5 Questions to Ask Yourself Each Morning to Help You Live Intentionally and Create Your Ideal Life

Do you want to live a more intentional life?  Do you want your days to be happier?  More exciting?  More productive?  More meaningful?

To achieve our ideal life, we must first recognize that each of us is the creator of our own reality and we are responsible for our own happiness.  In each moment, we have the ability to choose love and happiness.  Although we are not the master planners of our life, we have the opportunity to create our lives through intention and our daily practices.

intention leslie schwartz

Each morning, I begin my day writing in my journal.  This practice brings me a peace that I have never experienced in any other way.  When I write, I connect with my soul and I feel a deep connection to God. Writing has helped me to realize that the answers are ALL within us. We do not need to look to others or look outside of ourselves for the answers.  We just need to allow ourselves to be silent and to listen.

When I do not begin my day writing, I often feel scattered and rushed, and my day often feels unproductive.  When I do write and set my priorities for the day, I find that I am able to stay focused throughout the day. Throughout my years keeping a journal, I have discovered that there are a few things that I write about each morning that set the tone for my day and get me off to a great start. Specifically, there are 5 questions I find myself answering each morning:

1. What am I most looking forward to today?  Life is short, and we need to make the most of each day we have here.  If you want your days to be exciting, you need to make that happen.  There should be something in the day ahead to look forward to every single day.  Something other than your alarm clock should be getting you out of bed each morning.  If nothing comes to mind right away, be intentional and come up with something to be excited about for the day.  Maybe you could plan to do an act of kindness that will brighten someone’s day.  I guarantee that will make your day as well!

2. What are my top 3 priorities today?  List the 3 things you would most like to focus your attention on today.  If you are looking to make your days more productive, I would definitely recommend setting your top priorities at the beginning of the day. I have found this practice to be especially effective in my own life.  When I do not set my priorities at the beginning of each day, I find myself feeling scattered and often running around in circles.  When I do set my priorities, I feel more focused, and as a result, I get much more done.  Do recognize that life and distractions do happen, and even your top 3 priorities may not get completed.  I find that it happens often that I don’t accomplish everything on my list, especially with it being summer and my kids are home with me.  I have found that it is important to remain flexible and to think of these things as a guide for my day rather than a rigid task list that must get completed.  Also, I have learned that it is important to recognize distractions as a gift, because they are.  It’s great to set goals for our day to help us remain focused, but ultimately, we need to recognize that we are not the master planner of our lives.

3. What am I most grateful for right now?  I personally believe that gratitude is the secret to happiness, and it is essential to spend some time in gratitude each day.   It is so important to stop and recognize all of the blessings in our lives each day.  We are ALL surrounded by so many blessings.  Many of us take so much of what we have for granted, and we often don’t recognize the gifts in our lives until they are gone.  I try to come up with something different each day, and I try to include those things that I often take for granted. (i.e. a warm bed, the cool breeze of a fan on a hot summer day, etc.)

4. What would I like to learn today?   I love to learn new things!  I think life is so exciting, and there are so many things to explore and learn about.  We all learn new things each day, but every morning I choose something that I would like to intentionally learn how to do, or something I would like to learn more about. (YouTube makes this very easy.)  I have found that this practice makes my days more exciting.

5. How could I spread love into the world today? / How may I serve?  We are here on this earth to love one another and to help one another.  We were all born with unique gifts and talents.  They were given to us so we could use them to serve and to help make the world a better place. We need the help of others to survive, and others need us and all of the gifts we have to offer.  Our actions do not need to be complicated to be effective.  A simple offering of a hug or a compliment can make someone else’s day and have more of an impact than you may know.

Other ways to phrase this question might be:

  • What are some acts of kindness I could do today?
  • What are some things I could do to help others today?
  • How could I use my natural gifts and talents to make a positive difference in the world today?

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore

If you begin your day after answering those five questions, your day will be off to a great start!

If you would like to start your days with these questions but find yourself intimidated by a blank page in front of you, I have created a Daily Planner and Journal that will ask you each of those questions. You simply need to fill in the blanks.  (It is currently available on Amazon for only $3.99)  This daily planner and journal prompts you to answer the 5 questions each morning so you can live your days more intentionally and more productively.  It also provides a nighttime review to help you review your day and to keep a log of some of the activities that are essential in living a healthy, balanced life.  Click the book cover image below to find out more about the Daily Planner and Journal.

August 2016 Daily Planner and Journal Cover

Click cover image to learn more

 

May all your days be filled with love, excitement, learning, living, laughter, kindness, and all things good!

Peace, Love, and Blessings

Stacy

Recipe: Strawberry Banana PB Smoothie

 

Straw banana smoothie2

This is my 13-year old daughter’s favorite smoothie.  I make this for her just about every morning.  One thing I love about smoothies is that you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.  Feel free to substitute your favorite flavor of yogurt, and also adjust the amount of milk to your desired thickness.  To make it sweeter, you may also add some raw honey.   Here is the recipe I use:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup milk (adjust amount to your liking to achieve desired thickness)
  • 1 ripened banana, frozen
  • 6 whole strawberries, frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 6 oz Strawberry Yogurt (or flavor of your choice)

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a blender.  Blend until smooth.

Recipe: Avocado Smoothie

avocado smoothie jtcw

I love this smoothie!  To be honest, I did not expect to like this the first time I tried it.  I had an avocado that I wanted to use up, so I searched the web for a recipe, and I found this Avocado recipe from Allrecipes.com.   To my surprise, it was creamy, cool, and delicious!  Since then, I have made a few modifications to suit my taste and preferences, and it has become one of my favorite smoothies.  This smoothie is a nice change from my usual smoothies that contain banana.  My other recipes usually use at least one frozen ingredient, so ice is not necessary, but I think this one is perfect as is with the ice.  Even if you’re not a huge fan of avocado, I think you may be surprised.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 6 oz. strawberry yogurt (or flavor of your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 8 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to blender.  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!🙂

 

12 Ways to Use Essential Oils

12 ways to use essential oils jtcw

“…And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” ~Revelation 22:2 NIV

Essential oils are a wonderful gift that nature has provided!  I was first introduced to essential oils when I started to take an interest in making DIY personal care products a few years ago.  I used them once in a while in my fabric softener and for cleaning, but I never REALLY started using them until just a few months ago when I took an Essential Oils 101 class and learned about their wide variety of uses and health benefits. Here are some of my favorite ways to use these gifts of nature:

  1. Aromatherapy.   Put your favorite oils in a diffuser (this one is my favorite), and enjoy the healing benefits of the oils through your sense of smell.  This is a great way to help ease stress. Lavender and Stress Away are great oils for this.  Diffusing oils is also very effective at removing odors in the home.  I love to run Purification whenever I am cooking fish for dinner, and it really does take the fish smell away.  Purification is also great at clearing the air and keeping the germs away when someone in our home is not feeling well.
  2. All-Purpose Cleaner.  Fill a spray bottle with half water and half white vinegar.  Add your favorite essential oil (mine is lemon.)  Clean away without worrying about exposing your family and pets to harmful chemicals!🙂
  3. Removing Stickers.  Lemon oil and Orange oil are both excellent at removing glue, stickers, etc.  I use it in place of WD-40.
  4. Toothpaste.  Add a few drops of peppermint oil (or orange or clove oil) to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.  Brush and feel how clean your teeth are!  Orange oil helps to whiten them, too!  Just keep in mind that this toothpaste does not taste or feel like a traditional toothpaste (it will not foam), so it may take some getting used to!  But it’s a great feeling to not have to worry if I (or my kids) swallow some of this.  Young Living also sells toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash that my daughters and I have used.  My daughter went to the dentist in early January and they said she had a cavity.  She began using this toothpaste daily.  7 weeks later, she got her braces off and went back to the dentist for an x-ray.  The cavity did not show up on the x-ray, and it was nowhere to be seen.  I can’t say for sure whether it had anything to do with the toothpaste, but it was sure good to hear that her cavity was gone and she doesn’t have to go back to the dentist until her next cleaning.
  5. First Aid.  I’ve used lavender oil on cuts and scrapes, and sometimes on burns as well (although coconut oil is usually my go-to for burns.)
  6. Get Rid of Lice.  Unfortunately I did have the opportunity to test this one out recently.  With three girls and a “super-lice” outbreak hitting my town in recent months, I knew it was just a matter of time.  I mixed tea tree oil with olive oil, rubbed it on their scalps and combed through their hair, covered with a shower cap and let it sit for several hours, and then combed through thoroughly with a lice comb.  Luckily this happened over a school vacation week, so we had plenty of time to take care of it.  This procedure worked beautifully, and I was happy I didn’t have to put dangerous chemicals on their heads!
  7. Internally.  I don’t recommend taking oils internally unless you have done your research AND you use an oil from a reputable brand that is meant for internal use.  The only oil I have used internally and have given to my family to take internally so far is Lemon from Young Living.  Some people take this every day, but I reserve the use of this for when we are not feeling well.  I gave my daughter 1 drop of lemon in 4 oz of water when she had a sore throat, and the next day her sore throat was gone and she felt much better.  My husband and I have also had similar results taking lemon internally.
  8. DIY Personal Care Products.  There is no limit to the amount of personal care items you can make with essential oils.  From homemade shampoos, soaps, deodorant, toothpaste, face wash, bug spray, and much, much more.  Check out this post at Homemade Mommy for some wonderful DIY Beauty Recipes using Essential Oils.
  9. Fabric Softener.  Add white vinegar and a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine for an excellent, natural fabric softener.
  10. Headaches.   I have personally used peppermint oil for tension headaches, and it works wonders!  I simply applied a drop to my temples.  Just be careful because it is very strong and will make your eyes water.  Headache relief is just one of the many benefits of Peppermint oil.
  11. Pain Relief.  In the Essential Oils 101 class I took, we made a Pain Relief cream.  In a small glass jar, we mixed together 1/2 cup coconut oil, 5 drops Valor, 5 drops Panaway, 5 drops Peppermint Oil, and 5 drops Copiaba Oil.  Rub it on the bottom of the feet or the area of the body that is in pain.  It works great!
  12. Cold/Flu Relief.  Combine 5-10 drops of Thieves or Fighting Five with 1 Tablespoon Coconut oil.  Apply to the bottom of the feet to help boost the immune system.

There are many, many more ways to use essential oils.  The ways I listed above are the things I have personally tried in just a few short months.  Frankincense is also an amazing oil with wonderful healing properties, and I have heard some wonderful stories of how it has helped cancer patients.  I personally mix it with coconut oil and use it as my daily moisturizer.  I have also diffused it, but my family did not care for the scent.

What is your favorite way to use essential oils?

How Our Attitude Affects Our Health

by Amanda Collier

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It is a true honor to introduce our very first guest blogger on Journey to Complete Wellness.  Amanda Collier is a writer and blogger with a public health background.  She has been at the helm of Murray Insurance Agency‘s Blog for the last 10 months.  Amanda is a talented writer with some very good advice, and I think you will like what she has to say.

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We’ve all heard the saying “attitude is everything,” but we rarely think of this in relation to our health. It is generally accepted that illnesses and injuries are something that happen to us, regardless of our attitude. Research and data is beginning to discount this outmoded belief, however. With the backing of studies, it is coming to be more widely accepted that attitude actually has a huge impact on resistance to disease, healing abilities, longevity, and overall wellness.

Attitude and Lifestyle

Your attitude has a direct impact on your lifestyle, but this may not be easy to see when you are living through it. If you feel positive about the day ahead and see yourself as competent enough to handle whatever comes your way, you may be more likely to engage in healthy habits. Walking, working out, drinking water, eating healthy, all of these behaviors seem possible and easy to do when your outlook is positive. A negative outlook may make these activities seem overwhelming and impossible.

Coping with Challenges

The way that we perceive challenges and the way that we choose to cope with those challenges can be improved by facing obstacles with a positive perspective. People tend to improve quicker and see better results when facing health challenges like illnesses and injuries with a positive outlook. While an optimistic approach can have some benefits in itself, people that have a positive outlook also tend to be solution focused and more committed to treatment plans.

Dealing with Emotions

It is impossible to bottle up emotions and stay positive. Freely expressing emotions can be therapeutic and can help individuals to live with a strong positive outlook. In some cases, it may be helpful to see an emotional counselor in order to work through difficult emotions and regain a bright outlook. Emotional counseling may sound like something that is out of reach, but many health insurance plans now help pay for these services because of the indisputable link between emotional and physical health.

Focus on Improving Attitude

A positive attitude is something that can –and should – be cultivated. Shifting to a positive outlook takes thoughtfulness and diligence, but can have lasting benefits on all areas of your life. Over time and with practice you may eventually find that you default to positivity, your first thought in any situation is a positive one.

The following are a few ways that you can work to shift to a more positive attitude:

  • Be conscious of your immediate thoughts and whether they are positive or negative
  • Identify some things that you think negatively about, such as body image or your job, and work on engaging in more positive thinking about those areas
  • Exercise regularly so that your excess energy does not turn into internal stress and negativity
  • Eat healthier so that your body feels better and your mind does not have discomfort to dwell on
  • Banish negative self-talk and work on replacing it with positive self-talk
  • Socialize often and make sure that your circle is filled with positive people

20 Ways to Love Yourself More

20 Ways to love yourself more short

Taking time for your own self-care is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself, for those closest to you, and for your community.  Once you are able to love and accept yourself unconditionally, that love eventually pours out to others in an authentic and loving way.

In the case of an emergency on a plane, you are told to put on your own oxygen mask first before you assist others.  That is because you will not be of any help to anyone else if you run out of oxygen.  The same is true in other areas of life.  Loving yourself is the first step to loving others.  When we care for ourselves first and make our own needs a priority, we are better able to help those around us.  Here are 20 ways to love yourself more:

  1. Make sleep a priority in your life.  Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, or the amount of sleep your body needs to wake up refreshed.  If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, here are some tips to help you get the sleep you need.
  2. Drink more water.  Water is required by every cell of the body and it keeps every part of your body working properly.  Do you get the amount of water your body needs?  Guidelines for the amount of water you should drink every day are controversial and vary depending on the weight, gender, and level of activity of each individual, but the old standby of 64 oz per day is still a popular recommendation.  One tip that I find helpful:  Fill up your water bottle at the beginning of the day and write times down the side of it to guide you throughout the day.
  3. Take a yoga class.  Yoga is a fantastic tool to help improve your health in body, mind, and spirit.  In addition to improving your flexibility, building muscle strength, and perfecting your posture, yoga can help you in so many different ways.
  4. Go for a walk outside.  Go with a friend, go with your dog, or go by yourself.  What is important is that you get out in the fresh air and reap the benefits of nature.  Nature restores health.  From the sun providing you with Vitamin D to the minerals in the rocks on the ground and everything in between, everything in nature is medicine!
  5. Observe one day of rest every week.  On this day, you will do no work.  Instead, you will take the time to slow down, relax, live in the present, enjoy time with your loved ones, and be grateful for all of the blessings surrounding you.  Personally, I feel this practice is the best thing I have ever implemented in my life.  It is not easy to do in this world that promotes busyness 24/7, but the rewards are many!  Give it a try, and see what happens.
  6. Plan time for creativity.  We were put on this earth to create.  Whether you want to believe it or not, you ARE an artist.  We all are.  Whether you like to paint, sew, draw, write, take pictures, or create music, it is time to honor that artist within you and make the time to let yourself create.  Ideally, it would be great if you could set aside some time every day, but if that is not possible, schedule time at least once a week to let your inner artist come out and play.  Don’t worry, those things that you think you “should” be doing instead will still be there when you have finished.  Try it.  Schedule time on your calendar right now.  You will thank yourself later.    “Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.” ~Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
  7. Embrace your uniqueness.  Accept yourself exactly as you are.  Recognize that you were born with the personality traits needed to help you fulfill your purpose here.  Nobody else is here for the same exact purpose as you, so there is no need to compete or compare yourself to anyone else.  Although our society praises some traits over others, know that your personality traits are not weaknesses.  Learn to accept and embrace what society defines as your “imperfections,” and use the natural gifts and talents you have to help make the world a better place.
  8. Take a Real Food Challenge.  You will be surprised at how much energy you will have.  100 Days of Real Food is a fantastic resource for some great real-food recipes!
  9. Practice Gratitude.  View every encounter and experience as a gift.  Even the seemingly bad situations are a gift in the end.  Try to recognize and appreciate these gifts every day.  Think of three things you are grateful for RIGHT NOW.
  10. Move your body.  In any way you wish.  Find something you love to do, and do it!  The important thing is that you are up and moving.
  11. Surround yourself with those who love, support, encourage, and inspire you.  Be kind to everyone at all times, but spend the majority of your time with like-minded, positive people.  Let go of draining friendships, stop hanging out with people who are negative or those who spend their time gossiping and complaining, and do not tolerate disrespect from anyone.
  12. Practice doing one thing at a time.  Do not multitask.  Do one thing at a time, give it your all, and be fully present in everything you do.  Heaven on Earth happens in the moments when you are fully present.  I know this isn’t easy to do.  Especially if you are the primary caretaker of a young child who requires your care 24/7, I recognize that you NEED to multitask.  I’ve been there.  But even a few minutes of focused presence can make a big difference.
  13. Learn something new.  Make the time to learn something new that interests you.  Were you always interested in learning how to decorate cakes or Irish Step Dance, but you never found the time?  You need to MAKE the time.  Take one step toward that today.  Get a book at the library, watch a You Tube video related to your interest, or sign up for a class.  Get out your calendar now and schedule some time to do this.  You will thank yourself later!🙂
  14. Keep a journal.  You may be surprised at some of the insights that go into it.  The wisdom is all inside of you.  You just need to take the time to be still and let it flow.  Writing in a journal can also be very therapeutic and help you to release some of your worries and fears.
  15. Forgive.  Let go of all bitterness you have toward others.  It is not hurting them at all.  It only hurts you, and the longer you hold onto it, the longer it eats away at you.  If you don’t let it go, eventually those emotional issues can manifest into physical illness in your body.  Choose to set yourself free and forgive everyone now, including yourself.  Remember, everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have in the moment.
  16. Practice Mindful Eating.  How often do you eat while doing other things?  If you’re like me, it is most of the time.  I find myself eating while I work or while I drive to save myself time and increase my productivity, and as a result I end up eating more than I realize because I’m busy doing other things.  I think a lot of health issues our society faces today are due to an unhealthy relationship with food, and I believe mindful eating could help with that.  When you eat mindfully, this means you are sitting down at the table and doing nothing else but focusing on the food you are eating.  The television is not on, you aren’t working or checking your phone or e-mails.  If you want to appreciate your food more and enjoy it more fully, give mindful eating a try.
  17. Say no.  And don’t feel guilty about it.  When you do anything out of guilt or obligation, that is not acting in a loving way.  Be honest with yourself and others.  Your time is precious, and it must be guarded fiercely and spent only on those things that are important to you.
  18. Spend some time alone every day.  Meditate.  Pray.  God speaks to you in the silence. Recognize that downtime is never wasted time.  Downtime is necessary to help you to develop your most important relationships of all – with yourself and with God.
  19. Stop trying to be perfect.  There is no such thing as perfect.  Just do the best you can, have a positive attitude, and view every mistake as a learning experience.  Every mistake you have ever made in your life has helped to shape you into the person you are today.  Recognize that as a gift!
  20. Plan your days, but not your life.  Remember, you do not set the master plan for your life.  Make daily to-do lists to help keep yourself on track and improve your productivity, but stay flexible.  Embrace distractions and view them as gifts.  Everything is happening in its own perfect time, so stop trying to rush everything.  Stop trying so hard and just let go and allow God to work through you.

BONUS idea:  Take a Self-Love challenge.  Get to know yourself, recognize your accomplishments, and learn to identify your goals and priorities and what is important to you at this point in your life.   Learn to honor your time and achieve the balance in your life that you have been looking for.

For more ideas on how to love yourself more, or if you would like help implementing some of these ideas into your life, check out my book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge.  The book expands upon many of these ideas and provides step-by-step guidance to help the readers implement them into their lives.🙂

For more self-care tips and inspirational stories and quotes, please like my Facebook Page, Stacy Rancourt

What is YOUR favorite self-care tip?  Please leave a comment below.

Random Acts of Kindness Generator and Additional Kindness Resources

kindness ripple jtcw

Random Acts of Kindness Generator

Being kind sounds so easy, but often we are so caught up in life’s activities that we forget to extend a helping hand. Simple things such as opening the door for someone, or helping a neighbor move are all opportunities to make someone’s life a little easier.

Random Acts of Kindness week is coming up on February 14th, and in order to prepare you for that,  Shari’s Berries has come up with a random acts of kindness generator.  Simply click on a category in the top row and their generator will provide a fun idea for the day.  There are over 50 ideas, so enough for being kind all year long!
RAK Generator preview 500

Additional Acts of Kindness Resources

Kindness Ideas

 

Inspiring Quotes and Stories about Kindness

Movies

  • The Letter Writer.   This inspiring movie is a great reminder of the impact our actions have on others, and the difference one act of kindness can make.
  • Pay it Forward

If you have some suggestions for more inspiring movies about kindness, please let me know about them in the comments below.

 

Coloring Pages

Be kind adult coloring page

From freelargeimages.com

Videos and Inspirational Stories

These inspiring videos demonstrate how a small act of kindness can make a big impact.

Do YOU have any kindness ideas, quotes, videos, or inspiration you would like to share? Feel free to leave them in a comment below or share them on the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook support group. Thank you! 🙂