Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Category: Self-Improvement (page 2 of 4)

November Challenge: THANKS giving

Every year we arrive at Thanksgiving amid a hustle and bustle of cooking and preparing.  More often than not we sit down for dinner and pause a moment or two to go around the table, allowing each person to name something they are thankful for.
Why not step up your game?? Spend the whole month thinking of things you are thankful for.
A few years ago I printed out a picture of a turkey on the biggest paper I could find.  At the top of the paper I wrote: “THINGS WE ARE THANKFUL FOR!”   Then I hung the paper on the wall along with a pen and told my family to write anything they thought of during the month.   At first only one or two words were added.   Gradually, over the course of the month, the kids started writing anything and everything!   By the end of the month, our poster was crowded with ideas from pizza to penguins.   Needless to say, our feelings of gratitude ran deeper that year, since we took the time to contemplate and focus on daily gratitude.
If you’d like to try this with your family, here’s a turkey to copy and print. Or if you want your children to be more enthused, have one of them draw the turkey. There are also other great variations on this idea. What’s important is to take time to focus on our blessings, to focus on our gratitude.
Are you ready to take on this November Challenge?
“Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes. A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
 Happy Thanks Giving!!
Written by Phyllis Rosen

3 Ways to Create a Positive Attitude

 Ways to become your best self“Oh, here we go again, a reminder of how imperfect I  am.” Usually when we think of self-improvement, we tend  to start underestimating ourselves, our potential, and our  purpose.  We focus on our weaknesses and our mistakes,  making it  difficult to remember our strengths and  successes.

 Have you ever received “constructive criticism” but, in  reality, the words actually take jabs at your heart? Have  you  ever set goals and held high hopes, only to realize  that  carrying them out was close to impossible?  (especially with  the way you had planned)

Like many of us, you’ve probably felt down on yourself. You’ve probably failed a few times and have felt like you were drowning in depths of despair. The last thing you want to think about is how you can be better.

You’ve already made a list of what you consider weaknesses and what you can improve: serving others, friends, smiling, prioritizing, organizing, cleaning, showing your love, getting good grades, finding/keeping a job, stop crying so often, eat less/more, exercise, and so forth.

At this point you’re having trouble trying to remember that you’re worth something.

This isn’t how self-improvement should be. There is an optimistic side of self-improvement that Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 10.16.56 AMmany people don’t mention, or even recognize but in reality is the most important for actual progress.

For me, especially when I’m being hard on myself, I like to remember three steps that help improve my mental health and attitude. Improving attitude is the best thing we can do to strengthen ourselves in times of need and to prepare for difficult times in the future. We can recognize that we are not perfect now, but we can also be confident in our ability and purpose as we strive to become better.

1) Strive to overcome your weaknesses. Now, this doesn’t mean you ignore your weaknesses, nor does it mean you will be “weakness-free” anytime soon. It does, however, mean that you recognize your weaknesses and have a desire to change. With patience and grace, along with the desire to learn, you come to recognize that what you once believed were your weaknesses, have now become strengths when used correctly. For example, although speaking loudly is a trait you may feel ashamed of in some situations, in others it works greatly, so you discern in which circumstances you can make it a strength.

2) Use your strengths. The best way to improve is to remember your strengths, and to put them in action. We all have things we are good at, whether it be as small as making your bed every day or as big as recently getting a new job. Recognize your strengths and cater to those. Strive to set goals within your abilities, this will help you accomplish more and gain confidence in your abilities.

3) Fear not. Don’t get down on yourself for the fact that you need to improve in some areas. It is a common sphere that we are all working within. Remember that through it all, you are still amazing and there are good things to come. Remember that you CAN do it all, all that is required of you and all that brings you joy.

“Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.”

Believe in yourself. Believe in your capability. Believe in your ability to become. You are strong, beautiful and full of potential. Embrace it. Overcome the despair of failure and find the joy in imperfection. Find the joy in progression. Focus on self improvement.

Written by Rebekah Day


10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Healthy Lifestyle

mother-1245764_1920 According to the Journal of the American Medical  Association, 26.6% of children and adolescents were  diagnosed with a chronic condition in the United  States.  This means that one in five children today  have a chronic  illness, with chronic conditions s  spreading, it’s more  important than ever that we  take proper care of our  bodies.

 While chronic illness can be life altering, the effects of a chronic illness can be diminished by following a healthy lifestyle. It is widely known that 30 minutes of exercise and a balanced diet are necessary ingredients of a healthy lifestyle. What may be less known is that exercise and a balanced diet are suggested by health care professionals for proper control of one’s chronic condition.

Even though these guidelines are well-known they are difficult to implement into a busy family life. The following are some suggestions to start implementing a healthy lifestyle for your family:

  1. Find an exercise activity your family enjoys doing together and do it as often as possible.running-573762
  1. Plan your weekly meals to include fruits and vegetables.
  1. Have your children go outside and play while you make dinner.
  1. Keep healthy snacks around the house.
  1. Have your kids alternate picking the exercise activity for the day.
  1. Have your kids train for and participate in a family Olympics. The event could include a few families that are your friends.
  1. Alternate which family member picks the fruit/vegetable for the week at the store.
  1. If you tend to eat out, reduce the number of times you eat out in a month.
  1. Pick healthier options when you do eat out. (Pick a sandwich place instead of a pizza place.)
  1. Find delicious and healthy recipes to make.

Written by: Laura Fillmore

Book Review: The Big Leap

As I believe I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am a new and very avid consumer of self-help books. I love having those “aha moments,” and when you read (or listen to) a self-help book, you get them all of the time.

But I think there’s an unspoken stigma about this type of literature—that it’s only for middle-aged women and prospective businessmen. At least, that’s how I saw it. Reminding myself that I actually used to think self-help books sounded about as dry and lifeless as the DMV, I’m realizing I can’t remember what caused me to actually start reading one. But I did. And you know what I found? You don’t have to wait until you feel bogged down by flaws and negative life experience to seek improvement. We all started as infants, unable to talk or walk—life is an uphill climb from the beginning!

I’m taking a while to get to the book review, aren’t I?

My point is, I have the humble opinion that self-help books are for everyone. And I want to start you off with a good one. So without further ado, let me tell you about The Big Leap.

The Big Leap book coverGay Hendricks, the author, (who, by the way, has appeared on Oprah), discovers a problem with us as human beings: the Upper Limit Problem. He claims that we subconsciously seem to limit our success and happiness, and he finds ways to counteract this limitation.

The book is filled with ways to actively participate in the self-improvement process. He asks you to ask yourself, “What do I most love to do? (I love it so much I can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored.)” He gives you a personal mantra: “I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.” He tells you the truth, ” . . . if I cling to the notion that something’s not possible, I’m arguing in favor of limitation. And if I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them.”

Now, with books, I am not a re-reader. I feel like there is so much out there to read, it would be silly to revisit what you’ve already finished and closed. But the minute I finished this book, I started it right back from the beginning again. There is so much wisdom here—so many keys to a happy and successful life. On top of that, I just felt feelings of positivity and hope throughout my journey into the book.

So, if I’ve convinced you, and you’re ready to give self-help books a try, try this one!

—Sophie Parry

Mindful Media: Make Your Time with Technology Worthwhile

technology-791029_1920I love technology, but like many good things, it can be abused and overused. More applicable to me, it can be very, very time-wasting. Yet I keep reaching for my phone and turning on the T.V. any moment I can. It’s a habit that I (and many of us, I assume) have been forming since Saturday morning cartoons.

But over the past two years, I’ve become interested in mindfulness, and guess what I’ve found. On the days that I am mindful about the way I feel and how my choices affect me, I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my life ten times more, including technology. Mindless consumption is one thing, and it really isn’t good for us. But really enjoying a T.V. show, looking for educational YouTube videos, connecting with family on Instagram—these are all good things, and they’re so much better when you are completely present.

I don’t mean to say that it’s good to fill your days and nights with as much technology as you possibly can. I think that when you practice being present—asking yourself how your body feels, how you feel emotionally, and what sensations you’re receiving—you will actually choose to consume less media, but the media that you do choose to consume will be worthwhile.

So here are my recommendations for mindful media intake:

1. Television (yes, Netflix bingers, I’m talking to you)—When you’re watching a T.V. show, try not to do anything else while you watch it. I know, this sounds like you’re wasting more time. But I’ve found that when I work while I’m multitasking, it takes longer and suffers in quality. If you find that you want to do something else while you’re watching your T.V. show, turn it off and do the thing you want to be doing! You’ll have watched less T.V., and your work will be vastly improved. Plus, you’ll have fully enjoyed the T.V. that you watched!

2. Social Media—It’s so easy to scroll down the endless pit of news and videos and memes. I do it every day. So here’s something that’s made it a little more worthwhile for me. When you find yourself becoming zombie-like, clicking from one image or post to the next, try to turn this venture into a creative one. Snap yourself out of it by either making your own account where you can share your expertise, making a personal connection and contacting one of the people you’re stalking (maybe you could reconnect with an old friend), or finding a creative outlet. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has started a website called HITRECORD. It’s an online community where you can post and develop creative projects!

3. Meditate—Yes, you’re right, this isn’t a technology-based mindfulness technique. It’s an ancient one! I’m including this because, no matter what, mindful technology doesn’t compete with being mindful in the physical world. Meditating starts with your mind and your body. It helps you to reduce anxiety, focus better, and breath better. So, if you want to use media more wisely or if you feel like you need a media cleanse, start with some meditation and see where it takes you. I love to meditate first thing in the morning, but do what works for you. Here is a great app that will guide you through meditations: Stop, Breath & Think. You can download it for free on your smartphone or access it online.

Mindfulness helps you enjoy every moment in life, focus when you need to, and make better decisions throughout the day. I hope these suggestions are helpful to you! Let me know what you think.

—Sophia Parry

Get Creative: 36 Ideas for “Creatives” and “Non-creatives” Alike

face-638845_1920Have you ever thought of a project, but you were too afraid to start?

I have a seven-year-old niece who has probably created more things than most people do in their lifetimes. Once, she made a fish tank out of paper and even devised a food dispenser with tape, folded paper, and paper scraps. When she lost a tooth this year, she set up a room for the tooth fairy out of a laundry basket with a toy bed and a fridge so that the fairy could take a break. This girl never stops creating.

I think a lot of us did things like that when we were little. After growing up, some people keep that creativity alive, while others classify themselves as “non-creatives” and avoid opportunities to see what they’re made of.

I don’t believe that art is the only outlet we have to be creative. I enjoy drawing, painting, and writing. I’m that kind of creative. But I haven’t always been confident that I could contribute my ideas in groups and meetings. I’m still not confident about that. But that’s another part of creativity, and I’m determined to develop it.

There’s an unlimited amount of creative outlets in this world. The challenge for us is to get over all of the fears that we make up about creativity—the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of being amateur, the fear of wasting time (that’s my big one).

Let me tell you something the bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert has written about creativity:

“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

Having the courage to be creative is an adventure. And don’t worry about wasting time. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,

“Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty.”

So here is my challenge, and I’m doing this with you. Make it your goal to do one creative thing every day. You don’t have to spend a certain amount of time on it. Just do something. I guarantee that you will be more fulfilled in your life and in your family if you start to discover the treasures that are hidden within you.

Here are thirty-six ideas to get you started:

1. Write in your journal.

2. Take a picture.

3. Edit a picture.

4. Write a social media post.

5. Bake something.

6. Cook something.

7. Set the table nicely.

8. Draw something. It can be a doodle!

9. Paint a picture.

10. Paint furniture.

11. Paint a room.

12. Rearrange the furniture in your home.

13. Sing a song.

14. Play an instrument.

15. Do a workout. Maybe create your own routine.

16. Dance.

17. Ice skate.

18. Sew something.

19. Knit.

20. Crochet.

21. Play with a child.

22. Write a story.

23. Tell a story.

24. Write a blog post.

25. Write a letter.

26. Write a poem.

27. Write a letter.

28. Practice calligraphy.

29. Do your makeup.

30. Try something new with your hair.

31. Put together a new outfit.

32. Plan a date.

33. Contribute your idea in a meeting.

34. Learn a monologue.

35. Make a fun way to study for a test.

36. Ask a question. Do whatever you can to answer it.

I could go on, but I hope that these ideas get the wheels turning. Comment any success or failure stories. I don’t care which. I want to hear about courage.

—Sophia Parry


Get Insured: Build Relationships

When I spoke in church on Sunday, and the phrase, “Marriage is the best self-help program,” spilled out of me, I realized how fixated with self-help I really am right now. Yes, as a 21-year-old, I’ve already started reading self-help books for fun. But I believe it’s true—marriage IS the best self-help program. A good marriage. And to extend the statement, I believe that building relationships in general is the best self-help program. Families, by default, are the best self-help programs.

There’s something about warm human interaction that makes us feel better, isn’t there? Look out, reader, I’ve got another Ted talk coming your way! It turns out, Harvard has directed “The Study of Adult Development” for 75 years and has found that the things that make your life not only happy, but also healthy, are warm, meaningful, reliable relationships. Robert Waldinger can tell you all about it.

In the talk, Waldinger says, “Over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships—with family, with friends, with community.”

Then he asks the question, “So what about you? . . . What might leaning into relationships look like?”

To me, building relationships is a type of life insurance: when you start to crumble, the people and communities you’ve invested in are there to build you back up.

I challenge you to make investments in your relationships over the next two weeks. It could be an investment with a family member—sending a text to your sibling or calling a grandparent. Maybe you need to write a card for a parent and tell them how much they mean to you. Perhaps you could babysit a friend’s child. What about surprising your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse with a fun night out or a cozy night in? Maybe you want to ask someone on a date, or talk to the stranger on the elevator, or stay up late with a roommate. Or have a conversation with a child.

By investing in relationships in your life, you’re investing in your own health and happiness.

—Sophia Parry

In two weeks, I plan on writing about overcoming the fear to be creative. Please comment below and request more topics on self-improvement.



Making Friends with Stress

ache-19005_1920Are you stressed yet this semester? Are you stressed because you think you will be stressed this semester? Am I stressing you out?

Whether or not you’re experiencing it at this moment, stress is something we’ll all have to face over and over again in our lives, and if we don’t know how to deal with it, it can be almost crippling.

Personally, stress grips me in the presence of homework, tests, big talks, small talk, finances, papers that need organizing, anything that needs organizing (Don’t even get me started on my closet. Yikes!), and dirty dishes. These things terrify me. And that’s OK. In fact, I’ve realized in my early adult years that most of my fears are normal (although, I have yet to find someone else who’s as terrified of blue whales as I am).

It’s not what we’re afraid of that matters. We can’t permanently prevent events, situations, and obligations that cause us stress. Most of the time, we can’t even prevent the stress response! We can, however, choose how we think about stress and how we act on it.

I’m not going to go over all of the scientific details about how we can change our stress thought process, but I strongly encourage watching this life-changing Ted talk right here by Kelly McGonigal. It’s called, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.”

McGonigal’s research on stress delves into life expectancy and the biology of courage. But what interested me the most was her findings about oxytocin—the “cuddle hormone.” When we feel stressed, our pituitary gland secretes this hormone and causes us to seek support. Being able to talk to people about our troubles doesn’t just help us mentally and emotionally; to our hearts, it’s also physically healing.

So, the next time your heart starts beating fast, and you think you can’t meet the challenge, tell a loved one. Support a loved one. Make a friend, and make friends with stress.

—Sophia Parry

Perfection and Purpose



As students, it is easy to feel inadequate in our studies, social circles, and everyday endeavors here at BYU. No matter how hard we try, sometimes our imperfections are all too clear before us. A few weeks ago, my friend told me about an experience she had that helped her overcome such discouraging thoughts.

While at a women’s conference, my friend was told to pick up a leaf and rate it from one to ten on how perfect it was. She noticed the tattered ends, broken veins, and flimsy stem and rated it as a five. Others around her at the meeting also gave their leaves ratings, resulting in a variety of rankings, some high and others low. Then the person conducting the meeting asked them to rate the leaf on how well it was fulfilling its purpose. After some confusion, the woman teaching the lesson went on to explain what she meant. She spoke of lush green leaves in the summer, absorbing sunlight for the tree. She talked of rich reds and oranges in dying fall leaves and the beauty they bring to the season. She even talked about piles of dead leaves fallen on the ground that gleeful little children throw in the air. In each scenario, the leaf is fulfilling a purpose, just as the leaf in my friend’s hands was fulfilling its purpose in teaching an object lesson.

We may be tattered at the edges, a little aged and worn, and by no means perfect by a worldly standard. However, wherever we are and in whatever condition we may be, we can fulfill our purpose perfectly.


—Jessica Olsen, Editor, Stance

Life’s Dark Trails

The trail was very dark, the sky lit with stars. With a small silver flashlight in hand, I could only see two or three steps in front of me, but well enough to know I was quickly falling behind the very fast and fit group of hikers whom I had come with. I had hiked Mt. Timpanogos before, when I was younger, but never with a group of complete strangers and at the very late (or early) hour of midnight. My quick and jagged breaths made futile any intentions I had of talking to the cute boy behind me, and I quickly regretted not having slept more in preparation for this feat.

It was quite an experience being on a trail in the pitch black of night not knowing how far I had nor how much farther I still had to go. Here I was, surrounded by people I did not know, except for my roommate who had invited me, unable to speak and too afraid to be the one who asked for a break. So I moved forward, with no view of where I was going and only my thoughts to keep me company.

Self ImprovementThere’s something eerily similar between midnight hikes and life. In this world we are shrouded in darkness with only a vague idea of how far we’ve come and little to no understanding of what’s to come. Our perceptions are often warped, thinking we have come five miles when really we’ve only gone three. Yet we continue onward with the sunrise in our sights. It’s much like faith: we do not see the sunrise; we have not experienced it for ourself yet, but we know it will come. The question is, will we come? Will we continue on this difficult journey with only small stars of light and little flashlights to guide us?

Truly, the sun has already risen. Coming down the trail, I saw all I had traversed. All this time, I had been surrounded by exquisite creations and views. The journey was beautiful; I just couldn’t see it at the time. Someday we will be able to see our lives with the glory and vision of the sunrise. We will see how truly wonderful this world is and what marvelous plans Heavenly Father has made for us. We will understand the beauty of the trail in it’s fullest, made possible by the sacrifice of One.


—Jessica Olsen, Editor, Stance

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