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How to Stay Mentally Healthy During the Holidays

Do the holidays stress you out? You’re not alone. It’s a hectic time of year for many people, maybe even most people.

Nothing about our usual daily life goes away. The holidays add a layer of activities and responsibilities, both real and imagined, that take up time, money and emotional energy. Even if we enjoy many aspects of the season, there may well be moments when we wish we could rewind the calendar to somewhere in the middle of August.

I can’t reverse the calendar, but I can remind you of some strategies for maintaining your sanity during this most pressured time of year.

  • Recognize that the people in your life are who they are. It is not new information who will be the Scrooge, who will drink too much, who will have unrealistic expectations or who will be generous to a fault. No one is going to change just because it’s the holidays. Let go of the idea you can change anyone who bugs you. Find constructive ways to minimize their impact on your life. Put your energy and time into those who know how to love and whose presence makes you happy.
  • Give yourself permission to let some things go. Take a moment each morning to gather your thoughts. Make a list of all the things you have to do and want to do. Check off the two or three items that are really important to you. Let yourself entertain the idea of letting go of many of the others — or at least reducing them in some way. Many of us make our own stress by buying into the “have to’s.”
  • Take time every day to enjoy something about the season. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of decorating and shopping and baking and wrapping. But are you enjoying any of it? Stop. Breathe. Take a few minutes to enjoy the decorations on the lampposts or to really look at the lights. Savor one of the cookies. Inhale the warm smells coming from your oven. Wrapping a gift can be just another chore or it can be a way to quietly celebrate what the intended receiver means to you.
  • Take care of yourself. We should do this all the time but it’s especially important to get enough sleep, to eat right, and to get some exercise every day when stressed. Self-care is not an “extra,” even though it may seem to take too much time. Time invested in yourself each day will more than pay off in your general sense of well-being throughout the season.
  • Everything in moderation. Be mindful of your own tipping points when it comes to holiday indulgences. You already know your limits for alcohol and sweets. Listen to your own good sense and you’ll avoid waking up with regret, a hangover or an extra five pounds.
  • Stick to your budget. Forty-five percent of those polled in a recent survey done by Think Finance (a provider of payday loans) said that the financial stress of the holidays makes them wish they could skip the whole thing. This was true across all income levels. Yes, it’s difficult to resist the commercialism, the hype, the buy, buy, buy messages that are everywhere. But it’s important to remind ourselves that overspending is not the only way to express love. Gifts that are made by the giver often are more meaningful and treasured than anything that comes from a store. Spending quality time with someone sometimes is the best present of all.
  • Reach out. Lonely? Being alone, far from family or without one during the holidays is a key source of stress for many people. Connect with friends and plan some activities that celebrate the season — even if it’s just enjoying a peppermint stick in a cup of tea. Attend your house of worship and stay if there is a coffee hour. Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering at a soup kitchen or charity event for needy children. Being in a festive atmosphere with other good people who are doing good work is a great antidote for loneliness.
  • Do random acts of kindness. Get into the season of giving. Let someone else have that parking space near the store. Compliment the harried store clerk. Let the mom who is shopping with kids go ahead of you in line. Be generous with street musicians. Doing good will make you feel good — or at least better.
  • Be grateful. Research has shown that taking the time to be grateful every day has enormous physical and mental health benefits. It helps build our immune systems, keeps us in touch with the positive aspects of life, and connects us with others. So keep a holiday gratitude journal. From now until the New Year take a few minutes every day to write down at least three things you are grateful for. They don’t have to be huge events. Sure. If you win the lottery tomorrow, you can be grateful for that. But short of such a windfall, we can be grateful for having enough food to eat or for getting a phone call from a friend or for the neighbor whose holiday lights make us smile.

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The holiday season may be busy, but it doesn’t have to drive us insane. We do have the ability to bring down the stress and bring up the joy. After all, the best gift we can give ourselves and those around us is our own peace of mind.

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Take Time Out For Yourself This Christmas

A mental health charity is urging people to give themselves the gift of time and kindness this Christmas. 

The message, from Washington Mind, comes with only days to go until the big day, and the pressure of trying to make it perfect could mean some people are well on the way to reaching their breaking point.

It is so important to give yourself permission to take time out. Jacqui Reeves 

People are being encouraged to take a step back and to try to do something for themselves – in particular those who are already caring for loved ones.

Jacqui Reeves, services manager with Washington Mind, said: “For most of us, Christmas is a time for thinking of others, but we must also remember to think of ourselves.

“The old adage of looking after yourself to be able to look after others is so true.
“It is so important to give yourself permission to take time out from all the gift giving, party preparations and cooking to make sure you take care of yourself.
“This can help not only to prevent some problems getting worse, but may even stop them developing at all.
“You can enjoy the festivities without the unnecessary stress.”

One person who took to self-care to help boost her mental health and wellbeing said: “Being overweight and diabetic – not to mention my fear of touch – meant that going to a spa and taking part in sessions of reflexology, Reiki and back massage, wasn’t easy.”

“But, after enjoying the treatments so much, I now take time out to go regularly.
“It has been helped my mood improve, helped my fear of touch and I have also now got control over my diabetes. I’ve gone on to lose over a stone in weight, which has also improved the way I feel about myself.

Today, people are being asked to be their own best friend. Do something or say something nice about themselves.

self-love

Experts say people often beat ourselves up and talk to ourselves in a way they would not dream of talking to others. Be nice to yourself.

Mind has issued the following advice to help people take care of themselves in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

Exercise: Physical activity can boost mental wellbeing and change your outlook on life. It can help people with anxiety and depression – even preventing those problems from developing in he first place. The important thing is to choose something you enjoy so you stick at it. If you are physically disabled, contact a local disability group about exercises you can do.

Relax: Christmas can be a very busy period for many people so try to make time to slow done and relax. Give yourself permission to take time out from the hustle and bustle. Planned relaxation calms anxiety and helps your body and mind recover from everyday rush and stress.Music, reading, a long soak in the bath or a walk in the park can help you to relax or taking part in something you enjoy.

Sleep: This is the time of year when it is all too easy not to get enough sleep. We may have more physical and emotional activity than normal during the 12 days of Christmas. Making sure you have enough, sleep can help you cope better with any difficult feelings and experiences.

Laugh: Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress.

Ask for help: You don’t have to do everything yourself, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have any worries or concerns, talk to someone about them – don’t let them spoil your Christmas.

LISA NIGHTINGALE      Thursday 22 December 2016 
For more information on self-care, visit www.wellbeinginfo/self-care


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6 Steps to Stress Less and Stay Motivated

Stress. It’s that slap-in-the-face feeling you get when there are too many demands, too many people to please, and too little time to get it all done.

This is not a pleasant or productive state to be in.

Sure, a little stress can be motivating and even energizing, but even working best under pressure has its limits. Eventually, it becomes physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.

When you reach that point, you don’t want to do anything. You’re tense, on edge, and mentally blocked.

If you’ve hit your stress limit, here’s a quick checklist to keep yourself calm and moving on:

1. Remember that you are enough.

When you’re stuck in not-good-enough mode, it can feel like you’re always doing something wrong. This only makes a stressful situation worse.

It’s a vicious cycle, and soon all you seem to see are your flaws. You feel weak and defeated. You lose motivation, energy, and creativity, and you’re convinced that you can’t cut it.

What if this time you remembered that you are enough? What would you do differently when things get tough?

You have nothing but stress to lose by trying.

2. Put on your own mask first.

You can’t do anything unless you are taking care of yourself. It’s nearly impossible to think clearly and stay motivated when you aren’t fueling, resting, and recharging your body and mind.

When your gut reaction to stress is hunkering down and pushing harder to get through it, it usually means doing less of the things that improve your mood and outlook on the situation. This might work for a little while, but eventually you get burned out.

Break the cycle by handling stress strategically. Ask yourself what one thing you could change about your self-care to help you through this stressful time. Give it the time it deserves as you test out that change.

Your body, mind, and productivity will thank you for it.

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3. Let go of

No matter where you are in life, “should” and “supposed to” usually end in stress. This self-talk adds pain to an already upsetting situation.

This may surprise you, but “should” also helps you solve problems a lot less than you might think. Rather than facing a problem head-on as it is, it gets you frustrated about what it is not. This gets you nowhere fast.

Relieve your stress and keep up your motivation by making the move from should to solution. Ask what you can do about the situation as it is right now.

 4. Let go of comparison and competition.

Comparison and competition can be motivating when the conditions are right, but they sure can backfire. They can put you under constant pressure and make it feel like your entire worth as a person hinges on keeping up. When this goes too far, it’s defeating, not inspiring.

Having the drive to excel isn’t the problem here. The problems come when you focus more about the outcome than the process of getting there. When you can’t celebrate the small victories, be kind to yourself in the face of failure, or remember your unique strengths, you have the perfect conditions for losing motivation and feeling stressed.

If this sounds familiar, give yourself a time-out to think about what makes you who you are, what is meaningful to you, and what else you could be doing with your time and energy if you got off the hamster wheel of comparison/competition.

5. Reevaluate your expectations.

When you’re stressed, reevaluating expectations can feel a little too much like settling, so remember this: adapting your expectations to meet reality is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of intelligence! Sometimes the most effective way to stay on track is to pivot and try again with a fresh perspective.

You could tell yourself that you should have been able to meet your expectations exactly as they were, but life rarely plays by those rules. Rather than arguing with life about it, take a moment to adjust. Shift your perspective by taking the situation as it is and coming up with your best plan from there.

6. Slow down.

Stress can happen when you get ahead of yourself and take on too much at once.
It isn’t that you’re not capable of doing these things but that the combination of things, timing, and circumstances right now is just not working for you.

The result? Overwhelm. Indecision. Paralysis.

To slow down, focus on what’s right in front of you. Where are you today? What’s going to work right here?

Think of it as doing what works rather than trying to do everything all at once. Set small goals that fit into the bigger picture, and celebrate as you reach them. It’s so much more effective (and motivating) that way.

JUNE 5, 2016      BY LESLIE ROMERO RALPH
Leslie shows working moms how to bust those superwoman myths 
and bring back the balance and joy with her signature blend of real-life positive psychology tips 
and guilt-free meditations at A Year of Happy. .


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How to Stop Being a Victim and Start Creating Your Life

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die.  And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“They” say things happen at the “right” time. For me hearing a presentation, live, by Jack Canfield, came at the perfect time.

I was in San Diego, the traveling babysitter for my precious 5-month old granddaughter, while my daughter attended a nutrition conference. It was an all around win-win situation—a new place to sightsee and of course spend quality (alone) time with baby Rachel and daughter Penina.

When I found out Jack Canfield was the final key speaker, I jumped at the chance to attend. And the topic certainly resonated with me—“getting from where you are to where you want to be.” Now how’s that for someone in transition working to carve out a new path!

There were a lot of takeaways, fabulous ideas to hold onto; so much so that I’ve been carrying around his book, The Success Principles, and studying it since I got home.

One thing that really speaks to me is this idea of taking 100% responsibility for one’s life.

As a society, we are so quick to assign blame and pull out all the excuses as to why something did or did not happen.

All the “He made me, she made me….” finger pointing. There’s a reason why “the dog ate it” became such a classic excuse.

We relinquish all power when we go there. Where are we in this? I know that by nature many of us are passive recipients of life and are at the mercy of what befalls us.

In my workshops with parents on teaching responsibility, many are stuck or love acting in their role as helicopter parents, swooping down to save, rescue, and do all for their kids—all under the guise of, “The more I do for my child, the better parent I am.”
And therefore what are we teaching our kids when they come in to class and tell the teacher, “My mom forgot to pack my lunch”?

Then there’s the parent who comes ranting to school, “Don’t suspend my little Stevie for calling Andy names and hitting him in the playground; his sister does that to him at home, it’s no big deal.”

We are facilitating the perpetuation of an entitled breed of human beings.

In my practice as a therapist, clients would talk for years about being stuck because of what their dysfunctional nuclear families did to them.  “My mother did this, my father that…”

And then of course there’s me. What comes all too naturally for me is my quick ability to find fault with others, to pass judgment and criticize.

Who is to blame—why, my mother of course, queen of “judgmentalism.” I fight against these tendencies constantly.  But they do rear their ugly head often enough.  I guess it’s in my bloodstream. I’m aware of it; I work at it. I know where it comes from; therefore that explains it but it certainly does not excuse it.

 

This is my problem, my issue. What matters is how I handle it and work to respond differently—to catch myself while it’s doing its internal dance before it parts from my lips.

Not owning up to our actions—this takes away our part in doing anything different. We simply remain stuck while we continue to complain and feel miserable in our status quo of negativity.

We don’t have to worry about any discomfort of stepping out and trying on any new responses in this place.

There is no disqualifying the hurts and pain of the past. Our past, along with its inevitable issues and problems, contribute to who we are.

But we can go beyond the pain of our “stuff” and create new and good lives despite….

But we first must take charge of ourselves and decide we are capable of doing, being, and acting differently. We have to decide it’s up to us and not pass along our power to the blame and excuse game.

Assigning blame and making excuses keeps us victimized. We don’t have to do anything different because it’s not about us; it’s about someone or something else. We’re simply the recipient.

We may in fact be the recipient of external forces outside our control, but we have the control over our reactions and responses in what we do and how we handle it.  

Ah, but beginning to look at ourselves and our responses might shake us up a bit. It means we might have to make a move, do something different, or try something new. That can be scary.

Steps to take to begin taking responsibility for our life:

1. Decide you’re going to take on this new way of thinking. It is a different mind-set.

2. Make the conscious decision that it’s up to you.

3. Read some great books (or audio tapes) out there on this idea—by Wayne Dyer, of course Jack Canfield, and Eckhart Tolle. I recommend Madeline Levine’s The Price of Privilege.

4. Pick one thing and decide you’re going to respond differently—for example, when you’re stuck in traffic, decide you’re going to have a different response. Instead of getting all worked up, take some deep breaths and relax back into your seat with some good music on.

5. Put a visual Stop sign up in your mind when you feel yourself becoming defensive and ready to blame.

6. Apologize for something sincerely without attaching any “and” or “but” to it. “I’m sorry I raised my voice, but I couldn’t help it.” The “but” disqualifies the apology. Take responsibility for the reaction of yelling.

7. Take an action step, however small or inconsequential it may seem, toward something you want to attain.

8.  Empower yourself with “I can” and “I will” statements. “I can give this talk.” “I will write this paper.” Then the juices start flowing and we rev ourselves up with positive energy.  (Possibly some fear, too, but we will push through that.)

The internal stop sign goes up with the “I won’t” and “I can’t,” and we cut ourselves off from any creative or out-of-the-box thinking that might yield some unexpected, “Yeah, I can do this.”

9. Adopt the attitude, “change begins with me.”

10. Step outside your comfort zone. Try a different behavior or response to a familiar scenario. If you’re always running late in the morning madness and snapping at everyone in frustration, you can try getting most things ready the night before; try getting up earlier to get ready first; or decide to infuse yourself with some quiet time while everyone else is still sleeping.

This type of thinking and acting isn’t always easy, and it can feel like it’s too much effort, but becoming proactive in creating the life you want will yield tremendous results. You don’t need that big new happening to occur; you’ll see and feel it in the small changes. Those will be the stepping stones to continue onward.


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What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t

When asked the question: “Do you take care of yourself?” most of us will answer yes — we’d even think, “What kind of question is this? Of course I care about myself.”

When asked, “In what ways do you take care of yourself?” — well, that’s where the tricky part begins.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple idea in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keep to a good relationship with oneself and others.

What isn’t self-care?

Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman defined, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”

Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently, able to take care of others as well. That is, if I don’t take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to my loved ones either.

In a few words, self-care is the key to living a balanced life.

Where do you start? Well, there are 3 golden rules:

  • Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.
  • Self-care needs to be something you actively plan on, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.
  • What I often emphasize to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels and what the outcomes are.
Healthy-Lifestyle

Although self-care means different things to different people, there’s a basic checklist which can be followed by all of us:

  • Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. E.g. Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
  • Promote a nutritious, healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Exercise. In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
  • Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off checkups or visits to the doctor.
  • Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day; in the morning, when anxious, before going to sleep.
  • Spend enough time with your loved ones.
  • Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether this is taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding yourself.
  • Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.
  • Look for opportunities to laugh!

Set up a 15-day self-care routine and see how you feel before and after. And never forget: As with everything, self-care takes practice!

 By Raphailia Michael, MA

About Raphailia Michael, MA
Raphailia Michael is a licensed Counselling Psychologist, qualified in Cyprus, Slovenia and the Netherlands. She runs an online practice working with people from all over the world, as well as a practice in Cyprus where she offers face-to-face sessions, workshops, skills groups and group therapy. Raphailia works with a variety of symptoms in a humanistic and integrative way, drawing on the perspectives of Person-centered approach, Narrative therapy, CBT, DBT, and Mindfulness. Her goal is to help her clients through their journey towards self-empowerment, self-acceptance and a more fulfilling life. More information can be obtained through www.raphailiamichael.com.


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7 Ways to Fend Off Holiday Stress (and Stay Grateful!)

By: Jordyn Cormier     November 30, 2015

The holidays are the most joyous time of the year, right? Well for some of us, what should be a pleasant season filled with laughter and mirth turns into a 90 day stress marathon. But do the holidays really have to be strangled by a glittering tinsel of stress? Absolutely not. Here are 7 tactics to fend off holiday stress and truly embrace the holidays.

Eat mindfully. Instead of stuffing your face — which is absurdly easy to do — really work on tasting your holiday treats. The holidays aren’t just about eating. Slow down, connect with your loved ones, make memories. Sure, food is a part of the equation, but that doesn’t mean you have to be constantly eating. Enjoy yourself mindfully and in moderation to skip the guilt that tends to accompany overindulging.

Make room for yourself. Everyone needs something during the holidays, and you may especially feel the pressure to give even more of yourself than usual. However, if giving your friend a ride to an appointment is going to throw off the rest of your day and flood your constricting vessels with stress, it’s best to practice saying ‘no’. Helping out loved ones is lovely, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your own well being to accommodate others. Treat yourself well, and then you’ll be able to treat your loved ones well. If you burn out, you’ve done a disservice to both yourself and those who rely on you. Make room for ‘you time’: take a bubble bath, go to yoga, see a concert, indulge in a trashy novel. Enjoy the season without spreading yourself too thin.

Stop worrying about money. If you’re a little low on spare cash this year, it can be easy to get swept up in the dismay of not being able to afford gifts for your loved ones. Don’t get sucked into the commercialism of the holidays. If you can afford nice gifts, great. If you cannot, use your ingenuity. Buy a book from a thrift store, make a piece of jewelry out of found items, craft a collage, write a song — explore your own creativity! Money isn’t everything, so stop stressing about it. It really is the thought that counts.

How to Stay Healthy at Christmas

Stay positive. Money, work, deadlines, relationships, crowded shopping centers, chores, bills, that incessant holiday music that’s been playing since Halloween — there are plenty of things that can get you irritated or down over the holidays. But, negativity is a vicious cycle and will only serve to increase your stress. Try to work on some self-affirmations or emotional resetting exercises. Your mind is a powerful tool that has the complete control to stop a cycle of negative thinking. Know this — you are good enough, your problems are not insurmountable, and holiday joy is all around you just waiting to be enjoyed. Use whatever works for you to get your outlook back on track. If imagining Ryan Gosling standing in front of you in a Santa cap is what keeps you with a positive outlook, hey, no one’s judging…

Stay humble. Feelings of humility and gratefulness have actually been shown to drastically improve your well being. Those who focus on their blessings rather than their obstacles are better equipped to handle stress. “…to the extent that gratitude, like other positive emotions, broadens the scope of cognition and enables flexible and creative thinking, it also facilitates coping with stress and adversity.” (source) Be regularly thankful for all that you have, and the world will seem a whole lot brighter and more manageable.

Be accepting of others. Everyone is different and beautifully unique. The holidays are a time to embrace these differences and celebrate them. Try to take a step back from disagreements and arguments and attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. Instead of getting bogged down by minor disputes, turn down your ego and try to come to a peaceful compromise. We are all very human and so very flawed. Let’s accept and celebrate that.

Accept yourself. Most of our stress and negativity comes from within. We may project it upon others, but we are much more capable of handling outside stress when we are happy with ourselves. This is a lifelong journey, but the sooner you learn to love the person you are, the happier and more peaceful your life will be. Let your true, positive self shine this holiday season and good vibes will bounce back.

Stress can be a difficult obstacle to acknowledge, and an even more difficult one to overcome. But don’t let it thwart the joy of the holidays! By practicing mindful techniques and focusing on the positive, you can be a glowing entity of holiday cheer rather than a furry little grinch. Feel the joy and enjoy the fruits of the holidays!


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7 Things Truly Kind People Do EVERY Day That Make Us Adore Them

By Jan Bowen

It’s hard not to love a person this great!

Have you ever noticed that kind people are also incredibly content in their life?

That’s because being kind literally increases our levels of health and happiness. Research shows this impacts our relationships positively, as well. Kindness helps keeps couples together. The more your partner is on the receiving end of your goodwill, the more likely they are to shower you with love in return.

Kindness is pretty awesome. It creates an overall climate of trust, acceptance and comfort. And let’s be honest — in this age of violence, war, general snarkiness, and online cruelty, “being kind” is it’s own form of social rebellion. What a fun way to “stick it” to an overly harsh world.

While over-the-top “nice” people tend to annoy us, genuine kindness is a trait pretty much everyone appreciates and admires. So what’s the difference between that amazing, kind person everyone adores and, well … you? Here a seven things they do every single day that make people want to be around them:

1. They’re kind to themselves. They know that being spontaneous and generous requires having solid stores of your own positive energy. So, they take care of meeting their own needs first, before giving to others. As a result, receiving from them feels like a true gift.

2. They’re grateful. Truly and deeply grateful … for life and all its blessings, its challenges, and its lessons. In every circumstance, they take time to find and acknowledge the kernel of good — viewing every situation with a glass half full mindset. They still acknowledge what’s challenging, but in facing it, they strive to help others keep perspective, too.

3. They truly listen. Even when they have something to add, they know how to just listen first to what others say, so that the person talking feels respected and understood. They connect fully, listen with interest, and don’t censor or talk-over what others are saying.

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4. They’re confident. Their self-confidence allows them to indulge their big-hearted nature without expecting anything in return. And others find this quality incredibly attractive. Every day, kind people look for opportunities to give someone the benefit of the doubt — and they do. Because they’re confident in themselves, they don’t need to take others down for every misstep.

5. They genuinely care. Kind people pay attention and your happiness and well-being are on their mind. While they respect personal boundaries, they support and celebrate what serves your higher good. They want to know how your day is, how your mom is, and that the people in your life treat you right.

6. They laugh often. Kind people see the humor and irony in situations, without the snarkiness and meanness others typically show. Life is funny! And these awesome people know that sometimes the best gift you can give someone is just helping them laugh and lighten up. Dropping a witty comment at just the right moment — they are masters light-hearted comedy.

7. They’re respectful. They thrive on diversity but don’t expect others to share their opinions. They accept your right to your own viewpoint, even if they don’t agree with it. And they would never shame or embarrass someone in any way — verbally or non-verbally. They look out for others and try to protect them from feeling small in front of others.

Small acts of kindness make a big difference.

Grand gestures don’t always mean more than small kindnesses. After all, it’s the “little things” that show an awareness of others (who they are and what they love). Kind people put their love for you into action, through small thoughtful gestures that show they care enough to pay attention. Little things like: sending cards, making a phone call, buying presents.

But life is busy, times get hectic and we don’t always have time for those extra actions.

We will, however, always have time for kindness because it is the real intention and emotion behind those actions. Follow up with those gestures when you have the time and opportunity and watch how fast those around you begin to think you’re the kindest person they know.

But when you don’t, still make the time to take care of yourself, truly listen in a conversation, and be deeply grateful. And just see if the world doesn’t seem a little … or a lot… nicer.

Jan L. Bowen is an author and certified thought leader, experienced at helping her clients facilitate their life more joyfully and easily.