Halfway Hump

Canada just celebrated its birthday, and with it, a load of red and white and fireworks and Canadian pride! For those of you who aren’t Canadian I apologize for the irrelevancy of the last sentence.

Some explanations regarding project courage. First of all, we have passed the halfway hump. It was quite the incredible process making it this far, and I am so proud of my readers as well as Team Courage for sticking through to the halfway mark. Unfortunately there are some things we should discuss… By discuss I mean I am going to continue to type out what I have to say and you can choose whether or nor to read it. July marks the beginning of the second half of Project Courage 2014, but it also marks the end of Team Courage’s role in this project. Kyndra, Hannah, Jeremiah, and Nathan have all had an incredible experience writing to all of you and they wish you their sincerest regrets that they have to leave the blog. A year is quite the commitment and unfortunately with changing lifestyles, not everyone has the time and effort to commit to the blog.

Well, 2014 is half over. 6 months come and gone in the blink of an eye. A lot has changed, that’s for sure. Sadly, one of the things that is changing is this Project. I sincerely thank you, the readers, for all your support and love. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I have you to thank for that. I will be sad to leave you all, but alas, the world works in mysterious ways, and sometimes things turn out differently than we expect them to. Who am I kidding, things never work out the way you expect them to! Anyways, thanks again, and I bid you all farewell. And as always, keep your stick on the ice. -Nathan

There is no way I could have envisioned this becoming as big as it did. The support and enthusiasm from you guys was unreal, it made every week exciting and worth it to write the reflections. Remember the most important thing though; just because this part is over doesn’t mean anything we stand for is over. All we’ve been saying is still relevant, we’ve been reminding you for 6 months and now it’s time for you to remind yourself and each other, you do matter. You are your most important person, and you should judge yourself not on what you’ve done, but what you do. No matter who you are, you are an awesome creation, an amazing person and can get through whatever it is you have to to make it out okay. Adios comrades, keep it real. -Jeremiah

6 months in with 6 months left. This year has actually just zoomed by. I must admit when I joined I didn’t expect this project to grow as large as it did. I knew it was a commitment and that it would take lots of time and effort, but it was the part where you guys came in that really caught me off guard. I didn’t realize that my words could help you or change you, not a single clue. So when they started to, I was blown away, just baffled. I would personally like to thank you all for this amazing journey, it was filled with smiles and laughter, as well as pain and tears, but I’m glad I endured every part of it. I’m sad to have to go, but I know I must move forward. I hope you guys continue to fight, to make yourselves better people because you’re worth it, you most truly deserve it. -Kyndra

Project Courage is going to shift a little bit, changing up the format of challenge and reflections. I feel like its too much of a pattern (though I know we find safety in repetition). What’s in store? A total surprise.. But I hope that as loyal readers, you stay tuned for your weekly dose of motivation, inspiration, laughter, or just a way to pass the time. When I was younger, my friend and I used to write this email newsletter called Fantabulous. I’m pretty sure that word is trademarked but we felt super original coming up with that name. We were so popular at one time that we had over 50 monthly subscribers! Although that pales in comparison to the Project Courage reader base, it was quite the daunting task for thirteen year olds! The newsletter had random debates, weird facts, quizzes, contests, and articles about the weirdest possible things we could think of. But in the end, it was always a lot of fun to write, and we both now run blogs (for separate reasons of course). My point is, I want Simply Smiles to be like that. I want to be able to write and put a smile on your face, and I want you to look forward to every new post.

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Some riddles because why not? (Highlight for the answer)

I can run but not walk. Wherever I go, thought follows close behind. What am I?

A nose.

What can you catch but never throw?

A cold. 

What goes around the world but stays in a corner? 

A stamp.

The man who invented it doesn’t want it. The man who bought it doesn’t need it. The man who needs it doesn’t know it. What is it?

A coffin. 

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Let’s talk about July. This is the month of self-image. 

Throughout this month the posts will revolve around how to have a positive self image and see your image and your body in a positive light. I thought that this theme was suitable for July because it is currently summer in Canada, which means it is the height of bathing suit season. The hot weather and sunny days means more layers of clothing to be shed as well as more beach days. Gone are the thick sweaters and layers of fall and winter and out come summer dresses, “short-shorts”, flip-flops and crop tops.

It makes me sad to hear about how much a pain that people can have going bathing suit shopping, or even shopping for summer clothes, and it’s not just girls either. Of course, I believe that girls have a tendency to be more directly affected by the media’s take on body image, but boys and men are affected as well. We live in a world where self-hatred seems to be forced upon us. We are starting to realize that the media has a twisted sense of beauty, and as we rise into our teenage years we are faced with the need to fit in, the need to be attractive, the need to be wanted. 

I see beautiful girls complain that their thighs are too large. I see boys become consumed with the idea of gaining muscle because otherwise they are not “manly” enough. I see the media and advertising digitally recreate photos so that the model is slimmer, so their skin is smoother and lighter. I watch as girls try on clothes and then cringe at themselves in the mirror. I see boys who are too self-conscious about being shirtless and swimming. I see ten and eleven year olds complain about their weight and their clothing size. I see a world where the term “beautiful” and “healthy” do not seem to coincide. But I also see a revolution.

I see a wave of positivity, of beauty, of acceptance. I see more and more people take stands against what societal norms tell us. I see girls of all shapes and sizes embracing their bodies, their curves and their edges. I see celebrities acting as positive role models and changing the lives of young children. I see companies campaigning for true beauty and bodily acceptance. I see YouTube videos and channels dedicated to self-acceptance and a better self-image. The revolution has started, the spark is ignited, and Project Courage is joining along to catch fire. This month readers we will focus on your self-image, because we have all had times where we have looked at ourselves and hated something about it. Perhaps our hair is too frizzy, perhaps we have too much acne. Perhaps our thighs jiggle, our feet are too big, muscles too small, skin too pale. But all of that is beautiful, all of it is handsome, is gorgeous, is noteworthy, is acceptable. There’s a wave of acceptance coming; so where will you begin? 

 

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You are beautiful image from http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/7-steps-to-positive-self-talk. Fireworks photo from http://www.blogto.com/city/2011/06/canada_day_2011_fireworks_in_toronto. Dove poster courtesy of http://www.girlsleadership.co.za/gll/dove-movement-for-self-esteem.

The Basis of Depression and Teenage Emotions

A lot of you really liked the last POV article, so I decided to edit and republish my old articles on depression. If you scroll down there is also a small challenge for all of you!

Now I’m definitely not claiming to be a psychologist or an expert in depression, but I have a personal connection with mental illness so topics like these really hit home for me. I’m just stating what I have found in my research and experience, and I feel that now is a good time to discuss this. The original reason I created this blog was because I wanted to talk to others about issues such as these and stay true to my promise, I will try to change your life in a positive manner.

So let’s begin….
Depression plagues 4% of youth, but most of us know someone who has been diagnosed with depression or has been depressed before. Depression seems more prominent than ever now, and it’s not only exhausting for those who are depressed, but also for the friends and family of the individual. Why is depression so prominent? Are we simply too spoiled and unhappy about our lives? Are we being selfish and taking the things we have for granted? Is this one of the many “first world problems” that we tend to joke about?

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Have you ever noticed that depression seems to be the most common in teenagers? This is simply because that as teens, large amounts of hormones flow through our body as changes occur. Teenagers are therefore more impulsive, moody, sensitive, irrational, and often times, depressed. It’s normal for teenagers to be moody, its normal to be happy one day and sad the next, or even upset for a long period of time. But depression is serious, and is not a word meant to be tossed around lightly. Just because you’re upset for a little while doesn’t mean you’re depressed. But if you feel that you have been having signs of depression nonstop for a long period of time (1-3 months) its definitely time to call in an expert. Depression plagues about 4% of teenagers, but there are many more undiagnosed cases, people who are afraid to speak out, to acknowledge they need help, or don’t know who to trust or who to talk to.

Depression can occur because of many reasons, for instance, after a family member or pet passes away, grief of that death can result in depression. A parents divorce or breaking up from a long relationship can also trigger depression. Other individuals have genes that make them more prone to emotional instability which makes them more vulnerable to depression. But what if you just can’t think of any reason? What if you have been feeling this way for so long that it has almost become normal? That now you start to feel like you don’t remember what happiness is. I’m here to tell you that I know that there’s a reason for this, it could have been a build up of small events that led to it. It could be a memory that you’ve repressed. Be open to yourself and ask, were you bullied for any reason? Are you uncomfortable with your body and appearance? Do you feel untalented? Do you have low self confidence? Do you often wish to have something changed about your life? Have you ever suffered physical or emotional abuse? Answering yes to any of these questions could provide an answer to the depression origin. You just have to truly think about the little things that could have added up.

Signs and symptoms of depression include:
-You feel sad or cry a lot and it doesn’t go away
-You don’t feel like doing a lot of the things you used to like
-you want to be left alone most of the time
-Life seems meaningless or like nothing good is ever going to get better
– it seems like you have no feelings
– You forget lots of things and it is hard to concentrate
-Your sleep pattern changes: you sleep a lot more or you have trouble falling asleep. Or you wake up really early and can’t go back to sleep.
-You’ve lost your appetite or you eat a lot more
-self harm or other self-destructive behavior such as binge eating, alcohol, or drug abuse

If you feel that you or a friend may be depressed, please seek help immediately. There are so many organizations and trusted adults and friends that can give you advice and support. Otherwise, please don’t be afraid to message me. Because I care about all of my readers and I am here to help you. Depression is serious, and should be treated as such. So please, seek help straight away. I am here. ♥

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CHALLENGE
Connect with your emotions this week. Stop right now and grab something to brainstorm with, preferably a piece of paper. On one side of the paper, write down ten things in your life that is on your mind. These could be people, like loved ones, or events and stressors in your life. Just 10 things that have been on your mind lately.

Done? Good! Now flip over the paper and write down 3 emotions that you have been feeling lately. Write down which ones have been prominent. Have you felt giddy lately? Maybe really angry, upset, or even in love? Write the first three that come to mind, because these come from your subconscious, and usually these are correct.

Look at your list of 10 things on your mind. Look at the emotions that you have written down, look for connections, look at which things cause which emotions. Are your emotions positive or negative? What about the things on your mind? Figure out how you’re feeling and connect these to a concrete example in our lives.

Positive mental health requires us to be in tune with our own emotions. We often can’t confront the reasons for our own emotions. Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean that you have to feel happy all the time, but means that you are aware of your emotions and you let yourself feel them. It means that you aren’t suppressing your feelings, whether they’re positive or negative. Give yourself the emotional release you deserve. As teenagers our emotions are often unpredictable because of changing hormones and brain patterns. This means dealing with our emotions is especially difficult. Don’t suppress any of these because they will later resurface. Ask yourself how you feel at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. This could be as simple as rating your mood on a scale of 1-10 or as complex as keeping a mood journal. Whatever it may be, keep in tune with how you feel and let yourself feel that.

If Today Didn’t Exist…

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If today didn’t exist, if you went straight from yesterday to tomorrow, if today was erased from the memories of not only every human being but every atom in our galaxy… if today in your life didn’t exist, would you be any different? Would you have any new exciting memories? Would you miss someone you would have met, or miss out on a life opportunity? If today didn’t exist, would life be the same?

Sit and think about it for a second, what would your life be like if
today didn’t exist in the universe?
What did you do today that made it worthwhile? Who did you talk you, what battles did you conquer, who did you meet? How many times did you smile? Did you tell your partner you love them? Did you mend what was broken, and said what needed to be said? If today didn’t exist, what would happen, how much would change?

I want you to live every single day like it matters, but how many times have we all heard that before? How many times have we been told that we should live every single day like our last, but we ignore all of it, the kind advice and wise wisdom getting thrown to the back of our mind, to be heard and ignored. But no, I don’t want that. I want you to live each day simply like it matters. I want you to go to sleep at the end of the day and feel happy because you just lived a day that made a difference.

We often get tied up in what I call the forbidden far future. For some people, its years and decades ahead, for some, its months, and for people like me, its anything more than a week or two. When we think about things we look forward to in our lives, we’re often caught looking too far ahead. We look at events that are happening so far away that we forget to make the days in between count. We forget that every single day brings us closer to that event, but the days in between matter too. It’s okay to look forward to things that are far away, in fact, its a really great thing. But don’t let it stop you from enjoying the days in between. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying every single day as a separate day instead of just a mash up of you waiting for the forbidden far future. Because no matter what, the future will eventually get here, but right now is precious, and won’t be here forever.

Today is your day to make a change to your life. Today is your opportunity to laugh with your friends, to tell someone you love them, to fix a conflict, to make a change. Today matters, so make a change to your life. Live each day so you know that it left a mark on your life, that you won’t be the same without it. Live it so you feel like your day had a purpose, because you want to look back and know that you made that day worth living. You only get one today. Think about it, in the grand scheme of things, today, with his calendar date, will never happen again. The current situation of everyone in this world will never happen again. Every single second we’re alive is completely unique in every single way, and that is often taken for granted.

Don’t live each day like your last, but instead live each day how you would want to live it. Live each day making a small change to you, to your friends and family, to your life. Perhaps you told your mom you loved her cooking, maybe you mended a conflict at your work. Maybe you told your son you loved him, or made time to stop and enjoy the sunshine. You donated money to a charity or helped a stranger in need. Whatever you did, it changed your life, in a miniscule way that perhaps you won’t even realize until much later. Spend each day living in the moment, instead of thinking about the past and worrying about your future. I know, easier said than done of course. But we can all at least try. The happiest people in this world live rich, fulfilling lives, and these are often the ones who spend each day living life with purpose. My goal is to look forward to something small every single day. Whether it be eating supper, playing guitar, finishing my homework (finally), or texting my friends, I make sure to find someway to make every day memorable and special. Of course, I can’t remember every single thing that happens in my life, that’s impossible. But our memories are filled with the moments that matter, and soon you’ll find yourself with richer, more happy memories

What did you do today that changed your life? What memories and feelings will you walk away with? Will you feel proud of yourself for what you accomplished? Are you making your life worthwhile?

So live tomorrow this way, and the day after and the day after that. Live each day feeling like you have a purpose, feeling that you contributed something amazing just by being alive that day. If today didn’t exist, perhaps you would be the same, but if tomorrow didn’t exist, I hope you would be completely altered. ♥

Turning the Pages

Once upon a time, at the very beginning of your story, you were born. Since then, you have aged and grown up, passing through many new stages, or I guess you could say… Chapters. With each new chapter comes new adventures and memories to share. Changing schools, getting married, a new job, new friendships, going on vacation, a recent breakup, all new chapters.
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Life is a long story, one with a lot of choices to make, and a lot of possibilities to uncover. It’s really magical how much you can do in just one lifetime. But what’s holding you back from uncovering those possibilities? Are you afraid of change? Its alright to admit it, because we all are. We don’t know what to expect, and so we fear it. We are afraid to flip the pages because its uncertain, confusing, and a little scary. We are afraid because we don’t want the good memories to ever end, and because its easier to remember your past than think about the unforeseeable future. But should we? All great things come from change. I know how scary it is to be put somewhere you are completely foreign to. But I can promise you, from those terrifying moments of uncertainty will come some of the greatest moments of our lives. Everything starts with change, so we should embrace it, let it show us where we can take our lives, show us what we can do, and give us the opportunity to make a difference. Change is scary, yes, but within it there is possibility, within it there is potential. Within it, there is hope. Hope for a great future, filled with your greatest desires, and hope for a lifetime of spectacular memories.

I know it’s hard, I know it’s so hard to move on and start new chapters in your life. But you need to believe that the feelings you have right now won’t last forever. Here’s the conflict, even when we’re not ready to move on, our life moves on anyways. Our story continues because life continues around us. We are a part of the stories of others, so as part of their most recent chapter, we have to continue moving along with them. And this is hard, because sometimes we may be mentally or emotionally stuck in a chapter of our life. Unable to move on, unable to move past, unable to get over the feeling that you want that chapter back. I know it’s hard, I know.

Someday our stories will end, it’s inevitable. But once you reach the end f your story, don’t you want to move on knowing that your story was amazing? That it was filled with drama, laughter, sadness, memories, gut-wrenching moments that made your life wonderful and fulfilling. You want to walk away knowing that your life was amazing, that every single chapter made you a stronger and better person. That this is a story others will want to read and enjoy, living through the memories as you had.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all pretended to be something we are not. Whether it be to fit in at school, to be liked by the crush we have, to get into a club or team, because we are going into high school or even just to live our lives. At some point we have to move on and remember ourselves. We need to push ourselves to be who we truly are. Some of us have learned this the hard way. But as we change to new chapters in our lives, ask yourself, is this really me? Or am I pretending just to be someone else’s idea of me? You need to realize how important it is to be yourself, it’s the only you that can truly be appreciated. As you enter this new stage in your life, be confident, be strong, but mostly be you.

So don’t be afraid of new chapters of your life, because new chapters lead to new adventures and new stories to share. With each moment of your life comes words flowing onto the pages of your story. And your chapters never have definitive starts or ends, but instead they all flow together in a dynamic of stories and emotions.

So think about your own story. Is it a drama? Action? Romance? Tragedy? Motivational? Thriller? Hopefully it’s a bit of each. Hopefully your story has elements of each genre, all coming together telling the memories and events of your life.

The best part is, you have the ability to change your story. No, you can’t change your past, but you can definitely change your future. There’s still so much left unwritten, so who says you can’t write it the way you want to? You can make the friends you want to, go to the places you want to, get the jobs you want to. You have the power to do all this and so much more. You have the power to change chapters of your book, and only you can decide at the end whether your book was good or not. You have the ability to make each chapter of your book amazing. So learn to embrace each new chapter with hope and anticipation that it will bring. This is a new chapter of your story, live with pride. 🙂

Much love, Laura, Kyndra and Nathan

Moving Forward

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There is something in your life that is stopping you from continuing. Something that happened, perhaps still happening, that makes you want to quit. Perhaps its something you can’t control, perhaps you’re holding a grudge. Whatever it is, there’s something preventing you from living life exactly how you wish to be.

What are you holding onto? What is hindering you from moving on in your life? Perhaps the loss of a friend, a fight with a parent, a recent break up. Maybe you’re still insecure because of how people bullied you, maybe you are heartbroken because of your parents’ divorce. I’m here to tell you that I’ve gone through things like that too. I’ve been heartbroken, upset, torn, and confused. I’ve been angry, feeling like I’m never going to get over this argument or that I’ll be upset forever. In reality, you’re not. You have to let yourself let go. You are not going to let go until you let yourself do so.

Think about the obstacle in your way, think about that built up anger, remorse, sadness, and confusion. Now ask yourself; why aren’t you letting go? Can you think about it calmly and not feel a pang of sudden emotion? Can you talk about it calmly without breaking down?

You need to let it go. You need to move on and move past. You cannot live in the past because right now you are in the present. You don’t have to completely forget about it, you don’t have to be completely over it. But you cannot let it get to you, you need to move on and move forward. Hindrances are not good for you. You have so much potential and so much life to live that you cannot spend it dwelling on the past. You are more than that, you are more than the past because it does not define you. What matters is how to react to the past.

The quote above is so perfect because it shows this perfectly. Stop for a second, close your eyes and breathe. Exhale the stress away, exhale the pain away. With every breathe you let out, let out the negativity, let out the hurt, the frustration. Let it all go. You are so much more than that, so much better than that. Dont be afraid, trust that you’ll be okay. Let go of the past, and jump to the future. Smile, because you can make a change in yourself, in your life, in the lives of others. You have and will continue to be strong. ♥

Don’t Wait For the Storm

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What makes you happy? Family? Friends? A certain special someone? Dancing? Photography? Singing? What about reading, watching movies, drinking hot chocolate? We all have infinite things that can make us happy. These are our rays of sunshine.

Now think about your storms. Your worries, the obstacles in your life, the hardships in your future. Think about the negative events that you are dreading, the ones that keep you up at night and break you down to the rawest emotion. These are your storms.

Now this quote above is one of my absolute favourites, and reading it again inspired a blog entry because its something that some of my readers have been struggling with and requesting. Why wait for the bad things to happen? Because it is inevitable that there will be storms, there will be hardships in our futures. But why spend your time dreading it? Because by focusing do intently on the forecast ahead you’re forgetting about the sunshine in your life right now. Think about it, do you really want to spend your time being upset about something in your future? No, of course not. You want to enjoy what’s in your life right now.

Because I need you right now to figure out what is your storm and what is your sunshine. Even if something bad is going to happen, you cannot spend all of your time dreading it, but instead take time to enjoy the sunshine along the way. All that time you spend worrying over the storm will make you forget about all the great things in your life.

Take time to do things that make you happy, pick out the small instances each day that make you smile. Go outside, go on a walk or a bike ride. Take time for yourself and feel the warmth and contentment of your personal sunshine. No one shines brighter than you, no storm will ever get you down. Listen to the music that makes you happy, create a playlist to play every morning that makes you energized and excited for the day. Spend time with old friends and take time to tell your family you love them. Give to people who need help, and love unconditionally. You’ll find that even when your storm blows through, it won’t matter.

So stop waiting for the storm, because there is so much sunshine along the way. ♥ Sure there are storms eventually, but all of them come to an end eventually. You just have to remember that there is sunshine beyond those dark clouds. Walk with your palms out, feeling not for the rain, but for the warm glow of the sunshine.

Honesty

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At some point in our lives, we have lied. Most of us lie on a daily basis, little “white lies” that seem okay because they don’t directly hurt anyone. Phrases like “I’m okay” or “its fine” or even “yeah I love that jacket” are common lies we hear every single day. But what about the other type? You know, the lies that mask the ugly truth. Its the lies we say to prevent someone from getting hurt, whether you or someone else. But is lying ever the right thing to do? In what situations do people feel they are “forced” to lie?

Some lies that men commonly say:
“Of course I like your friends!”
“I’m not jealous.”
“You look great in that dress.”

Some lies that women commonly use:
“I’m not mad at you.”
“I’m not jealous.”
“I’m not wearing any make-up”

Did you notice any similarities? Okay what about the lies frequently told by just teenagers?
“Everyone else is doing it!”
“I trust you.”
“I love you.”

So if you look at all the lies, what do they have in common? Did you notice that a lie both men and women say is “I’m not jealous”? Jealousy, however common, is an ugly emotion that most people want to hide. Jealousy creates drama and unnecessary attention for the person who feels it. Think about why those sort of lies are common. We lie to avoid uncomfortable situations, and we lie to make ourselves appear better.

Basically, lying is a skill. It’s a skill that people subconsciously feel proud to acquire. It’s a sign of intelligences as well as cognitive skills. The people who are most skilled in lying are able to lie not only through their words, but through actions and body language. We not only have the skill to deceive others, but most of us also possess the ability to deceive ourselves. We lie to ourselves and convince ourselves of things on a daily basis.

Really, what’s the point in lying? Is it ever rewarding? Most lies get caught anyways and then you just appear to be an untrustworthy person. Instead of lying, why don’t we just consider our words before we say them? Do you really want to spend your life not knowing if others are deceiving you? Having to question everything your friend is saying because they have a reputation for lying? No, its irritating and exhausting to think that way. So why should others think like that about you?

My point is, do not stop lying completely. Because its almost human nature to lie about even the most trivial things. But really think about what you’re lying about, think about the consequences, and try to do it less often. Everyone lies at some point, but you need to remember that lying destroys trust as well as relationships. Eventually, it will even destroy you.

Just something to think about…