Category Archives: Good Moods

The importance of relaxing without feeling guilty

blogphotoBecause of the way I was raised with an abusive mother, I was taught not to take care of myself or nurture myself. I was made to feel guilty about enjoying anything. I grew up to be a strict goody-two-shoes who was nervous about trying anything “bad” or even taking a break. Hedonistic people live for pleasure, but I grew up being the opposite–denying myself pleasure. In some ways, that is a good thing because I never got caught up in vices, but at the same time, I never learned to relax…or even believe I deserved to.

I rarely watched television, I never drank alcohol, I didn’t get to movies, I didn’t splurge on self-care like massages or manicures, I didn’t buy delicious foods, I didn’t take time out for fun. I lived as if I did not deserve anything good. Even if I did watch television, I’d do work while I watched. I never did anything enjoyable without doing something productive at the same time. I have been one incredibly stressed-out person!

Most people are looking to watch less T.V. or get off the couch more, but recently, I have started trying to do the opposite. For all of my life, I have been active and busy doing things that “matter” from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. In the past few years, especially now that I have two toddlers, my days have been non-stop. It’s nearly impossible to keep the house clean, keep the dishes done, get all the laundry finished, and I’ve been stressing myself out trying to do everything and keep everything perfect.

That’s no way to live!

So, a few months ago, I decided to sit down in my comfy recliner and watch MORE television. Every night before bed. And…I force myself to put down the laptop, put down the books, and just sit. (Even though it’s tempting to run around the house and put things away with the TV going in the background.) I’m challenging myself to just sit, relax and do nothing. To enjoy just watching mindless shows for pure enjoyment. It’s nice!

Learning to enjoy life probably comes naturally to many people, but it was not natural to me. In fact, I remember being around 9-10 years old and watching my mother buy herself new clothes. I asked her to buy me a shirt–a purple turtleneck–and she told me that I did not deserve anything because I did not earn the money. Even when I did grow up to earn the money, I carried that comment with me–that I did not deserve things.

Over the past few years, I have learned to indulge myself in luxuries like some fancy perfume, a manicure, a massage…and a night in front of my television watching good-looking men on an interesting show. Purely wasting my time…and not feeling guilty about it!

Looking around and learning about coping and life improvement skills

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
In my previous post, I wrote about how opening my mind to self-help books and trusting a therapist was a huge help for me to start overcoming the legacy of secrets and denial I learned in my dysfunctional family. I started learning how to live in a functional manner and how to set boundaries about how I wanted to be treated. Not only did I become eager to learn from books, but I started looking everywhere for life tips.

O’s Big Book of Happiness: The Best of O, The Oprah Magazine: Wisdom, Wit, Advice, Interviews, and Inspiration

For many years, I stopped reading magazines because I felt like they were a waste of money, space and paper. Then a couple years ago, I got a really good bargain on O magazine. Now, I have never really been a fan of Oprah Winfrey, or of talk shows in general, but it hit me that, even if I wasn’t a fan, I had to admit that she was a huge success and obviously knew how to do something right. I realized I could learn something from her and what her company promoted. There’s definitely something about her that attracts people and I wanted to evolve into one of those women who really had good things going for her. Who better to learn from than women who can demonstrate the way I want to be? I found that Oprah’s magazine promotes really great life skills, positivity, success, self-esteem, and more–all things that I was lacking, and all things I wanted to learn more about. There’s even an interesting series of books related to her magazine.

Part of living a good life is also learning to manage time, prioritize, and reduce stress, so I started looking at more magazines for ideas in these areas. As much as I love reading books, one benefit to magazines is they are colorful, cheerful, and have short articles. They are good when you only have a few minutes to relax between appointments, for a break on my front porch, for a while before work…. It sounds silly, but I have found that reading them again, is a good “investment,” because I pick up quick and fun ideas that inspire me or help me with life. One of my current favorites is Real Simple. In every issue, I end up bookmarking a few spots with good ideas, or quotes that make me think. I find they are a good inspiration for learning valuable life lessons, and they often inspire me to think about things for this blog. One of their recent issues is a 15th anniversary issue called “The Ultimate Life Handbook,” and it has a a lot of excerpts from their new book called The Real Simple Guide to Real Life: Adulthood made easy. There are a whole variety of good ideas in here for living a smart, functional life, and I’m really enjoying them.

I’m sure many of us look at the magazine racks at the grocery store, but I’ve started looking at them in a new light. They aren’t just there to help me kill some time, they are full of smart ideas from empowered women, as well as inspiration. More and more as I open my heart to healing, I realize I can learn something from nearly every resource and situation. There’s good stuff all around us!

Considering the power of your words to make or break you

Change Your Words, Change Your Life: Understanding the Power of Every Word You Speak

Usually, I wait to finish a book before I review it, but some books have single chapters or sections that just really stand out. I’m about half way through this book and I am very glad I bought it. I’ve blogged a few times about the power of our words to raise or lower or moods, but this book goes beyond that. It is a really in depth analysis of a variety of ways that words–written, spoken or thought–effect our lives–our reputations, our treatment of others, our moods, our futures, and more. Just the first chapter had me underlining a ton of wise points!

The first chapter is an overview of what is coming in the rest of the book, and is titled “The Impact of Words.” One example is a lady who is kind and thoughtful with the “amazing ability to help people feel good about themselves.” Unfortunately, she slips up with her words one day and criticizes her boss publicly, which destroys her career growth. I don’t know how true this story is, but it really got me to thinking. One, the thought of a person who can find the positive and help people feel good is a very good thought! I’d rather be that person than a grump. Two, how true that one poorly thought-out conversation or even one misunderstanding can throw us off track. The example really emphasizes the importance of thinking before speaking, (something I am not too good at doing!) I know, that is a lesson we’ve probably all heard, but I wonder how many of us can truly, truly embrace it to consider how important our words are? The book got me thinking immediately…and made me think about what I want to improve in my own life.

Now a warning…this author is a Christian, and the importance of Godly speech is a recurring theme in this book. I personally do not find it annoying because she works it in so well and there is genuine wisdom in between the Bible verses. She isn’t using the verses to force her ideas; she is giving really good advice and then adding the verses. The things she has to say can be appreciated even if you aren’t religious, but I want to give that notice for people who may not enjoy religious books. I feel like she uses the Bible in a way that is not overpowering, in my opinion.

Another good bit of advice right near the beginning: Meyers talks about a problem in her life that she kept getting stuck on. She’d talk about it and it consumed her thoughts, then she realized that “if I wanted to get over it, I was going to have to stop mentally and verbally going over it again and again.” More good advice! I can’t count how many times I have made myself miserable by dwelling on things I can’t change. It’s pointless. As she says, “where the mind goes, the man follows.”

Another good quote is “We all have challenges in life, but we can make them better or worse by the way we talk about them.” So true! She continues that “speaking negatively could hurt you, but speaking positively never will, so why not go with the positive and see what kind of results you get?” Good point! And I’m even skipping a bunch of underlined quotes because there are so many in the first chapter alone!

I read a lot of books and learn so many good things, but this one honestly has me excited and I’ve been telling friends to read it. It is filled with good ideas and wise advice for being more productive, more positive, happier, more successful and more of a help to others instead of a drag. Plus, this book is almost 300 pages, and so far, none of them are wasted. I look forward to reading more of her books if they are beneficial as this one.

When others are counting on you, take time to replenish your emotional strength


Click here to purchase 365 Ways to Become a Millionaire: (Without Being Born One)

I read a chapter of tips out of this book every few days or weeks, whenever I have time. It’s just a book with 365 short ideas, (usually a sentence or two,) about how to improve yourself and your actions to make more money. The tips also relate well to life and emotional intelligence in general, so I often find them inspiring in more ways that one.

Today the quote that got me thinking is:

Remember to regularly nurture yourself. You cannot sustain or increase your productivity without replenishing yourself. Otherwise, you will run on empty and your productivity will suffer.

This is good advice for business, but life in general–relationships, parenting, chores, hobbies, and more.

My last job was extremely demanding, but I had so many options to work overtime and make more money. Every time I was offered the opportunity to work extra, I took it. How could I turn down work that would double my normal paycheck? Pretty soon, I was working 50-80 hour weeks. I kept telling myself “I can do this,” and I was excited about the financial benefits, but I was burned out. I burned out so badly, I finally quit the job. If I had worked in moderation, I might not have had all the extra pay, but I wouldn’t have become unemployed, so I probably would have made more in the long run. I pushed myself so hard for months and never took a bit of time to nurture myself. Since I am a single mom, I came home from my long days of work and then devoted every thing I had to two little toddlers. There was absolutely nothing for me. And yet I felt selfish for even considering doing something for myself.

Specifically when it comes to parenting, many of us have been trained to believe that the kids are a 24/7 commitment and we are selfish to take a break from them. I’ve had people tell me this, and I’ve seen people berate others for wanting a break. That is not helpful at all. As women and mothers, we should not feel guilty for needing to replenish ourselves–physically, mentally and emotionally! Of course you don’t want to leave your children with a baby-sitter every day, but it is not wrong to take a break even for a few hours a week. In fact, it’s the best way to be a good mother. When we devote so much of our time to nurturing others, we need to recuperate a little to build up our own reserves so we can give some more.

What about sick or aging family members or marriages or friendships that need a little extra TLC? When we give everything we have to meet our obligations, we often wear ourselves down so that we aren’t really able to give our best any longer. It’s important not to let work or life take so much of you that you lose the energy and stamina to keep going. Take the time to rest and recover so you can go after your commitments, goals and life with renewed energy!

The importance of your thoughts and how they affect your moods

Sunflower Field with setting Sun in Background, nice Sunburst and SunbeamsI’ve read so many books that talk about the power of your thoughts, and I’ve blogged about the importance of positive thoughts. What you think and what you dwell on can really affect your day, your mood, your attitude and your emotions. Still, when something bad happens, it is so easy to get caught up in thinking negative thoughts, which then generate more negative thoughts over and over until you are in a horrible mood. I am seeing that in action now.

I’ve had a few disappointments lately–the worst being that I was turned down for a job I really, really wanted after going to a second interview. It left me feeling pretty depressed and the thoughts started swirling around in my head–I was an idiot in the interview, I didn’t dress well, I didn’t look professional, I answered the questions stupidly, I am so far behind my peers, I’m an underachiever, I’m never going to get a job now…. But it’s time for me to get real about what is really going on. None of those things are true. In reality, what happened was someone else was a better match for that job. It doesn’t mean I’m a loser. It just means that wasn’t the place for me.

It’s so important to look at our situations realistically instead of letting the bad thoughts take over. And I’m reversing that negative course now. What is the truth? I did dress nicely, I got along well with the interviewers, I wasn’t nervous, I’m not stupid, I have qualifications to get a good job. But, there were possibly hundreds of other well-qualified applicants. And one day, I’m going to apply for a job where *I* am the perfect fit!

Ecopsychology and enjoying green spaces for stress reduction

Green Spaces reduce stress levels

Green Spaces reduce stress levels

I was flipping through a magazine earlier and found a little blip about using the outdoors for stress reduction. In the Real Simple March 2015 issue, on page 146, they quote “a 2014 study published in Ecopsychology discovered that group walks in green spaces…lead to less stress and enhanced well-being.” I had read about the importance of greenery and outdoor time for mental health before, but this little blip inspired me to read more about ecopsychology.

I found this web article that gives more information on the field of ecopsychology as an alternative to traditional psychology. The article starts out explaining some of the history of ecopsychology and states that the field is turning towards standard psychological studies and research to learn about the benefits of spending time outside. They claim that “even subtle interactions with nature provide a range of cognitive benefits, including elevated mood, enhanced memory, and decreased stress.” Sounds good to me! Furthermore, they state that “research demonstrates that walking through the city can tax our attention, whereas a park restores our concentration and can even improve our performance on tests of memory.” Initially ecopsychology studies were not as strict as regular psychological studies, but they are using more and more standard scientific research. So far, studies show that green spaces improve moods and mental health, but they don’t 100% prove that manmade structures and technology are bad for our emotional health.

One recent study took a group of stressed people and had them look at either directly at a nature scene, a blank wall, or a television showing the nature scene in real time. The people who looked directly at the nature scene calmed down and relaxed more easily while the people who looked at the TV or the blank wall showed no difference. The TV wasn’t even more relaxing than staring at the wall even though it showed the same nature scene that the other group was watching in person!

The article goes on to share another study that showed people remembered information better when walking through nature instead of through a city. It describes the ways that the idea of ecopsychology is gaining more legitimacy by using stricter, more traditional scientific study. And it’s still showing the health benefits of getting out into nature. I thought that was exciting news! Now that spring is coming to my part of the world, I can’t wait to get out in the woods and de-stress! 🙂

Here are some more articles about the power of green spaces to help with stress reduction:

Green Spaces Reduce Stress Levels of the Unemployed
Living near trees, green spaces reduces stress, study showsGreen Spaces Reduce Stress Levels

How having meaning in your life is more important than happiness

I read an article in Reader’s Digest today about happiness and having meaning in your life. The title was “Happiness: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Ouch! The moral of the article is that happiness is fleeting and there are other qualities in life that are more important in the long run. At first I was not completely convinced, but I did find some interesting information. After reading the short article, I agree that the writers do have some good points.

The article was based on a 1946 book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who was a well-known psychiatrist. I just ordered a copy after reading the article, so I’ll report back on it! It sounded interesting.

Click here to purchase Man’s Search for Meaning

Frankl wrote the book about his experiences in a concentration camp after his pregnant wife and most of his family died, but he did not. He noticed some patterns in those who managed to live through the ordeal. To quote Reader’s Digest, “those who found meaning in even the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not.” For example, Frankl counseled two men out of committing suicide by helping them realize they still had purpose in life. He stated “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

As for happiness, RD refers to research that shows having a purpose in life increases well-being and satisfaction, and decreases depression, while chasing just happiness decreases one’s level of happiness! They theorize that simply looking for happiness leads to shallow feelings while pursuing meaning gives more lasting and deeper joy in the long run.

This could be because happiness is related on momentary feelings that will end, while finding and pursuing meaning in your life is a lasting goal. To quote, “people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rated their satisfaction with life higher–even when they were feeling bad–than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose.”

It seems that happiness comes and goes in bursts while meaning and purpose lead to ongoing, steady satisfaction. Something to think about!

The health benefits of friendship

Since I posted yesterday about the importance of strong relationships for a long life span, I thought this post from Fix.com would tie in nicely!

They have a pretty long article to go with the photos and charts, so I’ll just share the parts that stood out to me:

A gathering of 148 research studies found that people with strong friendships had better survival rates than those with weak relationships–50% better!

There are two main theories about why friendships help: 1. You have help and support with stressful situations and 2. when you are part of a crowd, you might be more likely to follow the group in taking care of yourself

People with quality friendships have better health–specifically heart health, while those with little support are more likely to have health problems.

The article points out that quality matters. Having a bunch of superficial fake friends is not as helpful as having true, close friends.

I’ll let the photos show you the rest!

Source: Fix.com

The importance of a good support system for your mental health


Click here to purchase Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t
I am currently reading this book, and while I haven’t finished yet, (and I still want to review the book when I get done,) I specifically wanted to share an interesting section I read last night. In chapter five, the authors discuss the relation between certain medical issues that often relate to stress in one’s life. This includes: chronic headaches, stomach problems, poor immunity and weight issues. I am familiar with a lot of information and studies related to this issue, but the authors shared an fascinating example that stood out to me.

There is a town in Pennsylvania called Roseto that was known for people having especially high life expectancy for many years. Research showed that they ate and exercised like the rest of the United States, but the reason for their long lives was their strong relationships. The town was originally built by immigrants who were very close-knit and interconnected. According to the book, “friendships lasted through generations” because the families were so close and their connections and loyalty were so strong. Very impressive!

The town was re-studied in the 1990s, and things had changed. The close relationships had drifted apart as new people moved in and old families moved away. Neighbors didn’t all know each other like they had in the past. Now their life expectancies are no different from the rest of the country.

I think this is an excellent example of how important a good support system and connections with positive people are. We need loving, caring, listening people in our lives to help us cope and thrive with others around us. This inspires me to get out and work on my good friendships!

Here are some more research articles about Roseto:
This article shows that heart attack rates were low, but then rose as relationships fell apart. It compares Roseto with another town called Bangor.

Here is an outline tracing Roseto’s history for a college class.

This article includes other studies that show that people who are alone tend to have shorter life spans.

Five things to remember when you are having a rough time

Surround yourself with beauty!

Surround yourself with beauty!

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Don't dwell on painful memories. Replace them with hope for the future!

Don’t dwell on painful memories. Replace them with hope for the future!

Don't waste your time worrying. It won't make a difference.

Don’t waste your time worrying. It won’t make a difference.

Focus on the BRIGHT things in life!

Focus on the BRIGHT things in life!

« Older Entries Recent Entries »