Tag Archives: complaining

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive

Photo Credit: Hubspot, Carly Stec

OK…so today started really great. Then it got a bit murky…then downright dark. I was all set to turn today’s blog into the ultimate rant! Fortunately, something else happened along the way.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking up meanings to words like “disingenuous” and thinking of the ways that people communicate that shut others down. Aarrgghh!

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships – John Rampton

Which of These Incredibly Annoying Pet Peeves is the Worst? – Analise Dubner

Then…I snapped out of it. Negative thinking is such an unhelpful, unhealthy activity. It is not how I want to be, nor was I ever…routinely negative, that is… until recent years. Getting older seems to bend us toward negativity. My mama sure didn’t raise me to be that way.Photo Credit: Disney Film Bambi, CineLessons, Pinterest

Somewhere in the middle of beefing up my rants on condescension  and exclusivity and those most affected by decision-making not having a place at that table (see the downward spiral?)…I took a deep breath and turned around. Dave will sometimes tell me “pull up” when he could see me mentally plunge downward…and so I did…pull up.

You may have read what I wrote previously about identifying negativity and correcting course. It seems to be a bit of a recurrent subject of late. Those pieces are here:

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativity – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

Today, I came across a super-simple prescription for rewiring our thinking toward positivity. The team at Daily Health Post focused on complaining as a culprit that can actually cause our brains to default to anxiety and depression. From experience, I know this is true. Check out the article below:

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Photo Credit: Daily Health Post

The prescription for rewiring our thinking is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the negativity before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

So…as fascinating as you would have found my rant, I’m sure…better to let it go…and the stress along with it. For now. There are things, destructive hurtful actions (or communications) that might need our intervention along the way. However, we only hurt ourselves and those closest to us when we just go all negative, faithless, and brooding. Thanking God, this is not how this day will end.

The Art of Being a Great Coworker: 13 Ways to Improve Your Work Relationships – Carly Stec

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, a Prayer for the Grieving, Experience and the Brain, Complaining Exposed, and Gift Giving

It’s Friday! Days before Christmas. So no time to lose…here’s this week’s five favorite finds:

1) Beyond the Guitar ChristmasNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has given us 4 sweet Christmas videos over the years. The latest is a medley of 3 Christmas movie classics on guitar. Watch it here:

A Star Wars Christmas – a Classical Guitar Mashup

December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise)

2) A Prayer for the Grieving – This Christmas more than any other I can remember is marked by multiple losses…friends who have died and family members of friends. Words are tricky when you want to reach out to those wounded by loss. Writer Dena Johnson Martin‘s prayer for the grieving at Christmas is a just-right-to-share piece for these dear ones who are still in the throes of grief right now. Especially those looking to God for help but don’t have the words either.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Dena Johnson Martin

A Prayer for Christmas Hope – Dena Johnson Martin [another prayer]

20 Messages of Advice for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays – Sarah Schuster

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

3) Experience and the Brain – You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that has been found to be true only with the right kind of practice. Another saying “Use it or lose it” however does continue to hold true. Exercising our brain and building our brain through experiences are both still vital for brain health and aptitude – from childhood through old age.

Author and brain injury survivor Debbie Hampton has given us 5 Ways Experience Changes the Brain. [It is a ton of cool science. I decided not to list those points out because you really need to read it – to glean just how we can power up learning through experience, intentional and meaningful experience, from early childhood through late adulthood.Photo Credit: Experience Life, Jon Spayde

Neuroplasticity is a fascination of mine. It is defined as “the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time.”

“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.” – Celeste Campbell (n.d.).

What I love about the potential of experience’s positive impact on brain function is that we can be strategic in our own actions and responses. Building healthy and meaningful mental responses rather than being passively reactive to whatever stimuli comes our way.

What Is Neuroplasticity? Definition + 14 Brain Plasticity Exercises

Use It or Lose It – Exercising Your Mind Becomes Even More Important in Old Age – Dawn C. Carr

Upgrade Your Brain – Jon Spayde

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills Writer

4) Complaining Exposed – When it comes to complaining, we all think of someone else who does it…not us. It is an irritating habit, and (like we saw in #3 on neuroplasticity), it only gets worse if unchecked. Poet writer Anne Peterson talks about complaining and how it flows out of 6 heart attitudes. Complaining reveals that:

  • We feel entitled.
  • We are impatient.
  • We hold on to resentment.
  • We compare ourselves to others.
  • We don’t think life is fair.
  • We are conformed to this world/culture.

Read her article for the particulars. Be prepared to rip the excuses off your complaining.

What Your Complaints Actually Reveal About Your Heart Anne Peterson

Photo Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how his mom and wife seem to be incapable of complaining and it’s one of the things he loves about them: “Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. ‘Woe is me’ is truly one of the biggest things that can stand in the way of success both professionally and personally.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

One of the Few Things I Complain About: Complaining – Gary Vaynerchuk

5) Gift Giving – My shopping for Christmas is probably about as done as it will get. As for what I want for Christmas? Forgive the song reference, but all I want for Christmas…is you.Photo Credit: Facebook, Kelly’s Treehouse

When you can’t always have your family around…if you have friends who are generous and genius gift-givers, you can still wrap up all cozy with your family [photo fleece] anyway.

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Happy Christmas, y’all. Thanks for spending this bit of time here. It means a lot to me. May God’s richest Christmas blessing find a place in your heart.

Bonuses:

Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

Marwencol – the website and the feature-length film: Welcome to Marwen – What a story!

2018 Lights on Canoe Brook – The Greatest Showman

I Fit the Description – The Good Men ProjectPhoto Credit: Steve Locke, The Good Men Project

Photo Credit: Facebook; Pal’s Blountville

Photo Credit: Facebook, Christmas comes to Aleppo, Syria under reconstruction.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Music Notes

December Daffodil and Narcissus shoots in December at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenPhoto Credit: Lewis Ginter Twitter

Routines, Rituals, & Rhythms of Life – 10 Disciplines that Can Help Us Reclaim Our Life for Good

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When our children were small, we set routines in place that carried us for long years of relative sanity. We set routines for two reasons – 1) to give them a sense of order and loving boundaries, and 2) to provide a consistent infrastructure in our own lives as their parents. We all knew what the rules were, and what we, the Mills, were about as a family.

If we don’t set up routines in our lives, then our time and energy can be taken captive by the whim of others. By our own brain-in-neutral “me-time”. Or, in my case, just an inescapable drive to do too much, such that if I’m not careful, I accomplish little well. It’s lifelong learning here for me…

In talking about routines, it’s not those of snacking late and falling asleep every night in front of the t.v. Those happen with little effort on our part. It is setting routines in place that reflect God-inspired values…the kinds of routines that will take us right through our elder years; routines that our children will remember and may want for themselves…because those routines mattered; they were good and life-affirming…they are still – no matter the times and culture in which we find ourselves.

The 10 disciplines listed below speak to routines in the rhythm of life. There are rituals that can be set in place to help us be more successful in turning disciplines into a lifestyle. This list is not meant to be prescriptive as much as it is to be descriptive of what we want for our lives. We fail at them regularly, but we aim at these goals daily.

1) Quiet Time in the morning – A friend of ours grew up with a dad who had the philosophy: “Bible before breakfast”. Setting a routine of prayer, Bible reading, and journaling in place can transform our personal lives and our families (even where there are small ones – this is the most challenging time to set this routine; if it’s before the babies come, it’s easier to maintain). It requires getting up early and going to bed early enough to get up early, but it is so worth it. So important for every other part of our daily life.

2) Live life in an orderly way. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a wisdom statement whose origin is ascribed to several including Benjamin Franklin. As a piler (if my projects are put away, it’s as if they don’t exist), this is a life-long battle, but I work at it everyday. Especially the common areas of our home, the dishes, and the laundry. This could also relate to our email folders, but I won’t even go there on this one.

3) Tithe and avoid debt. Being generous toward God and toward others makes for a truly satisfying life. Living within our means and being thrifty help us develop the margin wherein we can exercise generosity. We have never had big salaries or huge debt, so we don’t know the temptation or struggle, respectively, of either of those. We have seen this principle of giving at work in our lives and that of others more generous than us. It is life-infusing, for sure.

4) Worship God. You can see there is no order to this list of 10. Worshipping God as a lifestyle can permeate all the other routines of life. This is not just about attending church; it’s really worshipping God, corporately with the church, as well as completely alone. Keeping a Sabbath makes for a huge jumpstart in a lifestyle of worship – setting aside a day of rest, as He has instructed us, and then using that day to reflect on Him. Amazing grace comes out of that. Then as we make remembering God a rhythm of life, all that happens to us and to those around us is set in the reality of a good and loving God.

5) Honoring Communications: This can be a prickly subject as our current technology has really not helped with communication as much as we think. We almost communicate, at best. When our children were growing up, we visited more, talked around the dinner table, and had guests in often. It can be a stretch for our introvert family members, but genuine, wholly engaged communication yields great gains for everyone involved. So…given where we are today: Answer those texts. Make phone calls when a situation is time- or message-sensitive. Write cards especially for those older, harder hearing, and far away. Deal with business communication in a timely manner. Exercise courtesy. Treat others in good faith. ‘Nuff said. I fail here regularly, but it’s always on my radar.

6) Work with your hands…whether it’s in the garden, or working in the kitchen, playing an instrument, or making things. When our children were young, they would sometimes complain of being bored. We would always tell them, “Go do something.” That seemed a simple instruction, but it seemed to help them rally, sort of “snap out of it”. I don’t understand boredom, really; there is so much out there to learn and do. I admire friends and family of ours who tackle challenging skillsets, figure things out, and create something of beauty or usefulness. Working with our hands makes a big difference in our lives. I know this experientially whether the science supports it or not.

7) Take time to be kind. Slowing down is really a requirement to being kind – to hold a door for someone, or make a meal for a new mom, or show care for someone instead of going straight to the business at hand. Time is a limited resource. Guard it…don’t squander it. Or redeem it – slowing down may not always be an option, but we can definitely restructure how we use our time. Have regular bedtimes and morning wake-up times. Healthier lives give us the fuel for both using our time better and showing kindness to those around us.

8) Honor your parents. I have had the great blessing of generous and wise mom and mom-in-law. They loved both Dave and me with open hands, encouraging us to watch out for both sides of our families. We gain so much in those relationships. We have a friend who talked to his elderly father every single day. He read the Bible to him over the phone when his eyesight got too bad to read it himself. His father has gone on to be with the Lord, but what a blessing that was for him, for them. Are you setting up routines in your life that serve those who loved you most?

9) Pray instead of worry or fret. You know what I’m talking about here. At night, I have a discipline of going back over the day with the Lord, placing people and situations in His hands. Then I can sleep. I try to do the same on waking, training my thoughts to God rather than stressing about the day ahead.

10) Be good stewards of your mind, body, and relationships. This is where all the healthy living stuff might come in. So much more than that though is the intentionality of being a good steward of your over-all life. For instance, life-long learning must be part of our routine or we really go into “slow”. Still another friend of ours has a routine of 45 minutes of reading a day (beyond his quiet time and reading at work), just for the purpose of learning. Regarding relationships, we can intentionally build routines that connect us with people. Breakfast clubs. Community Bible studies. Weekly prayer groups. Volunteer teams. Regular dates with friends (including our spouses or roommates and family). Just like our bodies and minds, our relationships require tending, and we will reap a harvest in how we steward them.

A few years ago, Jen Hatmaker wrote a book entitled 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It was a great help for me to examine the excesses in life that keep us from establishing life-giving routines. There are many helps for us out there, but her book came at a time when I was searching for more balance, more space, in life…it’s available to us as we determine to build in routines and rituals through the rhythms of life.

Blog - Routines - 7 by Jen Hatmaker

Routines will happen. Just be intentional on making the ones you truly want to happen. Do something. Do the next thing. Do the right thing. Serve somebody.

7: An experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

How Changing This One Bad Habit Changed Our Home for Good – Complaining

Routines, Rituals, and Rhythms by an English Mum

Rhythms, Routines, & Rituals for Homeschooling Families

Family Routines and Rituals – A Context for Development in the Lives of Young Children

Stop…and Then Go – Connect with Internationals

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For many years, our family lived overseas. When work takes people out of their home countries into other cultures, we can embrace the experience or insulate ourselves from the experience. I loved living overseas. The people who invited us into their lives were some of the kindest, most generous people we’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Our family tried to live very intentionally, learning all we could about the ebb and flow of life of each new culture and what mattered to the people there.

Our friendships grew deep, even when we didn’t share the same religion or the same traditions, we lived life alongside each other. We learned from them and they learned from us. Now, working back in the U.S., I find that we’re on the flip-side of that experience. We have many, many internationals living in our city, and some are our friends. They are here for school or for work or for refuge from war or other disasters. Just as local people overseas reached out to us with help and hospitality, we want to reach out to these internationals who are now our neighbors here.

Rachel Pieh Jones, in her blog Djibouti Jones, lists out 20 things expats should stop doing if they are going to really thrive in their host countries (where they’re currently working or studying). I was intrigued by this list and saw how some of Rachel Jones’ observations would be helpful when applied here, by us in our home countries. Out of her list of 20 “stop’s” – things to stop doing in order to make a foreign place more your home – I adapted 10  (with her permission) to help us be less “foreign” to internationals/immigrants – those who are among us gradually making this country their home (even for a season). As we are willing to stretch out our lives to truly welcome internationals in, we can help make it possible for them to feel at home here (for a season…or a lifetime).

10 Things We Should Stop Doing if We Desire to Build Relationships with Internationals

  1. Stop complaining. We complain a lot, and often about first world problems. We also too often complain about peoples of other nationalities (both those in our home country and in their own). If we truly desire to demonstrate the love of Christ to them, we look for what is good (about our own country, and theirs).  Focus on what is good about both their country and our own. Look for the common denominators that build bridges.
  2. Stop putting off language learning. You may not have any ambition about learning another language, and for sure, most internationals living here for school or work are doing what they can to master English. Still it is a delight for any of us to hear even a few words in our own language. Rachel Jones talks about the great impact you can have by learning even a few words: “Make their day by putting in the time, effort, and laughter to honor their language.”
  3. Stop hanging out with only other Americans. Internationals, and especially immigrants, will find each other, and tend to also gather just among themselves. However, if you reach out to a neighbor or colleague or fellow student, you will, more often than not, be well-received. Strike up a conversation and gently ask questions about them and their country and their culture. You may be opening the door to a friendship beneficial to you both. Visit your new international neighbor (bearing in mind possible cultural constraints, but don’t let those keep you from extending hospitality). Are there immigrant vendors/proprietors in your neighborhood? Call them by name. “Celebrate holidays with gusto”, Jones says, (both yours and theirs).
  4. Stop your addiction to social media. There’s a lot to be said about what we gain from social media. Eventually, however, to really engage with international/immigrant neighbors or coworkers, you have to get up, go out, and meet them where they are. Just this week I celebrated the discovery of an authentic Japanese noodle restaurant with a young Japanese friend. She just graduated from her university here and, with no family in the US, we celebrated together as family.
  5. Stop taking yourself so seriously. To pursue cross-cultural relationships, you will make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand social cues from an international friend. You will make mistakes, sure, but your friend knows your heart. People who don’t make mistakes in international relationships simply don’t have them..at least at any deep, constant level.
  6. Stop ignoring beggars.  This may seem a strange point in this list. Rachel Jones’ family has made their second home in a very impoverished African country. If you live in a US city, you have probably encountered beggars. They are most probably Americans, not internationals. Still beggars are found in most cultures. How to respond to beggars is a challenge for us all. It may be a case-by-case decision, but seek the Lord about a Biblical response to beggars. Beggars remind us all of how Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” Your immigrant/international friends will take note of how you respond to beggars. In her blog, Jones said, “That doesn’t mean to start giving to them; decide your own convictions on that. But look at them and talk to them. Ask their names and listen to their stories.”
  7. Stop ignoring the international press and international events[observed locally].  To often we focus on the news reports that only affect us. As you develop friendships with internationals, seek out news items that affect them or their families back home. Participate in their cultural events or festivals when possible.
  8. Stop shopping only at the more high-end stores. Of course, there are internationals who are very wealthy and shop in those stores, too. This is just to keep in mind for the others in your lives. Find where your immigrant friends shop and how they manage to feed and clothe their families. You may learn how to better, or more creatively, do the same for your own family.
  9. Stop being afraid. Examine your heart about what makes you afraid of being in the lives of internationals. Is it the language difference? Their culture? Are you afraid you might offend? Or you afraid a friendship might be too time-consuming? Or will it become awkward if they need jobs or a visa? Or is it an issue of love – you are not even sure how you feel about them being here? With God’s help, deal with the fear and allow Him to work in your heart to build bridges, rather than walls.
  10. Stop thinking you can solve the(ir) country’s problems.  I heard a very strange news report this week that enemy nations were accusing each other of killing their own people and blaming the other side.  We live in strange times, and it’s difficult to know really who to believe about politics or the world’s problems. We all have opinions about how nations can improve the situation for their peoples, but very few of us are in a position to make that happen. Praying and loving, in Jesus’ name, are our best tools to help our friends as they look back “home” and long for things to be better there.

A Bonus: Rachel Pieh Jones ended her list of 20 Stops with:

20.  Stop forgetting to call your mom. Good advice for us all.

I hope you found this helpful. Jones’ blog for expats reminded me of how we’re all pilgrims on this journey. Whatever we can do to help and understand each other will make community for people who very much need community…and in demonstrating the love of Jesus to these immigrants/internationals, they gain much more than just our friendship.

20 Things Expats Need to Stop Doing