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,

2 Steps to Restoration After Regret

regretIs regret messing with your peace? Is it so painful that you’d like to erase a part of your past? Let’s look at regret — what it is, the two main types, and how to move toward restoration.

Regret Defined

Regret is feeling sorrow or remorse for something you did or failed to do. Sometimes it turns into disappointment. This feeling of regret can be turned toward God as you seek him in your pain. Or it can become discontentment, even despair.

Discontentment is an ugly response to regret. It describes a person’s dissatisfaction with what God is doing in his life at the moment. She may have self-pity and see herself as the undeserving victim of unfair circumstances. 

Regret Due to Human Error

Regret may result from an honest though awful mistake. Dr. Erwin Lutzer shared the story of a missionary airplane mechanic with an excellent service track record. One day while tightening a bolt, he was called away before he finished. He forgot to return and complete the bolt tightening.

The consequence of this one mistake proved disastrous. The plane took off. Gasoline leaked from the place where the bolt was loose. The plane caught on fire and all seven people on the plane died. Without a doubt, this mechanic wished he could erase the past. He feels deep regret.

Regret Caused on Purpose

This type of regret results when you choose a certain path that you know is wrong. The Holy Spirit impresses on your heart the your ugly choice rubs against God’s will but you continue on.

Think Peter the apostle.

He denied knowing Jesus Christ three times, then the rooster crows. Peter weeps tears of regret and emotional pain.

And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:72, ESV

2 Steps to Restoration

1. Bring it into the open.

Pushing down the past smothers you. Did you know that the more you try not to think about the regret, the more focus you direct toward it?

God’s plan for moving forward requires facing the past and acknowledging the sin, the pain, and the fallout.

2. Move forward.

To move forward means forgiving, repeatedly if necessary, letting God deal with those who have sinned against you, and continuing to respond in a godly way regardless of how they behaved.

 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19, ESV

When you choose God’s solutions, an upward and forward movement begins! It’s time, don’t you think, for a fresh start? Christ and His Word will move you in the right direction if you let Him!

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV


Do you need help finding peace? I’d love to help you!

Sharing hope with your heart, I’ll provide you with solution-focused biblical counseling. Contact me today and we can set up an appointment in person or by Skype. (I’ve counseled women, couples, and families in five continents.) Check out more about me 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:


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:


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 Real Love Looks Like to Kids

real loveREAL LOVE: I stepped into “Little House on the Prairie” reruns when I visited friends’ homes during childhood. A home very different from mine.

People in these homes blessed each other with words of affirmation:

“Beautiful picture, honey. I can barely wait to show grandma.”

“You remembered to put away your books. You are so responsible!”

“I appreciate that you called home to say you’d be late. That meant a lot to me, that you cared.”

Raspberry kisses, tummy tickles, and high fives interspersed these blessing words. I watched these dreamy interactions unfold and harbored more than a little jealousy. Have you too wanted something you didn’t have?

Where’s Real Love?

But at my home, dad yelled and mom withdrew into stony silence. Often I covered my ears to muffle the hate words. I also tried make my parents happy. From age 8 or 9, I washed floors and tubs, dusted and vacuumed, finished my homework without reminding, and played with my older brother, Ted.

But my presence made little difference. And Ted just seemed to irritate them. A bonafide IQ of 148 and report cards with Cs and Ds–he had trouble finding a place of belonging at home or school. It seemed, we were side tables in a white clapboard, one-and-a-half-story house in a Chicago suburb. Just furniture. We believed we had no voice.

When Ted turned 16 or so, the drug scene lured him. I tried to fit in with the “popular” girls and failed. Again. Do you relate?

God Steps In

Perhaps the influence of an unhappy childhood is one reason I became a counselor. My work as a biblical counselor permits me the privilege of helping children and teens know God’s care, love, and purpose in their lives. It’s encouraging that very often a child’s pain evaporates like a puddle on a hot summer day as the child (or teen) and the parents choose to love God above all. (Matthew 22:37)

As God transforms hurting hearts, thoughts, actions, and emotions as well as beliefs come together and reflect the heart of Jesus. Did you know Jesus welcomes little children? Our wonderfully radical Lord invited them to come near.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ Luke 18:15-17, ESV

The truth: Children do matter. Toddlers or teens, they deserve our love. Real love. Christ-like love.

Real Love in Good Times, Bad Times

What does real love look like during good times at home?

Conversation at dinner time, playing board games, and going for walks.

What does real love look like in bad times?

Repentance, forgiveness, consequences.

Reality is a phenomenal teacher. When a child does his homework, he gets the satisfaction of good grades. When a preschooler bites a 3 year old at the playground — yes, I am a mom of a former biter — she is escorted from park immediately. When a teen refuses to clean her room, her cell phone goes in timeout.

Real Love: Messy!

Healing came as I recognized I cannot change my family of origin. But my husband and I can rewrite the script for our children. With God’s help, we can leave a legacy of real love. We mess up, of course. Real love isn’t perfection. Rather, it’s hugs and tears and laughter in the middle of mess.

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