Easiest Way to Boost Your Mood

moodWho doesn’t need a mood-boost? A routine prescription for women with depression and anxiety is exercise. Regular physical activity of any sort can lift sagging spirits.

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:13, ESV

Even Exercise-Lite Boosts Your Mood

At the Cooper Aerobics Research Institute, 120 volunteers followed the standard gym recommendations and another 120 volunteers tried exercise-lite. Both groups on average reduced their blood pressure by eight points, lowered total cholesterol, and gained about the same amount of muscle and dropped about the same amount of fat.

What about boosting endorphins while exercising-lite? They got that too. 

But for a bigt boost, it seems you must stress muscles for the release of the endorphins.  Remember, you don’t have to train for the Olympics to get a mood boost from exercise. So get up and get moving.

And break a sweat! A shiny glow looks good on you.

Pick an exercise you like! For me, walking wins. Early in the day, I grab my sneakers and walk. In the evening, I stretch and do some simple exercises like push-ups. Once you figure out which exercise works best for you, make a plan and do it.

Making a New Mood-Boost Habit

Making a new habit and sticking with it is the most difficult part for most of us because new habits must be formed. Beth, a soft-spoken, 20-something who has mild anxiety, would like to lose five pounds and feel physically better.

Then I told her about the mood-boosting effects of exercise, and she said she’d start for sure. Awareness is the first step, isn’t it?

What’s next? Here are 3 quick tips toward making a new mood-boost habit:

1. Put it on your calendar. You write “dentist visit” on your calendar,  don’t you? So why schedule exercise? Be specific. Select a time, days, and place.

2. Be realistic. Be safe. Most people the greatest success in forming a new exercise habit when they build on beginning successes. If you choose walking and are a healthy beginner, start with a daily 10-minute walk at a moderate pace, for instance. The next week add 5 minutes to your daily walk. Add another 5 minutes the following week and so on. Once you reach 30 to 60 minutes of walking daily, you’ve developed an amazing mood-boost habit. (Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.)

3. Reward yourself. Each time you complete your exercise, give yourself a small reward. It could be as simple as a smiley face on your calendar to something a bit more extravagant, such as $5 toward a purchase. At the end of the week, grab your stash and go for lunch with a friend, take in a movie, or buy something fun.

Counseling Hearts to Hope,

 

3 Ways to End Perfectionism

perfectionsimPerfectionism is an impossible standard! For you and me, that is. God is perfectly perfect!

But to attain perfectionism, you may drive yourself nuts. Or you may face-plant into the wall of “I cannot do it” and give up and retreat. You may even find a frenemy in dark chocolate. This is my go-to happy place. What’s yours?

Either way, all-or-nothing thinking turns into anxiety, even anger and hopelessness.

Jana, a mother of three boys and a nurse, worked part-time in the evening, and during the day she had the family on a tight schedule in order to get everything done: piano lessons and soccer practice for the kids and a book club and Zumba for her. When her all-or-nothing thinking turned into yelling–something she swore she’d never do when she became a mom–she didn’t see that her perfectionism played into the family tension. A wise counselor compassionately and truthfully pointed it out, and she agreed her heart needed to change.

Have you ever wanted to do it all or think you should do it all? Have you based your worth and success on how well you measure up to your standards or fulfilling your expectations?

  • When you are driven to achieve and overdo, you live in fear that there is always something more you can do, another phone call to make, another website to check, another friend to check in on.
  • When you hold exceptionally high expectations for yourself (or your family or coworkers), you may come across as pushy and demanding. Your relationships may suffer.
  • When you compare your accomplishments to others, you may feel defeated and get grumpy or throw a pity party. No one shows up to pity parties. Too depressing!

Signs of Perfectionism

The all-or-nothing thinking of perfectionism overwhelms a person because, as I mentioned up top, it’s a myth. No one is perfect but God!

“Your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, ESV

Very often someone with all-or-nothing thinking suffers from anger, anxiety, depression, or fatigue. Trying to keep up with overwhelming perfectionism is daunting. You just can’t do it. No one can. That you cannot be perfect doesn’t mean you are “less than” or “not enough.” It simply means you’re human.

Here are pictures of three signs of perfectionism.

AngerWhen your perfect plans fall though, do you seethe or feel irritated? Do you lash out at a friend or family member? A common result: difficult relationships! Think about it. You don’t like anger directed at you and you may step away from an angry person or not return her phone calls. Proverbs 15:1 says,

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Anxiety: Do you feel uptight and nervous when you think about all you need to do? Do you worry that you’ll fail? Sometimes anxious people have physical symptoms such as nausea, insomnia, headaches, and fatigue, even panic attacks. Others develop ulcers. Talk with your medical doctor about physical manifestations of anxiety.

Depression: Do your unmet desires  lead to sadness and self-recriminations? Are you disappointed with yourself that you failed to meet your high expectations? Do you say mean things to yourself, like “I’m a loser”? Depression feels like sadness, despair, hopelessness. Sometimes it has an organic cause, such as hormone imbalance. Again, talk with your medical doctor about physical causes of depression.

Out of the Perfectionism Trap

Your way out of perfectionism is to make a heart change and to look to your Creator for the answer. Here are 3 ways to end perfectionism:

1. Accept the invitation to rest.

May I suggest that you write the verse below in a journal or your electronic device and read it daily? 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,

for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30, ESV

When you get to the end of your abilities and energy, you need rest. Your mind and your body. You feel depleted and weary. The question is, how will you respond to this invitation? Do you value yourself and your family enough to rest?

2. Ask yourself a few questions.

To get to the heart of your perfectionism, ask yourself questions and jot down your answers. Ask yourself:

  • Who am I trying to please? My boss, my friends, my parents, myself, God?
  • Is my all-or-nothing thinking all about getting other people to accept me or to impress them?
  • Do I think I can do life without God? That I don’t need him?

Now read your answers and look for a pattern. Is your pattern to please others or to get attention? Do you see another pattern? How can you change your thinking so that your thougts align with God’s?

3. Love God above all else.

You’re probably familiar with the Great Commandment.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27, ESV

When you love God above all else, your priorities and motivations change. You are more concerned with pleasing God who loves you lavishly than with pleasing yourself.

You’ll discover that you’ll remove some items from your calendar and rethink the best use of your time and talents.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23, ESV

Rethinking the best use of your time and talents means establishing God-honoring goals for life in every area: spiritual, family, social, intellectual, physical, occupational, financial, and emotional.

I invite you to use this download to help you plan your priorities for the purpose of loving God most of all. If you have questions or would like to set up a time to talk on the phone to see how biblical counseling would help you get out of the  perfectionism trap, why not drop me a line here?

Counseling Hearts to Hope,

3 Steps to Stopping Ugly Thoughts

ugly thoughtsWho doesn’t have ugly thoughts, at least once in a while? Good news: You can replace ugly thoughts with truthful thoughts and renew your mind. Here’s a tool for you.

So today you learn how to:

1. Identify an ugly thought you believe that’s true about you or your circumstance.

2. Recognize the link between your thoughts and your feelings and replace your ugly thought with a new thought.

3. See change in your emotions and actions as you renew your thoughts. A helpful tool is my Transform Your Thoughts Journal. See it here.

What’s better, this process has helped hundreds of my counselees renew their thinking. It is based on scripture verses like Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:22-24:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Step 1: Identify

First, on notebook paper, set up your categories like this:

UGLY THOUGHT. . .EMOTIONS. . .ACTIONS

Then under “Ugly Thought” write your current or recurring negative, ungodly thought. Then jot down the resulting emotions under “Emotions.” Now, list your behaviors under “Actions.” Here’s an example.

UGLY THOUGHT: “I’m stupid”

EMOTION(s): Anger, depression, loneliness

ACTION(s): Yell at the kids, slam the door, eat a bag of chips

Step 2: Replace

Now write three new categories. Under “Truthful Thought” replace the ugly thought with a biblical truth or a scripture verse. Then write the likely resulting feelings under “New Emotion” and likely behaviors under “New Action.” On your notebook paper set up your categories like this:

TRUTHFUL THOUGHT. . .NEW EMOTIONS. . .NEW ACTIONS

Here’s a corresponding example.

TRUTHFUL THOUGHT: God says all his works are wonderful, so this means I’m an okay person and He’ll help me.

NEW EMOTION(s): Contentment, courage

NEW ACTION(s): Hug the kids, smile, complete the job application

Step 3: See Change

Lastly, chart the ugly thoughts you believe, your emotions, and your actions daily. As soon as you recognize an ugly thought, replace it with a truthful thought. And ask God in prayer to help you believe his truth. As you stick with it, you’ll begin to see a change in your emotions and actions as you replace ugly thoughts with the truth. Please be patient and persevere.

You didn’t develop poor thinking patterns overnight. In fact, they may have begun in childhood and are ingrained in your thinking. And so it’ll take weeks, sometimes months, as you to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the renewing of your mind. Have hope. You CAN do it with God’s help.

Question: What is truthful thought you’d like to have in place of an ugly thought?

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

 

What if Your WORST Fear Happens?

what ifWhat if…your worst fear actually comes to pass? Then what? Listed in our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, biblical counselor Suzanne Holland gives real answers to scary questions and provides hope. Suzanne is a premier counselor. Her article appeared first here at BC4Women.org and is used with permission.

heart

“What if it’s cancer? How will we deal with that? I don’t want to leave my husband and children alone!”

“Or what if my car breaks down? I barely have enough money to cover my expenses! How will I get to work?

“And what if the pain gets worse? How will I cope with it? How will I function?”

All of these are legitimate questions asked by believers who are struggling to deal with a circumstance or eventuality that they feel ill-equipped for. There are so many things that can happen in this fallen world we live in. Many of them are pretty frightening.

As I read in Daniel 3 about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I felt certain that they were frightened of that furnace. Who wouldn’t be? Nebuchadnezzar had erected a gold statue and commanded all people to bow to it. These three young men knew they could not do that.

I can imagine what their conversation was like, as it became clear that their allegiance to the One True God would stir up the wrath of this powerful king. Maybe, they asked one another,

  • What if we can’t stand our ground?
  • What if we lose our nerve?
  • And if we do remain steadfast, how will we endure the furnace?
  • Where will we get the courage to finish well?

I don’t know for sure if this conversation or one like it took place. However, I am pretty sure it would if it were me and my friends! I would be afraid and anxious about it for sure, at least in my own strength. But these three young men clearly were not counting on their own strength to see them through. They were depending on their God. When they appeared before the king, they spoke these words:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.

But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)

3 Crucial Convictions in Your “What If”

They express three important convictions in this passage. And we need to keep in mind as we face the “what ifs” of our lives.

1. Remember God Alone Has Ultimate Power

First, they express the fact that the king has no real power over them. In saying, “we don’t need to defend ourselves before you,” they are saying that he is not a threat. They know that the God they serve is far more powerful, and He will be their defender. They let the king know that they have complete confidence in God’s ability to save them out of that fire.

2. Know God Will Deliver You

Second, by fearlessly admitting the possibility that He may not save them in an earthly sense, they are letting the king know that they don’t fear death. Since they worship a God who is the master of eternity, they have a great hope of what lies on the other side of that furnace, should they perish there. In other words, they are telling him that, whether they live or whether they die, their God will deliver them from his hand.

3. God Alone Is Worthy of Worship

Finally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego make it very clear to the king that nothing he does can ever make them worship any other god. No matter what he threatens, no matter how painful the consequence, they absolutely will not become idolaters.

Answers to Scary Questions

So, what’s the takeaway for us? How can we apply this passage to our what-ifs? Well, I would like to suggest that, instead of saying what-if-this or what-if-that, let’s change it up. Let’s replace “what if” with “even if.”

“Even if it’s cancer, I know that my God can rescue me from it. He can heal me of this cancer, but even if He doesn’t, He will deliver me. We will  bring me to heaven, where there will be no more pain or suffering. I am trusting in Him. And I refuse to make restored health an idol. God has cared for my family all this time, and He will continue to do so, with or without me. I refuse to give in to worry.”

“Even if my car breaks down, I will not give into fear or panic. Jesus said that God cares so much for me that He has numbered every hair on my head. It is He who has provided for me up until now. Why should that change? I refuse to give in to fear.”

“Even if the pain gets worse, I will recognize that circumstances will always be changing, but my God never does. He is faithful no matter the severity of my pain or disability. Even if I can’t do the things I’ve always done, He will provide the help that I need. Or, He’ll remove the necessity of the task. I refuse to give in to panic about my pain.”

Think About It

What are the “what-ifs” of your life today, friend?

Are you fearful or worried about the future? Remember that fear can lead to idolatry if we do not take it captive. Bring those fears to the Lord, remembering His faithfulness and love. Then, proclaim to everyone you know the truth about your great God. Let them see that you will not bow down to the idols of worry and fear about earthly things.

As you go through the fiery trial, let them see Jesus going through it with you, just as King Nebuchadnezzar saw four men walking around in the fire when He had thrown in only three. That same confidence that led them through their fire will lead you through yours.

Even if…

Resources from Lucy

You may like this article:

Biblical Approach for Healing PTSD

Or this easy-to-download eBook:

Fit for Life: A Biblical Guide to Getting Fit (and Losing Weight)

Need prayer or want a free biblical counseling consultation by phone? Send me a secure message here.

Counseling Hope to Your Heart,

 

Help! I’m a Slave to Food (part 1)

foodFood is a gift from God, right? But for some people, overeating is a. . .sin. In this helpful post that first appeared here, counselor Paul Tautges shares parts of Shannon Kay McCoy‘s booklet, Help! I’m a Slave to Food. It is used with permission. (Edited for length–LAM)

God declares overeating to be a sin: ‘For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty’ (Proverbs 23:21).

So begins the second chapter of biblical counselor Shannon Kay McCoy’s very helpful mini-book HELP! I’m a Slave to Food.

Then McCoy defines sin. These definitions include–

  • whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
  • therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).
  • all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17).
  • sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).

These descriptions view sin as the act of the will. Sin is choosing to act in opposition to God’s Word.

Sin of Overeating?

Slave to Food-small email

McCoy continues: “Perhaps you don’t believe that overeating is a sin. Many of us have been brainwashed by magazine articles, television talk shows, and reality shows that tell us that food is the problem: you are simply eating the wrong things in the wrong way.”

Often Christians view overeating as a diet problem rather than a sin problem. But overeating does n

ot seem serious. We often treat it as one of those ‘little sins’ that are acceptable in the church.

You don’t hear sermons or read books on the sin of overeating, do you? Your focus is more on getting treatment for your problem of overeating than facing up to your personal responsibility of repentance and obedience.

As McCoy pointed out, overeating is failing to do the right thing. It is unrighteousness and lawlessness.

Description of a Food Struggle

A woman McCoy spoke with describes her struggle:

My eating was out of control. I ate solely to satisfy whatever craving I was having at the time. As a result, my health was suffering and I was not honoring God with my life and body He had given me. I was for the first time confronted with the fact that the way that I was eating was sinful. I knew that my eating was ‘not good,’ but I never considered that my eating was sin.

In her mini-book, Shannon transparently identifies with her readers by acknowledging that overeating once dominated her life. Then she shares the life-changing counsel from the Scriptures, which changed her life, beginning with admitting the seriousness of her sin problem.

Overeating Is Not an Addiction

Some overeaters label themselves “food addicts,” believing they are addicted to food. However, addiction is not a biblical term. The world uses this terminology to describe the behavior of someone who is controlled by a substance.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines addiction in this way: “To devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.” But the danger in labeling overeating as “addiction” is that it undermines the personal conviction of sin. If the problem is not sin, then you will look for solutions in a system of theories, not in the person of Jesus Christ.

Overeating Is Idolatry

The biblical term for “addiction” is “idolatry.” The sin of overeating is idolatry. And idolatry is worship and devotion to creation rather than worship and devotion to the Creator God.

You worship your stomach and appetites by indulging in food. In fact, you desire the created food more than your Creator. The problem is not necessarily the food you consume; it is the worship of your heart. But before you can be set free, you must acknowledge your idol, denounce it, repent, and give your heart and devotion to him. Your greatest hope is in turning from your false gods and surrendering your life to Jesus, who forgives your sins and frees you from the sin of overeating.

God’s Grace Empowers Us to Change

Romans 6:12-14 both exhorts us to repent of the sin of overeating and gives us hope on God’s power to change us:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

In the remainder of her mini-book, McCoy teaches us how to conquer the sin of overeating by God’s gracious empowerment for disciplined living.

Get HELP! I’m a Slave to Food in print copy and/or Kindle format.

RESOURCE: Looking for a whole-hearted, comprehensive ebook to be Fit for Life. Get it now.

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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