Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

5 Ways to Get Your Joy Back

Having a tough week? Job stress, no time to exercise, or perhaps you had a run in with a loved one? Maybe your favorite celeb didn't win on "Dancing with the Stars" or your team didn't win the championship.  Often, before we realize it, we have lost our joy. So today I'm sharing 5 strategies I use to maintain my joy but first, a personal anecdote I'm sure you will relate to.

So many things can happen in the course of a day that can steal my joy, if I allow them to. This week was particularly challenging. Without going into the gory details, let's just say I felt like everything was coming at me at once.

"Looks like it's going to be another one of those days" I remember saying to myself on Monday.

Alas, Tuesday and Wednesday have had their challenges as well.

But, I'm still smiling. Yesterday, I went for a massage and relaxed. Today, I took a walk at lunch and enjoyed the chirping of the birds outside as I took a different route. Later in the afternoon, I turned on the radio for a bit, and one of my favorite songs came on and I started dancing around my living room right smack in the middle of the day! Here are some tips on how to keep your joy when times are tough.

1. Step away from the stress.
   When we realize we are not feeling joyful, t's time to  helps break the pattern of stress and get away mentally. Take a walk, listen to music, make a nice dinner, get together with friends; these all help me keep my joy.

2. Talk to yourself.  I remind myself of the truths I believe in. "Lord, you are in control of everything in my life. This might not look like a good thing to me, but I know you can work it out for my good. I will take responsibility for my decisions and actions. I will trust you and be glad today." I will forget what happened at work this afternoon, what happened on monday, and I will live in the present moment. I will enjoy taking a warm shower and sitting out on my balcony with my cup of hot tea.

3. Indulge in self -care. 
    Self-care is not selfish. If we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able to take care of anyone else. Take a hot Epsom salts bath. Go for a walk. Polish your nails. Go for a massage or a walk or a jog. When the pressures and problems of the world crowd in on us, it's time to get alone and take care of our spirits, calm our minds, and rejuvenate our bodies.

4. Have some fun. 
    As a single parent for many years, it was hard to find time to have fun. It is vital to our well-being to schedule fun into our to-do lists no matter how busy we are. What do you like to do? What takes your mind off your problems? Be sure it's a healthy activity that will restore and energize you, instead of deplete you.

5. Give it to God. 
     I know I like to be in control. As a single parent, I did not have any choice. Everything was on me. The truth is there are only some things under our control. Much of life is not and the sooner we come to understand this, the more peaceful we will become. Do what you can to attend to any given situation and then give it to God. Notice we have a part in fixing our problems. We can't just say "Well, God will take care of it." When we do what we can, God will do what we can't.

Joy is an indispensable commodity.  Life just isn't worth living if I can't be joyful most of the time. Yes, we are all going through difficult situations and I'm not minimizing what you or I are going through right now. But, I have learned that the tough stuff will keep on coming. It is up to me to decide how each situation will affect me and how I will respond to it. The quicker I can let go of unhappy, negative thoughts, the more I can enjoy my life by implementing these five steps.

How about you? Is there something stealing your joy? Can you step outside of your situation and believe that perhaps there may be a silver lining to it in the long run? I can almost guarantee that there is. Don't let the challenges of life steal your joy. Make a decision to be happy and enjoy each day for the gift it is. That's why they call it "the present".

If this article was helpful and you'd like to receive my bi-weekly posts, enter your email address in the box provided and as a thank you, I'll send you my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path". 

Until next time, keep smiling and keep looking up!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

How to Stay Positive in a Negative World

Gas prices. Traffic. Gaining a few pounds. Having a fight with your significant other. Stress from the job. Not having a date on Saturday night. Getting older. The list of things that can steal our joy goes on and on, can't it? Are you feeling joyful today? If not, here are some tips for staying positive when the world around you is negative. 

1. Smell the Roses
As I was taking my daily walk in the bright sunshine of early Spring, I decided to have a seat in a rocking chair for sale at the local Wegman's grocery store. The calming motion of the rocker was so enjoyable.  The sun shone brightly on me and I was at peace with the world.

"Ah, it doesn't get any better than this," I thought. As I watched the shoppers come and go, I almost felt a tinge of guilt taking time out to just slow down and relax.  After a few minutes of rocking, I resumed my walk, but with a noticeable pep in my step. Like the spring buds, joy had sprung forth in those few minutes. Sometimes all we have to do is slow down, get outside, and get quiet to let go of the cares of the day. The world will keep running on it's rat wheel but we don't have to run with it.

2. Stop Complaining
Many people like to complain. They complain about the weather, their spouse, the health care system, their aches and pains, ya da ya da ya da. We can always find something to complain about but what's the point? Complaining only gives life to that which annoys us and makes us relive it one more time. It's easy to fall into this pattern when we hang around with complainers.

Now, I am not saying deny reality. We do have to deal with situations that are unpleasant, that is for sure. But, do we have to dwell on them? It's bad enough we have to live them one time, but to talk about it again and again only makes us more miserable. Instead of complaining, why not do something about the situation if you can? If you can't do something to change the situation or if it is something that happened yesterday, last week, or ten years ago, let it go. Stop reliving it. When we rehash negative situations, we steal the joy from the present moment.

3. Put Things in Perspective
A phrase from Al-Anon that I find helpful is to ask myself the question,"How important is it?" Most of the stuff that annoys us on a daily basis is pretty trivial in the big scheme of things, isn't it? It helps to put difficult situations into perspective. As I say in my book, "The Power of Faith", there is always another way to view the negative circumstances of life. I choose to look at them as stepping stones to my growth and to my destiny.

As I said to my youngest son the other day, life will always have positives and negatives. It's up to us which we will focus on. We can choose to focus on the good things that happen to us during the course of the day or the bad things. It is a choice we all have to make, whether we realize it or not. What we focus on determines the level of joy in our lives and the level of joy affects our energy level. Negative thoughts suck our energy.

4. Do Something Fun
As a single parent and the oldest child of an alcoholic, I have always been very responsible. You might say - too responsible. I have felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders most of my life. I'm realizing once again that the weight of the world can only rest on God's shoulders; mine are far too weak to bear so much. It is important to have a healthy balance between responsibility and fun. 

I like to dance. Years ago, someone once told me it is a joy to watch me dance. I thought that was such a nice complement. Dancing not only brings me joy but it brings other people joy as well. It's a win-win scenario.  When the beat of the music is so exhilarating I can't help but laugh. What do you like to do that brings you joy? When was the last time you did it?

So, if you've been feeling down and out,  try listening to yourself and see what you're focusing on. Are you dwelling on the negatives or the positives in your life? When was the last time you did something fun?

As for me, I like to remember the verse from the letter to the Philippians that encourages me to think on things that are pure, noble, and of good report. The Apostle Paul was whipped, beaten, scourged, imprisoned, and thrown overboard. Talk about a tough life. Yet Paul learned the secret to maintaining joy. In fact, he exhorts us multiple times to rejoice! When we lose our joy, we lose our strength.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the Google +1 icon, share with your friends, and leave a comment. If you'd like to receive my bi-weekly posts and a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email address in the box provided.

Until next time, keep smiling and keep looking up!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ignite the Power within Step 3: The Power of Letting Go

Do you wake up in the morning with a pep in your step? Do you feel free and light-hearted most of the time? Or is something weighing you down? The third step to strengthening your spiritual muscle is a powerful tool we can use every day to start with a clean slate. Mastering it will help you leave past mistakes behind and move forward faster into the life you dream of.

If you've ever been to Al-Anon you've most likely heard the phrase "Let go and let God". I thought everyone knew what letting go meant until one of my friends asked "How do you let go?" She was serious. So today, I'm going to do my best to explain the concept of letting go.

The lesson of learning to let go is powerful and can be applied in many aspects of life. I have to admit, this is one lesson I keep getting to practice over and over again.

What is "letting go"?
Letting go has to do with attachment. We humans tend to get attached: to people, pets, material possessions, as well as negative thought patterns to name a few. The problem is we become too attached. We hold on too tightly and then, inevitably, we suffer: a loved one dies or moves on, a material possession is lost, broken, or damaged, or a pet runs away. When we hold on to negative thought patterns or emotions, we prevent ourselves from moving forward in life like a rat on a wheel going nowhere. Faulty beliefs keep us stuck.

When to let go
Impermanence and change are undeniable truths of our existence. Everything on earth is changing. The seasons change. The weather changes. People change. Technology changes. Change is part of life whether we like it or not. It is all part of the circle and evolution of life. So how do we know when it is time to let go?

One way to know it is time to let go is to ask ourselves these question:s "Is this bearing any fruit in my life?", "Am I emotionally stuck?" or "Is this serving me right now?"  If the answer we get is no, it is time to put whatever it is behind us, adopt new ways of thinking and relating, and move on.

A second sign is lingering emotional or mental pain. For example, when we hold on to a dysfunctional relationship for too long, we will eventually lose our joy and our peace. Constant conflict and friction are signs. I have been guilty of holding on to relationships for too long so I know what I am talking about.

Grieving Loss 
It's normal to grieve the loss of a loved one or pet for a time, but if this grieving goes on year after year and we are constantly dwelling on the loss, it is time to let go.  At some point, we must make a conscious effort to not dwell on the memories because this steals the joy from today and prevents us from living in the present moment.

Letting go is a process we get to learn again and again in different situations.  Whenever I feel like my joy is gone, I ask myself "What do I need to let go of?" There is usually something that is stealing my peace and joy. The good news is with practice, we will recognize sooner when we need to let go of something.

If this post was helpful, please click the +1 icon, share it with a friend, or leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email in the box provided.

Stay tuned for the fourth step in this exciting journey and until next time,

Keep looking up!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

One Way to Make a Huge Difference in Your Relationships

If you could do one thing that would improve the quality of your relationships in a big way, would you do it? Different people feel and experience love differently. In this series, I'm sharing on the five love languages as described by best selling author, Dr. Gary Chapman.

According to Dr. Chapman, there are five main ways people experience being loved. Today, I'm going to share with you the second love language and how it can make a huge difference in your relationships.

Psychologist William James says that one of the deepest human needs is to feel appreciated. The second love language is words of affirmation. Many people experience love through positive words. These include but are not limited to: praise, encouragement, compliments, approval, and appreciation.

Yet somehow, the human tendency is to be critical and demeaning. People seem to get a kick out of making fun of others. One reason could be that they are insecure and they feel better about themselves when they make someone else feel smaller. When we pause to consider the impact of our words, we may choose to be more careful.

If we're not careful with our words, we can cause wounds that may take years to heal. The tongue is a powerful ally that can work for or against us. It is easy in the heat of the moment to blurt out a harsh or critical comment, yet there is a high price to pay. Practicing self-control when speaking is a skill we would all do well to master.

Relationships are imperfect at best and some relationships are smoother than others but there is always room for improvement. If someone you love is distant or cold and you don't understand why, try using more words of affirmation and see if you get different results.

If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, do let me know by leaving a comment or clicking the +1 icon. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" simply enter your email address in the box provided to the right and I'll get it out to you.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

7 Steps to Dealing with Pent Up Negative Emotions

Negative emotions can build up without us even realizing it and have disastrous consequences. Take the recent riots in Baltimore, for example. Years of pent up frustration and resentment erupted in a city-wide looting and rioting spree this week. Stores were vandalized. People were injured. Residents are shocked and alarmed. The governor has declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The mayor has ordered a curfew and police are patrolling the city with guns and weapons. The triggering event was the unnecessary death of a black youth while in the custody of city police. But why this violent reaction many ask?

We can ask the same question about the mass killings of innocent school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the shootings at Columbine, Aurora movie theatre, to name just a few. In my humble opinion, the root cause of aggressive violence, barring mental illness, is the inability to process one's negative emotions. We all have them. Stress from our jobs, school, our relationships, unfair treatment in the workplace and in the community can build up to an intolerable crescendo unless we learn to handle it in positive ways.

A video clip of a Baltimore city mom cursing and hitting her kid over the head has made headlines. Some people are condoning her actions.

I ask this question "What is she teaching her son?" Yes, I understand she was concerned and afraid for him. Any mother would be. But how we parents act in the difficult situations of life is how our kids are going to act when we're not around. I have seen many a mom smacking her kid, yelling at a child, and in general, being totally out of control. I have lost my temper a time or two when I was raising my kids as a single parent. One day, it dawned on me. What am I teaching my kids? It was a rude but necessary awakening.

Not only do we need to educate the kids on how to handle their emotions, we need to educate the parents. Do you think it is appropriate to curse and whack a child on the head to discipline them? We expect these kids to show respect to others, but if it has never been shown to them, this is an unrealistic expectation. Kids model the behavior that has been modeled to them. Remember the old adage, action speaks louder than words. So what can we do as parents? Here are some constructive ways we can better manage our emotions and hopefully, pass these on to our kids.

1) Allow myself to feel my emotions - negative as well as positive. Do not suppress or "stuff" them. Do not allow them to build up without expression.

2) Do not judge myself for having any type of emotion or feeling. Emotions and feelings are fleeting and temporary but they are messages that have a purpose.

3) Observe myself feeling the emotion. Identify the bodily reactions I experience such as a tight stomach, a headache, or stiff neck.

4) Understand the triggering event. Our thoughts trigger our emotions. What negative thought did I have that caused me to feel this way?

5) Realize an emotion does not control us. We control it. Take a few deep breaths to regain control.

6) Take positive action to change the situation. If the situation is out of my control, then I need to work on changing the way I perceive a situation. There is always a different way to view things.

7) Commend myself for being aware of my feelings and emotions. We will feel much more in control of our lives when we make a conscious choice rather than act on emotion.

Researchers have long studied the effects of yelling at kids. Here's a link from Today's Parent which says "Adolescents whose parents had been using yelling as a discipline method were more likely to have behavioral issues and to act out (including with vandalism and violence)."

This is a difficult and complicated subject to address. Negative emotions are not the only cause of violent behavior, but they are a big part of the problem in today's society. Many people prefer to put on a happy face and ignore the issues, but sooner or later, things come to the surface in one way or another. Negative emotions are normal. Everyone has them. The key is how to manage them in healthy and appropriate ways.

What ideas do you have on how to handle your emotions? What do you think this mom's behavior is teaching her son? What other ways do you use to discipline your kids? Do comment below.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Thursday, October 6, 2016

The One Key to Making Wise Decisions

Every day we have hundreds of decisions to make. Most of them are small, like what to have for dinner or what color shoes to wear to work. However some decisions are major such as a career-change, a home purchase, or a relationship decision. These are times we need wisdom, knowledge, and God's guidance.

In some situations such as business decisions, good decision-making is a learned mental skill. Professional football coaches get really good at making decisions in the heat of the moment with limited information. They are mentally trained at making multiple quick decisions. They evaluate the facts, combine it with their experience and execute a decision. Done.

Personal decisions are often more difficult to make because the heart and the mind are both involved. We are torn between conflicting values and it takes quiet time alone with God to gain clarity on what is most important to us. We want to do the right thing but often we are unclear as to what that is. This is where God and Scripture come in.

When I am unsure of a decision, I go straight to the word of God.  It helps me to step outside my emotions and take an objective look at the situation. As a long-time student of the Bible, I am familiar with the principles and ideas in most of the books. A good place to start is the book of Proverbs. There is much wisdom in this book regarding the major facets of life including relationships, finances, child-rearing, lending, and communication. Write down all the verses pertaining to the issue you are facing, pray about it,  and you will get clarity on what to do.

Many people, however, have this process reversed.  Instead of asking and seeking God's will regarding their decision, they make the decision and then look for a verse to back up their decision. This is not the way it works. God wants the best path for us, but we must make the diligent effort to determine what that is, trusting that God ultimately knows better than we do. He sees the future and we only see with limited vision, often colored by rose-colored glasses.

What decision are you facing? Is it keeping you up at nights? If so, take it to God. Ask for wisdom. "If anyone of you lacks wisdom, ask  God, for he gives it freely and without reproach." (James 1:5).

Like a good father, God wants the best for us. Don't be afraid to seek his advice and guidance. He is faithful to answer your prayers and guide you in the right path. 

If this post has encouraged you, please click the +1 icon and share with your friends. Many people would love to know how to hear from God.

If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path",  enter your email address in the box provided.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On: What We Can Learn from Our European Friends

It's fall.  School is back in session. Traffic is a mess and before long, holiday season and end of year business goals will be pressuring us to get it all done. We get short-tempered, impatient and our immune systems become depleted, but it doesn't have to be this way.

Despite the busy lives most of us lead, we don't have to let the frenetic pace of the world control us. It is possible to be more conscious and calm in our daily lives. Today's post is on staying calm despite the distractions of the day.

This week I returned from a lovely European vacation that I shall remember forever. As a writer, a European vacation provided many opportunities to observe.

Our group was composed of folks from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia. Our tour guide was Spanish and we had various other guides from the different countries we visited. It was quite an active tour but I noticed something. Despite the crowds and the schedules, our tour guides were not frenetic nor did they appear stressed or rushed. The one lady guide in Toledo was particularly at peace. Her walk and her speech were slow and deliberate. She had an air of authority and control about her despite the crowds and the lines.

In Spain, the lifestyle is quite different from that of the United States. The stores close in the after-noon for folks to go home, have a good meal, and maybe a nap. They enjoy their dinner later in the evening with friends and a good bottle of wine.

On the contrary, the American lifestyle is quite different. We run ourselves ragged all day, grab a quick lunch if we pause to have lunch at all. Dinner with family is usually reserved for sundays. We are constantly on the phone or the computer and how many of us make time to nap? I know I do.

Maintaining a calm and staying present  is a practice. Life throws us many different situations particularly when we step outside our comfort zone or we're moving too quickly. I have sticky notes to remind me to take breaks and slow down. Each day is an opportunity to learn and to practice.

When we stay calm and connected, we are less likely to react emotionally. We can make better decisions and we expend less energy. We are able to stay in the present moment and be more aware of our circumstances and surroundings. We won't be as exhausted by the end of the day.

We're all on this journey together so be kind to yourself and to others along the way. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends, leave a comment or click the +1 icon. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email address in the box provided to the right.

In the meantime, stay calm and keep looking up!