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

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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. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live to Learn

Mind

I am a lifetime student. We all are.

I would have never thought that back when I was younger and was actually required to go to school. But when I started college years ago, I discovered that I really loved learning. I have a passion for subjects such as the psychological and biological sciences. I love to learn new art forms. I love physical classes such as yoga, aerobics, kickboxing, and dance. As an adult, I’ve taken cooking classes, guitar classes, painting classes, all types of yoga/pilates/aerobics classes. I took ballet for the first time at 19 years old when I enrolled in a beginning adult class. If there is an opportunity for me to show up some place and somebody teach me something, I am all about it.

Twice recently I have had the opportunity to learn new things (and also further my formal education) without any financial cost to me. With the assistance of a grant, I am back in college to finish a psychology degree I started years ago before I became a nurse. To fulfil a sociology requirement of said degree, I’m currently taking a Cultural Anthropology class. A required ethnography project sent me on a search that led me to a Buddhist monastery that has free mediation and Buddhism classes. So, one class that’s helping to further my formal academia, also helped to get me started in another class that’s teaching me about the wonderful practice of meditation and the history of Buddhism. One door opened to another door to another door. And I’m learning such fascinating things!

LEARNING IS SO GOOD FOR YOU IN SO MANY WAYS.

Learning experiences like learning a new language or skill have been proven to increase the size of the brain.

I think this is awesome! One study done by neuroscientist Arthur Kramer showed that just 45 minutes of brain exercise three days a week actually increased the volume of the brain. Brain exercise improves cognition so that one can better plan, multitask, and remember.

And formal education is not required to learn new things and exercise the brain.

You can watch a video to learn origami or teach yourself to sew. You can take up drawing or painting, all on your own. It is all still beneficial to the brain. I do believe, though, that the social interaction that comes from being in an actual classroom setting offers so many opportunities. To meet new people. To have different interactions. For a change of scenery. All of it.

So, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn something new, or if you even have to go out and find those opportunities yourself… DO IT!! Learn to dance. Learn a new art. Further your formal academia. Learn a foreign language. Whatever sounds interesting and fun to you. It is so worth it. It is good for your brain, which is good for your life. And it could end up opening other doors you never even thought of.

“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”

~Descartes

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.

For The Love of Travel

travel

Like so many of others, I love to travel. So many of us feel the urge to wander, to discover,  to seek a new adventure. I find this want to be virtually ingrained into my psyche, like an ancient genetic trait surviving from the days of our ancestors and their nomadic ways. Unfortunately, though, many of us tend to live under the misguided pretence that travel is expensive. If finances are leaving you believing that you are unable to take that much needed get away, there is hope. The key is to make a plan: set a budget, find the best deals, decide on the most convenient time, believe that it can happen, and follow through with your plans. As with all things, travel can be a major part of anyone’s life if prioritized and managed well.

One of my favorite past times is to plan an upcoming trip and try to find the most economical way to do so. This is a list of tips and tools that I have found helpful in trying to plan a vacation on a budget:

~The Great American Road Trip

One of the best things about living in America is how far you can get in just your own vehicle. From my home in mid-America, it is possible for me to get to either coast in less than 2 days. Some people may not find that idea appealing, but some of us love a road trip. Not only do you get to visit your destination, but also see all the sights along the way. With current gas prices at a low, my family has recently been able to enjoy more trips than usual. On one excursion, we made a 20 hour drive to Florida for about $350 in gas. That $350 paid for 7 people to take a vacation cross country and go somewhere we had never been. Definitely worth the time and money.

~Cheap Airline Tickets 

When time and convenience don’t allow for a long road trip, there are many ways to find cheap airfare. According to an article by Huffington Post, a recent study showed that the best time to book domestic flights in the U.S. is approx 54 days before your flight. For international travel, this number may vary. You can visit their site for further details: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/01/best-time-to-book-a-flight_n_4875266.html

I have also found that tickets tend to be cheaper during the week (Tues-Thurs) than during the beginning and end of the week. Using a credit card that offers points can also gain discounts on airfare. Signing up for email alerts can help keep you abreast of sales and promotions. I find that Frontier and Spirit airlines frequently have good deals on domestic airfare, especially if you are willing to travel light and avoid baggage fees.

~Visit During Non-Peak Seasons

We made our recent trek to Florida during mid-August which, as I was informed by locals, is part of Florida’s off-season. Because of this, we were able to find great deals on vacation rentals. One condo we stayed in was on a small island and right off the beach. It was perfect: two bedrooms, full kitchen, four beds, plenty of room, and even beach toys in the storage for us to use. All for only $150/night. During peak seasons, the same condo rented for $400/night. And the weather was still perfect.

~Bring The Kitchen Sink

Or, actually, stay somewhere that has one. When looking to save money on subsistence while out of town, try to stay somewhere that has a kitchen stocked with utensils and cookware so you can cook your own meals. This is very common in most vacation rentals and can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re feeding a large group.

~Groupon Is My Best Friend

There are so many ways to get discounts on travel. One of my faves is Groupon. It is easy to use and you never know what you might find. I mostly use it for finding things to do and places to eat while we are out of town. This helps keep the cost down on those extracurricular activities that you might normally spend too much money on. You can also find deals on hotels and even whole vacation packages. The deals are normally good  (close to half-off the regular price) and tend to be for businesses that are either off-the-beaten-path or new. While I have never purchased one of the vacation packages, there have been many times that we have taken our 4 children on whole “Groupon” weekends; going to restaurants, a bounce house, bowling, ice skating… all deals I found on Groupon for half the price.

We have a houseful of children and constantly live on a budget. But we still make time to travel and explore. I love it. My kids love it. It may seem like a lot of work to accomplish it on limited funds, but the experiences you will have and the memories you will make are priceless.

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. 😀 )

That Moment (to my children)

For My Babies, Poetry

that moment when I see you smile with unbridled joy
and the purity of your soul is so obvious it brings tears to my eyes
when your beauty not only lights up my world,
but also reminds me of the beauty inside myself
that moment when I am filled and overflowing with love for you
and I realize it is love like this that makes life worth living and makes all things possible

meandthekids

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