The Best Things in Life Are Free (and Healing)

“The six best doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.” ~Wayne Fields   I’ve always believed the best things in life are free. Sunshine on your skin next to a body of water ranks up there as one of my favorite experiences. I love nothing more than to be in a pool in the summertime. Though doctors have helped me with my depression, nature has provided me with my best doctors. When I’m in nature, I feel restored. When I was a child, I used to like to go on adventures. I would venture off into my parents’ backyard with the neighborhood kids, telling them we were going on an adventure into the forest. I was a little nature child in love with the flowers, the sunlight, and the trees. Those were some of my best memories of childhood. But, as I grew older I forgot about the restorative power of nature. I started working all of the time and using the weekends for chores. I stopped doing the things I loved. I forgot to venture into the forest. For years, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder. In the winter, a deep depression would overtake me. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Being inside felt suffocating. The dark nights and the cold winters seemed to drain my spirit. In the spring, I’d feel reborn. Once I realized there was a definite seasonal aspect to my depression, I started taking preventative measures. I bought a light box and started getting up earlier each day to get some sunlight in the winter. I made a point to go meet friends and not stay at home all day. There are many tools I use to cope with my depression. I see a therapist and take medication. But, for me, the best medicine is preventative. It’s getting out into the world each day. Getting enough sunshine is vital to my well-being. I almost feel like the sun is recharging me when I’m outside. I take a morning walk each day to walk the dog and listen to the birds. I use that time to say positive affirmations to myself and reflect on having a good day. If I have time, I also take a walk during my lunch break or at least spend some time outside. I remember the days when I would stay inside at work eating my sandwich while staring at the computer. No more eating at the desk for me! I take another walk when I get home from work. It relieves the stress from the workday and sets me up for a nice evening. These are short ten-minute walks, but they really do make a difference. After dinner, I try to find some time just for me. Soaking in a hot bath seems to melt away all of my worries. Being a Pisces, I’ve always been drawn to water. I live in a land-locked state, but take every opportunity [...]

2018-11-21T15:29:10+00:00 By |

The Wisdom of Our Body: Slow Down and Tune In to Take Care of Yourself

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.” ~Friedrich Nietzche   Parked in a dimly lit garage in the middle of the city at around 7pm, I sat in the driver’s seat, seatbelt still on, texting two different male acquaintances who had expressed sexual interest in me. “What are you up to tonight?” Waiting for a response back, I checked my phone every few minutes. The resounding emptiness in me that craved to be filled felt like it was growing deeper. After some time of getting immersed in social media, I receive a response back: an invitation from one man to come over to his house for dinner not too far away. That night, I ended up drinking several glasses of wine too many, engaging intimately with the man beyond my intention and consent, and feeling emptier than before as I left his apartment in the morning. Despite the gaping presence I felt inside, I was able to distract myself. I was a woman in her early twenties with a stable, corporate job. I also had a part-time job that got me out, socializing and exploring the city. I was doing something with my life and I was just having a good time. When my mother expressed some resistance to my social life because I wasn’t spending much time with my family, I responded to her feelings with agitation and dismissal; there she was again, being overly sensitive and ruining my fun. Two days later, I had a fully booked day of hot yoga at 5am, a full day at the office, then an hour-long drive to the city for an evening celebration for my part-time job. That night, after receiving and celebrating a promotion to a senior position on my part-time team, I began a drive back to the suburbs just past midnight only to wake up to the winds of a cold, lonely highway. It was Wednesday morning at 1am when I fell asleep at the wheel while driving the long stretch between the city and the suburbs. I awoke to a dramatic and jolting swerve, into a bush grazing the windshield at first, and then within a blink, shattered glass and metal crashed into highway 280’s center divide. Shocked with the sight of stark headlights on cement, smoke rising, and a deflated airbag that had just slapped me in the face, I thought, “Was this a dream? Please let it be a dream.” A few speeding cars left me behind in a body ridden with shock, invisible and alone on the interstate. In deep dread and fear at the realization that it wasn’t a dream, I lifted my leg in throbbing agony; heavy, deadweight of broken bone. I looked down to see orange toenails of a swollen foot hanging dementedly, disconnected from my leg. The police officer that found me came by to peek into my car through the wreckage, flashlight blinding as it pointed at my squinting eyes [...]

2018-11-21T14:27:11+00:00 By |

There’s More to Life Than Work: Goodbye Hamster Wheel, Hello Balance

“Most of us try to do too much because we are secretly afraid we will not be able to do anything at all.” ~Rick Aster   I’m standing in my art studio. My palette is loaded with paint. My canvas has been prepped and ready. There is a paintbrush in my hand, but I can’t move. I don’t know what color to pick or what shape to make. I start questioning my color selection, the size of my canvas… and everything else under the sun. A few months ago, I wrote myself a reminder to allow my art to flow through me. Making art is a refuge for my mind—a mind that struggles with anxiety, depression, and “Hamster Wheel Syndrome.” You’re not familiar with that malady? Let me explain it to you with an example of what my brain sounds like when hamster wheel syndrome kicks in: “Do people really like pinks and greens together? Is it too feminine? Should I make my shapes big and bold to contrast against the girlie palette? Maybe I should do a test on a smaller canvas first? Maybe I should just pick a different pallet. It’s cold in here. I’ll get a hoodie. I think I need more coffee… Man, this art table is messy. I’ll organize it first… I only have three hours until my dentist appointment… The grocery is near by the dentist. I’ll plan on going there too…” And on and on it goes. According to UrbanDictionary.com, hamster wheel syndrome is “when someone just keeps running in circles (and making the same mistakes) in their life instead of progressing.” I believe that this only really scratches the surface about what it truly means to feel my wheels spinning, with no break in sight, for days at a time. When I’m in my studio, brush in hand and ready to go but I can’t move forward due to my brain throwing ten different options at me every three seconds, I feel paralyzed. I am a highly efficient person with a creative mind. I’m an abstract painter, essay writer, and fastidious business owner. I can get more done in two hours than many get done in a day. And I’m not saying this to brag. It is a blessing and a curse. If you’re like me, you know how exhausting this type of hamster wheel efficiency can be. IT NEVER STOPS. If I’m not checking things off my to do list, I’m compiling them into spreadsheets, using new methods of organization that I thought of while I was trying to sleep at 3am. I am addicted to efficiency. It makes me feel productive and useful. But as there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, there can also be too many ideas and tasks to process at once. When the multitude of ideas leads to overwhelm, paralysis is the result, and for a person like me, when I’m stagnant, I get even more anxious. If I [...]

2018-11-21T14:18:09+00:00 By |

Do What Excites You: How to Push Through Fear & Make Bold Choices

“You’ve got to do things that feel unnatural if you want to grow.” ~Jon Morrow   “You’re leaving, aren’t you?” my boss said. “Yes,” I nodded. “What do I have to pay you to make you stay?” he asked. I just stared at him. No words would come. “There’s nothing I can do, is there?” he said. More silence. But my inner voice was anything but silent. I was consumed with doubt and deafened by the bloody battle raging inside my head. On one side was caution, armed with the strong, fight-to-the-death breed of soldier. Her battalion was fuelled by countless victories over the dozens of glorious ideas that had fallen on their swords before. On the other side was courage, armed with nothing but hope and crazy determination. There was no battalion. Only a thin veneer of pluck. Courage won. Only just. I could have balked at any moment, backed down from my insane plan and taken the easy way out. I could have taken the lucrative job at one of London’s top investment banks that was being offered to me on a silver platter. But my gut screamed, “No, you’ve got to go! You’ll never find what you’re searching for if you stay.” Days later, as the plane touched down in the Russian capital, my breath caught in my throat. A lone, skinny, baby-faced blonde with a crazy notion to catch the train across Siberia. What the hell was I doing? Caution had stowed away in the recesses of my mind and now screamed in my ear. Was I mad? Probably. Was I terrified? Definitely. Was I excited? Out of my skin. Looking back, I believe courage won the battle that day because it was backed by my overwhelming desire for discovery. I wanted to discover the world and my rightful place in it. And the reason it won? Because I listened to my subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the feeling mind. Its ancient roots are primitive, and it’s the home of emotions such as fear, anger, and desire. The subconscious is powerful and tireless. Within it, both my fears and desires became formidable forces. But desire was stronger. The subconscious’s nemesis, the conscious mind, driven by logic, reason, and foresight, showed its face in the battle that day as caution and attempted to derail my desire. But it’s a fundamental truth that whenever the two minds are in conflict, the subconscious always wins. Deep emotional feelings overpower reasoned thought every time. Deep inside my subconscious mind, I knew I was searching for something I could only find by pushing myself to my limits. I knew I’d never find it if I continued with my dreary job. I knew that if I’d not found it in my current life already, it wasn’t there. I knew I needed to look someplace else. I knew I had no choice but to go. So I went. Here’s what I discovered on my journey. Discovery #1: [...]

2018-11-21T12:43:29+00:00 By |

Top 15 Things to Say to Myself

“Hold up your cup here is some positive tea that I want to pour out for you”.   What can you say about yourself? The way we speak to ourselves internally makes a large distinction in how we live. There is a plethora of things that you can say to yourself each day to be able to make better decisions and improve your mood. So, re-wire your brain and be more confident.   "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." – Mae West   If you say positive things, it makes way for a positive boost in the mood and gets you in the groove! Remember you are what you say you are!   Here are 15 Positive Things to Say to Yourself Daily The world has a need for me. I am smart. I love myself for who I am. I am beautiful inside and out. My life matters. My opinions matter. I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. Being me is enough. I love my body. I am vauled. I am talented. I am so blessed. I am a winner. I fear nothing. I am loved.   Remember you are what you say you are!

2019-03-14T14:51:11+00:00 By |

How to Make Progress On the Goals You’re Tempted to Give Up On

“To create more positive results in your life, replace ‘if only’ with ‘next time’.” ~Celestine Chua   Most of us start each year with good intentions. We have a list of things we’re going to start or stop doing. The year feels fresh, and it’s time to be the person that we’ve always wanted to be. At some point in the year the shine wears off and we start to go back to old patterns and behaviors. Some of us even write off the entire year if we’ve failed at our new years resolutions by the time we hit February, and decide to try again next year. Holding on to the idea that a new year somehow magically makes it possible for us to do better, we postpone change to a later date. This is a little trick we play on ourselves; it’s a way to opt out of truly engaging in our lives. We’re effectively cheating ourselves and switching off because it’s too hard to keep showing up. I used to do this every year. I’d set myself impossible goals in January and then as soon as I fell off the wagon, it would be game over. I’d commit to having no chocolate ever again and then not only eat one but the entire box. I then decided I’d “broken the seal and might as well carry on eating,” I then declared that resolution out of date and postponed it to the following year. I’d commit to going to the gym three times per week when I know in my heart that I am not a gym person, and then spend the first six weeks of the year finding reasons and ways to talk myself out of it. I’d obsess about maintaining daily writing streaks because I knew I felt better when I journaled every day, but as soon as I missed a day I’d give up and not touch it until I bought yet another brand new journal to write in for the next year. My intentions would often fall outside of my circle of influence—for example, deciding that I was going to improve my relationship with my sister by myself, without even talking to her about it so that the onus was on me. Of course, as soon as we had an argument I’d give up because it was “too hard.” I was always so hard on myself, expecting that somehow I’d magically become this healthy eating, exercise obsessed, creative and brilliant being just by deciding to do so on the first day of the year. Worse still, I wouldn’t acknowledge that I was probably already a creative and brilliant being, who just needed to unlock these qualities from within herself, because I was too busy scolding myself for not maintaining a streak or meeting impossible goals. Sound familiar? How do we break this cycle? 1. Set kinder, more manageable intentions. I’ve found that if I want to be healthier, I need [...]

2018-11-21T12:45:01+00:00 By |

Leaping into the Unknown: Why We Don’t Always Need a Plan

“You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” ~Mandy Hale   Wake up. Wish I could go back to sleep. Get up and ready for work. Tell myself that today I’ll leave earlier but then leave the same time as usual. Walk to work. Pass all the same people I did yesterday. At the same time. Arrive at work. Listen to the same people complaining about the same things. Complain about the same things myself. Teach my classes. Tell people off for being late—the same people as yesterday and the day before that. Go home. Try to work toward my dream life. Collapse from exhaustion after about half an hour and wonder what the point is. Go to bed. Cry lots. Hope that I don’t wake up in the morning. Wake up again and repeat. This was my routine for a good number of months before I finally couldn’t take it anymore. Did I have the world’s worst job? No, not really. Did I live in a hell hole? Not at all. In fact, you could probably say that I didn’t have any problems, yet I was possibly more miserable than I’d ever been. I couldn’t believe it. How had I ended up like this? I’d tried so hard to change my life. I’d meditated, done yoga, followed my dreams, made a vision board, and bought lots of self-help books. I’d even read them, too! What more was a girl supposed to do? Why wasn’t my life changing? I desperately wanted to leave my job, but couldn’t. I wouldn’t have the money to pay the rent. I wanted to leave my apartment but I had nowhere to go. Not unless I went to stay with my mother and, I couldn’t do that—not at my age! So I plodded on, I tried to be a good ‘spiritual’ person and accept my life as it was. I tried to make the best of things. And sometimes, it worked, but not for long. Eventually the feelings of dissatisfaction would return. The feeling of helplessness. Feeling stuck. Wanting to escape. But there was no way out. I’d be repeating this day forever. And ever. Let It Go Around this time, I was reading a lot about how we need to close one door before another can open. I was also seeing colleagues leave work to pursue a life of their dreams. Rather than giving me hope, this made me feel more downhearted. It was all right for them; they had money, a partner, a new job, or an already-up-and-running business. I was all alone. I was broke. I had no husband to support me. No rich relatives to bail me out. Everything I’d done to try to make a living out of work that I loved had already failed. I didn’t even know what I wanted anymore. I just knew I didn’t want what I had. I’d get [...]

2018-11-21T12:15:07+00:00 By |

It’s All About Perception: You Can Look Through the Lens of Love or Fear

“We are not responsible for what our eyes are seeing. We are responsible for how we perceive what we are seeing.” ~Gabrielle Bernstein   One of the things I love about this journey of personal growth is that we get to learn the same lessons over and over again, until they finally sink in on a visceral level. I love it when I hear or read the same insights repeatedly, from various sources and at different stages along my own path. Recently, at a low point in my life, I re-encountered this fundamental teaching in Gabrielle Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back:  Every single situation, thing, and person in our lives may be seen through one of two lenses: the lens of fear or the lens of love. These are profoundly different ways to view the exact same circumstances. Nothing on the outer level has to change for you to experience a radical shift in perception: you simply have to change the lens you’re looking through. When I read this, I realized that I’d been caught in a downward spiral of negative thinking. Yes, seemingly “bad” things have been happening in my life recently, but was it true that I had no choice but to feel bad about them? As an experiment, I decided to try describing my current life and circumstances from each perspective. This is how things looked through the lens of fear: I am a woman in deep middle age, alone and completely without romantic prospects. My financial situation is dire. I do almost nothing that is fun or exciting. I work an unskilled job and fritter away the rest of my time without meaning or purpose. It isn’t pretty, is it? I challenged myself to be brutally honest, knowing that what isn’t acknowledged can’t be changed. No wonder I had been feeling hopeless and depressed, with this story running through the back of my mind! Just reading it makes me want to crawl under a rock. Here is a look at my life through the lens of love: I am learning all the time, and am deeply engaged in understanding life and growing as a person. I’m a great mom; I have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with my daughter and am actively supporting her in growing into independence. I am helping my parents make an important transition. I’m nurturing my relationships with my siblings and friends. I help and inspire many people through my writing and coaching. I have prospects of financial security through multiple avenues. I’m healthy and young-looking; a loving, kind, and fun person who attracts others easily. I really enjoy my work and my colleagues. I live in a cute apartment in a fun and vibrant neighborhood. My present is meaningful and my future is bright and full of hope. That feels so much better! Same life, different lens. Nothing changed on the outside, but everything changed on the inside. You can do this exercise with literally [...]

2018-11-21T11:48:30+00:00 By |

4 Eye-Opening Realizations That Helped Me Love My Body

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” ~Amy Bloom “Just look at yourself!” “That chubby face, those massive hips and thighs. The stumpy legs.” “No wonder he doesn’t love you anymore. No wonder he left you for her! She is so much prettier than you are.” I stood in front of the mirror. Tears streamed down my face. My body was shaking uncontrollably as I stared at it in disgust. Resentment and anger accumulated in my chest. Heavy, dark, and painful, the all-consuming emotions tried to crush me. My throat felt tight, I couldn’t breathe, my mind was racing in desperation. If only I was beautiful. Tall, slender, delicate, and fair. If only my body was perfect. He wouldn’t have rejected and betrayed me. We would still be happy. The plans we made for a future together intact and alive. I collapsed on the floor, sobbing and shivering. Blaming my flawed appearance for all the despair, the unbearable suffering, my shattered life. I had always been insecure about my body and the way it looked. But now, I condemned it for failing me, destroying my life. Judged all its blemishes and cursed its unattractive features that were too ugly to love. I hated my body. And that’s how it started. The Miserable Consequence of Fighting Your Own Body In the weeks after my boyfriend left me in May 2005, negativity consumed me. I was furious at him for choosing another woman over me, and I beat myself up for not noticing the affair earlier. Toxic thoughts about my inadequate body and insufficient looks circled endlessly in my mind. I was obsessed with the improvement of my appearance. I cut my hair, changed my wardrobe, waxed, plucked, and dyed. I considered plastic surgery to remove the visible effects of a genetic skin condition that had never bothered me before. And I deprived myself of food, forwent sleep to have more time to exercise fanatically every day. I ignored any hunger, discomfort, and exhaustion, lashing myself on. I was determined to make my body better. Fitter, slimmer, more attractive. I would never allow it to let me down again. And my body reacted to the verbal and physical abuse. Within a few weeks I suffered from a stomach ulcer, bowel issues, and frequent migraines. My hands and legs were covered in eczema. And I was plagued by hypoglycaemia that made me dizzy, faint and, on a couple of occasions, temporarily blind. My body and I were at war. I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I had to make peace with the way I looked. I had to accept my body for what it was to restore my health, emotional balance, and sanity. For months, I forced myself to look in the mirror and reconcile with every part of my body. I reasoned with myself that the failed relationship had long run its course and my looks had nothing to do with [...]

2018-11-19T16:29:58+00:00 By |