SPIRFIT

The SpirFit Blog

Updated: Jan 17



We’re still over a month away from the First Day of Winter, and already the temperatures have dropped below freezing. I catch myself cursing the cold as I run from my car to my home.


Many people in neighboring communities, however, don’t have these luxuries. There’s no place warm to run to. In Newport, for example, the percentage of people living in poverty is 33.3% according to the July 1, 2018 U.S. Census Bureau. In Covington, it’s 25%.


Thankfully, there are non-profit agencies established in these communities, like St. Vincent DePaul (SVDP), recruiting volunteers and donors to help the less fortunate. Their efforts (including providing free meals, clothes, household items, shelter and counseling) are invaluable to the community. Yet, many working adults with charitable hearts, struggle finding time to volunteer. Their free time is rare. So having to choose between their families and volunteering outside the home sometimes seems unfair.


Growing up, my parents worked full-time, so while we weren’t regular volunteers anywhere, I do remember our family serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless, and stuffing St. Nick stockings for children in-need. Those memories, though few, have stuck with me. The message taking root because of the experience. (Thanks Kiki & Poppy!)


Everyone deserves opportunities to help. I think that’s why I love Family SpirFit Night so much.


Watching families come together to stretch, pray, and participate in a charitable way is so moving.


Last week, we had 15 families that came out to Family SpirFit. For admission, we collected coats, gloves and hats for SVDP’s Winter Coat Drive. After we stretched and prayed, the kids wrote Thanksgiving letters to put in SVDP Holiday Food Baskets and the adults wrote Thank-You letters to our local SVDP volunteers.


The evening was simple. No frills. No treats. No entertainment. Everyone who came, did so to be with their family, and a larger community, that helped some of the most at-need amongst us. I can’t brag enough about this little SpirFit community. Their hearts are so kind and generous. And yet, I think there are A LOT more people like them out there, if they’re given the opportunity to prove it.

Updated: Jan 17


There’s been a lot of talk about Mental Health in the media. It surfaces in stories related to suicide, addiction, mass shootings, homelessness, disease and so on. The truth is - whether we suffer from a mental disorder or not - we ALL need to take care of our minds. We’re naturally vulnerable beings, capable of falling into bad habits if we’re not diligent about keeping good ones.


However, with healthy minds, the ocean of possibilities runs deep! For we are created out of goodness, and there is only One who truly knows our greatest potential. (And it’s probably beyond your wildest dreams.)

So how do we care for our minds? Health equates to strength. Finding practices that strengthen us - physically, spiritually and mentally - can be incorporated into our day-to-day.

“Building mental strength is similar to building physical strength. Doing 50 push-ups a day would only take a few minutes of your time, but doing it consistently would help you build a tremendous amount of upper body strength.” - psychologytoday.com


I’ve selected 5 daily mental exercises that experts recommend and that I personally use. I hope they benefit you, too! Remember, only YOU can keep your mind healthy & strong! Let's get started.


#1 Practice Controlling Your Thoughts


You can't prevent a bird from landing on your head,

but you can keep it from building a nest. - Unknown


“In 1995, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman published a book introducing most of the world to the nascent concept of emotional intelligence. The idea--that an ability to understand and manage emotions greatly increases our chances of success.” - inc.com

Perhaps nothing influences our minds more than our own thoughts. We become what we think. Yet, how many times have your emotions, rather than logic, driven a decision? (Yeah, me too.) Emotions are powerful forces, and necessary ones. But when we don’t have control over them, they can prevent us from realizing truth and success.

“By striving to control your thoughts, you resist becoming a slave to your emotions, allowing yourself to live in a way that's in harmony with your goals and values.” - inc.com

Being conscious of the runaway train that lives in all of us, is a good first step. The second step is learning how to stop the train before it runs away. You can read more about this in the article 13 things emotionally intelligent people do.


#2 Build Focus


That’s been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity.

Simple can be harder than complex:

You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. - Steve Jobs


In a world with so many distractions, it becomes increasingly hard to focus. According to this website, 89% of us have an attention span of 10 seconds or less. The main culprits: stress and work overload. The good news is we can get our focus back. “Fortunately, focus is a lot like a mental muscle. The more you work on building it up, the stronger it gets.” 7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus

One way to practice focusing is to use a journal. Force yourself to write things down. St. Ignatius’ Daily Examen is an excellent tool for recording your reflection of the day’s events. You can find it here.


#3 Express Gratitude - Daily


Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness.

It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.

– Amy Collette, The Gratitude Connection: Embrace the positive power of thanks.


Why is being thankful important? According to happify.com the reasons are abundant.

“The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. And gratitude doesn't need to be reserved only for momentous occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.”

Expressing gratitude is a simple exercise that can be done in just minutes. Best of all, studies consistently confirm it’s powerful effects! So if you don’t already have a Gratitude Journal, you might want to get one.


#4 Offer & Ask for Forgiveness


Forgiveness is unlocking the door to let someone free,

and realizing you were the prisoner. - Unknown


Holding on to negativity is like running a race in water-logged shoes. Your mind and soul are not free if you’re weighed down by the past. Jesus calls us to cleanse the soul. Repent. Start anew. We have this awesome opportunity to do it, to shed our layers of regret and baggage, not just by seeking forgiveness, but also by GRANTing it to others.

Confession is our opportunity to receive forgiveness directly from God. It's a sacrament that requires deep contemplation. Pope Francis gives us 30 questions to reflect on as part of making an examination of conscience and being able to “confess well”.

After receiving forgiveness, it’s equally important to keep a good conscience. Be mindful when negative thoughts emerge, and immediately ask God to squash them. It’s an ongoing battle but our minds are a battlefield worth protecting.


#5 Get used to feeling uncomfortable


When considering the characteristics of a strong person,

you are most likely thinking about qualities like resilience and perseverance.

This is exactly what mental strength is all about – the ability to remain calm and composed

under pressure. - 8 Proven Exercises that Boost Your Mental Strength


The Saints are excellent examples of staying composed in uncomfortable, often dire, situations. They are the heroes of our Christian faith. We too can expose ourselves beyond our sheltered walls to those who may need us. We can volunteer to help the homeless, disabled or elderly; spread hope and love to those at the fringes of society; evangelize to those who have fallen away. By getting to know the Saints, our minds and spirits can be strengthened by their stories, so that we too may not shy away from what's uncomfortable, but face difficult situations with resilience and perseverance.

Perhaps, make it a weekly habit of going outside your comfort zone and trying something new or rare for you. Get a few bonus points by writing about your experience afterwards and measure your growth!


I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite mental exercises. I highly recommend putting a pen to paper, making a plan and journaling about your experiences. Let me know which exercises work for you! I'd love to hear back. Wishing you all good mental health!


- Jessica

Updated: Jan 17



Once in awhile you’ll read a book or watch a film, and think That’s It! That’s humankind at it’s best! And you let out a big SIGH of relief knowing that all hope for society is not lost. Good still exists!


Last night might have been one of those nights. I was fortunate enough to catch the broadway musical Come From Away. It’s based on the true story of 7,000 plane passengers and a small Canadian town whom were destined to meet on the night of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. As it happened, dozens of planes flying that day were forced to land in the remote town of Newfoundland. Frightened passengers from across the world were ushered into the hands of strangers who scurried to accommodate their unplanned guests. During the 4-5 day layover, an interim community emerged that would forever change many lives. The story is a beautiful celebration of humankind offering a hand up, despite the fear and circumstances pulling them down.


I am reminded that a community, any community, has the potential to possess a powerful bond when they lead with love. That’s what the Newfoundlanders did. And it’s exactly what Jesus asks of us - to love our neighbor. To be in communion.


His last plea to his disciples is to “become perfectly one”.


“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” – John 17:22-23


Human beings aren’t created the same. Just like a foot is different than an arm. Or a kidney is different than a liver. Differences are important. But they’re also ineffective if they can’t function in conjunction with one another.



Today we like to use labels. We use them as part of our identity. He’s a Lawyer. She’s a Mormon. As if one word, or sentence, can summarize a person. We focus on the “what”. What is your faith? What is your political affiliation? What is your profession? Yet we seldom get to the more valuable, more substantial, question of “why”.


The answer to the “why” is often what we bond over.


In 2018, the most popular hashtag on Instagram was #love. LOVE. That four-letter word. It seems to me that love is something we’re all searching for, but seemingly can’t get enough of. Which leads me back to the topic of community. At the base of every good community is love.


“Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” --- Romans 12:8


I wish to be known for my love. But, of course, this doesn’t comes easy to me. I get hung up on fear, judgement, and assumption. I know my flaws. And yet I keep trying to be better because here’s the thing. In a world where we feel so powerless I know I have power over one thing. Me. My love.


And good communities are based on love.



SPIRFIT

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