Wednesday, April 27, 2016


“Those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others” Booker T. Washington

Once in awhile, I get absorbed by my own world of problems and stresses, to the point where it can be hard to get out and do anything. I turn inward, and when presented with a new opportunity or activity, an inner voice cries “What’s the point? Why even bother? What difference will it make?” This voice, if listened to, can paralyze us into inaction. It wants us to become complacent, or even worse, to wallow in self-pity and despair. The best way I’ve found to counter this voice is to get out and do some service work. This type of work in particular can help you feel connected with others, regain a feeling of purpose, and help you get out of your head.

There’s something about uniting for a greater good that makes us feel connected with other people. Whether it’s fellow volunteers or the group/community you’re providing service for, you have at least a vague awareness that what you’re doing is benefiting another person. I’ve found this is a great method of pulling myself out of a funk. My problems melt away as I remind myself that I’m surrounded by so many others who might need something I have to offer. Volunteering also reminds us that inspiration comes in many forms. Although volunteer work at times seems unglamorous, it can invoke an overwhelming sense of gratitude and belonging. And, if you happen to be feeling down, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up” (Mark Twain).

While you’re helping make the lives of others better, you’re also reminded that there is so much more. We all have bad days- car problems, stress at work, or generally just feeling low- it’s just part of being human. The great thing is that we have complete control over how we react to these situations. We can pull away from the world and wrap ourselves up a self-pity blanket, or we can reach out and grab onto something larger. That’s not to say your problems are not real or upsetting- you should never minimize your emotions. I know when the world is throwing a lot at me and I want to crumble, sometimes my reaction is to think that ultimately, I don’t matter and there’s no point. Volunteer work is a perfect counter to such thoughts: “Devote yourself to the community around you and devote yourself to something that gives you purpose & meaning” (Mitch Albom).

Creating Wish for the Sky ( was my solution to a life-changing situation, and it brings me joy to bring a bit of joy into the lives of others. Doing something selfless for another, no matter how small it may seem at the time, can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. I also hope that it inspires my children to do similar work! It’s the best way I’ve discovered to get out of a rut, and you never know what else you’ll gain along the way!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


“Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it”- David Suzuki

Did your parents ever tell you to play outside? Sure, there’s a chance that they probably just wanted to get you out of the house for a bit, but you might want to thank them for sending you outside. Studies are showing that spending more time outside can actually be incredibly beneficial for children and adults alike, and not just because of the fresh air.

Spending time outside has some often overlooked benefits for developing brains. First, there’s the benefit of encouraging curiosity and imagination that comes from playing outdoors. Then, there are deeper developmental skills like concentration, depth perception, and motor skills that are increased with playing outside (resource here). Today, when kids are playing indoors, they’re usually looking at screens of some sort, which can limit their visual development. Getting outside allows them to really experience the physical world and give their senses a chance to develop. Using a screen doesn’t offer anything to the senses- there’s no smell, no touch (think texture here- touch screens don’t count!), maybe some manufactured sound, and a sense of two-dimensional sight (as mentioned before). By getting immersed in nature, children are creating a bond with the physical world and allowing their senses to develop, not to mention the benefits of encouraging the use of imagination and unstructured play.

Getting outside (as our parents probably noticed) is also great way to burn off some excess energy in a healthy way: “Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls” (Erin Kenny). Rather than just telling them to go outside, though, what about getting out and joining them? “Don’t just tell your kids to be active and to get outside and play. Lead by example.” Summer Sanders. If your kids are reluctant for some reason to head outdoors, just go with them. Make it a part of family time- you can head to a local park, playground, or the backyard if you have that option. I guarantee that you’ll feel better by the end of the adventure, too.

As an adult, you can benefit from being outside just as much as the kids. Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, explains something he refers to as “nature deficit disorder” in this interview with National Geographic. He argues that all humans are happier, more creative, and healthier when they immerse themselves in nature on a regular basis. If you’ve ever gone for a hike, walk, swim, or bike outside after a stressful day, you’ll probably concede that connecting with nature has some undeniable benefits. Louv concedes that for those of us who live in urban areas it’s difficult to access nature, so he offers a few ideas on how to do so.

This Earth Day, and every day that you possibly can, spend some time outdoors enjoying nature with your family. You never know what kind of magic you’ll find out there- as Roald Dahl reminds us in James and the Giant Peach: “There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours that you haven’t started wondering about yet.” Happy exploring!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


"You never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”

We’ve discussed how hard it can be to start new habits before. The other day, I was thinking to myself (and now to all of you), what about the opposite? What about quitting bad habits? When the day comes when you finally realize that a certain behavior is no longer serving its purpose in your life, it can be hard to let go. Sometimes, breaking an old habit can be harder than starting a new one! In the spirit of the season, think of this post as spring cleaning for the soul.

Why is it so hard to break a habit? Part of it is directly related to the brain and creating conditioned responses to situations. For instance, if something stressful happens and your reaction is to smoke a cigarette, that will eventually become your default setting. So, when you try to quit smoking and something stressful happens, you’re going to have a bit of a struggle fighting that knee-jerk reaction. When faced with this difficulty of breaking a conditioned response, many people waver. Another reason it can be hard to break an unhealthy habit is fear. Once we let go of this unhealthy habit, what’s on the other side? It may very well be health and happiness, but we don’t have any guarantee. We do, however, know what happens when we continue with our unhealthy behavior. It’s reliable. It’s helpful to remember, no matter how terrifying the unknown may seem, that there’s a an opportunity for a beautiful transformation on the other side. This little bit always gives me a surge of hope: “How does one become a butterfly?” “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

Having an unhealthy habit doesn’t make you any less loveable or undeserving as anyone else. Just because you smoke or have a tendency to eat too much sweet food doesn’t make you a terrible person. If you approach habit-breaking from a place of self love rather than self loathing, it changes things. The following quote from Sally Hogshead is a great reminder to eliminate shame from your attitude about yourself/your habits: “The goal is not to change who you are, but to become more of who you are at your best”

To change requires a great deal of courage. It’s not easy to let go of something that has acted as a crutch or distraction, even if it’s detrimental to your well-being. It’ll be difficult at first, while you retrain yourself to find a new approaches to old situations, and you probably won’t get it right on the first try. Keep trying, because it’s never too late to start over: “I hope you live a life you're proud of and, if you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


“As we give, we find that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, and in the end, we learn that it was no sacrifice at all” -Spencer W. Kimball

Easter was a couple weekends ago, and although it’s gone by, it’s still a great time to reflect on the nature of the holiday (that is, the idea of self-sacrifice and giving). Our society tends to be turned in toward ourselves, our own wants, desires, and egos, that before we agree to any sort of commitment, we first ask ourselves “What’s in it for me?” I say “tends to,” because this is by no means true of everyone or every situation people encounter. Sometimes, it isn’t even necessarily a conscious thought- rather, it’s something that lingers in the back of the mind as we come to a decision. Easter, for me, is a reflection on giving for the sake of giving. The best gift is the one that asks for nothing in return.

This particular type of giving is, when it boils down to it, the definition of selflessness. Whether we’re giving someone a thoughtful gift, a visit, a hand with moving, or even just a phone call, it may be a good idea to think about why we’re doing it. Is there an ulterior motive behind what you’re doing? Creating awareness is the first step in making any sort of change. Even if you realize you have an agenda that you weren’t aware of before (i.e. “Showing support for this event will help me gain some popularity”), it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow through (generally, keeping commitments is the more important consideration). We’re not always going to be perfectly, 100% selfless all the time, but it helps to remember the true purpose of giving back is to positively affect another human being: “I don't think you ever stop giving. I really don't. I think it's an on-going process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life” (Oprah Winfrey).

Although Easter focuses on the idea of the ultimate sacrifice, it doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death. You don’t need to be rich, famous, or powerful in order to give back. Simply being present and offering your full attention to someone or a situation is enough. Just offer what you can, even if it’s your smile: “Be helpful. When you see a person without a smile, give them yours”- Zig Ziglar. Small gestures can be just as fulfilling as grand gestures- and just as appreciated.
What are some ways you can think of to give for the sake of giving- whether it’s a group, community, or specific person? Even though Easter has come and gone, it’s always a good time to give! You will always get something in return: people who give back tend to be happier: “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more” (H. Jackson Brown, Jr). Start giving and getting happy!