The Benefits of Like-Mindedness

Why Birds of a Feather Really Should Flock Together (What's in it for the Birds!)

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

All for one and one for all.”  ― Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers

Fraternity. Community. Brethren.  Allies. Team. League. Group. Alliance.  Tribe. Flock. …

These words –  and many more – all describe the same basic premise and the same basic truth: Comfort, and even strength, are often found amongst like-minded individuals.

This isn’t groundbreaking  information, of course. Since the beginning of time, people have realized that there’s strength in numbers. They’ve also known that hanging out with people who have similar interests, goals, and situations to your own provides you with a comforting feeling of normalcy.

Ironically, as I’m typing these words, there are 6 doves on my windowsill.  (I keep birdseed and black sunflower seeds on the windowsill beside my computer desk. This, combined with bird and squirrel feeders in our yard provide me with endless little cuties to distract me throughout the day. Jury’s still out on whether that’s actually a good thing or a bad thing.)   While there are exceptions, generally speaking, doves will show up to dine together.  I’ve never had, say, a cardinal and dove show up together.

Birds of a feather, literally, flock together.  Even nature knows the strength and safety that comes from community.

As I said in a recent post about Finding Silver Linings, my body has decided that it can no longer tolerate gluten (a protein found in… well… many things) in any way what-so-ev-er. It calls the shots, so I’ve had to change my relationship with food entirely – the way I eat, cook, and even think about food is now completely different from the way I had for my entire life.  Suffice to say that “entire” encompasses a healthy number of birthday candles over the years.  And, no, I don’t want to think about the bonfire they could combine to build.

Early on in my Gluten Free world, I found a wonderful key to sanity and happiness:  Surrounding myself with others who trudging along the gluten free trail.

Moving hundreds of these people into our home seemed extreme, so I simply found other ways to build my own private little support group:

  • On Twitter and Pinterest, I searched out Gluten Free Magazines, Gluten Free Food Manufacturers,  authors, and website accounts and followed them.  Then I looked at different accounts that interacted with them and chose certain ones to follow as well.  Soon my Twitter timeline and Pinterest feed were filled with recipes, tips, encouragement, ideas, food reviews, etc.
  • I signed up for different e-newsletters from these same experts – now my inbox is also a wealth of information and inspiration.
  • There are several Gluten Free magazines I want to subscribe to and I’ve started a cool collection of Gluten Free cookbooks.

Doing all of the above had several benefits:

  1. I was able to see scads of smiling people who weren’t only living with their dietary limitations but seemed to love it.
  2. I’ve lost count of the number of great ideas I’ve come across that I would NO WAY have come up with on my own.
  3. There’s a lot to be said for feeling like you’re part of a community.
  4. It’s exhausting to always have to check products and recipes for gluten – when I see e-mails, tweets, and pins from these “safe havens,” it takes the guess work out of it and I feel almost normal. Okay, normal for me.

Naturally  “gluten free”  birds aren’t the only kind of birds available for flocking. Any area of interest, conviction, employment, aspiration, hobbies, dreams, causes, or needs you have can be supported and strengthened by finding like-minded people. Simply replace “gluten free” in the 3 examples above with your own personal subject….

  • parenting
  • cats
  • Christianity
  • dogs
  • self help
  • sales and marketing
  • adoption
  • blogging
  • writing
  • photography
  • empty nest syndrome
  • weight loss
  • vegetarianism
  • loneliness
  • leadership
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • meditation
  • paleo diet
  • wildlife preservation
  • tea reviews
  • bird watching
  • college tips
  • etc. etc. etc…

This is one of those things in life that, while it seems so obvious and  even simple,can make a big difference in your life.

Tip: “Hacks” is a GREAT search term (Google or Twitter) to use behind your area of interest – for example “college hacks,” “weight loss hacks,” “saving money hacks,” etc.

Sometimes You Have to Turn the Corner to See the Silver Lining

It's a View Worth Seeing and a Trip Worth Taking

Buttermilk Biscuits

My World Famous Buttermilk Biscuits – OK, “World Famous” is Pushing It

No way….  Are you kidding me?!…..  Talk about a kick in the pants….  SO out of left field… Nah, can’t be… This is a huge deal… My wold just got turned upside down… This might be the worst thing that has happened to me in a while… —-  Okay… Not that big a deal.. Talk about a wake-up call… Should have seen it coming… It is what it is.. This isn’t a huge deal… My world just got turned upside right… This might be the best thing that has happened to me in a while.

Looks, for all the world, like one bi-polar paragraph doesn’t it? It’s sort of a modge podge of my thoughts over the past 7 months, so – in a sense – I guess my emotions were kind of bi-polar for a while.

As I’ve often said on this particular blog as well as my other blogs, I don’t AT ALL like to talk about myself. I guess that’s odd for an only child, but I get nothing out of discussing moi.  Someone’s not doing this “only child” thing right. However, I figure that if anyone can ever be helped (in any way at all) by my personal experiences I won’t just talk about it, I’ll sing about it.

So here we go.

Around the end of the year (2013), my oldest daughter (Emily) began having some pretty frightening health issues. Earlier in the year she’d had gallbladder surgery and, as an over-protective mother, I guess I’d been watching her like a hawk anyway. She began to have insane allergic reactions – to the point of her throat swelling up sometimes when she was eating. This was all on top of stomach issues that were also bothering her, but somehow the upset stomach took a backseat to the feelings of chocking to death.

Like I said, scary stuff.

She and I both suspected she had a gluten intolerance/allergy and it was decided that she’d do an “elimination” diet for a few weeks to see if her symptoms cleared up. I decided to “go along” with her for a couple of weeks – to sort of “get her started on her way” and give her support. I was pretty sure this was a diet that she’d have to stick with for GOOD, so I wanted to walk along with her – at least the first part of the way – to help her find recipes, alternatives on restaurant menus, gluten free products on the market, etc.

Her allergy and digestive problems cleared up almost immediately. It’s actually what we both expected to happen, but we were relieved to know there was something she could do to get better. What no one expected was this: It was exactly two weeks into our gluten elimination that it hit me… I felt better than I had in a long time. I’m the proud (sarcasm emphasized) owner of a hiatal hernia and I have whackadoodle allergies and bronchial asthma…. all of which vastly improved during this two week time. I had more energy, less stomach aches, less gassiness, less bloating, less allergy attacks, fewer asthma episodes, less hunger, etc. Mouth sores healed and vanished, and other “little” things I’d somehow learned to kind of ignore disappeared.

But there’s more. I had experienced stomach and digestive issues for some time – issues that were slowly, but surely, getting worse. I always had an excuse for them, though. It’s the hiatal hernia, it’s my thyroid medicine, it’s all part of aging, etc….

I went back and re-read all the articles I’d read when researching Emily’s symptoms and realized that mine were also listed. But I  hadn’t been looking for them. When a mother hen is on a mission, she sees her chick and only her chick… in this case, a sick chick!

It became obvious to both of us that we had to stop eating gluten – which is, as it turns out, in A LOT of things! A. Lot. Of. Things.  Not only is gluten found in the usual suspect lineup – bread, cornbread, pizza, doughnuts (this one stings the most), fried chicken, fried everything, and anything breaded – it also turns up in soy sauce, a lot of salad dressings, every store-bought soup imaginable, taco seasoning, and 101 other places you wouldn’t even think to look for it… until it means the difference between having pain and not having pain. Then you learn to look everywhere.

Although the whole “going gluten free” thing didn’t shatter my world (by any means), it did feel like an annoying thorn in my finger.

I’ve been an avid cook, food blogger, cookbook collector, restaurant reviewer, Food Network addict, and lover of all things food for too many years to even count.  To add to the misery, guess what some of my favorite things to make have always been – homemade bread, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, cakes, cupcakes, pies, and pastries.  Serious. You can’t make this stuff up. I was so cocky about my buttermilk biscuits that I only allowed real butter to EVER be served with them.  And then I told butter it was an honor it shouldn’t take lightly.

So… yeah…. having to change my entire way of eating and enjoying food disrupted my culinary world.  Kind of turned it on its head, if we’re being honest.

Favorite restaurants had to be scratched off the list, certain cookbooks were handed off to other people, and I had to learn a whole new way of cooking and enjoying food.  I found that even something as simple as enjoying Food Network shows was affected. It’s not a gluten free network, after all, so the frustration of seeing so many things that meant zilch to me anymore became more than I was willing to deal with.  Oh, lovely, she’s making doughnuts today… Fantastic, he’s visiting another burger restaurant… And now he’s in a Pizza dive.. Of course he is.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Turning the Corner

As with just about anything that we’re up against, it finally got to the point where I realized it wasn’t SOMETHING that needed to change, but rather SOMEONE who needed to change.  Besides, I couldn’t change my body’s intolerance to gluten any more than I could change the fact that it’s in so many favorite foods to eat, bake, and cook.

I had a brief, but effective, talk with myself and decided that…. what do you know…. this isn’t the end of the world.  I decided that it really wasn’t the END of anything so much as it was the BEGINNING of something.

Put simply, I turned the corner.

I even decided to stop using “negatives” when I thought or spoke. Instead of saying, “I can’t bake my favorite sourdough bread anymore…” I changed my mindset to, “It’s time to come up with new recipes…. this’ll be fun.”

Instead of dwelling on foods I can’t eat, I’m focusing on the ones I can.  When it comes to traveling through life, Can is a much more pleasant companion than Can’t.

Can sees the rainbow where can’t only sees the storm.

Emily and I were even talking about our new way of eating one day and actually found ourselves being thankful for the change.

No kidding.

We both listed the unhealthy foods we’d recently had to give up, including the frequent fast food trips. Like most people, we’d both found ourselves going through drive-thrus more out of habit than hunger. No longer feasting on fast and fatty foods meant that we were actually eating healthier than ever before – while feeling better than ever before.

Win. Win.

Even more surprising is the fact that, not only was going gluten free a blessing for our health, it has proven to actually be a blessing for my cooking adventures.

I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve made that left my husband and I convinced that the food’s better than ever. From Salmon Patties to Belgian Waffles, I’ve worked with my “gluten free” versions to the point that they’re actually better than the ones I used to make.

Even my meals are better because this way of cooking/eating has opened up a whole new world of flavors and creativity.  It’s bringing out the best in me because it has challenged me.  If I’d just kind of moped around I would have never seen the silver lining.

It’s when I turned the corner that I could finally see it.  It had been there the whole time, but I HAD TO BUDGE to actually see it.

What’s more, when my daughter and I started talking about the benefits of eating gluten free, a benefit we both noticed was an unexpected one: We aren’t as hungry as we once were. I’m not sure if it’s tied in to gluten, itself, or or the intolerance of it, but cutting it out seems to also cut out a lot of hunger.

I’m pretty sure the odds are that you have no intolerance, whatsoever, to gluten. Chances are none of the gluten information is relevant to you in any way. However, I will say this: If you have any unexplained allergies, stomach issues (bloating, pain, frequent gas, a “gnawing” discomfort, etc), unexplained weight gain or loss, excessive tiredness, headaches, or mouth sores – give some serious thought to cutting gluten out of your diet entirely for two weeks. If the way you feel suddenly improves… well, welcome to the club!

If you don’t notice any improvement at all (not even a little), the culprit’s probably something else and a trip to the doctor is probably in order.

Either way, gluten (cursed little demon) isn’t really the main thing here. Silver linings are the star of the show.  Whether it’s in plain sight or you have to “turn a corner” in order to see it, once you see your silver lining, life will never be the same again.

No matter what life hands you, always look for the silver lining and never stop looking until you find it. More times than not, it’s a delicious surprise.

Pizza

 Pizza with a Gluten Free Crust… Boom!

Quote of the Day: Feelings Come. Feelings Go.

Feelings, by themselves, do not create problems...

Quote About Thought by Mooji

 

Feelings, by themselves, do not create problems. It is rather the tendency to interpret and analyze them. When out of habit you believe those interpretations, it is there that the suffering begins.” – Mooji

Stinkin’ Thinkin.’ - Joi

Mooji’s description of the whole process is a lot more elegant than my own, but when all’s said and done, “stinkin’ thinkin'” gets the job done, too.

We all know people who would be a lot happier (and, let’s face it, funner to be around) if they stopped allowing their minds to be breeding grounds for worrisome, negative, destructive, and ugly thoughts. Stinkin’ thinkin‘.  As Mooji points out, the feelings we have about other people or situations don’t always create the problems – we do by dwelling on them.

The hundreds of feelings we have throughout the day are just that… feelings.  Like visitors, they come and go. How we deal with them, while in their presence, strongly affects our mindset, and in turn, our happiness.

Thoughts can either be our best companions or our worst – depending entirely upon which ones we entertain.  We should be as mindful of our thoughts as we are the company we keep.  Just as we would never hang around with anyone who did nothing but complain, criticize, and condemn all the time, we should refuse to hang out with thoughts that do so. Because if we aren’t careful, these thoughts will turn us into those people.

 

If You’re Looking for Normal, You’d Better Lace Up Your Dancing Shoes

Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left...

Normal

Fist of all…. hello! I’ve been away from Self Help Daily so long I feel like I almost need to introduce myself. Don’t worry, I haven’t been mad at you… you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

In fact, it’s not you. It’s me.

Well,  more to the point – it’s summer. This happens every summer, like clockwork. I get ridiculously busy in the garden, we have 110 places to go, and my Kentucky blog keeps me hopping with SO many events and activities going on.  Granted this year has been worse than ever because not only has all of that been going on, I’ve had more work to do.  Even those of us who have the luxury of working from home can run out of hours at the end of the day.

Not complaining mind you. I am not – and will never be – one of those people who complains about having to do anything whether it’s working in the garden or working at my computer. I thank God every day I’m able to do both.

The next time you feel like complaining about being busy, visit a Nursing Home.

Anyway, I’ve gained on all the craziness and am now ready to get back down to business.  For better or worse, you’re stuck with me.

You know what’s on my mind today? Normal.  I started thinking about this popular, yet elusive, subject about a week ago. An online buddy e-mailed me about some stressful things going on in her life.  Apparently she’s had a great deal of stress and anxiety at work and at home (never any good when life double teams you). Within one paragraph, she mentioned life getting back to normal three times.

Then in the next paragraph she mentioned not knowing what normal felt like two times.

I couldn’t help thinking, by this time, that she was expecting a suitor to show up at her door that just wasn’t going to show.

We’re all like her in a lot of ways, aren’t we? Seriously, how many times have we all wished for things to get back to normal or for our situation to be more normal?  Heck, don’t we even sometimes wish for people in our lives to be more normal?!

The problem is, in our minds, we paint a much grander picture of NORMAL than it actually is. We envision pretty much a modern day Garden of Eden. Everything’s peaceful, beautiful, and totally free of anything remotely stressful. We envision having more money than we can spend, more hours in the day than we can use, and… come to think of it – even though we’re eating more food than usual, we’re losing weight!

That’s not NORMAL, though. That’s a fantasy.

In reality, normal is different things to different people.  When I think of “normal,” I think of everyone in my family feeling good and being happy. No bickering, complaints, or clashing of wills. Everyone has everything they want and more than they need. Health, happiness, and harmony – it’s all I really ask for.  Well, that and a full coffee pot.  My normal may not seem all that ritzy to the next person, but to me it’s Heaven on earth.

Just because there are extra cares, concerns, stresses, or anxieties in your life doesn’t mean it’s suddenly ABNORMAL. It’s just a little to the right or a little to the left of NORMAL.  Your peace of mind will be a lot sounder if you can truly grasp the concept that a great number of your days are going to be spent to the right or to the left of normal. If I were to be completely honest, but we haven’t just had “one of those days” in our family or even “one of those weeks.”  We’ve had “one of those years” – and it’s just July. One broken refrigerator, 1 broken washing machine (3 times), 2 broken lawn mowers, one nasty case of poison ivy, one gall bladder surgery, one dental extraction, 2 broken cars…. the list goes on, but I’m getting a migraine!

We’ve been to the left and to the right of NORMAL so often this year it’s almost like we’re line dancing through life. To the left… to the right.. to the left… to the right…  That’s okay with me, I’ve gotten good at this dance by now.

Waiting for the Inevitable Return to Normal

Some people ride the tide and wait to be carried back to “norm,” while others fight, kick, spit, and try to swim upstream like they’re salmon.

I’ve found that when you’re doing the left/right dance, it’s best to stay busy.  Be proactive.

When we say we want life to be normal, we’re actually saying that we want __________ to be gone or ____________ to be better. We want solutions to problems – and, a lot of times, we want the problems to fix their darn selves. WORK for it? FIGHT for it? CHANGE? You’re kidding, right?!

Your Action Plan when NORMAL is Eluding You:

  • Don’t panic. Keep breathing – in fact breath deeper than normal. It helps keep you calm. Seriously. When in stressful situations, our body kind of has a mini-panic attack. The pulse races, muscles get tense – it’s as though our entire body is ready to take off at any given moment. The fight or flight reaction kicks in and our body is convinced it has to gear up for whichever way we decide to go.  When we calm down and take deep breaths, our mind tells our body, “(S)he’s got this. Cool your heels.”  Your pulse will slow down and the entire body will relax. You’ll feel 110 percent better instantly.
  • If there’s something you can do to actually help bridge the gap back to normal, do it.  Sometimes it’s as simple as making an appointment with a doctor, mechanic, dentist, or (ahem, ahem) washing machine repairman (as in one that knows what he’s doing!). The amazing thing is as soon as we do all that we can possibly do, not only do things start “getting better,” they start “looking better” almost immediately.
  • Keep living. Keep loving. Keep laughing.  If we were to only enjoy life on the days when everything’s going right, we’d be miserable grumps most of the time.

The third point brings me to one last analogy.  I read a wonderful story recently of a farmer who lost his arm in an accident on his farm. The picture accompanying the story showed this farmer showing of his prosthetic arm – smiling ear to ear and looking like the happiest man in the world.  If one were to look at the picture, without reading the story, they’d feel sorry for the man. They might even wonder why he’s smiling so broadly.

Easy! He’s smiling because he’s glad to be alive. He actually came thisclose to dying that day. Closer than thisclose but I have no idea how to illustrate that. At the end of the story, I realized that the start of every single day must seem like an unopened gift to this man.  As I got up from the article and began to cook supper, it hit me – the start of every single day IS an unopened gift.  Not just to him, but to all of us.

Whether that day is filled with exactly what we wanted or filled with things we never asked for, it’s still a gift.  It’s hard to be unhappy when you find yourself smack in the middle of a beautiful gift that’s denied to many.

The farmer said something that really stood out to me. He said, “I do everything I used to do. I just do it differently now.”  Just is the word that seals it for me. It’s so matter-of-fact and so beautifully simplistic.  Almost in a by the way tone, he says he just does things differently now.

This man didn’t just dance his way back to NORMAL, he redesigned the entire dance floor.  He was an inspiration to me and I hope that the thought of him will serve as an inspiration to you.

Keep smiling and, by all means, keep dancing. It’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere…especially if NORMAL is your destination.

So, How Do You Look at Problems?

This Quote Suggests Looking at Them a Whole New Way

Smiling Breakfast

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast” - Alfred Montapert

In addition to one of my favorite photo ops (love it when my food’s in good spirits), you’re looking at one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Simple. Basic. Understated. Golden.

Easiest way to set yourself up for a mad case of the blues?  Expect life to always be in as good a mood as my bacon and eggs were.

People who are completely thrown off their axis by traffic, bad drivers, long lines, and high grocery prices kind of amuse me.  Seriously, man. That’s life.  I’m not sure why we seem to think we should be immune to any sort of inconveniences, but it seems to me that people’s fuses are getting shorter and shorter.

I have absolutely no idea what we could contribute this to. Some people say it’s because people aren’t “conditioned” to be patient any longer.  I guess you could make a case for this theory – we are kind of a drive thru and microwave society, aren’t we?  Give it to me NOW! I have no intention of waiting or being inconvenienced!

The sooner we realize that life doesn’t OWE us anything, whether it’s a carefree day or a new dining room table, the sooner we’ll be at peace.

EXPECT problems… because they are going to come, but instead of letting them eat away at you, plate them and eat them before they even see the fork coming.

A Couple of Thoughts About Thought

Why You Should Choose Your Thoughts Carefully

Alexa looks at the world a little differently than most...

So….. Whatcha Thinking About?

The thought of bearing all the troubles of the past, the troubles of the future AND troubles that have yet to happen is a certain type of death.  Fortunately, we control our minds and, thereby our thoughts. It isn’t as though some mystical little voodoo priestess controls us from an island in the South Pacific (or anywhere else for that matter).

We can decide the thoughts we’ll entertain and we can just as easily chase away the thoughts we refuse to entertain.  Thoughts that are coated in fear and deep fried in anxiety are what that I call “poisonous thoughts.”  Life’s too short and far too beautiful to spend any time whatsoever with these types of thoughts.  It would make as much sense as filling a glass with Tide and guzzling every drop.  The hideous effect that it would have on your stomach is similar to the effect “poisonous thoughts” have on your mind.

Have you ever known anyone who spent far too much time thinking? They can’t seem to find anything constructive to do with their minds for the life of them! So they sit and dwell on things they wish were different. Usually this means sending their thoughts into other people’s lives and focusing on things they wish were different about them. Wow, how productive is that?!?!

A lot of times you can tell a family member has been doing this very thing when you walk in and instead of saying, “Hi!,” they get an accusing look on their face and demand, “So, why DO you buy only name brand food? There’s nothing in the world wrong with off brands.”

Been there. Answered with a straight face, “Because we have more money than we know what to do with.”

You and I are not what we eat; we are what we think. – Walter Anderson

Always, always, always keep a close eye on your thoughts. Whether your thoughts tend to think about problems in the past or problems you think you may one day have – keep reminding yourself to stay in the present.

Know this:  Your thoughts set the stage for the production you call life. They determine so much! For one thing, they determine how many people will want to share center stage with you and how many will exit stage right the minute you show up. Your thoughts also determine how your production (life) will play out. They can either give you an edge, or push you over one.  So the minute a poisonous thought pops up on the scene, grab a hook and pull it off the stage. The longer you let it wander around, the more likely it is to think it’s part of the cast.

Choose your thoughts carefully.  Make your thoughts the kind of thoughts that make your world brighter and happier.  What’s the use of having any other kind of thought? Think about it.

Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time.  Some people bear three – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have.  – Edward Everett Hale

More Quotes About Thought

A Few Thoughts About Pessimists

Do you FULLY Realize Thier Influence???

Quote about pessimism by Dwight D. Eisenhower  Pessimists are a depressing lot, aren’t they?  Given the way they suck life and energy out of the world, we should call them vacuums. When they ask why, we can say, “Because you suuuuuuuuck.”  Just kidding, of course, it’s never cool to call names. Not even when they fit like a brand new pair of Isotoners.

Pessimists almost seem allergic to positive thought – you can practically see them recoil at the concept.

I am so thankful to be surrounded by optimists.  Everyone in my offline world is a certified optimist.  The cheerful, glass is half full, upbeat, life breathing kind of people you look at and go, “Wow, how did I get so lucky to have you in my life?!”   I did a mental inventory this morning of these amazing people and realized that each and every one is the sort of person that if I said, “Let’s go fight the hounds of hell,” their response would be, “I’ll grab a weapon!”

Except for my oldest daughter (Emily) who’d also want to take a thermos of coffee. Sigh, I raised that girl right.

While I have no intention of clearing my schedule to charge the gates of hell, it’s pretty cool to know I could round up am army in an hour. Two, tops.

I find that I’m even drawn to authors, blogs, newspapers, websites, tv channels, and magazines that are optimistic.  Some people are GREATLY amused by factions of the media that belittle and make fun of celebrities, athletes, politicians, and so on. That bumfuzzles me, to tell you the truth. Think about it – this sort of thing is like a shot of negativity on the rocks.  Why invite negativity and pessimism into your world.  I don’t “get” falling over yourself to view “worst dressed” stars, for example, when the “best dressed” would be so much better for your eyes.

And psyche.

I also don’t understand why so many people want to read negativity. It’s essentially inviting negativity to come into your home, sit down, make itself comfortable, and stay a while.   The problem with making negativity your house guest is this:  After a while, even though you probably won’t realize it , you become as negative and pessimistic as the company you keep.   I like to use the analogy of newspaper ink.   When you’re holding a newspaper in your hands, reading the divisional baseball standings, weather, or (if you have the fortitude) the front page – you don’t realize that the ink is slowly coming off on your hands.

You don’t feel it happening.  At the time, you don’t even see it happening.  But after you’ve laid the paper down, you happen to glance at your hands and, sure enough, they’re ink stained.  Fortunately newspaper ink is a cinch to get rid of.  If only the negative repercussions’ stains were as easily wiped away.

I detest negativity and perennially negative mindsets so much I even unfollow people on Twitter if they start stinking up my twitter stream with too much negativity.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Mary Poppins.  I know there are times when we all have to vent.  I’m not talking about grumbling about a ref’s call or your team’s inexplicable refusal to play defense in the biggest game of the year (what IS up with that???). I”m also not talking about asking what a celebrity was thinking about when she wore a meat dress. Oh that Lady Gaga…

These are things we all do.  And, let’s be honest, sometimes refs beg for it.  But most of us also realize (and publicize) that there are many more things to be happy about.  The good vibes we send out far outweigh the bad. I’m talking about people who never seem to be happy, satisfied, or content with anything.  They gripe about the President, they gripe about prayer in schools (oooooh, that did so much harm <—-SARCASM), they gripe about what they had for lunch, they gripe about what they’re going to have for supper.  Their bad vibes are poisonous and their good vibes? Well, they’re so scarce you never notice them.  You know the type.

But do you avoid the type?

If not, they’re leaving a bit of a stain behind whether you realize it or not – and it doesn’t wipe off easily. We all have to be careful when it comes to our influences because, to a very real extent, they determine the person we see in the mirror each day.

I believe this can be filed under our series of How to Be Happy posts, for obvious reasons.  The people you allow into your world influence you greatly (whether they, physically walk through your living room or simply trample across your thoughts).  If you’re permitting pessimistic grumble guts to keep company with you, you can’t very well complain about not being happy, can you?!  Find a happier, more upbeat and optimistic group of influencers and watch (and feel!) the difference.

Here’s an easy exercise – a great way to measure the amount of negativity you’re allowing into your world.  In the coming days, pay close attention to the people you follow on Twitter, your friends on Facebook, the blogs you read, websites you visit, newspapers and books you read, shows you watch, etc.  Judge each one’s level of negativity vs the level of positivity.   Realize that this is the company you keep… the guests you’re inviting into your home.

Then ask in the immortal words of Dr. Phil… How’s that working for you?

Quote About Living in the Present

Why'd You Want to Live Anywhere Else?

Quote about living in the moment

Live your life in the moment.  Today is a miracle! – Joi, Self Help Daily

Forget Growing UP. If You Want to Be Happy, Grow YOUNGER!

A Beautiful Inspirational Poem and a Few Thoughts About Finding Happiness at the Fountain of Youth

Joi Tania Wygal Sigers

Am I wrong to be always so happy? This world is full of grief;
Yet there is laughter of sunshine, to see the crisp green on the leaf,
Daylight is ringing with song-birds, and brooklets are crooning at night;
And why should I make a shadow when God makes all so bright?
Earth may be wicked and weary, yet cannot I help being glad!
There is sunshine without and within me, and how should I mope or be sad?
God would not flood me with blessings, meaning me only to pine
Amid all the bounties and beauties he pours upon me and mine;
Therefore I will be grateful, and therefore will I rejoice;
My heart is singing within me; sing on, O heart and voice.
-Walter C. Smith

Is that a beautiful poem or is that a beautiful poem?!  Each time I read it, I’m left with a big smile on my face. You know, the ear to ear kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Have you ever really listened to the beautiful, free, wonderful sound of laughter?  Last night, my middle daughter Brittany was in the kitchen cooking with her on-again, off-again, on-gain, off-again boyfriend.  Or is it on now?  My other 2 daughters (also known as her sisters) and I literally have to ask each other each day, “On or Off?” because it changes that often.   I don’t panic because I remember all too well what it was like to be that young.  When these two kids (and they’re both beautiful, full-of-life, adorable kids) are “on,” they have a ball.  Last night, when they were in the kitchen cooking, there was a lot of laughter.   It made me think…. laughter is a beautiful thing!  It means the person is, at least at that moment, completely taken over with happiness and awash with joy.

I’m never happier than when my children are awash with joy and their laughter is the best music in the world as far as I’m concerned.

Adult laughter is as precious and wonderful as a child’s laughter.  Sadly, for a lot of adults, it just doesn’t come as often.  Naysayers will say that it’s because adults have so many things to worry about and take care of… that they don’t have time to laugh.  I’d be the first to wash a hog all over that, so let the hogwash begin.  Everyone has time for laughter and everyone has time to be happy.  If they don’t, they’d better MAKE time because staying on the road they’re on will make them run out of time sooner than they’d like to.

If you’d like more carefree, beautiful, reckless laughter in your life – I have something that might just help.  You’ll have to go back in time, though.  Way, way back.

Remember when you were a child (I told you it’d be way back!).  Imagine yourself playing with the kids in your neighborhood.  For me, I’m remembering long bike rides, camping in my backyard, going to the park, swimming, playing softball, and being surrounded by dogs and cats (some things never change).  I remember the happiness, the excitement, and most definitely the laughter.  Your trip back in time might conjure up bike riding, playing cowboys and Indians, and fishing.

No matter where your memories take you, you’ll notice:

  • You lived out loud.
  • You couldn’t wait to see what each day brought!
  • Life was FUN.
  • You didn’t worry about money.
  • You didn’t care how much your clothes cost.
  • You didn’t care how much your friend’s clothes cost.
  • Your world was a wonderful place in which to live.
  • You hated going to sleep at night because you might miss something.
  • You laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

I’m a card-carrying optimist and, admittedly, my head is almost always in the clouds.  Sorry but I love the view.  However, even I will acknowledge that adulthood brings about responsibilities – certainly more responsibilities than you had when soaring on your bike and feeling the wind in your face.  However, there’s a KEY element from our childhood that we CAN and SHOULD remember and revive.

1. EXPECTATIONS

When we were children, we had more than enough even when we didn’t.  Children who are playing with sticks are as happy as kids who are playing with their new computer games.  Children accept what life has given them and they don’t resent what it hasn’t.    They live in the moment without worrying about the next.

Too many expectations drag your spirits down.  Expectations constantly whisper in your ear, “This isn’t enough…. That isn’t good enough…. You’d be happy if only…. I need that to really be happy…”  Kids don’t have such burdens to weigh them down.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things.  But if things determine your happiness and if you’re one of those people who is ALWAYS wanting something more, you may want to re-evaluate.  If you’re relying on things to make you feel good, there’s a problem somewhere.  You need to find out why you aren’t happy with what you have – as opposed to always wanting more.

Be happy with who you are, where you are, and what you have.  Let go of excess expectations.  You’ll feel lighter immediately.

2. REGRETS

I remember once, when I was about 5, I got in trouble with my mother. I’d driven my toy car into the street (pray tell, where do cars go, after all?!!).  I was rewarded for my efforts with a switch to the backside.  Apparently, I’m told that I ran to my grandmother and told her, “Mommy beat me with a tree limb!!”  No red marks, no tears… but I tried my best to pull off the “tree limb beating” story.  I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember my grandmother trying not to laugh and my poor mother producing the tiny stick for her examination.  My grandmother (“MeMe“) kept that little switch or “tree limb” on her dresser for a very long time.

No doubt, the whole affair went completely out of my pig-tailed head before it even hit the pillow that night.  Kids don’t carry the past with them.  They don’t fret over what they did or what was done to them.

  • It happens.
  • It happened.

Kids are masters with suffixes.  They know the difference between something happenING and when something happenED.  Why do adults get so tricked up with suffixes?!?!  We’ll go back (sometimes so far back that everything plays out in black and white) and retrieve past injuries committed to us or wrongs we did to others.  Isn’t that nothing more than going back for what happenED and cause it to be happenING all over again.

And we think we’re so smart!

If the memories you’re going back for cause you to smile – or laugh, as I do when I remember my grandmother’s expression – then, by all means, visit them often.  However, if they make you feel bitter, resentful, guilty, angry, sad, or bad in any way – leave them where they are and never go back for them.  Memories are funny things, the more we relive them, the stronger they are.

My husband has some sort of a button on his remote control that “pulls up” his favorite channels on the screen.  All he has to do is choose which FAVORITE destination he wants to go to (ESPN, History Channel, Golf Channel, NatGeo, Discovery…).  Memories are kind of like this.  The ones we visit the most and dwell upon the most often are right there, in the forefront.  We keep them strong and centered.

If they’re negative memories, can you imagine what that does to our psyche?

Let go. Move on. Like a kid.

3.  Control

When we were kids, we didn’t try to (or even want to) control our friends or family members.  If daddy chose to wear white shoes in November, that was cool with us.  If mom wore curlers to the grocery store, what was that to us?  If our best friend cut her hair shorter than our beagle’s, we weren’t going to lose sleep over it – no more than we would if another friend grew his hair past his waist.   We loved these people – what did it matter to us what they wore or how they did their hair?!  They were our family and our friends and we’d fight anyone that looked sideways at them.

When a lot of people become adults, they think they have to control everyone and everything around them.  They think that x-number of birthdays have made them experts.

On everything.  And everyone.

Then they wonder where their joy has gone.  It’s hardest, probably, for parents.  But we HAVE to remember that our job is to raise these precious blessings to the best of our abilities.  When they become adults, we HAVE to allow them to live their own lives and make their own decisions – just as our parents did for us.  I know you’re an intelligent person, so I won’t go into the fact that “some things” warrant intervention, no matter how old the child is.  However, it’s been my experience that most parents have the most hang ups over “little” things.

Let them go.  Your relationship with your son or daughter depends upon you being able to relinquish control.  When our kids get older, we don’t see them as often as we once did. Do we REALLY want the precious time we DO have with them to be tense and confrontational?  Allow yourself, and those around you, to be happy.  Allow yourself, and those around you, to love life and live out loud.

If you have to take a trip back to childhood to remember how it felt to be carefree and happy to be alive, then go back. If you need a special reminder, keep a picture of yourself as a child nearby.  How would he or she felt if they saw you today?  Would they want to spend time with you?  How about the teenage version of you, would they want to hang out with you?  Would they think you were fun or would they tell you, right off the bat,  “Light-en up, dude.”?

Finally, a little time travel in the opposite direction.  It’s not nearly as fun, but imagine YOU in your eighties.  If the 80 something YOU sat down with today’s version, what would he/she tell you?

  • Work harder.
  • Put in longer hours.
  • Buy a newer car.
  • Find more things to stress about.
  • Buy a newer house.
  • Make your kids march to the beat of YOUR drum, not their’s.
  • Make your spouse toe the line

Doubtful!

Don’t you think the things he/she would actually say would sound something like this:

  • Lighten up.
  • Laugh more.
  • Cherish your family and keep them close. They will always be your REAL treasure.
  • Spend more time with the ones you love.
  • Stop worrying about how you look. Seriously.
  • The world is a beautiful place. Look around you!
  • Take more pictures.
  • Eat healthier foods.
  • Stop trying to make your friends and family measure up to your yardstick.
  • Throw the damn yardstick away!
  • Stop trying to make time PAY and just make time COUNT.
  • Stop worrying about how you’ll LOOK at this age or how much you’ll HAVE.

One of my favorite bracelets is about as simple as it gets. It has one of my all-time favorite sayings on it, also about as simple as it gets: Live Love Laugh.  That’s really what it’s all about, you know.  The 8 year old you knew it.  The 80 year old you will know it.  My one hope, right now, is that the present day you is closer to knowing it as well.

Michael

Self Talk: Never Underestimate its Life-Altering Power

For Better or Worse, Our Words and Thoughts Matter, Even When We're the Only Ones That Hear Them

If you’re looking for ways to feel happier and overcome feelings of loneliness and sadness, one of the first places you should look is inside your own mind!  When it comes to happiness, very often our thoughts and self talk make us or break us.  Read on for a delightfully colorful man who has this thing figured out.  Alexa

There’s a particular stretch of town that I travel a couple of times a week. It’s a nice quiet drive, a huge change from taking the bypass which is anything but quiet. Personally? I’m a fan of quietness. This road runs through an amazingly interesting part of our town with some pretty colorful characters.  One man, in particular, always catches my eye.  On the rare occasions that I don’t see him, I’m half tempted to pull over to the side of the road and wait for him – he always makes me smile.  I call him the “Happy Walking Man” and I’ll never forget the first time I saw him.

I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me.

He’s probably in his early sixties.  He has dreads but a very, very receding hairline (to the tune of being bald on top).   The thing that’s so remarkable about this man is his happiness. He wears it head to toe.  The first time I saw him, he was doing some sort of  a happy walk and talking to himself.  You could see his joy from a mile away. Somehow my inquisitive nature wanted to take a second look to see if my buddy was singing or talking and I determined that he was definitely talking… the determination came just in time – right before the front of my vehicle met the back of the one in front of me.

Each time I’ve seen him since, he’s wearing the same smile.  Sometimes he talks, sometimes he just walks.

I was telling one of my daughters about him recently and a couple of things I’d been thinking about kind of gelled together.

First of all, before you say anything, I know that the odds of my guy having both oars in the water are slim.  It’s entirely possible that Happy Walking Man is blissfully unaware that he ever owned an oar.  That’s all completely irrelevant because he’s the hero of this post – and heroes don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules.

I’ve always been a HUGE champion of positive thinking and believe with all my heart that our own thoughts and self-talk shape and define our world.  I also firmly believe that many people who claim to be…..

  • sad
  • lonely
  • depressed
  • blue
  • miserable
  • angry
  • bitter
  • resentful
  • etc…

… simply need a new script to follow when they’re talking to themselves.

Take for example the mother of  a houseful of young children.  She’s with them day in, day out for over 20 years.  The house and mini-van are completely filled with noise, singing, giggling, arguing, and excited chatter about everything from Sesame Street to Justin Timberlake.  Father Time has no regard for her or anyone, so he marches along (possibly with the gait of Happy Walking Man).  The kids grow up, go to school, get married, and do all sorts of things that don’t involve giggling or trips to McDonald’s.

“Mommy” wakes up one day and is “Mom.”  The once rowdy house is completely still – more still than she ever thought anything could possibly be and trips to the grocery store are suddenly as quiet as a librarian on her lunch break.  Early in the transition, it would be easy (so easy) for her to tell herself that she’s lonely and that things are too quiet.  It’d be natural (so natural) for her to curse Father Time and demand that he return her “babies” to her.

You may have guessed that I’m the “mom” in the illustration and I refused to take the easy and natural route.  I mean, can you say MISERABLE??!    I remember the first 9 or 10 trips alone to the store.  I’ll confess that tears came a few times.  Then I decided that I was simply telling myself the wrong things.  I’d find myself thinking, “It’s too quiet!” or “I’m lonely!” – Then I thought, “Well, no wonder you’re sad – you’re setting the stage perfectly for that!”

I started using the time alone for meditating, planning out articles I wanted to write, quizzing myself on things like state capitals and famous quotes and listening to my Patsy Cline CD (something a couple of my girls would have disowned me for!).  I replaced, “It’s so quiet!” with “This is so relaxing.

When I walk through the house during the afternoon and the only sounds are birds chirping in the yard, I don’t bemoan, “The only sound around me is birds,”  I smile and say, “The only sound I hear is birds.”

I think this is the place where so many of us mess up – whether we’re mothers or fathers or not.  We all get far too comfortable with thinking the same thoughts over and over again.  They become a pattern, and if they’re the wrong kinds of thoughts and if they’re negative self talk, we’re penning our own doom.

One of my daughters was talking a few weeks ago about something she loves to read about: “Flipping.”  The only flipping I know of is what gymnasts do, so I had to ask her what flipping she was talking about.  She said that she was fascinated at the process of buying houses that needed work, fixing them up, and selling them for more money than you paid for them. I’m still not as impressed as the flipping done by gymnasts, but I have to admit, it does sound interesting.

When we “flip” our thoughts, we get much more out of it than money.  If we can take thoughts that need makeovers and fix them up, we get a whole new life and new found happiness.

Spend a little time with your own thoughts.  Periodically ask yourself, “What am I thinking right now?” You may be surprised!  You may find yourself in the middle of a thought like, “I’m so lonely…” and catch yourself.  You might just argue with yourself.. “No, I”m not lonely! My cat is right beside me and my husband will be home in two hours.  I’m not lonely, I”m relaxed!”

Sometimes we get into a recurring pattern of thinking the same thoughts.  Some people, after going through a particularly tough couple of months (or even years) will find themselves thinking, “I am just so down..” But if they were to cross-examine their statement, they’d find that they aren’t so down after all.  They simply grew accustomed to saying so!

Our self talk and our thoughts either build us up or they tear us down. They CONSTRUCT or they DESTRUCT.

Take your self talk and hold it accountable. Flip it so far you don’t even recognize it!

  • If your self talk is sad, cheer it up.
  • If your self talk is defeated, build it up.
  • If your self talk is on repeat, mix it up.
  • If your self talk makes you cry, shut it up!

If you can, picture the hero of our article strolling along the street.  His smile is bright enough to light up three counties.  What do you think he’s saying to himself? It’s darn sure not, “I’m lonely” and he’s not singing the blues.  He’s enjoying the heck out of life.  He may not know where the day is taking him, but he’s already packed his smile.  Well played, Happy Walking man, well played.

Make each moment count double and make each thought count for something.