Importance of Nurturing Our Creativity

Happiness, Mind

One of the major pitfalls of mainstream American culture is our lack of acknowledgement of how important creativity is. Of course, we’ll all say it’s important. We can recite quotes and spout off statistics about the importance of creative thinking in business and life. We’ll pay ridiculous amounts of money to go to concerts or shows to watch someone else be creative. We’ll pay money for art or pretty things that someone else created while they were doing what they loved. But as a whole, the society that we live in puts much greater importance on making money and gives a lot less attention to the importance of just living and allowing ourselves to be creative, even in the little in-between moments. Art and creativity are only valued if it’s deemed to be worth money.

As children we are all effortlessly creative in our own ways.

Seeing everything for the first time, we see the world with such potential and limitless possibilities. From the time we start school, though, we are already being programmed to learn a certain curriculum in a certain way over a certain period of time. To regurgitate facts back so that we can make good test scores on information that we do not care about and will soon forget.

As adults, we are seldom encouraged to follow our passions or creativities unless there is a good paycheck expected to come behind it.

Do I have an answer to change our society from it’s petty, money-lusted ways? Not really. The machine is too big. The domination of greed too vast.

But I will suggest this: Do not underestimate the importance of even the littlest moments of joy and creativity in your life. It may be letting yourself be inspired by nature, falling in love with a melody, doodling a flower, writing a poem, cooking a delicious meal with love, or just coloring with your kid. (or writing a cheesy blog 😉 ) Whatever it is that puts you in the present moment and makes you appreciate the little things in life. Whatever it is that helps you imagine and dream. That is when you find your creativity. That is where ideas are born. It is important. It should be nurtured. Even these smallest moments of inspiration and creativity are not idle, wasted moments. And we should not treat them as such. For it is in these moments that we find the beauty of our humanity.

Psychological Benefits of Fresh Flowers in Your Home

Happiness, Mind

One of my favourite pastimes is making flower arrangements. I can’t help but smile during any part of the process: purchasing, cutting, arranging, finding the perfect container, and either picking a place in my home to display them or giving them to someone else who might be in need of a smile. I love it all. I’m not a superb florist. I’ve never taken a class. It’s just really hard to make a bad flower arrangement. I’ve always known that there was something special about flowers. They make me smile. They make others smile. Now, with today’s research, their positive effects on a person’s psyche is a proven fact.

According to research conducted at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, fresh flowers can be a simple and natural way to improve emotional health.

“The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive manner far beyond what is normally believed.” *

The 10-month study showed that flowers have a healthy and positive effect on a person’s mood. Participants from all age groups experienced instant feelings of happiness and gratitude upon receiving flowers. Participants also experienced long term positive effects, reporting less feelings of depression and anxiety and a higher sense of life satisfaction.

Another study conducted by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D. and Harvard Medical School, showed that people feel more compassionate towards others, less worried and anxious, and have less feelings of depression when fresh cut flowers are present in their home. Study participants who lived with fresh cut flowers for just a few days experienced more feelings of compassion and kindness for others and less negative feelings. They also experienced a boost of energy that lasted throughout their day, even having more enthusiasm and energy at work, just from having flowers in their home living environments. This positive energy can also spread to others.

“What I find interesting is that by starting the day in a more positive mood, you are likely to transfer those happier feelings to others – it’s what is called mood contagion.” ~ Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D.

Having fresh flowers in your home doesn’t have to be expensive, either. With a little research, you should be able to find the cheapest, best place to buy fresh cut flowers. I have a nearby Homeland Grocery Store that sells small bunches of flowers for $3 – $4. I normally buy two or three of these and have plenty of flowers to make one large arrangement or a couple of smaller ones. During summer and spring, I pick roses and lilies from our outdoor garden and make flower arrangements for free!

So, if you are looking for a simple, natural, inexpensive way to add a little joy to your home, try having some fun with flowers. Of course, they always make a great gift for someone that needs a smile. But they are also a great thing to do for yourself in your own home. And shouldn’t we all try to surround ourselves with things that make us smile? 🙂

 

flowerbouquet2

“Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy. Now, science shows that not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well being.”~Dr. Haviland-Jones

*Quotes and information obtained from…

http://aboutflowers.com/health-benefits-a-research.html

Dealing with Role Conflict

Happiness, Mind

It’s something everyone will probably experience at some point in their life. It is likely that you are currently experiencing it right now. Yet it seems that we hardly ever talk about it.

What is role conflict?

The emotional conflict arising when competing demands are made on an individual in the fulfillment of his or her multiple social roles.

Juggling work and being a parent. Going to college while struggling to work and make money. Doing something with your family versus taking some much needed time to yourself. Spending time with your lover versus making time for friends… With so many things going on in our busy lives, some amount of role conflict is pretty much impossible to avoid.

For me, I have all things listed above: children, work, school, family, friends, a home to take care of, et cetera. Role conflict is probably the biggest stressor of my everyday life. I can accomplish most anything, but trying to take care of them all at once is what makes it so difficult.

So, what to do to avoid and relieve the stress that comes from playing so many different roles in life?

Here are just a few tips and ideas:

(1) Most important of all…. Take care of yourself: mind, body, and spirit.

I cannot take care of anyone else if I don’t take care of myself. Eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep. Use de-stressing techniques like meditation and yoga. Feed the spirit with such things as prayer or communing with nature. Practice being “mindful” in the little moments so as not to find myself caught up in the hectic ongoings of everyday life.

(2) Plan.

It does not have to be a tight schedule to adhere to, but at least a simple list of the days expectations and what needs to be accomplished. And don’t set yourself up for failure by planning too much (probably my biggest pitfall). Be realistic in what you can do in the time you have and be proud of yourself when you are able to do so.

(3) Simplify.

Decrease the amount of “stuff” that we have so I don’t have so much cleaning and caring-for to do. This includes things like decreasing the amount of clothing and other “stuff” that I own. It also means making sure to not take on or plan more than I can handle. For example, I am only taking one college course this semester  because I didn’t know if I could handle more than that.

(4) Share.

Talk to your friends and family when you are stressed. That’s what they are there for. And they may be going through the same thing.

(5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Whether it’s getting a babysitter for the night so you can have a break, asking for help with a project at work, or making a chore list for the kids at home. Sometimes any amount of help can make a huge difference.

(6) Be gentle with yourself.

We can only accomplish and do so much. Be proud of successes and learn from mistakes. Let go of what you can’t change or control. And go on.

(7) Always remember to be grateful.

I am a mother, daughter, sister, lover, friend, aunt, niece, nurse, writer, student, child of God (just to name a few). And I am so blessed to be on this Earth with so many roles I get to play. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful for Gratitude

Happiness, Mind

Being that it is the month of the Thanksgiving holiday, the concept of being grateful is something you hear mentioned often. But gratitude is something I ponder frequently, no matter what the time of year. When life seems hard or I start to feel anxious or depressed, I find that remembering all the things I have to be grateful for is a great antidote to those negative emotions.

So often while we are in the throes of some stressful or hard time that life has dealt us, it is easy to forget and under-appreciate everything good that we do have.

Gratitude is the cure to dissatisfaction, jealousy, and even greed. It takes out the part of the equation that is focused on what we are lacking and adds in the beauty of all that we already have.

There are many documented psychological studies that show the strong correlation between gratitude and happiness. Being grateful requires you to think about the present, taking one’s mind off of the worries for the future and the heartaches of the past. Focusing on the things that are good in life invokes positive emotions such as hope, love, and compassion. This puts you in a better mood which increases your energy level and gives you incentive. These feelings make it more likely for you to take positive steps and focus on and accomplish goals.

The act of showing gratitude makes those around you feel the same. Having someone express how grateful they are for you is always extremely moving. It is so much better than just being complimented or even told that you are loved. Your expression of gratitude for others spreads the same positive emotions to them, and they in turn also experience all those other positive effects.

It is so easy to lose yourself thinking about the bad things in life. Every day is bound to be filled with some amount of challenge; a sick child to take care of, a broken down car, stress at work, problems in relationships. The list has no end. But neither does the list of things that we have to be grateful for.

Gratitude encourages positive thinking. Positive thinking attracts positive things into your life. More positive things in your life = more things to be grateful for.

These are basic underlying concepts shared between ancient religious beliefs such as Buddhism, “new age” ideas like Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, and proven theories of modern positive psychology. They all agree that remembering to appreciate the good and be grateful for it is a major part of being happy. And I love the fact that such a simple thing as being grateful can make such a big difference in our happiness.

11 Things to Remember Every Day

Happiness, Healthy Living, Mind

My own personal list of daily reminders for how to be happy, have peace, and follow my dreams.

(1) I am beautiful.
Inside and out. I was created from stardust and the infinite Universe. I am a unique creation with endles possibilities for happiness.

(2) Listen to and care for my body.
Drink water. Lots of it. Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Do yoga. Be good to my body.

(3) I am loved and loving.
There are so many beautiful souls in this world whom I love and who love me also. The most important of these being the love that I have for myself. I only need to connect to feel this love. Call a friend or family member. Tell my mother I love her. Hug my kids. Do something kind for myself and/or someone else.

(4) Be grateful.
Focus on the good things and give appreciation for them. Give time and energy to those things that bring me joy instead of feeling bad about things I don’t have. Be grateful for all the good in my life and make the best of it.

(5) I am strong.
I have already proven this time and time again throughout my life. Even the fact that I take the time to focus on self improvement, heal past wounds, and consciously focus on my happiness is an immense sign of resilience, bravery, and strength.

(6)  This too shall pass.
To be remembered in times of hardship and also in times of joy. The most painful moments of my life will eventually just be a memory to grow and learn from. Every happy moment will also pass. They are all to be appreciated.

(7)  I am creative.
Give time to my creative outlets. Write a poem or ponder a thought. Draw a picture. Let myself be inspired. Read a book. Visit a museum or some other inspiring place. Go for a run. Play the guitar. Listen to music. Dance. Commune with nature.

(8)  Focus on my dreams and goals.
Both long term and short term. Make a to-do list of the daily tasks and feel the joy of checking them off. Make a list of dreams and long term goals and give attention and energy to it everyday. Enroll in the classes to finish my psychology degree. Practice and study in preparation to obtain yoga instructor certification. Plan that family vacation to Disney or the adults-only trip to South America. Even the smallest effort is still a step towards following my dreams. The more energy and focus I put towards the dreams, the happier I will be.

(9)  I am divine.
Pray and/or meditate. Realign my spirit with and feel my connection to God and Universe. Fill my heart with love and gratitude and then extend it out to the rest of the world.

(10)  Stop judging (myself and others).
No one is “perfect” according to society’s standards, and yet we are all perfect beings. I have the right to be here, just as naturally as the trees and the birds. I have no right to judge someone else’s life. I am not them, so I will never truly know what it is like to be them.

(11)  Smile. Be happy.
No matter what life has in store for me, I decide everyday how I choose to view the world. Make the choice to find the good in life. Make the choice to be happy.

.colorado flowers

(Bouquet of wildflowers picked while hiking in the Colorado mountains. 😀 )

Letting Go of Fear and Worries

Happiness, Mind

The last few weeks have had the potential to be quite stressful. Family obligations, work, bills, kids. All that good stuff. There have been a few times when I felt the stress and worry creeping up on me. When there were issues arising that I ultimately had little or no control over, but that affected me and/or the ones I love. I found myself starting to get that feeling where my mind starts going through all the bad scenarios that could happen and my heart is wrenched in fear. Sometimes stress is good. The fight or flight instinct kicks in and motivates me to get things done. Sometimes, though, stress turns into useless fears and doubt that end up doing way more harm than good.

I’m getting better, though. I’m noticing it more when I start to feel this way. I’m being more gentle and compassionate with myself. I’m realizing that I can only control myself and not the exterior world. I can only do what I can do, and then leave the rest to God and the Universe. It does nothing good for me to worry. There is no reason to allow fear and stress to make me unhappy. That only takes away from life and makes situations worse.

In one particularly recent moment, there was an issue I was stressing about. I felt the stress, then worry, then fear leading up to freak-out mode. And then I caught myself. I spent some time doing the things I could do to help the situation, and then I went on. I stopped worrying and stressing about it. It would have done no good. To worry about it would have only put me in a negative mood, bringing out the worst in me and therefore turning a potentially great day into a horrible day. Instead, I gave myself credit for doing what I could do and admitted to myself that the rest was out of my control. I didn’t worry about it and had a great afternoon with my kids. And the situation turned out fine. It all worked out. I would have spent all that time worrying for nothing. I would have wasted a whole day stressed out and worried about the future. All for nothing.

Most of the things that we find ourselves worrying about will never really happen. Most of the things we worry about, we actually have very little control over. We can only control ourselves, our thinking, our behaviour. We can ultimately only be responsible for our own happiness.

Time and energy are all we really have in this world. I would much rather use mine to focus on positive thinking and things that make me happy rather than waste it uselessly stressing and being afraid of things that will probably never happen. It’s crazy to me now when I think of all the time and energy I’ve wasted on worrying about something. But I’m not going to fret about that, either. That is the past. I cannot change it, and I have no real reason to want to. Instead, I will be grateful for this moment and fill it with all the happiness I can. Because I can.

A Meditation On Love

Happiness, Meditation
I am beautiful, and my heart is full of love. I do not require anyone else’s love to be happy. I have enough love inside of me. I want others to be happy. And I want to be in healthy relationships with those I love, but my love for myself, and therefore my happiness and peace of mind, cannot depend on other people or things. This is not necessarily because of their flaws or potential to hurt me, it is simply to say that I have to love myself and be happy with myself before I can experience any other type of truly loving relationship. If I have no love in my heart for myself, then I have no love to give to anyone else. But if my heart is full of my own love, then I have all the love in the world to give to others. I want to share it with everyone, and I don’t require it from anyone else to be happy. I have enough.
Slowly learning these lessons is a beautiful and life changing thing. It means caring for myself, listening to and appreciating my body, changing destructive behaviours, using positive thoughts to motivate my self-love, and in turn my love for the world. It means reaping all the peace-finding benefits of loving thyself, and therefore being able to truly love others. It is filling my heart with a beautiful, nurturing love and appreciation for myself, which allows me to also see the rest of the world with more kindness, appreciation, understanding, patience, and love.
                                                                    
Contemplation on Happiness
The pursuit of happiness. Is it not the most all encompassing subject of our everyday being? There are so many theories, ideas, and different ways to find one’s own happiness and inner peace.
Happiness comes from compassion and helping others find their happiness.
Following your true inner dreams and finding your ultimate, unique, soul fulfilling purpose in the world, is this not our purpose in life?
But shouldn’t we be savouring every moment and living in the “now”?
Or is the purpose of life more spiritual than these quests? Is it not a connection to the divine that gives meaning and joy to our lives?
Isn’t life merely what you perceive it to be? Based on this knowledge, can a person not find inner peace by merely looking inside and learning to love themselves and the world around them regardless of their circumstance or place in life?
These are the questions and ideas that I contemplate on a daily basis. Yes, this may sound tedious to some: wondering, contemplating, researching ideas and questions that I may never know the answers to. But I love it. Yes, it would seem to be infinitely easier to just simply go to work and take care of my responsibilities and live a life on a path pretending to not look around me and realize that I have the power to change it and make it whatever I can dream and discover.
I do not wish to live life that blindly. I want to live a life of purpose and meaning, knowing what path I am on and passionately loving the reasons I have chosen it. I will admit that as I get older I can feel myself losing some of that passionate drive to constantly move forward in an effort to discover my dreams. This has merely been replaced by a deeper understanding, though: a realization and acknowledgement of how easy it is to work yourself into a place of forgetting who you are and what you dream of and also an acute desire to not let this happen in my life. An acute desire to make the absolute most of my life. This may mean something different to everyone. I believe that the journey to a life of fulfillment and peace is probably different for each individual and is probably some combination of all the ideas mentioned above. It would seem that we could learn so much from one another and from helping each other to find our own paths. One thing I cannot deny, though, is my complete obsession and love for contemplating these things; my passion to discover what it truly means to live life to it’s fullest, experiencing true happiness and inner peace.

“We love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Happiness

Childhood Alfresco

Happiness, Parenting
My childhood was no where near glamorous. We didn’t live in the lap of luxury. We were poor at times. We were lower middle class during the best of times. But my childhood was nothing if not fun. I thank my mother for much of that fact. Her love for travel and the outdoors kept us exploring most of the United States throughout my whole childhood. Couple this with my love for reading and all things mystical and beautiful, any small expedition sparked my imagination so that it could become a great journey in my mind and in my soul.
With my mother’s blood flowing through my veins and her love for exploring in my heart, I find myself frequently dragging our kids along on some expedition. Clarify: when you have four kids, any little trip is an expedition. Sometimes there’s whining and complaining. There’s pretty much always some form of fighting and/or arguing, in between them all. And there may be times that at some point our adventure seems like more work than it’s worth. But the truth is… THEY LOVE IT. As do I.
It was one of our most recent little adventures that led me to realize the extent of how much our children love exploring and being outdoors. For my step-son’s birthday, we called it a day-off for everyone. We packed up in the minivan and drove out to Red Rock Canyon, Oklahoma. A short trip from our suburban home in Oklahoma City, Red Rock Canyon is a fun place to go. Locally, it is a well known state park, albeit a small one. There are no towering mountains. But there are trails for hiking and rock walls for climbing. There are small playground areas with swings and slides, a small pond for fishing, and a wistful stream that runs through it. There’s a swimming pool open during the summer time along with a concession stand. The canyon walls that surround it are the most unique feature of this country park, with their red sandstone that set apart so brightly from the trees and the sky. As a kid, I can remember coming here with my parents.  Running around, hiking, and collecting rose rocks. There is nothing fancy about this sparse, but nature filled place. It’s beauty is primarily in the rustic nature and pure uniqueness of the surroundings. You have to look to see the beauty here. You have to be willing and interested, otherwise it would be easy to just see a red dirt canyon with not a lot to do other than wander around in the woods.
This is how I realized how open our childrens’ eyes are to the beauty of the outdoors. They were intrigued by every shade of rock. They wanted to follow every path to see where it led. They climbed every canyon wall they could conquer to see what lie atop. And they appreciated every view they beheld during their climbs. They stopped to carve their names in the sandstone, with full belief that it may remain there for an eternity. They found long sticks and used them as staffs and walking sticks. Each of them, regardless of their difference in age (they range from 19 months to 12 years) loved to be under the blue sky exploring this new and unchartered territory.
On a day to day basis our four kids are completely happy to play XBox games, watch movies, laugh at videos on YouTube, and play on our iphones. But after seeing that natural excitement come out in them all so easily, that inborn want to explore the world and be one with nature, I can’t help but think that I am doing them a disservice if I don’t actively support for them a childhood filled with nature and the outdoors.
When I was a child, a small Oklahoma red dirt ditch was a mountainous ravine in which my Barbies and my brother’s GI Joes fought along side one another to defend the universe. Every unturned board in the pasture had the potential to be hiding a snake or a gold mine underneath. The country was mine to explore and imagine. There are so many ways to find a connection to the world, but is there any so natural as discovering, exploring, and enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer?
There are many things that we need to provide for our children: food, shelter, material needs, emotional support, healthcare, love, education, compassion. The list may have no end. But there is another important fundamental element that we need to provide our children access to in order to help them grow and learn in the world: the chance to commune with nature, to live a childhood natural and unbridled, to feel that innocent and inborn desire to explore, if only for moments at a time.
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  ~Kahlil Gibran

Looking Inside

Happiness, Meditation

              

If happiness is based on how good the situations in our lives are, e.g. how much money we have, how good our relationships are, how healthy we are, then it would be to say that we have little control over how happy we are. You can work hard to make as much money as you want, but regardless of your predisposed social standing or hard earned education, there is no guarantee of having financial wealth. Having good, healthy relationships is a wonderful goal and I believe completely obtainable, but you still have a limited say in how and when this happens. All relationships take work, and when and how you will come across those people that you are the most compatible with is not really something that you can control. And you can work your whole life to be a healthy, fit individual and still have any amount of tragedies health wise.

If we are to admit that we have little control over the outward circumstances in our lives, to say that this is the source of our happiness is really a sad concept. However, if we look inside ourselves first to find inner peace, happiness, joy, we find a completely different outcome. I believe we all have it within ourselves to find these things if we allow ourselves the time and energy to do so. If we allow ourselves to see the beauty inside of our own beings, you are not only less dependent on the world around you to bring you joy, but you are also more likely to see the beauty in all that surrounds you.

This has been my recent endeavor: to change my way of thinking about happiness. My whole adult life I have done what so many of us do. I have worked so that I can make whatever amount of money I felt necessary for me to make at the time. I have searched for those relationships that made me the most happy at the time. I have focused on goals and things in life that I thought would make me feel complete in life and bring me more joy. While I don’t think it is a bad thing to work for things you want in life, all of these things are only situational and subject to change at any time no matter what my efforts. And if and when they do, when that amount of money no longer seems enough, when that relationship goes through hard times, when that sought after good health fails, what are we left with? If we change our way of thinking, though, if we look at happiness as something that dwells inside us always and is a part of us, then we no longer depend on these outer circumstances to make us so. And if we can find that inner peace and knowing of oneself, then doesn’t it seem logical that all those other things in life are more likely to fall into place? If your focus is finding peace within yourself, it seems more likely to me that your life will naturally reflect this, and you will almost subconsciously put yourself in those situations that are more conducive to that state of mind. If you take the time to give grace to yourself and learn the inner workings of your mind and heart, doesn’t it seem more likely that you will make better choices in the important areas of your life like career and relationships?

So, I am attempting to take myself out of the rat race, if only for moments at a time. I’m not quitting my job or pawning my parental responsibilities off on someone else. I still have many, many duties to take care of in life, and I will continue to embrace these. But I am making more time for myself. To meditate. To write. To read. To contemplate. To get to know myself again. To breathe. To be present. To look inside myself and attempt to listen to my heart and mind and relearn what it is that truly brings me joy. To try to see the world as it is: a constant state of change over which I have little control, but is still simply life rearranging itself.