“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Problem with #Perfection

Are you a #perfectionist? 

Let’s find out if perfectionism is an issue for you. Here are a few statements for you to consider (retrieved September 19, 2012 from the Centre for Clinical Interventions):


Somewhat True
Somewhat False
Nothing good comes from making mistakes

I must do things right the first time

I must do everything well, not just the things I know I’m good at

If I can’t do something perfectly then there is no point even trying

I rarely give myself credit when I do well because there’s always something more I could do

Sometimes I am so concerned about getting one task done perfectly that I don’t have time to complete the rest of my work.

If you have answered most of the above questions with True or Somewhat True, then perfectionism might be something you want to work on.

The problem with striving for perfection is we end up never feeling good enough. As a result, we miss out on enjoying life because our focus is on getting things done or trying to look like we’ve got it together. Dr. Scott Barfoot of Dallas Theological Seminary points out, “Perfectionism is the mental habit of formulating ideal standards that we demand ourselves to meet in order to prove to ourselves, to others, and to God our worth.” Unfortunately, it all boils down to our own self-worth. Perfectionist thinking says, “If I’m perfect then I am worth loving.” Peel back the layers, we find shame. “If you saw me for who I really am then you wouldn’t love me.” So, we work harder and try to perfect ourselves. Dr. Barfoot explains, “Perfectionism is at the root of a works-based faith.”  We were created for love and belonging. But the more we perfect the more we miss out on connecting and loving one another.

Watch this 5 minute video of Brené Brown talking about perfection.

Is this hitting home for you?  The Centre for Clinical Interventions has a great 9 module self-help series called Perfectionism in Perspective.  If you struggle with perfectionism, I encourage you to work through the series. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One Trick to Enhance Your Overall #Health

What do flu prevention, stress reduction, and type 2 diabetes management have in common?  They are all therapeutic benefits of mindfulness.

Ok, first things first…do you even know what mindfulness is?  What might come to mind is “being mindful” that is, “be mindful of others” or “mindful of your attitude.”  That’s not exactly what practicing mindfulness means.  The website get.gg explains mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way:  on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”  

Have you ever driven down the road, arrived at your destination without remembering how you got there?  Well, that’s the opposite of mindfulness.  Mindfulness is when you notice the feeling of the steering wheel in your hand, notice the leaves on the trees are turning color and the smell of the fall air.  You are in the moment. Your mind is not drifting somewhere else, you are not worrying about the “what ifs” and you are taking everything in (without scrutiny). Experts have found that when we spend more time “in the moment” so to speak, we have improved health.  Here is what Jeffrey Greeson (2009) of Duke University found out when he reviewed the research on mindfulness:

There is increasing scientific evidence to support the therapeutic effect of mindfulness meditation training on stress-related medical conditions, including psoriasis, type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic low back, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In addition, research has consistently shown that mindfulness training reduces symptoms of stress and negative mood states, and increases emotional well-being and quality of life, among persons with chronic illness. The use of mindfulness training in treating specific pain conditions, hypertension, myocardial ischemia, weight control, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and substance abuse is presently under investigation in research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

It appears when we practice mindfulness our brain actually changes.  In one 8-week study, in the participants who had the biggest shifts in frontal brain activity had stronger resistance to getting the flu!  The take away from that study was that mindfulness can help build up your immune system to resist disease.  Study after study shows that practicing mindfulness significantly reduces the stress hormone cortisol. What does that mean to you? Well, your body has an easier time of staying healthy. 

So what do you think, do you want to try mindfulness?

Here is a quick and simple place to start called “mindful breathing.”  Again, this is from the website get.gg:

The primary focus in Mindfulness Meditation is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.
  1. Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.
  2. Direct your attention to your breathing.
  3. When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.
  4. When you notice that your attention has drifted off and becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing.
It's ok and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

Want to read more about mindfulness?
Also try the “pray-as-you-go” website. It has MP3 that are developed to help you pray. There is a section called “Preparing to Pray”, which walks you through breathing and body exercises designed to “quiet your mind” and prepare you to enter into prayer. http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/

Want to read the full article by Jeffrey Greeson? Here it is…
Greeson, J. M. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complement Health Practitioner, 14(1), 10-18. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2679512/

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Improve Your Mood, Sleep & Relationships with Gratitude

Do you want to have a better life? Need to sleep better? How about improve your marriage? Well, one way to improve your way of living is with gratitude.  Yes, gratitude. Researchers have found that gratitude improves a person’s mood, personal relationships and overall sense of well-being (Barlett & DeSteno, 2006 & Watkins, et al, 2003). One study by Digdon & Koble (2011), found that gratitude interventions help with sleep problems. Isn’t it amazing how such a simple thing as being thankful can have such a profound affect on us? 

While I was reading the book of Philippians one day, I was struck by what my New International Version (NIV) Study Bible commentary had to say about Philippians 4:6-7. If you recall, the verse goes like this…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
 The commentator wrote about this verse (my paraphrase), worry and thanksgiving are two opposing forces; one cannot be worried and thankful at the same time.  “Wow,” I thought, “that’s good.” It occurred to me that we often focus on trying to “stop worrying” but never replace it with anything.  It’s like the “yellow car” exercise where you are told to imagine a yellow car, then told to stop thinking about the “yellow car.”

Can you stop thinking about the “yellow car?” 

Well no, because we continue to talk (or think) about it.  It’s not until we think of something else our thoughts shift. What better way to quiet the worry and anxiety in our lives then to change our focus to being grateful? Apparently, if we practice gratitude we feel better, are less anxious, plus we treat our loved ones better.  And here all along, the Bible had it right. 

Here is one way to practice gratitude: keep a gratitude journal.

  1. Get something to write in. It can be a journal, notebook or an iPad app (Yes, there’s even an app for that... get the app here).
  2. Now, write down at least 5 things you are thankful for. Be specific.
  3. Write in your journal daily. (It’s only 5 things a day, how hard can it be?)
  4. Review often. (Reflect on the things that you were grateful for yesterday as well as today).
  5. Pass it on. Smile or help someone else. Maybe you’ll end up in someone’s gratitude journal.

Want more information on gratitude journals:

Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal
I am Thankful

Bartlett, M. Y. & DeSteno, D. (2006). Helping when it costs you. Psychological Science, 17(4), 319-325.
Digdon, N. & Koble, A. (2011). Effects of constructive worry, imagery distraction, and gratitude interventions on sleep quality: A pilot trial. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(2), 193-206.
Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31(5), 431-452.