Tag Archives: emotional health

5 Books that will Improve Your Life


by Catherine Sanderson

by Catherine Sanderson

With February comes a lot of focus on showing others our love through Valentine’s Day…but what about loving ourselves well in February?   Really, if we don’t love ourselves well first, it’s impossible to give our best love and care to the others in our life. So on that note, we wanted to share 5 great books that will help you do just that — show some love to the one and only you by making sure you’re taken care of first.

Carry on Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton

Cary's pick

Cary’s pick

“I love Carry on Warrior.  Not a book of inspirations or how to’s, but inspiring and real, I just love it.”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz


Catherine’s pick

“I first learned about The Four Agreements from Neissa, who raved about it — so I knew I had to read it.  The book is short & sweet– and the four simple principles it introduces really and truly change how you approach every single uncomfortable situation and difficult decision.   Once I started applying the 4 ideas to my daily mindset, I noticed a huge change in the stress and discomfort I felt in previously ‘difficult’ situations.  So, so worth the read!  I even found my bff and I talking about one of the ‘agreements’ at a happy hour last week — It’s stuff that sticks with you.” 

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd

Amy's pick

Amy’s pick

“I love the book When the Heart Waits. It is really well-written. Grounded in personal experience and bolstered with classical spiritual disciplines, this book offers an alternative to fast-fix spirituality.” 

 The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

Neissa's pick

Neissa’s pick

“One of my favorite self-love/self-improvement books is The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino. I read this book at a confusing time of my life when my self-esteem low and I was questioning my purpose and future. This book is a quick yet powerful read because it beautifully states how uniquely and purposefully created we are- full of nothing but potential. It was a game changer for me and it, along with The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz, are the two books I give every college graduate.” 

Spiritual Disciples Handbook: Practices that Transform Us  by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Alli's pick

Alli’s pick

“I was introduced to Spiritual Disciplines Handbook a few years ago when I served as an elder on the session at my church.  We, as a session, decided to study this book over the course of two years. Each month, one or two of us would choose one of the 50+ disciplines described in the book that seemed pertinent to us individually, then introduce it to the other members of the session at our monthly meeting. Then, all of us would work on that discipline and report back about the impact on our lives at the next meeting.  This book has since then been a fixture on my bedside table, and I still refer to it regularly. Truly, the practices are transformative.”   Try them out and let us know what you think!

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The #gratefulgram Challenge

Join us in our November #gratefulgram challenge!  Starting today and throughout the month of November, I invite you to join me in taking photos (each day if possible) of the things you are grateful for and posting them on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter or your social media outlet(s) of choice with the hastag #gratefulgram and tagging iGnite's social media profile. For participating, you will be entered into a prize drawing for iGnite to donate $50 in your name to the charity or non-profit you are most grateful for!

Join us in our November #gratefulgram challenge! Starting today and throughout the month of November, I invite you to join me in taking photos (each day if possible) of the things you are grateful for and posting them on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter or your social media outlet(s) of choice with the hashtag #gratefulgram and tagging iGnite’s social media profile. For participating, you will be entered into a prize drawing for iGnite to donate $50 in your name to the charity or non-profit you are most grateful for!

“Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something we could be grateful for.”
-Barry Neil Kaufman

Point to Ponder:
Are there things around you can be more grateful for that you might normally take for granted?

Do you know that there are only seven and a half weeks — that’s seven Saturdays and fifty-two days — until Christmas? (and I included both Thanksgiving day and Christmas Eve). So, take those days away and realistically we only have fifty days until Christmas. How does that make you feel? If you’re like me, it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies that it should. Instead, it makes me tense up and think about how I turn into a consumer zombie and spend way too much money on unnecessary things, which in turn gives me the creepy crawlies. But wait, all of this is avoidable, right? Absolutely! I’m going to do it different this year and it’s going to start now, by counting down the days to Thanksgiving — which is actually my favorite holiday (besides Daylight Savings Time when we gain an hour of sleep…technically not a holiday, but I LOVE it!).

What I love so much about Thanksgiving is that it’s simple. Granted, I’ve never had to prepare a Thanksgiving meal, so that’s easy for me to say, but Thanksgiving for my family revolves around the 3 F’s: family, food, and football. We don’t have to travel far, there’s no gift giving, and we just spend time with one another. And, more simple than the Thanksgiving holiday is how our life can make a 180 degree turn for the better when we take the time each day to recognize and show appreciation towards one thing that we are grateful for.

In an interesting article in Psychology Today called “The Grateful Brain“, Dr. Alex Korb sites four scientific studies proving that expressing and showing gratitude towards anything activates brain regions associated with the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. Fascinatingly, “once you start recognizing the things you are grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for.” And, even more extraordinary, “in a study from the National Institute of Health, researchers examined blood flow in various brain regions while subjects summoned up feelings of gratitude (ZAHN etal, 2009). They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels. Dr. Korb states that this brain activity evidence makes it clear how improvements in gratitude could have such wide-ranging effects from increased exercise, and improved sleep to decreased depression and fewer aches and pains.

There’s no denying that gratitude is a life-improving game changer, which is why I am proposing you join iGnite in our #gratefulgram challenge during the month of November. Starting today and throughout the month of November, I invite you to join me in taking photos (each day if possible) of the things you are grateful for and posting them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or your social media outlet/outlets of choice with the hastag #gratefulgram and also tagging iGnite’s social media profile. I encourage you to not over-think what you are grateful for. You having gratitude for your car starting in the morning is equally as great and wonderful as posting a photo of your family. According to Dr. Alex Korb, gratitude is gratitude and regardless of what you have gratitude for, it all counts. You can check out my Instagram account and Facebook profile to get a visual of how simple it can be. And, for those of you who participate, you will be entered into a prize drawing for iGnite to donate $50 in your name to the charity or non-profit you are most grateful for (just be sure and tag iGnite and #gratefulgram to enter)!

Above is a picture I took while attending last Friday’s sunrise Core & Stretch on the Texas Rowing Center’s dock, for which I was and continue to be grateful for. What I love about being able to capture our blessings is that they make us more aware of how abundantly blessed we really are and in turn improves our overall quality of life. And overt gratitude has the opportunity to improve the overall quality of someone else’s life! Gratitude changes everything and that’s the warm fuzzies I’m talking about!

Action Item:
Watch this week’s inspiring video (below), and throughout the month of November take one picture each day of something you are grateful for and post it on your social media outlet/outlets of choice.

I know, I know. It’s another Oprah video, but I promise it’s totally relevant. We need to just make Oprah an honorary member 🙂 She’s sooo iGnite!

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Just Do It!


“Confidence is like a muscle: The more you use it the stronger it gets..” (Anonymous)

Point to Ponder:
Do you lack confidence?

Action Item:
Get outside your comfort zone this week by trying an exercise or class you wouldn’t usually try.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Well, I did it! Last Monday I flew to Santa Monica for my ‘de-blorfting’ trip— a personal getaway (all by myself and for myself) for the sole purpose of recharging my battery. And just as the wise and wonderful iGnite member Louise Pincoffs warned me I would, the day before I left I began questioning if I indeed needed the trip and if it was worth the hassle of organizing myself and the family for my departure. I won’t lie, there was tension in the household, which made it even more uncomfortable for me to leave. Then, of course, I had multiple conversations with ‘Lady Guilt.’ She tried, almost successfully, to convince me that I was being a bad and selfish wife and mother by doing something completely for me. But I had prepared for her pathetic attempts and for no other reason than to defeat her, I was going on this trip!

Upon arriving and for about the first eight to twelve hours, it was rough. I didn’t know what to do with myself. As much as I wanted to completely remove my ’wife,’ ‘mom’ and ‘business owner’ hats and instantly make the trip about me, it was impossible because I had not practiced it since pre-marriage! I’m a giver and a do-er, and as good as it sounds to completely relax, have a glass of wine and empty my brain, this was waaayyyyy out of my comfort zone and much more difficult than I anticipated. In fact, I even considered catching an early flight back. However, I continued to remind myself that good things always come from discomfort and I would be cheating myself and my husband Russell’s confidence in keeping the children if I didn’t stay the course.

Long story short, after a five-mile walk along the beach, a glass of wine, a few phone calls with two veteran wife and mom friends reminding me why it was so important to be on this trip, the guilt, discomfort and fear was completely gone, and I found my groove. In fact, by sunrise on day two I was ready to add another day!

As I had hoped, this trip did wonders for my body, my mind, my spirit and for mine and Russell’s relationship. Oddly, we had better conversations on the phone than we have had in years. They weren’t rushed or interrupted, they were brutally honest, and there were no arguments. Because our roles were reversed for the first time ever, it was an incredible opportunity for us to see things from each other’s perspective. We shared compassion and gained a greater appreciation for each other and the roles we typically play.

I also finished reading The Confidence Code (our suggested summer read) which continues to get more fascinating with each page. In it, the authors interview a range of confidence scientists and experts. I was completely unprepared for one piece of research: that between 25% and 50% of our confidence is in our DNA, meaning we are genetically predisposed to have less or more confidence (regardless of our environment, experiences, etc). Another finding proved that while we are genetically predisposed to have less or more confidence, much like being born with the certain skill sets and talents, the more we practice confidence, the more comfortable we get at using it. So, to translate this finding into muscular physiology, most of us are born with more slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are the endurance type muscle fibers, however by performing and practicing quick and explosive movements, we can actually recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, which will inevitably increase our speed and quickness. And so, the notion to ‘JUST DO IT’ (which the authors and of course Nike suggest), by practicing doing the uncomfortable things that we really want and need to do but avoid because we fear failure or the unknown outcome, is absolutely necessary in building confidence.

Lucky for us, summer is within an arm’s reach. I don’t know why, but the summer season has always felt like we can color outside of the lines and tip toe beyond our margins more than we would typically allow ourselves during any other season. With this liberty comes the opportunity to practice stretching our confidence zones. You can actually start in a safe place, like iGnite, and then take a class you have feared you can’t do or practice an exercise or pose you didn’t think you were strong enough to perform. Then you take that confidence/momentum and apply it when trying something else you’ve been hesitant or reluctant to try, do, or talk about.

When you practice enough, your confidence builds like a fast growing snow ball rolling down a mountain. Soon enough it becomes a massive avalanche and you become unstoppable! The bottom line is, you have to say ‘yes’ to yourself and JUST DO IT! Without a doubt, you can count on iGnite to be your never-ending source of encouragement and cheerleaders. We all have one shot at this life and we want to knock it out of the park with you. So let’s JUST DO IT!


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What Are You Paying Attention To?

“For one minute, walk outside, stand there, in silence,look up at the sky and contemplate how amazing life is.”   (Unknown)

What are you paying attention to?

Every day this week, at least once each day, step outside, take a deep breath and contemplate how amazing your life is. Then, complete the cycle by sharing your amazing life and gifts with someone else. It’s the human world’s circle of life.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

There is no doubt that May is spring’s December. Not only does May consist of Mother’s Day and Memorial Day (both special and fun, but often also filled with heavy emotions and busy travel), but it’s also the month of transition, endings and beginnings — end of school activities, graduations and weddings. Until June arrives, it can be just plain nutty!

So, upon hearing the brilliant quote by author Sue Monk Kidd: “We become what we pay attention to,” I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to shift our mindsets to gratitude rather than let “the crazies” move in and potentially hijack our joy.

I really do appreciate being reminded that our lives are not a product of destiny, but rather a sum of our attitudes and choices — many being very difficult at times. We of course can’t always control our circumstances, however we can control what we pay attention to.

So, how about you? Are you paying attention to your hectic schedule, or to the blessing of a full life? To work deadlines or to the blessings of having a job and salary? To your significant other’s shortcomings or to their qualities and characteristics you admire and love? To not being the same size you were this time last year, or to the blessings of health and freedom of choice? To construction along MoPac and Austin traffic or to the blessing and convenience of a car? To running your child/children all over Austin for activities or to the blessing of a healthy child?

Our lives are inundated with distractions that shift our focus to unimportant things — adding zero value and actually taking away from our lives. However, it’s our choice to pay attention to what matters.


A Bacon Reaction Ripple Effect

It’s been great to hear your candid conversations this week about our reactions and how they create a positive or negative ripple effect.  While there are certainly situations that always produce bigger reactions than others, this week’s video is a funny example of ‘not keeping things in perspective’ and creating more drama than necessary.

Have a good laugh and enjoy creating your positive ripple effect (and reaping the benefits)!

Video not working? Watch it here on YouTube

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The Cause & Effect Reaction in Life

(Wisdom from Children’s Books & Movies Part I)

“I’m convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.  And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
-Charles R. Swimdoll

Point to Ponder:
What ripple effect will you choose to create with your life?

Action Item:
Focus on how you react to situations that arise this week, practicing keeping a level head and a bigger perspective.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Although I don’t spend a ton of time watching television, there are moments when I like to “veg,” be a noodle and watch some good ol’ brainless TV. However, due to the ages of my children, gone are the days of (at least for now) watching The Voice, Modern Family or The Kardashians (please don’t judge me)! Instead, we now rely on our Disney Pixar DVD collection for entertainment.  While I already knew that each movie has a moral to its story, up until recently I really hadn’t paid much attention to more than their brilliant animation or their occasional “that’s not a kind word that we don’t ever say” teachable moments. Honestly, when the movies play I am usually on autopilot — picking up toys, making dinner, etc. Until recently. Lately I’ve become more intentional and I now listen to the themes — which are impressively chock-full of wisdom.

There’s no doubt that we adults can over-complicate life in about two seconds flat. It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s most important, which is why over the span of several weeks I am going to share with you what I consider to be some of the best and most important lessons and wisdom from children’s books and movies, at least from my three years of limited parenting perspective.

The most recent powerful dose of wisdom I ran across comes from the children’s book Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth. Thinking that the short stories would be at least worth contemplating, iGnite Member Olivia Osborne loaned me the book. Well, “worth contemplating” is putting it lightly. This book is exploding with greatness. Therefore, and without further adieu, I bring to you “The Farmer’s Luck” from Zen Shorts:

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses. “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the farmer. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Such bad luck,” they said. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight a war. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

I can only speak for my own interpretation of this short story, but what stands out to me is how the farmer maintained an unemotional and unbiased attitude throughout both the high and low moments in his life. This leads me to question how often I judge or put a “good” or “bad” label on my circumstances and how those judgements affect the next thing that happens to me…and then the next…and then the next! It also reminds me of the frequency at which I get short-sighted and allow a situation to influence my energy.

Truly, our lives are nothing short of cause-and-effect science experiments. There is extreme power in how we react to everything, because what we put out, we get back. Drama attracts more drama, while gratitude attracts peace of mind and creates joy.

Our attitude has either a positive or negative ripple effect that inevitably affects the lives of everyone around us and everything we do. Just imagine if everyone’s ripple effect were a negative one?! Or adversely, a positive? Fortunately, you are the only one who can control your power, potential and ripple effect.   So, which ripple effect will you choose to create?


A Love Letter to You

Have you ever considered writing a gratitude or love letter, to yourself?  We know it seems strange, but consider how much more we might appreciate and love ourselves if we acknowledged and focused on our unique qualities, fully-functioning body parts, and positive characteristics, gifts and journeys — instead of the negative things about ourselves!
For some inspiration, check out this video and remember: YOU. ARE. AWESOME.

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‘Pop’ Your Spell

Don Miguel Ruiz says “one fear or doubt planted in our mind (in the form of a word or comment and by another human being) can create an endless drama of events.” In other words, we’ve chosen to believe the words of another person as truth and it has cast a negative spell on our life. This belief is holding us back! Conversely, we really know the truth, and at any point we have the power to break the spell and be set free from all untruths that will allow us to reach our unlimited potential. Really, the choice is as simple as writing it on a balloon, popping the balloon, and letting it go, as seen in this week’s video.

Happy Spring Break!


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Fasting From Two Nasty Habits (The ‘Antidote for Exhaustion’ Challenge II)

“When you refuse to take anything personally you avoid many upsets in your life. Your feelings of anger, jealousy — and even your sadness — will disappear if you don’t take things personally.”
– Don Miguel Ruiz

Point to Ponder:
Do people ever tell you that you take things too personally or make negative assumptions?
…could they possibly be right?

Action Item:
Take the 3 scenario quiz in the journal and  order your copy of The Four Agreements to read over Spring Break.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

I don’t know about you, but this whole ‘antidote for exhaustion’ topic has me spinning in all of the right directions. I find myself thinking about it all of the time and thankfully feel zero obligation to say yes to anything I’m not interested in or that will take precious time or energy away from my family and iGnite.  I’ve also caught myself red-handed in ‘comparison mode.’  The most recent example was this weekend, at a four year old’s birthday party, really!  There were lots of moms with their little boys, and sure enough, I was sizing the moms up.  I know! That’s crappy, and I hate to admit it, but I am guilty. However, when I catch myself comparing, I immediately give myself ‘a talking-to’ and analyze why in the world I just can’t be in the moment.  I suppose comparing — like the Bermuda Triangle — is one of the great mysteries of life, but I am committed to remaining aware and trying to eliminate the disgusting habit that prevents me from living wholeheartedly. And even though I don’t get on Facebook much, not having it as an option to look at and subconsciously compare through (because I’m doing the 7-day cleanse) has been immensely cleansing and freeing.

Speaking of ‘freeing,’ about twelve years ago, my husband Russell suggested that I read the short and simple book The Four Agreements.  He said it impacted his life and he thought it would do the same for mine. So, I read it and not only did it impact my life, but it changed my life and absolutely gave me the freedom that  enabled me to live less exhaustedly, and more wholeheartedly.

By taking this short quiz, let’s see if you could benefit from reading The Four Agreements:
Read these 3 scenarios and ask yourself if the reaction described sounds familiar…

  1. You run into a colleague or acquaintance and he/she doesn’t engage you in conversation and seems disinterested. You’re confused and wondering what you did to make him/her react in such an unfriendly way.
  2. You were not invited to a lunch/wedding/party that many of your friends/co-workers were invited to. Your feelings are hurt, and you think you must have done something wrong or that something is wrong with you to not be included.
  3. Someone sent you a short and monotone email (with no smiley faces, exclamation points or xo’s). You think they are upset with you and you ask yourself over and over what you said or did wrong.

To clarify, assumptions are non-truths, yet we believe they are the truth.  So, if you answered ‘yes’ to any of the three scenarios then you are guilty of making an assumption and taking it personally, which we all do all of the time.

Before reading The Four Agreements, I was completely unaware of how many assumptions I was making each day and how personally I was taking each assumption. Let’s just say I stayed emotionally exhausted — trying to be liked by everyone and always wondering why he/she didn’t say hello or looked at me in a certain way. Clearly I was letting other people’s “stuff” affect my emotions, when I’m sure what he/she did or didn’t say to me really had nothing to do with me.  All in all, it was a complete and total waste of my emotional time and energy, and when I finally stopped making assumptions and taking things personally, a new freedom and world opened up for me!

Even though I’ve read the book, it’s time for a re-read.  With Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Spring Break all around the corner, this week I encourage you to join me in fasting from making assumptions and taking things personally. I promise this will create in you more wholehearted spiritual and emotional space, which will allow you to focus on the important endeavors in your life: the things that really matter. I also encourage you to read The Four Agreements over Spring Break. It’s a quick and simple read and can be ordered here on Amazon for less than $8.00. It will be at your doorstep within one to two days of ordering. The Kindle Edition is available too.

There are two more equally life-changing agreements in The Four Agreements that we will discuss next week. Until then, here’s to letting go of unwanted drama and emotional highs and lows!

Proclaiming Your Passions Over Your Problems

talk about your joys

“If you want to get over a problem, stop talking about it. Your mind affects your mouth and your mouth affects your mind. It’s difficult to stop talking about a situation until you stop thinking about it.”
~Joyce Meyer

Point to Ponder:
What current situation do you find yourself venting about?

Action Item:
Make a conscious effort this week to replace negative comments about “problems” with positive statements that spread only joy.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

I admit, I’ll do just about anything to avoid a chronic complainer or negative person. With that said, I absolutely think it’s healthy and necessary to vent our frustrations and unload our struggles to trusted friends. In fact, in order to feel like I am not living alone on my own planet, I’ve recently needed to vent, but in doing so I have found that it’s a slippery slope because I’ve not gotten over my so called ‘problems.’  Like the quote in the picture says, I’ve found that the more I talk about them, the more I think about them, which only causes more frustration.

There’s no doubt that all problems are relative, and what seems cumbersome to one person can be trivial to the other. Despite the range of problems, everyone feels like they have them — but if I really get honest with myself, I don’t have one real problem. Instead, I’m just discouraged and tired. However, the truth is that the root of my complaining wasn’t just so I could be heard, the truth is that I wanted someone to validate my feelings and feel sorry for me… which is laughable.

Because I don’t like complainers, which translates to “I am tired of hearing my self-absorbed pity party,” I’m making it a goal to stop complaining about my ridiculous “problems” and start proclaiming my passions instead (even if it’s in my mind and only to myself). I tested the theory over the weekend and not only do I feel better, but I like myself more and appreciate my life a lot more!

I’m a big-picture thinker, and in being this way I always imagine the monumental possibilities when a group of people embark on a positive initiative together. So in this particular situation, I invite and challenge you to join forces with me and make it a new year’s goal to proclaim your passions over your problems. And, when I say passions, I mean anything that brings you joy. Whether they are your pets, family, work or hobbies, your passions are yours and by sharing them you are spreading joy, which everyone needs more of!