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The Importance of Friending Yourself

Friendship is an interesting dynamic. At her high school graduation, my father-in-law told my wife that if she could look back in a few years and count her true friends on one hand, using all five fingers, she should count herself truly blessed. Lindsey comments now on just how odd her father’s statement seemed at the time. But fast-forward about twenty years, and the old man was right.

It’s easy to think we have lots of friends, especially in a social media-driven culture, when you have a few thousand followers on Facebook, and even more on Twitter, but when it comes to real life, we mostly all have lots of acquaintances. Maybe they are acquaintances we are especially fond of for a season, but look at these quotes on the meaning of true friendship:

“A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or not to feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be who he really is.”
— Jim Morrison
“A true friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else.”
— Len Wein
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.”
— Bernard Meltzer

 

The last one is my favorite. All sorts of things happen to us that shake and rattle the carton, threatening to crack us. But the true friend chooses to see you entirely, and love you because of, not in spite of, your imperfections and quirks.

Do you have a friend like this?

The ugly truth: chances are, less than 1% of your “friends” on social media are real friends, willing to weather the storms of life with you, sit with you when everything has crumbled, and help you rebuild when you are penniless and desperate.

These days, we are consumed with busyness, bombarded with noise, and the notifications on our smartphones are like a dripping faucet in a silent house, convincing us that the only way to win is to play the comparison game with everyone else. Unfortunately, doing so ensures that everyone loses. We are miserable and exhausted. And despite the fact that 68% of Americans now use Facebook – and 88% of those 18-29 use any and all forms of social media – we are still lonely.

Good news: there is one person who travels with you through every hill and valley, stays with you in the dark night of the soul, and knows your every secret sin and silent hope. That person stares back at you in the mirror each morning, begging you to be his or her true friend.

You may wonder why it is important to believe in yourself. The simple answer is that no one else will. Your spouse and your family will believe in you to a certain extent. However, when times get tough, family support tends to wane. It’s not that they don’t love and care about you. It’s just they stopped believing in you.

While this doesn’t always happen, it happens often enough to cause conflict. An example is when a spouse or parents initially give you support on a new venture. When the venture doesn’t work out as they believe it should, they start to question whether you should continue with it. If your belief starts to weaken, you may take on their way of thinking.

The reason beliefs start to weaken is due to a fear of the unknown. When you start a new venture, everyone is excited for you and will tell you to give it your best shot. However, when the prospects of the business become murkier, that excitement turns to fear.

The problem is the path towards success for these ventures is not a straight line up. Having some bumps in the road is normal. In fact, this is what defines the success of the enterprise, and the people who are taking risks. It should be welcomed and not feared.

The fear of the unknown may start to creep into your psyche. It’s easier to listen to your family and friends tell you to dissolve your venture because it is failing. They will continue down this negative path until you decide to stop. If you do choose to give up on your business, they will tell you that it wasn’t meant to be and that starting a business is difficult.

That time is precisely the moment that you shouldn’t stop. People never get ahead by quitting. If you believe in yourself, you would have had the conviction to see it through. You would have the appropriate guidance to give you strength to surge ahead. You could have done all of it while telling your family and friends to have some faith. A firm belief in yourself would give you the courage to stand up to them.

Whatever venture you decide to pursue, know that only by continuing will you make it work. Think of Thomas Edison’s contribution to the lightbulb. While he did not invent the lightbulb (contrary to popular belief), he made ones that lasted longer. Imagine if he decided to quit after he ran into a few stumbling blocks early on.

You are the only constant throughout your whole life. Are you going to be a friend or foe? A true friend, or just an acquaintance? Are you going to show yourself compassion when life tries to break you, and celebrate every small victory? Call me crazy, but the greatest gift you can offer yourself is the gift of true friendship.

Will you join me today in friending yourself? Here are the requirements to be a true friend to yourself:

  1. Speak to yourself with kindness in all situations.

  2. Listen to your own needs and desires.

  3. Don’t read your own press – good or bad.

  4. Be patient with yourself as you recover from all that has wounded you.

  5. Do whatever you can to care for yourself.

Only to the extent that you are willing to treat yourself with kindness and respect, will you be able to truly become a friend to others. Go ahead, friend yourself today.

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What Can I do to Prepare for Holiday Stress?

Why Are the Holidays So Stressful?

Most people look forward to the holidays with great expectations for family, friends and time to enjoy the seasons. The holidays offer great foods, much needed time away from work, and the opportunity to reconnect with loved-ones.

But for some people, the holiday drama can be more “Bah Humbug” than “God bless us, everyone.”

If the holidays cause you more stress than joy, here’s some advice that’s sure to help.

One of the most common reasons that the holidays become stressful is the expectation placed on families who are sometimes overextended emotionally and financially. The added burden to provide big meals, provide gifts, pay for travel and overextend the budget feels like a heavy weight. Families begin to stress just about the time they are putting away the Halloween decorations.

Despite the Hallmark channel’s insistence that families all love one another and that being together is all that matters, many families are fractured, busy and unable or unwilling to live in harmony. The key to having a stress-less holiday is all about preparation and setting boundaries. Sticking to a plan that allows for the fun parts of the season without setting the family up for failure is the best way to ensure that everyone has the best time possible, even if times aren’t perfect.

What Role Do Boundaries Play?

When children are small, parents set boundaries that are clear expectations for their conduct. As long as a child operates inside the boundaries, they are allowed to engage without any consequences. If they step outside of the boundaries, they are redirected back to what is acceptable.

Parents who place a high value on parenting engage their children in the process. They use logic and love to explain why the rules exist and why the consequences are important for failure to comply. The benefit of operating within set boundaries becomes knowing what is expected, why and understanding that there are limits.

Children raised with clear, consistent and appropriate boundaries tend to be better at self-regulating, delayed gratification and adapting to their settings as adults.

Setting boundaries about the holidays allows for the same outcomes as parenting. Preparing a budget and holding to it, decided whom to share the holidays with and negotiating what activities to participate in will create a sense of calm in a potentially anxious season. The key to making meaningful boundaries is to do it ahead of time.

Prior to the season, discuss the expectations, finances and opportunities available and make clear decisions about how resources will be used. Once the decisions are made, stick to the plan.

What Can I do to Prepare for Holiday Stress?

The single best thing that can be done to prepare for holiday stress is to acknowledge that it is part of the reason for the season. It is directly tied to the expectations placed on a family that are above the usual expectations of every day living. Just because the holidays are here, does not mean there is an obligation to overextend ourselves.

If you have unresolved chores, bills, family relationships that are strained or projects that are unfinished, do everything you can to get them managed before the holidays set in.

Clean your home or have a service come in and get things on track. Head to the dump, donate to the thrift store and clear out your clutter. Clean your garage, your gutters and your closets.

Refill prescriptions, pre-write your holiday newsletter, clear out space for the holiday decorations to come down from the attic and make space for what you need. Start picking up baking items or other staples that you know you are going to need now when you have a bit more time. Touch base with friends and family now and share that you expect times to get so busy that you want to reach out now so you won’t feel pressured later and they won’t feel neglected.

4 Tips to Reduce Stress During the Season

  1. Make certain that self-care is a part of the whole family’s lifestyle. Adequate sleep, forms of exercise and down time are important in a season that is all about hustle.

  2. Do not feel obligated to say yes to every invitation to give, attend a party or otherwise be involved. It is a perfectly acceptable stand to say no to the things that cause more stress than joy.

  3. Stay in the moment. Remember the reason for your season. Whatever your personal reasons are for celebrating the holidays, remember to be present and enjoy everything you can about this year because this year will never be here again.

  4. Give. The surest way to reduce stress is to freely and willingly give of yourself, your time or your resources for the benefit of others. This is different than giving out of obligation and with resentment. No matter your finances, your family dynamics or your time constraints, you can give in a meaningful way towards something that is bigger than you and will set your soul at ease.


Looking for more practical, actionable tips for dealing with holiday drama?

Join my free 10-Day Holiday Challenge, “How to Keep the CrayCray Outta Your Christmas” today! Starts December 3rd!

Click here to join.


Looking for more? Check out this bonus episode of Catching Your Breath: The Podcast, “How to Handle Holiday Stress” –


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How to Practice Presence and Compassion in Your Own Life

Toward the end of my suicide prevention workshops, I say something like this, “If you forget everything else I say, hear this: All people really want and need from you is your love and presence.”

Could it really be that simple?

Yes, I think so.

That’s not to discount things like professional help, medication, and the like. For a long season of my life, I would have DIED without the help of counselors and mental health professionals. And I’m a HUGE proponent of medication if you need it.

What I am trying to say is this: if you don’t approach hurting people from a place of compassion, and with your full presence, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Hurting people have a super-sensitive bullshit meter. And they will spot your disingenuous nature from a mile away.

But if you show up fully and love completely, get ready to watch the transformation take place.

The same is true for yourself. If you want to heal the deepest wounds in your life, you must show up entirely, and show yourself some compassion.

In today’s video, I will teach you the basics of how to practice presence and compassion in your own life. It will take us about 15 minutes. Click below and skip to the 1:35 mark to get into the good stuff.

If you’d like to dig deeper into self-compassion, I’d like to invite you on the sacred journey from chaos to calm. Beginning February 19th, just a few months away, I’ll be launching 90 Days of Calm. We’re going to focus on things like self-care, self-compassion, and self-help. And we’re going to do it together.

But if you sign up right now, I’m offering one heck of an early bird discount. If you join by 11:59pm Monday night, November 26th, you’ll save 50% OFF the enrollment fee.

To join, just go to 90DaysofCalm.com and enter the discount code 90DAYS50 at checkout.

There are three tiers, based on your ability to invest in yourself. No matter the tier you choose, you get 50% OFF if you join by Monday night. And the other great news is that there’s a flexible payment plan for each tier.

And that’s not all!

If you sign up by Monday night, you also get immediate access to 5 incredible bonuses. Here they are:

  1. 25 Self-Esteem Tips

  2. 50 Ways to Crush the Things that are Keeping You from Happiness & Success

  3. Understanding Shame (e-book & journal)

  4. A Survivor’s Manifesto

  5. Daily Gratitude Checklist

To join, just go to 90DaysofCalm.com and enter the discount code 90DAYS50 at checkout.

There are a limited number of spaces available, and the sale ends Monday night! I hope to see you there!

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Is Your Life in Chaos? Introducing: 90 Days of Calm

Every day, I get asked about shame, self-care, and self-compassion. I even surveyed my Tribe a couple of weeks ago, and those three topics were at the top of the list for courses they want to take in 2019.

As a result, I’m thrilled to announce 90 Days of Calm.

As most of you know, I nearly died by suicide in 2012. I was overwhelmed and full of fear, shame, and guilt. I was desperate for a life of love, light, and inner peace, but I felt hopeless.

Thankfully, a suicide attempt wasn’t the end of my story.

Since recovering from the worst day of my life, I’ve mapped out the exact methods I’ve used to create lasting change in my own life. I’d love to share those methods with you.

My goal is to fill 90 Days of Calm with people who feel the gentle nudge toward this sacred journey.

Over the past 6 years, I have begun to experience new levels of freedom, strength, healing, and energy. I am continuing to transition from a life of constant chaos to a life of continual, intentional calm.

It hasn’t been easy – nothing worth doing is ever that easy. But learning to silence my inner-critic, practice self-care, and cultivate a courageous life of vulnerability has been transformative. The ripple effects have impacted my marriage, the way I parent, and all those in my inner circle.

Too many people are stressed out and overwhelmed. They’re holding onto deep suffering, unable to catch their breath in a world that tells them to fake it till they make it. As the pressure of fear, pain, anxiety, and anger build, sooner or later these individuals are going to explode—just like I nearly did.

I’ve created 90 Days of Calm because I know without a doubt these methods work in creating a life of substance and depth, peace and intention. Most important – learning to cultivate calm in your everyday life can empower you to live the life you’ve always dreamt of.

This is the very foundation of the Membership: calm is waiting on the other side of chaos.

You can do practical, actionable things to create a life of calm right now. It’s not just a dream – you can map it out and quickly begin to feel the waters of inner peace wash over your soul.

The life you’ve imagined really is possible. If you want to be a part of a community of people who are not only dreaming of a better way, but are committed to creating a peace-filled life, then join us.

It’s simple. But not always easy. That’s why I’ve created this course and community. All you have to do is follow each step along the sacred journey.

CONTENT + COMMUNITY + COACHING

There’s no shortcut. It’s one little step after another. As you begin to connect each stone along the path: compassion, understanding, daily practice, and most of all – community – you will see that you are moving forward more quickly and with more intention than you ever dreamed. Our energy multiplies when we work together toward the common goal of inner peace.

I believe you can do everything I’ve just mentioned while having a fantastic (and dare I say, “fun”) time in the process! That’s why I’ve created a sacred space where all of these elements can be housed together.

This is a safe, affirming community, and I’d love for you to join me. There is a method to this, and if you join, it is going to change your life forever.

Whatever it is that pushed you toward the sacred journey from chaos to calm, I think life (or God, or the Universe) brings us exactly where we need to be, at the precise time we need to be there.

BIG NEWS: 90 Days of Calm begins February 18, 2019.

Here’s just a sample of what you’ll learn in 90 Days of Calm:

  • Reducing clutter (physical & mental) that causes stress

  • Creating inner calm through meditation & mindfulness

  • Simple ways to stay calm when chaos erupts

  • A critical look at the media you’re consuming

  • How to makeover your morning routine

  • Cutting out distractions (the dangers of multitasking)

  • Forming good habits

  • Getting over guilt/Moving past regrets

  • Dealing with good stress & bad stress

All this and SO much more!

Steve Austin speaks from his own experiences of trauma, abuse, depression, attempted suicide, the deconstruction of his faith, and the reconstruction of something more beautiful than he could have ever expected. Suitable for the Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, and many more. If you find yourself suffocating from the pain of depression, faith deconstruction, or traumatic suffering: this book can help you catch your breath again and maybe even restore your hope for life.

— David Quaid Melton, Amazon review

This book is much needed since more people are having issues with stress and anxiety. Steve does a brilliant job. He’s so honest and vulnerable, while at the same time, not ending with his story. He genuinely wants to help others not be where he was and offers encouragement, not being fluffy or giving false hope. I’m personally thankful for Steve and this book! You won’t be disappointed.

— Casey, Amazon review

Every pastor should read this book. Especially if you are recovering from burnout. I gave it a five star rating because Steve doesn’t disappoint. He presents metaphor after metaphor that gives permission for self care. He gives practical exercises that are healing. After years of listening to sermons about total depravity, I needed this.

— Belinda McDaniel, Amazon review

Steve Austin is an empathetic mastermind. He uses his personal story to relate to the reader and isn’t afraid to be truly genuine and honest in order to help others. This book is a must read for anyone that deals with anxiety or wants to learn more about self care and managing stress. You won’t regret this buy.

— Jessica Gabel, Amazon review

90 Days of Calm: Basic

97.00

Includes:

  • All Emails & Lessons

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident e-book

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident Journal

  • Lifetime access to all content

Flexible Payment Plan Available! (Just click here.)

Quantity:

Add to Cart

90 Days of Calm: Advanced

197.00

Includes:

  • All Emails & Lessons

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident e-book

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident Journal

  • Exclusive Facebook group

    • 4 Facebook live webinars

  • Plus BONUS content & surprise guests

  • Lifetime access to all content & community

    *Only 48 spots available!

Flexible Payment Plan Available! (Just click here.)

Quantity:

Add to Cart

90 Days of Calm: Premium

397.00

Includes:

  • All Emails & Lessons

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident e-book

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident Journal

  • Exclusive Facebook group

    • 4 Facebook live webinars

  • 6 group coaching sessions (via Zoom)

  • 1 private 30-minute coaching session

  • 4-part guided meditation series (.mp3)

  • Plus BONUS content & surprise guests

  • Lifetime access to all content & community

  • 10% discount on future coaching sessions

*Only 24 spots available!

Flexible Payment Plan Available! (Just click here.)

Quantity:

Add to Cart

 

If you’d like to gain more clarity and inner peace than you ever thought possible, join 90 Days of Calm today.

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions:

Questions #1: How many emails/articles will I receive?

Answer: You’ll receive 2 e-books & a journal, plus new articles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for the full 90 Days.

Question #2: What’s your refund policy?

Answer: I’m so confident this course is going to transform your life, that I’ll give you a full refund, up to 7 days from your date of purchase.

Question #3: How long will I have access to the material?

Answer: As with all my programs, you will have lifetime access. I want this training to be something that you can reference whenever you need it and something that can serve you over and over again as you feel the waters of chaos start to lap against your feet.

Question #4: I’m brand-new to the online world. Is this going to be tech-heavy, and complicated?

Answer: Not at all! If you can operate your email and Facebook, you’ll have no problem.

Question #5: I’m not sure I have the time to dedicate to this program right now. How much time will it take for me to be successful?

Answer: We all lead demanding, crazy, busy lives. Trust me, I know as an entrepreneur and dad of two! That is why I have broken up the training into 12 weeks. You’ll be receiving an email/article every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The lessons are only about 400 words each.

If you sign up for the Advanced or Premium level, you’ll also have access to the exclusive Facebook group, where you can find support from other members. We’ll be doing group coaching calls every other week, and Premium members will schedule one private session with me. In short, this will take an average of an hour per week (2 hours on group coaching weeks).

I strongly believe you’ll be able to do this course without having to sacrifice family time or feel like you’re falling behind. Of course, you are welcome to work ahead too if you find yourself having a free day or maybe you learn better by consuming everything marathon style. In fact, it might not be such a bad idea to binge on something other than Netflix — something that might actually help you create more sanity and serenity in your personal life. Just a thought 😉

Question #6: What exactly do I get with this program?

Answer: Great question. There are 3 levels, depending on your budget and desired level of involvement. Each tier is laid out clearly on the site. Here’s everything you’ll be getting with the Premium Membership:

Question #7: Can I afford this right now?

Answer: At the end of the day that’s a question you have to answer. However, I have created 3 Membership Tiers, to try and accommodate every budget and interest level. The other BIG NEWS is that there’s a flexible payment plan for every single tier. What that means is, you pay a reasonable down payment when you sign up, and split the remaining balance into 2 monthly payments. Easy and affordable!

I would challenge you to ask another question, “Can you afford to pass this up?”

90 Days of Calm begins February 18, 2019.

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When You Just Can’t Deal with the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. I can hardly stand the excitement of family get-togethers and out-of-town guests.

No, really. I can hardly stand it.

12 Snarky Self-Care Tips for the Holidays

The only thing worse than dry turkey is the runny lemon meringue pie Grandma tries her best to guilt you into eating. But worse than Cousin Martha’s green bean casserole is having to get together with people you only see twice a year and being forced to act like you enjoy their company.

Uncle Jeff is bound to fall asleep in the recliner and snore through the second half of the football game. Little Johnny is going to clog the toilet. He always does. Aunt Louise will catch everyone up on hometown gossip. Grandpa will regale you with stories from his childhood (which you’ve heard at least 174 times). And your mom will continue to shove plates of food in your face for the duration of the afternoon. “Diet?” she’ll say, horrified, “Whoever heard of a diet during the holidays?!”

If you dread the holidays as much as my friends and me, here’s 12 ways to guard yourself from holiday craziness:

  1. If you have unresolved chores, bills, family relationships that are strained or projects that are unfinished, do everything you can to get them managed before the holidays set in.

  2. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Know which topics and people are off-limits. If a conversation comes up that you’re not comfortable having, walk away.

  3. Park on the street so you don’t get blocked in.

  4. Agree on a “code word” prior to the holiday celebration that says, “I’ve had enough of this and I have to get out of here before I throw a rod!” – Kate Pieper, LMFT

  5. Arrive late and leave early.

  6. When hosting the family hellabration, it is important to have hooch somewhere. If you are from a family of teetotalers, make a pot of coffee and keep a bottle of Irish cream under the sink to …errr…sweeten it with. They will be in awe of your endless holiday cheer. – Sasha Maples Johns, True Vine Gifts

  7. Lots of families have a “crazy Uncle Bo.” Be intentional about not leaving any family member alone with “Uncle Bo.” Think of it as ‘leave no family member behind!’ – Kate Pieper, LMFT

  8. Have an “after party” planned so you can only stay with draining people for a set amount of time (i.e, take the kids to see Christmas lights, go to a late movie with a friend, plan on taking goodies to a coworker’s house, etc). Or have someone on standby to send an “emergency” text/phone call when you need to get out. – Lindsey Austin

  9. The bathroom is your safe place. – Teer Hardy, Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast

  10. Set expectations low. Family holidays aren’t times to truly bond or resolve issues. Go in with the expectation of it not being perfect, but “just be kind.” – Kate Pieper, LMFT

  11. Stay in the moment. Remember the reason for your season. Whatever your personal reasons are for celebrating the holidays, remember to be present and enjoy everything you can. This year will never be here again! – Faydra Koenig

  12. If all else fails, it’s perfectly acceptable to come down with a last-minute stomach bug. (Seriously – it is perfectly acceptable to say no to the things that cause more stress than joy.)

While the holidays can be a joyous time, for many, they are stressful and cause anxiety. Whether finances, family dynamics or other worries are at play, not everyone is excited about the added stresses that the holidays can bring.

On December 3rd, I’m launching a free 10-day course, “How to Keep the CrayCray Outta Your Christmas!”

It’s super helpful, loads of fun, and totally free. Click here to sign up before you forget.


Dealing with Holiday Stress? Here’s 3 Tips for Complicated Families

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Guest Post: And That’s When the Pastor Said I was Possessed

“Son, we’ve been praying for you, to get through this dark season in your life for some time now,” the pastor said with a foreboding expression.

“Usually I’d say this is a faith issue,” he continued, “but I know you have plenty of faith for God to break through this. There’s only one possibility left—you’re possessed by a demon.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Possessed? Was that even a thing that could happen to Christians? I wasn’t sure, and I still don’t know the answer to that.

“What about some antidepressants?” I asked. “I hear these can be helpful for people who are struggling with depression.”

“Chris, you should know better than to ask that question. Do you want medicine to cloud your mind, cloud your judgment, and cloud your ability to be faithful to God. No, antidepressants are not a valid option for real Christians.”

To be frank, I was pissed off. It seemed like there were no options for me to find health, and my church wanted to burn me at the stake. I wasn’t going to let the church elders pray over me to be freed from demons, because I didn’t believe that had anything to do with my unending sadness.

But I trusted my church leadership. I wanted to, anyway. It’s the only church I’d ever been in as an adult, and I found a path toward maturity there. But this. This didn’t make any sense.

I walked out of that meeting more hopeless than I’d been in a very long time. I couldn’t take any meds, prayer wasn’t working, and—according to the leaders—I was also possessed. I didn’t know what to do.

So I did nothing.

For almost a decade, I never asked for prayer about my depression again. I faked it.

As a matter of fact, I made sure to hide any sadness that I felt whenever I was around church people. I wasn’t ready to deal with another accusation. I put my Sunday smile on, no matter how overwhelmed with sadness I was. Because I learned that the church wasn’t a safe place for my mental health, I decided to button up my emotions and act the part of a good little Christian.

At the same time, those words of judgment about antidepressant medications stuck with me. I didn’t want to be a sub-par Christian who was reliant upon outside help—especially since this help would only result in a muddled existence. So for seven years, I silently battled depression.

Too many days my depression would come out as anger, directed at my wife or my children. I did my best to survive, and I did, but just barely. I had no sense of joy, no sense of purpose, and nothing to look forward to every day when I woke up.

The quiz

It stayed this way for seven years, until I had an appointment with my new primary care physician. As part of the normal work-up for a new patient, I took a simple “depression identification quiz.”

I aced the quiz—and ended up with a diagnosis of severe depression.

My new physician was also a Christian, so I talked with him about the spiritual side of antidepressants. He asked me a simple question: “Do you want to stay this way, or do you want to have a sense of hope in your life?” I was tired of being angry or sad all the time, so I agreed to start taking medication.

I wish I could tell you that my depression went away with the first pill. That wouldn’t be the truth. I still have good days and bad days. Not too long ago, I experienced a week of really, really bad days. But, I made it through that week, and I am making it through my life with more joy and a better sense of happiness undergirding my days.

New normal

It took me almost a decade, but I was able to overcome the lie that says depression equals possession.

I created a book that touches on experiences like this, moments where mental illness and the church intersect. Whispers in the Pews includes seventeen essays from men and women, pastors and nurses, parents and children—all of whom have experienced mental illness in the church. Some of the stories are positive, others less so. Together, they paint a tapestry of how the church responds to mental illness.

My hope is this tapestry will open doors for more honest conversations about the intersection of faith and mental health.


Chris Morris is a husband, father of four, CPA, and author. He writes honestly about pain, chronic illness, and hope. He’s the author of the new book Perfectly Abnormal, and co-author of the new release, Whispers in the Pews, Voices on Mental Illness in the Churchwww.ChrisMorrisWrites.com

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Everything You Need to Know about a Gratitude Journal

Once you get into the habit of contemplating what you’re grateful for each day, it’s time to consider making it a written activity. This can be intimidating for people who don’t like to write or who feel they may not have time to dedicate to such a practice. In all honesty, it really doesn’t take much more time to write it down than to just think on what you appreciate.

You don’t even have to have strong writing skills to jot down three sentences. Let’s see if we can’t make the process seem less stressful. There truly are some fantastic benefits that come from the physical process of creating a record of gratefulness.

More About Gratitude Journals

While it’s called a “gratitude journal,” it’s actually a tool or a record. You don’t have to write in a paper journal. You could put it in a file on your desktop, or save it in the “notes” app on your phone. The important part is that you take the time each day to record a few things that make you feel fortunate. Doing so can actually help to manifest more positive things.

Writing down what you’re appreciative of each day brings that sense of gratefulness to the forefront. It allows you to focus on the positive, helping you to spot opportunities you might otherwise have missed. When I think about the sacred journey from chaos to calm, gratitude is one of the most important stops on the journey. And the great thing about keeping a gratitude journal is that you now have a written record to pull out and reflect over any time you’re feeling down or needy. It can provide you with motivation in the toughest of times.

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

There are many benefits to keeping a gratitude journal. Instilling a writing practice in this way ensures that you maintain a focus on positivity. Sure, sometimes bad things may happen, but this overall emphasis on finding the good can help to provide you with the resilience to keep going.

Your stress levels will decrease as you begin embracing an attitude of gratitude. Plus, the act of writing can be therapeutic in itself. Writing also helps to give you a different perspective on things that you might not see as readily without engaging in the process. You can identify patterns and insight into your life that might help you to identify opportunities and to grow.

Tips for Using Your Journal

The most important thing when it comes to a gratitude journal is the consistency of practice. Some journal twice daily. Others prefer once. Regardless, it will only be useful if you use it regularly.

One of the best ways to help yourself want to use your journal is to choose a format you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to write in a journal by hand if you prefer to use electronic methods. You can keep your records in a simple word processing spreadsheet or use one of many apps that are available for this purpose.

On the other hand, if you are inspired by a beautifully-bound paper journal, find one that speaks to you and start writing your thoughts down immediately. One member of the Facebook group said she keeps her gratitude journal in a Day Planner, so it’s easy to chronicle what she was thankful for each day of the year.

No matter what you use, keep it handy by your bedside or on easily accessed devices. Turn your routine into a ritual. Make it a process that feeds your soul. Incorporate your morning coffee into your journal writing or light a candle with a lovely aroma to accompany your routine.

Just make it yours.

A gratitude journal can be an insightful and life-changing tool. Remember, you only have to write three simple things you’re grateful for. There’s no need to make it complicated. Start your record keeping practice today and see what it can do for you.