Category Archives: Relationships

8 Ways to Build Strong Relationships

originalIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day. But shouldn’t every day be like Valentine’s Day? We should let our sweethearts know we love them on a daily basis.

What makes a love last life a lifetime? Unlike the fairy tale stories about true love, real-life love takes work. Just like you must maintain your house for it to last, or improve your skills at your job to evolve in your position, you need to continue to build and grow your relationship.

Here are 8 ways you can strengthen and nurture your relationship:

Put your love first
You and your partner are a team. Think of yourselves as the two musketeers. It’s all for one and one for all. Your relationship comes first. Even the little things matter. If you’re having a discussion and the phone rings, let it go and finish what you’re saying. If your spouse wants you to go with them to a company party and you don’t really want to, go anyway.

Learn to compromise
Strong relationships are built on give and take. It can’t be all one person’s way. Like I mentioned above, having a happy, healthy relationship may mean making compromises. No matter how much you love each other, you may not agree on everything. You can agree to disagree. And sometimes you just have to let things go – and so does your partner.

Respect each other
For a relationship to work, you have to be friends. To have an enduring, loving relationship, you must respect each other. It’s important to respect each other’s thoughts, feelings and opinions. Every person is unique. You need to embrace and appreciate that uniqueness. As long as you and your significant other feel safe with each other, you can talk about anything.

Be honest
You may feel like you should spare your partner’s feelings from time to time. You don’t have to be mean about it, but you should be honest. If I ask my husband if my butt looks big, he will tell me the truth. I have learned not to ask him some questions. But I know that he will always tell me the truth – even if I may not like it.

Trust unconditionally
Trust goes hand-in-hand with honesty and respect. If you know your partner will always be honest with you and that he or she respects you, then you know that trust will be there. You probably have friends who constantly question each other’s motives and actions. Without trust, you cannot build a strong, lasting relationship.

Really listen
Make it a point to focus intently and listen to what your partner is saying. Hear what the person is saying and not saying. Watch facial expressions and body postures. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to fix dinner, texting or watching TV and not truly pay attention to what your partner is saying. And listen without interrupting. Sometimes the other person just needs someone to hear them vent.

Be comfortable with yourself
You’ve probably heard the expression, “True love only exists by loving yourself first.” You need to be at peace with yourself to be able to open up to your partner. Once you own who you are, you can give and receive love from your significant other.

Let go of expectations
We grow up with fairy tale images of what love will be like. We think that when we find our true love it will be all magic and happy endings. While being in a loving relationship is one of the most rewarding things on this earth, it’s not always easy. It can be messy. And it takes patience and hard work.

So, make every day Valentine’s Day. Give your sweetie a hug and a kiss, and let them know how much you love them!

6 Ways to Give Thanks this Thanksgiving

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude for the blessings we have in life. Gratitude puts everything in a fresh perspective and allows us to see and appreciate all of the things we grateful for.

The more you practice giving thanks, the better you’ll be at it over time. Like anything else, you can turn being grateful into a habit and a way of living. The fall and holiday seasons are an especially good time to practice being thankful.

Here are 6 ways you can get creative and give thanks this holiday season:

Invite others to your dinner
Many people are alone on Thanksgiving. If you know a neighbor, friend or someone at work will be by themselves during the holiday, welcome them to join your dinner. Your guests will appreciate the invitation and your gathering will be happier with a sense of fellowship and togetherness.

Share Thanksgiving memories
You can remember Thanksgiving’s past and ask family members to tell fond stories about Thanksgiving memories. You can invite your guests to join in and share their warmest Thanksgiving memories and family stories.

Create a thankful atmosphere
Decorating your home with lovely crafts can create a thankful and comfortable space for family and guests. You can incorporate organic materials, such as greenery, pine cones, stones, leaves or acorns, to create a festive atmosphere. Put out a platter of fruits, veggies, cheeses and nuts to embellish your table. You can even use scrapbook paper and have guests create Thanksgiving card placeholders, sharing the things that they are grateful for.

Do a good deed or volunteer
While Thanksgiving is considered a time for enjoying family and friends, it’s also an opportunity to share your blessings with others. You can do a good deed or volunteer to express your gratitude. Visit a hospital or nursing home. Put together gifts or treats to share with the patients. These small gifts can mean a lot to someone who may not have family to enjoy the holiday with them. You can also donate to a church or charitable organization to help provide for others at Thanksgiving.

Write handwritten notes to friends
When was the last time you received a real letter from a friend or family member? Or the last time you wrote one? You may have family and friends you’re unable to visit during the holidays. A handwritten note sent by mail is a precious way to show your appreciation and love.

Appreciate the little things
A kind word, heartfelt hug or peck on the cheek can express your gratefulness better than expensive gifts. Give compliments to your family and friends on Thanksgiving day. Hugs and kisses are a delight to the young and old alike.

Thanksgiving is a great time to share kindness, thankfulness and appreciation. Get your family involved in doing something good on this day. Teach the younger generous to be gracious and giving. Express your gratitude and say “thank you” to everyone you know!

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

Are Your Kids Stressed Out?

KidsHaveStressTooPicIf you’re like most parents, your list of errands and things to do never ends. You run from one activity or event to the next. You’re probably stressed out at times.

Guess what? Your kids may be stressed out, too. The start of school – after a summer of being on vacation – can be a particularly stressful time.

How do you know if your kids are stressed?
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have ongoing stress.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to determine if your child is stressed:

  1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
  2. Do you notice more fatigue, irritability, headaches or stomachaches?
  3. Is your child sleeping poorly or having more nightmares?
  4. Does your child seem angry?

What can you do to help your child cope with stress? Here are 8 stress relievers you can teach your kids:

Think positive
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of negative thinking. You may also be teaching your kids to think in the negative instead of the positive. Rather than saying, “I hope I don’t fail the test,” put a positive spin on it and say, “I have studied, and I will pass the test.”

Show by example
Kids are perceptive. They watch you and pay attention to what you’re doing. If you show them that you can manage stress in productive way, they will learn that stress is something they can deal with. Make sure they see you finding effective methods of handling stress in your life.

De-stress early
Most people wait until they’re stressed out to use stress-busting techniques. You can teach your kids to know the signs early or take a preventative approach to dealing with stress. For instance, you can use healthy eating, exercising, meditating or other techniques to help  cope with stress.

Unplug
While we rely on technology in many aspects of our lives, it can also add to our stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology cut-off time. Limit screen time for kids, including TV, movies, mobile phones, tablets and social media. You and your kids may be surprised by the things you can find to do when you’re unplugged.

Eat together
At least once a day, make it a point to eat a meat together. It can be breakfast if everyone is up and about at the same time. Or plan on sitting down to eat dinner in the evening as a family. You can learn quite a bit about what’s going on in your kids’ lives if you sit down regularly for a meal and conversation.

Spend time with friends
As adults we spend time with our friends to unwind, complain about our boss or just goof off. Your kids should also build healthy friendships that allow them to be themselves and blow off steam. They can hang out at the park, have sleep overs or just play in the yard.

Take up a sport
Sports are a great way to relieve stress. Playing a team sport can also help your kids build relationships, exercise and have fun.

Enjoy creative activities
Art, music or other creative tasks can help alleviate stress. Even reading a book can be a stress buster.

Relationships can help kids build resilience. Spending time with parents or grandparents playing board games, cooking or tossing a frisbee can help kids handle stress. And it creates happy memories for everyone!

6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

Are You a Good Listener?

80946-71556Did you ever have a teacher tell you to “put your listening ears on?” The fact of the matter is that most of us aren’t good listeners. Studies have shown that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency. We let a lot of information go in one ear and out the other.

The good news is we can improve our listening skills. You may currently be focused on the mechanics of listening – nodding your head, making eye contact, and mumbling uh-huh or okay as a person talks.

You may be missing out on the art of being a good listener. Listening is a crucial part of creating solid and meaningful relationships. You have multiple conversations every day. You may talk with your spouse, partner, children, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and even strangers. Are you taking the time to truly listen?

Here are 8 good listening habits that you can practice every time you take part in a conversation or discussion:

Be present
When you’re fully present and aware in the moment, you’re more likely to retain what you’re hearing and respond intelligently. This means put down the cell phone, stop running through your to-do list in your head, and really pay attention when someone is speaking.

Concentrate
Good listening is hard work. It’s not simply nodding along. Your senses are being bombarded by sights, sounds and smells all the time. You must ignore these stimuli and concentrate on the verbal sounds and any visual cues you are receiving from the speaker.

Show empathy
Part of effective listening is making the effort to empathize with the person who is speaking. Put yourself in the other person’s position. Think about what it must be like for them. You can connect and truly understand another person’s point of view if you can put yourself in their shoes.

Have an open mind
Everyone has their own thoughts and feelings. Our diverse backgrounds and histories make our thought patterns unique. Good listeners keep an open mind about the opinions and belief systems of others. Even if you don’t agree, you need to take the time to listen and understand another person’s thoughts.

Ask questions
While an important part of listening is just letting the other person vent or get something off of their chest, providing relevant feedback is one of the best ways to let someone know that they’ve been heard. Good listeners validate the feelings of others by asking questions and finding out more details.

Paraphrase
Another great way to show that you’re listening is to restate what you’re hearing. You don’t need to repeat everything a person says, but by paraphrasing the speaker’s main thoughts, they know that you’re getting the message.

Avoid defensiveness
You need to be able to get comfortable during a conversation even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you’re thinking about how to respond or defend yourself, you’re not giving the conversation your full attention. You may have to mentally step back and take a moment before responding rashly.

Listen without advising
You may be in the habit of thinking that everyone wants your advice. You’re listening only to solve their problems. However, the speaker may just want to fill you in, give you their opinion, or vent on a topic. If you’re not sure, wait for the person to ask for your thoughts or opinions.

Good listeners focus intently and hear what others are saying – and what they aren’t saying. It’s easy to get distracted or let your mind wander. Make it a point to be a better listener. Try it today!

11 Ways to Stay Healthy This Summer

summer33It’s hard enough to keep a healthy routine going on a daily basis. Summer can definitely bring its own challenges. Your routine may change based on school or work schedules. There are more daylight hours, along with hot and humid weather.

You can maintain your healthy routine and incorporate summer fun into those long, lazy days.

Here are 11 easy ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy this summer:

Set a schedule
When school gets out, your routine may go out the window. Or, you may change your work hours to enjoy more of the summer weather. Keep up your good habits, such as eating regular meals, exercising and getting enough sleep. With additional daylight hours, it is tempting to spend more time on the run and get to bed later.

Fuel up with breakfast
Start the day with a healthy breakfast. A balanced breakfast includes protein, carbs and fiber. You and your kids will have a sharper mind, more energy and better nutrition to tackle the day.

Protect your skin
Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach or swimming pool. You need to apply sunscreen any time that you’re going to be outside, even on a cloudy day. You may spend more time outside during the day than you realize. You want to especially protect your most exposed areas, such as your face, ears, neck and backs of hands. These areas are most affected by skin cancer.

Stock up on healthy snacks
Studies have shown that kids gain less weight during the school year. That’s because schools have scheduled meal times, portioned meals and prevent kids from snacking through the day. Adults also tend to grab unhealthy snacks on the go during the warm summer months. Having healthy snack options on hand can be good for your entire family to create healthy eating habits.

Drink plenty of water
We know that drinking water helps promote good health. With warmer temperatures, it’s even more important than ever to stay hydrated. Even if you’re simply relaxing outside, your body temperature is still rising. Drinking water keeps your body functioning properly and can even help you lose weight.

Eat together as a family
A family that eats together stays healthy together. Dinnertime can be an opportunity to build your family relationships. Kids may be having a rough time with friends or other concerns. The dinner table is a place for kids to express themselves, which can help kids learn to talk about problems rather than turn to unhealthy eating habits. Regular eating times and dining together can also allow you to encourage healthy eating habits. It’s a chance for adults to relax and unwind, too!

Limit the Internet
You and your family may spend too much time on computers, tablets or smartphones surfing the Internet and playing games. Make it a point to turn off the devices and spend more time together as a family. You can have a picnic or go watch an outdoor movie. You can declare dinnertime or family fun night device-free zones.

Get outdoorsy
Exercise is great for the whole family and can be more fun when enjoyed together. You can pick different outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, swimming, playing frisbee or starting a neighborhood baseball game. Many city parks have ball diamonds and sand volleyball courts.

Sleep well
With the long summer days, it can be tempting to stay up late. Keep up your good sleeping habits and stick to the same bedtime and wake-up schedule.

Take a vacation
Spend some time relaxing and enjoying what summer has to offer. Even if you only have a few vacation days, you can still find time to unwind. You can plan a stay-cation and camp out in the back yard or spend time at the local swimming pool. Take a day off during the week and go to an amusement or water park.

Have fun!
Try something new. Make it a point to unplug and spend time relaxing over the summer. Get outside, enjoy the weather and act like a kid again!

10 Ways to Become More Resilient

I have realized recently that to live a balanced life, you must be resilient. Why are some people able to bounce back easily from adversity or misfortune while others fall apart?

Developing resiliency is part of achieving a more balanced life. People with resilience have a greater sense of control over their lives. You will have a more optimistic outlook and be willing to take more risks. You will also find more meaning and joy in your life.

Here are 10 ways you can become more resilient and stay on the path to achieving a more balanced life:

Be flexible
Change is a part of living. You may find that certain goals no longer work because your situation or circumstances have changed. The ability to accept what you cannot control will allow you to focus on what you can do. Resilient people find ways to adjust their goals and adapt.

Find your purpose
Do things that bring meaning to your life. If you have a sense of purpose, you can find ways to stay on track and move toward your goals.

Take action
Think about what you can do to improve a situation and then do it. When you’re resilient, you work on solving problems rather than getting caught up in negativity. It’s also easy to simply detach and avoid a challenging situation rather than face it head on. Make a decision and take action to make it happen.

Learn from your mistakes
When you have a negative experience or something doesn’t go the way you expected, you should see it as an opportunity to learn something. Focus on the positive lessons you can take away from a challenging situation.

Take care of yourself
Part of being resilient is staying physically and mentally strong. It’s easier to face adversity when you’re feeling your best. Take care of yourself by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and managing stress.

Maintain a positive outlook
A positive outlook will make you much more resilient. Many of life’s problems are only temporary. Not to mention, that often adversity brings new opportunities. I have often looked back on what I thought was a bad situation only to find that it actually led to something better.

Have a sense of humor
Even in stressful times, it’s important to keep your sense of humor. You need to be able to laugh at yourself and find the humor even when times are tough. Laughing and smiling helps relieves stress and can put things into perspective for you.

Let go of tension
Find your own way to express your emotions and let go of stress. You may find that writing in a journal, meditating or doing creative tasks like sewing, scrapbooking, painting or baking helps you relax. Or, you may discover that physical activity helps you relieve tension, such as running, kickboxing or yoga.

Make connections
Good relationships with family members, friends and others can help you be more resilient. It’s nice to have people who will listen to you and help you with your problems. You also know that you have their support no matter what happens. In addition, you can be there for them when they need your support and guidance.

Believe in yourself
Be confident in your ability to solve your own problems. Recognize your personal strengths. Take pride in your abilities and what you’ve accomplished. By learning to trust yourself and your instincts, you can build even more resilience.

Resilient people acknowledge when things don’t go as planned, learn from their mistakes and then move forward. If things don’t go as planned, view it as an opportunity to take another path on the journey to a completely balanced life!

9 Ways to Create a More Balanced Life

Are you overworked? Stressed? Tired? Feeling grouchy and unhappy? If you’re out of balance, you will feel it in every aspect of your life – from your mental and emotional well-being to physical fitness, relationships and stress levels.

You can achieve and maintain balance in your life. A well-balanced person has a greater ability to focus their attention and energy in order to be more productive and live a more meaningful life.

Here are 9 ways to make little changes that can help you achieve a more balanced life:

Turn it off
When the weekend comes (or when you have days off work), disconnect. Put the phone down, turn off the computer and ignore the emails or texts. It’s important to give your body, mind and soul a rest. You should be able to set aside two consecutive days per week with no work at all. These two days will leave you refreshed and recharged for the next week of work.

Be fully present
By shutting completely down from work, you can also spend more time with friends and family. You can spend more time connecting with them and have fun together. You can be more physically and emotionally present in their lives. If you’re thinking about work or doing work while you’re together, you are missing out on opportunities to create lasting memories.

Simplify
If your life is overflowing, you will never be able to achieve balance and manage it all. Say no to everything that isn’t either essential or doesn’t add value or enjoyment to your life. If you’re working more than 40 hours a week, it may be time to examine your job and see if you can manage your time to get done faster. You may also want to evaluate what you’re doing for a living if it monopolizes your time, causes chronic stress or isn’t bringing you joy.

Connect with others
Your relationships matter. In fact, you may even live longer when you have strong, healthy relationships. Make time for your significant other, kids and friends. Set a date night with your spouse or partner. Take time to truly connect with your kids, especially if you have multiple children. Talk to them on the way to school, sporting events or practices. Spend a few minutes talking about their day at dinner or when getting ready for bed. Be there for your friends and family, and you will all benefit more than you realize.

Take a walk
Take a walk and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Enjoy nature or people watch. Simply take some quiet time each day to appreciate the good things and enjoy life. It’s also good to get moving and increase your heart. Here are more benefits of exercising.

Get creative
Take a class, learn to paint or try something new. Read a new book that sparks your interest, watch a movie or listen to music. Find what interests you and makes you happy – and then do it more! Even better, find things to do with friends and family and strengthen your relationships at the same time. You are likely to end up smiling and laughing, which are also good for your health.

Watch your health
Your physical health affects the quality of your life in so many ways. Make it a habit to get yourself moving. Find fitness and exercise routines that inspire you to do more. At the same time, pay attention to what you eat. A healthy, balanced diet will give you more energy and can improve your mood and concentration.

Treat yourself
Get a facial or a pedicure, or even splurge on a massage. You can also find inexpensive ways to treat yourself to a little fun. Have a glass of wine or a cup of your favorite coffee or tea. Light a scented candle that smells wonderful to you. Snuggle up on the couch with your kids, a blanket and a movie. Just be sure to make the time to enjoy the little things!

Pay it forward
You can start out small and simply make an effort to perform one act of kindness a day. Maybe it’s opening the door for someone whose hands are full, or letting the person with only a few items cut in front of you in the check-out line. You can also look for opportunities to do something more meaningful to you, such as tutoring kids, volunteering at the hospital or fostering animals. You’ll find that you benefit as much as those you help.

It’s a balancing act to keep all aspects of your life on the right path. Take a few minutes each week to evaluate how you’re doing. If you find that one area needs work, make a plan to correct it. Living a balanced life is a life-long journey!

14 Easy Ways to Lift Your Spirits

To me, the winter months always seem to drag monotonously toward spring. The weather is cold, dreary and gloomy. I may not see the sun for days – or even weeks – at a time. Let’s just say I can get a bit grouchy during this time. (My family would probably say A LOT grouchy.)

You can find quick and simple ways to lift your spirits. Remember that true happiness doesn’t come from a paycheck, material goods or warm weather. A good part of the joy you find in life comes from finding easy ways to make yourself happy.

Here are 14 tips to help you lift your mood and boost your happiness level:

Drink coffee or tea in the morning
Regular, modest caffeine intake can help regulate your mood. Research shows that when you enjoy four cups of black tea a day it leads to fewer stress hormones being released. Or, if you’re more of a coffee person, you can drink a few cups of java. In fact, coffee has additional health benefits.

Spend time with friends
Good friends are good for you and your spirits. Your friends foster a feeling of belonging, purpose and boost your self esteem. Strong friendships can help keep you on a mentally even keel. Whether you get together for drinks or dinner, call on the phone or text about the ups and downs of your day, friends can improve your mood. Here are more reasons why we need friends.

Eat mood-boosting foods
To help boost your mood, you can eat foods that are naturally high in serotonin, such as walnuts, tomatoes, kiwi, bananas, sour cherries, plums and pineapple. Tryptophan is also a natural mood booster. Tryptophan is found in proteins, including turkey, fish, chicken, nuts, cheese, eggs, cottage cheese and beans. Learn more about foods to boost your mood.

Get a massage
Massage can be good for your physical and mental health. When you get a massage, your body releases endorphins. Massage also reduces stress hormones, lowers anxiety and raises your immunity. Shut out your surroundings and the chaos, relax and let some happiness seep into your day.

Break your routine
Sometimes I feel stuck in a rut. Get out of your regular routine, and your mood may lift with it. Go out for dinner on a Tuesday night instead of Friday. Have lunch at a new place once a week. Take a different route to work or wear something that is normally “not you.” A small change can make a bigger difference in your outlook for the day.

Open your shades
I have a huge picture window in my living room and then patio doors in my dining room. I like to leave the blinds shut in the winter because it helps cut down on the cold air. Yet, I realized it felt like I was living in a cave or dungeon. Make sure you open the shades in your bedroom, living room or office even when it’s cold. Studies show that morning light exposure can benefit your mood.

Take a walk outside
If you work in an office without windows or sun exposure, make sure you step outside a few times a day to soak up the sunshine. Even if it’s overcast, fresh air can help lift your spirits.

Bang on something
Researchers believe that drumming helps to relax the body. I personally think that kicking and punching things can help you feel better, too. You can use a punching bag or take a kickboxing class.

Clear the clutter
Disorganization can make me anxious. Clutter reminds us of the things we should be getting done but haven’t taken care of yet. For a quick fix, straighten up a few surfaces in your office or in the areas of your house where you spend the most time. Feeling more ordered in your personal spaces can help you feel more at ease and give you peace of mind. Here are some tips to organizing and decluttering.

Watch something funny
Studies show that a good laugh gets rid of stress, boosts your immunity, improves your heart function and lowers your blood pressure. A good chuckle can also keep blood sugar levels low and aids in better digestion. You can watch a comedic movie, a funny TV series or goofy YouTube videos. Laughter and even simply smiling can be good for your overall health.

Do a good deed
There is nothing like the act of giving to help us feel more appreciative of what we have and give us a mood boost. Do some research and find a group that could use your talents and skills. Learn more about the health benefits of doing good.

Indulge your senses
Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile senses can quickly change your mood. Aromatherapy can be good for your health. Breathing in natural perfumed scents, such as lavender, can lift your spirits. Bake cookies and enjoy the yummy smells and warmth of the kitchen. Listen to soothing music. Soak in a scented bubble bath, or put flower arrangements around the house.

Give a kiss or hug
It’s a good feeling to be loved. Kiss your spouse, your kids or your mom. Smooching your significant other may even help reduce your cholesterol. You can cuddle up and watch TV together or give your family members and close friends a hug – just because. You can also hug and pet a furry friend to lower blood pressure and bring on a sense of calm.

Do something you love
You may like listening to music, dancing, taking photos, working on craft projects or tending a garden. You can even sit on your deck, take in nature or read a novel. To lift your spirits, make time to do something you enjoy – even if it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes.

Your mood goes a long way to helping you achieve a more balanced life. If you’re grouchy or feeling down, you may not have the motivation to exercise, eat right or hang out with friends. Take a few minutes each day to lift your spirits and appreciate the little things in life.