, dogs, friends, rewarding work, the computer I type this on, the Internet!, the abundance of food and gas and all the supplies we need, and on and on.

Reflecting on what I’m grateful for makes me happy! And this reminds me of another exercise, one that some people call keeping a blessing jar.

The idea is to keep an open jar on the kitchen counter or some place very handy and visible. Make it a big jar, like a cookie jar. Each time something good happens, write it down on a little slip of paper and put it in the jar. Whenever the jar gets full, or whenever you need a pick-me-up, pull out the notes and reflect on all the good things that have happened in the recent past.

It’s remarkable how quickly we can forget the good stuff, and how easy it is to take little joys for granted. Recalling even small successes and highlights of our days can make us feel happy AND grateful.

And that is a blessing!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth