Attitude

It seems the word “Attitude” has a bad rap. It’s kind of like the word “Diet”, we tend to get this negative connotation when in fact everyone has some sort of diet and everyone has some sort of attitude. It’s easy to have a good attitude when things are going good. But what about when things aren’t going well, are we doomed to have the cloud of pessimism following us around until things improve?

Isn’t it amazing how our attitude can totally change, for better or worse, the way we feel about a particular experience?  For example, if we are in a bad mood we may take everything our spouse says as a personal attack. We may not even notice that our child is lovingly smiling up at us waiting for a hug. We only see the mess our toddler made and not the carefully painted picture they made for us. We don’t see the beautiful sunshine or wonderful fall leaves. Why is this? Why does a bad mood make everything seem so negative?

Well, my theory is that when we are in a bad mood we are thinking about one person, ourselves.  We are so focused inward that we have blinders on to everything around us.  Thus our feelings are stuck on our own problems and own negativity. The very opposite occurs when we are have a positive attitude. We focus outward. We see, we hear, we experience things from a more holistic and complete approach because we are seeing a bigger picture. We serve because we can see needs beyond ourselves and thus we gain added joy from that service.

These phenomena could be compared to taking a picture. We could just take a picture of the grape jelly stain on the white table cloth. If we do that, we will only see the stain and we won’t have a positive outlook for that poor table. But what if we were to zoom out a bit and take a picture of the entire table. Well, then we might see that the table is made of a beautiful marble or hardwood, that it is set with a seemingly perfect (from this larger view) white table cloth and a beautiful centerpiece of a Thanksgiving cornucopia, which is surrounded by all the lovely and delicious fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. Would our view and thoughts of this table change now? Would we be seeing it in a more positive light?

Well just like the focus of the lens on a camera, we have the power to choose how we are going to look at things and experiences. One of my favorite quotes of late is “We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.” by Thomas S. Monson. We are not a victim of circumstance, we can choose how we will look at and see each aspect of our lives. Is this easy? No, no one ever said it would be, or should be. It’s part of our life’s journey and our duty to learn self-mastery.

If we choose to look at every experience as an opportunity, rather than bad luck or punishment, we will begin to notice two things. First, that nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Secondly, that even when things are bad, there is always something you can learn that will make us better off in the end.

So why not try it? Instead of thinking “Why me?” or “Poor me.”, let’s try thinking, “What can I learn?” and “What CAN I DO?” If you can’t change the situation, you can always change your attitude.

So, what has helped you face challenges with optimism? Have you ever seen a situation in which you could see how a more positive attitude would improve it?

Advertisements

Quality vs. Quantity

So tell me this, which is it? Which is more important? Does it depend on the issue? Or are they both equally important? Quality or Quantity? Quality and Quantity? Well, let’s explore the issue shall we?

When it comes to food I think we can say that quantity  is important, adequate but not too much. However, don’t you think the quality is even more important? We all know that if you have a quantity of junk food it will do more damage than good. Also, studies have shown that some of the healthiest people in the world have lived on a very small quantity of food but of high quality. Well, food may be the only isse we can say one or the other.

What about water…that’s a tricky one. If you don’t get enough you die. If you have bad quality water, you die. I guess we could say that to get enough of not high quality but not deadly water then you’ll be fine. However, pure quality water works better in the body than water that your body has to filter and fight in order to use. So it’s both isn’t it?

Then we have the issue of education. It seems that the general world view is moving toward the philosophy that more is better. School hours are increasing and teachers and parents are heaping tutoring and homework on top of that. But is the level of education increasing with this added time?

I think we can agree that if a person spends an hour studying a subject and understands what it is studied it will be considered a success. However if the same person spends hour upon hour studying a subject and never understands it then what is the point? We could go off on learning styles and teaching methods (if these subjects interest you, be sure to read my articles on Discovery Learning and Homeschooling: Before you begin…), but let’s stick to it shall we?

Many of the United States founding fathers and other pioneers of that age we consider well-educated for their time, however they did not spend hours in a school room. What they did do is read and study quality materials and then apply what they learned in everyday speech and living. More emphasis was placed on thinking rather than studying. At the same time, we know that great minds like Aristotle and Einstein spent their free time studying. Maybe in this case we can say that it’s like water, quality first and then quantity?

For my last complicated issue let’s look at time. We often hear it said that quality time is more important than the quantity but I tend to think that its justification for letting our priorities slip (see my article on Balance if you want to explore this more).

Children especially feel loved when they see us busy, but still taking time just for them. To them it is less important of what we do when we’re with them as it is that we are with them. Nonetheless, if we constantly are putting off what the child most loves doing with us (like the “Love Languages” mentioned in my article Homeschooling: One more thing before you begin…)than they will begin to feel neglected regardless of the amount of time we spend with them. So again, it’s both isn’t it?

Now tell me, what do you think? Is there ever a clear answer on Quality vs. Quantity or is it simply an issue of balance?

Excuses

Excuses are tricky. The common held belief is that one should not excuse his/her follies but take action to change them. I completely agree.

On the other hand we are constantly excusing ourselves and those we care about. “Oh, I forgot to eat breakfast and that’s why I’m so irritable.” “Oh, he’s just overtired and that’s why he’s throwing a fit.” “Oh, she comes from such a strict upbringing that’s why she’s rebelling.” “Oh, they just drank to much that is why they are acting that way.” The list goes on and on and on….Is there some truth to these excuses? Of course. Do the excuses make it acceptable to act in way that is harmful to yourself or other people? Of course not. So where do we draw the line?

Well, this is how I strive to use excuses…tell me what you think…

When it comes to behavior that is abusive and harmful, especially to more than just the person who is creating the behavior, I think action is more useful than an excuse. Yes, maybe they did have a rough childhood. Yes, maybe they are dealing with some very stressful things. However, harming themselves and other people will not only cause more problems now, but many more untold ones in the future. It is much more conducive to a life of future happiness to stop the excuses and do something about the issue.

Now, what about when ours or someone’s behavior isn’t exactly harmful, but it is rather annoying, and/or inconvenient, and/or just plain rude?

When I’m dealing with myself, I try not to excuse any type of negative behavior. Even if I am tired, overworked, hungry, stressed, etc. That does not give me the right to be a brat. Also, all of those excuses have an action that needs to be taken. I need to focus on the resolving the issue rather than trying to find a place to lay the blame. When I resolve, rather than excuse, it leads to not only relieving the problem, but also an added burst of happiness for being proactive and more wisdom to do better the next time.

When it comes to other people I have an excuse rule. If, like I mentioned earlier, is not really dangerous or abusive then I always give the other person at least three excuses. This helps me either not take offense in the first place, or make it easier to forgive if I’ve already taken offense.

For example, if I am shopping with my three children for shoes, (Which every parent knows is SO much FUN! Ok, I need a sarcasm font…) and the sales person is clearly ignoring me as I stand in front of them with the shoes I need to find sizes for, as they text someone or check their emails, I have two choices. I can either A.) Choose to be offended and angry or B.) Give them three excuses.

If I choose “A” not only will I now be in a bad mood but I will also most likely have an even more unhelpful sales person. If I choose “B”, let’s say there Mom is in the hospital and they need to check on her, or their child is needing to be picked up, or they are checking on the availability of cumquats in Beijing, China because they are moving there next month and their husband adores cumquats (O.K. so sometimes you have to be creative to give someone an excuse…you never know….).Well, if I choose to give them excuses then I may not even take offense at all, I will be more amicable and thus they will too (most likely).

This practice is simple and seems like it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it really has for me. To take offense is a choice. To get angry is a choice. To be upset in any way, justified or not, is a choice. So, when there is not going to be any long-range damage done to me or anyone else why not just let it go? Well, that’s why I give the three excuses. It helps me remember that the world does not revolve around me and that other people have lives and problems. If I remember this then I can lower the negativity and anxiety that bombards us in this world and choose to be happy.

How do you use excuses? Do you think they are helpful or harmful or both?

Change Your Mood

We all have our good days and bad days. Here are some great tips to help you instantly improve those bad ones!

  1. Breathe! Oxygen is not only a necessity of life, but a lack of it can cause fatigue, soreness, and lack of concentration…enough to make anyone crabby! So take a deep breathe as you count to 3 and lift up your arms above your head to allow your lungs maximum capacity. A better functioning body is a happier body!
  2. Get Moving! Exercise is a proven mood regulator, it releases endorphins into your system to produce a feeling of well-being. The ideal would be 30 minutes of moderate exercise, something that makes you sweat and breathe hard. But even a few minutes of brisk walking, jumping jacks, swimming, etc. will help you feel much better.
  3. Nourish your Body! Water, water, water! Dehydration can lead to a lower ability for all parts of your body and mind to function, not to mention headaches and concentration issues. Also, when we don’t eat on a regular basis our body not only stores more calories which can lead to weight gain but we also get crabbier because our body is fighting against us. Make your body your ally and nourish it properly and regularly.
  4. Change your Company! If you are around negative, draining people you are much more likely to feel negative and drained. Choosing to be around happy, optimistic people will make it much easier to stay happy and optimistic yourself.
  5. Feed your Spirit! Religious or not, studies have shown that those that create a strong spiritual awareness in their lives are generally happier. If you do practice a religion, prayer and scripture reading will help put you back in alignment. If you do not consider yourself religious then find some time to meditate, enjoy nature, listen to soothing music, and/or read poetry.
  6. Be Grateful! When we recognize all that we have, especially during hard times, it helps us realize that nothing is as bad as it seems. Make a list of all that you have to be grateful for and put it somewhere that you can see it every day.
  7. Affirm yourself! Think of a talent you possess or something recently that you did very well. Tell yourself at least 5 positive things about yourself. It would be great to make a list of these too and put them next to your gratitude list.

All in all, let us remember that we always have a choice. At times this may take monumental effort and of course there are times when allowing ourselves to experience negative emotions, especially during times of mourning, are necessary and part of our recovery process. But no matter the circumstances, outside stimuli does not create our thinking or moods, we do. So if you’re having a bad day, you can also choose to have a good one instead.

Communication

“If only I wouldn’t blow up/yell at my kids/spouse.”… “If only I didn’t feel so alone.”….. “If only I didn’t feel so overwhelmed.” “If only I could get my kids/spouse to listen to me.” “If only….”

Do any of these phrases, or ones similar, come to your mind? I’ve been thinking about these subjects a lot lately.  For one, because they are a summation of my biggest weaknesses. For two, they all boil down to one basic principle that I need to work on: Communication.

I wouldn’t blow up, if I would communicate my needs/desires in a positive and effective way before I get to the rage stage. I wouldn’t feel so alone, if I would really communicate with people and God rather than be superficial and prideful, or ramble off an almost memorized prayer. I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if I would learn when to say no, or not now, and communicate my needs from the very beginning. My family would listen to me, if I was actually communicating instead of mandating and nagging.

I’ve actually studied this issue quite over the years (yes, I am STILL working on this) both on the spiritual and secular level. I’ve found several helpful books and articles that have helped me create some ideas for change. My favorite and most helpful information has come through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and through Scripture. I have really found Proverbs, James, and 1st and 2nd Peter to be very useful.

All in all it comes down to the fact that I want to be a woman of virtue that my family will be happy to be around, and talk well of, like described in Proverbs 31. I definitely want to avoid becoming the woman that sends her family to the corner of a rooftop like is also mentioned in Proverbs. This will not happen until I change my old habits with new ones. So this is what I’m working on remembering:

Communication is Listening, Understanding, Empathy, and Action.

In other words, in order to communicate we must first listen to the other person in the conversation. Not just wait for them to finish so we can say what we want to say, but really listen.

Next we seek to understand. This means, after listening we summarize what we heard to make sure we are hearing what they want us to.

Now, let’s put the other person(s) shoes on for a bit and see how we would feel and act if we were them…don’t be prideful, really if we WERE them we WOULD feel and act just as they have and are…so let’s try to see it from that perspective.

Once we’ve truly empathized with the other person(s) then we can say or do what we feel is best. Yes, it is important that our feelings are addressed, but if we truly listen, understand and empathize with the other person we may find that our feelings change because the whole issue was misunderstood.

Another thing that has been helpful for me is to remember that in order for our feelings, needs and desires to be heard we cannot make them an attack. Saying, “You did such and such just so I would feel such and such.” Or “You never do such and such” or “You always do such and such” are attacks. We are assuming a self-centered perspective that the other person meant to harm us. Or we are generalizing, which, when generally speaking we know that most generalizations just  aren’t generally true (now, how is that for a generalization?). Anyway, many times we will find that the other person had no real intention of harm.

Instead we can say something like, “I feel such and such because of such and such that happened.”  Just state the facts. Saying it in the “I” form makes it less of an attack because you are taking responsibility for your feelings and not saying that the person necessarily tried to hurt us. Also, when we say it in this way it forces us to identify the feelings we are feeling and what exactly we feel is causing it/them. That way we don’t get side-tracked by past hurts or unrelated themes that just lead to more miscommunication and more hurt feelings.

In a nutshell, we can blame the other person(s) for our feelings or our past experiences for creating bad habits. That is an option, one that will leave us will unresolved feelings and problems and generally (there is that word again!) miserable for the rest of our existence. OR, We can CHOOSE to change.

We are the only things that we can really change anyway, so why not start with ourselves? I’ve been working on this same road of self-improvement for quite a few years now. Looking back I do see monumental progress. Looking forward at my goal I feel a little overwhelmed and the work I have left to do. But I am not alone. YOU are not alone. Grace and mercy are empowering miracles in our lives and I hope you will join me in the journey.

What do you feel is the most important aspect of Communication? What do you do when you feel discouraged by self-improvement?

Maximum Fitness in Minimum Time

Image

One of the main components of our health is sufficient exercise. Though most would say that their health is priceless, we often fall into a rut with the excuse of lack of time. Here are some proven methods that can optimize your level of fitness even when you lack time.

 1. Start with cardio.

Just like any other muscle, if our heart is not exercised it will lose strength, endurance, and may even lose the ability to do its’ job properly. The ideal amount of cardio (a.k.a aerobic exercise, or exercise that causes us to breathe hard) is 30 minutes per day for an adult. Sometimes this is hard to do with the crazy lives we lead. Studies have shown though that 3, 10 minute intervals of even something as simple as walking significantly improves ones health. So, either break it up and fit it in, or give something up and exercise instead, you’re worth it!

2. Do abs next.

Your abdominals could be considered the foundation for all other muscles. If you keep your abs strong you are less likely to have back-problems, elimination issues, and your skeletal structure and thus other muscles and organs stay in alignment. Again, in the ideal world we would all have about 15-20 minutes to focus on our abs. But the great thing is you can work your abdominals while you are reading ( a book, email, texts, etc), watching t.v., brushing your teeth, washing dishes and doing almost any other menial task. You can tuck up your pelvis and contract your abdominals into a crunch whenever you are sitting or standing, or even crunch to the side, while standing, to work those obliques.

3.Use everyday tasks to your advantage.

Walking the dog may be a way to get in your cardio, for sure. But what about contracting those biceps as you hold the leash and then switching arms? Do some squats as you lift and bring in the kids or groceries from the car. Or even lift those grocery bags behind your back to strengthen your triceps. Do calf raises as you wash the dishes. Do leg lifts as you brush your teeth¸ do the laundry, or cook dinner. Be creative and think of how you can turn an everyday task into a way to sculpt and tone your body.

What are some unique exercises you do to help you stay fit? How do you motivate yourself when you just don’t feel like exercising?

Balance

https://i0.wp.com/www.etftrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/425_web-ERE-seesaw-PAR116898.jpg

It’s 2012 and things are more convenient than ever. Throughout the North America, Asia, Australia, Europe and most large cities in South America and Africa…we can do one-stop shopping, we have technology they never dreamed of 50 years ago, you can out-source anything from websites to dog-walking…it’s really an incredible picture if you think about it.

With all of this technology and all the services available, seemingly at your fingertips, you would think life would be easier, less complicated, that we would have more time…well, it’s a nice thought anyway.

Nope, things are crazy and customs are forming where family life is becoming a lost tradition. We are SO involved in technology and SO busy with all that there is to do (or more likely that we feel we SHOULD do) that families are lowering on the priority list and consequently we’re losing them. Is it really very surprising that health issues have skyrocketed in the past 50 years? Can you imagine where we’ll be in the next 50?

Personally, I don’t think we were put into families on accident. God created Adam and Eve, to be husband and wife, and they were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, to have families! I truly believe that families are sacred assignments from God and not to be taken lightly.

At the same time, we have to do other things in order to support our families and take care of their needs, and ours as well. Ideally, I feel it is best when the father is the major breadwinner of the family and the mother is at home. If need be she can work part-time from home, but her primary duty is in nurturing and caring for her family.

Unfortunately, it just isn’t possible for all families to have a “stay-at-home” mom. There are single moms and with the economy today, at times the mother must work outside the home. The only thing I would say in this case is that make sure that it is a necessity for the mother to be working outside the home, and not simply a means to create a certain desired lifestyle. If it is a necessity that the mother work outside the home, just do the very best you can to make sure that family is the priority.

How do we create a balance when so many commitments and activities and needs are pulling us in so many different directions? Firstly, know you’re priorities. God, Spouse, Children, Work, Service Commitments, Hobbies.

I have found that when I put my Heavenly Father first, everything just works out better. Is life perfect? Does everything run smoothly all of the time? Am I free of hard-times, worries, anxieties, and stress? Of course not, I’m human and I’m living in an imperfect world, things will be hard at times and maybe even for a long time. However, with God first, I am much better equipped to face these hard-times and insecurities; I know better what to do and I am much more at peace. Scripture, prayer, and seeking for His guidance at all times, and as my top priority, helps me find the next priority, and how to accomplish it, much more easily.

My spouse comes next. This is tricky at times, isn’t it? Spouses are adults, so I think sometimes we tend to let them fend for themselves a bit more than we should, simply because they are capable. Capable yes, but we are created to “be one” and a “helpmeet”, that means we are equals but that our primary focus should be on how we can help our spouse and make them happy. Does this mean they become above our health and well-being? How can they drink from an empty glass? Of course not, part of being married is realizing that your spouse is human and that there will be times of give and take that is not equal. Just remember that if you are focused on fulfilling their needs and desires and they are focused on fulfilling yours, then not only will all the needs be met but you will get an increase of joy because you are serving.

Now, here come the children. Let’s please remember that children need their physical needs met but they also need guidance, a good example, a listening ear, and lots of love. These emotional needs are best met when we are “present”. That means not just physically there with our kids, but tuned in, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally “there” as well. Also, let us not forget that giving physical things (treats, toys, trips, etc.) and fulfilling every want in place of these emotional needs will only lead to more problems, not solutions.

O.K. let all the rest take their place, Work, Service, and Hobbies. Work is important. It helps us meet physical needs but also (ideally) will help us reach our potential in other arenas and expertise. It can be a very rewarding experience, but should not be a consuming experience. Create a schedule, create limits for employees/employers/clients; be flexible but not a doormat. When you are physically done working, try your best to be “present” with your family, the work will always be there when you get back to it, but you can miss a once-in-a-lifetime experience with your family just by not being “there” with them. Yes, you need a financial way to sustain yourself and family, but not at the expense of your health and well-being.

The same goes with Service and Hobbies. If your family feels that they come second to other people, the t.v., games, the computer, exercise or any other number of activities then it’s time to make some changes. The same applies here as for work, set a schedule, create limits for yourself and other people that may ask of your time.

Remember, creating balance is not like putting all your plates on a board and balancing it on your head. It is much more like a teeter-totter (see-saw). When you are giving time and effort to one thing (God, Spouse, Kids, etc.) you cannot simultaneously give time to another. Yes, yes, multitasking is possible but in reality you can really only  FOCUS on one thing at a time. That means in order for balance to be met you will have give and take happening at all times.

If you have a project at work that is going to create more hours and efforts in that direction, then make sure your family is aware of this, give them a reasonable time-line, and stick to it and take some extra time for them when you’re finished with the project. If you have a sick spouse or child, or one that has a particular need that may take away from other obligations, again this is a time when other things may not get the attention they deserve, but make sure that explanation is given and that you create some special time for the other needs when opportunity allows.

Also, in terms of well-being and efficiency, too much focus on one thing for too long is not healthy or effective. Take breaks, even during times when you have a project or particular commitment that requires extra efforts, make sure you are taking care of your health and if there is enough left over of you during that “marathon of efforts” give some time for your family.

What are your best methods for creating balance in your life? What do you do when you feel you’re unbalanced?