Posted in community, current-events, Family, friendship, Health, mental-health, Parenting, Teen

In Real Life Connection vs. Engagement

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of work, writing, and running. It’s treadmill season at the Orchard household and I did something to my back the other day when I was running. It hasn’t gotten any better, and I fear I’m going to have to go to the doctor and get it checked out. It has been four days and it hasn’t gotten back to normal. Ugh.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about staying connected. With social media we can connect any time for any reason, but is it a true connection? I don’t think so, there’s nothing like taking the time to sit down with family and friends and spending good quality time with them.

The social media platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, main intent is to keep you engaged. Behind the scenes, they analyze your likes and comments to learn what your interests are so they can plant more of those interests in your feeds. This keeps you on their site longer, and it appears like you’re connecting with friends and family, but in reality, it’s more about keeping you engaged than connecting with people.

Don’t get me wrong I love social media because it allows me to stay in touch with friends in other states and countries, but it doesn’t take the place of a true connection with your family and friends right here.

Just the other day, I had brunch with some friends and then we spent the afternoon painting together. It was an In Real Life Connection. One in which, I’m learning how to paint, and I must say Bob Ross is right, there are no mistakes just happy little accidents. 😉 But I digress, the point I’m trying to make is we need in person connection now more than ever. If we lose the ability to read social cues and body language, we’re going to set the human race back to the caveman era.

Evidence suggests there is a correlation between the rise in suicide rates and the rise of social media. We have more access to more information than we’ve ever had. That means we have access to chat rooms and forums that are pro-suicide. Our kids have access to these forums. So, if you’re dealing with a child with some mental health issues and they find their way to one of these forums, it could be trouble.

Cyber-bullying has led to suicides as well, especially among the younger crowd. Social media has become an avenue for that also. So, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a connection with your loved ones. We can never truly know what’s going on in someone’s mind unless we watch for the signs.

But that’s not where I want to go with this. I digress again. Sorry. What I want to say is that maybe Social Media is the symptom, and the real disease is lack of connection or disconnection.

I believe that if it’s not the sole cause, it’s a big part of it. So, keep the communication open with your family and friends. Stay connected. Make sure your kids learn how to make an emotional connection with their friends, so they won’t feel isolated.

So how do we stay connected with so many distractions?

  1. Engage in a common interest like hiking or biking or robotics
  2. Have family night where you play a card game or board game
  3. Watch a movie together once a week
  4. Take a family vacation

These are just a few ideas. There are many ways to make connections with your family. How do you connect with yours? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Reading

Technology’s Effect on Our Health

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week with work and writing. I’m editing my second work in progress, and I’m happy with the results so far. This story is flowing smoothly and I’m enjoying it.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about technology’s effect on our health, both mental and physical. When I think back to my own childhood, I remember being extremely active. I rode my bike everywhere. I remember going to my friend’s house and swimming in her pool. We’d play games like Yahtzee and Monopoly, or we’d go for long bike rides. When I look back, I realize how wonderful my childhood was. My friends and I had a connection.

Then I look at my kids, and I’m frustrated. They’re glued to their computers. If they’re not playing games, they’re chatting with friends online. The face-to-face interaction isn’t there. I know they get that at school, but I feel something is lost for our kids. They’re missing out on that special connection that I treasured in my younger years.

I also feel that we’re losing some of our vocabulary. I mean when you can communicate with an emoji, what do you need words for? Is our technology dumbing down society?

I think so. Instead of reading books, kids are looking at their phones. Social Media’s goal is to keep everyone engaged. So, they have complicated logarithms that keep track of the things you like so they can show you more. This keeps you engaged longer. I suppose you could argue that they’re reading, but they’re reading posts, and as we all know, posts on social media are usually a way for the individual writing it to receive acknowledgement from their followers.

Right now, kids need to read stories that teach them empathy and compassion. They need stories they can connect with and relate to. The teen years are the hardest years in my opinion because there are so many firsts. First loves, first rejections, first successes, and first failures.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids between the ages of ten and twenty-four. I’ve always felt that the reason for that is disconnection. They feel disconnected from family, friends, and community.

We need to make the family bonds stronger and protect our children. We need to bring story-telling back. It has always been a way to connect with our family members. We need to sit around the campfire and tell stories of our youth, so our children can bond with us.

Stories are more important than ever now. I know when I was a teen, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was a self-inflicted kind of pressure. I was afraid to make the wrong decision. I couldn’t articulate this pressure to my parents, so I wasn’t able to talk to them about it. I felt so alone.

To escape this pressure, I’d read. When I was finished reading, I’d feel better. The pressure wasn’t so bad, and I was calmer, so I could look at my issues more objectively.

In my opinion instead of more technology, our kids need more physical exercise, and they need to spend more time reading stories not social media posts. Not only will reading stories relieve stress, but it’ll teach empathy and compassion. So, writers keep writing. We need your stories now more than ever.

How about you? Do you feel our kids need to feel more connection? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Personal

The Importance of Self-Care

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of writing and work. It was a tough week, there were little fires everywhere that I had to put out. I had a breakthrough with my story, though, so I’m excited about that. Small wins are still victories, and they must be celebrated, right?    

So, enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about self-care. It’s the buzzword lately and everyone seems to be talking about it, but even so, it’s important.

Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. We become so busy doing and putting others or our projects first we forget to take care of ourselves. And really, our health should be our first priority.

I’m not just talking about our physical health either, I’m talking about our mental health as well. The two are inter-related. When we take care of ourselves physically it boosts us mentally, too.  Have you ever noticed that after you exercise, you feel better mentally? I know my problems aren’t so big after I exercise. They are manageable and not overwhelming.

Sometimes our mental health requires us to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Sometimes we need to hibernate and spend time with ourselves to become balanced again. Sometimes our mental health requires us to get out and connect with like-minded people. It’s important to have a support system too.

It’s important to have people in your life other than your spouse who support you in your goals and dreams. I’m fortunate to have those people. What I appreciate about them is they help me see things from a different perspective. This helps your mental health, too. Hearing a different perspective pulls you out of the mental loop you get into when you’re trying to solve a problem but can’t see a solution. These people help me switch gears.

Our diet is just as important to our physical and mental health too. Not only does a good diet help our bodies stay strong and healthy, but our minds, too. Anxiety and depression are exacerbated by a poor diet. So, if you’re dealing with one of these conditions, start eating healthier and go for walks. The combination will help you manage your condition.

Writers especially need to make sure they get enough exercise. It’s very easy to get lost in our work and forget about our health. So, go hiking with a friend and get that socializing need taken care of at the same time.

Everyone’s different, so we all need different amounts of food, exercise, solitude, and social interaction. Take time with yourself and figure out what your needs are. Take a few minutes every day and focus on what you might need. Then take care of it.

What are some of the things you do for self-care? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Earth, Health, mental-health, nature

Reconnecting with Nature

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of vacationing and writing and I must say I had an excellent time on vacay. Nothing like getting out on the water and soaking up some sun.

I hope you are able to get out and enjoy this awesome summer weather, too. Winter is coming and school is just around the corner for my guys. This school year is going to be different. Masks are recommended, but not required and the students will have to try and maintain a social distance of six feet.

I’m not ready for back to school. We’re returning this year a week earlier than we normally do and I feel we’ve been cheated out of some of our summer. I’m sure my boys feel the same way.

But enough about that, today I’d like to talk about the human connection with the Earth. I find it amazing that we can go for a hike in the woods or a walk along the beach and our spirits lift. They do. I’ve experienced it myself. We’ve forgotten about that connection in our hurry to build and create.

As a society we need to slow down and reconnect with nature.  I feel everything we need we can get from the earth. It provides food and water and by walking in the woods or on the beach we can improve our overall health.

It’s true, the trees in the woods release phytoncides. They’re a defense mechanism against fungus, bacteria, and even animals. These compounds are good for humans as well. According to one study, they enhanced the destructive mechanism in our cells that kill the cell when its time has run out. It also enhanced the anti-cancer proteins production.  Now that is good news.

To put this in layman’s terms, breathing in phytoncides enhances our own natural defenses.  I think this is incredible. It supports the theory that we’re all connected, with each other, and with nature.

Being in nature is also a great stress reliever as well. Studies have found that the stress hormone cortisol is lower when walking in nature. It also puts you in a meditative state and allows your creativity to flow.

Not only is walking in the woods good for you, but so is walking on the beach. Getting out into the sun is a great way to increase the Vitamin D in your system. That’s one major health benefit of going to the beach, but it’s also a great stress reliever. When you get near the water and hear the waves breaking on the shore, it releases serotonin in your system. Serotonin is a key hormone for relaxation and happiness.

Walking on the beach isn’t just good for our mental health, it’s good for our physical health as well. If you’re near the ocean the saltwater has anti-bacterial antibodies in it. So, if you have a wound that needs to be cleansed. Dip it in the ocean. Salt water also contains iodine which is a great antiseptic. It’s also an amazing immune system booster. It helps the thyroid gland do its job which boosts our immune system.

With all these health benefits, why would become the indoor generation? Technology has taken us out of the fields and put us inside and it has been detrimental to our health. We need to take our health back and reconnect with nature. We also need to take care of the Earth. With all the health benefits it provides it’s a key element to our survival, wouldn’t you agree?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Don’t you think getting back to nature is vital for us humans? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health

Is Social Media Bad for Your Health?

Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week of work, writing, and running. This week I saw a post on Facebook (kind of ironic, I know) and it made the statement that Social Media makes you dissatisfied with your life.

I gathered from this statement that social media makes people dissatisfied because we start to compare ourselves to what other people post. The meme went on to say, get off social media, read a book, work in your garden, or go for a walk. Do something that brings you joy and do it for that reason alone. Don’t do something just so you can post it on Facebook later. Do it because you enjoy it.

I agree with this statement even though I’m guilty of spending time on social media myself. I find that scrolling on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter is a passive exercise. You’re not actively participating in life. Sure, you can connect with people and message them and that’s all well and good. I do that myself.  But you’re not actively living.

When you go for a walk, you’re not only doing something good for your body. You’re experiencing life. You’re experiencing the smells of the forest and the beauty of the wildflowers growing alongside the road. That’s living. You’ll feel better getting up and doing something. Going for a walk or a hike even by yourself is much better for you than scrolling through posts on Facebook.  

If you’re feeling frustrated with your life or you’re dealing with a problem and you can’t find a solution. Read a book. Reading is a great stress reliever and I guarantee if you read for even just fifteen minutes, the problem you’re dealing with won’t feel so big. Again, reading is active. Your brain is working, focusing on something other than your problem or dissatisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great way to keep in touch with people and make connections, but it’s not good for your health if you’re neglecting exercise or it creates mental anguish. Remember, the goal of social media is to keep you engaged. You have to actively set limits for yourself or you’ll get sucked in. It happens to the best of us.

Remember to actively live your life. Enjoy that walk or run while you’re doing it. Stay in that moment. Enjoy cooking that meal for your family. Enjoy the smells of the spices lingering in the air as you cook. Turn on the radio and listen to music while you work. That’s living. Social media isn’t.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. How do you feel about social media? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Parenting

What is PAI?

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you today. I’ve had a busy week of working, running, and writing. My Fitbit has a PAI indicator on it, so I’ve been a little more active this week. LOL

The PAI indicator is a personal physiological activity indicator. It measures, heart rate, intensity of daily activity, and other multi-dimensional characteristics to determine your PAI value. Long story short if you score above 100, you’re living your best life. A score above 100 means that you’re reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and increasing your life expectancy. So, my goal is to get a 100 or better every day.

What’s nice about that number is that you don’t have to do high intensity workouts to achieve it. It can be achieved just by going for a long walk. The days I run, my PAI is much higher, but walking a couple of miles also helps me reach my goal as well.

This gives me hope because sooner or later, I’m going to have to stop running. It’ll become too hard on my knees and ankles, when that happens at least I know I’ll be able to walk and still maintain my health.

I’m worried about the next generation, though. Many teens these days aren’t getting enough exercise. They sit and watch YouTube videos or play video games and this activity has a detrimental effect on their health. Modern technology is great, but our bodies were made to move, and the kids these days are growing up on video games, Red Bull, and fast food. Not a great combination.

I try hard to get my boys out moving, but I’m not always successful. I’m thinking about getting them fitbits and telling them they need to score over 100 on their PAI before they can sit down at the computer and play their games. But what about when they’re back at school?

I wish school required more physical activity. We need to revamp our educational system to consider both mental and physical health. Make physical education a requirement all the way up to your senior year. Or maybe schools could offer classes for tennis, running, and volleyball so kids could learn those skills, too. I’m not sure what the answer is. How about you? What changes would you make to our educational system to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of our kids? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Personal, Writing

Writing and Exercise Go Hand in Hand

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of vacationing and writing. We took the boys to a water park. It was fun, but we were ready to come home. Family vacations are important. They give us an opportunity to connect with our kids again. They’re especially important this year because of the pandemic. I’m so glad things are finally starting to open, and we can travel now.

But enough about that. Today I’d like to talk about staying active, especially for writers or people who sit at a desk for eight hours a day. It’s so important to get up and move. I’m trying to exercise at least five days a week. I was able to achieve that goal last week, but it’s harder when I’m working.

It’s important for writers to get up and move because writing is such a sedentary occupation. Did you know that sitting more than three hours a day can take two years off your life? Even if you exercise regularly, you still need to get up and move around every couple of hours. Take a break and go for a quick walk. Get the blood flowing again.

The benefits of exercise are not just physical. It helps with depression and anxiety. Exercise increases serotonin levels and dopamine levels which explains the fact you’re happier after you work out. I find that when I’m feeling anxious, going for a quick run helps reduce my angst.

I’ve also found that when I get stuck in my manuscript, if I step away from my work and go for a run or a hike, I can usually work out the problem. When I’m running, my brain works differently and I’m able to work out solutions to my story problems.

Any type of exercise will do. I run and do palates, but you could do Yoga or Zumba. Anything that gets your blood flowing. I used to do Yoga when I was younger and I’m going to start it up again just because I need the variety. How about you? What kind of exercise do you do? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Personal

Staying in the Present Moment

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week of writing and working. I’m so excited because spring is finally here. I’ve been able to run outside a couple of times this week and it was wonderful. My tulips are starting to come up and I am so ready for summer it isn’t funny.

But enough about that. Today I’d like to talk about staying in the present moment and appreciating it. We’re so busy trying to achieve our goals that we keep our eyes on the prize and don’t always appreciate the moment we’re in.

I find that when I focus on the outcome I’m trying to achieve; I get frustrated when things don’t go quite as planned or I run into obstacles. I have to remind myself that I need to focus on my goals for the day only. I know what the big goal is, but I have to focus on the steps I need to take to get there. That way I won’t get frustrated because I haven’t gotten to the big goal yet.

By doing this, I’m going to be happier with my present moment and I’ll appreciate it more. That way I won’t be missing any moments with my family and friends.

It’s hard to change the habit of always striving and focusing on the outcome of my actions. So, when I catch myself growing frustrated because I haven’t reached my goal yet, I take a moment and slow myself down. It’s going to happen just not yet. Then if I can, I practice some self-care. I drink some water or take a few minutes and just breathe. This is the way I reset my thinking and change my emotions from being frustrated to peaceful.

How about you? What do you do to change your mindset? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Posted in Health, mental-health, Personal

Balance and Perspective

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of working and working on my craft. I took some time off to read a craft book this week and I’m glad I did. It was a good book. It’s titled “The Secrets of Story.” If you’re looking for a book to help you with your writing, this book is for you.

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by [Matt Bird]

But enough about that. Today I’d like to talk about finding balance and perspective. I struggle with these issues daily because my passion is my writing, but I have a passion for my family, a passion for my work, and I also need to take care of my health by exercising and eating right.

Sometimes, I get frustrated because I can’t write. I have to take care of my kids, fix a meal, or work my day job. Then I have to fit in time for exercise. This is what I struggle with. Many times, I have to choose between exercising and writing. Sometimes I choose writing and feel guilty because I know I should be exercising for my health. It’s a constant battle. Sometimes I do exercise and wish I were writing instead. These negative emotions I experience detract from the enjoyment of my exercising or my writing.

Since I don’t want to have deal with negative emotions, I’ve got to change my attitude, because with my hectic schedule, I’m always going to have to choose between the two. So, when I choose to exercise, I tell myself I’m doing something that’s good for my body, my soul, and my brain. Exercise is a great way to fight depression, burn calories, and get your blood flowing so your brain gets the oxygen it needs. Instead of telling myself I must do this because I want to keep my weight under control or because I ate pizza for dinner, I tell myself my writing will be better if I exercise. This one little change in my perspective allows me to enjoy my exercise and my writing. After I exercise, I have the rest of the evening to write. Therefore, I don’t feel guilty when I’m writing because I know I already exercised.

I’ve also gotten better at defining exercise. I used to feel like I had to run four to six miles at a time before I could call it a workout. That’s not entirely true. I can do strength training and that’s exercise. I can do Pilates and that’s exercise. So is yoga. I’ve been adding these activities to my exercise routine to help build the muscle I’m losing as I age. By adding Pilates and Yoga to my regime, I’ve eliminated my sciatica pain. The difference is amazing, and my writing has improved.

So, there you have it. By changing my perspective about exercise and writing, I’ve been able to enjoy my exercise more. I don’t enjoy it in the beginning. It’s always hard to get started, but by the end, I’m always glad I did it.

I also enjoy my writing more. I don’t feel guilty when I sit down and take some time for my stories. How about you? How do you balance it all? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Personal

Get Outside, it’s good for You

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve had a busy week with work and writing, but I managed to get out with a gal pal and hike along the lakeshore. That hike was just what I needed since I haven’t been able to get out because of the pandemic. I’ve been working at home, working out at home, and socializing via the internet at home.

We have become the indoor generation. So, when the opportunity arose for me to get out for a hike, I jumped at the opportunity. It was gorgeous, but cold. The wind coming off the lake was invigorating. Now, more than ever we need to get out into nature. Being by the beach was so good for me. It cleared my head and got me back on track as far as my goals are concerned.

You see, being inside so much can be a little demotivating. I’ve found when I travel from the bedroom, that I’ve turned into an office, to the living room where I relax, and I get a little down. I do this every single day.

On a more positive note, I’ve been doing pretty good about keeping up with my exercise goals. Since I don’t have to drive to work, the time I would’ve spent on the road, I’ve turned to exercising. So, there is that. However, it’s the treadmill season right now because it’s too cold for me to run outside.

Like I said earlier, we have become the indoor generation. We’re losing our connection to nature and that’s not a good thing. We get so many positive things from nature. Just being out in it is a stress reliever.

It also strengthens our immune system. Did you know that being in the woods is good for us? The trees and plants release phytoncides. These molecules are released by the foliage as a defense mechanism against fungus, bacteria, and even animals. These compounds are good for humans as well. According to one study, they enhanced the destructive mechanism in our cells that kill the cell when its time has run out. It also enhances the anti-cancer protein production.

Even going to the beach is good for you. Especially, if you can get to the ocean or the sea. Saltwater has many positive benefits. The salt air is charged with negative ions that allow us to absorb more oxygen, but you don’t have to travel all the way to the ocean to get the health benefits of the beach. Just being near a body of water is stress relieving. It releases serotonin, which is good for our mood, and let’s not forget about that vitamin D. A vitamin our bones need, and if you live in the north, you probably don’t get enough of it.

So, this year, I’m planning to get outside more often. I plan on going hiking and going to the beach more often. Our bodies were meant to move not sit at computers all day.

Exercising outside is like a double whammy of health benefits for our bodies and minds. So, get out there and get moving! It’s good for you!

How about you? What kind of exercises do you like to do outside? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.