Monday, 23 November 2015

Tis the Season!

It's nearly December! You know what that means?


I love this time of the year. It truly is magical, for so many reasons. For one thing, I love hearing Christmas music on the radio. I love seeing lights and decorations. I love the Christmas shopping you can do in stores. The list goes on and on.

But do you know what is super special about this time? The feelings of joy, comfort, solidarity, and compassion. It is amazing to see so many charitable initiatives that occur around Christmas time, such as donating toys to the Salvation Army, helping people in need, joining soup kitchens, finding clothes for the homeless, and so forth.

Christmas is about Christ's birth. He came into the world to save us. He gave Himself for us. Welcoming Christ in our world means that we need to be humble. We need to open our arms and homes to Him. That is what Christmas is about. And that is why helping others, especially during this time, is so precious. 

We are so fortunate to be able to afford our basic needs, and even luxuries at times. Others are not so fortunate. But keep in mind that during this season, you need not feel PRESSURED to 'be better' than everyone else by donating the most. In fact, you need not donate money or toys. You can donate your time to listen to someone in need. You can donate a helping hand and hold open the door for someone. You can donate a caring heart and contact someone who you haven't seen in a long time. You can smile at someone on the street. You can be extra patient at the morning coffee shop you visit.

This season, let's all try to spread some Christmas cheer - in whatever way works for you. Remember that being kind is the best way to spread love and comfort. There is truly nothing more special and magical than feeling that you have helped someone, that you have made a difference in someone's day. That is the gift that keeps giving back - and doing it can be completely free. But the reward is priceless.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Remember the GOOD stuff in the world!

There is so much going on in the world today. From political issues to world hunger, from cancers to illnesses, from human rights to tragedies, from income disparities to unexpected losses...

It can get quite depressing, to be honest. I mean, when was the last time you heart some GOOD news on the TV or radio? There is not much to go around, it seems.

One thing that I wanted to highlight, however, is that there is a lot of good going on in the world today. There are neighbours who help their friends pay their debts when they cannot afford it. There are random strangers who pay for the coffee for the person ahead of them in drive-through. There are happy stories where a lost child is once again found. There are cases of human rights prevailing, of cancers being cured, of countries supporting others, of people going into rehab and feeling better, and so forth.

But we don't hear about them often...and remember that the news picks and chooses what news they actually tell us. For example, turn on the TV news. You will hear tragedy after tragedy, problem after problem. Maybe one good story...but not much more than that. Don't be a passive consumer or viewer - know that this is not the only news in the world. The media chooses what - and HOW - they portray things to us.

Get the whole story. Do not settle for what the TV or radio tells you. Because this can be biased, despite all the work done to make is 'standard' as possible. For example, a story on the news might tell you that a new study found that 90% of flu-shots are not effective.

But really...where did this come from? One study? One study IS NOT enough to support not taking a flu shot. One study presented on the news is not enough research or evidence to combat all the issues one might acquire if you DO NOT take the shot and end up getting the flu. One story about someone who had complications from the flu shot does NOT mean that everyone will. (Note: I am using the flu shot as an example. There are many, many more!).

So, remember not to be a passive consumer of the news - both in terms of negative things portrayed (ex. tragedies, accidents, and so on) and 'evidence' or 'research studies'. Be an ACTIVE consumer and individual.

And remember the good things that happen daily, the things NOT included in the news. Remember how kind people can be to one another. Remember that miracles happen everyday, that people get cured from their illnesses, and that genuine kindness and love exist in the world today. This will make you feel a lot better about life in general, and learning to be positive is just one way to do this!

P.S. Try to find the not-so hidden message in the picture below (HINT: It says more than 'Believe there is good in the world'!)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is Thanksgiving in Canada today!

While we really should be thankful each and everyday of our lives, today is a special day to take some time to actually THINK about what you are thankful for.

A lot of times in our lives (let's be honest...), we become caught up in our worries and struggles that we fail to realize how much we have to be thankful for. We truly are blessed in so many ways...but it is hard to remember when we are frustrated or experiencing troubles.

Please take some time today to relax and be thankful! When I think about how many blessings I have, it makes me happy. As I thought today of simple things, I realized that I am simply thankful for even the sunshine outside - it lightens up my day. Or to have a house to sleep in at night, to protect me from the rain or cold. Or to have enough food and water - which many people lack. To have family and friends who truly care about me and are there to support me. To be able to study what I love best and to feel that I can use this to help others.

There is A LOT to be thankful for! I hope this Thanksgiving (and everyday!) brings you all hope, love, comfort, and peace. Thank you so much to all my readers and supporters - I am definitely thankful for how far I have come, for all your support and love, and for always showing me how far I have come. Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings and for your guidance.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

POP Part Two: Using Positive Statements

Last time,we talked about the importance of positive thinking. This post will be about specific thoughts or strategies that we can use to think positive or be optimistic.

Of course, some of us have difficulty imagining that we will be 'talking positive' to ourselves. But it really isn't all that strange - you need not say these things out loud. Sometimes, even silently thinking to yourself can be a major mood-booster.

I'll give you an example. Last week, I was extremely frustrated and overwhelmed. I was busy with exams, classes, gatherings, friends, meetings, and more. And I wanted it all to just STOP. I wanted to run away from everything. For everything to just stop being loud, busy, and hectic all the time. I wanted to quit everything.

What kept me going? After I vented my feelings to my family and close friends, I realized something important: I was busy. Yes. But I was doing what I loved. I was busy with things that I loved. I was busy achieving my goals and dreams. Despite the challenges, I knew that I was working hard for a purpose. And I realized that I was not alone. I had support. I had love. I had passion, strength, and motivation. I had dreams. I had hope.

The next thing I knew, I was saying positive thoughts to myself in my head.

'You can do this".

"You have done hard things before".

"You are strong. You are not alone. You have the love and support of family, friends, and God".

"You will get through this, just like you have done before. And this will make you stronger. You will learn so much. You will look back at this and see how much you have achieved".

"This is hard. But it will end. Tough times never last".

And so on. At first, I did not feel significantly different. But after a couple of different thoughts, I felt...motivated. I felt less stressed. I felt like a small burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt as though I could do this. I could survive. I WOULD survive.

And I did. I am still super busy. And sometimes, I still get overwhelmed and feel stressed all over again. But thinking the positive thoughts make a big difference. They help me realize that tough times truly never last, and that I will get through them. Positivity reminds me that life is not all negative, that there are happy moments full of smiles, dreams, and hope. Optimism reminds me to slow down, to take time to breathe.

Try it out! Think positive thoughts when you are feeling down. Allow yourself to express your difficult emotions, but then talk to yourself - help yourself see what is good about your situation, you support, your personality, or your strengths. Remember that you are not alone. You WILL get through this. Think positive....that is POP!


Monday, 7 September 2015

POP! Part One: Think like a proton and stay positive!

This post is going to be the first post in a series I've decided to call 'POP' - The Power of Positivity.

Why POP? Well, honestly, it's an easy acronym to remember. But let's just say that when you think positive, you'll feel more happy and motivated - and this will make you POP with energy, ready to face whatever life throws your way!

(Corny? Yes. Catchy? Yes. Will you remember it? Yes. I rest my case).

"Be positive! Think positive!"

Two commonly said phrases that are meant to encourage us to remain optimistic as much as possible. I'll let you in on a little secret: when I feel down and hear these sentences, the last thing I can ever do is think positive.

Imagine this: you've had a long, tiring day. You are behind on so much work. You had a fight with someone you care about. You feel a cold coming on. Your bills need to get paid, your laundry done, food cooked, and house cleaned. And now you have a headache starting. Oh, and tomorrow, you have an important event/test/presentation that you haven't even started preparing for.

Now imagine that you decide to confide this to someone close to you. And all they can say is, 'hey! It could be worse. You just gotta think positive!"

As helpful as they are trying to be, that isn't the solution - well, not immediately, anyways. If we are simply told to 'think positive', we cannot do it in the face of adversary. Actually, it isn't right to ignore our emotions and frustrations, and to try to crowd them out them with apparent 'happy thoughts'. Does this sound opposite to what we are commonly told? Perhaps. Let me make it clear: It is one thing to ignore your emotions and convince yourself that you are actually quite happy, when inside, you are on the verge of breaking down. It is quite another thing to acknowledge your emotions and express them, and to then begin to see what optimism you can infuse into your life.

Alright, now, let's get down to business: why do we even need to worry ourselves with thinking positive thoughts?

Let's continue with the above example: the tough day. What if you've just expressed your emotions - to yourself or to someone you love; Then, after thinking for a while, you realize that though things area tough now, they really could indeed be worse. You're behind on work - but you have a job, and you are quite good at it. You may have had a fight with someone you care about - but you know that they care about you too, and that your relationship is much stronger than this disagreement. You feel as though you are getting sick - but generally, your health is in good states. You aren't prepared for tomorrow - but you either have time to do some work now, you can talk to your boss/teacher/supervisor about getting an extension, or you'll learn a valuable lesson about time-management.

Not bad, huh? Now: did thinking positive magically change the situation and make all your problems disappear? No. And this is a key message I want to get across, regardless of how blunt it may seem: thinking positive or being optimistic isn't a miracle-worker: it will not make problems vanish. It will not solve everything. It will not make us invincible. BUT, thinking positive will....

-help you see things the way they are, and not get caught up ruminating about the challenges you are facing
-aid you in making a plan of action to get started on solving your problems, becoming more productive, or developing your character and maturity
-motivate you to count your blessings and realize that despite the bumps along the way, life truly is full of little shining moments

The benefits of positivity extend beyond that. One study study showed that the more you think positive (and train yourself to try your best to stay motivated and resilient, despite challenges), the easier it becomes in the future. I love this quote from the article: "The psychological broadening sparked by one positive emotion increases the odds that an individual will find positive meaning in subsequent events and experience addition positive emotions. This upward spiral can, over time, build psychological resources and optimize people's lives" (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2001).

Simply put: think positive today = build strength and motivation for tomorrow. Transforming your thoughts of pain, misery, and hopelessness into something positive will allow you to build up strength for tomorrow. It will help you realize that though this present moment (or day, week, year, etc) is challenging, good thins have happened to you before. And they will continue to happen, You have the strength and power to do something - anything. And you can get through this obstacle, just like you have done in the past. You WILL make it through this tough day - look at it this way: the days are passing by anyways. You can live with them with negativity and anger, resentment and fear, sorrow and hostility. OR, you can face everything head-on with an open mind, loving heart, motivated will, strong stamina, perseverance and hope.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Publshed again! Laziness, Busyness, and Rest

Have you ever felt so tired and frustrated, wanting only to get away from everything and relax - and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?!

Have you ever felt lazy, unable or unmotivated to get up and get your work done...despite being incredibly busy? 

I'll let you in on a secret: I have a love/hate relationship with being busy. I hate being busy because then I feel overwhelmed, tired, overworked, and exhausted. 

But I also love being busy - because at these moments, I feel productive, motivated, and energetic. 

Weird, isn't it? I'm certain we've all had similar experiences at times. 

So...what's up with this paradoxical love/hate with laziness, busyness, and rest? Why is it that we can feel so angry with being busy...but when we are suddenly free, we feel irritated with nothing to do? On a similar note, what's the deal with laziness and rest - are they ultimately the same thing - or are they different?

Head on over to Fr. Anthony's website, where my my writing on this puzzling topic has been featured (thank you, God, for Your blessings!); please take a look, and feel free to comment there and let me know what your thoughts and experiences are on this! 

Laziness, busyness, and rest: three related, confusing, but ultimately, normal parts of life. They must be balanced delicately: out of balance, they make life hectic. Kept under control, life becomes manageable.

In itself, laziness implies a lack of will or motivation to do things, to use our time and gifts wisely. Laziness sets off a nasty cycle: we feel lazy and we don't do anything - and this makes us even MORE lazy.

It is good to be (moderately) busy - this keeps us using our minds and bodies, and it keeps us energetic and motivated. But it is also critical that we rest, because overworking ourselves will surely led to fatigue and a myriad of other problems. Allow yourself to be productive, to set goals, and to accomplish them. And then reward yourself with rest, and feel proud and satisfied with what you have accomplished.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Taking Risks

I'm going to share a secret with you: I'm not the craziest and wildest person out there.

Sure, I love trying new things. But I become skeptical. If it's dangerous, I would rather not do it. If I can die, I'll pass. If it'll make me wish I had never done it, I won't even try it. 

I suppose this isn't a bad thing. After all, it keeps me from getting hurt, from taking dangerous risks, etc. But I've come to see that sown times, I can have my own kind of 'adventure' or new experience without making myself completely uncomfortable or unsafe

Like last week. I actually drove a Segway for the first time in my life. I've seen those things on TV and always thought that it would be awesome to ride one, but when would I ever get that chance? Well, when I finally got the chance last week, I nearly backed out. I got onto the Segway and felt horrified. I was going to fl off, break my bones, and regret the decision. 
But something inside of me told me that I had to give it a second chance. I had to try it for at lest ten minutes, in the safety of the trainer's supervision. And I did. I was scared, but not 'deadly scared'. After about fifteen minutes, I was okay. I could drive the Segway properly and I was having fun! Around me, however, were people who were riding their Segway super fast. They were doing tricks, speeding up, and riding around obstacles. This is where I drew the line. For me, even riding the Segway was a huge deal. And now that I was comfortable, I was happy. I was proud of myself. I didn't need to ride super fast or try doing flips of the Segway in order to have fun or challenge myself. This was good - actually, excellent! - for me. 

I've come to realize that each person is different in the risks they can take, and this doesn't mean that I am less fun or brave than anyone else. Sometimes, society tells us that we always need to take huge risks to be 'cool'. Or, that by being safe, we aren't going to have fun. While I agree that being over-cautious and constantly worrying is crippling, I don't believe that we need to risk our safety to have fun or be adventurous. I also think that having good support around us encourages us to try new things and to feel comfortable doing so. 

After all, we are all mature adults here. There is no benefit to making a silly decision in the name of 'fun', nor is there any purpose to tease others because they are scared to do a new activity. Each person is different. Part of growing up and maturing is knowing when we can challenge ourselves, and far we can push ourselves. When we, or others, pass this limit, we get uncomfortable and tense. But, when we can safely try something new and allow ourselves to make mistakes - in a safe environment - we can experience the power of learning and doing new things

We may find that we really liked the new experience - like myself with the Segway. Or we may find that we hated it - and that's okay too. I have definitely learned that challenging myself, although difficult to do and follow-through, is an amazing experience when I feel safe, supported, and encouraged. I think we're all like this. Taking risks doesn't have to mean putting ourselves in danger, or doing something crazy and 'wild' in order to impress others. Take risks and try new things for yourself: to learn something, to try something new, and to have fun!