Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Think You Are Great!

First I want to mention that I created an email account specifically for this blog (thanks for the idea, Belky!). You can send me messages at If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please use this address!

Next I wanted to mention something I came across while reading the Ensign this week that related to last Sunday's topic. It was last July's issue. There was an article that reminded me of the experience of Paul. He asked the Lord to remove an unspecified "thorn in the flesh", but the Lord did not. Instead He told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). What a great reminder/example of having unwavering faith and the blessings for doing so!

Now for this week's topic--paying compliments. This is something that has been on my mind lately because KN has recently started offering unsolicited compliments. It has been interesting to witness first hand the compliments and how they are received, and yet be uninvolved. For example, one day we were walking out of our gym as a woman was walking in and KN stated emphatically, "I like your belt!" We have never seen this woman before so both she and I were a little surprised, but I could see in her face how much she appreciated this genuine compliment from such an unexpected source. And I experienced it myself yesterday when she said, "These are wonderful pancakes, Mommy!" while eating pumpkin pancakes I made for breakfast. The other thing I've noticed while watching these exchanges is the smile on KN's face when she sees the smile on the other persons face. There isn't necessarily a smile when she delivers the compliment, but there is always a smile after she realizes that she made the other person happier.

Compliments do, of course, feel great to receive. But we can't control how or when we are complimented, so that is not a good plan for increasing joy. What we can control is how often and how sincerely we compliment others. I don't know if any of you are like me, but I have been guilty many times of thinking a compliment in my head so many times without ever sharing it. Why?! I'll see a friend and think, "Wow! I LOVE her haircut!" and then keep it to myself. Silly. It always feels good to tell someone something nice about themselves. So, several months ago, I made a commitment to myself to express every compliment I think. That's really easy when it's someone I know, but for some reason it's still a struggle when it's a stranger. But every time I've followed through, I've felt better after. It's fun to make people smile. And compliments always make people smile.

I think women in general used to be more connected to each other. But now we put up invisible walls and second guess ourselves around each other. We always wonder what the other woman will think if we reach out. So, how often do we just dismiss the thought and pass up on the opportunity to brighten some one's day? What are we afraid of? That some woman is going to think less of you for telling her she has a really cute outfit, or that you love her hairstyle? Probably not. It hasn't happened to me yet. So far, I've only seen smiles and gratitude in response and I feel better about myself afterward, too. And, at least for a moment, I feel a little more connected to someone.

Pretty much all of the women I know are amazing. And yet, we are so hard on ourselves. So, let's help each other out a bit by expressing to one another all the good we see. I have a friend who always makes me smile and feel happier, just from being with her. So, I wrote her a note to tell her how much I admire and appreciate that. I have other friends who are incredible moms and so many women that are great examples to me in all areas and walks of life. I need to tell them! So, my challenge to you this week is to let go of inhibitions and start building each other up. Don't hold back. Look for things to appreciate in each other because they're there.

And get excited because here is one thing that will bring you joy and it's so easy, even a 3 1/2 year old can do it!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Have a Little Faith

As you can probably guess from the title, this post is about faith. I will be sharing some of my beliefs because that is what I know. I look forward to learning how your faith helps you to find comfort and joy.

I think every study ever done on the subject has shown that having faith in something helps people be happier. Even those with depression and anxiety. You can click on the link titled "Faith" on the side and it will take you to one such study, detailing the effect of faith on people dealing with stress.

When I'm going through a trial, faith is always what sees me through. Sometimes I forget and try to do it alone, but I always end up feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Becky made reference to a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland called "Abide in Me". It made a deep impression on me when I first read it and that was actually the inspiration for the title of our blog. In it he quotes John 15:1, 4, 5 where Christ said, “I am the true vine, and … ye are the branches.” “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

He continues, "“Abide in me” is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but “abide” is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish that familiar phrase is rendered “permaneced en mi.” Like the English verb “abide,” permanecer means “to remain, to stay,” but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of “permanence.” The sense of this then is “stay—but stay forever.” "

I love that concept. I can't imagine anything greater. When my life is going well, it's fairly easy to stay faithful in Christ. And having that faith definitely brings me joy. I know that God loves me and is blessing my life and that makes me happy. I appreciate all that I have that much more because I know that they come from God. It also gives me hope for eternal life with God, my Savior, and my family. What could bring more joy than that?

So why is it that when I'm facing something difficult I try to do it on my own or even get frustrated with God and my Savior? I have a few theories, but that's not really the point. The point is, when I turn toward Them and pray for help, guidance, and comfort, it always comes. I believe that our Savior experienced all our trials and therefore knows not only how we feel, but how to comfort and heal us. I believe it because I've experienced it.

My problem is that I sometimes just want Him to take my trial away. I often look at my life and I think I could do so much more if I never experienced depression. I try to remember that we have to have trials in order to grow. My children would never learn to walk if I didn't let them try, even though the trying results in a lot of hard work and even a lot of falls and maybe some bruises. But I let them fall and get up and try again because I love them and I want them to grow and develop. So it is with us. Fortunately, even though He may not remove our trials He can make them easier to endure. And having faith in Him gives me hope. I have hope that I am gaining valuable experience from my trials; I have hope that I can endure my trials well; I have hope that I will be able to receive all that the Father has promised. Without faith, there is not hope. And without hope, I'm not sure that there can be true joy either.

Why can't I always remember that and have unwavering faith? I don't know. I guess there's still a lot of room for growth for me. How do you stay focused on your faith all the time? How do you change your perspective when you feel like life isn't fair? What helps you to abide in your faith at all times? How does your faith enhance your joy? How does your faith help you to find joy even in the midst of trial?

In closing, I want to share a verse from the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon. It's in chapter 33, verse 23. The prophet Alma is finishing a wonderful discourse on faith and closes with these words "And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Joy in the Journey

Thank you all so much! I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement. I'm trying to incorporate your advice and suggestions.

I am so excited about the response for guest bloggers! I have contemplated posting my email, but I hesitate because this is an open blog. We have readers from all over the place! I think that is fantastic, but since I don't know everyone, I'm nervous. So, I'll keep thinking about that one. For now, just let me know in a comment if you are ready to be a guest blogger and then, if we don't already have each other's email address, we'll figure something out.

I've decided to post every Sunday (probably at night) instead of Mondays and Thursdays, as was suggested. It's been difficult to find the time to do it during the week and we'll have more time to discuss.

As far as comments on past topics, I set it up so that I will be notified if anyone comments on a post from 8 or more days ago. If that happens, I will let you know.

Someone requested a discussion about enjoying the journey and not just focusing on the destination. Since that goes right along with the overall theme of the blog, I thought that was a great idea! What are the things that you do daily to capitalize on the joy in your life?

Here is some excellent advice from prophet President Thomas S. Monson--"Finding Joy in the Journey". If you only have time to read one thing, read that.

If you have more time, here are some of my suggestions:

Laughter. This one is a no-brainer. Laughing makes you feel better all over. Laughing when things don't go as planned is especially helpful for me. I am a planner and so when things don't go as planned, that can really blind me from the joy in life. My husband is making calzones as I type. We've always used grated cheese in the past, but I noticed that his mom's recipe says to use sliced cheese. That seems a lot easier and less messy, so I bought a ball of mozzarella instead of shredded. I just walked in to find the whole thing freshly grated by my sweet HH. I just laughed and walked away. Obviously, that's a really small example, but it just happened so that's what came to mind. Looking for reasons to laugh is a great way to enjoy the journey.

Playing with children. This one is easy for me since I'm with my two kids all day. But even if you don't have kids of your own, borrow one or two and get playing. (Mine are up for grabs if you can't find any). Follow their lead. Children always make you feel special and appreciated. They take joy in small and simple things. They love to be silly. They're so stinkin' cute! They know that dressing up like a cowboy/princess/chef is WAY more important than vacuuming the living room. And really, it is. For maximum joy finding, combine this with the aforementioned laughter. There is nothing better than sharing a great big belly laugh with a little child. Nothing.

Gratitude. I know I already mentioned this, but it's true. A thankful heart is a happy heart. Be grateful for the small things around you. I really appreciated what Amy said about being thankful to Heavenly Father. When I remember to express gratitude to Him for my blessings, I can feel His love for me even stronger. Knowing that God loves and cares about me enough to bless me with so many great things brings me the greatest joy and peace.

Stop and smell the roses. And look at them. And touch them. And fully appreciate them. Yesterday we drove to the Boston Temple. As you probably know, New England is kind of famous for beautiful fall foliage. This year seems to be the most beautiful since we moved here. So, yesterday's drive was spectacular, to say the least. But every so often, I would realize I was too caught up in what was going on inside the car that I hadn't really looked outside in a while. And I felt so disappointed for the beauty I had most certainly missed! Fortunately, the trees are abundant here, so there were still beautiful sights to see. I just wanted to make sure I saw and appreciated them all since this only lasts a few weeks a year.

Occasionally as we drove (it's kind of a long drive), I thought about how ugly the highway and cell phone towers were in the midst of all the beauty.Fortunately, I was a lot more focused on the trees than the other ugly sights.

So, I learned two life lessons in reflecting on that. 1. Don't get so caught up inside myself. Remember to look outside and focus on the great people and things surrounding me. And 2. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can find both beauty and ugliness. We get to choose what to focus on. I know I often get so caught up in the yuckiness of the trials or even daily chores that I forget to lift my eyes to the beauty and joy around me. And then when I do, I'm amazed at how I could have not noticed all the amazingly joyful things I'm surrounded by every day. Just a simple shift in focus opens us up to so much joy!

Take a Break for Fun. I think women tend to think that they have to do everything on their to-do list before they can take care of themselves. Not true. I am very goal-oriented. When I start something, I feel I should just keep trudging along until it's done. Whatever the task, that's the way I'm inclined to tackle it. Even when we go hiking, I don't like to stop for breaks. I just want to get to the top. That's a great example in enjoying the journey, right?! My HH is not like this. He likes to take frequent breaks from whatever he's doing. That drove me crazy when we first got married. I would be in the middle of sweeping the floor and he would want to dance with me. Sounds cute, right? It took me a while to see it that way. And to realize that it was better his way. There are probably enough items on all of our "to-do" lists to keep us busy long past when we're dead. If you don't take breaks for fun, or even schedule it in, you'll never get to it.

Spread Loving kindness. I got this one from the book Happy for No Reason. I really recommend that book. The basic gist of this is to mentally send love and kindness to all those around you. I don't always remember to do it and I have to be in the right mood, too. But whenever I do it, it always puts a smile on my face and I feel so much more peace and joy within. The first time I read it, I thought it sounded ridiculous, so I don't blame you if that's what you're thinking. But give it a shot before you discount it. I like to do it when I'm driving. Everyone around me always seems so stressed out and in such a hurry. So, I like to mentally wish them all well. I feel so much more connected to other people when I do this. And like I said, I can't help but smile and feel better about everyone around me. Then instead of being annoyed with the guy who illegally passes me for going 30 mph in a residential neighborhood, I feel bad that he feels so rushed and I hope he makes it to his destination safely.

Anyway, these are just a few basic ways that I try to find joy in the everyday things and to remember that this life is all about the journey and how we choose to travel it. Thanks for the suggestion, it's been a great reminder for me! I can't wait to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Work in Progress

So, usually I know at least a day or two before my next post what the topic will be. An idea strikes and then it just keeps flowing. But this time, no matter how hard I tried, nothing fit. I have this ever-growing list of post ideas so that I never come up short, but even after reading through that a few times, I still couldn't get anything to feel "right". I was even considering not posting today so that it didn't feel forced. But I didn't feel good about that either.

Then I felt like I should check the blog to see if there were new comments. And there were! As I was reading the comment by "Anonymous", I finally figured out what this post is supposed to be about. It's about making this blog better.

I've been trying to figure out a good way to say this for a while--basically, I would like you to comment more. I've already talked about how important it is for everyone to comment so that we all have more ideas and perspectives to learn from.

Another reason I wish you commented more is to help me with the blog. I don't want to make anyone feel pressured to comment, I just want you to feel more free to do so. I know you have thoughts and ideas, please share them! Sometimes I have a comment for a blog, but I hesitate to post it because I don't want anyone to think it's dumb or that I comment too often, or whatever. But then I remember how much I love to get comments and so I try to go ahead and post mine.

The thing is, it's hard for me to know if this is helping without your comments. When no one comments for a couple days, I start to wonder how effective this is. I worry that people will read this more because they feel like they should to support me than because it is helping them. I don't want this to be another item on your "to-do" list. I want feedback on the topics themselves, not me. Also, don't worry about trying to come up with something profound or insightful, just share your thoughts. If I always tried to be profound and insightful, my posts would be a whole lot shorter!

I also would like your suggestions on how to make this better for you. Are there any topics you would like to see discussed here? Does anyone want to be a guest blogger? Would you like me to comment specifically on each of your comments? Is twice a week a good frequency for the posts? Do you want a new background? I do. I just haven't found time for it yet. Basically, what can I do to make it easier for you to comment?

To those of you who have commented--thank you! Please keep them coming. I have been brought to tears many times from the messages you've shared. I'm amazed at what you've been through and how you deal with it. You've strengthened me just as I hoped.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Gratitude Attitude

First I just want to send out a great big "Thank You!" to those of you who have linked this blog to your blog and especially all those who have posted about this blog on your blog. I am touched and grateful for it. The more people reading and commenting, the more we all benefit. So, thanks.

On that note, today's topic is Gratitude. I think I already mentioned that I feel very guided in how I do this blog. The idea for this post came to me on Thursday. As I mentioned last Monday, this is the time of year that the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake speak to all of us all over the world. Last weekend was just for the women and this weekend was for everyone. I couldn't believe how many of the speakers talked about both joy and gratitude. It was amazing. I took notes as best as I could, but it's hard with two little ones running around begging to be played with and read stories to. But repeatedly, I felt very strongly that "gratitude" was the best topic for today.

Like service, gratitude forces us to rise above ourselves and notice the rest of the world. And anything that does that, helps us to close our eyes on our own worries and concerns and opens them to whatever joy surrounds us. Sometimes I have a hard time shutting off negative thoughts in the middle of the night. One method I've used to find peace (and hopefully sleep) is to list off as many things as I can think of to be grateful for. I've never run out of things to list. The best part of being grateful is the revelation of love that comes with it. Love from the people in our lives and all they are doing for us and most especially, love from our Heavenly Father as evidenced by the abundant blessings in each life. And feeling loved is one of the greatest sources of joy.

Some of the things I am grateful for include (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • A loving Father in Heaven
  • The life and Atonement of Jesus Christ
  • My faith
  • My amazing HH who has never ending patience with me in all my struggling
  • My adorable and healthy children
  • Wonderful parents and siblings
  • Fantastic in-laws
  • A healthy body
  • Gooey brownies
  • Sunsets
  • Laughter
  • Girl friends
  • Autumn
  • An amazing and beautiful country where I am free to do and say as I believe
  • Music of all kinds

One final thought on gratitude--Express it! Who hasn't had a bad day completely turned around by someone else's expression of gratitude? Doesn't it make you feel so much better when someone is thankful for you or what you did? And there is a lot of joy to be found in making someone else feel appreciated. Those of you have expressed gratitude to me for doing this blog have given me so much. You've made me feel better about my efforts and you've encouraged me to keep it going, even though I feel very inadequate to the task at times. And you've brought a smile to my face. So, thank you!

What are you grateful for? How does being grateful help you? How do you find gratitude in the midst of hard times?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Like to Move It!

I earned my bachelor's degree in Fitness and Wellness Management, so this post is an obvious one for me. One way to chase away the blues and clear more room for joy in your life is...

I know that is a word that many people dread. I am a freak of nature and actually enjoy exercising, especially running. Weird, I know. But I respect the fact that not everyone is blessed to share my opinion. I know many people exercise whether they love it or not. If that's you, good for you! If not, just read the post and see if you can squeeze in some "sweatin' time". I'm not trying to add one more thing to your to-do list, exercise is just extremely worthwhile. Most of this post will be taken from an article written by Mayo Clinic staff. If you want to read the whole thing (highly recommended) click here. To get you interested, here is a summary:
How It Helps:
Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — can improve mood in the short term. "Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too hard to do more," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Some evidence suggests that exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness. (In other words, anti-joy feelings.)

Confidence. Being physically active gives you a sense of accomplishment. Meeting goals or challenges, no matter how small, can boost self-confidence at times when you need it most. Exercise can also make you feel better about your appearance and your self-worth.

Distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it's easy to dwell on how badly you feel. But dwelling interferes with your ability to problem solve and cope in a healthy way. Dwelling can also make depression more severe and longer lasting. Exercise can shift the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise.

Interactions. Depression and anxiety can lead to isolation. That, in turn, can worsen your condition. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others, even if it's just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood.

Healthy coping. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol excessively, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping depression and anxiety will go away on their own aren't helpful coping strategies.
Tips to start exercising when you have depression or anxiety
Of course, knowing that something's good for you doesn't make it easier to actually do it. With depression or anxiety, you may have a hard enough time just doing the dishes, showering or going to work. How can you possibly consider getting in some exercise?

Here are some steps that can help you exercise when you have depression or anxiety. As always, check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program to make sure it's safe for you.

Get your mental health provider's support. Some, but not all, mental health providers encourage exercise as a part of their treatment plan. Talk to your doctor or therapist for guidance and support. Discuss concerns about an exercise program and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.

Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of exercise or activities you're most likely to do. And think about when and how you'd be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening or go for a jog in the pre-dawn hours? Go for a walk in the woods or play basketball with your children after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.

Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn't have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think about what you may be able to do in reality. Twenty minutes? Ten minutes? Start there and build up. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet idealistic guidelines that could just add to your pressure.

Don't think of exercise as a burden. If exercise is just another "should" in your life that you don't think you're living up to, you'll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or antidepressant medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

Address your barriers. Figure out what's stopping you from exercising. If you feel intimidated by others or are self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise in the privacy of your own home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don't have extra money to spend on exercise gear, do something that's virtually cost-free — walk. If you think about what's stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.

Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Exercise isn't always easy or fun. And it's tempting to blame yourself for that. People with depression are especially likely to feel shame over perceived failures. Don't fall into that trap. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn't mean you're a failure and may as well quit entirely. Just try again the next day.
Sticking with exercise when you have depression or anxiety
Launching an exercise program is hard. Sticking with it can be even harder. One key is problem solving your way through when it seems like you can't or don't want to exercise.

"What would happen if you went out to your car and it wouldn't start?" Dr. Vickers-Douglas asks. "You'd probably be able to very quickly list several strategies for dealing with that barrier, such as calling an auto service, taking the bus, or calling your partner or friend for help. You instantly start problem solving."

But most people don't approach exercise that way. What happens if you want to go for a walk but it's raining? Most people decide against the walk and don't even try to explore alternatives. "With exercise, we often hit a barrier and say, 'That's it. I can't do it, forget it,' " Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.

Instead, problem solve your way through the exercise barrier, just as you would other obstacles in your life. Figure out your options — walking in the rain, going to a gym, exercising indoors, for instance.

"Some people think they need to wait until they somehow generate enough willpower to exercise," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. "But waiting for willpower or motivation to exercise is a passive approach, and when someone has depression and is unmotivated, waiting passively for change is unlikely to help at all. Focusing on a lack of motivation and willpower can make you feel like a failure. Instead, identify your strengths and skills and apply those to taking some first steps toward exercise."
Okay, so I pretty much posted the whole article. But didn't you think it was really great? (And I'm a little short on time tonight). I really feel that exercise should be something that everyone makes room for in their lives. I know you are all very busy. But you can find a way to make it work. We bought a treadmill a few years ago so I could exercise while KN slept. One summer a friend and I went walking every morning. Now I have a gym membership that includes childcare so I get to exercise and get a break every day. It's so great. I always feel happier after a good workout.
What are your positive experiences with exercise? What are some of your barriers to exercising? How can/have you overcome them? What are some of your favorite ways to exercise?