There’s more to puppies than just the treats, toys, and those chewed up brand new shoes you just bought. Critics say that puppies have the key, not only to our hearts, but to our health as well. Think about it, what do those big puppy dog eyes, unforgettable puppy breath, and sweet kisses do for you? Here is what the professionals say...
- Pets Are Natural Mood Enhancers - It only takes a few minutes of watching a dog or cat to feel less anxious and less stressed. Your body actually goes through physical changes in that time that make a difference in your mood.
- Keep Blood Pressure In Check - You still need to watch your weight and exercise, but many studies show that people with animals have lower blood pressure and lower heart rate.
- Fight Depression - Therapists have been known to prescribe a pet as a way of dealing with and recovering from depression. Petting a cat or dog has a calming affect. And taking care of a pet (walking with it, grooming it, playing with it) takes you out of yourself and helps you feel better about the way you spend your time.
- More Interaction, Less Isolation - One key to a healthy mind is staying engaged with others, and pet owners have a tendency to want to talk with other pet owners. A dog is a conversation waiting to happen.
- Better Physical Fitness- People who own dogs tend to be more physically active and less overweight then people who don’t. Taking a dog for a daily 30-minute walk will keep you moving and ensure that you maintain physical activity.
So next time you walk by the pet store, instead of taking a small glance and thinking “Aww how cute”, take a second glance because who knows maybe the key to your recovery is looking you right in the eye!!!
Forgiveness: The Gift We Give Ourselves
There are few people who arrive at adulthood without the emotional scars of injury inflicted upon them by the careless, hurtful actions of others. Most of us have experienced pain that we did not bring upon ourselves. When this happens, we are often so deeply wounded that we find ourselves holding onto these negative feelings. They become a part of our identity and we start to see ourselves as victims. If we aren’t careful, we will allow those seeds of bitterness to grow. This can cause issues for us emotionally. Depression and anxiety are often the by-products of a heart filled with unforgiveness.
“Why should I forgive? They don’t deserve my forgiveness,” you may say. To that, I would say you are absolutely correct. They do not deserve your forgiveness, but you do deserve the wonderful relief that comes to your heart when you choose to let go of the pain and begin to pursue peace. Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the person who harmed us; it is for our own benefit.
Forgiveness begins with a decision, but it is not a single act. It is a process that may take a lifetime of continual commitment. It is a consistent choice that must be made every time those negative emotions come to the surface tempting us to return to that place of emotional unrest. It is not an easy thing, but it is vital to our own peace of mind.
Forgiving others also does something else that I find amazing. It reminds us that we ourselves have been in need of forgiveness. We have hurt others, and have needed their forgiveness. This realization often allows us the grace we need to extend forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Hurting people hurts others. None of us want to be someone who causes others pain, but this can happen when we become bitter from past hurts. If we choose forgiveness, we are taking back the power of our own emotions. We become free to choose how we feel, rather than being controlled by negativity. Forgiveness is a powerful thing, and it is a gift we give ourselves.
Step Into the Sun
A few years ago I received a call from a friend who was struggling with depression. She asked if I would stop by her house for a visit. I agreed, and when I arrived I was surprised at what I saw. She had been sitting inside her home, blinds closed, in the dark. It was a beautiful day outside, but she was oblivious to this fact because she had shut out the light. She had been spending her days inside this gloomy house focusing on her pain. Is it any wonder her depression was worsening?
After much coaxing on my part, my friend agreed to a little experiment. I asked her to simply walk out onto her deck, close her eyes, and raise her face up toward the sun. “Just breathe,” I told her. I had her stay in this position for a couple of minutes. It wasn’t long before she started to smile and said, “I forgot how good this feels.” We ate lunch outside on the deck, surrounded by the sounds of nature. We could hear birds singing, feel the wind blowing, and feel the warmth of the sun filling us with much needed energy. The transformation in her mood was amazing! When we did go back inside the house, we opened the blinds! A simple act like opening the blinds or walking outside for a few minutes can give us that little lift that we need.
Sometimes we have to take baby steps out of the darkness of depression. The smallest step, like feeling the warmth of the sun on your face may make a difference. No step that is made in an effort to get well is a mistake. Every step is an important part of your recovery. If you feel the need for professional help with your depression, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friendly, caring, understanding mental health professionals are waiting to assist you.
You Can Be The Light
Have you ever been in a place of complete darkness? It can be very frightening when we can’t see what is going on around us. Our minds can begin to play tricks on us and we start to believe that the darkness will overtake us. An amazing thing occurs when someone lights a tiny, seemingly insignificant candle. The darkness is immediately dispelled and light illuminates the truth. The truth is there were no big, threatening monsters in front of us. The things we imagined would befall us in the dark simply were not real. Darkness can seem overwhelming, but the tiniest amount of light scatters it far from us.
When we turn on the evening news, it is tempting to believe that we live in a world of ever increasing darkness. We imagine that evil and violence are the norm. When we hear about the atrocities that sometimes occur, we often find ourselves dwelling on all that is evil and dark in the world. We begin to fear that these things will happen to us personally or to our family members. We begin to focus on these things, and they seem to grow and become more terrible in our minds. Instead, what if we chose to acknowledge the bad, but see it as a rare isolated horrible act? What if we chose to focus our attention on finding something positive that has yet to be created from the pain? What if we looked for opportunities as individuals to spread light and love, rather than magnifying the darkness? We can choose to be the light that extinguishes the darkness.
In our lives, there may be times when we feel the darkness surrounding us. If we aren’t careful, we will begin to focus on all that is wrong in our lives, and depression and anxiety can be the end result. It takes purposeful effort on our part, and perhaps professional help in dealing with depression, but we absolutely can overcome it. We can once again begin to see the beauty and purpose in our lives. Passion for living again returns and we can begin to see the wonderful gift of life for what it is.
One of the easiest things we can do to prevent this type of anxiety and depression is to limit our exposure to the negative influences in our lives. Negativity may come to us in the form of a toxic relationship, through our own poor decisions or even something as simple as the evening news report. It is important to identify these negative influences and limit our contact with them whenever possible.
Sometimes we tend to believe we have it so much worse than everyone else. The truth may be that we have simply formed a habit of focusing on our own circumstances. Take a moment to look for an opportunity to reach out, even though you are hurting and help someone else. Their darkness may be dispelled by your one single act of kindness. Giving to others can be very healing to us. When we reach out, we begin to focus on helping others rather than our own pain, and we find our own pain has lessened. Remember, when you find yourself surrounded by darkness, You Can Be The Light!
Creating something beautiful is a commonly misconceived requirement for creating art. It has also been said that art must be representational or positive, but art does not have to be any of those things. Art is more closely defined as a created expression of an individual’s idea. Once this realization is accepted one can begin to explore expression through visual media. As you begin you will find that the elements of art - line, shape, form, color, space, texture, and value, will help you to express a range of ideas including emotions or feelings.
Ideas that are often difficult to express with words can more easily be expressed in art. This allows the artist to take a closer look inside to find deeper insight. The important thing is to identify those thoughts and express them in a true form to create art that is uniquely you. Etienne Gilson once stated, “Art is the ability to create a new being that nobody would ever see, either in nature or otherwise, unless the artist caused it to exist.” Art empowers you as an artist because no one else can create the art that you can create. Art is not required to be beautiful it simply needs to be true to the artist, which in itself is beautiful.
With food allergies and intolerances on the rise, it can be difficult to find a recipe that is both tasty and within everyone’s specific diet restrictions. This recipe has all the rich qualities of a brownie, but can also be enjoyed by any friends or family members with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Beans make a wonderful and original alternative to refined flours, also making these brownies more nutritious than the conventional version. They are a chewy, chocolaty way to healthfully satisfy that sweets craving.
Let’s Give Our Feet a Hand!
Our feet are astonishing, complex tools that we often neglect as mere appendages hanging out at the end of our legs. Consider their make-up; each foot is a functional unit crafted from 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, 107 ligaments, and the connective tendons that help hold it all together. The soles of the feet have more sweat glands and sensory nerve endings per square inch than any other part of the body. The feet’s only anatomical rivals are our hands, which of course are fantastic things themselves.
However, our feet shoulder (see, even the shoulder gets credit for the feet’s work) the burden of carrying our bodies over an average of 8,000 – 10,000 steps per day, which adds up to 115,000 miles in a lifetime. And that is just an average. Many of us tax these marvels by running, hiking, skiing, dancing, kicking opponents in martial arts practices, and doing other upright, bipedal pursuits. The pressure on the feet when running can be as much as four times the runner’s bodyweight. One can only imagine what the pressure on a ballet dancer’s toes is when they are en pointe. Yet we expect the feet to do these things without complaint or malfunction.
One of the greatest disservices we do to our feet is to cram them into ill-fitting shoes. One would never consider doing a similar unkindness to our beloved hands. Women are the cruelest of all… imprisoning feet in high heels. It is reported that when wearing a 2 ½ inch heel, there is a 75% increase in the load to the forefoot. No wonder those fuzzy slippers feel so delicious at the end of the day! It is also important to recognize that many of us have one foot that is up to ½ size larger than the other. It is best to fit the larger foot to help prevent fatigue, soreness, and injuries. So be kind to your feet. Wear shoes that fit and support your feet.
It is also advisable to pay attention to the condition of your feet. Foot ailments are often the first sign of serious medical problems as your feet often mirror your general health. Conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in your feet. Take the time to properly care for your feet; keep them clean and dry when possible, trim those toe nails to prevent painful and infection-inducing ingrown nails, look for signs of circulation problems (swelling, discoloration, etc.) and then at the end of each day, give them a round of applause and thank them for all they did to get you through your day!
Growing Through Compassion
It started with a pitiful meow. As I listened intently, the high-pitched cry persisted, growing stronger and more insistent. We found him perched on the side of a busy road, on a bank that should have been impossible to reach – the day before Halloween. Our best guess was that the entirely black kitten had been deliberately abandoned and left to fend for himself. We coaxed him down and he immediately perched himself on the nearest shoulder, purring and rubbing his face contentedly on his rescuer. Over the next few days, we debated what to do with him. Give him to a shelter? What would become of him? We nourished and rehydrated him and calmed his upset cries throughout the night. Despite his high-maintenance state, he quickly wormed his way into our hearts (and pillows) so that the option of a shelter was all but forgotten. He liked to be petted before bed, would not eat without company and wagged his tail like a dog when excited - especially so before getting into any sort of trouble.
At his great-big adult weight of nine pounds, Mojo still leaps down the stairs, a tiny ball of black, tail-wagging excitement whenever anyone comes home. Even the vet is still his cherished friend; he climbs all over her and curls up to sleep on her clipboard when he is done. Our world quickly changed around this little being in a way that we hadn’t thought possible, so that he became something to come home to, care for, and learn from.
Mojo taught me that unconditional love can be expressed in the smallest things like the wagging of a tail and the happiness expressed at someone’s return. He taught me that discipline is quickly forgotten in favor of climbing new garage door machinery, and that you can only guide the ones you love so far.
He taught me to cherish fleeting moments without regret at their passing, and that there is always another moment around the corner. He taught me that love and compassion create some of the greatest happiness in life, and that the smallest things can be the most significant.
How many people ignored that tiny cry for help? How many people found it easier to walk away, and in so doing, passed up the opportunity for a cherished friend?
We can find lessons in the smallest packages in life. A small, abandoned kitten can teach us so many things about compassion. The unconditional love of an animal is one of the greatest kinds of love we can earn – and if they can give it to us, why can we not give it to ourselves?
This selfless, unconditional love is something we practice each time we come home to our pets. They inject happiness in our lives and teach us, over time, to express love and compassion not just to others, but also to ourselves.
And when we have self-compassion, and can forgive our mistakes and treat ourselves with selfless love, we have earned an inner, unstoppable happiness.
I Have a Dream
Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired mankind with his “I have a dream” speech. Dr. King’s dream was for every man, woman, boy and girl to be treated equally regardless of the color of their skin. In today’s world, we often forget that during the time this speech was made racial equality was just that; a dream. There was division and hostility and sadly, even violence. I’m certain many people believed the day would never come when racial equality would become a reality. Never would those same people have ever fathomed that an African American man would one day be sworn in as the President of the United States. Twice! Dreamer? No. I rather, would call Dr. King a visionary. With eyes of faith he saw what did not yet exist. Anyone can dream, but a visionary puts action and planning behind their dreams. The finished work is always in the forefront of your mind, to be pursued with passion. Dr. King dared to dream, and his dream became a reality that has changed the course of history in the United States.
Have you ever wondered what America would be like had Dr. King not dared to dream? I have. I have also wondered how many of us have that same potential to change the world around us, but we are too intimidated take action.
What do you dream of? What is it that ignites passion within your heart? Is there a long forgotten dream within you that dares to surface from time to time? Don’t push it back down. Fan the flame of your heart’s passion. Perhaps we won’t all be world changers like Dr. King, but we can all change our corner of the world. We can make a profound difference in the lives of others when we find our passion and strive to thrive therein. Your dream, your passion may be one that will impact society. The dream is within you for a reason. No one else can fulfill your destiny. It is yours alone. Dare to stand and be the next great one to say, “I have a dream…”
Big Wheels and a Broken Arm
Riding our Big Wheels on the long front porch in front of our house was always one of my favorite summertime things to do with my younger brother. One of the things that made it the most fun is that we were absolutely not allowed to do it. Our porch was several feet off the ground and my wise parents knew this was a disaster waiting to happen. My little brother and I would sneak onto the porch and ride, ride, ride. That is, until one day when my brother’s back wheel accidentally slipped over the edge of the porch, landing him in the middle of a gigantic rose bush, with an open fracture to his right arm. I was terrified! My first thought was not that my brother’s bone was now sticking through his skin, but that we were in big trouble for disobeying….again! I wasn’t sure which scared me most. Looking back on that day, I can’t help but laugh and laugh. What a mess! But then, we were always getting into some type of mischief: my little brother and I.
On Thanksgiving Day 2011 my little brother died suddenly. He died of pneumonia at only 43 years old. My world was upside down. I had never experienced this type of grief. For several months, it didn’t seem real. I kept expecting him to walk in at family gatherings or to call me on the telephone and say something funny. When none of those things came, the realization that he was gone began to sink in. It was permanent, and I fell apart. I had to find a way to move forward, and find solace. All the questions that were swirling through my mind had no answers. “Why?” “Why him? And why now?” It didn’t take long for me to realize, sometimes we don’t get to have those questions answered.
As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months my sadness did indeed change. I could think of him, and not cry. After a few more months, I could even talk about him and not cry. I actually discovered that there was great peace that came to me when I would simply relive some of our escapades we had as children. I could even laugh! Though it may seem strange, I found a way to move forward, and it was by looking back. I have so many memories of our time together. These times are simply of two kids playing and growing up together, but for me they are priceless, and more importantly, they are healing.
I can’t tell you that I never think of my brother and shed tears. There are days when I miss him terribly, but typically my conscious choice is to go back in my mind to all the adventures we had and laugh. Those adventures bring me great joy, and none of them so hilarious as the one including Big Wheels and a broken arm!