Healthy diet & eating

A balanced and nutritious diet including vegetables, fruit and whole grains is just as important to mental and emotional health as it is to your physical health:

  • A nutritious breakfast can give you plenty of emotional and physical energy for the day. This will also avoid the ‘4pm’ mood slump which has you reaching for a quick sugary fix
  • Keep yourself fuelled throughout the day with smaller proportions of healthy nutritious foods, rather than several big meals
  • Avoid the highs and lows of sugary and high carbohydrate foods (biscuits, cakes and lollies) which can cause mood swings
  • Include protein in each meal to help maintain a more balanced mood throughout the day

Physical activity & exercise

Regular exercise can improve mood

Regular exercise has been linked to improved mental and emotional health including:

  • reduced depressive symptoms
  • reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety
  • improved mood
  • improved self-efficacy

Just 10 minutes of exercise is all that is needed to put people in a more positive mood. According to psychologist Gillian Needleman, “Exercise can release endorphins which give you a feeling of happiness, keep cortisol (a stress hormone) in check and help your mind to relax. Rhythmic exercise like running, walking, rowing or cycling is most effective at relieving stress when you focus on your body’s movement and how your breathing matches the movement.”  Activities like yoga, meditation and mindfulness are also very beneficial for mental and emotional health.

Depression & anxiety

Regular physical activity of light or moderate intensity can lead to a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms of up to 50% in women. Becoming more active can help to block negative thoughts, distract you from daily stresses and, if you exercise with other people, the social contact can be invaluable to your sense of wellbeing.

Research shows that walking groups have been associated with lowered postnatal depression scores and improved fitness in new mothers[1] which is likely to impact on stress, coping strategies, confidence and sleeping patterns.

In a recent large population-based study assessing psychological health and exercise, young women who did not regularly exercise, had higher levels of anxiety and/or depression compared to those that did.[2]

While it can be difficult if you are suffering from depression to feel motivated to be physically active, it can be beneficial – particularly in managing mild to moderate depression or anxiety.

Body image

Body image is how you think about, feel about, and picture your body. From childhood through adolescence and on to adulthood, body shape changes and sometimes so does body image.

We often hear of negative body image in teenagers yet poor body image can affect women of any age. Nearly half of all average weight women overestimate their size and shape. This is why it can be difficult to accept a compliment; we do not always see ourselves as others see us.

Managing a poor body image

The most important thing you can do when thinking about your body is to aim to be the healthiest you can be. Sometimes a poor body image stops women from wanting to exercise or the distress causes increased comfort eating. If you have a negative body image and it is stopping you from being the healthiest see our webpages on body image for some questions to help you assess your thoughts.

If you are worried about how you view your body and it is stopping you from healthy eating or exercising, it can be helpful to discuss your concerns with a psychologist who specialises in body image problems.

We Need Each Other

Bible in a Year:1 Chronicles 4–6; John 6:1–21

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.Colossians 3:15COMMENT


SHAREToday’s Scripture & Insight:Colossians 3:12-17

While on a hike with my kids, we discovered a light, springy green plant growing in small clumps on the trail. According to a signpost, the plant is commonly called deer moss, but it’s not actually a moss at all. It’s a lichen. A lichen is a fungus and an alga growing together in a mutualistic relationship in which both organisms benefit from each other. Neither the fungus nor the alga can survive on its own, but together they form a hardy plant that can live in some alpine areas for up to 4,500 years. Because the plant can withstand drought and low temperatures, it’s one of the only food sources for caribou (reindeer) in deep winter.

The relationship between the fungus and the alga reminds me of our human relationships. We rely on each other. To grow and flourish, we need to be in relationship with each other.

Paul, writing to believers in Colossae, describes how our relationships should look. We are to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). We ought to forgive each other and live in peace “as members of one body” (v. 15).

It’s not always easy to live in peace with our families or friends. But when the Spirit empowers us to exhibit humility and forgiveness in our relationships, our love for each other points to Christ (John 13:35) and brings glory to God.

By Amy Peterson

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do your relationships point to Jesus? How can you pursue peace? 

Holy Spirit, fill us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience toward each other so the world may see Your love in us.

How Submission To Authority Becomes Disobedience To God

Submission to authority is an important thing, one that’s both good and bad. Don’t get me wrong – I value submission, but learned through the years that it’s a double-edged sword. It’s good when we submit to the right authority, but bad when we submit to the wrong one. How do we know?

Friends, I chose to write this article because of the apparent abuse of authority being done by various “leaders” in different places. I am sad that many Christians, who are supposed to operate in discernment and act with wisdom, mistakenly and fatally adhere to certain Scriptures without much thought.

Careful Thought

Friends, we must realise that God gave us His Word as our ultimate instruction, the Holy Spirit as our indwelling Teacher and Guide, His wisdom to help us make the right choices, and of course our very own physical brain to think wisely. God has given us so much resource to do what is right.

One of the things that we must rightly do is to choose our leaders wisely. We are told to submit to our leaders alright, but we are also told to prioritise God above all. In fact, we must choose to obey God rather than man in each and every circumstance we find ourselves in. (see Acts 5:29)

Submission To The Right Authority

There are several figures of authority we are to submit to according to the Bible. While submitting to them is right, we must remember that God is the Supreme Authority, and any authority that undermines, goes against, or rebels against the authority of God is wrong for us.

The Government

One of the most misunderstood passages regarding submission is Romans 13:1, which says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.”

Authority might be from God, but if our government leaders incite us to commit sin and unacceptable things in the sight of God, our submission and blind obedience to them means disobedience to God. We must obey God first before any other.

Religious Leaders

The church is our family in Christ, but the truth is that it’s not exempted from problems. One such problem is the abuse of Psalm 105:15, wherein God says, “Do not touch my anointed ones, and do no harm to my prophets.”

God might have appointed pastors and other church leaders to their positions in the Christian Church, but Christ is still the one and only Lord we should have. While that passage simply meant not harming or hurting leaders (even if they are in the wrong), it doesn’t mean we should blindly obey them. God should be our God, and Christ should be our Lord.

Other Figures

The Bible mentions more leaders, such as parents, superiors at work, and other people, but the point here is that whoever the leader might be, we must understand that God is our Supreme Authority, and what He says is more important than any directive from man whatsoever.

No matter what happens, we must remember to obey God rather than man. When we reverse than order, we displease and disobey God Himself – even if we say we’re merely obeying His command to submit to authority for His sake (see 1 Peter 2:13).

Happiness Is Not Enough: Why a Life Without Meaning Will Make You Sick

When I wrote a recent post for Buffer titled 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, I didn’t even consider the possibility that striving for happiness might not be in our best interests. Who wouldn’t want to be happier?

Happiness isn’t necessarily bad for us, but I did find out recently that happiness alone isn’t enough for us to feel fulfilled. Sadly, chasing happiness is really common these days, and most of us don’t realize why being happy isn’t enough for us to be satisfied with life.

Happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

First of all, let’s look at the state of things as they are. We tend to pursue happiness as if it’s something attainable, something we should be aiming to achieve. In America and similar cultures, we’re pushed fairly insistently toward happiness from an abundance of self-help books, happiness coaches and marketing campaigns.

However, even living in a “happy focused” culture like America doesn’t mean we’re more likely to be satisfied with our lives. In fact, 4 out of 10 Americans “either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose.”

Famous psychologist Victor Frankl said that “happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’” He also said that our constant search for happiness is a problem:

It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.

recent study actually proved this by showing that the greater emphasis it’s participants put on happiness, the less happy they actually were:

People putting the greatest emphasis on being happy reported 50 percent less frequent positive emotions, 35 percent less satisfaction about their life, and 75 percent more depressive symptoms.

The thing about happiness is that it’s such an overused phrase and under-examined concept that we all have an idea of what it is and how it works, but this can lead us astray. We can see how dangerous our pursuit of happiness can be (as opposed to happiness itself, which isn’t necessarily bad for us) by looking at how scientists define it and how it affects us.

The difference between happiness and meaning

Heres the crux of this whole issue: happiness and meaning are different, and happiness without meaning really doesn’t lead to a great life.

Being happy is about feeling good. Meaning is derived from contributing to others or to society in a bigger way. source

So here’s what happiness is really like, according to some recent research: it’s about being a “taker” rather than a “giver.” It’s about satisfying your needs and wants, so people who are happy are usually in good physical shape and can afford to buy the things they need and want. They usually also have lower levels of stress and worry in their lives.

So essentially, we’re happy when we get what we want.

This is a problem only when our happiness outweighs the meaning in our lives:

Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided. (source)

Scientists measure self-reported happiness by asking questions like, “How often did you feel satisfied?” And “How often did you feel interested in life?”

happy, happiness

Meaning, on the other hand, is quite different. It’s focused outward, on others, rather than inward, on ourselves.

Researcher Roy Baumeister explained it like this:

Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us happy.

Scientists test whether participants feel their lives have meaning with questions like “How often did you feel that you had something to contribute to society?” and “How often did you feel that you belonged to a community/social group?”

Apart from just thinking about others more, we also feel more like our lives have meaning when we think more about the past and future, whereas happiness pertains to the present:

While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. (source)

Researchers found that people who focus on the present are generally happier, but those who spend more time contemplating the future or their past are more likely to feel meaning in their lives.

How pleasure related happiness can make you sick

So now that we know the difference between happiness and meaning, we can explore how they affect us biologically and what our optimal state is for both physical and emotional health.

Our bodies are good at protecting us from all the possible illnesses we could pick up each day. What’s interesting about the way this works is that our emotional state can push our immune system into two different kinds of preparation: one prepares to fight bacterial infections, the other, viruses.

Of course, this is a horribly simplified explanation of the immune system and how it works, but for our purposes we’re just looking at a small part of this that’s affected by the amount if happiness and meaning in our lives.

So what happens is periods of adversity when we feel that things like stress, grief or loneliness can trigger “the activation of a stress-related gene pattern that has two features: an increase in the activity of proinflammatory genes and a decrease in the activity of genes involved in anti-viral responses.” (source)

Essentially, your body is preparing to fight either bacterial infections or viruses. Bacterial infections are a bigger risk when we face long periods of adversity, whereas viruses are more common when we’re feeling well and interacting with lots of people. Our bodies take clues from the levels of happiness and meaning in our lives as to which kind of threat to prepare for.

recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Barbara Fredrickson and Steve Cole found that people who are happy but lack meaning in their lives show the same gene expression patterns as those who are struggling with prolonged adversity—their bodies are preparing to fight off bacterial infections. The problem with this is that if it continues in a prolonged state, it can increase the risks of major illnesses like cancer and heart disease, because the body is in a constant state of inflammation.

Frederickson said that the problem isn’t with being happy but with meaningfulness being outweighed by happiness. This is when we risk affecting our immune systems in detrimental ways.

And sadly, this is a fairly common state. People with high happiness scores and low meaningfulness scores formed 75% of the study’s participants. And only 25% actually had more meaning in their lives than happiness.

Clearly the optimal state we should aim for is a balance between the two. Without enough meaning in our lives, we can being ill, not to mention lacking in purpose and direction. Without enough happiness, however, we’ll become, well, unhappy. And who wants that?

Since happiness is more common of the two and the easiest to achieve (after all, it’s really just a matter of satisfying our needs and desires, remember?), let’s take a look at some ways we can add meaning to our lives.

Where to look for meaning in your life

I’m going to call on the work and words of Viktor Frankl to help us out here, since he really is one of the expert’s in finding meaning in one’s life.

In his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor detailed his time spent in a Nazi concentration camp and his secret to surviving the camp despite losing all of the family members he was imprisoned with. The secret was finding meaning in even the most horrific circumstances, which he said made him more resilient to suffering.

Viktor suggests three ways for finding meaning in our lives:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

1. Create work or do a deed

When Viktor worked as a therapist in the concentration camps, he helped inmates to find meaning in their lives and bear their suffering. One example in his book is of two suicidal inmates who had lost all hope and could no longer find meaning in their lives. Viktor wrote that in both case he simply helped them to realize that “life was still expecting something from them.”

For one of the men, who was a scientist, he had a series of books to finish. This was what the future expected of him, and where he found the meaning to help him suffer through the camp.

2. Experience something or encounter someone

The second man had a young child who was living abroad in a foreign country during the war. This was what Viktor helped him realize would provide meaning to his life.

Viktor wrote that understanding how we are each impossible to replace will allow us to realize that we are fully responsible for our lives, and for continuing them.

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” (source)

3. Choose the attitude you take toward unavoidable suffering

Unavoidable suffering is as it sounds: inescapable. We have to approach it one way or another, and the way we choose to do so can improve how meaningful our lives feel.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor wrote the following:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. (source)

He also offered this example of finding meaning in suffering:

“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, ”What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?“ ”Oh,“ he said, ”for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!“ Whereupon I replied, ”You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office. (source)

None of these suggestions are easy, but then the benefits of living a life full of meaning are unlikely to come from actions that are easy. We’ve got to put in the hard yards if we want our lives to be full of both happiness and meaning.

What do you think about this research? Have you found meaning in your life in other ways? Let us know in the comments.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might like 8 Common Thinking Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day and How to Prevent Them and 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science.

What is the role of women in society today?

To answer a question with another question: What do women want their roles to be?

Rob Robert
, Avid reader with interest in history & ancient civilizations

Today in western societies, women have the freedom to be whoever and whatever they want to be – the possibilities are nearly infinite. Never before, anywhere in the world, have women had the degree of freedom and self-determination they have today in western society. That is not to say that it does not have its own set of problems and obstacles yet to overcome. There is a set of problems and obstacles for men in modern society, as well. We have to keep working on both of these sets of issues.

As with so many other problems that human beings have faced, and do face, the tendency is to take the pendulum and swing it from one extreme to the other extreme in an attempt to solve those problems, instead of finding a comfortable resting place – a Happy Medium, so to speak.

It appears to me as though young women of yesterday were freed from a mold that confined them in countless ways, only to be forced into another mold that confines them today. The Feminist movement was originally established to break women free of the old mold. Today, if a woman chooses to be a stay-at-home wife and/or mother, rather than choosing a career and devoting herself to that career, the modern Feminist movement attacks that woman for being “a traitor to her gender.” There have been, and still are, countless attempts made to push women into educational and occupational arenas that are of little interest to them, merely to elevate the numbers of women in those fields, and eliminate what has been perceived by Feminist groups as a gender bias in those fields. Women are sold a false doctrine that portrays them as victims of oppression and discrimination by men, when in actual fact, if/when any disparities do exist, it is most often as a result of the choices made by women, and not some back-room conspiracy by shadowy groups of men that are against women’s advancement.

Women should be free to choose whatever career, life, and/or lifestyle interests them, without discriminatory attitudes and practices of any kind, and from anyone. They are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and nieces. Women are our partners, in life, work, and in our common human goals of survival and progress.

That is what I see the role of women being in present society.

Can ordinary people run society?

A COMMON argument against socialism is that the majority is incapable of ruling collectively. We need educated, intelligent experts to run such a complex system.

The legendary stupidity of George W. Bush, whose rich parents and crony friends bought him passing grades and much more, or the incompetence of Federal Emergency Management Agency bureaucrats during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are both strong arguments against this view.

“I think we are welcomed,” said Bush when asked about Vice President Dick Cheney’s predictions that U.S. troops would be greeted with thanks by Iraqis. “But it was not a peaceful welcome.” When Brazilian President Luiz Ignácio “Lula” da Silva showed him a map of Brazil, Bush exclaimed, “Wow! Brazil is big.”

There are many other examples that could be cited of presidents, industrialists and bureaucrats with limited, if non-existent, abilities.

Most people at the very top of society, the multimillionaires and billionaires, play no direct function in its running–they merely collect the rewards of ownership. The ruling class today has become entirely parasitic, siphoning wealth, but serving no useful social function.

As early as 1881, Frederick Engels wrote that the capitalists do little but cash in dividend checks. “The social function of the capitalist here,” he says, “has been transferred to servants paid by wages; but he continues to pocket, in his dividends, the pay for those functions though he has ceased to perform them.”

“We [can] manage very well without the interference of the capitalist class in the great industries of the country,” Engels concluded. “Stand back! Give the working class the chance of a turn.”

Bankers and investors don’t make steel. It hardly takes intellectual brilliance for some who inherits a million to double it. Society could do away with the ruling class and suffer no more than when an appendix is removed from a human body.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -BUT DO workers possess the capacity to rule? Won’t they still depend on experts?

Often, it is workers’ own hard-won, first-hand knowledge that engineers and managers use to figure out how to improve production–that is, to squeeze as much out of workers as possible.

Not to deny the genius of a Newton or an Einstein, but “if science is understood in the fundamental sense of knowledge of nature,” writes Clifford Connor in his People’s History of Science, ” it should not be surprising to find that it originated with the people closest to nature: hunter-gatherers, peasant farmers, sailors, miners, blacksmiths, folk healers and others forced by the conditions of their lives to wrest the means of their survival from an encounter with nature on a daily basis.”

Given the opportunity, everyone is capable of learning the scientific, administrative and mathematical skills necessary to play a direct role in running society, just as in pre-class society, knowledge of terrain, plants and animals or tool-making was shared by the group, and not treated as the monopoly of a minority.

Experts and scientists would still be needed for a time even under socialism, until the education system was improved to the point that the majority received education which today is reserved only for the privileged few. For a time, workers would have to exercise democratic control over the bookkeepers, managers and engineers.

But with society’s vast resources diverted toward education, the distinctions between mental and manual work would break down, and the majority would be capable of doing many different kinds of jobs, from manual work to scientific work to administrative work.

If workers, through their own directly elected representatives, were to seize control of production, mistakes would no doubt be made. But they would be the mistakes of the collective rather than the blind workings of the market–and could quickly be remedied by experience.

For example, if the workers of Chicago ran the city instead of corporate bigwigs and their corrupt political hirelings, they would immediately begin solving the city’s most pressing problems.

The homeless would be quickly housed in unused homes, excess hotel space, and the requisitioned second and third homes of the rich. Meanwhile, unemployed construction workers would be organized to begin building more houses.

The ill-gotten gains of the city’s patricians and their hangers-on would be seized and used to provide jobs, feed the hungry, improve dilapidated schools and provide better park services, improved transportation and real after-school programs for all.

In our society nothing is done if it isn’t profitable. In a society run by the collective producers, these problems could be solved because social need, rather than the market, would determine how decisions are made.