It’s Not Just Physical

We’ve all heard how exercise and diet are key components of maintaining good physical health as we age.  You’ll certainly get no argument from me about this!  However, I do think there’s more than just our physical health that we should consider as part of a healthy lifestyle.  We should also keep our minds healthy as well.

Two of the best ways I can think of to develop a healthy mind is to use it, and to be aware of what you’re putting into it.

This is just my opinion, but I think our minds were created to be used.  Just like a car is meant to be driven, and a piano is meant to be played, so too our minds were meant to be used rather than to sit idle.  By “using our minds”, I mean we should continuously be sharpening them by:

  • Exposing them to new and interesting (to us) content
  • Learning new skills
  • Listening to new, and even opposing ideas
  • Talking to people who are different from us
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Connecting with others

In addition to using them, we should also be aware of the content we’re allowing into our minds.  If you put gas in your car that is full of debris, it won’t run well.  Filling our minds with negative content will have the same effect over time.  The content we put into our minds is how we train our think, respond, and form our worldview.  I want to put content in my mind that will yield positive thinking, not only now, but well into the future.

So the next time you’re taking a walk, exercising, or doing any other activity that benefits your physical health, take a moment to make sure that you’re also developing a healthy mind as well.  Because if you’re like me, you want to age with a heathy body AND mind. 

Taking Notice

September and October are my favorite months of the year. While the cooler temperatures are always nice, it’s the beautiful natural scenery that always captures my attention. The way the morning and evening light colors the surroundings is worth stopping to notice.

It’s easy to be distracted, rushing through life and not noticing our surroundings. For this reason, I think it’s so important to not only be on the lookout for the beauty around us, but to stop and take it in when we see it.

I’ve found that what I’m actively looking for, I usually see more of.

Checking The Mirror

I’m sure you’re familiar with this routine.  As you’re getting ready in the morning you look at yourself in the mirror and compare that image with the image you have in your mind of what you should look like before your start your day.  You see disheveled hair, so you fix it.  You see toothpaste on your face, so you wipe it off.  You take one last look on your way out the door to make sure the image of how you’d like to look and how you actually look align.  The mirror does an excellent job of telling us when our appearance is falling short what we expect for ourselves.  It’s great feedback!

While it’s important to have mirrors to ensure we look presentable before we leave the house, I think it’s even more important to have mirrors that reflect back to us how well we’re living up to the standard we’ve set for ourselves.

As a Christian, I’ve decided that the standard I’ve chosen to live by are the teachings of Jesus, as found in the Bible.  So, in order to know whether my life is a reflection of what Jesus teaches, I need compare how I’m living my life to Jesus’s teaching in the Bible and see if my reflection matches.  If my life aligns with Jesus’s teaching, then I’m on track.  If not, I’ve got work to do.  Either way, the mirror of the Bible when compared to my life gives me feedback and informs me where I can make changes.

So what standard are you trying to live your life in accordance with?  What mirror do you need to check your reflection against?  Whatever it is, just be sure to check your reflection regularly, receive the feedback it’s giving you, and make corrections as needed. 

Done over a long period of time, this habit will move your life in the direction you want it to go.

Thoroughbreds

I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to.  What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running.  I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run.  Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.

Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted?  That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment.  Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.

I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become.  We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of. 

So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds?  The following items are good places to start: 

  • Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive. 
  • Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
  • Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
  • Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
  • Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
  • Engage your brain daily.

What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation!  May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.

On The Other Side

“What’s it like on the other side of me?”  ~ Pastor Amy

During the sermon at church last week, one of our pastors referenced this question that she often asks herself in relation to what it’s like for others to interact with her.  I though it was a great question I should start asking myself!

We all know what it’s like to be us.  We’re aware of our opinions, our values, and what we think.  However, are we aware of how those opinions come across when we’re talking to others?  Are we aware of possible no verbal signals, attitudes, tones of voice, judgement, or perceptions we may not mean to send, that others experience when communicating with us?

Pastor Amy’s question causes me to think about how I treat others (intentionally or unintentionally) when communicating with them.  It reminds me that communication is so much more than just words.

With Gratitude

This week’s post is a quick reminder to daily be on the lookout for those things we’re grateful for.  They’re always there, but often unnoticed, unless we’re looking for them.

With the start of summer, and sunnier weather in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been reminded how grateful I am for early sunny mornings.  The bright sky, the cool air, the birds singing, and the stillness of the day before things start ramping up is an experience that always gets me excited about the day to come and the possibilities therein. 

Whenever I experience one, I’m reminded how much they mean to me, and how grateful I am for them.   

As we go through our days, let’s develop the habit if keeping our eyes open for those things we’re grateful for.  It could be something we’ve loved for a long time (like sunny summer mornings!) or something we’ve just experienced (like great services from a business, organization or person). 

The important part is that when we experience it, we don’t let it pass without recognizing our gratitude for it.

Maintaining What’s Important

We just finished a 6 week house renovation project this week that included some painting, carpeting, and hardwood floors.  Our house is 23 years old, so it was time to spruce everything up and give it a fresh new look.  I think it’s important to keep my house in a good working order and condition, not only because it’s such a big investment, but because it’s more enjoyable for me to live in when it’s in this state.

I also think it’s important to maintain the other big things in our lives that are important to us like our:

  • Finances
  • Closest Relationships
  • Health
  • Spiritual well being
  • Intellect and thinking
  • Attitude

Maintenance, whether it be for a friendship, a home, or our health, involves a commitment of our time and resources, because things that are neglected usually aren’t maintained well.

Spend some time thinking about the things that are important to you and determine whether they could use a little maintenance from you.  If so, take action to get them the attention they need.  You’ll enjoy what you have even more when it’s properly maintained.

The Compounding of Choices

While it’s true that occasionally in life things happen to us (both good and not so good) that we did not choose, I think most of what happens to us is the result of the choices we make. 

Think about all the things we get to choose on a regular basis, such as:

  • How we spend our time
  • How we spend our money
  • The daily level of activity we engage in
  • The content we consume
  • The type of foods we consume
  • The people we associate with
  • Whether or not we think critically
  • The careers, causes, values, and beliefs we hold and support
  • The way we treat those around us

That’s a small portion of a VERY large list!

Now think about this:  the small choices we’ve made over the days/weeks/months/years/decades of our life have compounded to form us into who and what we are today.

It’s hard to consider that thought without also pondering the following:  Are you happy with the compounding result of your choices?  If you are, then great!  Stay on track.

If you don’t like the compounding result your experiencing, I have good news.  It’s not too late to change course.  And it all starts with the choices you make from this point forward.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett

Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful.  Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.

Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym.  Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life.  Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis.  (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form.  And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.

For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive? 
  • Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one? 
  • Are there habits we should stop doing?
  • Are there habits we need to cultivate?

We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen.  They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.

With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired.  It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with.  It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.

A Thought On Unity

There’s a lot of talk currently about how divided we are in the US.  While I think that’s true, I also think there is a lot that still unites us. 

Consider the following things that still unite us with other people:

  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Church and religious beliefs
  • Hobbies
  • Places we work
  • Clubs and affinity groups
  • Colleges and universities we’ve attended
  • Civic groups
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Common goals
  • Neighborhoods
  • Common experiences
  • Countries or states of origin

That’s a good, yet incomplete list!  We don’t realize all the things that bring unity until we pause long enough to consider them.  I’m encouraged by such list. 

Unity doesn’t mean “in total agreement with”.  In fact, we can have unity with someone, even when we don’t agree with them.  For example, you can disagree with a relative, yet still have unity with them as a member of your family. 

Disagreeing, or having differing viewpoints, with someone doesn’t mean we can’t have unity with them.  We’re not required to hate someone and treat them poorly, simply because we don’t agree with them on a specific topc. Why would we sacrifice unity on the altar of disagreement?  Why would we throw out a relationship simply because of differing viewpoint or opinion?  That seems wasteful to me.

When you have a disagreement with a friend, family member, or someone you currently have unity with, remember that you can still be united, even amidst differing opinions or viewpoints.

Unity and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.