Does Our Spirituality Influence Our Health?

I have been always interested in the relationship between spirituality and health. I’ve noticed that when I feel closer to God, I’m more likely to pay attention to other areas of my life. Similarly, being spiritually dry can cause imbalances in other areas of life. Taking time to cultivate spiritual growth also helps me focus on God and reframes my purpose in life.  According to FamilyDoctor.org, spirituality is the way we find hope, meaning, comfort, and inner peace in life. Research demonstrates that the body, mind, and spirit are connected.

Dr. David Anderson, co-founder of StayWell Health Management, states that approximately 40% of all deaths in the United States are premature due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, misuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as accidents. Other contributors to early death include genetic predisposition (30%), social circumstances (15%), poor access to quality health care (10%), and environmental exposure (5%).

Our behavior and choices influence not only our future, but our bodies, minds, and our spirits and souls. Health influence the way we relate to God and others. Prayer and meditation also contribute to a sense of peace and calm. Maximizing health is an important aspect of our spiritual pursuit.

Maximizing our health provides energy and focus for spiritual priorities.
When we feel well, we have more energy to invest in maintaining spiritual disciplines and ministering to others. When we’re fatigued or in pain, it’s hard to maintain a schedule, exercise, stay hydrated, and eat healthfully. Sometimes just reaching for a water bottle can seem overwhelming. The more we can maximize our health, the more energy we have for spiritual priorities.

Caring for our health is part of stewardship of God’s gifts. Stewardship isn’t just about giving money to God. It’s about managing all the resources He’s entrusted to our care. One of the most important facets of our stewardship is caring for our bodies, which are the physical means through which we express love for others. Caring for our health enables us to carry out the double-love command: love God, and as a result, love others as we desire to be loved.

Health struggles can draw us closer to God as we learn dependence and trust. Even when we do not enjoy good health, caring for our health can be an act of devotion to God. When we are ill, struggle with pain, and deal with physical frailty, we can choose to turn to God, trust Him, and thrive in our dependence upon Him. Life often doesn’t give us the answers we want, and it’s in those times that our faith is put to the test. These moments often draw us closer to God than times of health and prosperity.

How has God used your health to grow your spiritual life? Or has your health pulled you away from pursuing faith?

In what ways do your physical health and spiritual health connect, and how do you balance both areas to your benefit? I’d love to hear from you.

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem


Wisdom Wins

For all my life, I’ve pursued wisdom. I vividly recall my mom encouraging me to hang out more with older people, especially those with grey hair because they are great sources of wisdom. My parents planted this seed in my heart when I was a child. They also taught me to look beyond actions and behaviors to causes, effects, influences, consequences, and relationships. Education became part of my pursuit of wisdom—acquiring knowledge that could be applied to transforming communities, people’s lives, and positively influencing the world.

But what is wisdom?

The word often defines wisdom as higher knowledge or application of knowledge. I have gained wisdom through personal experiences, observing and interacting with others, and trying new things.

As a woman of faith, I look to God as my ultimate source of wisdom (James, 1:5), as human knowledge and reasoning are always limited and flawed.

Aristotle believed that wisdom is the understanding of causes. Understanding causes involves the ability to analyze cause and effect, interrelationships, and therefore, understand interdependence. For instance, a wise person understands that today’s decision will influence life down the road. They understand that time is a commodity to be invested and not spent. And they also comprehend the many ways their actions (and inactions) influence others.

Wisdom sees the bigger picture and makes decisions that respect the goals and values of life.

For me, values of life encompass faith, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and investing in my community and in others. At the core of wisdom is love for others that allows us to make decisions that override selfishness and me-first, right-now, make-me-happy motives.

Wisdom

  • considers the bigger picture.
  • evaluates outcomes on others.
  • makes decisions with long-term goals.
  • is motivated by mercy, grace, and love.
  • waits for the right moment and circumstances.
  • gracefully responds to the hurt, disappointment, and grief of others.

The journey to gain wisdom never ends.

For me, acquiring wisdom and learning from others has become sweeter with each passing year. As part of my self-study,  I recently came across the Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago.

https://www.uchicago.edu/research/center/the_center_for_practical_wisdom/

I believe that life should be a journey to acquire wisdom. What about you? What are your thoughts on wisdom? I’d like to hear from you. Comments are always welcome.

Dr. Clem


The Importance of Humor in Life

Most of us experience a certain amount of holiday stress: shopping, cooking, baking, locating and unpacking the decorations, decorating, shopping, attending parties, fighting holiday traffic and long lines, wrapping gifts, shopping, writing out Christmas cards, trips to the post office, and of course, shopping. It’s easy to become lost in exhaustion and busyness and lose our sense of perspective.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Christmas is first and foremost the celebration of the historical fact God Himself came to be the Savior of the world. God’s gift of love is our source of love for others. In spite of frustration and harried schedules, Christmas is a time to spare expansive love and grace to others.

Some of my fondest memories are of laughing with my family and friends over simple things as we enjoyed one another’s company. Those moments were often spent as we enjoyed delicious food, listening to  each other’s stories, playing games together, or sipping on  a cup of hot tea. But the most poignant memory is of our laughter—which bound us together.

Irish dramatist and memoirist Sean O’Casey said that “…laughter is the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.” Laughter and shared humor nourish our spirit and connect us to others.

Laugh this Christmas with your loved ones or as you make your way through the post-Christmas clean-up.

Laugher melts anger and frustration.

It bonds spirits.

It makes memories.

It offers grace.

It lifts the heart.

It heals wounds.

It refreshes the soul.

It is a gift to others, as well as to yourself.

Do you have a humorous story or experience to share? Feel free to share on my site or inbox me so we can laugh together.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May your days be filled with joy and peace.

Dr. Clem


What Are You Grateful for Today?

Conversations naturally turn to gratitude and thanks in the month of November. My mother always told us to be grateful for both the small and big things in life. She encouraged us to look around us, to other people, and inside ourselves to find things to be grateful for. As I walked to school in the morning, I observed nature around me, the classmates I played with and talked to, and the simple things that made my life enjoyable, and I found much to be grateful for.

What does it really mean to live a life of gratitude, and why is it important?

Benefits of Gratitude

Many studies over the past ten years demonstrate that people who continually assess their blessings and live with gratitude are happier and less depressed.

According to an article titled “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that Will Motivate You to Give Year-Round” by psychotherapist Erin Morin published in Forbes, benefits of gratitude include

  • opening doors to relationships,
  • improving physical health,
  • improving psychological health,
  • enhances empathy,
  • reduces aggression,
  • improves sleep,
  • improves self-esteem, and
  • increases mental strength.

Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude, believes gratefulness has a positive effect on mental health because it affirms that good exists in the world. A second reason is that sources of goodness outside ourselves—people or a higher power—give us gifts of help us create goodness in the world.

In other words, happiness is a byproduct of the appreciation we show others.

Ten Habits of Grateful People

People who live with gratitude share common characteristics and practices that influence the way they think and see the world. Some of these habits include

  • Expressing appreciation for their life as a way of life.
  • Finding joy in the small things.
  • Looking for the good, even in challenging times.
  • Not making excuses and refusing to play the “victim” card.
  • Focusing on the good in others.
  • Looking for life lessons in hard times.
  • Focusing on what they have while working toward a greater goal.
  • Understanding the value of things money can’t buy.
  • Expressing happiness for other people’s successes.
  • Encouraging others enduring hardship or struggle.

Grateful people possess a healthy perspective on the bigger picture issues of life. They live with intentionality and purpose, and they understand that life’s most difficult challenges are opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Putting Gratitude into Practice

We all can benefit from increasing our gratitude quotient. These are some practical ways to learn how to “grow in gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Create a gratitude jar.
  • Write a letter expressing thanks to an old friend or mentor.
  • Give someone a call and tell them how grateful you are for them.
  • Set aside a specific time frame—two weeks or a month—to focus on cultivating the art of gratitude in your life—and focus on how it changes your perspective.

As my mother told me, when you live with gratitude, your are eyes open blessings and opportunities that ungrateful eyes don’t see. I am grateful to God for the many gifts in my life, and I say to you, Thank you for the positive contributions you bring to this world.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Dr. Clem

Tips for Becoming an Academic Success

Dr. Clementine Msengi ©2018

 What does it mean to be academically successful? You may think it means achieving the highest grades in your classes, but there’s much more to it than that. Academic success also involves the kind of person you are the influence you choose to have on others. Academic success can be measured by your investment in becoming the possible best version of you by maximizing your educational experiences. Here are a few tips for how you can achieve this goal.

Get involved and get to know people. Build a support system and become part of a support system for others. Get to know your school and its resources. Take advantage of organizations and campus events. Participate positively in class and outside the classroom from the very first day.

Participate. Go to your classes. Professors do not always follow the content of a textbook. Tests and exams are often based on lectures, discussions, and class participation. You can’t know a professor’s expectations unless you’re present in their classroom. Choose a seat in front, use body language that shows you’re engaged, answer questions, participate in discussions, come prepared, take notes, and work to the best of your ability . . . and put away your cell phone.

Don’t wait to ask for help. Make an appointment with the campus tutoring center to learn how to review material, master content, and maximize your learning. If you’re having trouble, talk to your professor right away.

Get to know your instructor. Visit your professor during office hours during the first few weeks of class and introduce yourself. Ask what you can do to be successful. Know each professor’s policies on attendance, missed classes, missed and/or late assignments, make-up work, due dates, penalties for late work, special circumstances, cell phone use, and other matters.

Accept constructive criticism. Professors provide valuable feedback when they critique your work. They provide their observations so you can learn. Approach your assignments with a teachable spirit. If you find your work marked up, be grateful for the significant time that your professor or teach invested helping you learn to improve. Instructors who provide little feedback rob students of the opportunity to learn. Accept feedback positively and learn from it.

Get organized. Use a calendar or planner.Schedule major assignments, quizzes, tests, and exams. Include study time, work, and campus activities. Professors assume that a student studies two hours outside of class for every hour spent in class. A student carrying an average load of 16-18 hours per week should study 32-38 hours a week in addition to class time. College is equivalent to a full-time job, and time management is critical for success.

Take comprehensive notes. Learn to summarize and identify main points.

Write down anything the professor writes on the board or presents by PowerPoint. If you have questions or are confused, ask for clarification during class or immediately after. If you have difficulty taking good notes, find someone in class who does it well, and ask if they can teach you how to organize as you listen and write.

Challenge yourself. Lean on support systems to help you study: use the campus tutoring center or join study groups. Look for student tutors who have passed the course already. Be open to thinking critically about new points of view and learning from people whose backgrounds are different than yours.

Remember, academic success is not about a grade—it’s about investing in yourself as you build the character and skills for a successful future.

 

 


Tips for Creating a Positive Classroom Culture

By Dr. Clementine Msengi

We all had favorite teachers as kids. But do you remember what made certain teachers your favorites? Carl Jung has said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”

The foundation for effective learning is positive personal relationships and trust. Building a positive classroom environment is a critical first task for all educators. This requires forethought, consistency, commitment, and a heartfelt interest in helping all students learn. As a professor in education and also as an educator who teaches effective mentoring, I offer the following suggestions to all teachers who hope to build a firm foundation of trust from their first day of class.

Focus on relationships.

Teacher-student relationships set the social climate of the classroom, which influences how students perform. Research demonstrates that when students feel respected by their teachers, they are more successful academically and contribute more positively.

Research conducted by Catherine C. Lewis, Eric Schaps, and Marilyn S. Watson with The Child Development Project has demonstrated that when kids care about one another, are motivated by important, challenging work, and are respected by their teachers, they are more apt to care about learning and be more successful. The opposite is also true. When students do not trust their peers or their instructor, fear and failure typically follow.

Commit to finding or making time to talk to students both inside and outside the classroom. Maintaining a high rate of positive interaction with students and show genuine interest in their lives. Praise students for good choices, and be specific. “Good job” and “Great work” can sound insincere. Recognize specific acts of character, integrity, and hard work or service to others. Challenge yourself to make at least two positive statements to each student in your class every day, then build from there.

Teach social skills.

What are these valuable social skills? Sharing, listening to others, disagreeing respectfully, honesty, sensitivity, concern for others, respect, reliability, responsibility, a sense of humor, and service, to name a few. Many students have never learned these skills because they never have been taught them. If this is true, these skills should become part of your classroom curriculum.

Teach problem solving skills.

Students aren’t prepared for life or the workplace until they have mastered problem solving skills. This is as relevant for preschoolers as it is for college students. Becoming an adult who can navigate competently in a complex world requires specific skills: communicating effectively, working well with others, respectfully expressing opinions and beliefs, understanding and respecting the viewpoints of others, and the ability to disagree, negotiate, and compromise. Skill in problem-solving increases student confidence, improves relationships and academic performance, as well as one’s overall quality of life.

Robin Wagner, Karen Blasé, & Hewitt “Rusty” Clark of the University of South Florida at Tampa devised an effective problem-solving framework that helps student work through a consistent process. It is called the SODAS Problem-Solving Method:

S          Situation

What is the problem (who, what, when, where, how)?

What are the facts?

What are the feelings?

O         Options

Generate possible options.

Reinforce students for their contributions.

What can be done to solve the problem? What is the goal? How can it be achieved? What else could be done?

D         Demonstration

Role-play a demonstration of the solution and take notes.

A         Advantages and Disadvantages

Explore the advantages of each option (Options can be revised or combined).

Positives and benefits. What is important?

Explore the disadvantages of each option (Options can be revised or combined).

How might people, including family members and others be affected?

S          Solution
Guide students in choose an option that is safe and resolves the problem identified in the first step. Is the step practical and possible? What will be required to implement it  (who, what, where, when, and how). Refine options as needed. Is the solution appropriate for the situation?

For more information on the SODAS problem-solving framework, go to
http://www.coalitionny.org/the_center/youth_initiative/documents/TheSODASFramework.pdf

Teach students to respect school rules and policies.

Your classroom is part of the larger school culture. Reflect the vision for your educational institution, and develop classroom expectations that are consistent with a shared vision. Consistency builds trust and an environment of safety.

Be a role model.

An instructor who expects respect should demonstrate respect for students. Students often learn more by watching us than from what we teach. What do your speech, body language, and verbal communication say to your students? Are you open, warm, and approachable? Are you trustworthy and dependable? Are your evaluation and teaching methods fair and realistic? Do you create opportunities for success, or are you a teacher who “never gives an A”? You set the tone for success in your classroom. Your students will believe in themselves if you let them know that you believe in them.

Communicate clear expectations.

Your classroom policies and expectations tell your students whether or not your learning environment is positive and whether or not you believe in them. Your policies tell students that you believe they can achieve the standards you have set for them. Clearly state consequences for late assignments, absences, etc. Make sure your consequences are appropriate, immediate, and consistent. Equally important, they need to be delivered with empathy, not in anger.

State your policies positively. This helps create a positive classroom. Keep rules short and simple (“Turn assignments in on time”). Keep rules general (Be respectful and kind). Publish your grading rubrics and be sure that students understand them.

As educators, we may have a stellar knowledge of content and teaching technique. But if our students to not feel safe, respected, affirmed, or are not given the tools to solve problems or enjoy positive social relationships, our instruction will be ineffective. Communicate clearly, and always ask for clarification to make sure students have understood.

As Maria Montessori said, “The greatest sign of success for a teach is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”

 

I’d love to hear your comments, experiences, and positive suggestions for other readers.
–Dr. Clem

Note:  The statements and opinions in this blog are those of Dr. Clementine Msengi. They do not represent her employer or other personal/professional affiliates.


Teaching Kids Resilience

by Dr. Clementine Msengi

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Japeth Mast

Growing up in Rwanda provided me with many experiences that encouraged
resilience. Our family lifestyle was simple. We were not surrounded by wealth or luxury. We were content with food, shelter, family, and clothing chosen for utility more than fashion. I learned early to value the needs of my family and community. I also learned to work hard to achieve my goals and that I could expect obstacles.

Based on my upbring, values, and experiences as an educator and a parent, I offer the following suggestions to parents who hope to raise resilient children. I also
welcome your insights and comments.

  1. Don’t give your kids everything they want. Children need to learn to solve their own problems and work toward goals. Do they want a new video game? Teach them to work and save for their goals.Problem solving is an important skill. Learning to problem solve collaboratively helps build resilience for thriving in school, work, and life. Working and saving money were not options for me while I was growing up. I learned responsibility  by doing chores that taught me how much effort it took to obtain what our family needed. These activities included working on our farm after school or spending the day with my father at his job.

Children certainly need to be given generous amounts of reassurance and comfort; but they should also be taught skills to deal with life challenges.

  1. Allow your children to take reasonable risks. My parents  wanted to keep
    me safe, so they instituted safety talks almost every day. But they also knew that sooner or later I would face significant obstacles in life, so I needed to learn to face fear. Resilience takes root and grows only as we overcome obstacles.

My parents allowed ageappropriate risks but also taught us the skills we needed to be successful and safe.

  1. Teach your children needed skills. Ask yourself, “What skills my child is going to need in order to thrive? What social skills will my child need? What safety and situational skills? What cultural skills that will help them navigate the world successfully?” Inventory what lies ahead for them and create an action plan for equipping them.
  2. Let your kids make mistakes. Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers. A child who believes they must always be best, first, or a winner is not equipped to live in the real world. Let your children learn that failing is not the end of the world and is a starting point for their next effort.

Children must be allowed to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If they didn’t study, they need to be allowed to fail. It’s important to lovingly teach them that actions have consequences, both positive and negatives.

  1. Teach your kids to be problem-solvers. Help them figure out how to face their fears, confront their problems, and resolve their social issues. Teach them how to handle their problems on their own (within reason, of course) and discover possible, positive solutions.
  2. Don’t have an answer for everything. Don’t be afraid to tell your children you don’t know. Encourage them to research to find answers. It’s important for them to learn that every situation does not have a black-and-white answer, and life sometimes is uncertain.

If they express anxiety about a possible scenario, instead of providing a yes-or-no answer, encourage them to think about how they will handle the situation and the stress. Teach them to evaluate circumstances from the other person’s point of view. This teaches them to think proactively about difficult situations.

The best way to teach resilience is to model it in the way you approach life. Admit your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. View failure as a learning experience. Adapt to what may lie ahead by learning new skills. And let your kids see you as a problem solver who is not intimidated by the obstacles that will always lie ahead.

I’d love to hear your comments, experiences, and positive suggestions for other readers.
–Dr. Clem

Note:  The statements and opinions in this blog are those of Dr. Clementine Msengi. They do not represent her employer or other personal/professional affiliates.


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