Category Archives: Spiritual

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!

16 Habits of Extremely Healthy People

healthy-life-sign-250x165As we head into cold and flu season, I wonder how some people always seem to stay so healthy. I blame my kids for spreading germs, but I’d like to think there are things we can do to stay healthier during the fall and winter months.

Real health is about more than just the physical aspects of wellness. It encompasses much more. You need to include your mental, emotional and spiritual health in your plans for a healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no magic plan or potion that will guarantee your health, you can take steps to increase your overall health. In the process, you may also boost your immune system to ward off those pesky cold and flu germs.

Here are 16 habits that healthy people incorporate into their daily lives:

Look on the bright side
Healthy people are optimistic. They don’t waste time and energy complaining. If they need to make a change in there lives, they do it. A positive mental attitude goes along way to promoting and supporting other healthy behaviors.

Commit to a healthy life
Healthy people aren’t born that way. They have made a choice to live a healthy lifestyle. They take it one day at a time just like the rest of us. Do healthy people slip up and revert to bad habits occasionally? Absolutely. However, they know not to let one setback hold them back and continue to actively work toward living a healthy life.

Eat for nourishment
Eating right isn’t just about what you eat. It’s also about how much you eat. Your body will let you know when you’ve had enough. Healthy people pay attention to their bodies and listen when it tells them they are full. You can stop eating when your hunger is satisfied, and before that bloated, full feeling sets in.

Believe in moderation
Healthy people don’t deprive themselves of the foods they love. They eat healthy the majority of the time, but enjoy their favorite unhealthy foods once in a while without feeling guilty. Eat a couple pieces of pizza or have a cookie. Just remember to stay on your healthy course the rest of the time!

Enjoy exercise
I am not here yet. Healthy people actually enjoy exercising. How do they do it? They spend time doing exercises they actually like doing and avoid those they hate. If you hate to run, don’t run. If you don’t like going to a gym, don’t go. Find things you like to do: taking walks outdoors, swimming laps, riding your bike or doing yoga.

Balance work and play
With technology taking over our lives, many people never really clock out from their jobs. You may check emails from your phone or send work texts at dinner. Healthy people know that work is important, but they also know that our health suffers when we don’t take time for us. Make sure you maintain a good balance between work and play.

Drink water
Everyone knows they should drink more water, but healthy people actually do it. Drinking at least six, eight-ounce glasses of water a day can help you in so many ways. You can control your appetite, avoid dehydration and be more mentally attuned. Keep a refillable water bottle with you everywhere you go.

Eat healthy snacks
Snacking can make or break your health goals. Healthy people choose snacks like vegetables, fruits, almonds and other nuts. Replace processed snack foods with raw types of snacks, and you’ll develop an important healthy habit.

Reduce stress
Some stress is a good thing. It keeps us on task and prepares us to handle important challenges. But, chronic stress can be bad for your overall health. It can even weaken your immune system. Take time to relax and do things you enjoy. Say no to stress!

Get enough sleep
Without enough sleep, your immune system doesn’t have the resources it needs to fight off illness. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Keep a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine at bedtime, relax and make your bedroom an oasis.

Just say no
Healthy people are attuned to their own needs. You can say no to friends and loved ones. It means that you are respecting yourself. When you’ve reached your limit, listen to your mind and body, and say no. Your friends and family will understand.

Kick bad habits
If you smoke or drink alcohol, it can weaken your immune system. Smoking is also likely to give you additional health problems. While a glass of wine or a couple of beers is okay, overdoing it can cause you to get sick more often.

Get a pet
Dogs and other pets aren’t just good to have as companions. They can help you get exercise and improve your health. Pets have been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contributing to a healthier heart. Dogs can also be good for your immune system and help you relieve stress.

Have a laugh
Laughing can be good for you. Research as shown that laughter may help boost your immune system. Laughing and smiling also help relieve stress and put you in a good mood.

Live in the moment
Take time to enjoy life’s little pleasures. Be thankful for everything that is good in your life. The ability to appreciate the things you have, regardless of what else might be going on, helps you maintain a peaceful mindset rather than focus on what you don’t have.

Be kind
Healthy people treat others how they want to be treated. Creating a habit of kindness and respect will make you feel good about yourself and build strong relationships with your friends and family. Small acts of goodness can change your life – and can impact someone else’s life, too. Be compassionate, and you’ll give off a healthy glow!

9 Simple Ways to Handle Stress

relaxOur lives are filled with stress. It’s impossible to avoid. You’re already late for an appointment and get slowed down by road construction. Your boss dumped a proposal on you that’s due tomorrow. Your schedule is hectic, and you need to be in two places at once.

Research shows that some stress can be good for you. However, if you’re dealing with persistent – long-term stress, such as a sick parent or a demanding boss, it can actually lead to a variety of health issues.

Here are 9 simple and practical ways to copy with stress in your daily life:

Enjoy some fresh air
Make it a point to get outside every day. Research shows that vitamin D from sunlight can elevate your mood by releasing feel-good serotonin. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells around you will take your mind off your worries or frustrations. Even feeling the wind on your face can lift your spirits.

Take a walk
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to make you feel better, such as a candy, cigarettes or caffeine. Next time you’re feeling anxious, go for a quick stroll. Studies show that even 10 minutes of exercise can provide a mental boost. Better yet, climb a few flights of stairs. Climbing stairs requires you to pay more attention to what you’re doing and helps vent frustrations.

Rely on rituals
You probably already have rituals that help you relax, and you may not even realize it. For example, you may read the newspaper as you eat breakfast, listen to music while you clean or take a bath before going to bed. Our bodies naturally crave routines, so focusing on regular rituals can help you relax physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you stick to your regular routines.

Put down the junk food
Do you handle stress by eating? In hectic times, you may choose comfort foods, such as refined carbs or sugary snacks. You will most likely experience a sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Extra calories can also quickly add up to extra pounds. The next time you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruits, vegetables or a handful of nuts.

Get out of your head
Stress likes to mess with your mind. Do you ever get stuck in an ongoing loop of negative thoughts or playing back conversations in your head? A great way to get out of your own head is to engage in fun activities that put your focus on your hands or body. For instance, you can cook, knit or crochet, climb a rock wall or play a sport. When you do something creative or an engaging activity, you fall into a rhythmic pattern and your brain helps you relax and feel more grounded.

Visualize calm
Find a quiet area and create a happy place for a few minutes each day. Just sit still, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Clear you mind and concentrate on thinking about nothing stressful. It’s harder than you think! Find a comforting and calming image that works for you and helps you relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.

Focus on the present
It’s easy to get sucked into worrying over things that have already happened or imagining what could happen in the future. Let go of thoughts about the past and future, and focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are and what’s happening right now. Think about how the air feels on your skin, the sound of your kids laughing or a friend telling you about their day. Being mindful of the present can help you let go of stressing about the past and future.

Express your gratitude
Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. It can be as simple as going over the good things that happened that day before you go to sleep. You can write your feelings in a journal. Or, you can let friends and family know you are grateful for them. Research has shown that showing more gratitude releases hormones that make you feel good and lowers stress levels.

Connect with your spiritual side
Spirituality can boost happiness in times of stress. Many religious groups and native tribes use prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice. Having something to hold while communicating with a higher spirit can provide comfort and routine. Prayer can also help you pass your worries over to God and give you peace.

Learning how to cope with stress on a daily basis can help you improve your overall health and well-being. Take the time each day to acknowledge stress and find ways – like the tips above – to help you let it go and live a more balanced life.

10 Tips to Creating a Positive Attitude

happy-girl-1-1191009-mLast week, we talked about living a Godly life. For our part, God expects us to have a positive attitude. It’s called faith. With faith, we can always anticipate a good outcome. We can trust God to lead us, provide for us, and protect us so we can let go of fear and anxiety. That’s why we often hear the phrase “fear not” in His Word.

Having a positive attitude is good for both the mind and body, in addition to the soul. A good outlook can also contribute to good health. Read about the health benefits of a good attitude in our blog, The Power of Positive Thinking.

One of the main keys to living a happy, fulfilling life is having a positive mental attitude. Here are 10 ways you can train yourself to live each day with a good attitude:

Start each day positive
Take a few minutes in the morning to clear your mind and think positive thoughts about the upcoming day. Focus on people and events that will bring joy into your day. Think about the parts of the day you will enjoy and let that carry you through the less enjoyable activities. Let your optimism flow through your entire day.

Be grateful
A grateful mindset goes a long way toward a positive attitude. Think about the blessings you have and what matters most to you. You may be grateful for having a home to live in, a family, good friends, or work satisfaction. You can count the small blessings, too – a hug from a child, time spent with a pet, or watching a gentle rainfall.

Embrace life
Let go and embrace the moment, even if it contains an obstacle or less than fun task. Enjoy yourself while you do laundry or mow the yard. Be bold and courageous. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. If you were planning to relax at home and friends invite you out, go out anyway. Cherish the little moments that you might have glossed over otherwise.

Control your reactions
While we cannot control everything that happens around us, we can control how we react to it. For instance, one of your co-workers may be in bad mood and yells at you. You can choose to yell back, or you can decide that he must be having a rough day and not let it bother you. You have the power to shape your thoughts and beliefs how you want them to be.

Choose happiness
Being happy is a decision you make. You choose to be happy. Happiness has nothing to do with your station in life, money or other outside forces. Make it a habit to see the positive side of everything. You create your own happiness.

Love yourself
You have everything you need to be happy, loved and fulfilled. It comes with accepting who you are right now. You may wish you could be taller, skinnier or the life of the party. You don’t need to be gratified by external factors – you were born with everything you need. Accept that you are beautiful and perfect just the way you are.

Let it go
Your daughter is mad at you, someone cut you off in traffic, and you’re standing behind someone in a fast food line who can’t decide what to order. You can get yourself worked up by other people’s actions and punish yourself for things out of your control. Like we said earlier, you are responsible for your own actions and reactions to others. Just let it go. It’s not worth ruining your happiness to obsess about what others are doing or not doing.

Have positive friends
Get in the habit of hanging out with positive people. Nothing can drain your enthusiasm faster than someone who constantly complains, thrives on drama or sees only the negative in every situation. Seek out friends and family who have a sunny disposition and whose optimism rubs off on you.

View life as a journey
Be content with what you have now and where you are today. Don’t put off waiting to be happy until you have that new house, more money or perfect job. Life is a journey, and it’s important to make an effort to enjoy every part of the trip.

Reflect nightly
End your day by thinking about all the good things that happened that day. Think of at least 10 things you are truly grateful for in your life. Feel the joy of all the good things you have. You can fall asleep reflecting on your many blessings.

A positive attitude can help you cope with your daily challenges and create that more satisfying, balanced life. Positive people take responsibility for themselves and their actions, and take positive steps to turn any obstacle or challenge into an opportunity.

9 Ways to Live a Godly Life

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 1.13.54 PMLast weekend, my son was confirmed in the Catholic church. In his homily, the Bishop focused on “living a saintly life.” I was surprised when he began talking about taking care of yourself and your body as part of a saintly life. The Bishop explained that we should exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and avoid temptations such as drugs or bad habits. While living like a saint may be a phrase that is more common in the Catholic religion, the concept of living a Godly or holy life can be applied to all Christians.

We should all be striving to live a more Godly life. In fact, this approach ties in directly to many of the basics to living a balanced life that we talk about in this blog with concepts like:

What does it mean to be a good Christian and live a Godly life?

Being Godly and balanced challenges us to the right choice at every moment of decision. It challenges us to make intelligent and responsible decisions.

Our modern-day world is filled with temptation.

Our modern-day world is filled with many influences that can steer us in the wrong direction and create peer pressures or desires that are not in line with living a Godly and holy life. What does a successful life look like? Should success and balance go hand in hand? There are many stories told of “successful” individuals but many times we later find out those same individuals have serious problems in other parts of their life. So what image of success can we trust? A Completely Balanced Lifeincorporates principles found in God’s word with simple basic principles that act as a reminder of what we should focus on at any moment of decision.

It is important to keep in mind that we can live a more effective and spiritual life by developing a mature and constructive approach to accomplishing our objectives and goals with the help of God.

Here are 9 ways you can live your faith and have true Godly success:

Put God first
God promises that when you put him first, you can accomplish everything you need to do. When you think about your plans, goals, desires and decisions you need to make, turn your thoughts toward God. What does He want for you? Think before saying or doing.

Form a plan
First, thank God for the areas where He is strong in your life. Then, rate yourself on where you can make improvements. Ask yourself, how can I improve my relationship with God? What can I do to be a better person? Set goals to help you create a more Godly life.

Clear out distractions
When aspects of your life are out of balance, it can be more difficult to focus on living a Godly life. You need to “clear out the clutter” in your life – so to speak – in order to strengthen your relationship with God. Make it a priority to eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. God only gave you one body, and it’s important to treat it with the respect it deserves.

Live modestly
Lead a life that reflects a true connection and understanding of what we can and cannot afford. It’s easy to get caught up in the material world we live in. We want more, the best version and the latest of everything. We spend money we don’t have and wonder why we are still unhappy. It’s better to live within your means and focus less on physical things and more on your spiritual happiness.

Be humble
Be more focused on self-improvement, combined with a desire to love and lift others up. We don’t need to compare ourselves to others and their successes. If you seek praise and honors, you may find yourself feeling empty and dissatisfied. It’s also not up to us to judge the actions of others. We need to focus on being unselfish and thinking of others before ourselves. Greed, pride, jealously, lust and hate all fight against us to be a better person and live in a more Godly way.

Avoid temptation
God calls us to make the right choices and avoid temptations that are bad for our mind, body and spirit. Temptations come from all directions, some even disguised as good, so it is important to ask yourself “would God approve of this” frequently. God is always there and listening and sees everything so there is no hiding things from Him.

Lean on friends and family
Gather with family and friends for support and to share your values and faith. When you are struggling, you can use the strength of your relationships to help lift you up. Be there for others in your life when they need a shoulder to lean on or a helping hand. Having strong, healthy relationships with those around you is a key part of living a Godly life.

Live in the moment
Learn to let things go. You cannot change the past nor can you predict the future. Enjoy the moment now and live like you could be called to judgment at any time. Think before you act. If you were called before God right now, would He be happy with the life you’ve been living? Live each day as if it were your last.

Help others
Are you unsure about what God wants you to do? Volunteering is a great place to start. Helping others through kind and selfless acts can contribute to a more balanced and fulfilling life. It’s not up to us to judge someone else’s situation, but we can lend a hand to help them make it better. Even simple acts of kindness, like holding a door open or carrying a heavy load for someone, help share the Holy Spirit.

Everything you do has meaning in your life. When you wake up in the morning, spend a few minutes thinking about what you want to accomplish and how you can conduct yourself in God’s likeness. As you get ready to fall asleep at night, meditate on your words and actions that day and if you did all you could do live a Godly and holy life.

10 Tips for Living in the Moment

Sit still live in the moment How often are you truly living in the moment? I probably spend more time obsessing about the past and worrying about the future than I do thinking about right now.

In addition, I am distracted by technology, work or stress and not really present in the moment. A friend or family member may be talking to me, and I am not giving them my full attention. I am working but thinking about the laundry, the errands I need to run and the argument I had with my daughter.

We can live a happier, more fulfilling life if we focus on the present. We need to relish every moment we have on this Earth. Here are 10 tips to help you live in the moment:

Focus on now
If you are constantly worrying about what might happen in the future, how can you fully appreciate the present? Tomorrow is going to happen whether you worry about it or not. You may also be obsessing about things you can’t control. What good will worrying about it do? Redirect your mental energy to enjoy what you are doing right now.

Do one thing at a time
We have talked about multitasking in the past. You aren’t really multitasking, you are quickly switching from one task to another. You are not fully giving the present your attention if you’re talking on the phone with a friend and typing an email. Do one thing at time. If you’re eating lunch at work, just eat. Don’t give into the urge to read a report while you eat.

Give yourself space
Related to doing one thing at a time is putting space between things. Leave room between tasks on your schedule. Then, if you run long on one task, you won’t be stressed about getting behind on the next task.

Do less
Our society encourages us to do more, more, more. We have to fill our days to the brim. Rushing around and hurrying through things does not help you live in the moment. It leaves you frazzled and always thinking about the next thing. You can do less. Doing less means you can accomplish your goals, feel more satisfied and probably achieve a better end result.

Live slowly
When you do less, you can live more slowly. You can take the time to enjoy the present. How often do you sit and talk to your spouse without any distractions? Do you take the time to have a 5-minute, uninterrupted conversation with a child? If we slow down and do less, we will capture those precious moments that slip by when we are stressed and overwhelmed.

Savor the little things
Take time to notice the world around you. We tend to forget to appreciate the little things. Enjoy whatever it is you are doing. Enjoy snuggling on the couch with your kids instead of thinking about the laundry and sink full of dirty dishes. Relish an ice cream cone. Soak up the sun shining on your face.

Be kind
Random acts of kindness help you live in the moment. If you are doing something nice, you are focused on the present. Smile at strangers. Hold the door open for others. Help a friend who is feeling overwhelmed. You improve the present moment for you and someone else.

Give thanks
Be thankful. When everything seems to be going wrong, take a moment to be thankful for the good things. You can be grateful for family and friends. You may be in good health. You have a roof over your head, a warm place to sleep and food to eat. There is always something to appreciate.

Do nothing
Spend five minutes a day doing nothing. Just sit in a quiet place. Be aware of your thoughts and breathe. Take in the world around you. Rejoice in the stillness of doing nothing. You may be surprised by how much it can help your mood and attitude.

Let it go
Leave the past in the past. You can’t go back and change it. Worrying about it won’t change it. Give yourself permission to let it go. Forgive others and move on. If you continue to allow past events to affect your mood, you won’t be able to fully enjoy the present.

Life moves quickly. If you’re spending all your time worrying about things that have already happened or might happen in the future, you are missing out on the here and now. You can live a more balanced and happy life when you live it in the present.

12 health benefits of listening to music

Listen to music improve health life balanceIt’s official – I have turned into my parents. I recently yelled at my kids to turn the music down because it was making my head hurt.

After the horror of realizing I am getting old, I started thinking about the possible benefits of music. I like listening to music while I’m driving, cleaning house and doing dishes. I just can’t handle it loud anymore.

Listening to music is one of the few activities that uses your whole brain. It can put you in a good mood and lift your spirits. You may have very specific memories associated with certain songs. When you’re watching a movie, the soundtrack can make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.

You may be surprised to learn that there are many health benefits to enjoying music. Here are 12 ways music can help you live a healthier, more balanced life:

Lower your blood pressure
Listening to relaxing music may help people with high blood pressure lower it and keep it that way. To experience results, research recipients played relaxing music every morning and every evening.

Reduce pain
Music has been found to help with pain management for both chronic pain and post-operative pain. Music therapy is being used in hospitals to reduce the need for medication during childbirth, to complement anesthesia in surgery and for lessening pain after surgery.

Improve your workout
Listening to music during exercise can give you a better workout. It may help you increase your endurance, distract you from feeling discomfort and elevate your mood while you workout.

Boost immunity
Stress can cause your body to produce the stress-related hormone cortisol and decrease your immune response. Music, on the other hand, can create positive emotions that cause you to secrete immune-boosting hormones. Listening to music or singing can actually boost your immunity and reduce the factors that can make you more prone to getting sick.

Relieve chronic headaches
If you experience chronic headaches or migraines, music may help you reduce the frequency, severity and length of your headaches.

Enhance your IQ
Research has shown that listening to music can actually help you learn more effectively, in essence making you smarter and enhancing your overall level of intelligence.

Step up your coordination
Music may have the power to improve your coordination. It can reduce muscle tension and improve your body movement. Music may even help improve recovery after a stroke or provide relief from other movement disorders.

Improve your focus
Believe it or not, music may help you concentrate better and improve your focus. I guess I shouldn’t tell my kids to turn off the radio while they are doing their homework.

Strengthen your heart
Music is good for your heart health. It seems that upbeat, happy music can improve the flow of blood through blood vessels. It can also help you relax, which is always good for your heart.

Boost your memory
For people suffering from memory loss, listening to music may help these patients remember things associated with their past. We process music in an area of our brain that is located next to memory. That’s why a song or certain tune can trigger intense memories of an event that may have happened decades ago.

Lower your stress level
We’ve already touched on the fact that music helps relieve anxiety. Your favorite music can be soothing and helping you relax. Music is good for the mind, body and soul.

Sleep better
Mom singing you a lullaby can actually help you sleep. Music can even help people with chronic insomnia get a better night’s sleep. If you experience chronic pain or have recently had surgery, music can promote sedation for a more deep and restful sleep.

Is there a type of music that’s best for receiving all of these healthy benefits? It really depends on the person and the situation. You may want fast-tempo, upbeat music for exercising, and then slower-paced music to de-stress and relax. Playing old favorites can boost your mood, while playing new songs may stimulate your brain.

Music tastes are unique to each of us. Go with your instincts and listen to what makes you happy. What types of music make you feel good?

5 unexpected causes of summer stress

Relax and enjoy stress-free summerSummer is all about lazy days, soaking up the sun and having fun, right? Then why does it seem so stressful?

I work from home — which sounds like it would be the ideal way to spend the summer. But, my family seems to conveniently forget that I am supposed to be working. Who is the finder of all things lost? Me. Who has to figure out what to eat for lunch AND dinner? Me. Who does all of the extra summer laundry, picks up the wet beach towels and chauffeurs everyone to everything? You guessed it. Me, me and me.

When I proclaimed a few days ago that I was stressed, my husband and kids looked at me like I had lost my mind. Why would I possibly be stressed? It’s summer, after all.

Here are some unexpected sources of stress and how you can deal with them this summer season:

Demanding kids?
Summer means that kids are home from school for three long months. While it’s nice to sleep in a little later and escape from homework and school activities for a while, it means the kids are around ALL the time. There’s bickering and boredom. Then, there’s driving to summer activities or sports practices and trying to keep up with house cleaning and laundry. Or, finding babysitting, working and still managing to do everything else.

My kids have summer chores which seems to cut down on the boredom. If they say they’re bored, I find them something to do. It also helps to come up with new ways to keep them busy. So far this summer, my kids have built a fort in the basement, been explorers in the woods behind our house, and hidden things around the house for each other to find.

Too much to do?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of summer and want to do everything you can to soak up the fun. However, you may have to set boundaries on the commitments you make. With more daylight hours, we try to pack in even more social activities. We tend to think of negative or frustrating experiences as stressful, but having too much to do can add to your stress level. Remember to pace yourself and turn down invitations if you feel you’re too busy to have fun.

Vacation worries?
Vacations are important for health, happiness and relieving stress. However, planning and actually executing a vacation can be very stressful. Allow plenty of time to plan your vacation so that you won’t feel pressured to get everything done at the last minute. Or, if the financial strain of going on vacation could be adding to your stress, consider taking a staycation instead. A staycation is a stay-at-home vacation. You may be surprised at how many cheap things there are to do in the summer right in your neighborhood.

Covering for co-workers?
Does it feel like there is someone on vacation at work every week during the summer? When everyone else goes on vacation, it may make your job more stressful. Your co-workers may also be distracted by summer fun and not as productive at work. Summer may actually add to your workload. Try find a balance between co-workers’ schedules and your own.

No down time?
You may need to create your own down time in the summer. Sundays can be a great time to rest and unwind. You may already go to church services on Sunday morning. Many religions also believe that Sunday is a day to reflect and rejoice in the blessings of life. You can set aside Sunday as the day to take a break from work, technology or other stresses in your life.

While summer can be one of the best times of the year, it can also add to your stress levels. Be sure to give yourself permission to relax this summer. Do you have any tips for a stress-free summer?

7 places to volunteer this summer

Give helping hand volunteer in summerWhen I think about giving back, donating money is often the first thing that comes to mind. We hear on the news about natural disasters, and we are encouraged to give a helping hand to others around the world.

I absolutely applaud giving money or your time to any cause that moves you. Yet, there are many worthy causes right in our own communities. Summer is a great time to volunteer and give back right in your neighborhood.

And, if you have kids, summer break provides the perfect opportunity to learn about the rewards of giving back. You can even get your workplace involved in volunteering in your area.

Here are 7 places you, your family or your company can volunteer in your community:

Local festivals
In my neighborhood, we have a local arts festival that can always use volunteers. Your community may have local festivals, bazaars, fairs, parades or other opportunities to help out with popular summer events. You can enjoy the festivities while giving back to your community.

Summer camps
You may have summer camps or day camps for the kids in your area. They are always looking for volunteers to help them with programs, cooking, cleaning or assisting with activities. You may have a special talent – such as painting, scrapbooking, sewing, etc. – that the kids will enjoy and the camp will appreciate your expertise.

Park districts
Many parks or playground areas could use some cleaning up in the summer. You can contact a local park district and see if they have certain days for park beautification and want volunteers. You can also pick a nice day and take a few trash bags with you to the park. If you make it a habit to clean up the park or playground, your kids will also learn the value of keeping their environment beautiful.

Hospitals, nursing homes or hospice
Hospitals always need help any time of year. The types of things you can volunteer to do may vary greatly. You may be able to greet people, deliver flowers and gifts to patient rooms or read to children or other patients. You can also visit your local nursing home and provide companionship, read or play games with patients.

You can volunteer for hospice. While it can be an emotionally difficult experience, it can also be very rewarding. You may become the person the family relies on to visit the patient, run errands or do simple tasks for the family.

Many young boys and girls have only one parent, live with grandparents or have foster families. You can make an amazing, positive difference in a child’s life simply be spending time with him or her. Summer is a great time to get started with endless fun activities available for you to get acquainted. You can contact your local Big Brother, Big Sister or Boys and Girls Club. Your area may also have summer activities or group events where you can volunteer and provide mentoring for local youth.

Your church is a great place to volunteer. During the summer, you may be able to help with youth group outings, Bible school, special Sunday school trips or other events. While you may already volunteer at your church, find out if there are more ways you can help.

Animal shelters
If you are an animal lover and looking for ways to volunteer in your community, an animal shelter may be a perfect fit for you. With warm weather, the shelter animals will enjoy spending even more time walking or playing outdoors. You can get some exercise, take advantage of the weather and make an animal’s day. Plus, spending time with animals can lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and just make you feel good!

So, get out there this summer and find ways to volunteer in your community. You may even be surprised by the benefits of giving back.

Do you have favorite places that you like to volunteer during the summer? Inspire us with your stories!

The secrets to happiness

The Secrets to HappinessUnless you’re Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, you probably want to be happy. We all strive to be happy but sometimes happiness can seem hard to find. In today’s world, we have never-ending responsibilities and so much stress.

As a society, we have become more materialistic and focused on collecting “things” to make us happy. But as the saying goes, “money can’t buy happiness.” Although, I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy retail therapy. Buying a new pair of shoes, a fun outfit – or practically anything – certainly does boost my mood.

However, material happiness is usually fleeting. What is the secret to lifelong happiness? What makes us truly happy? Is it something you either have or you don’t have?

Research shows that we all have the potential to be happy. It seems that there are certain characteristics that lead to a sense of well-being. You can create your own happiness by focusing on these traits:

Happy people are filled with hope. Optimistic people embrace all of life’s experiences even if that means making mistakes. They don’t feel like mistakes are a personal failure. Rather, when things go wrong or life gives them a setback, optimists see it as a fluke or something out of their control and an opportunity to try a new approach.

Optimists who see the glass as “half-full” also tend to be healthier which can contribute to greater happiness. Check out our blog, The Power of Positive Thinking, to learn more about the health benefits of a positive outlook.

Self esteem
Happy people have learned to like themselves. Studies have shown it’s not about having friends, close family relationships, or material things. If you can accept yourself with all your flaws, you are more likely to find happiness.

I tend to repeat myself over and over when I’m having a conversation to the point that my friends and family will say, “Okay, I’ve got it!” Or, I blurt out things I wish I hadn’t said and then stew about it later. You have to love your physical traits, too. I am so pale that when I visit someone in the hospital, nurses ask me if I need to sit down. I am learning to accept these things I don’t like about myself, even find humor in them,  and then let them go.

Happy people search out new experiences that will make them happy. They don’t wait around to find joy in life. They have a curious nature and make their own happiness. Think of all the things you’ve discovered that you like or enjoy doing just by trying them, especially when you were younger. As we get older we get more cynical about new experiences. Take a chance and try something new!

A sense of control
People who believe they are in control of their own destiny tend to be more happy. Feeling like you are in charge of how you live your life leads to a greater sense of well-being. Of course, there are things that are out of your control. You can’t control the weather, traffic or other people who annoy you. However, you can control what you wear, how you drive and how you react to annoying people. The more you make your own decisions and manage your own time, the happier you will be.

Outgoing people are happy people and have a greater satisfaction in life. Being extroverted also ties into being self assured. If you are confident and like who you are, you can walk into a room of strangers and start up a conversation. Extroverts also tend to be more content and have a larger circle of friends.

I am more introverted my nature and spend a lot of time “in my own head.” I have had to work at being more outgoing and trying new experiences. I do feel it has built my confidence and made me a happier person.

Having a sense of compassion for others and knowing you are loved is one of the biggest predictors of happiness. We need relationships – whether they are romantic love, the bond we have with our children, or the acceptance of friends. Spending time with others strengthens these connections and contributes to our sense of happiness.

Our friends help us accept ourselves for who we really are. When they accept us, flaws and all, we are better able to be more comfortable in own skin. We find happiness from spending time with other people, and from supporting others when they need us. Read more about the power of friendships in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends.

A contented feeling
A feeling of security or contentedness comes from feeling good about where you are in life. It’s recognizing that you can be happy without being rich, having the biggest house on the block or being the most popular. Happy people are simply content with their current situation. It’s okay to have goals, wishes and dreams but your happiness doesn’t have to hinge on them. You can be happy right now.

People who are spiritual tend to have greater life satisfaction. Life may have a bigger meaning beyond our knowing, so it’s not worth worrying so much about the little things. Religion can have a positive affect on both your mental and physical health. Studies show that those who pray or attend religious services regularly are less likely to have hypertension, anxiety disorders or depression.

Giving without expecting anything in return is one of the truest ways to find happiness. Because even though your reasons for giving are altruistic, you can get so much in return. Having a positive impact on someone else’s life can help you feel better about what is going on in your own life. For more details about the rewards of giving, read our blog 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back.

A purpose
Happy people enjoy what they do. They don’t do it for money or glory. They do it because they love it. Your purpose should be your passion. It may be the work you do for a living. It could be your purpose is being the best mother and wife. You may enjoy teaching kids or mentoring others. Your purpose makes you excited to get out of bed every morning. Simply put, it makes you happy.

We all have the potential to be happy. By focusing on these traits and characteristics you can create your own happiness. What makes you happy?