Posted in Awesome Stuff

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I’ve been listening to podcasts in the car A LOT lately – not sure what has prompted the change, but since my drive to work is SO MUCH LONGER (argh the traffic blows around San Antonio these days), and I have a lot of time to fill while driving, so…I’m trying to learn stuff. Get smarter. Become a more interesting conversationalist. Podcasts are the way! 😊

  1. Life Will Be the Death of Me – Chelsea Handler: I read the book first, and then listened to all of the episodes of the podcast. I LOVE this new, vulnerable Chelsea – and I love the focus she’s put on meditation. She’s inspired me – I’ve been doing Headspace for a couple of weeks now, and I can’t be sure but I think I may be mildly more chill? Hopefully?! Anyway – the podcast is good, she has friends come on and talk with her…it’s enjoyable. I like it. 😊
  2. The Conversation with Amanda DeCadenet: Full disclosure: Amanda’s show of the same name was one of my FAVORITE TV shows of the past 10 years, so I’m thrilled with the return of her interviews through this podcast. I wish there were more episodes (and I’m hoping like hell that they are coming), but Amanda’s interview style is one of my favorites – she strikes the perfect balance of light-hearted and serious, and she doesn’t shy away from politically-charged topics. She’s WONDERFUL – her podcast is on Spotify.
  3. Good For You – Whitney Cummings: I’ve just started listening to this one last week (it’s also on Spotify), and Whitney is a REALLY good interviewer as well. She hasn’t had that many episodes yet, but if you like Dave Grohl or Busy Phillips, be sure to check those ones out (the Busy one is really good, and I worship at the temple of Dave and think he is quite possibly the greatest man alive).
  4. Unqualified – Anna Faris: This is one of the first ones that I got in to listening to fairly regularly, and I love it! Again, she has a WONDERFUL way with the people that she interviews, and she gets celebrities talking and sharing things that they may not always be so forthcoming about. She’s on episode #227 this week, so…she’s clearly kicking ass and doing well with this. Yaa!😊
  5. Armchair Expert – Dax Shephard: I really enjoy Dax. His self-deprecating sense of humor delights me, and he does a really solid job of interviewing people – sometimes his guests are celebrities and the people you’d expect him to have on, other times it’s evolutionary biologists, pediatricians, or anti-bullying activist Monica Lewinsky (this episode is ACES, friends, you must check it out!)….Dax has varied interests, and I appreciate his eclectic mix of guests and topics. GREAT show! 😊 (Shout out to Dax for asking questions on one of the episodes of Jeopardy Greatest of All Time tournament last week – woot! woot!)

What podcasts are you listening to these days, friends?

xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Repost: Master of the House

Here’s a post from December 2016 – let’s walk down memory lane together, shall we?

What skills and talents do you have? I bet you have tons of mad skills, friends….crazy talented peeps that you are. Are you an expert at anything? Singing? Dancing? Typing? Golf? Basket weaving??? What are you the very best at?

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This is a tough question for me. I don’t know of one single thing that I am an expert at – not one, which is rather sad, when you think that I am 42 years old (gulp) and have worked in the Education industry for 21 years…and I’ve not mastered anything yet to the point of feeling like an expert. Have you? I bet you have. 🙂 The other thing that’s interesting about this topic is this: for a lot of us (women in particular), even if we have mastered something and have mad skillz coming out the wazoo (a technical word), we totally downplay the whole thing. Let me explain – when I am in a job interview (which I totes suck at, by the way), I have zero ability to sell myself. None. When I try, I end up stuttering and tripping over my words, feeling awkward AF because I think I sound like a pompous windbag…it doesn’t end well. So, I generally try to downplay everything, and make it sound as if the things that I do are no big whoop – when, in reality, I do lots of whoop-worthy things. Some researchers call this “impostor syndrome”, where women feel like they are fooling others, faking everything that they do, or getting by because they are just lucky. Jodie Foster said that before she won her Academy Award for “The Accused”, she felt “like an impostor, faking it, that someday they’d find out I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t. I still don’t.”

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So what do those of us who believe we are impostors do? (Yes, for the record, I am TOTALLY this) (Pathetic) (Shame on me) We impostors play things safe, fly under the radar, hide our skills and abilities. We pretend to be less – less capable, less intelligent, less everything….anything we can to disappear into the crowd. Some of us hide our talents as a way of getting those around us to underestimate us – then they will be pleasantly surprised when they see how awesome we can be! (This is my favorite trick) Let’s take a look at an article about this very topic:

Despite their relative success, many bright, talented women no longer maintain their confident youthful enthusiasm. Criticized by high-profile authors like Sheryl Sandberg for not climbing the career ladder, women are often reluctant to promote themselves in the workforce or pursue higher paying careers, such as those in engineering or computer science. Some even feel like impostors, tormented by self-doubt and insecurity.


Why do gifted women lose confidence?


The self-doubt and insecurity start out gradually…

Those bright, energetic gifted girls often start to downplay their talents by middle school in an attempt to fit in. They mask their abilities and “dumb themselves down” to appeal to boys, fit society’s image of an attractive woman, and avoid conflict with friends. Their self-esteem starts to decrease, and they begin to lose confidence in their abilities, especially in math and science. They may steer clear of the more difficult math courses, believing that boys are intrinsically “more gifted.”

Insecurity and self-doubt often persist throughout high school. One study, for example, found that feelings of hopelessness, discouragement, emotional vulnerability and perfectionism increased for gifted girls from 1st through 12th grades. In another investigation, 3/4 of girls who graduated from a school for the gifted did not think they were smart.

Women in college continue to doubt themselves. Many gifted women are challenged for the first time once they arrive at college, and rather than embrace this opportunity, they view it as confirmation of their inadequacies. One study found that female valedictorians lost confidence in themselves when they were in college, despite getting good grades, and that their insecurity increased as they got older.
What are some reasons gifted women hold themselves back?

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1. Impostor syndrome:

Women may doubt themselves and think they have fooled others. Talents and accomplishments are denigrated. Women who feel like impostors assume that it is only a matter of time before their “actual” incompetence and lack of intelligence will be revealed. Social psychology studies have shown that men consistently overestimate and women consistently underestimate their abilities and subsequent performance. As long as they view themselves as impostors, they will continue to doubt and disparage their accomplishments.

2. Attribution error:

Women often attribute their success to luck or effort, and any failure to lack of ability or an internal flaw. There is a widespread assumptions that gifted men are intrinsically “smarter” and that women’s success is due to hard work. In one survey of professors, presumed brilliance was identified as the reason why women were underrepresented in certain fields in both science and liberal arts (e.g., STEM, philosophy, economics), and their prevalence in other fields (e.g., molecular biology, neuroscience, psychology) was attributed to hard work.

3. A higher standard:

Women often hold themselves to an unreasonably high standard. They expect themselves to perfect a skill, have complete knowledge of the facts or master an argument before they assert their authority. Women often lack confidence, hold back on asking for a promotion, expect to earn less, and ask for less when it comes to salary. According to Kay and Shipman:

“Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels.”
4. Identity conflict:

Adult women also doubt their right to engage in focused, competitive goals. They don’t want to be labeled as “bitchy” or bossy, and worry that success will be seen as a threat to friends, family or men. Women have been raised to focus on relationships and to put others first, and a single-minded emphasis on career is in conflict with their sense of self.Even self-identified feminists may feel guilty winning an award, surpassing colleagues for a promotion, or being the breadwinner in the family.
But, sometimes, it’s not about confidence…


Self-doubt, sexist stereotypes, prejudices, an absence of workplace support (e.g., no child-care or family leave), and the glass ceiling all impact women’s progress; yet one of the greatest dilemmas many gifted women face involves finding a meaningful work-life balance. This not only includes an ability to combine work, relationships and child-raising, but also pursuing a career that is both meaningful and challenging.

Many women feel torn between pursuing a career that is personally meaningful (such as one focusing on social justice) and a job in a lucrative or competitive field. A challenging career may be compelling, but women also want flexibility, autonomy, the ability to make a difference, and options for including family needs in the equation.

Rosenbloom reported that interests and preferences explain 83% of the gender differences in choosing a career in information technology – not confidence or math ability. Women were identified in this study as being less interested in inanimate systems, and more concerned with plants, animals and people.

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Pinker also concluded that women made an active choice to avoid STEM careers, suggesting that women may not want to sacrifice personal interests for salary, are less willing to tolerate the relocations often required in these jobs, and may want to focus on people and the arts rather than objects.

Mohr referred to a frequently quoted Hewlett-Packard internal report indicating that women applied for promotions only when they thought they met 100% of the qualifications, whereas men applied as long as they assumed that they met 60% of the criteria. Mohr claimed that women’s lack of confidence was not the only interpretation to consider: fear of failure, a tendency to strictly follow rules, and lack of familiarity with the hiring process also hold women back.

In the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youths, those who scored in the top 1% were tracked down in their 50’s. While most were highly satisfied with their lives, earned more than others, and were more likely to have doctoral degrees, gender differences were identified. Men were more likely to be CEO’s, work in IT or STEM, to have pursued higher pay and freedom as career goals, and earned more than the women in the study ($140,000 vs. $80,000 on average); the women were more likely to work in health sciences, arts or education careers, and sought fewer work hours and greater flexibility in their work.

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What smart women need to know…


Smart women need to appreciate their talents and recognize their right to accomplish whatever goals they set for themselves. Negative stereotypes and expectations that either they or others impose need to be challenged and relinquished. Decisions based on values, needs and personal goals rather than conformity, external pressure or a desire to please others is critical. Women do not have to pursue a highly competitive career; they just need to know that are entitled to choose that path, or to turn it down for something equally meaningful.

I friggin’ LOVE this article, don’t you? There is so much truth here about why we girls keep doing the same self-sabotaging shit to ourselves over and over again. It’s nuts. And it needs to stop. I’m trying to think about this stuff as I am raising my Wee One, and I hope that you are thinking about you can apply this thinking to your life. I know that I’m just one person, and the possibility of me bringing meaningful change to the world is pretty slim – but every journey begins with one small step. So – let’s get walking.

Xxx

PS: A final thought: I have struggled in the workplace over the years – and the past year has been particularly difficult. As I reflect on my career as a whole, I realize that the common element is little ol’ me. I know that I am a good employee – I work hard, I do have a lot to offer an organization…but I am not easy to manage. I can be like a cyclone, and it takes someone special to realize that, to nurture my winds (keeping up the cyclone metaphor, not a reference to me being farty, silly), and to get the hell out of the way and let me do my thing. Most people can’t do that, which is too bad – I can’t help but wonder what kind of a positive impact I could have if I someone would take a chance on me and let me do my thing.

I think a lot about going into business for myself – this is something I really want to explore. One of my dream businesses is owning a pub – I’ve wanted to do this my whole life, and it’s still on my radar. I KNOW that I would love it – and I am one hell of a good bartender. (Ask me to make you a paralyzer or a martini – it’ll change your damn life) Another thing I would like to do is make handmade beauty products – I have been dabbling for the past while, and I think I may be on to some pretty good formulas. I doubt I could ever make a living doing this, but it’s one heck of a relaxing, satisfying hobby. (**NOTE: Do you see what I did just there? Totally underplayed my work with the stuff I’ve been making – WTF, friends? For all I know, I may be sitting on the next Lush formula – grr! My mind is a frustrating entity, and I am a frustrating person.) (Grr)

2020 Update: Good news – I’ve made some progress since this was written. While I still frequent feel like a phony-baloney who doesn’t deserve all of the responsibility I have, I’m managing that better – and my work like has improved dramatically. Yaa! I have found a supervisor who enjoys me just the way I am, he doesn’t micromanage me – he just gets the hell out of the way and let’s me know he will help if I need it. Magical! I still wish I could work for myself, either in the pub or the cheese shop of my dreams (I would LOVE to own a cheese shop!!!)….perhaps someday! At least now I think I’m capable of it! Progress! Baby steps! Woohoo!!!!

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Update: 21 Day Manifesting Challenge

So, as I mentioned previously, I signed myself up for Gabby Bernstein’s 21 Day Manifesting Challenge – and so far, so good! 😊 A real highlight for me has been the Facebook community….the people in the group are so wonderful, interesting, open…it’s been beautiful to read their stories and what brought them to the challenge. I love it!

Since the 1st of the year, Gabby has sent out an email each day with tasks to complete, and I have kept up – woot! woot! At the beginning of the challenge, we were asked what things we wanted to manifest, and to be CLEAR about those. My list included financial stuff (of course), improved health (not that my health is bad – for a fluffy person I’m in surprisingly good health!), and a way forward with my side interests. There was other stuff on the list, but these are some of the big ones. The main thing that I’ve taken away thus far is the importance of ‘clarity’…you can’t put something out to the universe and hope it will happen, if you aren’t 100% clear on what that something is! It just won’t work!

A second thing that Gabby frequently reminds us of is the intention behind the desires we have – and I think this is key. One of my items was that I want to improve my financial situation – the reason for this is that I don’t want to have to worry about money so much, I don’t want to be always running short on funds for things, I don’t want the stress and the worry… I want to be comfortable and happy, so that I can focus on enjoying time with my family (and not obsess over what everything will cost). I don’t want a heap of money so that I can buy strippers and drugs all day long – that would not be a great intention. I think my motivation is sound ….and I’m hoping like hell that it works!

“I’m worthy of my desires, and attracting what I want will bring more joy to the world.” – Gabby Bernstein

Here’s some other things I’ve made notes of to share with you:

When things get difficult…

  1. Notice the negative thought pattern. Take a deep breath and feel into whatever feelings come up for you. Then exhale.
  2. Stop the spiral of negative thoughts by silently repeating this: I choose to see peace instead of this.
  3. Close your eyes, breathe long and deep as you silently repeat that phrase for at least a minute.

Your energy creates your reality. Consciously choose new thoughts and you’ll raise your vibrations.

When we make feeling good our priority, everything else can flow.

Be unapologetic about how you want to feel.

I will keep you posted on how things are going as we continue through the rest of our 21 days – loving this!!!😊

xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Around the Bend

I’ve dabbled with yoga off and on over the years, and I love it so much that I honestly don’t know why I don’t do it all the time – my own damn laziness, I suppose. Anyway, one of my promises to myself for the year (since I am not doing resolutions) is to get back to yoga, so… that’s what I’m doing! The plan is to do it at least three time a week (and hopefully more!), and see how it makes me feel. It’s been too damn long since I practiced, and I have suffered not one but two broken arms in the past two months (because I’m special like that), so I knew I needed to start slow and easy. I hit up my absolute FAVORITE yoga teacher Adriene Mishler (https://yogawithadriene.com/), and as usual she didn’t let me down. I began with a simple, easy introductory session that got the muscles moving, focused on the power of the breath, and didn’t cause me much discomfort in the aforementioned broken-but-healing arms. It will be awhile before I’m doing anything too complex, but the first session felt GREAT! Now to keep it up!

If you aren’t familiar with Adriene, check out her YouTube channel (and join the other millions of us who subscribe and follow her!) – she’s got videos for everything, her dog appears sometimes, and she’s so encouraging that you will feel like you’ve had a warm hug when you’re finished. She’s awesome! 😊

Namaste!

xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Can’t Get You Outta My Head

Happy Monday, friends! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend – mine has been rather low key, as I’ve finally succumbed to the wicked cedar in the air here, and I’m feeling rather crap. 😔 I hope it passes soon, but I’ve been here in South Texas long enough to know that it’s just getting going…it’s going to be a long couple of months. Yuck.

Last Monday, I decided it was high time to get serious about meditation – this is the year I’m going to meditate regularly! I paid for the full version of Headspace for a year, and, as I predicted, paying for something had already forced me to use it…and I’m seven days in! Yaa me! If you aren’t familiar with Headspace, you should check it out – it’s a great app, super easy to use, and I’m loving it so far.

There’s tons of benefits to meditating regularly – check this out:

12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation

Written by Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD on July 5, 2017

The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits.

Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance. 

This article reviews 12 health benefits of meditation.

1. Reduces Stress

Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation. 

One study including over 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for stress reduction (1Trusted Source).

Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines. 

These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.

In an eight-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress (2).

Another study in nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. Notably, this effect was strongest in individuals with the highest levels of stress (3Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Many styles of meditation can help reduce stress. Meditation can also reduce symptoms in people with stress-triggered medical conditions.

2. Controls Anxiety

Less stress translates to less anxiety. 

For example, an eight-week study of mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce their anxiety.

It also reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks (9).

Another study followed up with 18 volunteers three years after they had completed an eight-week meditation program. Most volunteers had continued practicing regular meditation and maintained lower anxiety levels over the long term (10).

Meditation may also help control job-related anxiety in high-pressure work environments. One study found that a meditation program reduced anxiety in a group of nurses (13).

SUMMARY:Habitual meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety-related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

3. Promotes Emotional Health

Some forms of meditation can also lead to an improved self-image and more positive outlook on life. 

Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults (1Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression (10).

Inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect mood, leading to depression. A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing these inflammatory chemicals (15Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Some forms of meditation can improve depression and create a more positive outlook on life. Research shows that maintaining an ongoing habit of meditation may help you maintain these benefits long term.

4. Enhances Self-Awareness

Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self.

For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.

Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).

A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions (20).

SUMMARY:Self-inquiry and related styles of meditation can help you “know yourself.” This can be a starting point for making other positive changes.

5. Lengthens Attention Span

Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention. 

For example, a study looked at the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants’ ability to reorient and maintain their attention (23).

A similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer.

These workers also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation (24).

Even meditating for a short period may benefit you. One study found that four days of practicing meditation may be enough to increase attention span (26).

SUMMARY:Several types of meditation may build your ability to redirect and maintain attention. As little as four days of meditation may have an effect.

6. May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss

Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young. 

Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus thoughts. It improved participants’ ability to perform memory tasks in multiple studies of age-related memory loss (27Trusted Source).

Furthermore, a review of 12 studies found that multiple meditation styles increased attention, memory and mental quickness in older volunteers (28Trusted Source).

In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia (27Trusted Source29Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:The improved focus you can gain through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia.

7. Can Generate Kindness

Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others.

Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.

Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances and ultimately enemies.

SUMMARY:Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, is a practice of developing positive feelings, first toward yourself and then toward others. Metta increases positivity, empathy and compassionate behavior toward others.

8. May Help Fight Addictions

The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors (34).

Research has shown that meditation may help people learn to redirect their attention, increase their willpower, control their emotions and impulses and increase their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviors (35Trusted Source36Trusted Source).

One study that taught 19 recovering alcoholics how to meditate found that participants who received the training got better at controlling their cravings and craving-related stress (37Trusted Source).

Meditation may also help you control food cravings. A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating (38Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Meditation develops mental discipline and willpower and can help you avoid triggers for unwanted impulses. This can help you recover from addiction, lose weight and redirect other unwanted habits.

9. Improves Sleep

Nearly half the population will struggle with insomnia at some point. 

One study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups. One group practiced meditation, while the other didn’t.

Participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn’t meditate (39Trusted Source).

Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect the racing or “runaway” thoughts that often lead to insomnia.

Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.

SUMMARY:A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control the “runaway” thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep quality.

10. Helps Control Pain

Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions.

For example, one study used functional MRI techniques to observe brain activity as participants experienced a painful stimulus. Some participants had gone through four days of mindfulness meditation training, while others had not.

The meditating patients showed increased activity in the brain centers known to control pain. They also reported less sensitivity to pain (40Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Meditation can diminish the perception of pain in the brain. This may help treat chronic pain when used as a supplement to medical care or physical therapy.

11. Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Meditation can also improve physical health by reducing strain on the heart.

Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function.

High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

A study of 996 volunteers found that when they meditated by concentrating on a “silent mantra” — a repeated, non-vocalized word — reduced blood pressure by about five points, on average.

This was more effective among older volunteers and those who had higher blood pressure prior to the study (41Trusted Source).

A review concluded that several types of meditation produced similar improvements in blood pressure (42Trusted Source).

In part, meditation appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, tension in blood vessels and the “fight-or-flight” response that increases alertness in stressful situations (43Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Blood pressure decreases not only during meditation, but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.

12. You Can Meditate Anywhere

People practice many different forms of meditation, most of which don’t require specialized equipment or space. You can practice with just a few minutes daily.

If you want to start meditating, try choosing a form of meditation based on what you want to get out of it.

There are two major styles of meditation:

  • Focused-attention meditation:Concentrates attention on a single object, thought, sound or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of attention and distraction. Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra or a calming sound.
  • Open-monitoring meditation: Encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of thoughts, feelings or impulses that you might normally try to suppress.

To find out which styles you like best, check out the variety of free, guided meditation exercises offered by UCLA and Head in the Clouds. They’re an excellent way to try different styles and find one that suits you.

If your regular work and home environments do not allow for consistent, quiet alone time, consider participating in a class. This can also improve your chances of success by providing a supportive community. 

Alternatively, consider setting your alarm a few minutes early to take advantage of quiet time in the morning. This may help you develop a consistent habit and allow you to start the day positively. 

SUMMARY:If you’re interested in incorporating meditation into your routine, try a few different styles and consider guided exercises to get started with one that suits you.

The Bottom Line

Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health.

You can do it anywhere, without special equipment or memberships.

Alternatively, meditation courses and support groups are widely available.

There’s a great variety of styles too, each with different strengths and benefits.

Trying out a style of mediation suited to your goals is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if you only have a few minutes to do it each day.

Do you meditate? How does it make you feel?

Xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

High Hopes

My new year (and decade) began not with a bang, but a whimper. Actually, it began with both: arseholes in my neighborhood we’re shooting illegal fireworks until 3:00am-ish, and my little dogs were whimpering and having to be held (all four of them – my lap is only so big). We made it through the night, I didn’t sleep in (of course, I never do), and life continued on as usual. The day off mid-week is lovely, and knowing I have only two days to get through until the weekend is brilliant – we need more weeks like this! 🌟

Anyway – let’s start this year off right….with some giving! Here’s a great article with suggestions on how you can volunteer and give your time to make your community better:

12 Ways to Volunteer Your Time and Give Back to the Community

By Michael Lewis

Do you feel a personal responsibility to help others? Randy Lewis, author of “No Greatness Without Goodness,” claims that all people, including businesses, have the responsibility to make the world a better place. In his case, he spearheaded a Walgreens initiative to hire the disabled. In the five years following his initiative, similar programs were sparked across America and Europe.

In June 2014, Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee cafe, announced a free online college program through Arizona State University for any employee working 20 or more hours per week. Duncan Campbell, an Oregon entrepreneur, started Friends of the Children to provide emotional and educational support to at-risk children, starting with kids in kindergarten and progressing with them through college. Of the kids involved, 83% graduate high school and 93% avoid juvenile hall for breaking the law.

While some leaders and companies receive considerable publicity and well-deserved accolades for charitable work, there are hundreds of thousands of regular Americans – your friends and neighbors – who donate to programs to make the world a “kinder and gentler place.” These activities are sponsored by churches, civic organizations, schools, and charities, with services ranging from Habitat for Humanity to Big Brothers Big Sisters. But despite the ongoing success of such efforts, programs always need volunteers and financial support.

Why Volunteer?

Some people claim that their personal success and secure position has been justly earned without help from others along the way. However, this attitude is selfish, egotistical, and naive. Studies, detailed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” have shown that the zip code of your birth is more predictive of success, health, and lifespan than IQ, college grades, or genetics. Nobody makes it through life entirely on his or her own merits, even if assistance is not obvious. As a consequence, everyone has a debt to repay – and a reason to give back.

In addition to fulfilling a responsibility, there are many benefits of charitable giving – primarily, it makes you happier. In fact, a Harvard Business School study confirmed that “happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).”

While cash is always accepted in groups serving the needy, time and effort is just as important, if not more so. Plus, giving of your time, energy, and effort provides you with immediate feedback as to what your contribution means to those receiving it.

Give Back to Your Community

Americans have a great capacity to accept and face challenges head-on. In 2007, as the recession began to spread across the country, a surge of people responded and began volunteering like never before. Volunteering is a win-win for all parties involved. Those who receive help are grateful for the help, and volunteers learn that helping others makes them feel better. Consider the following as ways you can start volunteering and pay your good fortune forward.

1. Offer to Help Family

In the hectic lifestyle of the 21st century, the needs of family members are often overlooked. Parents busy raising their own children may forget the plight of their own parents, assuming they are capable of taking care of themselves. Many adult children presume their parents will speak up if they need anything. This is not always the case, especially when Granddad or Grandma have been independent for years. Older people – parents, aunts and uncles, long-time family friends – are often reluctant to share their growing frailty, loneliness, or isolation with their children.

Caring for elderly parents may be necessary, so consider the needs of your own family members first. Drop by for coffee on a Saturday morning, mow the yard, or accompany elderly parents on a shopping trip. Invite them to your child’s soccer games or other family activities. Provide an inexpensive computer with access to email and Facebook (and lessons to learn the new technology), or schedule regular visits to brighten their day.

2. Volunteer at Your Local School

Educators are overworked, stressed, and disillusioned about the educational infrastructure – and they need help. Despite knowing that schools work best when the community is actively involved, too many parents and community members believe it’s someone else’s responsibility to solve the problems of education.

Children need role models and people who care about their lives and behavior. Whether you read stories to elementary school students, monitor outdoor activities, chaperone field trips, or spend a Saturday beautifying the school grounds, your efforts will be recognized and appreciated. Moreover, you can make an investment that will pay dividends in the future.

3. Organize a Yard Sale for Charity

If your talents lie in business, administration, or marketing, consider organizing a yard sale for your community, dedicating the proceeds to a local charity. Almost every household has electronics, furniture, clothes, or equipment that can be donated because they’re no longer in use. These items have value and can be recycled to those who will use them again.

4. Visit a Senior Center

Too many nursing homes are turned into dumping grounds for older people whose families are gone or are unavailable, and many residents are desperate for conversation and connections with people outside the center. An hour or two a week can make a huge difference in the attitude and outlook of the residents, and you may learn something about life from those who have already traveled the journey before you.

5. Coach a Local Youth Team

The old saying, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop,” is especially true for children and teenagers. Playing sports teaches kids teamwork, responsibility, and the joy of being physically fit.

6. Tutor a Student

Unfortunately, many kids don’t have the opportunity to participate in sports because there aren’t enough coaches or assistants. There are openings in almost every sport in every community for compassionate teachers and volunteer coaches. While some experience is helpful, it’s not always essential for you to be a good youth league coach.

Students include people of all ages, not just children. Teaching literacy to adults can change their lives. Helping someone learn English can expand his or her horizons, able to further interact in the broad community.

7. Fix and Serve Meals

Academic subjects are not the only ones that need tutors – introducing and teaching others about computers and the Internet is needed everywhere, especially in the senior community. Life skills, such as cooking, sewing, and home repairs, are in demand for all ages.

Despite America’s overall prosperity, the homeless, the unemployed, and the poor often go hungry – almost 49 million Americans in 2012, according to the USDA. Volunteers are needed to prepare and serve food through local charities throughout the year. Meals on Wheels, with an army of almost 2.6 million volunteers, serves 2.5 million seniors every day, offering nutritious meals, warm smiles, and a safety check – often the only conduit to the outside world the recipient receives.

8. Serve on a Community Board

Charities and community service organizations often compete with other businesses for the community’s attention and support. In many cases, nonprofits are at a distinct disadvantage, lacking the resources to attract, compensate, and retain top-flight executive staff and administrators. If your talents are administrative, or if you have executive or board experience, your knowledge and insights could be welcomed at not-for-profit, community-based organizations.

9. Become a Docent

Museums, art galleries, presidential libraries, aquariums, zoos, and universities frequently need trained guides to lead visitors through facilities to enhance the visitors’ experience. Docent training is usually provided, so the only qualities necessary are enthusiasm, patience, flexibility, and passion. If you enjoy being around people, volunteering at your local museum or theater could be enjoyable and enlightening.

10. Be a Good Neighbor

Before the widespread use of air conditioning, residents of a community were more likely to spend time outside getting to know one another, rather than retreating inside to escape the heat. Now it’s common for neighbors not to know one another; rather, people simply return home from work each night and head inside.

Participation in a neighborhood organization builds a sense of community and provides valuable services to those within the neighborhood. Many neighborhood associations have community watch programs, assist with neighborhood beautification and park projects, and represent the community to local government officials. Knowing your neighbors increases a sense of personal security and connection to those around you.

11. Organize a Food Co-op

Food co-ops – cooperative efforts to buy food in volume to distribute to co-op members – initially started as a way to save money on grocery purchases. Increasingly, they are vehicles that enable members to buy fresh, naturally grown foods directly from farmers and producers at below-market prices.

Co-ops are typically nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteers, and advocates claim they offer better nutrition for lower prices. Bountiful Baskets initially started with a single site in Arizona, but now has more than 100 sites in multiple states, and it continues to grow.

12. Volunteer at a Hospital

Hospital volunteers provide crucial support to hospitals, and also offer comfort and convenience to patients, families, and visitors. Volunteer opportunities include everything from manning information booths, to sitting with patients or working with children. Duties might involve helping with food service or pushing wheelchairs. Hospitals have a wide variety of volunteer needs that are suitable for all ages.

Final Word

If you’re still on the fence about volunteering, or you’re not sure you have the time or energy necessary, consider the five-year, multi-institutional study that proved giving and being unselfish can protect your health and prolong your life. Every day that goes by without helping another is an opportunity missed. Recognize that others helped you achieve your merits, and now you have the opportunity to pay them back while paying the effort forward.

How else can you pay success back while paying it forward for future generations?

Wonderful ideas, eh? I know! I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do to make your community and world a bit better – good luck! 🍀

Xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

From This Moment On

Yesterday I was talking about flipping the way we plan for the new year – instead of talking about all of the things we will do without, how about we focus on all of the great things we are planning to do? I love it! As promised, here’s the start of my list for the new year:

  1. Spend more time reading! Plain and simple, it makes me happy – so why not do it more often? Yaa!
  2. Get back to yoga! I’ve been feeling stiff and shitty lately, and it’s not getting any better…I need to get my arse back into a regular yoga practice. I predict it will make me feel better, inside and out. I’m not going to go crazy and declare that I need to do it daily, because I know that won’t happen (sadly my schedule isn’t conducive to that!). I will set the target for 3 times a week, and consider anything more than that a bonus. Yaa! I’m excited!!! 😊
  3. More time writing – keeping a journal is an excellent thing for my mental health, and I’m going to do a better job of writing regularly in 2020. I started keeping a daily journal in March of 2019, and I wrote in it at least 5 days a week every week for the rest of the year – I noticed a difference in how I felt about things, and I noticed a significant difference in my stress levels. Success!
  4. Take up meditation once and for all – I keep dabbling, trying it out…but nothing ever sticks, and I have to say that I often feel like a failure when trying to meditate. I get so easily distracted (it’s ridiculous), and then I get disheartened and give up. Not this time.
  5. Eat better – I quit eating meat in September 2019, and it’s made a significant difference in how I feel. I have been eating seafood, and for now I will keep that going on – but meat is out. I’ve been working on getting more fruits and veg into the system, but that remains a struggle for me – I don’t know why. Actually, that’s a lie – I do know why. I like vegetables when somebody else prepares them for me, but I can’t stand them when I prepare them – go figure. It’s dumb. I’m going to try to do better with smoothies and get the fruits and veg in that way – as well, I will continue experimenting with supplements and see if I can’t improve my nutrition that way. All of the experts say that cutting out dairy is the way to go, but…it just makes me so sad. I love dairy – cheese, yogurt, cheese…. It’s all just so good. Yum.
  6. Stop sweatin’ the small stuff – this will likely be the biggest challenge for the year, you know that? I’m a world-class fretter, and I can worry about nothing like it was my damn job. I’ve noticed that in the past year I’ve been able to let a lot of shit go that previously would have caused me to obsess, but I’ve still got such a long way to go. Hopefully this will be the year that I quit reacting to stupid shit, and only focus on what really matters.
  7. Have more fun! I plan to embrace the idea of the return of the Roarin’ 20s with a passion – learn to dance the Charleston, wear a flapper dress (I bought a 20s style dress recently, actually…it’s gorgeous!), drink more gin, listen to more records, visit as many speakeasies as humanly possible, watch Midnight in Paris on repeat….all of it. Bring on the 20s – I’m ready!

This list is really specific to me and the things I want to focus on from a personal development perspective – of course I plan to spend more time with the kid and the family, enjoy them more, etc etc etc, all of that good stuff. I’m excited about all of it! Yaa!

What are you most looking forward to in the new year, friends?

Xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Play That Funky Music

For whatever reason (or about 253 reasons), I’ve been super-deep in my feelings this week. I’ve felt overly sensitive and on the verge of tears about a hundred times; I actually turned my phone off on Christmas Day rather than have one more text full of questions from friends that I didn’t want to answer. I don’t know if I’m overly tired, suffering from allergies (that has been a big part of it, I’m sure of it), or what is going on, but…this week has had me riding the emotion train – and I’m not loving it. At all. My arse has fallen into a tremendous funk, and I need to find a way out – but how?

According to this list, getting out of a funk is so easy you can accomplish it in 15 minutes! Crazy, eh???! I know! Here’s the list:

10 Ways to Get Out of a Funk in 15 Minutes

It’s all about mind over matter. Here’s how to take an off-day and turn it into a productive one.

By Paresh Shah

This story first appeared on The Muse, a web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice.

We all have off days from time to time. It’s human nature. But barring the occasional disaster or tragedy, a bad day is really only bad if you decide to stay in that frame of mind. As Martha Washington put it, “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.”

In reality, there are some simple actions that can put a positive spin on things and flip your switch from “ugh” to “awesome.” Here are a few things that can help you turn your day around.

1. Create Your Own Talisman

I have an electric guitar in my office. I’ll slap my headphones on and play my guitar to snap out of lethargy or bad moods–or to simply help my brain start solving problems. Find a physical object that you puts you in a happy, energized state. In A Few Good Men, Lt. Daniel Kaffee needed his baseball bat to think best. You likely have something similar, and it’s not only OK but essential to use props like these to get out of a funk. If you’re stumped, consider Play-Doh, a doodling pad, or a toy you loved as a child.

2. Make Connections

Instead of glancing over your News Feed, try making a connection with someone real. Even chatting with the barista at your local coffee shop can help put you in a good mood. (Here are a few conversation starters.) At my company, we make it a habit to touch base with one another before getting down to business. Sharing something that’s inspired us or that we’re grateful for during the day not only helps form human connections and build a positive atmosphere, but also makes our meetings shorter, more productive, and action-oriented.

3. Make Someone Else’s Day

Choose a person–whether you know him or not–and decide to make his day with a random act of kindness. Leave a note to brighten someone’s day, pay for someone’s coffee in line, or buy extra muffins and distribute them to your team members. Ask a co-worker if you can help her with something. Giving to others and appreciating what we’ve been given are two of the shortest paths to shaking yourself out of a bad mood. On that note:

4. Express Gratitude

Whether you do it in person, over the phone, via social media, or just in your own head, taking a moment to express gratitude leads to improved health, happiness, relationships, and income. A popular restaurant in Los Angeles, Café Gratitude, has its staff practice this every day, and it has one of the highest levels of customer and worker satisfaction in the business.

5. Daydream

Imagine what you might be doing if you were six, 10, or 15 years old. Draw it or write it down, then take a moment to find a photo online that captures its essence. By accessing part of yourself that’s younger, you tap into a time before your aspirations and dreams were reshaped by society. Better yet, spend time with a child. Just watching and spending time around a child opens you up to the freedom and carefree feeling of being young. 

6. Breathe

As one of my yoga teachers says, shallow breathing results in shallow experiences. Deep breathing, on the other hand, helps clear your mind, reduce stress, and reset your mood. An easy way to get started is by downloading The Mindfulness App, which Healthline called “straightforward and simple.” The quiet alerts, regular reminders, and customization options can make breathing such a routine part of your day that you may even find yourself needing to take mood-calibrating breaths less often.

7. Avoid the 4 Cs

There are four things you need to avoid to stay out a funk (not to mention office drama) in the first place: comparing, competing, criticizing, and complaining. If you catch yourself engaging in one of these unhealthy behaviors, redirect your attention to something happy, like a funny video, for an instant mood booster. (Just make sure the funny video doesn’t lead you to the latest dark headline or celebrity drama.)

8. Find a Quiet Space

Even if it means taking refuge in a bathroom stall, find a place where you can have a moment of quiet or move around and shake off the negative thoughts and feelings.

9. Listen to Music

Everyone has a few tunes that never fail to lighten their spirits. Put on some headphones, and crank it up. Better yet, play it out loud in your car, and sing along.

10. Take a Walk

Go for a walk, or try having a walking meeting. In addition to the health benefits, walking has shown to have amazing mood-boosting powers. Sometimes you just need a quick change of scenery to improve your state of mind.

There are a variety of other techniques that can help you shift your day from bad to better. Sometimes escaping a bad mood is all about remembering that, as author Regina Brett put it, “No one really has a bad life. Not even a bad day. Just bad moments.”

A bad moment is just a tiny fraction of your entire day, and a bad day is just one out of your entire life. The more good moments you create, the fewer bad days you’ll have, and the less glaring the bad ones will seem.

So the next time you feel like your day is going south, put these tips into practice, and let the good days commence.

There’s a few things here I can work with – taking walks usually helps improve the quality of my day, as does listening to music. I’m ALWAYS seeking quiet spaces to be (another anomaly with me – I find the world entirely too loud these days…I want more peace and quiet), so that one makes sense as well. I keep hearing about the magical restorative powers of deep breathing, but…I struggle to make that one work for me. I find myself getting light-headed sometimes (especially during cedar season, which has hit my part of Texas with a bloody vengeance)…maybe it’s just me. I think the big one for me is the 4 Cs…comparing, competing, criticizing, and complaining. I’ve actively worked on the complaining bit for years – and I’m still trying to cut that shit right out of my life….it’s hard, though. I’m trying. I don’t think I’m much of a criticizer (out loud), so that’s one thing. The big struggle for me is the comparing and competing – I ALWAYS feel like I’m in a competition with other people, and I don’t.know.why. I don’t know why I have to compare myself to others ALL THE DAMN TIME, and why I ALWAYS come up short. It’s frustrating. It’s no joke that comparison is the thief of joy – but how do you overcome that? If you have ideas, please send them my way – I need the help.

 

I hope that you’re managing your holiday time with as little anxiety and stress as possible. It’s almost time for the new year, and it’s a new decade to boot! Exciting!!! Bring on the ‘20s…time to roar!!! 😊

Xxx

 

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Thank U

I always thought that in order to engage in something like a gratitude practice, you had to be all fancy and formal, get yourself a Tibetan gong, some incense, and a flowy tunic – turns out I was wrong. I got a new planner a year ago for Christmas (I’m hoping for one this year!!), and every day I sectioned off an area and labeled it ‘Gratitude’ – every single day I would write three things I was grateful for. Some days it was profound stuff, other days it was things like sour cream and onion chips, cold beer, and the popcorn smell of a puppy dog’s feet (for realz – smell their feet, they smell just like popcorn). I have done this task every day for the entirety of 2019 – and, let me tell you, this has been a motha of a year, so taking time to focus on gratitude was a good idea. I added an app to my phone (Grateful) that is pretty much the same idea. I like it, but still prefer writing my gratitude down in a notebook.

Here’s some great ideas on how you can make your life exponentially better by focusing on gratitude:

Last month I got the om (ohm) symbol tattooed to my left shoulder – it looks like this:

I LOVE it – and when the kid asked what it meant, I explained it this way: om (ohm) is the sound of the universe, and it’s important to be quiet in order to hear it….I told her it’s kind of like the lines from the musical ‘Hamilton’ – talk less, smile (and listen!) more…and it will help remind me to remain in a peaceful state, to focus on kindness, compassion, calmness and joy. I love it and thing it looks awesome on the front of my shoulder – Yaa! ♥️

What are you grateful for, friends? I can’t wait to hear how you practice gratitude in your life!!

Xxx