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What?  It’s a new year?  Let’s work together to do something different!

Have you noticed there have been a lot of lists for starting something in the new year?  Lists that tell you…..what to do, when to do it, why you do it……10  steps to a better _____, the first 3 things to do to have a better____, what your spouse needs from you, what you need from your job…..and many more.  Are your inboxes filled, newsfeeds rolling with ideas, tweets, retweets, posts, reposts and on and on.  Have you found yourself asking – But what to work on first?  What area to focus on?  What is going to be the best for you?  Who is going to do it with me?  Should I do it all alone? And then finding yourself yelling, “STOP, I can’t make up my mind, so I’m not going to do any of it!” You are not alone.

What I love about this time of year is the strong intention we all have to make an improvement.  Whether that improvement is in our physical, spiritual, mental, relationships or emotional areas of life, we want to have “it” be better or at least different than it is now.  I’ve heard from some that the options are too many, the work is too hard or the project is JUST TOO BIG.  So, they just won’t do any of it!  Why even try? They tell me, I will be doing the same thing over and over again without getting any different results.  Well, that may be true if we continue to start but not finish, if we don’t have anyone to help us along the way, or if we have started to work on something that really doesn’t fit with our values, life or situation.

If this sounds familiar maybe you need a little guidance.  I would welcome the chance to explore what you want to change, improve or stop doing.  Over this past year I have been privileged to coach people in many different areas of life.  We’ve worked through job changes, job loss and career changes.  I’ve been able to coach couples to learn new communication skills and practices to deepen their relationship.  Several are working through past belief’s that have held them hostage to ways of behavior that are not honoring who they are or who they desire to be.  Others have felt a nudge to do something in their life, but had difficulty clarifying that “something”, together we worked through finding their gifts, values and what they have been called to do.  It’s been an exciting year of growth, discovery, challenges and changes!  Are you ready?  I would be honored to coach you through changes, improvements, challenges and new discoveries, let’s do this together. Let’s make 2015 different!   Please go to the Speak To Me page and we’ll start together.  We can work together in person, by phone, through SKYPE, individually, as a couple or even as a group.  The first step is to reach out!

Blessings to you on this new year!

Finding Your JOY in the Midst of the Holidays

Tis the season of JOY!  We sing songs about Joy, we read stories about Joy, we hear Joy in our surroundings, and most of us desire Joy in our lives.  But what happens when we are not feeling joyful?  What about those times when we are stressed out, exhausted, cashed strapped and lonely?  Just finished with another Finding Your Joy in the Midst of Holiday Chaos workshop last week.  It never ceases to amaze me the difference between how we picture the Holiday season and our reality.  What I have heard are the cries of people saying they are not feeling joy, they are feeling the opposite and questioning why.

Just like in the workshop, let’s look at some of the things that fill us with joy.  For some of you it can be quality family time, baking Christmas cookies, spending time with friends, laughter, quietly sitting in front of the fire, watching a holiday movie with the kids, going for a walk, time to take care of ourselves, sleeping, or listening to Holiday music. How can we increase the opportunities to have these joy-filled activities in our lives?  Let’s take a look at some of the things that might get in the way of our joy and ways to turn those joy busters around.

Stress – financial – not having enough, spending over our income.  How can we turn that around from a joy buster to something that brings joy?   BUDGET your gift giving.  Give hand-made gifts this year.  Choose to give a board game to your family instead of individual gifts, then play the game together.  Give experiences – a gift of staying at your home for a weekend and going to a park to play with you– not only is it an experience with you, but you get exercise too.  Many options are available on Pinterest – search “experience gifts”.

Stress – recent relational loss – can be due to death, divorce, conflict or break-up.  Decide on a way to remember your loved one – pictures, stories, visit a favorite place and celebrate the time you had together.  Do something in honor of your loved one.  With a divorce, conflict or break-up – take time for yourself to feel love from your personal spiritual resource.  Take time to learn from the experience; what will you do differently in the future?  Write, draw or talk with a counselor/coach.  You can contact me at  Speak To Me

Family Stress– strained relationships or knowing that “one person” will be at the same event –PLAN.  You can plan the time you will be at the event – showing up with a time limit you can get through the time, keeping your joy and spending time with the person showing them what JOY looks like in you.

Expectations – this has made almost EVERY workshop participants list of joy busters.  Our expectations of a perfect family gathering or perfect gift, or perfect 5 course meal, or perfect outfit, or perfect decorated house…….  STOP!!!  Have simple expectations for yourself, and truth be told, lower expectations for other activities.  One way to do that is to simply remove the words – SHOULD and/or SUPPOSED to – from your thoughts and words.  We give you permission to NOT- do, say, arrange, plan, perform for anyone especially if that action involves the words SHOULD or SUPPOSE TO.  What do I mean?  Who needs to have 10 kinds of Christmas cookies while sitting around one of the 3 decorated trees in your home?  NO ONE!!  If you desire to bake cookies with your family or friends, plan it and make time for it.  If you feel like you HAVE to bake cookies because of others’ expectations….DON’T DO IT!!  Relax, enjoy your quiet restful time knowing you are able to give out of your overabundance of JOY.

Which leads us to another JOY boosting suggestion – do something different this year!  Whether that be to agree to no gifts, giving through a charity such as Samaritan’s Purse, or World Vision in honor of your family, having a soup and sandwich Christmas meal or a bring an ingredient for the crock of soup.  Whatever you plan or participate in, it’s to bring you JOY.  If doing all the other things you’ve always done because its tradition or others say you SHOULD, evaluate if that activity brings you JOY.  If not, don’t do it!!  If it does, have at it, knowing that this activity will take a scheduled amount of time and energy!

Another important part of finding your JOY is to take care of yourself!  Taking care of ourselves is not selfish, it’s caring for ourselves that empowers us to give out of our abundance.  Being a stressed out, tired, broke, crazy person is not going to bring anyone JOY, for sure not you!  Take time to rest, eat right, exercise, and set a schedule for your activities.  How amazing would you feel if you were fully rested, nourished, energized by moving your body and had margin in your life? That brings me JOY!

Serving others is a way to bring JOY not only to you but in your serving bringing JOY to others!  Check out the previous post for reasons and possibilities to serve.

The last suggestion we talk about in the workshop is to have an Attitude of Gratitude!  What are you grateful for this season?  When we focus on what we HAVE and are blessed with, we will have more JOY in our lives.  One of the things I ask clients to do is write down 3 – 5 things they are grateful for every night.  Admittedly sometimes that is a tough assignment, especially if you are in the middle of chaos, however, I know from experience when you focus on being grateful, it will change your outlook.  Being grateful for what you have is the antidote for wanting MORE and MORE.  Giving thanks for the people, things, dreams and desires we have will increase our JOY and help us be more positive people.  And who doesn’t want to be more positive, encouraging and thankful?  Give it a try for a week!  Write down 3 – 5 things you are grateful for and I know tomorrow night you will have more to write and so on and so on!

Hope you connected with some of these suggestions and have found ways to increase your JOY this Holiday season.  When the workshop participants leave they usually have a skip in their step and a new resolve to simplify, take care of themselves and enjoy new ways to build JOY into their Holiday season.

My wish for you is a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or what you are celebrating this season!  If you would like to work with me for coaching, please go to the  Speak To Me page and we can connect.

Here are some quotes and scriptures about JOY – hope they encourage you and bring you JOY!

Joy Quotes

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.  When the mind is pure, JOY follows like a shadow that never leaves.  Buddha

JOY is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.  Marianne Williamson

Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings JOY and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.  Eileen Caddy

Balance, peace and JOY are the fruit of a successful life.  It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them.  Thomas Kinkade

Joy Scriptures

Deuteronomy 16:14, 15b  Be JOYFUL at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.  For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete.

Nehemiah 8:10  Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.  This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm 16:11  You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with JOY in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 20:4,5  May He gave you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  May we shout for JOY over our victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

Proverbs 27:9  Perfume and incense bring JOY to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

John 15:10-12  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my live, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that my JOY may be in you and that your JOY may be complete My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.

Looking for a way to feel better?  SERVE someone else!

Have you thought about why you feel so much better when you are serving someone else?  Have you ever felt the warm “fuzzy’s” after blessing someone with a favor or kind deed?  Have you found yourself the recipient of someone else’s gift of serving?  What is it that they have?  Why do they seem happier and/or healthier?  It has been studied and proven that when we are serving others, giving, caring, doing for another…not only is the recipient blessed but we feel better too!

Do you realize it’s not just the way we think that is impacted by serving, it’s physical and emotional too!  Several studies have found that not only does serving others cause mood improvements but it has health benefits as well.  Giving helps you overcome stress – your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which helps you buffer stress while increasing social trust and tranquility – the “compassion hormone” as it has been labeled helps limit exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, says Stephanie Brown from Stony Brook University, New York.  Stacey Curnow, creator of Midwife for Your Life, says about experiencing a release of oxytocin, “It’s a self-perpetuating cycle! After a positive exchange, more oxytocin is released and we are even more likely to reach out and interact with others in a cooperative and nurturing manner.”

Other studies have found that those who serve live longer. A study by Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD at the University Of Minnesota School Of Social work, showed that seniors who gave 100 hours or more annually lived 22 percent longer than seniors who did not serve others.  And one of the beautiful findings is that it’s not just seniors or adults, but young children, even toddlers.  A study by Aknin, Hamlin and Dunn: Giving Leads to Happiness in Young Children, found that given a choice toddlers are happier when they share with others, even if it is at a cost to themselves.  WOW!!

Additional health benefits are pain relief, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety and discomfort.   If you want to manage your pain serve others dealing with the same or similar pain.  A study done by Paul Arnstein, PhD, specialist in pain relief at Massachusetts General Hospital found when people suffering with chronic pain helped others with the same ailment, they reported feeling less discomfort themselves and recognized the positive effect they had on others in the same situation.  Which then gave them a greater sense of purpose.  I know this is true from personal experience in the MS world.  A group of 20 and sometimes more of us who battle MS work out together at a gym.  We all come with differing levels of physical ability, we raise the level of JOY in the room simply by cheering each other on and/or challenging each other to try new things.  It’s amazing and very heartwarming!  Each of us are improving our health by increasing our stamina, challenging our bodies to do more AND having fun being supported by each other.  We have a group of dedicated volunteers that come weekly to record our progress, encourage and challenge us.  Ask any of those volunteers why they serve – you get an answer of how they are inspired and motivated by those they are serving.

Another study in the journal of Psychology and Aging found adults over the age of 50 who reported volunteering at least 200 hours in the past year were 40 percent less likely than nonvolunteers to have developed hypertension four years later!  Researchers believe that the stress-reducing effects of being both active and altruistic helped the volunteer’s lower blood pressure. And we find from another source that, raising our oxytocin hormone level limits our exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, from Stephanie Brown, PhD Stony Brook University, New York.

What do we do with all of this? How can we impact our health and mood?  I firmly believe we look for opportunities to SERVE!  To help us remember, give a few more reasons and a couple of simple suggestions, let’s look at serving this way.

SERVE

S – Simply Smile at others.  Anyone can do it and it’s contagious!  Go ahead, give it a try next time you are at the grocery store, in your neighborhood or at church.  Simply Smile and see what happens.  Serving can be THAT easy!

E – Excite others and invite them to serve with you.  If you are getting all the health benefits of lower blood pressure, higher levels of the “compassion hormone” and living longer….invite others to experience the same with you!

R – Renew your HEALTH by serving – Have a chronic issue?  Find a group or organization that serves others like you and SERVE them.  It could be as easy as a phone call checking in with them, leading a group, doing a visit, running errands….but whatever you do for others, you will be surprised how that makes YOU feel healthier – like mentioned earlier….you can step out of your pain, anxiety or mild depression by serving others living with the same issue.

V – Volunteer – Give of your time, talent or resources and just wait to see the results!  If it’s a cause you believe in, you will reap the benefits we’ve listed earlier and others as well!  If you don’t believe results from research, then do your own!  Take time to find an organization, ask at your church, research on-line or stop by a Community Center and see what they need.  Can you fit that need?  Give it a little time and if you are volunteering out of caring – NOT obligation – you will reap the health benefits listed and help others!!

E – Even financial contributions make us feel better.   Remember after 911, the tsunami in Japan, or any big catastrophe that has a way to contribute financially– even anonymously?  People JUMPED at the chance, the mood in the country was of charity.  I would bet your oxytocin hormone level would elevate!  A study done at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found that employees who spent a greater portion of bonuses they had received on others or made charitable donations with it reported greater happiness than those who spent more of the bonus on themselves.  Give it a try!

If you are thinking that you would like to find your niche or to discover what it is you are meant to do, I would enjoy working with you!  You can simply go to the  Speak To Me  page and contact me.  We can together help you clarify your values, discover your strengths/gifts and guide you on the road to pursuing your purpose!

I would LOVE to hear your serving stories and how it not only benefited those you served, but how your health has improved.  Please share your story in the comments section.

Until next time, be blessed and BE a blessing!

 

 

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