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

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

Do you feel hopeless, lethargic, and agitated? Are you eating and sleeping a lot more than usual? All of these are symptoms of depression, but if you only have these symptoms during the winter or these symptoms intensify during the winter, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). The Mayo Clinic defines it this way:

“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

While I have never been formally diagnosed with this, I have sought advice and assistance in this area from my family doctor. If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, I encourage you to seek professional help. You may need medication and specialized therapy. This article is not intended to replace that, but simply to share tips on how I have learned to cope.

Tips for Beating for Seasonal Affective Disorder

This is Part One of a series of articles on my top five tips to beating S.A.D. So here is my first tip:

Get Outside

When it is cold and snowy outdoors it can be tempting to stay inside where it is warm and cozy. Getting dressed in the required outerwear can seem like a chore, and much of that outerwear can feel cumbersome and restricting. However, getting outside is a crucial part of dealing with S.A.D. Here are three reasons why:

You get active

Let’s be honest, you are not likely to go outside in the cold to just sit and relax! Staying warm requires some kind of movement, and movement is an important part of good health. It has many benefits from combating diseases to increasing energy levels. This is a great opportunity to try some winter sports activities. The list of winter sports is endless, but here are just a few I have found enjoyable: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and hiking. Even something as simple as taking a scenic walk or building a snowman can be enjoyable and provide exercise at the same time.

Snowshoeing
Outdoor activities such as snowshoeing help to beat S.A.D.

You get fresh air

Step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. What do you feel? Doing this always seems to clear my mind. Perhaps because it increases my oxygen levels which is an important part of maintaining overall good health and especially important for the brain. Oxygen is vital to the brain. According to National Association for Child Development, “Brain cells are very sensitive to decreases in oxygen levels and don’t survive or function well very long without it.” http://www.nacd.org/my-brain-needs-oxygen-what-can-i-do/ Our oxygen levels are so important, they are considered vital signs by the medical field. No wonder we feel sluggish during the winter when we are all inside with the windows closed and the heat turned up!

You get sunlight

One of the main causes of S.A.D. is a shortage of vitamin D which humans produce when exposed to sunlight. For those of us who live in the north, the nights can seem never ending and the time frame for getting sunlight is much shorter. It can be dark when we leave home in the morning and dark when we return. It might take a little planning, but setting aside a half hour each day to be exposed to sunlight is an important step in fighting S.A.D. If it is almost impossible to find this time or on stormy days when the sun is not shining, light therapy can be used instead. I purchased a light box several years ago and have found it to be extremely helpful. More information visit the Mayo Clinic website here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604

light therapy box
My Light Therapy Box

One of my favourite reasons for going outside in the winter is the happy feeling I have when returning indoors. If I am feeling restless and “housebound,” I go outside even for a short walk. After feeling the bitter cold on my face, I can’t wait to get back indoors! Back inside, I am ready to get cozy and settle in. This is true even in the dark when I can often be found pacing back and forth on my balcony!

Now, put down your phone or close out your browser, put on some warm clothing, and head outside. Be sure to share your tips in the comments and look for part two next Saturday.

Blessings,

Joanna

 

5 Tips to Beat Anxiety

In this week’s post, I am changing directions a little. As someone who has suffered with intense anxiety throughout most of my life, I decided to share how I have learned to deal with it. Anxiety to some degree is entirely normal. Most of us feel anxiety before tests, certain events, or during major life changes. These tips that I am sharing will certainly help during those times. However, I am sharing these tips for those of us who feel anxiety even over the everyday routines of life.

If you find your anxiety interfering with your ability to function please make an appointment to see your doctor. I also encourage you to find a qualified counsellor/therapist who can provide a listening ear as well as generate a specific plan of action for you. I have found both of these disciplines to be extremely helpful in this area of my life.

I also have developed some of my own coping mechanisms, and I felt like maybe these would be helpful to someone else. So here are my tips:

1. Take 5. If you are feeling overwhelmed in your present environment, leave the room and take a few minutes. At work or in social settings, I have at times excused myself to the bathroom where I decompress and take deep breaths. You’ll be amazed at how well this actually works!

2. Get the right amount of sleep. This can be difficult for people who tend to have insomnia during times of high anxiety. It can be tough to shut your mind down long enough to sleep. I occasionally struggle with this. One way I deal with that is to reflect on the things that make me happy. Of course, my thoughts will stray, but I usually can bring myself back to focus. If it takes a long time for me to go to sleep or I wake up in the night and am unable to go back to sleep, I find changing environments helpful. That means moving to the couch or a spare bed. What I most often struggle with, however, is sleeping too much when I am feeling anxious. While it is helpful to get rest, sleeping too much can actually lead from anxiety into depression. In order to combat this, I try to make a plan for each day of things I want to accomplish. That way when I get up in the morning, instead of going back to bed, I focus on my goals. I will sometimes take naps in the afternoon, but I will set my alarm for 30 minutes in order to not take too long of a nap. When the alarm goes off, I get up and have something to eat. This helps give me energy and return to working on my to-do list. I will admit that I still don’t have this process down pat, but I am continuing to work on it!

3. Get outside. Fresh air and exercise are both great medicines in dealing with anxiety even if it is just a short walk. I also find that sitting outside while reading or journaling effective. Even more so, working in the dirt is especially beneficial. Studies have proven that a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae in soil increases the brain chemical of serotonin and acts like an antidepressant. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66840.php)

4. Have a down time. In our fast-paced society, having a time to relax and do something enjoyable is essential. Finding this time can be difficult for some people especially those with kids, but it needs to be a priority since it is needed to lower stress and thus lower your stress hormone – cortisol. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 Setting aside time each day to read, journal, craft, cook, or do what is enjoyable to you helps keep your anxiety intact and your cortisol balanced. Sit down right now and make a plan of how you will accomplish this.

5. Recite Scripture. I have found my relationship with God most helpful in dealing with my anxiety. There is a lot of great promises and encouraging scriptures found in God’s Word. If you memorize a few of these, they will come back to your memory just when you need them. One of my favourite verses is “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear (reverence) him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7

I hope this tips have been helpful to you. Be sure to sure your tips in the comments below.

Happy Fall!

Joanna

15 Fun Fall Activities

Does anyone else love fall as much as I do? If you do, I’m sure you’ll find the following list super exciting!

15 fun fall activities

1. Rake leaves and jump in the pile

Kids will love this, and you are never too old to experience this old-time pleasure. Just be careful at how hard you hit the ground!

2. Have an informal fall photo session

Ask a friend to take pictures or just set your camera on a makeshift tripod        and set the timer. No need to hire a professional photographer unless you      want to.

3. Make candy apples

Use melted caramel, melted chocolate, nuts, candy corn, or anything that          sounds delicious to you.

4. Build a scarecrow

Or maybe build two!

build a scarecrow

5. Have a picnic in the woods among the fallen leaves

Don’t forget to pack a festive blanket and a thermos of hot chocolate along  with your other favourite goodies.

6. Walk through a corn maze

Just wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty!

walk through a corn maze

7. Collect acorns and pine cones

This  might require another fun walk in the woods!

8. Make pumpkin, chocolate chip cookies

Keep tuned for my post next Saturday on my favourite fall recipes.

9. Decorate for fall

Make your own decorations or have your kids make some. A lot of dollar stores have a nice, affordable assortment of fall decor.

10. Take a fall drive through the countryside

Admire the many colours of leaves along the way.

take a fall drive

11. Wear fall coloured clothes

Break out your orange, mustard yellows, burnt reds, and browns.

12. Bake an apple pie

Keep tuned for my post next Saturday on my favourite fall recipes.

13. Have a final bonfire

Make s’mores and hot chocolate and wrap up in a festive blanket.

have a final bonfire

14. Make a craft with fallen leaves

Let your kids make “pictures” with leaves, glue, and paper.

15. Go on a hay ride

If you don’t have a tractor and wagon and neither does your neighbour, many corn maze farms and apple orchards will give rides around the farm. Some of my favourite fall memories is going on hayrides after its dark. Just don’t get spooked by the weird night sounds!

I hope you found this list inspiring. Now go out and have some fun!

You can download a free copy of this list here by clicking on the thumbnail.

 

Happy Fall!

Joanna