Archive for Wellness

Jan
06

Positive Journaling – an Example of Positive Psychology

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Positive Psychology Seminar, Anda Jines LCPC (right) with Dr. Lynn Johnson (left)

I recently attended an interesting seminar on positive psychology, which is very much in line with my interest in wellness.  Whereas clinical psychology puts the emphasis on correcting what is wrong, positive psychology puts the emphasis on prescriptions for happiness.

Dr. Lynn Johnson, presented us with the latest research on the effectiveness of positive psychology, as well as a collection of positive interventions, including methods for improving:

  • gratitude
  • strengths
  • lifestyle (sleep, nutrition, exercise, fulfilling work)
  • mental discipline and meditation
  • kindness and compassion
  • optimism
  • connecting with others
  • savoring

He shared a lot of information and ideas… too much to go into here.  But one that especially stood out to me was the positive journal.

Positive Journal

People have a tendency to focus on the things that are bothering them, precisely because they are uncomfortable, painful, overwhelming or require our attention.  The things that go right, however, are often overlooked and taken for granted, simply because they don’t require us to do something about them.  If you feel that you’ve been focusing a lot on negative things lately, it can be helpful to deliberately bring your attention to those things that are positive, even if they’re not very big.  Developing a habit of noticing the positive can help you to boost your mood, feel better about yourself, and feel more motivated.

Instructions:  For each day, write down some positive experiences or thoughts.  The categories below can help you to think of examples.  You don’t have to write something down for every category.  It’s okay to just fill in a couple for each day.  But try to write down as many as come to mind.

  1. Some things that made me smile today are:
  2. Some things that I’m grateful for today are:
  3. Some things that I accomplished today are:
  4. Some kindnesses that I gave or received today are:
  5. Some experiences that I savored today are:
  6. Some things I feel optimistic about today are:
  7. Some ways that I was strong today are:
  8. Some ways that I encountered beauty today are:
  9. Some good self-care choices that I made today are:
  10. Some ways that I connected with others today are:
  11. Some things that I like about myself today are:
  12. Some other positives today are:

This can become a soothing routine, a beautiful ritual, and a healthy habit.  You have several options for continuing this positive journal:

  • You can write your answers on blank sheets or in a notebook.
  • You can incorporate it into a journal that you have already started.
  • You can keep a digital version of this journal, in programs like Word or Excell.
  • You can “journal” into a digital recorder.

What would be most convenient for you?  I recommend that you go out and get a special journal for this, one that visually represents you at your best, your positive mood, what you find beautiful or positive.  That way, whenever you glance at it, it will look inviting and uplifting.  This kind of journaling will help you to more readily notice the positive.  You can also review your previous entries when you want to cheer yourself up.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.  Click here for more about Hoover & Associates.  To make an appointment, call 708-429-6999.

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I recently visited the forests of southern Illinois, and enjoyed the beautiful sights, peaceful sounds, and fresh air of the Shawnee Forest.  It was nice to see some old familiar favorite places, and to explore and discover a couple new spots.

Taking walks in nature with my family are some of my favorite memories from when I was little, and I’ve been traipsing through the woods ever since.  When I was living in southern Illinois, the forest was 15 minutes away.  But now that I live near Chicago, it has become a special treat.

My trip reminded me once again of how good it feels to be out in nature.  Taking a walk is the perfect combination of relaxing and invigorating.  Watching a sunset over a lake is peaceful and soothing.  Taking photos is creatively stimulating and gratifying.  Time together with loved ones, sharing the experience and making memories, is emotionally intimate and meaningful.  Add to that perfect fall weather, and walla!  Just beautiful.

How rarely we get to experience this when living in a large metropolitan area!  It really makes me appreciate the people who have made it a point to set aside some metropolitan land for small parks and green areas. If you‘re one of those people, thank you.

People tend to underestimate the benefits of nature.

When predicting how time in nature will impact us, we expect less of a benefit than we actually get, according to a 2011 Carleton University study.  The study found that people…

felt more positive emotions after the natural walk than they did after the tunnel walk, but… underestimated the positive benefits of a natural walk and overestimated the positive benefits of the tunnel walk. The students in the natural walk condition also reported feeling more connected to nature, an association that was mediated by their more positive emotions.  (read entire article)

Benefits of spending time in nature

There are many benefits of spending time in nature.  A Scientific American article states,

Psychological research has shown that natural experiences help to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote an overall increase in physical and psychological well-being. There is even evidence that hospital patients with a view of nature recover faster than do hospital patients without such a view. This line of research provides clear evidence that people are drawn to nature with good reason. It has restorative properties.

This article goes on to discuss four studies at the University of Rochester which showed that exposure to nature can make people more caring, and more intrinsically motivated.

In short, we become less self-focused and more other-focused. Our value priorities shift from personal gain, to a broader focus on community and connection with others.

There are also cognitive (mental) benefits.  For example, exposure to nature can help you focus.  One way to think of this is as the type of focusing that you can do when you are in a more peaceful environment… clearing your mind, focusing on your senses, being mindful in the moment (while in nature). This experience is soothing, relaxing and grounding.

Furthermore, studies at the University of Illinois linked green views from one’s window with better ability to focus and concentrate, and better memory.  Also, research at the University of Michigan showed that attention improved after an hour in nature.  (see this article for more details)

It’s no wonder that organizations are offering therapeutic wilderness programs.  Here is one organization that offers a well-cited list of reasons why nature is therapeutic.

It’s not too late!

For those of us here in the Chicago area, we are already feeling the chill of autumn.  People are making physical preparations for winter, and are bracing themselves emotionally for what is being predicted as a very snowy season this year.

I would suggest that, as part of your emotional preparation, you make it a point to spend as much time as you can outdoors, while it’s still comfortable.  Even if there’s a slight chill, throw on that hat and sweater and go for a walk in a nearby park or forest area.  Or take another trip or two to one of the larger nature reserves within a few hours drive, like Starved Rock, Turkey Run, or Brown County.  I’m relatively new to this area, so I’m sure you may know of others that you would enjoy, that might be even closer… perhaps in northern Illinois or Michigan.

Remember that a couple of recommendations for mood are to get a half hour of sun each day and to exercise.  Add the therapeutic benefits of nature to this, and you’ve got a great three-in-one plan!

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

 

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Aug
24

The Benefits of Humor and Play

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I believe in striking a balance between acceptance of things as they are and working to improve things.  One way that this manifests is in emotional experiencing.  One way to accept things as they are, is to experience whatever emotion may occur… positive or negative.  Sometimes it is appropriate, necessary and natural to allow one’s grief, despair, fear, or anger to be processed.  Conversely, working to improve your emotional state might involve nurturing, cultivating and exposing yourself to positive emotions such as hope, fun, courage, joy, and love.  I’d like to talk about the latter today, with the qualifier that, just as any coping skill, eliciting humor and playfulness are not always the right answer for a particular situation.  We need a variety of coping skills and principles to draw on, so that we can apply them in a variety of situations.  But in that toolbox of coping skills, humor and play hold a special place, endearing and sweet.

Let’s start with a video of piano-comedian Victor Borge to set the mood:

(if you can’t see this embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube)

Increasing Enjoyment and Pleasure

It may seem obvious to say that humor and play increase enjoyment and pleasure in life.  The main reason we are playful is because it’s fun.  But think about this for a moment, and don’t take the meaning of the above words for granted.  What a gift it is for someone in pain, for example, to have a moment of mirth… a smile, a playful exchange.  And what a loss if these were not available.  I propose that humor and play are not only an important day-to-day skill, but can also make challenging situations more tolerable, and can re-charge us to face life’s stress.

Who doesn’t want to find more enjoyment in life?  Why not try to nurture a little more humor and playfulness, no matter what your situation?  Perhaps reviewing the following benefits might remind you of their importance.

Play Early in Life and in Adulthood

We usually think of play as something that kids do, and certainly they do benefit from it.  Initially play helps kids learn to interact, to perceive another’s emotional state, and to respond appropriately.  Roughhousing prepares the young for fighting and hunting, role-playing is practice for various life roles, and games hone our skills and abilities.

An interesting finding is that kids smile about 400 times per day, whereas adults smile about 20 times per day!  Perhaps this is because adults have much more responsibility and often more stress.  We all know some adults who have a knack for humor, and a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies; but for the rest of us, it may require a little more conscious effort to engage our humor and playfulness, and to continue to benefit from humor and play throughout life.  Let’s look at some specific benefits.

Physical Benefits

Physical play helps us to build and maintain strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.  Laughter can slightly decrease pain, and increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.  Thus it improves resistance to disease.  Laughter and play can also improve your sleep, respiration, blood vessels and heart health.  Some types of play can be relaxing, and a good hearty laugh has been shown to relieve physical tension for up to 45 minutes.

Mental Resilience

Humor and play can help you feel restored.  They can increase your quality of life and your will to live.  How?  For one, play can be a distraction from difficulties, frustrations and fears.  Also, humor eases anxiety, and provides perspective, so that you feel less overwhelmed.  Laughter is also very cathartic!  It releases built-up tension.  For example, a unique brand of humor is especially pronounced in high stress professions such as the military, firefighting or police work, where it helps people to manage high levels of tension.

Furthermore, laughter and play create a mood in which other positive emotions can be put to work.  They add joy, vitality and zest to life.  Humor adds to a positive, optimistic outlook in difficult situations.  Laugher uplifts, encourages and empowers… it lightens our burdens and inspires hope.  Laughter also lowers stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being.

Brain Benefits

Play stimulates nerve growth in the entire brain, and especially in: the amygdala (where emotions are processed), the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (where executive decisions are processed), the frontal cortex (where most cognition occurs), and the cerebellum (involved with coordination, balance, attention, rhythm, and language).

Lifelong engagement in play activities reduces risk for dementia and other neurological disorders.  People who routinely engage in cognitively challenging games and activities may have as much as 63% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than the general population.  Play also helps maintain cognitive flexibility, focus and alertness.

Additionally, researchers in England have discovered through brain imaging, that one smile can stimulate our brain reward mechanism as much as 2000 chocolate bars or $25,000!

Social Benefits

Humor helps us to maintain relationships, ease tensions, discuss difficult topics, and collaborate more effectively.  Playfulness attracts others to us, puts us in sync with those around us, and keeps us connected.  Smiling makes others see us as more likeable, courteous and competent.

Additionally, light heartedness in relationships allows people to be more spontaneous, let go of defensiveness or anger, release inhibitions, and express their true feelings.  Play refreshes and fuels long-term adult relationships, and it is essential to intimacy.  It promotes the shared enjoyment of novelty, enjoyment of mutual storytelling, and capacity to be open and deeply connected.

Play and Work

I was listening to a radio show recently, about engineers who grew up tinkering with gadgets or machines, and whose play involved exploring the nature of things and the principles of science.  The conclusion of the show was that the decrease in this type of play has led to the decrease in the quality of our nation’s young engineers.  This is a good example of how childhood play can positively influence your work in adulthood.  But being a playful adult can also impact your work, and not just in the negative way that many would imagine.  One company that is famous for recognizing the benefits of playfulness among their employees is Google.

Let’s put it this way:  the opposite of play is not work… the opposite of play is depression.  Play can be quite similar to work, in that they can both be creative, social, active, skillful, imaginative, strategic, motivated, competitive, etc.  By contrast, depression is characterized by a lack of motivation or enjoyment.  Thus, your work can benefit when you can incorporate play into it (in a way that does not get in the way of the work).  This is why finding work that you like is such an important key to living a satisfying life.  But even if your work is very serious or dreary, supplementing it with hobbies and fun leisure activities can carry over a positive attitude into your work life.

Humor and Play in Serious Situations

I was recently invited to present on the importance of laughter and play at Arden Courts,  a memory care community.  As a facility dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, you can imagine that they’re often dealing with very stressful situations, illness, sadness, fear, loss, and perhaps at times, despair.  You might think that this is the last place for humor and playfulness.

There is a time for serious work, conversations, and for the processing of painful emotions.  These should not be ignored… but neither should the need for laughter, play and enjoyment.  It is precisely in such stressful situations that we most need an infusion of cheer and a moment of relief or easing of tension.

I’ve seen some of the best uses of humor by emergency room personnel dealing with a suicidal patient, and by hospice nurses dealing with individuals at the natural end of life.  Recognizing the usefulness of playfulness in serious situations can help you give yourself, and the patient, permission to smile and relax a little.  Allowing laughter and play, rather than demanding a constant somber seriousness, can also encourage family members to spend more time with the chronically ill patient.

Dealing with Day to Day Hassles

Can you think of an example of humor or playfulness when dealing with day to day interactions or hassles?  Making a joke about the traffic, car problems, awkward social moments, the weather, or other common stressors can lighten your mood and allow you to share a chuckle with others.  And although it is normal to commiserate at times by complaining, most of us prefer our relationships sprinkled with a bit of humor here and there, perhaps even while complaining!  You don’t have to be a comedian or class clown, but you might find that cracking a smile every once in a while helps make the day go more smoothly.

Ideas for Increasing Humor and Play

I hope that the overview of benefits above might help you see that time spent in play and humor are not just “unproductive time” that you have to feel guilty about.  Instead, these are ways to increase enjoyment, and ways to recharge and to cope with life’s stressors.

Exploring ways to increase play and improve humor are outside the scope of this article.  You may already know what works for you… what you find funny, what’s fun for you.  But if you feel that you’ve lost your sense of enjoyment in life, you may want to deliberately investigate options for increasing humor and playfulness in your life. The books cited below, at the end of this post, may be a good starting point.

Qualifiers

Any good coping skill has the potential of being misused, so here are a few qualifiers (just in case):

  • Often, something positive can go awry if you take it too far.  For example, some people try to avoid ever directly dealing with difficult topics, moods, or realities in life by distracting excessively with humor or play.  So don’t be a pleasure junkie, but don’t be play-starved either!
  • Also, as I said in the beginning, play and humor are just two skills in your coping toolbox.  Sometimes they’re not the one’s you’ll want to use, and you may need others.
  • I’m not talking about a mean-spirited humor or laughter at other’s expense.

Laughter Yoga

Let’s leave off with one more video about an interesting recent phenomenon: laughter yoga.  I encourage you to capitalize on the contagious nature of laughter as you watch this.  You will see that in laughter yoga, the exercises start out with an artificial laugh, but that when people do this (especially in a group), it can quickly become genuine laughter.

(if you can’t see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube)

References

  1. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul – By Stuart Brown
  2. The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations, and All That Not-So-Funny Stuff – by Allen Klein

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Aug
24

Using Reminders to Help You Get Organized

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Here’s my last installment in my series on getting organized.  Previously I posted about:

Today, I’d like to add some tips about how you can use reminders to help you get organized.

High Tech Reminders

These days many people are using new technologies.  There are lots of electronic gadgets that you can use for reminders.

  1. Your smart phone, pad or computer include programs for calendars, to do lists, and organizers for contact information.  They can increase productivity, reduce stress, and help organize projects (like looking for a job).  I know that many people have phones that can do these things, but they simply don’t use these features.  I encourage you to try out the features on your phone, if you’re not doing so already.  As for a review of the latest gadgets, I’ll leave that to people who are more tech savvy, but suffice it to say that there are many options here that you could investigate.
  2. Digital recorders like the one on your phone can be used instead of note pads.

Paper Reminders

Many people still like the larger format and tangibility of the old fashioned paper options.  But many of these options can also be accomplished in digital versions.

  1. Use an appointment book or calendar to keep track of appointments, meetings, sports events and practices, birthdays, doctor’s appointments, social events, etc..  This can be a schedule book, a wall calendar, or a pocket calendar.
  2. Write a daily to-do list of what needs to be accomplished that day, and keep it with you at all times.  Also write a long-term to-do list of what you would like to do eventually, and check it every once in a while for items you can add to you daily to-do list.
  3. Leave note pads in strategic places to make it easier to jot down notes and reminders (by the phone, in the car, in your jacket pocket, in your purse, beside a bed).  Write things down instead of making mental notes, and make it a daily habit to add any notes you wrote into your calendar.  It may help to always put the notes you write in the same place (like in your wallet, or on a bulletin board).
  4. Put visible reminder signs on your door (to remind you to think about whether you have everything you need before leaving), or by your desk (to remind you to check your schedule), or in the kitchen (to remind you to do certain chores) etc.
  5. Use checklists or charts to plan your chores.  These can help you rotate your tasks so that you get to everything on a regular basis, and can help you divide up tasks evenly between members of your household.

 

Other Types of Reminders

  1. Set alarms to remind you of important events, or set timers to set limits so you know when to stop an activity.
  2. Keep your cell-phone handy, so that if you forget an event, the people waiting for you can contact you easily, and you might still be able to make it.
  3. Use a wristwatch (old fashioned as it may be!) to keep up with the time.  You can also set your watch’s timer or alarm.
  4. Ask the people in your life to remind you of things.  Your spouse, other family members, a friend, or an administrative assistant can be helpful in this.  Some people hire a personal coach that checks in with them regularly about their goals and progress.
  5. Having a routine makes it less likely that you will forget to do daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.  A routine can serve as a reminder.  Plan ahead and develop a consistent pattern.  This applies to morning and bedtime routines, routines when you leave the house or come home, routines related to paperwork, finances, cleaning, and any other regular activities.  It’s important that you make up your own sequences, so they fit you. (But don’t foget to allow some flexibility to adjust to whatever may be a little different each day).

 

Tips to Make Your Reminders More Effective

  1. Break up large tasks into smaller steps to make them more manageable, and write down deadlines for these smaller tasks on your calendar.  If you miss a deadline, write down or enter another one for the same task.
  2. Separate the concrete from the gravel.  Appointments and events which cannot be changed, the concrete, should be entered in your planner first (work, classes).  Once the concrete is set, you can pour in the flexible things that have to be done, the gravel (errands, phone calls).
  3. Prioritize when writing to-do lists and deadlines.  Consider both how important something is, and how urgent it is.  For example, you can rate each item as A (high priority), B (medium priority) and C (low priority).  As are both urgent and important.  Bs are either urgent or important, and Cs are neither urgent nor important.
  4. Another way to prioritize is to number the items on your list, in the order that you want to do them.  Make sure the urgent things get done on time, and that the important things are scheduled at a time when you can do your best work.
  5. When overbooked, learn to say no to low priority demands.
  6. Keep your calendars and to-do lists in an easily accesible or place (e.g.: in your smart phone, in your bag), so you can check them often, especially before committing to new activities or appointments.

I hope that all these posts about getting organized came in handy for you, and that you found a few new tips to use.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Jun
19

Motivating Yourself to Stay Organized

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Here’s my third article in the series on getting organized.  The first was on organizing your stuff, and the second was on organizing your paperwork.  This article focuses on twelve ideas for motivating yourself to stay organized.

1. Set realistic goals and deadlines, and avoid perfectionism!

Your goals can be challenging, but they should also be achievable.  Recognize that you can’t do everything perfectly, and that doing your best or getting started on something is better than not doing anything at all because you’re overwhelmed.  Also, consider that you don’t have to do your best at everything, some things are good enough when they’re just good enough.  And not everything has to be done immediately!  Prioritize as best you can, divide your goals into small steps, and work your way through them one at a time.  Use deadlines for each small step to help motivate yourself.  This usually works better than having one big deadline at the end of the year.  If it helps, call them lifelines instead of deadlines.  If you miss a deadline, then make another one, this time with a higher priority, or problem solve about what went wrong, and adjust your plan as necessary.

2. Make your goals clear.

Instead of saying that you want to get your house organized, say that you want to (for example) get in the habit of hanging up clothes and putting away clean laundry.  The more specific you are, the more likely you are to do it.  Also, be specific about the circumstances in which you want to do specific tasks.  Think of it in terms of “if… then.”  For example, “If it’s Wednesday, and if I haven’t exercised yet that week, and if I don’t have to work late… then I will exercise before dinner.”  Setting up such formulas for yourself can help prevent you from talking yourself out of doing what you need to do.

3. Tackle one small thing at a time.

Decide what it is that most makes you feel disorganized, out of sorts, or unfocused.  Consider what would make the biggest difference, for example: the permanent pile of newspapers by the sofa or the crammed kitchen table?  Think about what you could organize in time chunks that are manageable for you.  If you only have the motivation for 15 minutes, then what can you get done in 15 minutes?  Letting the small successes encourage you can lead to larger successes.

4. Know when you work best.

Working on things during your peak times can make hard tasks easier.  If you are at your best in the morning, tackle the more challenging jobs then.  If you’re more productive and focused in the afternoon or evening, then schedule accordingly.

5. Make your tasks as interesting as possible.

Doing some tasks with other people can make them more fun.  You can also use music to set a fun or energizing atmosphere while working on something, or you can make a game of it, like when challenging yourself by racing against time, or adding humor to the experience.  Use bright colors to catch your attention, especially when organizing paperwork, or for kids’ storage.  Also, remember that organizing is part of decorating.  The storage furniture that you choose can add an interesting and unique style to your home or office.

6. Do what you’re good at as well as things that are challenging.

Share tasks at home and at work by trying to match each person up with the tasks that they’re best at, and dividing up unpleasant or challenging tasks evenly.  For example, have each house-member write down chores and responsibilities that they: 1) like to do, 2) don’t mind doing, 3) would rather not do, or 3) really don’t like.  Then negotiate a fair division, considering each person’s abilities, likes and dislikes, other contributions (like whether they work outside the home), and any other relevant factors.  Also, alternate doing something that you enjoy with tasks that you have to do.  That way, the things you enjoy are a break and a reward.  Also, find ways around your weaknesses so that you have more time to focus on your strengths.  For example, if you don’t like to cook, then get cupcakes from the grocery store for the potluck, rather than convincing yourself that you have to make them from scratch.

7. Reward yourself.

When you meet a goal or deadline, give yourself an appropriate reward for the effort.  You may want to make a list of your favorite activities, foods, TV shows, trinkets, and places to go, and then treat yourself to a reward after accomplishing something.

8. Take time to relax.

Schedule breaks into each day and week to rest, play, move around, and re-energize.  Pace yourself so you don’t get exhausted.

9. Be flexible.

Acknowledge and anticipate that some of your projects, deadlines, and obligations will not turn out how you planned.  Don’t beat yourself up over this, but adjust accordingly and learn from your mistakes.  When you realize you didn’t live up to your expectations, think about similar future situations and how you can approach them more effectively.  Life demands flexibility.

10. Humor and willingness.

Have a sense of humor about your disorganization or forgetfulness.  If you can be a little relaxed about it and laugh about your tendency to be messy, others will forgive you more easily and you will feel less defensive, making communication easier.  Also, the guilt that many people feel, in an attempt to motivate themselves, often backfires and paralyzes them.  So don’t take it too seriously, but allow some lightheartedness to make the task lighter.

11. Accept the ongoing process.

Because being organized is a process, there will never be a time when all the work is completely done.  Life changes, people change, and the way you organize will continue to evolve.  Notice and celebrate when you find a better way to organize something, instead of focusing only on what remains undone.  Learn to accept organizing as an ongoing and creative part of life, and perhaps even to enjoy it.

12. Remember that organization is a skill that can be learned.

The good news is that there are many tips and techniques that you can try out, to see which work best for you.  The bad news is that, as with any skill, it takes time and effort to learn to be organized.  But the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more it becomes automatic.  So don’t give up, even if you’ve slipped up for a while.  Just pick an area, and try again.  Each time will be a little easier and you’ll get better at it with practice.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Swimming in a sea random mail, magazines, photos, receipts, notes, bills, and other paperwork?  Try these tips.

1. Have a special place for special paperwork.

For example, have a box, envelope, file or folder where you put all the bills that still need to be paid.  Have another place where you put stubs of bills that have already been paid.  Have one place for coupons and advertisements, one place for memorable newspaper articles, one place for car records, one place for medical records, etc.  A file cabinet makes this easy and compact.

2. Use charts to help you keep track of bills and expenses.

Make copies of a blank chart that includes the following information:  Across the top list categories like: amount overdue from last month, amount due for this month, total amount due, amount paid, date when you paid it, check number, and the amount still overdue after this payment is made.  Down the side list all the different bills you have.  Across the bottom, write the totals of each column.  Fill in one chart each month or each time you get paid.  This helps put all your bill information in front of you at once, helps you stay mindful of how much money you have to spend, helps you make decisions about where your money needs to go, helps you not forget to pay a bill, and helps to catch billing errors.

3. Use color-coding to organize paperwork and to grab your attention.

Color makes things more memorable, and appealing, as well as easier to recognize, organize and navigate.

4. Use a checkbook register to keep track of money in your account.

And compare your register to your bank statement (preferably on the day the statement arrives, so you’re less likely to forget).  If it is difficult for you to write down each expense as you make it, then make it a routine to keep receipts in your wallet and write them down at the end of each day.

5. Use an address book

…or a rolodex, or a bulletin board, or a business card organizer; to help you keep track of contact information, instead of having countless pieces of paper floating around, with mysterious phone numbers that you don’t recognize any more.

6. Go digital

Use computer software to keep track of finances, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, etc..  For those who are computer savvy, getting their finances organized with financial software, and paying bills online may be easier, quicker, and more interesting than the conventional methods.  E-mailing instead of sending paper letters can also cut down on clutter, and it’s faster.

7. Throw out old newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines are a common source of clutter, and are often found in a variety of places other than your magazine rack (if you have one).  The most important and effective way to manage these bulky materials is to get your trashcan out and use it!  If you find more than two unread back-issues of a particular subscription, or if you find yourself putting a week’s worth of unread newspapers in your recycle bin, don’t send in the renewal notice when it arrives, cancel your subscriptions, and only buy them when you really want to read them.

8. Use shelves and filing cabinets

If you want to keep a specific article for future reference, cut it out and file it in a filing cabinet.  Throw the rest of the magazines and newspapers away, with the possible exception of a few choice issues that you keep.  If you decide to keep a stack of old magazines, don’t just stack them up in the corner, but put them neatly on a shelf.  If you don’t have enough room on your shelves then you either need more shelving, or you have too many things that you are holding on to, and you need to prioritize and decide what you will get rid of.

9. Make a scrapbook of kids’ art.

If your refrigerator or walls are covered in kids’ pictures, then buy an inexpensive scrapbook (or two) and put the older pictures in there.  When you have a new picture to put on the fridge, then take an old one off and add it to the scrapbook.  That way family will have a wonderful scrapbook to look through when they visit, and you won’t have to drown in the chaos of too many pictures every time you’re in the kitchen.  You can also use scrap books for other random, but memorable pieces of paper.  Binders can also be used to create a scrapbook.

10. Use photo albums.

Some people have boxes full of old pictures, half of which are out of focus, with the heads cut off, or with a finger covering the lens.  If this has become clutter for you, then pick a weekend to sit down and pick out which pictures you want to put into a photo album.  Once you’ve decided how to organize them and have put them in the album(s), then the rest can be tossed, or can be used by the kids for art projects.  Another way to condense pictures is to make a collage, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
If these ideas aren’t enough, then ask your friends what they do to keep their paper clutter in check, or look for more ideas in a book on controlling clutter.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Jan
02

Video: They Did It Anyway

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Un-Pursued Dreams

I sometimes hear about dreams that people had, that they didn’t pursue because they were told that “you can’t do that for a living.”  It may be starting a business, it may be music, or it may be sports broadcasting.  Please note that these are all things that people do actually do.  It is true that some fields are more competitive than others, but why not try your hand at it and see how well you can do?

The Nay-Sayer’s Good Intentions

The people (often parents) who say “you can’t do that” usually have good intentions.  They don’t want their child to fail.  They’re concerned about their child taking risks and ending up disappointed or in debt.  To this I say that life is full of risks, and as hard as it is to achieve a dream, the last thing an ambitious person needs is for someone to hold them back.  What they really need is guidance in how to face the challenges that their dream entails… support in getting the information they need to start them on their way, and encouragement along a challenging road.

Allowing Your Child Their Own Vision

Perhaps the nay-sayer has a different vision for their child’s future, and doesn’t understand their child’s passion for a specific dream.  To this I say that each person’s life is their own, and that expecting your child to fulfill your dreams or follow your plan is overly controlling.  One important job for parents is to help the child discover their own direction in life, their own talents, their own dreams, and how to pursue them.

Video

This video is a great example of two self-educated artist brothers who pursued their dream despite the messages they heard that “you can’t do that for a living.”  I don’t know where they heard these messages, and it may not have been from their parents.  But their story is nonetheless a great example of pursuing your dreams and interests.  I wish them continued joy in their art work, and hope that their story inspires you to pursue your ambitions and interests as far as you can take them, whether it is as a hobby or as a vocation.

If you are receiving my posts by e-mail, and have trouble viewing any videos, please click on the title of the post in order to view it on my website.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Wellness
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Dec
06

5 Excellent Ideas for Reducing Distractions

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Marc Lesser offers five excellent and insightful ideas for reducing distractions.  They might not be what you would expect.

Here are five practices that can be useful tools in reducing distraction or frenetic activity and cultivating focus and concentration. They are surprisingly easy to implement and, almost before you know it, can become positive addictions.

1: Appreciate Impermanence

I saw a cartoon in a recent New Yorker magazine in which two people were finishing their dinners at a Chinese restaurant and had just opened their fortune cookies. One fortune read, “You are going to die.”

If you let this fact sink in — that life is short, and we all die — it can actually act as a powerful motivating force to help maintain focus and priorities. Everything changes and is impermanent, so are we fully present and making the most of this fleeting moment? Are we fully aware of what we are doing? Appreciating impermanence clarifies priorities,

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-practices-for-reducing-distractions.html#ixzz17Mm3v0NH

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Apr
17

27 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health (Slideshow)

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In the past I have shared my life with cats, dogs, geese and guinea hens, pet mice, rats and hamsters, lizards, a python and even a pet tarantula.  I have always been drawn to animals, and can personally attest that they have enriched my life, brought me comfort and joy, and provided plenty of comic relief.

No doubt, they can make a mess, require time and responsibility to take care of, and can at times be costly.  But for many, the benefits outweigh these inconveniences.  Not only are there mental and emotional benefits like soothing, companionship, contributing, and enjoyment, but there are health benefits as well.

WebMD offers a slideshow which reviews the various health benefits pets can offer:

Stay Well With Your Animals

Most pet owners don’t need reminding. Animals make people feel good. But we’re talking about more than feeling glad they’re around. Your favorite animal can make you healthy and help you stay that way. You may be surprised at just how many ways a pet can improve your health.  (continue reading about ways pets can improve your health)

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC

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Categories : Wellness
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Mar
05

Fish Oil for Mental Health

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We often think of medication and therapy as the two main approaches to treating mental health symptoms, but I’m a strong believer in the wellness approach that also recognizes the influence of lifestyle factors such as diet, supplements, social support, spirituality and other factors.

I’ve happened across more information about the benefits of fish oil recently, this time not just about mood benefits, but also its effects of psychotic disorders.  It appears that Omega 3 Fatty Acids are important for neuron cell structure and are highly concentrated in the brain.  Here are a few of interesting articles on the topic.

Fish Oil to Treat Depression?

Omega-3’s may have an affect on serotonin levels.
WebMD Feature

Dave thinks a lot about fish these days. Study after study has suggested benefits for omega-3 fatty acids, which are plentiful in certain fish oils. But what intrigues Dave isn’t that omega-3’s might reduce his risk of heart attack, or ease the pain of arthritis. He’s hoping to lubricate his mind.

A handful of small studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can help smooth out the mood swings of bipolar disorder. There are few effective treatments against the disease, so the news is a hot topic now at support groups for manic-depressives, like the Berkeley, CA, group in which Dave participates.

Continue reading on Web MD – Fish Oil to Treat Depression

Fish Oil for Psychotic Disorders

This report says that fish oil can help with psychotic disorders as well.

Taking a daily fish oil capsule can stave off mental illness in those at highest risk, trial findings suggest.  A three-month course of the supplement appeared to be as effective as drugs, cutting the rate of psychotic illness like schizophrenia by a quarter.The researchers believe it is the omega-3 in fish oil – already hailed for promoting healthy hearts – that has beneficial effects in the brain.  A “natural” remedy would be welcomed, Archives of General Psychiatry says.  “The finding that treatment with a natural substance may prevent, or at least delay, the onset of psychotic disorder gives hope that there may be alternatives to antipsychotic drugs,” the study authors said.

Continue reading on BBC News – Fish oil supplements ‘beat psychotic mental illness’.

More Links

Here are a few more links you might like to check out to read more about the mental health benefits of fish oil.

Fish Oil Helps Treat Depression – ABC News

Fish Oil Depression — Omega-3 Fatty acids – Real Depression Help

Omega-3 Fatty Acids –PsychEducation.org

Why Not?

And all this is in addition to the multiple physical benefits of fish oil… heart health, skin, joints.  So why not take it?  I personally take and recommend Nature Made odorless liquid softgels (1200mg per day).

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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