Finding Your Flow

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Do you ever get so wrapped up in a hobby or activity  or even work that you lose all sense of time? For me, I often become immersed in what I am writing, and hours can slip away without me even noticing. For others, it may be training for a race or designing a floral arrangement or accomplishing a new song on the piano or working on a creative project at work. Being completely immersed or absorbed in an activity that is challenging, yet geared toward your skills is described as the joyful state of flow.

Contemporary psychologist say that flow is highly correlated with happiness. Furthermore, studies have found that people who often experience flow are likely to develop additional positive traits such as self-esteem, focus and greater performance. Flow is not something forced, rather it is intrinsically motivated. It’s what Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, spoke about when he said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

How beautiful it is to allow the flow of the Holy Spirit to work through our unique gifts to bring glory to God and blessings to others. God has equipped each of us with different interests, passions and abilities, and we can experience great pleasure as we express them in this world. As believers in Christ, we have the joy of knowing that God’s Spirit works in mighty ways through us, as He not only gives us gifts, but enables us to use them.

Jesus said, “Whoever believe in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Invite the flow of His Spirit to pour through you this week.

 

Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

Three Tips to Being an Effective Volunteer

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Are you currently using your gifts and talents to serve in your community? This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and it is the perfect time to talk about finding a place to plug in and be a  blessing to others. Last week, I blogged about how our happiness tends to increase when we genuinely serve others. This week, I want to talk a little bit more about how to jump into volunteering and serve effectively.

There are countless volunteer opportunities around us. Whether you are a busy parent or a business person or an empty-nester, there are simple and meaningful ways each of us can reach out and help.

Begin by considering the issues that tug at your heartstrings. What is your passion? Ask the Lord to lead you to the place where you can best use your God-given abilities to make a difference. You may want to consider serving together as a family. There is no better time than the present to make a decision to step out of your comfort zone and into the lives of others in need.

Certainly we want our time of service to be worthwhile and genuinely helpful. I want to offer three ways to increase our effectiveness as we volunteer.

  1. Consistency – Let’s show up on time and be there each time we are scheduled to serve. We are not just volunteers, rather we are an important part of the whole process. Our help is valuable and the organization in which we serve depends on us to be there. Also, it is easy to do a one-and-done service project that makes us feel good for a moment, but true change (both for us and those we serve) happens when we commit to being there on a regular basis.
  2. Humility – Pride says, “I’m going to go in and fix these people because they are broken.” Humility says, “I’m broken. They are broken. We all are broken in different ways. We all need love.” When we serve with a heart of humility, we help others recognize their value, rather than making them feel like “a project” or helpless.
  3. Connectivity – We build a connection and give dignity to others by listening to them. Ask questions and pay attention to their heart and their pain. We must also be vulnerable and real and be willing to share a little of our own struggles as well. Relationships are developed not only by what we do, but by the way we listen and the way we speak.

True service is not simply to make us feel better about ourselves, but rather to impact the lives of others in a positive way. The apostle Paul wrote, “Each of us should not only look out for our own interests, but also the interest of others.” May each of us find the place that we can joyfully give a little of our heart to elevate and love another person.

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For more information about joining the amazing team of volunteers at Engage Positive Parenting Initiative go to: www.EngageParenting.org

Photo at top of blog by Cristi Tohatan on Unsplash

Increasing Happiness through Cultivating Kindness

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Do you have a genuine desire to help others and improve the world around you? Research tells us that people who demonstrate kindness through acts of altruism or volunteering on a consistent basis generally experience a higher life-satisfaction and even show fewer depressive symptoms. Whether you get involved through an organization or club as a volunteer, or simply reach out to a co-worker or friend who is struggling or lonely, caring and compassion has multiple benefits.

Certainly, our motive in volunteering is not just to make ourselves happy, but a sense of satisfaction and contentment is a welcomed outcome. Typically those who are required to volunteer (for a school assignment, college application, etc.) do not feel the same sort of satisfaction as those who are intrinsically motivated. A sincere desire to help others is one of the keys to experiencing a sense of contentment and well-being.

It’s difficult to give love if we don’t feel loved. Demonstrating a true compassion and love begins in our heart, when we recognize our own brokenness and need for redemption. When we know and receive God’s love, we are better able to pour out that grace-filled love toward others. John (the beloved disciple) put it this way, “We love because He first loved us.” As we draw close to Him and embrace His love, we can allow that love to overflow into a life of care and service.

Additionally, studies show that the recipients of acts of kindness who are encouraged to participate or cooperate in some way experience a greater level of happiness than those who simply receive the benefits with no participation. I found this research particularly interesting, since the parenting outreach I started several years ago invites parents to participate in the classes and empowers them to discover their own solutions, instead of simply being told what to do.  And yes I’d love for you to consider joining our team of volunteers at Engage Positive Parenting Initiative! For more information go to www.EngageParenting.com

So where do we begin? Prayerfully ask God to lead and guide you to a place where your gifts and talents can be used to help others. He has equipped each one of us with unique abilities to care and serve. The apostle John reminded us, “Let us not simply love in words or in speech, but in actions and in truth.” May we be faithful to step out of our comfort zone and into the lives of those who could use a helping heart.

Paper bag Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

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Next week is Volunteer Appreciation Week. It’s the perfect time to join the team at Engage Parenting! Find out how at: Engage Parenting Volunteers

The Positive Power of Friendships

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Who are the people in your life that really know you? I’m talking about the ones with whom you have chosen to go deep and share your heart. You can count yourself blessed if you have even a handful of these “inner-circle” friendships in your entire lifetime.

Studies in positive psychology indicate that people who have one or more close friendships tend to be happier. The key word is “close” – not 300 Facebook friends, but rather a few close people in your life with whom you can share your feelings and enjoy activities together. It’s easy to feel lonely if your conversation only centers around impersonal topics. Real connections are felt on a deeper level where meaningful conversations take place.

In fact, sharing personal feelings with a close friend can play a major role in the relief of stress and even depression. To be sure, we don’t want to be that needy person who overshares and never cares about others. There is a beautiful balance of being vulnerable enough to share our own joys and sorrows, while on the other hand, caring for the needs of our friends and lovingly listening to their heart.

Studies also show that one of the best ways to enrich relationships and cultivate positive emotions is to express a genuine interest in what other people are saying and respond in an encouraging way. Dale Carnegie put it best when he said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

The apostle Paul wrote, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Jesus went further to say, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus loved those around him with a grace-filled, servant-hearted love. He took a genuine interest in the needs of others as He walked this earth, and He continues to take a genuine interest in us.

How wonderful to know that we can have a real and personal relationship with Him! As we grow deeper in our love for Him, we tend to reflect His love in the friendships around us. May the relationships in your life, both with Him and with others, be a source of strength and joy to you personally.

 

This Blog is a part of my new series on “Increasing Happiness.” Each week we will look at studies on happiness and practical ways to experience it.

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

Are You Happy?

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March 20th is International Day of Happiness, so I thought we could take a little time this week to consider the subject of happiness and what it looks like in our lives. Ask any two people to describe what happiness means to them, and you will typically get a wide range of answers. Some talk about experiences that lead to happiness, or situations that detract from happiness, while others mention the relationships that bring happiness into their lives.

How would you describe what it means to be happy? Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word Happy is, “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Positive psychologists typically uses the term, “subjective well-being” when referring to happiness. The word itself has its origins in ancient Greek and is closely related to the concept of fortunate, well-off or blessed.

No matter how we define it, almost everyone wants to experience it. Studies show several habits that are generally found in happy people. They include:

  • Relationships
  • Acts of Kindness
  • Exercise and Physical Well-being
  • Sense of Purpose or Flow (Using your gifts and talents)
  • Spiritual Engagement and Meaning
  • Strengths, Virtues and Moral values
  • Positive Mindset: Gratitude, Optimism, Hope

The question is, can people learn how to be happier? The answer is YES! Happiness is not a stagnant trait that only a few lucky people seem to own. We can all grow, improve and make positive changes. Take a thoughtful look at the seven factors listed above. Are there any areas you could work on or strengthen in your life?

It is important to recognize that  no matter what your circumstances look like, you can find ways to increase your level of happiness despite your challenges. In other words, life doesn’t have to be perfect in order for you to be happy. I have met people (and I’m sure you have too) that are miserable, and yet their life circumstances are comfortable. I have also met people who live in very challenging circumstances, but choose to have a grateful and optimistic outlook, employing many of the principles above.

Let’s face it, life ebbs and flows with sadness, joys, difficulties and sweetness. No one experiences happiness 100% of the time. It is important for each of us to grieve our pain and losses as well as enjoy the delights of life. The good news is that we can make deliberate choices that move us in a happier direction and allow us to positively influence the world around us.

Although happiness is fleeting, there is a joy we can experience deep within us. The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” He points us to something beyond the happiness that this world can offer – the joy of the Lord. There is no greater joy than knowing that we are loved and forgiven as we place our faith in Christ and what He did for us on the cross.

This Easter, I encourage you to look to the only One who can bring lasting love, joy and peace into your life. To learn more about a relationship with Christ visit https://chataboutjesus.com

 

Join me for my new series entitled “Increasing Happiness,” as we look at the seven habits of happy people.  Click the follow button on the right, so that you will receive a weekly email.