Archive for the ‘Tips and Advice’ Category

Because I am moving in a few short weeks, I’ve been spending some of my free time (actually, most of my time – what do you expect – I don’t have a job?!) going through all of my belongings deciding what stays, what goes, and what becomes one with the landfill (or recycling plant for all my “green” friends out there). I often tear out magazine and newspaper articles that I come across and want to read but just don’t have the time to focus on at the moment. I tear them out, throw out (recycle!) the remainder magazines and/or newspapers, and store the clippings in safe keeping for a future read-a-thon. During my read-a-thons, I fish out the folder(s) full of all my “save for later” articles and begin reading – my mind clear and ready to absorb the information – so I can eventually recycle those articles as well and replenish my “save for later” folder with new and up-do-date information. This past Saturday night, I turned off the T.V, grabbed some jelly beans (okay, so they aren’t really necessary for the read-a-thon, but they make it that much better in the end), cleaned off my glasses, and prepared myself for an all night article fest.

I scoured numerous articles I had saved on politics, health issues, fitness, etc., and I learned how to adequately care for sweaters, remove red wine stains, and perform a proper standing lunge. Yes, all very useful information, but the one article I came across that really resonated with me and made me feel inspired and uplifted was entitled “Habits of Happy Women” that I tore out of a past issue of SELF magazine. This article encourages readers to “find a serene spot, pull out a pen, and list your never-fail pleasures, no matter how goofy or self-indulgent they sound,” because, sometimes, happiness is hard to get a hold of and we all need a few guaranteed tactics to make us feel better and feel happier when times are rough. So, I suggest we all listen to SELF and start jotting down and acting upon the fool-proof ways that individually lift our spirits. Or, take the advice of the women interviewed in the article (I listed out 10 of the top suggestions) and try out their happy habits (or similar ones!) to see if they work for you. I also added one of my own and hope you will add your favorite as well to share with all of the blog readers. Now,read on, start writing, and get ready to start smiling! πŸ™‚

Photograph something every day:

“Four years ago, I started carting my camera everywhere and taking one photo a day. Sure, I have a lot of pictures of flowers or strangers in the laundry room of my apartment building, but I also have snapshots of my sister’s baby, friends’ weddings, sailing in St. Vincent and people who have come in and out of my life that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t captured them on film. When I sit down and look through my albums – another ritual in and of itself – I realize that even though I complain about my life at times, there are many reasons to be happy.”

Connect with your crew:

“The spring after my father died, I felt the need to strengthen my bonds with friends. So I organized a ‘Women I Love’ lunch as a way to boost my spirits. I invited all my friends over, we ate takeout, and one by one, I stood behind each woman and explained why I loved her. At the end of the afternoon, my friends all said, ‘You have to do this next year!’ and an annual tradition was born.”

Rock out:

“Whenever I need a lift, I get in the car, turn up my radio and sing at the top of my lungs. I may look foolish to the people in the next lane, but I’ll never see them again, so who cares?”

Be Hallmark happy:

“I love browsing in stationery stores. Typically, I’ll buy 10 or 15 funny cards all at once, stamp them, then toss them in my purse. That way, when I have a minute here or there – standing in line, waiting at the doctor – I’ll write a ‘thinking of you’ note to a friend and send it off. It gives me a good feeling knowing that they’ll have a pleasant surprise waiting for them in their mailbox.”

Enjoy a creative moment:

“When I was in Venice, I bought a leather journal that I now carry with me everywhere.l When I need an escape or just want to record a beautiful scene, I fill the pages with words or drawings. I love looking back and reflecting on what I’ve seen and heard. It keeps me linked to places I care about.”

Write a chain letter:

“After college, six of my best friends and I started a circle letter. The first person on the list writes a letter and sends it to the next person in the chain; she then adds her own letter and a treasure or two, and sends everything to the third, and so on. When it’s my turn, I put all my responsibilities on hold, curl up on the couch and sift through the photos, letters and clippings. It’s one of my favorite ways to reconnect.”

Get out the Kleenex:

“A couple of times a year I watch really sad movies, like When a Man Loves a Woman, by myself. I start crying, then I remember that this isn’t my real life and I feel better! It’s sort of reverse psychology.”

Eat like a queen:

“When I was growing up, my family had a tradition of marking our accomplishments by having the person of the hour eat off a red plate. So when I got engaged, my parents gave my fiance and me our own red plate. It reminds me how easy it is to make someone feel special. We use it to acknowledge things like finishing our taxes or getting a raise. When our puppy graduated from obedience school, he even got to eat off the red plate!”

Do something girly:

“Getting my nails done always turns my bad moods around. I usually manage to visit the salon once a week, which makes me feel in control of my otherwise hectic life. The flip side is that if my nails look scraggly, I know I need to slow down.”

Take the plunge:

“I live close to the ocean, so when I return home from work in the evenings, I like to walk by the beach, regardless of the season. If the temperature allows, I take a swim and ride some waves. When no one’s around, I may even skinny-dip. Being in the surf always makes the world melt away.”

My own fool-proof way to lift my spirits:

“I climb into some comfy clothes, turn off my phone, pop some popcorn or scoop out some ice-cream, sprawl out on the couch and watch an hour of hilarious Will and Grace, Friends, or The Office reruns. I push my ‘To-Do’ list out of sight and push anxiety and worry out of mind and, instead, zone in on the hilarious hi-jinks of Jack and Karen, Chandler and Joey, or Jim and Dwight. No matter how blue I am, I can’t help but laugh at a good joke :)”


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Sometimes, we all need a little distraction in our lives – something to take our minds off of our daily stresses. It’s so easy to over-think solutions to our problems and to drive ourselves nuts in the process. We end up with more issues than when we started! When I was submitting my targeted essay for grad school, I ruminated on this one specific sentence over and over again until I got so frustrated, I slammed my laptop cover down and said “Screw it! I’ll get to it later!” I was driving myself nuts trying to edit to perfection. I finally realized that the more I seem to focus on a problem, the more problematic it becomes. When we are stressed out, upset, confused, etc., it’s good to take a break from emotional triggers and to focus our mind elsewhere. We can, eventually, return to the original problem with a clear head and clean perspective.

Yesterday, I was reviewing my “To Do” list (I write one out almost every day) and became instantly overwhelmed at what I needed to accomplish in such a short period of time. I can easily freak out thinking about everything I want to get done, and instead of actually moving forward with daily chores, I sit and wonder if I’ll be able to “do it all.” Then, I don’t get it all done, and the never-ending battle between “thinking” and “doing” plays out again and again.

This time, instead of really stressing myself out, I looked at my list, took a few deep breaths, and pushed the day’s impending busyness out of my head for a solid 15 minutes. I saw an article on Fox News entitled “Mind-Bending Optical Illusions” that grabbed my attention (who doesn’t love a good magic trick or optical illusion once in a while!?). Instead of filling it up with the worries of the world, I cleared my mind and directed all of my focus on these 12 amazing optical illusions. Afterward, I re-focused my attention on my “To Do” list with a new sense of vigor and refreshment. I had given my mind a much-needed break from the stresses that bombard it every day.

If your mind needs a break from your day (and I promise it does) – check out a few or all of these images – or find another good 15 minute distraction that will help to re-focus your brain and to push your worries out for a short time. Get up and stretch, take a 15 minute walk, enjoy some hot tea, meditate, doodle, read a children’s book, etc. You’ll feel instantly refreshed and will probably get more done than if you went a mile-a-minute on each task without taking a second to breathe. “Break” your never-ending cycle of panic by giving yourself a well-deserved “break.” πŸ™‚

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Yesterday, my wonderful friend Keeli (whom I miss dearly, because she has been living in Seattle for a year-and-a-half now – I think she got stuck on the Space Needle and just hasn’t been able to get down…it’s my only justification for my constant state of dissaray as I anxiously anticipate my next dose of ‘Kee Kee’ πŸ˜‰ ) sent me an email entitled “Handbook 2010.” Keeli knows me oh too well as she so poignantly stated in her personalized note: “This is right up your ally! :)” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I find immense inspiration in quotes and axioms – a few short, too-the-point words can put your whole life in perspective (and they are easy to remember – always a plus!). So when Keeli sent along these “instructions for life,” I immediately reveled in their wisdom and felt a new sense of hope for this upcoming year. We may already be halfway into the first month of 2010, but it’s never too late to start a resolution or to change your life for the better. You can find inspiration in a variety of forms – in a child’s smile, a good cup of coffee, an early morning sunrise, a refreshing walk, a motivational sermon, and the list goes on and on. I hope you’ll find some sort of inspiration and unending hope for the year ahead in the words signified below; remember – “We are made wise not be the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future” (George Bernard Shaw).

***I bolded my favorite lines that have provided me with much-needed inspiration and/or are words I strongly believe in, and I also provided a little life instruction of my own for #40 – Enjoy!

Handbook 2010:

1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E’s – Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books than you did in 2009.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minute walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

11. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12. Don’t have negative thoughts on things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive, present moment.
13. Don’t overdo it. Know and keep your limits.
14. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake.
17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
18. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner with His/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.
20. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23. Smile and laugh more.
24. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

25. Call your family often.
26. Each day, give something good to others.
27. Forgive everyone for everything.
28. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of Β 6.
29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
30. What other people think of you is none of your business.
31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

32. Do the right thing!
33. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.
34. GOD heals everything.
35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
37. Always remember that the best is yet to come.
38. When you wake up alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
39. Your innermost being is always happy. So, be happy.

40. If you are touched by these words, share them with someone you care about – always spread love and fill other’s hearts with joy as often as you can. MAKE yourself a better person by just BEING a better person and be ready to relish in the unremitting happiness that follows.

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I was perusing the internet last week when I stumbled upon a quiz from PARADE entitled “How Fast Are You Aging?” I had a free moment at work, so I decided to check it out. The quiz contains 21 questions, and you receive a certain amount of points based on the way you answer the question. Each question asks you about an aspect of your life and/or behavior, and after you answer the question, you are presented with a “Why it Matters” section explaining why the issue is important to your health and how it can affect your rate of aging. You are placed into 5 categories of aging based on the number of points you accumulated throughout the quiz. See the below example of question #2 I took directly from the quiz to give you a better idea of its format:

2. Do you smoke?

a) Add 10 points if you rarely even smell smoke
b) Add 5 points if you’re exposed to some second-hand smoke every day, but you don’t smoke
c) Add 2 points if you live with a smoker, but don’t smoke yourself
d) Add no points if you smoke

Why It Matters

Smoking is one guaranteed way to age your body faster. You know the effects–wrinkled skin, clogged arteries, emphysema, cancer, and impotence, to name just a few.

But the most important reason to stop smoking is that it overstimulates the immune system, which in turn speeds up aging. A May 2005 study from the American Heart Journal revealed that smokers showed signs of high immune activation including elevated CRP levels, as well as higher levels of macrophage-stimulating factors, which trigger our white blood cells to multiply, proliferate, and kill. (We’ll talk more about that later.)

Even second-hand smoke causes immune activation. A February 2004 study in the American Journal of Medicine showed that people exposed to second hand smoke at least three days a week had higher white blood counts, as well as higher CRP levels, than people not so exposed.

If you have some free time, I suggest taking the quiz (answer all questions honestly – the computer isn’t going to judge you!) to gain insight on how factors you both can and can’t control are affecting your health. Hopefully, it will provide you a much-needed push to change negative behavior that is currently impeding your health. The quiz actually persuaded me to take a daily multi-vitamin and to step up my flossing habits. Once you’ve implemented a healthier lifestyle, take the quiz again and to watch your points sky-rocket while your rate of aging plummets. πŸ™‚

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Yup, it’s that time again – time to wash away the old and bring in the new. It’s time to reflect on the past year – all the ups and all the downs – and think about our hopes and dreams for the coming year. This act of self reflection is typically represented in the setting of New Year’s Resolutions. I once heard a quote that went something like this: “I make my resolutions by the day, not the year.” I’ve always thought that was a good motto to live by, but when it comes to the end of the year, I still scribble down some resolutions and gear up for the next 365 days.

In coining my resolutions, I’ve noticed a common theme that has developed over the years – my resolutions are pretty much the same year after year. I’m pretty sure I have this whole “resolution” thing wrong, because aren’t you are actually supposed to accomplish the resolution so it’s not needed on next year’s list??? For some reason, I have such a hard time keeping even the simplest of resolutions – take a multi-vitamin every day, drink more water, workout more, etc. I’m good for about a month, and then it’s all downhill once February hits. Ever notice how the gym is packed every day in January, starts to thin out in February, and then clear out in March??? Well, there’s a reason for that – very few people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to research led by John Norcross, psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, only about 19 percent of people who make resolutions actually stick to them for two years – that is less than one in five of us

Sue Shellenbarger, writer for the Wall Street Journal, set out to determine why some people are able to keep resolutions and others are not – what the winners do differently that makes them success stories. She details three success stories in her article, A Cheat Sheet for Keeping Resolutions, and discovers that there are several rules to the art of resolution maintenance. Her article explains each tactic in full and outlines examples, but I’ve provided you a “cheat sheet” to her “cheat sheet.”

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Get a little help from your friends – Enlist like-minded friends to join you in your resolution (such as “exercising three times per week”) and hold each other accountable
  • Change your environment – Alter your surroundings to support your new behavior and chart/record your resolution progress
  • Announce your intentions – Committing to the public makes it more difficult to shirk on your resolutions
  • Figure out your attachment to bad habits – Figure out what your bad behaviors do for you and find healthier substitutes – for example, if you overeat to ease stress, start practicing deep breathing or meditation
  • Expect setbacks – Brush off inevitable setbacks and get quickly back on track; don’t criticize or blame yourself for slip-ups

Have a great New Year’s Eve everyone! Good luck with your resolutions! πŸ˜‰

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Boy do I know what it’s like to have a “case of the Mondays.” After enjoying a fabulous, but always-too-short weekend, the last place you want to be on a Monday morning is behind a computer staring at 27 new “urgent” emails in your inbox. You would rather be basking in the sunlight by the pool on a summer day with a margarita in hand, basking in the heat by the fireplace on a cold winter’s night with a margarita in hand, basking in the warmth of your bed on a rainy morning with a margarita in hand (are you sensing a pattern here?).

Anyway, work is a reality for most, and although many of us actually do like our jobs, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed and to end up losing sight of what makes you love your job in the first place. So, check out these sixteen quick-and-easy tips for feeling happier at work and be on your way to always having a “case of the Fridays.” πŸ™‚

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Who doesn’t love to travel?!?! (Well Hugh Hefner doesn’t for some reason – little tidbit of info I learned from the original Girls Next Door). I think it’s safe to assume, however, that the rest of us who don’t own Playboy Enterprises, Inc. actually do like to travel and experience regions, states, and countries that we’ve, thus far, only discovered on paper. Flipping through an encyclopedia (do they still publish those???) and catching a glimpse of a lion roaring in the African wilderness is nothing like actually immortalizing the image in your brain and on camera while safari-ing (yes, I turned a noun into a verb – you may want to get used to it – I do it quite often) your way through the Kalahari desert (trust me, I can attest to this). The problem is, most of us only get about a two week long vacation from work, so we have to plan these trips accordingly. Furthermore, traveling is, unfortunately, not a cheap hobby, so trips are more of a luxury than a necessity.

When we decide to finally use our precious few days off of work, dig into our savings accounts, and add a stamp or two to our passports, we hope for a successful trip full of positive life experiences, inspirational occurrences, and lasting memories. I think we all know, however, that trips, especially to foreign countries, can bring about many obstacles and unplanned challenges. One way to cut back on all your trip “trip-ups” (man I love puns and lame plays-on-words) and ensure successful travels is easy – book a trip to a friendly country and be welcome with open arms. Check out Lonely Planet’s list of the Top 10 Friendliest Countries in the World (found on the Tripbase blog) and begin booking your next trip now….safe and happy travels to you! πŸ™‚

Top 10 Friendliest Countries in the World:

  1. Ireland*
  2. United States
  3. Malawi
  4. Fiji
  5. Indonesia
  6. Vietnam
  7. Samoa
  8. Thailand
  9. Scotland
  10. Turkey

*Do you think the Irish are so friendly because of all the luck they have or because they spend an inordinate amount of time in local pubs getting sloshed??? Hmmm…maybe a mixture of the two??? I guess I’ll ask Colin Farrell next time we Skype.

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