Posted in Reading, Writing

The Importance of Fiction

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week at work. I went to a writing conference this weekend and it was a good one. I got some feedback on my story and met some other authors who I was able to talk shop with.

While I was there, I started thinking about the importance of fiction. Why are stories important? There are many reasons, but I’m only going to explore a few of them.

One reason is because they allow us to learn about a particular situation without having to experience it. This teaches us empathy. Many therapists use stories to get their point across to their clients because it lowers their defenses, and they actually listen to what the therapist is trying to illustrate with the story.

The leads to a deeper understanding of what people experience and how they react to these experiences. This is the most important reason for writing stories.

Stories are a great way to connect, too. Right now, connection seems scarce. After the pandemic, many companies have decided their employees will work from home permanently. So, we don’t get the in-person connection we humans need. When we meet with people face to face, we share stories about our experiences. This verbal storytelling is a sharing of our soul with another human. We’re connecting. Reading is another form of connection. It allows us to connect with characters and flex our empathy muscle. So, with all the remote working and social distancing going on, reading fiction is more important than ever.

Another reason fiction is important is because reading is a stress reliever. Life is incredibly stressful right now. What with all this political unrest, mass shootings, and inflation, stress is at an all time high. Reading fiction for only fifteen minutes a day can reduce your stress level by 68%. That is huge.

People need good stories right now. There are so many problems with our world, and many individuals just need a break from all the chaos. Stories help relieve the tension. So, writers keep writing. Keep honing your craft. Your stories are having an impact on your readers. You are making a difference.

What about you? How does reading fiction impact your life? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Personal, Writing

The Writing Life…

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve had a busy week of work and writing. My neck is feeling much better and I’m thinking about getting back into my exercise routine, but I won’t be running on the treadmill. There won’t be another treadmill season in the Orchard house. In my opinion, I need to run on harder surfaces if I’m going to run. So, I’m going to have to find another form of exercise during the winter months.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about the writing life. I haven’t spoken about this in a while, so I felt that I should address it today.

Writing is a solitary endeavor. We writers create by ourselves and work with editors and beta readers to produce a viable product. It’s time consuming and takes us away from our families and friends.

Sometimes, it can be discouraging. The waiting for an acceptance or rejection of a manuscript can take a long time. It can get downright lonely.

So, it’s important to have a creative community who supports you. They don’t all have to be writers. They can be artists, or sculptors, or photographers. These people will understand your struggle. They will support you in ways your family can’t because they don’t understand.  I have an artist friend who I get together maybe once or twice a month and paint with her. I’m no artist, but it’s always good to take a break and do something different. I support her art, and she supports my writing.

Another way to combat the anxiety of waiting is to start another project. Work on something else. If you do get an acceptance, you’ll be a step ahead of the game because you have another project to offer.

Still another way, is to take a break from writing all together. Spend time with your family. Go on a trip and enjoy some down time. Maybe even read. 😉

Exercise is another great way to deal with the stress of writing. Get out of the chair and move your body. Get those endorphins moving, it’ll help with the creative process. Trust me.

So, there you have it. Some ways to combat the loneliness and stress of writing. How about you, how do you deal with it? Leave a comment! I love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, mental-health, Personal

Is Yoga the new Wonder Drug for our Health?

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week at work, writing, and reading. Yes, I needed to decompress a little bit this week and what better way to decompress than to read, right?

I thought you’d agree. 😉

Anyway, more about that later. Today, I’d like to talk about stress and how to deal with it. There are many stressors in life that we have to handle. Back in the olden days, when we had to run from predators, our body would send out the stress hormone cortisol and it’d get us moving.

Now, our greatest stress isn’t running from predators, it’s dealing with stress from work, stress from over-commitment, family stress, and so on. In the past, when we’d get that rush of cortisol in our system, we’d run to escape the predator chasing us and we’d burn up the cortisol in our system. We’d run to safety, usually a short distance.

In today’s world, we can’t run from our stressors, so the cortisol builds up in our system. This leads to high cortisol levels, which leads to increased amounts of belly fat, which leads to diabetes, a life-threatening disease. So, the question is, how do we keep cortisol levels down when we can’t change the stressors in our lives?

My first thought was exercise. So, I’ve been running on the treadmill at least two to three times a week. I usually run about four miles, which is hard to do on a treadmill. (It’s winter right now and I don’t run outside in the winter because of the cold and ice.) While running is good, I did some research to find out what was the best way to reduce cortisol, and I learned some interesting facts.

First, extended exercise (more than sixty minutes) increased cortisol levels. It seems that too much exercise depletes our stored glycogen and when that happens our bodies release cortisol. So, what’s the best way to reduce cortisol when we’re dealing with stressful situations?

Short, high intensity workouts, such as sprints, HITT, or weight training are proven ways to reduce cortisol in your system. Another way is doing yoga. Yes, yoga has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol levels. This is good news because yoga is a great way to quiet your mind as well. It’s good for you mentally, physically, and physiologically. Who knew?

It’s my understanding that you must make sure it’s restorative yoga and not hot yoga, or Ashtanga yoga. Anything that makes your body work hard will raise cortisol levels.

 So, there you have it. Yoga is the wonder drug when it comes to reducing cortisol levels in your body, and reduced cortisol levels means less belly fat. Less belly fat means lower risk for diabetes. Like I said earlier, it’s good for you mentally, physically, and physiologically.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. How do you feel about yoga? Have you ever tried it? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in pandemic, raising kids, Teen

Your Teen and Pandemic Stress

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week at work and writing. I’ve started the dreaded treadmill season where I run on the treadmill instead of going outside. I’ve finally adjusted to this even though I still struggle with motivation.

But on a positive note, I had my blood work done and my numbers look much better than they did last year. So, I’ve accomplished my goal. I’ve improved my health. 😊

Enough about that, though. Today, I’d like to talk about helping your teen deal with the stress and anxiety brought about because of the pandemic. It’s a tough time for them. They can’t socialize like normal and their activities have become severely limited. I bring this up today because we had a fourteen-year-old boy commit suicide in our state during a zoom meeting with his classmates. No one saw this coming. None of his classmates or his parents.

Now more than ever, kids need to feel connected to their families. This is a good time to do forced family fun nights. We spend time either playing Uno or watching The Office. I know. It can get kind of raunchy, but there’s some quality stuff in the show as well. For example, when Jim and Pam went to couples counseling and illustrated how to communicate with your spouse. That was brilliant. Kids need to learn how to handle conflict and how to express their needs. I loved that about that episode.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIi8i3Pf3Ys&ab_channel=LaurenAmeruoso

The show also brings diversity to the forefront with the gay character of Oscar. I think this is important to show how to accept people who are different from us. It’s also funny. The different personalities of the characters are taken to the extreme to show how we can all get along using humor and sarcasm as a way of deflecting negativity.

Another way kids can deal with this stress is video games. I know. I know. I’ve heard all the negatives about video games, but in this time of no activities and no school there is still a way to connect with their friends. They can connect through their games. I like this because my boys can stay safe and still have a little bit of social interaction. They can do this without getting on social media. You still must take precautions. I advise them to not share any personal information with anyone online, but for the most part they play games with kids they hang out with in school, so it’s working. They can connect and stay safe at the same time.

I also encourage them to get outside for at least an hour a day. It’s harder to do now that it’s gotten cold, but they do get out and get fresh air and exercise. One of my boys has gotten into weightlifting and another has started running on the treadmill. Exercise is another healthy way to deal with stress, and it helps that both hubby and I run. We are modeling the behavior we want them to engage in. So, not only are we talking the talk, but we’re walking the walk also.

So, there you have it. Some ways to help your teens deal with the stress of isolation. How about you? Do you have any ideas? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health

The Benefits of Forest-Bathing

 

Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week. We went on a quick vacation to Tahquamenon Falls and had a good time. We hiked along the river and got some great pictures. I love getting out into nature, it’s so calming and good for you, too! Experts are calling it Forest bathing.

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I mentioned it last week in a post and I thought I’d dig a little deeper. Forest bathing originated in Japan where it is called Shinrin-Yoku. Why is walking through a forest beneficial for us?

That is a very good question. The reason traipsing through the woods is good for us is because we inhale phytoncides when we breathe in the forest. These are antimicrobial volatile compounds derived from trees.

 

Photo via Visual Hunt

These phytoncides are released by the trees and plants 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 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. Wouldn’t you agree?

Not only is forest bathing physically healthy it’s also psychologically good for us, too. It has been found to be advantageous to people who are dealing with chronic stress. I can attest to the stress-relieving benefits of walking through nature, but now I have scientific proof. Yay Me! For more info about this, check out this post from Huffington Post.

Huffington Post

It’s important in our hustle and bustle world that we teach our kids how to take care of themselves, and one of the things we need to teach them is how to decompress. Not only is forest bathing a great way to relieve stress, it’s a great way to reconnect with your family. It’s important to reconnect with our loved ones. It’s vital to everyone’s psychological health.

 

Photo via VisualHunt.com

So get out into the forest and get moving! It’s good for your body and your soul. Thanks for stopping by, I’d love to hear your thoughts on forest bathing so leave a comment. Or maybe you have other stress relieving habits you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Posted in Literacy, Reading

The Benefits of Reading

 

Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you. I’m back today with another post about Reading. Since reading for pleasure is on the decline, I thought I’d write about the benefits of picking up a book. There are many, let me tell you.

We already know that there’s a link between Reading and Empathy. ( For more information on that topic, click here https://lisaorchard.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/the-link-between-reading-and-empathy/  )

But did you know that reading reduces stress? It’s true. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve put reading on the backburner. It’s only within the last couple of years that I’ve picked it back up again. I’m so glad I did! I enjoy reading immensely, especially when I’m stressed. Studies show that by picking up a book and reading for just six minutes you can decrease your stress level by sixty eight percent. It’s a great way to deal with the stressors of everyday life.  For more information about the effect of reading on stress click this link. http://www.sound-mind.org/reading-reduces-stress.html#.V0njK5ErLIU

Photo credit: CRC, University of Edinburgh via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I must add here that fostering a love of reading in your child is an excellent coping mechanism when they have to deal with stressful situations. They can forget about the problem for a while and come back to it when they’ve calmed down. Something to think about my friends. 🙂

Photo credit: r.nial.bradshaw via VisualHunt / CC BY

Did you know reading makes you smarter? It does! It improves your memory. You’re exercising your brain when you read. You’re training it to retain information every time you pick up a book.

It also improves your vocabulary which goes hand in hand with improving your ability to communicate with others. Being able to communicate is incredibly important in today’s business world.  You appear more polished in a job interview and you’ll be able to communicate to your future employer more effectively.

Did you know reading also improves analytical skills? This is important. According to this article, http://examinedexistence.com/does-reading-make-you-smarter/, readers have a greater general knowledge and are able to spot patterns quicker.

What are analytical skills? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the definition: Analytical skill is the ability to visualize, articulate, conceptualize, or solve both complex and uncomplicated problems by making decisions with the available information. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_skill

We all need analytical skills wouldn’t you agree? Reading is a great way to strengthen your analytical muscles.

Reading also improves your ability to focus. Fostering a love of reading in your kids will help them focus and retain information at school.

Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Visual Hunt / No known copyright restrictions

With all the great benefits of reading, why are people getting away from it? My guess is all the new technology that’s available to everyone these days. There’s too many distractions. We need to make a conscious effort to keep reading alive.

My boys read twenty minutes a day, and this summer they’ll have to read before they turn on their computers. I’m going to read right along with them. After all, it’s good for me, too. 😉

And if you’re looking for some great books to engage your kids over the summer, I know where you can find some! 😉

What are your thoughts on the benefits of reading? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!