10 Spring Random Acts of Kindness

In a world full of hatred and fear, let’s take every opportunity to spread a little love and kindness. Spring, along with every other season, is a wonderful time to do Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.). Today I would like to share with you 10 R.A.K.s tailored to this season.

spring R.A.K.

1. Leave sidewalk chalk messages

My neighbours did this just last week. We live in a university area and the students are all heading home for the summer. My neighbours wrote “goodbye” and “happy summer” messages to these students. They left the bucket of chalk out so that others walking by could also leave messages.

2. Clean up road-side litter

Somehow, people think that it is okay to litter in the winter time because the snow will hide their trash. But when the snow begins to melt away, the ditches start to look like a garbage dump. Old furniture, toilets, and many other large items can be found in the ditch once spring rolls around. Unfortunately not all of us are able to pick up the big stuff, but we can take time to gather the small trash like paper cups, beer bottles, and food wrappers.

3. Put flowers on a strangers grave

Many graves tend to go without flowers during the wintertime because it is just too difficult to trudge through the deep snow in the cemetery. Many people visit their loved ones’ graves in the spring (especially on Mother’s and Father’s Day). While taking flowers to your own families graves, why not take flowers to a grave that you notice doesn’t usually have flowers on it.

4. Volunteer to clean up a cemetery

We all know that when spring comes our yards sometimes look less than presentable. They can be covered with stray twigs or piles of leaves that blew into corners the previous fall. Even before the grass grows, it seems that weeds seem to sprout in the spring. A cemetery is no exception to this spring mess. This is an excellent time to volunteer to do some spring clean up. Many cemeteries have certain maintenance guidelines, so you might like to contact the caretaker for some advice. This could also be a great time to clean the tombstones, although extra care must be taken when doing this since many historic tombstones are very delicate. Read this article on Cleaning Gravestones for more information.

5. Help an elderly person clean up their yard

As I mentioned in the above point, spring can mean a messy yard. Why not help an elderly person with this task? Since spring is a lovely time to get outside anyway, why not take this opportunity to help someone else?

spring yard cleaning
Help an elderly person clean up their yard a spring R.A.K.

6. Send a special gift to your child’s teacher

Its the time of the year when everyone is feeling a little restless. The kids want to get outside and play. The teacher is ready for a holiday. In my own experience, I found spring to be the toughest time of the school year. Why not send a random gift to your child’s teacher as a way to encourage him/her?

7. Take fresh flowers to an elderly “shut-in”

Many elderly people are not able to get outside to enjoy the loveliness of the season. They would greatly appreciate a fresh bunch of tulips or daffodils that would help them celebrate spring.

take tulips to an elderly person
Take spring tulips to an elderly person as a spring R.A.K.

8. Pay for an extra scoop of ice cream for the person in line behind you

In my area, many ice cream shops close for the winter. When they reopen in the spring, we all flock to their door (even if it is still pretty cold outside). As a gesture of kindness, pay for an extra scoop of ice cream for the person behind you. Try to do it quietly so they don’t know until the get to the cash, and you have already exited.

9. Volunteer to sweep the parking lot of a local church or not-for-profit organization’s office

While we appreciate the use of sand on icy parking lots during the winter, when the ice and snow melt, the sand remains behind. Many churches and organizations can’t afford to hire a truck with a sweeper. It is often the pastor or a staff member who volunteers their own time to this task. Why not make their day by offering to do it for them?

10. Buy summer toys at the dollar store and give out to your friends and neighbours kids.

This might include bubbles, skipping ropes, frisbees, and sidewalk chalk. You might try giving them to strangers, but just be careful about approaching a strange child when their parents/guardians are not in close proximity.

summer toys
Give summer toys to kids as a spring R.A.K. (This little boy stole his sister’s Frisbee!)

I got so excited about this topic that I couldn’t make myself stop at ten. So here is a bonus one!

Give your umbrella to someone who doesn’t have one.

This could be an extra one you carry with you for this purpose (you can buy them at the dollar store). Or, you can truly be sacrificial and give away your own to an elderly person or someone who needs it more than you.

Doing spring R.A.K.s can be a great yearly family tradition. I’d love to hear some of your favourite spring R.A.K.s.

Happy spring!

Joanna

Spring Journal Prompts

I wonder how many of my readers keep a journal. While I don’t write in mine everyday, I find journal writing to be very therapeutic. Not only does it allow me to record my personal thoughts, it also works as an spring board for inspiration. You may have noticed that I missed posting last week. I admit the creative juices where running extremely low. Even though I had a topic in mind, I just couldn’t get my thoughts down on paper (or computer!). It was time to refocus. I did this by getting out my journal and writing down all the things that inspire me. I often do this when I am bored, lonely, or sad. My list might include the smell of fresh cut hay, the sound of a train whistle, the feel of a puppy’s furry head, the sight of a pink sunset, and the taste of my mother’s apple pie. As you can see, in this list I incorporate things that stimulate all of my senses. I also love to make these lists for each season by reflecting on how that particular season stimulates my senses and inspires me. This week in my journal, I am focusing on the spring season.

spring journal prompts

Now let me say that here in Canada, spring seems like it will never come this year. We still have traces of snow on the ground and there is basically no life showing from the trees and plants (although the crocuses have been faithful). However, in my spirit, I know that spring is not too far away, and so I have felt the need to start a series in my journal on the delights of springs. I thought I would share with you my list of spring journal prompts for one week.

Day 1: Sights of Spring

Day 2: Sounds of Spring (Not only does this include the sounds of nature, but for me, it also includes certain songs like This is My Father’s World.)

Day 3: Smells of Spring

Day 4: Tastes of Spring

Day 5: Textures of Spring

Day 6: Books of Spring (It seems that every season there are specific books that I enjoy reading. For instance, I always want to read Anne of Green Gables in the spring.)

Day 7: Activities of Spring (This is where you can list ways in which you can enjoy the things listed above. For example, a walk in the woods allows you to listen to the birds singing, feel the buds on the trees, and see the bright blue eggs in a Robin’s nest.)

Let me know in your comments, what your favourite spring journal prompts are and/or your answers to the prompts listed above.

Happy Spring!

Joanna

3 Essential Household Books

With Google and Pinterest at our fingertips, we sometimes forget the value of the printed book. Especially when it comes to techniques and tips for household and life skills. The thing is, not everything online can be trusted. Anyone, whether expert or not, can post instructions and tips for things they may have never even tried. A book is different. A book takes a lot of work, time, and money which requires the author to be fully engaged in their content. Nobody is going to spend money on a book that isn’t practical and reliable. For me, there is something inspirational and rewarding about thumbing through the pages of a trusted resource. That is why today, I want to share with you three of my favourite books that every household should own.

The Organized Life

Secrets of an Expert Organizer
Stephanie Denton

The Organized Life

I purchased this book several years ago on a whim when I saw it on the clearance table at a local bookstore. I’ve read it many times, and each time I feel my organization juices running! Divided into 12 area-specific chapters (such as closets), this book allows you to choose where you want to start. Although the first chapter should be read before anything else. In that chapter, Denton expertly describes the cost of clutter and gives techniques on how to deal with it. This book’s colourful and creative format makes it an easy read. Since every page contains valuable and inspirational tips and tricks, you might find yourself jumping up to tackle that area/topic before even getting to the next page! This book can still be purchased online so don’t delay! Purchase at Amazon.ca or Amazon


Household Hints & Handy Tips

Reader’s Digest

household hints & handy tips

Published in 1988 before the invention of Google, this book contains a plethora of tips not only for your house but also for everything from first aid to personal care. It includes instruction for repairing plumbing, polishing shoes, applying makeup, treating animal bites, and toilet training your child! My copy was given to me by mom who received it as a Christmas gift from my grandmother many years ago. Even though I love to use Google, I could never part with this tangible, information-packed publication. The good news is, this book can be purchased online at Amazon.ca or Amazon.


MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook

For the farmgirl in all of us
MaryJane Butters

maryjanes ideabook cookbook lifebook

Don’t let the tagline of this book deceive you. This book is for more than just the farmgirl (although I personally self-identify as one). Butters shares topics ranging from making sourdough biscuits in the “Each Other” section to building a wall tent in the “Outpost” section. In between, she shares food storage and cooking tips in “Farm Kitchen,” basic sewing techniques in “Sewing Room,” and metal and woodworking projects in “Make it Easy.” These are just a few of the broad range of topics discussed. More can also be found in the “Garden Gate” and “Cleaning Up” sections. This books is full of high-quality, beautiful photos as well as stories from MaryJanes own personal experiences as a wilderness ranger, entrepreneur, and a true-blue farmgirl. Purchase online at MaryJane’s Farm Shop.

Happy reading and have a blessed weekend!

Joanna

Hygge as a Lifestyle – Part Three

Welcome to the third and final post in my series “Hygge as a Lifestyle.” Let me first reinstate the definition of hygge. Hygge is a Danish word meaning “comfort, warmth, and togetherness.” In Part One of this series, I wrote about the importance of unplugging from technology in order to fully experience the hygge lifestyle. In Part Two, I encouraged my readers to evaluate your environments, wardrobes, and schedules. In my third and final point, I want to focus on the “togetherness” aspect of hygge.

Once you have made your environment comfortable and warm and purposefully set aside times away from technology, it is now time to reconnect.

hygge as a lifestyle

Reconnect

With God

Curling up with a hot drink and a good book sounds attractive. So why not curl up with the Good Book. Spending quiet time reading God’s Word, praying, and journaling is an amazing way of reconnecting with our Creator. Turn on some soulful music, get out one of your favourite journals, and spend some time talking to God. I can’t think of a more comforting, hygge activity. Experiencing “togetherness” with other believers is also extremely important for a healthy, thriving spiritual life. Creating a comfortable “togetherness” with other believers may be easier in a small, informal setting. Hosting a weekly Bible study with just a few people is a great example. This gives you an opportunity to read together and share your thoughts openly on spiritual matters.

reconnect with god
Reconnect with God through Bible reading and journaling

With Yourself

Many people fear being alone. They fear quietness. They are afraid that spending time alone will make them antisocial. While there are definite benefits of spending time with God and others (see points above and below), there is also a great benefit of reconnecting with yourself. That, of course, requires time alone.

I encourage you to sit in silence for a few minutes each day and reflect on your purpose, your dreams, and your personality. Find a comfortable place to curl up and make notes in a colourful notebook. Get to know yourself. Until you fully understand what matters most to you and what makes you “tick” as an individual, you will not be able to properly relate to God or to others.

Once you get to know yourself, you will realize why you respond the way you do in certain situations. You’ll be able to explain to others why certain things are important to you. This will greatly improve your relationships. I also firmly believe that this will strength your relationship with God. God is all about having a personal relationship with each one of us. How one person worships God may not be how someone else needs to worship. While scripture gives us definite lists of things that God likes and doesn’t like, it does not in any way imply a cookie-cutter relationship with God. He created us each uniquely and with unique ways to worship Him. Getting to know yourself will help you discover the best way for you to worship.

With Others

When we think of creating “togetherness,” the first thing that comes to mind is usually our family and close friends.

There are a host of activities that can be enjoyed as a family. This includes playing games, sitting by the campfire, singing, baking, and even working together. Just google “family activities” and you will find a plethora of ideas. Sometimes just sitting and talking can also be enjoyable. Things to talk about can include happy memories, future vacations, or family projects.

reconnect with family
Reconnect with family by playing games together such as yard dominoes

The list is also endless for activities to do with friends. Many people find it enjoyable to craft together (think scrapbooking, sewing, etc) while others enjoy talking about their lives over a cup of coffee.

Find something enjoyable to do with each of your family members and close friends to fully experience the hygge lifestyle.

What are your thoughts on creating a hygge lifestyle? Be sure to share your ideas in the comments.

Until next week, God Bless!

Joanna

Hygge as a Lifestyle – Part Two

Hygge. That has become one of my favourite words. That’s why I decided to write a series on living a hygge lifestyle. Last week, I briefly defined the word “hygge” and shared my first tip for experiencing a hygge lifestyle. If you missed Part One be sure to read it. I have two more points I want to share, and today I will be writing about my second point.

hygge as a lifestyle

So, my second point is:

Evaluate

Evaluate Your Environment

Look around your living environment. How does the “stuff” there make you feel? Do you feel overwhelmed by the mass amount of your belongings? This might be a good time to do some de-cluttering. Maybe your space doesn’t look comforting to you because it is too empty. Your home is a great place to display your mementos, heirlooms, and all the “stuff” you love.

things I love
I fill my living environment with things I love

You might also want to look at the decorating colours you have chosen. I don’t have the space in this article to discuss colour psychology in depth, but studies have shown that there is a definite link between colours and our moods.¹ If you want to experience hygge, you might want to try decorating with browns, greens, and blues as these colours have proven to be the most peaceful and calming.²

We all know how important comfortable furniture is when you want to relax. So that is another great thing to evaluate in your environment. Make sure that you have at least a couple furniture pieces that call your name.

If there are a lot of people who live in your house, you may want to ensure that each person has their own room/space that they can personalize and where they can relax.

Evaluate Your Wardrobe

Another thing to evaluate when attempting to develop a hygge lifestyle, is your wardrobe. How comfortable are your clothes and shoes? I am definitely writing about physical comfort. It’s hard to have a feeling of hygge if your sweater is irritating your skin or your shoes are too tight. However, I also think that your clothes should also be emotionally comfortable. Do you feel confident in your clothes or do you feel conspicuous? We all have a different style so I am a strong believer that we should not merely attempt to blend in with the crowd. But, I think that most of us know what it is like to wear something that makes us feel self conscious and definitely not hyggly.

clothes you love
Keep only the clothes that you love and feel comfortable wearing

Colour is also important in your wardrobe. I have personally found that the colour I wear, affects how I feel that day (or perhaps how I feel that morning determines the colour I wear!). Evaluate your wardrobe and decide what makes you feel comfortable.

Evaluate Your Schedule

Hygge “activities” (such as curling up on the couch and reading a good book or playing a board game as a family) don’t usually just happen. In our fast-paced modern lives, hygge time is something has to be scheduled into our lives.

Schedule hygge “activities”

Next week, I’ll be sharing my third and final point in the series of “Hygge as a Lifestyle.”

Until then, have a hygge day!

Joanna

1 You can read this article about colour and behaviour this in the The New York Times.

2 To read more about colour properties be sure to check out this article from Colour Affects.

 

 

Hygge as a Lifestyle – Part One

There is a term that has been sweeping the internet for the last couple of years and that term is “hygge.” What is hygge?

Hygge is a Danish word made famous by Meik Wiking in his book “The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well.” He describes hygge as meaning comfort, warmth, and togetherness. It is about finding happiness and comfort in the simple everyday things of life. When I first heard this word and its meaning, I was over-the-top excited. It described the exact lifestyle I have been trying to live. Now I have an actual word to describe it!

That is why I am super excited to share with you my ideas on how to create a hygge lifestyle. I will be sharing these ideas over the next three weeks so be sure to stay tuned for the next two articles on this topic.

My first tip is in many ways the most important, but yet the most difficult. Here it is:

Unplug

So much of our lives seem to be controlled by technology. We use it for work, and we use it for play. While no one can refute that technology can be very useful, studies have shown that technology has a major negative impact on our brain health. The Guardian published an article called Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain, in which neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin states the following:

“Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.

…Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebookupdater, and flashlight.

….Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient. Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”

That sounds exactly the opposite of hygge. So if you want to experience a hygge lifestyle, you must deliberately unplug during times when the use of technology is not absolutely required. This could include reading printed paper books, writing in an actual notebook, or playing old-fashioned type games. Maybe it’s time to go back to Grandma’s crossword puzzles, Dad’s paper-backed dictionary, or Mom’s pocket planner.

unplug
Unplugging is an important step in achieving a hygge lifestyle

Unplugging is also vital in reconnecting with others. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the definition of hygge includes “togetherness.” It is difficult to experience “togetherness” when each individual is swallowed up in their own phone. Though called “social” media, this modern phenomena is anything but social. Real socializing begins when the phones are put down and the computer and TV are shut off. Then we can take time to re-connect in a real, not virtual, environment.

I encourage you this weekend to unplug and experience a little bit of hyyge.

Until next week, have a hygge life!

Joanna

Tips for Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – Part Three

Do you have problems with sleeping too much, eating too much, and losing interest in your favourite activities during the winter? You may be suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). For the last two weeks, I have been posting tips I have found to be useful in helping to beat this disorder. If you didn’t read Part One and Part Two, be sure to read them now. Today’s post is my final one in this series, and I am sharing my last three tips with you.

tips for beating seasonal affective disorder

Grow things

When the outdoors is a blustery, white world, creating a green, garden-like setting indoors can be extremely soothing. This is why growing indoor plants can help alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. Whether you choose to grow herbs, flowers, or “house plants,” all plants help to produce oxygen which is vital during a season when the windows and doors are closed and the heat is turned up. Tending plants also provides a type of therapy.

indoor plants beneficial to health
Growing indoor plants like ferns can be beneficial to your health

Pets are also another great way to beat S.A.D. They provide great company (I admit I used to talk to my dog all the time!). Knowing you have a pet to care for gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. A dog gives you a reason to get outside and get active as does chickens, horses, or other outside animals. Nurturing a living thing can be comforting and calming.

Stay connected

In a season when we are tempted to stay home instead of venturing out in the cold, we might begin to lose connection with friends and family. Communication and social involvement with others needs to be a priority during the winter for those who struggle with S.A.D. Sharing your feelings, laughing, and even crying with someone else, is a vital part of maintaining good mental health. “No man is an island” is most certainly true during the winter.

Be creative

Hobbies such as knitting, wood-carving, painting, quilting, and welding, provide wonderful creative outlets. Making something beautiful and/or useful from simple supplies, gives the feeling of accomplishment. It also creates a connection between the mind and hands. Keeping your hands busy can help keep your mind busy in a positive, useful direction. Creating things also allows for an outlet of our emotions. Something as simple as drawing a picture of how you feel can be a great form of therapy.

painting can bring comfort
Creative hobbies such as painting can bring comfort

I have found these tips to be extremely helpful in my own life, and I hope you have found them inspiring in your own struggle with S.A.D. As always, I want to encourage you to consult a doctor if your symptoms are debilitating or you have frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Blessings,

Joanna