September 8, 2010

Color and Moods

Everywhere you look you see color. Color is the sensation produced by the effect of light waves striking the retina of the eye. The color of something depends mainly on which wavelengths of light it emits, reflects, or transmits. We often use color to describe our moods. Someone is green with envy, You get upset and see red, or you may have the blues. From all these descriptive terms it is obvious that color has a lot to with our moods.

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or using colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or color therapy and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. Chromotherapy  is the science that uses the colors to modify or to keep the vibrations of the body in a frequency that results in health, welfare and harmony. Both humans and nature need the light of the sun to live. In this process, man and nature receive the solar light which is broken up into seven main rays, and then distributed to our physical and energetic bodies. If there is an in-balance of these colors in our energetic field, this reflects on our physical body as a mental or physical illness. A therapist trained in color therapy applies light and color in the form of tools, visualization, or verbal suggestion to balance energy in the areas of our bodies that are lacking vibrance, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental.

Colors often have different meanings in various cultures. In China, green hats mean a man's wife is cheating on him; it is not a good color for packaging. In India green is the color of Islam. In Ireland green has religious significance with the catholic church and in some tropical countries green is associated with danger. While blue is one of the most popular colors it is one of the least appetizing. Blue food is rare in nature. Food researchers say that when humans searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, which were often blue, black, or purple. When food dyed blue is served to study subjects, they lose appetite. Green, brown, and red are the most popular food colors. Red is often used in restaurant decorating schemes because it is an appetite stimulant.

How can you use colors to change your mood? Well, clothing is the most obvious choice. What you wear not only helps you feel a certain way, but also can give a strong impression about you to others - especially people you've never met.

Our minds are influenced by many visual cues. Color has a physical effect on the human body. It can influence the pituitary gland, which helps regulate hormone production. Hormones can affect our moods, so it makes sense that color would, too. Our perception of color in the world can influence our mood. The following is a list of colors and their psychological associations.

Blue- The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is one of the most popular colors. It causes the opposite reaction as red. Peaceful, tranquil blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms. Blue can also be cold and depressing. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms.

Orange-Orange is considered a warm color like red, but to a lesser extent; orange expresses energy. It has luminous qualities and has been used for attention-getting purposes, such as on caution signs. 

Red- The most emotionally intense color, red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. It is also the color of love. Red clothing gets noticed and makes the wearer appear heavier. Since it is an extreme color, red clothing might not help people in negotiations or confrontations. Red cars are popular targets for thieves. In decorating, red is usually used as an accent. Decorators say that red furniture should be perfect since it will attract attention.

Black- Black is the absence of light and therefore, of color. It represents power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, anonymity, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger, underground, good technical color, mourning and death. 

White- The color white is associated with purity and goodness. It is the color of bridal gowns and angels. As it shows up impurity so easily, it invites scrutiny. It is the color that “goes with everything”.

Yellow- Yellow carries the same healing qualities associated with the sun. It offers warmth, optimism, and light. All shades of yellows and golds will cheer you up and help make you feel happier. Wearing yellow out into the world makes an affirmation statement. For certain, yellow is a perky color!

Green- The color green represents rebirth. Being the color of grass, trees and money it signals fertility and (along with gold) wealth. It is a friendly color and many people feel a healing force from this color. It is the color of many industrial uniforms and is attributed to having healing properties, as it is “natural”. It sets a mood of nature and growth.

Purple- Purple represents royalty, spirituality, nobility, ceremony, mystery, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning. Purple is considered an exotic color. Purple dye was made from the mucous gland of a snail. It required thousands of snails to yield 1 gram of dye causing it to be a color only nobles could afford. Today purple is a trendy color targeting creative types.

Brown- Solid, reliable brown is the color of earth and is abundant in nature. Light brown implies genuineness while dark brown is similar to wood or leather. Brown can also be sad and wistful. Men are more apt to say brown is one of their favorite colors.

Living with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain has several different meanings in medicine. If pain persists beyond 3-6 months, chances are it is chronic. A popular alternative definition of chronic pain, involving no arbitrarily fixed durations is "pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing." Unlike acute pain, which is pain that responds to an actual event of the body, chronic pain can be caused by an injury or illness, or it might appear out-of-the-blue. This is one of the reasons chronic pain is difficult to diagnose. Chronic pain may cause other symptoms or conditions, including depression and anxiety. It may also contribute to decreased physical activity given the apprehension of exacerbating pain. Chronic pain frequently carries a stigma, and misperceptions of laziness or pain killer addictions follow. Often misunderstood, chronic pain is very real.

One in ten Americans is expected to suffer from chronic pain at some point in their life. Pain that just will not go away is by far the most common neurological disorder -- a $100 billion-a-year burden on American society, experts say. The initial reaction to serious pain is usually fear (what is wrong with me, and is it curable?), but pain that fails to respond to treatment leads to anxiety, depression, anger and irritability.

Pain is an invisible, subjective symptom. The body of a chronic pain sufferer -- someone with fibromyalgia, for example, or back pain -- usually appears intact. There are no objective tests to detect pain or measure its intensity. You just have to take a person's word for it.

The nervous system is responsible for the two major types of chronic pain. One, called nociceptive pain, ''arises from injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments or in the internal organs. Undamaged nerve cells responding to an injury outside themselves transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and then to the brain. The resulting pain is usually described as deep and throbbing. Examples include chronic low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, interstitial cystitis and chronic pelvic pain.

The second type, neuropathic pain, ''results from abnormal nerve function or direct damage to a nerve.'' Among the causes are shingles, diabetic neuropathy, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, phantom limb pain, radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury.

The psychological and social consequences of chronic pain can be enormous. Unremitting pain can rob a person of the ability to enjoy life, maintain important relationships, fulfill spousal and parental responsibilities, perform well at a job or work at all. It is important to treat not only the pain but the psychological repercussions of the pain. Finding the right Doctor, getting counseling, pain therapy and group support are all important aspects of regaining control of your life and dealing with the consequences of living with pain.

Finding the right Doctor to treat your pain and then working with him to get an effective plan for reducing pain is a difficult task, but is the first step in controlling your pain. There are several different lifestyle techniques that can be effective for allowing patients to live a better life with their pain. Probably the most important one is improving the patient's ability to get a good night's sleep. This can be accomplished with both prescription medications and with behavioral modification techniques that the patient uses themselves at home to improve how well they sleep. The other recommendation is making sure that the patient remains as active as possible. Patients generally are going to hurt about the same whether they sit around the house or get up and go out and do some activities. And the more activities they do, the better endurance they'll have to be able to do what they want with their families.

Caregiver Guidelines

If you’re in the position of caring for someone with cancer or another serious disease, you’re probably also dealing with concerns for your loved one’s future. If you’re caring for a child with special needs, there may be uncertainty as to how to proceed. Being in the position of being a caregiver usually carries some heavy responsibility and sometimes scary situations. Approximately 45 million people in the United States devote a large portion of their lives to elder care or caregiving for someone who with a disability. Combine that with the demands of jobs, children and marriage, and the product is a tailor-made recipe for stress.

Whether you are parent and full-time caregiver, or are gradually taking over more and more duties for an aging loved one, it is essential that you be honest about what your own limits are, and seek out assistance when needed.  Caregivers devote themselves, sometimes unpaid and at their own expense, to the care for chronically ill or disabled family members, friends, or patients. This role often comes with a change in family dynamic, household disruption, and financial concerns.

As a caregiver it is essential to  to assess the reality of the level of care that is needed. If possible, talk to your care recipient and understand their needs and preferences, never doing for them what they can do for themselves. Other friends or family members may want to help out, so take any assistance that is offered and don't feel guilty about taking a little time for yourself.

As caregivers it is important we recognize and not ignore the physical and emotional symptoms which may impact our own health and well being. The work involved with caregiving is often overwhelming and factors such as inadequate support, poor management and planning can lead to caregiver burnout. When caregiver burnout occurs, the caregiving experience is not healthy for the caregiver or the recipient. We need to guard against caregiver burnout and avoid becoming overly tired and exhausted which can reduce our own body’s ability to ward off illness. 

Many caregivers are subject to feelings of increased sadness, irritability, fatigue and guilt. These feelings, if left unaddressed, can lead to chronic depression. Family caregivers suffer from major depression much more frequently than the rest of the population.  When a family caregiver suffers from depression, there are two people at risk - the family caregiver and the family member or friend for whom she or he cares. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed seek the help of your Doctor as soon as possible. If you don't want to do it for yourself then do it for your loved one! A successful caregiver does not ignore their own needs and realizes that they can't take care of others if they don't take care of themselves! The best present you can give your loved one: Your own good mental and physical health.

As a caregiver make sure you:
  • Take a daily vitamin supplement
  • Get exercise — make it a priority for both your mental and physical well-being.
  • Get regular check-ups and do not ignore possible symptoms of ill health.
  • Take a break from caregiving – respite time is crucial.
  • Get a flu shot – more information here
  • Watch for signs of depression – more information here
  • Stay involved in hobbies
  • Laugh with a friend
  • Join a support group- There a support groups in every community or join a group online. Online support groups help you get the support you need but allow you the freedom to fit it in your busy schedule.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is a general feeling of loneliness that you may feel as a parent or guardian when one or more of your children leave home or get married. After the kids have left home, you will notice some changes in your home and lives. Some are great, some are sad. Being aware of what's different and how those makes you feel is an important step in avoiding the negative aspects of the empty nest syndrome. The good news is that with good communication and preparation  the empty nest years can be tremendously enjoyable and full of new beginnings.

It's natural for a mother to feel some sadness when her child leaves home. It is quite normal to have a little weep now and again – or even go into the absent child's bedroom and sit there for a bit in an attempt to feel closer to him or her. So don't be ashamed of your feelings - they are natural. When a woman is at the stage in life where her kids are leaving, she may also be going through other major changes, such as dealing with the menopause or trying to cope with increasingly dependent elderly parents.

When your child leaves home, you'll obviously want to keep in touch with him or her. But don't try and do this excessively. Be sensitive to the fact that your son or daughter is trying to take a big, significant step in life. This is a special time for your child. They may stretching their wings and learning to be independent for the first time. Your child is going through a big change in their life and may have fears and doubts while away from home. They will need your support, but will not want to feel overwhelmed by you. The more you cling or show that you're upset, the less likelihood there is of him or her contacting you. Ration your calls to no more than two a week. Also, try texting or using email instead of phoning. You'll be able to put your feelings succinctly without getting too emotional. This form of communication will probably suit your child better, too. It's much easier for a young person to say 'I really miss you' in a message rather than on the phone, when other students might be listening. If your child is having a miserable time at university or college, do resist the impulse to be pleased about this! And don't suggest that he or she gives up and comes home. Plenty of teenagers are very miserable and lonely for a couple of weeks, but they deal with it. And that is a great accomplishment. So be supportive, but don't sort everything for them - and certainly don't try to bring them back home.

Many suggest preparing for an empty nest while your children are still living with you. Develop friendships, hobbies, career, and educational opportunities. Make plans with the family while everyone is still under the same roof, so you don't regret lost opportunities: Plan family vacations, enjoy long talks, take time off from work. And make specific plans for the extra money, time, and space that will become available when children are no longer dependent on you and living at home. Did you ever have dreams that you put on the back burner, and said to yourself, "Maybe when the kids are grown?" Now is the time to bring those dreams out, brush them off, and move forward. Maybe you had always thought about going back to school or starting a business. Whatever it is, know that it is never to late. Remember, Moses was 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.

When a child's departure unleashes overwhelming sadness, treatment is definitely needed. Discuss your feelings with your general practitioner as soon as possible. You may need antidepressants, and you almost certainly could use some counseling to get your feelings into perspective.

I am reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:4, which says, " A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Let this be your time to laugh and your time to dance. Life is a journey and empty nest syndrome is just a very small adjustment.

Dealing with Divorce

Unfortunately in today's society divorce is something that affects almost everyone. Even if you are fortunate enough to avoid divorce yourself, you might have grown up in a broken family or have had close friends or relatives go through a divorce.  Divorce happens when couples feel they can no longer live together due to fighting and anger, or because the love they had when they married has changed. Divorce can also be because one parent falls in love with someone else, and sometimes it is due to a serious problem like drinking, abuse, or gambling.

When going through the stages of divorce you may find yourself spending time believing that if you do or say the right thing your spouse will come home. there may also be times when you feel panic, rage, and numbness or like you are going crazy. You may swing between despair that your marriage is over and hope that it will be restored. Most people experience some common fears when thinking about their future alone. You may wonder how you are going to survive. Will you ever find love again, will the pain ever end or will you feel this way the rest of your life are all feelings you may experience during different times of the divorce process. There is no instruction book to make divorce painless and simple, but there are some steps to learn how to deal with divorce and the the changes that divorce brings. Take the time needed to heal from the divorce and those feelings of loss. Try to look inward and own your responsibility in the problems that led to divorce. Forgive yourself and your spouse and don’t let the issues from this marriage follow you into new relationships.

Some times the best we can do is to just take it one day at a time. You may find yourself just going through the motions and feel like you are in a daze. While this feeling is perfectly normal, don't allow yourself to remain in this stage too long. Talking to friends and relatives can be helpful but don't be shy about getting some professional counseling. Don't like financial worries keep you from getting some help. Check with your HR department and see if your work offers any therapy options. Check with your community resources or visit the pastor from your church. They is free help in every community, you just have to do a little research to find it. If there are children involved in the divorce be sure to get some counseling for them too. Most children feel the divorce is their fault at some level and need to talk with an impartial counselor to work out their feelings.

Try some of these ideas to help get through the stages of divorce:
  • Remember the bad times (but don't forget the good): "If there are moments when you want to run back to him because you feel as though you can't survive on your own financially (or emotionally), you have to stay strong.
  • Say no to seduction: "Sex with the ex? Whatever he says and however he looks, stand firm and don't even let him wish!"
  • Treat yourself: "You are going through a hard time and you need to remember to pamper yourself and take a little time for yourself.
  • Keep your gripes to yourself: You and spouse are divorcing because you can't agree on fundamental issues. Learn to stop wasting your time complaining to your ex spouse and trying to change him. His behavior is no longer your problem so instead of arguing with him, learn to let go.
  • Take some time to get to know yourself and appreciate the independence you now have. Change is always stressful and scary but count the victories every time you accomplish something you thought you couldn't do on your own. Start watching the television shows you want to watch, kill a bug or spider on your own, take a class or join a gym, fix meals you want to eat and smile at each new adventure!
  • Exercise daily: Exercise helps reduce stress and gives off endorphins to raise your mood. A nice side effect of exercise is that you may lose some weight and that can help improve your self image.
  • Remind yourself that the pain won't last forever! Set goals and start planning for a new and improved life!

Dealing with Change

According to Webster, change is "to become different, to pass from one phase to another, to undergo transformation and transition."Life is one change after the other, and you can't enjoy it if you're scared all the time. They say the only constant in life is change. The rest of it is a constantly shifting, ever-moving collection of circumstances. Each circumstance and each choice affects its neighbor like wobbly dominoes placed in rows. Accepting change, learning to adapt, to cope, and ultimately to triumph through it, is an underrated skill.

Sometimes you just want to change. Other times, change seems to be forced up you. In either event, change can be a very stressful time in your life. When dealing with a change that has been forced upon you, you can make two choices: you can decide to be a victim of circumstance, or you can decide to take control of your life and make the best of the situation. Our ability to cope with change varies from the type of person we are, to how strong we feel at the time, what else is going on for us at the time and our level of stress.

There are a few key facts to try and remember when facing a change. Set a goal for change. The goal might be to view all change as manageable. Recognize change for what it is, reorganize as necessary to deal with it and adapt as soon as possible to it.  Remember, nobody can guarantee stability or permanence. Similarly, nobody owes you a living, a job or high morale. Enhance your skills at every chance, read widely, learn all you can and be a high-speed adapter and problem solver. Hard work, tenacity, adaptability and risk taking will help, too. Focus on the future. You don't have to feel happy and warm all over about the change that occurred. Just deal with it and move along. Change is rarely a dead-end street. Instead it offers opportunities, each with its own separate pros and cons. When you are confronted with change, allow yourself to explore mentally all the options the change will provide. You may find that the positives far outweigh the negatives. If, instead, you find the negatives have the upper hand, take time to brainstorm possible solutions or consider rethinking the change.

Successfully managing the problems, hassles and challenges of everyday life requires flexibility, adaptiveness and good problem solving skills. We develop these abilities through practice and can teach them to our children by helping them see alternatives, problem solve and evaluate options. The ability to have some perspective on one’s problems is a trait often seen in those who have the ability to “bounce back”. A sense of perspective allows us to look at our problems with some distance, if only for a moment. We might even see some humor in our situation. At the very least, perspective taking provides us the opportunity to examine our situation with some objectivity and to know that no matter how intense our fear or pain is, everything, including our feelings, is in constant motion. Just as winter turns to spring, so it is that at the peak of our fear and pain we may suddenly have a shift that expands our perspective. However we are feeling right now shall pass.

Change-adept individuals compensate for the demands and pressures of business by developing counterbalancing activities in other areas of their lives. They engage in exercise programs and healthful eating habits, they cultivate interests outside of the workplace—sports, hobbies, art, music, and so on—that are personally fulfilling, and they have sources of emotional support. Because employees with counterbalance have fuller, richer lives, they handle business-related stress better and are more effective on the job.

Consider change as a new challenge, the more challenges you take upon now gives you more experience, the more experienced you are at different situations the better you learn to adapt when the tide turns. Change makes us adaptive to hardships and challenges make us stronger. Our immense capabilities remain hidden in the folds of comfort; a change in the routine or our lives brings forward the endurance power we all have. Change stirs our lives and that is good, it brings us out of our comfort zones and sets up some new endurance levels, to test and to accommodate to a new lifestyle.

Building Your Self Esteem

Your self esteem is how much you like and respect your self. Good self esteem is the the number factor in deciding how happy and successful you will be in life. People often wonder when someone they feel is less intelligent or less worthy manages to get promotions, and obtain other goals we are wanting for our self. The answer may just be their self esteem. People with a lower self esteem seldom volunteer to be in charge. They have trouble taking even small risks because the feel of failure is greater than their self esteem. Your self esteem and your self confidence are greatly intertwined. Having confidence in yourself and your abilities goes a long way whether you're facing a tough decision, adapting to a new situation or standing up against peer pressure.

One of the biggest things that keeps people from achieving their goals  and feeling good about themselves is negative self-talk. Our inner voice whispers to us constantly and when it is saying negative things it can have a real snowball effect. You may think these thoughts or give yourself these negative messages so often that you are hardly aware of them. Pay attention to them. Carry a small pad with you as you go about your daily routine for several days and jot down negative thoughts about yourself whenever you notice them. Some people say they notice more negative thinking when they are tired, sick, or dealing with a lot of stress. As you become aware of your negative thoughts, you may notice more and more of them. Work on ways to develop positive statements  to replace these negative thoughts whenever you notice yourself thinking them. You can't think two thoughts at the same time. When you are thinking a positive thought about yourself, you can't be thinking a negative one. In developing these thoughts, use positive words like happy, peaceful, loving, enthusiastic, warm.

When we develop self esteem, we take control of our mission, values and discipline. Self esteem brings about self improvement, true assessment, and determination. So how do you start putting up the building blocks of self esteem? There are small things each of us can do every day to help improve our self esteem. By making small changes in our daily life we can start reaching some small term goals and with each small success our self esteem and confidence grow.

Listen to what your body, your mind, and your heart are telling you. For instance, if your body is telling you that you have been sitting down too long, stand up and stretch. If your heart is longing to spend more time with a special friend, do it. If your mind is telling you to clean up your basement, listen to your favorite music, or stop thinking bad thoughts about yourself, take those thoughts seriously.

Take very good care of yourself. As you were growing up you may not have learned how to take good care of yourself. In fact, much of your attention may have been on taking care of others, on just getting by, or on "behaving well." Begin today to take good care of yourself. We often hear that we teach people how to treat us so make sure you are sending out the message that you want and deserve to be treated well. Treat yourself as a wonderful parent would treat a small child or as one very best friend might treat another. If you work at taking good care of yourself, you will find that you feel better about yourself.

Moving your body helps you to feel better and improves your self-esteem. Arrange a time every day or as often as possible when you can get some exercise, preferably outdoors. You can do many different things such as walking, riding a bicycle, or playing a sport. Put on a tape, or play the radio and dance to the music or do anything that feels good to you. If you have a health problem that may restrict your ability to exercise, check with your doctor before beginning or changing your exercise habits.

Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself and who treat you well. Avoid people who treat you badly. Choose where you spend your spare time. Getting involved in charity work and helping others will give you a more positive group of people than spending time at a bar. Take some classes on something you enjoy and give yourself an opportunity to make some friends that share your interests and goals.

Reducing Stress

The National Institutes of Health found that 80 to 90 percent of all illnesses are caused by stress, either directly or indirectly. Try our ideas listed here to help reduce stress in your life. For more ideas be sure and read our article on relaxing techniques, since reducing stress and relaxing go hand in hand.

At times all of us feel stress. We have a looming deadline, our finances are in the red, an illness or major change  in our life are all things that cause stress. A key step in reducing stress is to identify what things in our life are causing stress and if there is anything we can do to eliminate or reduce those stress buttons from our life. Get professional advice in whatever area of your life is causing your stress and become empowered to make changes. Check with your H.R. department and look online and in your community for free resources. Every community has free legal consultations. Visit a lawyer and learn your rights. Innovative Improvements offers free information to improve your life in a variety of areas so be sure and check out the sections that may help you.

We all have stress from our work but if you find yourself overly stressed all or a majority of the time you may need to rethink your career and look for a less stressful job. Try to pinpoint the parts of your job that are stressful and look for a similar job that has fewer of the stressful parts of your current job but requires the same skill set. If your personal relationship is not working but fear of change or finances have kept you in it, you need to change your situation, even if it means compromising in some areas. You may have to stay with a friend or family member for a little while or give up a few luxuries in your life.

It has been proven that any type of change in our life even change for the better is perceived as stress for many people. Often times the unknown causes us stress. Try taking a new proactive approach to change and other things you worry about to avoid long term stress. If your finances are in arrears then make the call to your creditors to try and set up a new payment plan instead of stressing every time the phone rings.

When you have eliminated all areas of stress that you can control, the final step is accepting the other stressful parts of our life and learn ways to de-stress and relax.

Use exercise to reduce stress- You should know that exercise does your body good. But did you also know that virtually any form of exercise can decrease the production of stress hormones and counteract your body's natural stress response? It's true. The same regular exercise routine that helps prevent disease and builds muscle can also help you better manage stress.
  • Exercise pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
  • Exercise is meditation in movement. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you'll often find that you've forgotten the day's dilemmas and irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.
  • Exercise improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. This can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
Go Back to School- Many of us feel trapped in our stressful job or in a bad relationship because we lack training and skills to get a better job or support our self on our own. Going back to school is easier than ever with online classes now be offered at every University and Community College. Learn what degrees are offered in your area and do the research to find a degree or certificate training is available. This is a lot of options out there for financial aid which will cover not only the classes but can help pay your living expenses while you are attending school. Read our article on online courses and completing a FAFSA to get you started.

Do volunteer work- Its hard to worry about our own problems when we are busy helping others. Donating your time and energy to a community volunteer organization will make you feel better about yourself and will go a long way in reducing your stress level. No matter how little spare time you think you have, there is some volunteer work you can fir in your schedule. By  reducing your stress level you will be empowered to deal with your work and family life more efficiently. Habitat for Humanity allows you to combine physical work with volunteering and is sure to lower your blood pressure. Visiting a Head Start or preschool class and reading a story is a quick and easy way to give back to your community. There is no end to the possibilities when it comes to volunteering in your community. Teach a class, coach a team or help out a school or library and you will literally feel our stress melt away!

Start a Blog- Writing in a personal journal or writing on a blog regularly helps us let go of our stress. By writing out your daily thoughts and issues you encounter in your routine, you are literally letting go of the stress and putting it on paper.  Often times when we begin writing about our problems we see that it is not as dire as it felt when the stress is bottled up inside us. By blogging you may also be helping others feel better too. We all feel a little better knowing we are not alone in feeling stress. You can visit here for complete information on how to start a blog. Almost all blog sites are free so you really have nothing to lose but your stress!

Set Goals- Setting both short term and long term goals empower us by helping us realize we are the ones in charge of our life. Short term goals should be goals you can reach in days, weeks or months. Long term goals make take months or even years to attain. Write out your goals and state them in positive terms. After you write your goals set a realistic time frame in which you want to achieve the goal. Next write out a plan of action on how you want  make your goal a reality. Remember to be realistic in your goals, timelines and plan of action. Setting a goal to lose 20 pounds in two weeks is not a goal you can realistically reach and this will lead to failure and more stress. Look over your goals often and make sure you are on track and once you reach a goal, replace it with a new one!

Definng Happiness

According to the Dictionary happiness is a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happiness is also defined as emotions experienced when in a state of well-being. It sounds so simple yet many of us struggle with searching for happiness and feel like it is an elusive butterfly always just out of our reach. From the beginning man has searched for the key to happiness.

Thomas Jefferson defined happiness as not being "pained in body or troubled in mind", and he  famously counted "the pursuit of Happiness" as an "unalienable right" in the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin stated "The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself".  Aristotle said "Happiness depends on ourselves",  Tolstoy said "If you want to be happy, be" and  Publilius Syrus stated "No man is happy who does not think himself so". So it seems that happiness seems to be something only we can attain for our self.  If we had enough wisdom, enough knowledge, or simply enough love, we could be happy in everything. Of course, all three of these qualities are found in want in us; we can only be happy when we choose to, so perhaps we just need to choose happiness more often.

Happiness is a personal experience. It is confined to the person and the moment to which it belongs. What makes you happy does not necessarily make others happy. We can let ourselves be happy, but we rarely do. Happiness is not lack of want; that is contentment. Happiness is not joy or pleasure. Happiness is not the absence of sadness or pain. If we were stumbling stupidly about in a dark room (which is pretty much what we're doing), happiness would be the shaft of light we let through the keyhole, not knowing enough to simply open the door.

Perhaps a good way to find happiness is to look at happy people and try to emulate some of their characteristics. truly happy people are different from anyone else. They seem to be gifted with some special trait that passed up the rest of humanity. The truly happy are vital, intelligent and healthier both mentally and physically. How is it that some people have this quality and others don't? The answer is simple. It's because they have simply chosen to be happy instead of constantly dwelling on negative thoughts. Happy people are in love with life. They are content and are thankful for what they have. They look forward to each day, knowing that something good is in store for them somehow. Happy people reach out to others. They obtain joy from helping other people. They are compassionate toward the needy and the underprivileged, giving whatever they can: time, resources, and sometimes, just their smile. They care and they demonstrate that through little acts of kindness. More importantly, happy people do not expect anything in return. Happy people are optimistic. They do not dwell on problems and past hurts. Instead, happy people strive to live each day to the fullest.

Finding inner happiness means letting go of old habits. The ability to forgive others is one of the most important survival skills you can cultivate. The most difficult aspect of this skill is forgiving yourself. It’s easy to forgive others because we rationalize on their behalf that they are just plain ignorant and don’t realize the impact of their behavior. Forgiving yourself isn’t as easy.

Why do we worry? We worry because of our own guilt playing up against our own higher-than-average standards. We worry because we think we don’t deserve happiness or God’s goodness to us. We don’t understand that he doesn’t see things the same way we do. He forgives us, so why can’t we forgive ourselves?

If a situation is meant to be, it’ll happen and nothing can keep it from happening. If it’s not meant to happen, it won’t. When things don’t go the way you would like them to, perhaps you are being spared a lot of misery and frustration in the long run. God knows what he’s doing! So "Don't worry, be happy".

De-Clutter Your Life

Clutter adds stress to our lives. A cluttered home is a big stressor in itself, and intensifies the frustration and exhaustion that a stressed person feels. According to the principles of Feng Shui, clutter drains you of your positive energy. You can actually feel it. A cluttered environment can cost you in energy, time and even money, while a clean, organized home can soothe you and provide a haven where you feel safe and at peace.

Clutter can also be a symptom of someone living in inertia and not taking control of aspects of their life. Not taking action to clear clutter fosters feelings of helplessness. Taking action, even if it only involves committing ten minutes of your time each day to organize, is empowering and relieves stress. Clearing clutter can be a catharsis. Declutter you home and feel some of your control return. Here are some ideas on how to declutter your environment. Once you become organized then you may be ready to declutter mentally too an let go of some old feelings that only drain you and bring you down!

When you declutter it isn't enough to simply clean and organize. The only way to truly lower the amount of clutter is to remove items from your home. Donate the clothes and other items that you no longer use. Don't get trapped into feeling that every gift you receive needs to be saved forever. Re-gifting or donating items to a community center raises the value of the item by having find a useful new home. Have a garage sale and turn that clutter into cold hard cash. Recycle items that you can and donate items like magazines and yarn for artwork activities at your local preschool. Check your local library and see if they accept book donations. Don't forget to include your donations on your taxes and then you are rewarded by both donating and and saving on your tax bill!

Just as clutter arises gradually, over time, so it must be fought gradually and over time. Beating clutter requires building new habits, applying new organizational methods, and creating new household routines. The clutter cure takes time. A successful attack on clutter requires time, energy and motivation. There is no such thing as a declutter fairy, who works while you sleep! Scheduling declutter sessions brings the goal into the light and into real life. By committing time to decluttering, you strengthen motivation and embrace the goal of a clutter-free home.

Creating a way of sorting through your clutter is the only way to get rid of it. Set up a system of boxes with different categories. Each home will have a different number of boxes depending on how much clutter you have. The minimum you'll need is a box for items you want to keep, a box for items you want to give away and a box for items you are unsure about.
- Locate several large empty boxes.
- Using a thick marker, label your boxes with categories such as Donate, Save, Unsure, Recycle, Move and Trash.
- Depending on how much clutter you have, you may also want additional boxes for items you'd like to Sell or Fix.
- Purchase a box of sturdy trash bags. Line your Trash box with one of the bags or simply use the trash bags by themselves.

 Things to ask yourself as you get rid of your clutter: 
-Do I love this item?
- Have I used it in the past year?
- Is it really garbage?
- Do I have another one that is better?
- Should I really keep two?
- Does it have sentimental value that causes me to love it?
-Or does it give me guilt and make me sad when I see the item?

Cleanse each room of everything that does not make you SMILE.

Learning to Relax

Relaxing is a key factor in feeling better. In our fast paced and hectic lives, we sometimes miss the opportunity to take a break and really relax. Deciding to set aside time to relax can be an important part of dealing with life in a more healthful way. Relaxation techniques are effective for some in the management of anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, digestive upsets, and other health issues associated with stress. Innovative improvements has listed several techniques designed to help you relax. You should try them all and then you may want to use just one of the relaxation techniques or use several relaxation techniques combined. For other great ideas be sure to read our article on reducing stress.

One basic way to help yourself relax is to always set aside a little "me time." Find a hobby or something that works for you and make sure you make some time everyday just for you. Many times a short relaxing walk followed by a little time curled up with your favorite book is all it takes to loosen up those tense muscles. When making time for yourself, you should turn off the phones, avoid computers and television and let friends and family members know you will be unavailable for a little while. For women a soothing bath with some scented bath salts and candles often does the trick. Try some scented bath salts from A Plus Creations and choose just the right scent to relax you fully.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation- Relaxation can be achieved by practicing progressive muscle relaxation. It is a technique in which you focus on, tense and relax successive body parts. It was developed in 1920 by Edmund Jacobson who found that deep muscle relaxation could be achieved if the muscle is contracted prior to relaxing it. try doing the progressive muscle relaxation once a day for best results. To complete the exercises you will need to set aside about twenty minutes of uninterrupted time during your day. I prefer doing my exercises first thing in the morning but you can choose the best time for you. You begin the exercises by sitting comfortably on the floor with your legs uncrossed and your hands relaxed in your lap. Close your eyes and try to empty your mind of all stressful thoughts as you take three slow deep breaths. You should continue to breathe deeply throughout the exercise and focus on the feeling in your body. What parts are tense? begin to tense your feet and hold it for a few seconds. Release the contraction and imagine all the tension in your feet leaving your body through the soles of your feet. Repeat this same technique with your calf muscles. Continue the technique moving up your body, by first tensing then relaxing the muscles in your body one at time. If you feel some muscles are more tense than others you may want to spend a little extra time there. When you get to your hands you should tense them by making a fist for a few seconds and then relaxing your entire hand. Do each hand separately. Many of us hold tension in our neck so you will want to spend some extra time here. Tense the neck by gently looking to the right. Be careful not to strain the neck muscles, then slowly look straight ahead, taking slow deep breaths. Repeat these steps looking to the left.  Slowly bring your chin toward your chest, stretching the neck muscles gently, then slowly bring your neck up. Complete the exercise by ending with some slow deep breaths.

Try Meditation-All you need to start meditating are:
  • A quiet environment.  Choose a secluded place in your home, office, garden, place of worship, or in the great outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
  • A comfortable position. Get comfortable, but avoid lying down as this may lead to you falling asleep. Sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged or lotus position.
  • A point of focus. Pick a meaningful word or phrase and repeat it throughout your session. You may also choose to focus on an object in your surroundings to enhance your concentration, or alternately, you can close your eyes.
  • An observant, noncritical attitude.  Don’t worry about distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If thoughts intrude during your relaxation session, don’t fight them. Instead, gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.

Try Yoga- Yoga is an excellent stress relief technique. It involves a series of both moving and stationary poses, combined with deep breathing. The physical and mental benefits of yoga provide a natural counterbalance to stress, and strengthen the relaxation response in your daily life.  Although almost all yoga classes end in a relaxation pose, classes that emphasize slow, steady movement and gentle stretching are best for stress relief. Look for labels like gentle, for stress relief, or for beginners. Power yoga, with its intense poses and focus on fitness, is not the best choice. If you’re unsure whether a specific yoga class is appropriate for stress relief, call the studio or ask the teacher.

Learn a new skill- A great way to relax and forget the days tensions is to learn a new skill or hobby. By learning a new skill you are using your brain power and energy to concentrate on this new thing in your life. Time will fly and you you lose yourself in this new skill. Take that ballroom dance class you always wanted to do, learn to knit, or start some art classes. The creative release will instantly lower your blood pressure and you may make some new friends that are separate from the stressful areas of your life such as work, or family.

Learn Tai Chi- If you’ve ever seen a group of people in the park slowly moving in synch, you’ve probably witnessed tai chi. Tai chi is a self-paced, non-competitive series of slow, flowing body movements.  These movements emphasize concentration, relaxation, and the conscious circulation of vital energy throughout the body. Though tai chi has its roots in martial arts, today it is primarily practiced as a way of calming the mind, conditioning the body, and reducing stress. As in meditation, tai chi practitioners focus on their breathing and keeping their attention in the present moment. Tai chi is a safe, low-impact option for people of all ages and levels of fitness, including older adults and those recovering from injuries. Once you’ve learned the moves, you can practice it anywhere, at any time, by yourself, or with others.