May 27, 2016
Sometimes we just need to read a book that encourages us and reminds us why we do what we do. This summer check out the updated version of The Power of a Positive Mom. You will find both inspiration and practical advice as well as creative ideas for fun activities to do with your kids. I’m especially excited about the newest feature, QR codes, which allow you to scan a code with your smart phone and watch a video for each section of the book. It’s perfect for a group study or an individual read. An added blessing is that a portion of each purchase will be donated to Engage Parenting, a non-profit that leads parenting discussion groups for men and women in areas affected by poverty or adversity.
May 16, 2016
For many years we had a tradition in our home. On the first day of summer vacation we gathered around the kitchen table, ate doughnuts and planned out our summer. We started with a big poster board bearing the words Super Summer 20–! Then using different colored markers we would write down some of the activities we wanted to do during the summer. Go to Six Flags, play Putt Putt golf, ice-skating were some of the ideas. We also wrote down some of the obligations of the summer such as reading, chores and limits on TV and technology.
We also pulled out the Boredom Buster can. This was an old coffee can which I decorated years ago. It had a slit in the tip of the lid in which we could place boredom busting ideas. We cleaned out the can from year to year, so that we could add new fresh ideas. My daughters and I sat around the kitchen table with little pieces of paper and talked about the different things we could do if we ever felt the “B” word (boredom) coming into our minds.
As we thought about ideas we would write them down and put them in the can, so that at any time we could pick one, read it and remind ourselves of things we could do. We wrote down things like bake cookies, shoot hoops, jump on trampoline, call a friend, go swimming, write a letter to a relative, and so on. It was a great exercise because it made us realize with a little thought and creativity there was plenty to do – always.
Oddly, we never had to open the can during the summer because we had already thought through what was in there. We went ahead and did the activities we remembered writing down, and we were never at a loss for something to do. The fact is, boredom is in the eye of the beholder. If you let yourself mope around and declare yourself bored, then there you are. But boredom is simply a perspective. There is always something positive to do with your time, even if it is simply relaxing and reading a book.
Some kids are never bored because they are constantly connected to their phone or tablet. So how do you set limits or boundaries on too much technology, especially during the summer? How do we encourage our kids to read, relax, think and create when there is always the option to connect? It is important to start off our summer with a clear understanding of boundaries. As parents, take some time together to consider and agree on what is reasonable as far as technology and television.
In the next few weeks on this blog I will give you some simple and fun summer ideas to do with your kids to encourage both engagement and creativity. Make it the best summer ever, not by overscheduling your kids, but rather engaging with them through memorable activities and a relaxed moments together.
For more creative ideas check out my book, A Positive Plan for More Fun Less Whining.
May 9, 2016
I asked the Lord to give me this child, and he has given me my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life. And they worshiped the Lord there. Then Hannah prayed: “My heart rejoices in the Lord! Oh, how the Lord has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, as I delight in your deliverance. No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” I Samuel 1:27-28, 2:1-2
Oh the joy of answered prayer! In these verses from I Samuel, we see the wonder of God’s plan. Precious Hannah was not only barren, but was also ridiculed by her husband’s other wife (of all people). How could God allow her pain and suffering? It’s difficult to understand, and yet God knew the whole picture. Hannah brought her request before the Lord and He answered her. Out of her pain and perseverance came a child named Samuel who grew to be a faithful servant of God and leader of Israel.
Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving is one of joy, delighting in God’s blessing. As praying moms, we can find peace in the asking and joy in the answer. Let’s be diligent to pour our hearts out to God, and let’s also be faithful to offer thanks, glorifying God as we see His plan unfold in our lives. Admittedly, it’s easy to pour out our needs to the Lord, but thanksgiving and praise don’t flow as vibrantly. Let’s take a cue from Hannah, and worship the Lord as we give the Lord our requests and as we receive them.
Vincent de Paul wrote, “We should spend as much time in thanking God for his benefits as we do in asking him for them.” What cares or burdens do you need to give over to the Lord this week? What do you need to thank Him for?
Wonderful Lord, praise you that you have a plan for my life. Praise you that you are good and you are powerful. I trust your plan. Thank you for the ways you have already worked in my life. You have blessed me in so many ways. Thank you for being my Rock and refuge as I wait on you for the blessings to come. May you be glorified in my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.
This week I will choose to devote my cares, concerns and request to God in prayer.
This week I will choose to spend more time thanking God and delighting in His blessings.
This week I will choose to teach my children to thank God in their prayers.
“He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.” William Law
This is an excerpt from The Power of a Positive Mom Devotional and Journal. Order your autographed copy today.
May 2, 2016
There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.
Robert Louis Stevenson
A happy heart is like good medicine,
But a broken spirit drains your strength.
Cindy had the blues. With tears streaming down her face, she tried to find the words to explain her cloudy mood to her husband, but all she could say was that she just felt low. Been there?
Most women know what it’s like to feel the blues now and then. “Minor swings into depression or anxiety are very common” for women, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The good news is there are some things we can do to be pro-active and lessen the feelings of the blues. In this blog we are going to explore some positive physical steps you can take to elevate our happy hormones!
What are “Happy Hormones”? The word hormone comes from a Greek word meaning “arouse to activity.” In His infinite wisdom, God has designed each of us with certain chemicals, or hormones, in our brains that can have an uplifting effect on our moods and emotional states. They’re produced by the endocrine glands and secreted into the blood, which carries them to certain cells and organs throughout the body, stimulating physiological changes within these regions. Of the various hormones that exist in our bodies, two are especially important in the area of happiness.
- Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that sends messages from one nerve cell to another. Generally speaking, neurotransmitters help different parts of the brain “talk” to each other. Serotonin in particular is involved in numerous body functions such as appetite, mood, hormonal balance, the sleep/wake cycle, and alertness.
- Endorphins are a type of chemical called peptides which are produced by the body and released into the brain in response to stress or trauma. As such, they’re responsible for making us feel better, improving our moods, increasing our pleasure, and minimizing our pain. You could say they help us achieve a “natural high.”
What’s the point of this little science lesson? Simply this: We don’t have to live at the mercy of fluctuating hormones and their accompanying mood swings. There are ways we can naturally lift the levels of serotonin and endorphins in our bodies. Let’s explore just a few of the ways we can increase the happy hormones.
Exercise Away the Stress
“We know that exercise has an antidepressant effect,” explains Dr. Bonnie Spring, professor of psychology at the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School. Science proves it: In a study at Texas A&M University College of Medicine, women reported significant improvements in mood after twenty minutes or more of walking. Why? Exercise boosts the body’s production of serotonin. Intense, lengthy exercise also increases the release of endorphins, which probably explains the euphoric feeling that athletes commonly refer to as the “runner’s high.” To benefit most from these increases in “happy hormones,” we need to get thirty minutes or more of moderate exercise five or six days a week. That means making exercise a part of our daily routines. How? Never underestimate the benefit of your own sidewalk or the local park! Simply taking a walk in the sunlight and fresh air can add to your feeling of well-being. You may find it helpful to have a walking buddy, so you can enjoy the fellowship as well as the accountability.
If you have small kids, you can involve them in the process by pushing them in a stroller while you walk, or you can stay inside and do a simple work out DVD together in the family room. Another option is to join a health club; many clubs offer child care programs that give moms a chance to work out while the kids enjoy themselves in separate, supervised play areas and some even offer classes to do with your kids. The important thing is to find a form of exercise that suits your current family situation. As one study showed, people who exercise have 1.3 fewer days with depressive symptoms than those who do not exercise. http://www.4woman.gov/news/julsep04/jul295.htm So let’s get active, and stay active!
According to Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietician and author of Food and Mood and Nutrition for Women, “certain foods or food combinations set off a series of chemical reactions in your brain that help determine whether you feel content, on one hand, or anxious or depressed on the other.” If you sense that you’re spiraling into depression, Somer suggests eating a snack that combines protein with a carbohydrate; half a turkey sandwich, for example. The combination helps turn on neurotransmitters that naturally invigorate your brain chemicals.
Some people turn to alcohol to alleviate anxiety or depression. Not a good idea, Somer advises, since alcohol is a depressant. “If you’re already blue, it will make you feel worse,” she says.10 Dark chocolate, on the other hand, has long been considered an endorphin booster. (Now remember, moderation in all things!)
During low periods, it’s wise to gravitate towards foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan, which activates the serotonin in your brain. Foods with tryptophan include turkey, bananas, milk, yogurt, eggs, meat, nuts, beans, fish, and cheese (cheddar, gruyere, and Swiss). Stay away from simple sugars such as candy syrups, table sugar, and sweetened fruits; they cause a brief spike in blood sugar that may make you feel better in the short term but can be followed by a quick drop in energy, leaving you craving more.
Two foods to avoid or at least keep at a minimum in your diet are white flour and white sugar. Simple sugars and refined carbohydrates like white flour or noodles require minimal energy to metabolize and enter the bloodstream rapidly. They tend to give a quick lift, but then you crash! Also avoid foods high in saturated fats (all fried foods, for example), because fats inhibit the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Vitamin C can be an important addition to your diet, since the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin requires adequate supplies of vitamin C. Other vitamins and minerals can also be helpful in maintaining a feeling of well-being. Some studies show that a deficiency in B-6 or B-12 vitamins can be a contributing factor to depression. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 assist amino acids in the transportation through the body. Magnesium is also beneficial. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in sources such as fish oil or flax seed oil, can be important, too, since a diet deficient in these essential acids may lower brain levels of serotonin.
Several herbal remedies have become popular in the past few years for fighting anxiety and depression. St John’s Wort, for example, contains an ingredient called hypericin, which helps to prevent the chemical processes that destroy serotonin. Kava kava and ginkgo biloba have been shown to have properties that reduce stress and improve mood. Check with your doctor before adding any supplements, however, since certain ones can interact with medications you may already be taking.
Attitude is Everything
Changing your exercise and eating habits is important for boosting your happy hormones on a regular basis. So is changing your attitude. Research now shows that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all have an impact on body chemistry. Simply “Just getting out of bed and into a warm shower can elevate serotonin levels making it easier to get into a positive, constructive frame of mind.” http://www.angelfire.com/hi/TheSeer/eratonin.html
Thankfulness and gratitude can elevate your outlook on life. Start a journal, recording every day specific things you are thankful for that happened in the last 24 hours. By focusing on your blessings, you will begin to change your perspective toward circumstances and the people around you.
Some studies even show that smiling raises the serotonin levels in your brain. Why not practice smiling at other people (starting with your family members) throughout the day? It will be a blessing to them, and it will give you a lift too! And never underestimate the power of laughter, which research has shown releases endorphins into the body. Call up a friend who makes you laugh. Read a funny book. Watch a family-friendly comedy show on television. Let loose the laughter!
Change your attitude by refocusing your mind. Turn your thoughts to what is good and pure and truthful. Anger, guilt, and worry will diminish your happy hormones if left unchecked, so don’t wallow in regret or anxiety. Confession is good for the soul and also for your state of happiness. Ask forgiveness, forgive, or make things right, and you will feel a big burden lifted. If you are living in sin, ask God to help you turn from it. Often people give in to temptation thinking that doing so will make them happy, when in reality they end up feeling worse. God forgives our sin, but one of the consequences of living in sin is the physiological effects of guilt. Don’t let sin steal the happiness God intends for you!
Relax, Refresh, Renew
Here are a few additional ways to increase your happy hormones:
- Discover what relaxes you and do it. Practice self-care.
What is it that makes you feel relaxed? Personally, I am rejuvenated when I have some time alone to read. I love those rainy days or Sunday afternoons when I can play some soft classical music and curl up on the couch with my dogs and a good book. I don’t get to do it all the time, but quiet reading is something that is totally relaxing for me, and I look forward to it. Even if it is only for 10 minutes while the kids nap or watch a video, take some time to refresh your spirit on a regular basis.
- Listen to good music.
Discover the music that creates a sense of relaxation for you. Some kinds of music can soothe your soul, while others can rub you the wrong way emotionally and make you feel tense or angry. Play soothing music in your household, and set the tone for peace. Use pleasant music instead of television for background noise. Studies show that television noise can be a stressor; so if you feel your tension rising, turn off the T.V. and play soothing music instead.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep may directly affect serotonin levels. Some research says that consistent sleep patterns are crucial to ensure the most consistent cycling of serotonin, hormones, and other neurotransmitters. “You’re especially vulnerable to mood swings when you’re sleep-deprived,” says Dr. Bonnie Spring. “Get enough sleep, particularly when you know that swings are more probable, like during the week before your period.”
As moms it is difficult sometimes to get a good night’s rest. Tending to a sick child, rocking a crying baby, or waiting for teenagers to come home can rob us of the effective sleep we need. Do the best you can, knowing that at certain times in your life you may be a bit sleep-deprived. Those times won’t last forever. Look for other ways to catch up on sleep. Afternoon power naps, for example, can be wonderfully renewing.
- Get out in the sun.
Sunlight is a definite day-brightener! Direct sunlight increases the serotonin and melatonin production in the body. During the fall and winter months, people who leave for work in the dark, work indoors during the daylight hours, and then return home in the dark tend to experience general fatigue and mood swings often associated with depression. Research suggests that at least twenty minutes of direct sunlight a day can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Again, moderation in everything—I don’t want to make the dermatologists angry with me!
- Seek professional help.
The truth is depression can be brought on by numerous causes. If you experience continuous symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, see your doctor. Many physical conditions can cause you to feel down, including hypoglycemia, heart disease, anemia, sleep apnea, diabetes, endocrine disorders, allergies, and even dehydration. There can be a heredity component as well.
As we said earlier, this blog is not intended as a cure-all but rather as an encouragement to explore simple ways you can renew your mind and body. If you need professional help to overcome continuous depression or overwhelming anxiety, by all means, seek out a Biblically based counselor.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 107, “God Lifts Up His People”
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.[a]
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
Quiet Meditations: Are you willing to call out to God in your distress and look to Him for direction?
Glorious Creator, magnificent God, I praise You, for You have been good to me! Your love is everlasting, and Your faithfulness extends through all generations. Lord, I confess that sometimes when I am in the pit of despair, I forget to call out to You. I need You. Deliver me from feelings of distress, and anxiety. Show me the steps I need to take to help my body stay healthy and strong, so it can function at its best. Thank you for the way You created me. I am truly awed and amazed at Your greatness. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Many of these ideas are from my book, A Positive Plan for Creating More Calm and Less Stress
April 27, 2016
Hopefully you have enjoyed some of the outdoor activities I’ve posted for the last few weeks. This week I want to offer you one more simple and fun idea to create fond outdoor memories with your kids. I am also including a family devotional you can do together as you enjoy the great outdoors.
It may seem crazy, but I have found that kids of any age love bubbles. Yes, even teens enjoy mixing this homemade recipe and searching for unique objects they can use for creating bubbles of all sizes. Young kids love the opportunity to chase and pop the bubbles or have a parade of bubbles. Often it is the simple things that offer creative amusement, so enjoy a little family time creating and playing with bubbles. Here’s the formula:
5 cups water
¼ cup glycerin (available at pharmacies)
½ cup dishwashing liquid (Joy or Dawn)
Mix together in a large bowl and then divide it into smaller containers (plastic butter tubs and sour cream containers are perfect).
For your bubble makers you can use a paper towel tube, plastic strawberry basket, pipe cleaners formed in different shapes, serving spoons with wholes or straws. For bigger bubbles use large rings or form shapes using a wire coat hanger. For giant bubbles, pour the formula into a baby pool and make bubbles using a hula hoop. You can even stand in the center of the hoop and make the bubble rise around you as you lift the hoop up.
Family Fun Devotional
Read: Psalm 19:1-6
What do we learn about God as we observe His Handiwork in Creation?
Can you think of something specific in nature that especially turns your thoughts toward God and makes you want to praise Him?
Take a moment to pray and thank God for His marvelous creation that you can enjoy.
Choose a clear evening when you can go outside and observe the stars together. You may want to drive a little outside the city lights to be able to see them better. Check out a book from the library that will help you find the constellations and locate some of the planets. Bring along a telescope if you have one.
These ideas and much more can be found in Karol’s book: A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.