Tag Archives: well-being

Who are You Grateful for?

"We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives."  -John F. Kennedy

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
-John F. Kennedy

Point to Ponder:
Who are you grateful for?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Who are you grateful for? If you are like me, I would guess that this is a fairly simple question to answer and that you could create a long list of people, however, it’s likely that these people may not hear or see the words “I am grateful for you” as much as they’d like to and as often as you feel grateful for them.

It was at this exact same time last year that we launched our “I am grateful for you”, week-long letter writing campaign, and it was nothing short of beautiful! As a result of you, our members, writing gratitude letters during classes, we mailed over three hundred notes by the Thanksgiving holiday. That was approximately 2.5 gratitude notes per person, which translates to over 600 uplifted and happy hearts — with both the sender and receiver experiencing the proven benefits of gratitude. Therefore, we are absolutely committed to making this a pre-Thanksgiving tradition! My personal goal is to crush last year’s number and aim for at least three hand-written notes per person.

iGnite is emotionally invested in your well-being and we believe that the act of expressing gratitude verbally or in a handwritten note has the power to repair relationships and transform lives. And because having healthy relationships is paramount to living a low-stress and fulfilling life, we have ordered one thousand cards and we’d love to have ZERO left over when you’re done with them! The only action required is for you to attend classes throughout this week, have at least three people in mind that you are grateful for, then fill out the notes & envelopes during designated class time. The postage and trip to the post office is on us!

Finally, there is one more thing that I encourage you to pay close attention to during and after writing your gratitude notes, and that’s how you feel. Because you will have just finished exercising and/or practicing yoga, your endorphins will be flowing and you will already be feeling great, but all gratitude research proves that the result of expressing gratitude is an increase in life-satisfaction and well-being. In fact, one fascinating and very relative study by Steve Toepfer, associate professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University, found that “when a study participant wrote up to three gratitude notes about something that was important to them (not a generic “thank you” for you a gift, etc) the more they improved significantly on happiness and life satisfaction. The new and potentially important finding is that depressive symptoms decreased. Even more fascinating is that by writing these letters – 15 to 20 minutes each, once a week for three weeks to different people – well-being increased significantly.”

Gratitude. We can question its power and significance, but it’s all backed up by research. The more we express it, live in it and share it, the happier, more fulfilled and healthier we are. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s the cheapest and most effective fix on the market. Unlike everything else, there are no crazy side-effects — with the exception of extreme joy — and we can access it at our disposal. Now that’s what I call some serious good news!

Action Item:
Think about 3 people who you are grateful for and write them a personal “I am grateful for you” note this week!

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5 Books that will Improve Your Life

5BooksThatWillChangeYourLife-01

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

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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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What We Should All Learn from Children

Stop Playing, Grow Old

Point to Ponder:
Do you play enough?

Action Item:
Determine the things that make you feel most alive and start playing.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

There really isn’t a better time than the 4th of July to be reminded of what it means to be free and to live in the land of opportunity! Freedom has always been a critical element in how I choose to live my life. In fact, after working through a core values exercise, I actually thought freedom was one of my five core values. Turns out it’s not, but it’s part of my strategy to getting to several of my core values, which is likely why I felt claustrophobic, in conflict and restless during my pre-iGnite professional life. Looking back, my spirit was trapped and I needed to be set free so I could live in full self expression. Sure enough, iGnite was and is a snapshot of my spirit and how I interpret freedom and happiness.

I think we can all agree that the best example of freedom is children. Even before having children of my own, I worked with children and was always inspired by their effortless ability to play. It was actually when working with them that I recognized the importance of play and the organic spirit-lifting effect it has on people.

I get it — of course we can’t play all of the time, and I do agree that there is a time for work and play, however, we must make time to play. Play looks different for everyone, and research has found that when we play we are healthier, happier and live longer.

A great example is 81 year old Stuart Brown who is a tennis-playing and cross-country skiing psychiatrist who offices in his tree house in Carmel Valley, California (sounds pretty fantastic!). Stuart is a play-advocate and author of a book titled Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. He warns, “a life without play is a life of rigidity, lacking in creativity, joy and sustained pleasure.” He also references a woman who lives a “turbocharged” life, taking care of her family and her job as the CEO of a real estate company. Up at 5 a.m., she ran 4 or 5 miles on odd days and swam and lifted weights on even days. She started to dread life. She set out to find a solution and remembered some of her fondest memories as a child involved horses. Now, she rides one day a week and is happier and more productive.

On the heels of the 4th of July, I encourage you think more like a child, be free and play more, which of course means being fearless to try new things, too!  Much like dancing, singing and doing more of what you love, you will thrive and your spirit will have the same effect on the people you interact with as does in the “joy bomb” that takes place in the video below.

 

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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?

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A Lesson From Sandy

Friendship

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy blew through the east coast causing devastating damage to countless homes. Every night the national news continues to report on the people of New York and New Jersey whose houses are in ruins and are still without power. This of course is unimaginable and almost more than the human spirit can withstand; however, I have noticed a common thread amongst our neighbors in the East: they are sticking together like glue. Each time someone is interviewed they use words like “my friends” or “neighbors,” as they are having to rely heavily on one another to get through each day.

Mary Catherine Jarvis, a.k.a. “MC,” the free-spirited old soul and daughter of iGnite Member Anne Jarvis, lives in Manhattan and was without power for almost a week. MC shared what I think is remarkable perspective.

We are still without power and it is projected that power will not be restored until Saturday. So until then, we are candlelit. The one advantage to this whole thing is camaraderie: without cable, internet or cell service we have had to rely on good ol’ fashioned conversation to get us through. Each night people come over and we sit by candle light, drink room temp beverages, and talk and/or play board games. It has been fun, and tricky since you never really know when people are outside your apartment (no cell, no electricity to buzz people in).

It’s ironic to think that the city that never sleeps, slept, and I can only imagine how incredibly inconvenient and costly this tropical storm will prove to be. However, the gift of human touch, fellowship and companionship is where peace has been found.

As we enter the holiday months, I challenge and encourage both you and I to stay focused on people and the gift of camaraderie. Not only is it good for the soul, but  taking a break from technology is beneficial for reducing physical and mental stress too.

Check out this week’s video that showcases unique displays of camaraderie, proving that we are created to fulfill one anther’s needs which is something that technology will never accomplish.

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Point To Ponder:
When you are with people, are you focused on them or are you distracted by technology?

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Action Item:
Take a break from technology and plug into people.

To your health,

Neissa

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