Yes, It’s O.K. to Be Sad During the Holidays

Sometimes the holiday spirit just passes us by, and that’s perfectly normal.

All I want for Christmas is a nap.

The more I try to get into the holiday spirit — you know, the way everyone else seems to be — the sadder and more anxious I become.

“Forced happiness makes us feel more sad, upset and lonely because we are faking our feelings,” said Dr. Judith Orloff, author of “Thriving as an Empath.”

“Putting on a false front to impress others or prove to them how fine we really are can make us feel like a total impostor,” he said.

Feeling like a sad sack of coal during the holidays is far from unusual. Between the crowds, dwindling bank accounts and tundralike weather (not to mention the short window of sunlight), it’s a wonder any of us can keep it together.

It’s More Important to Be Authentic Than Impressive

“The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” ~Pema Chödrön

All my life I’ve chased after success, as I was encouraged to do from a very young age.

When I was six, my father got me my first proper study desk as a gift for getting into a ‘good’ school. The type of desk that towered over a little six-year-old—complete with bookshelves and an in-built fluorescent light. In the middle of the shelf frame stuck a white sticky label inscribed with my father’s own handwriting in two languages. It read: “Work hard for better progress.”

Little did I know those words would set the tone for me and my work ethic for the next twenty years—until I finally began to question them.

Hard work became my ‘safe space’ whenever I felt insecure. When I struggled to make friends at a new school, felt rejected, or felt like I didn’t belong, I would put my head down and drown out my emotions out by working hard. It became my coping strategy.

My younger self didn’t yet have the emotional resources to deal with moving around, changing schools, and facing social rejection. When it became too painful, it was much easier to stay in my head than to feel vulnerable with my heart.

So, whenever I struggled to fit in at school, I just worked harder with the misguided belief that if I did well, then I would be celebrated. If I became impressive, then people would finally accept and like me.

And of course, my parents encouraged this behavior. I was rewarded for my hard work and I got good results for it too.

But outside of my home, nobody seemed to care about my results. I still wasn’t fitting in at school. I still didn’t have many friends. My strategy didn’t seem to be working.

So I worked even harder.

By the time I graduated from University, I had completely bought into society’s definition of being ‘impressive’ without even questioning it once. If it was a prize everyone wanted, I wanted it too.

My definition of being ‘impressive’ expanded to include looking good, dressing well, staying fit, and making good money in a highly-competitive field, even if I had zero passion for that profession.

By then, I’d long forgotten the reasons why I wanted to work hard to be impressive in the first place, other than “That’s just who I am.”

I was drifting further and further away from my true self, and I didn’t even know it.

For the next ten years, I spent a lot of my waking hours working as a financial analyst, studying for more degrees and certification, and chasing after the next shiny thing so I could sound even more impressive to others. Plus, I was making a decent income while doing so. Tick.

While on the surface I ticked a lot of those “impressive” boxes I had set out for myself, on the inside I felt emptier than ever. On the outside I looked successful, but on the inside, I felt like a complete failure.

What Happens When Your True Self Calls You to Come Back

Cracks started to emerge both in my work and in myself. It became challenging to fully show up for work as I increasingly asked myself: “What am I doing here?”

A soft inner voice whispered, “It’s time to get out of here, you’re not meant to be in finance. What are you doing here?” So I began questioning what I was doing with my life. I mean, if not that, what was I meant to do? I’d invested so much of my time and energy into my profession; I couldn’t just change directions. And who was this voice anyway? Where was it coming from?

My fake enthusiasm became harder and harder to keep up. This sinking feeling became more visceral by the day, and the feeling of not belonging in my workplace became increasingly obvious.

Yet I swallowed those feelings down with gritted teeth and kept pushing. Because what else was I meant to do if not keep persisting?

When I suddenly got fired it was an abrupt wakeup call. I needed to challenge everything I believed in and confront those big questions I’d put off answering for so long: “Who am I really?” and “What am I really about?”

What I Learned Through My Four-Year Journey of Self-Discovery

I spent the next couple of years immersing myself in a whole range of subjects that covered different angles on self-knowledge, in an attempt to answer the question “Who am I?”

For most of my seeking, I was still trying to find answers as if they resided outside of me. I was still trying to find where I belonged professionally.

But what started as a business journey quickly morphed into an inner-transformational journey that became deeply personal.

This deep inner work allowed me to reconnect to my internal guidance system and my true self once more.

Through this process I was able to take a good look at myself, confront my shadow side, heal my wounds of rejection, and forgive everyone involved, including myself.

As I’ve come home to my true self, I’ve realized a few things about the cost of chasing impressiveness:

When we chase after something external, we lose self-connection.

When I heard that soft, loving voice inside my head, it was a small glimpse of spiritual awakening. It was a momentary connection to my inner mentor’s light that seeped through my deep dark fog of disconnection.

We all have our own inner mentor, but we have choose to listen to it instead of trying to be who we think we’re supposed to be.

When we trust others more than we trust ourselves, we can end up giving our personal power away.

If we believe that the answers we seek lie outside of ourselves, we can forget to check in to see what’s true for us each individually. The more weight we put on other people’s opinions, the less we trust our own inner knowing.

People can only speak to what they know based on their own perspective, background, and life experiences. When we allow other people’s opinions to overpower the choices our true selves would otherwise make, we end up giving away our personal power.

I’ve found that it doesn’t matter how many well-meaning opinions we get; we need to find what resonates with us the most by checking in with our inner authority—which means going against what we learned growing up, when we were trained to ignore our inner voice and do what we were told.

The pursuit of ‘impressiveness’ is a hunger that can never be satisfied.

When we keep chasing after ‘impressiveness,’ we are in fact on a hedonic treadmill of always wanting more. As soon as we achieve one thing, we fixate on the next. We keep wanting bigger, better, and more.

As soon as we attain or do something, suddenly what we have isn’t good enough anymore, and so we must now keep up. We fall into the comparison trap. The external goalpost keeps moving. We keep looking over our shoulders to see how we’re tracking against everyone, and it becomes a tireless pursuit of keeping up with the Joneses with no real end in sight.

Every ‘win’ is temporary.

We mistakenly see ‘impressiveness’ as proof that we’re worthy of love.

When we chase after ‘impressiveness’ we’re really chasing after validation, approval, and a sense of belonging. We think, “If I can be impressive then I can be accepted.” We want others to look up to us, praise us, and ultimately, love us.

However, the pursuit gets dangerous when we buy into the false belief that we have to work hard in order to prove we are worthy of love; that we need to become ‘impressive’ through our accomplishments and produce tangible proof of our worthiness.

I’ve noticed that a lot of high achievers, like myself, have bought into this belief, possibly due to the achievement-oriented upbringing we were exposed to from a very young age.

The danger is that it can become an acquisition addiction, and an arms race to get more degrees, more cars, more houses, more shoes, more toys, and so on.

We can become addicted to buying ‘cool’ things to impress other people, or work ourselves to the bone just to get those long lists of accolades instead of recognizing that we are inherently worthy of love. Regardless of what we have or have achieved.

We risk losing our individuality.

When we chase after external validation and approval, we compromise who we really are in exchange for more respect, more likes, more kudos from our peers. We showcase a more curated, ‘acceptable’ version of ourselves to the world, and we hide other parts of ourselves that we think might be rejected by others. Even worse, we end up chasing after things we don’t even really want.

Some of us inherit strong beliefs about what ‘success’ means and some of us strive toward pre-approved categories of impressiveness as defined by society, without checking in once to see whether these pathways to ‘success’ fit in with our true selves.

In the end, we lose our individuality—the essence of who we really are.

It requires self-connection to recognize what is true for us versus what is conditioned into us. It requires even more courage to step outside of these pre-approved paths to ‘impressiveness’ and live a life that aligns with our true selves.

How to Reclaim Your Authentic Self

I’ve discovered that breaking free from the illusion of ‘impressiveness’ and reclaiming your true self is really a constant two-step dance between recognition and courage.

1. Recognition
To reclaim your authentic self you have to recognize that you have disconnected from who you really are in the first place. Your achievements, your accomplishments, all the cool stuff that you own, and even your toned physique—they’re not who you really are.

2. Courage to be your true self
We have to have courage to stand in our truth and be our authentic selves. Recognition alone is not enough. For many of us, it’s the fear of disapproval that holds us back from stepping out of those curated, pre-approved categories that we have created for ourselves, and fully owning who we are, in all our beautiful, strange glory.

My wish is that this becomes your permission slip to fully step into who you really are and own it. Being your true self requires tremendous courage, but it’s worth it. And having the courage to fully embrace your true individuality in all its quirkiness? That’s impressive.

Article By: Clarabel Sage of Tiny Buddha

The Number on The Scale Does Not Dictate Your Value

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

We try to give our bodies value with numbers. We’re obsessed with the number on the scale and the circumference of our waist.

We also think our value lies in labels. Words like “obese,” “fat,” and “overweight” are triggers for many, and we abhor them like coffee breath, because we’ve been immersed in pocrescophobia (the fear of getting fat) from before we can remember.

But we are more than a category on a pie chart. We are more than our body shape. Magazines tell us we are shaped like a fruit, but we are shaped by the experiences that have made us the people we are today.

Our bodies may not be light, but inside we are shrouded with light. We may be soft where we’ve been told we ought to be hard and toned, but it’s in our softness that others feel comforted in the midst of their problems. We may not have a thigh gap, but there’s space between our arms for those we love to seek shelter.

We are more than just a body.

Our bodies are amazing. They can do so much, for ourselves and for others. We are each beautiful in our own right.

But that’s not all there is to us. We are the imprint we leave on the planet during our short life on Earth. We are the heart that beats within us for the things we are passionate about.

We are the smile that radiates out of our eyes when we experience a moment of pure joy, and the serenity that pervades us when we are content. We are the words we exchange, the words we write down, the words we guard in our minds at all costs. We are the feelings that pass through us, exhilarate us, drive us, guide us.

We are the thoughts and memories and unique set of DNA that set us apart from everyone else. We are special. We are needed. We are designed for a purpose.

We have value that surpasses everything society and the media wants us to obsess over. We have value apart from how we look. We have value apart from our relationship status.

We have value apart from our income. We have value apart from whether we own a house or not, or have kids or not. We. Have. Value. Unchanging, unequivocal, perfect value.

I regret that I wasted this whole weekend feeling depressed about how much I weigh now compared to how much I weighed in my early twenties (I’m approaching thirty). It seems so silly when you think about it, a stone here or there. But I found myself giving in to that black hole, falling-to-the-floor kind of despair.

I should weigh less. I should look slimmer. I should try harder.

I should be something that isn’t me at this moment in time.

It seems like everyone is dissatisfied with the way they look. We will pay money and give up all our free time to try and achieve the illusion of perfection. Snapchat filters, Instagram filters, even paying for apps that will help us to create the perfect selfie, because heaven forbid we look anything less than perfect online!

This, in turn, feeds into other people’s insecurities, spreading the toxic message that our “just as I am” is not enough.

The thing is, weight is just one small way to measure health. My weight suggests I’m quite overweight for my height. But when you look at my waist-to-hip and waist-to-height measurements, I’m in the “healthy” category for both of them, with little-to-no risk of developing heart disease or obesity.

Things just don’t add up. I’m left feeling like something is wrong with me. Am I in the red, or in the green?

Do I need to lose weight, or can I breathe a sigh or relief?

The thing is, it’s these categories and labels that have got it all wrong. Health can’t always be measured by numbers. It’s how you live your life.

Being obsessive isn’t healthy. Talking negatively (even in your mind) about yourself isn’t healthy. Striving for perfection isn’t healthy.

What is healthy? Loving yourself exactly the way you are. Making good choices for your physical and mental health.

Being balanced in everything.

Some days I feel like I’ve come so far, that I truly do love and accept myself as I am, wobbly bits and all. Other days I feel lost in a sea of self-pity and a strong dislike for what I see in the mirror. I compare myself to other girls.

Why can’t I be naturally skinny? Why has nature been so unkind? Then I remember that nature has been kind.

I’m uniquely myself with my own combination of curves and body fat. Why would I want to look like anyone else?

My thoughts go round and round like this. It can be so tiring.

My parents used to tell me I had a “feminine figure.” My partner loves the way I look and never ceases to remind me, even when I’m in one of my funks and in a loop of obsessing over my supposed flaws. If I could only see myself through the eyes of those who love me, my obsessing and self-loathing would all stop in an instant.

The thing is, we have to see ourselves through the eyes of love. We have to accept. We are craving our own love and acceptance.

We need our own kindness. We need to talk about ourselves like we would talk to our best friend. We need to look in the mirror and say, “You are beautiful, just the way you are.”

See your own value. Yes, your body has value. Yes, it is beautiful, exactly as it is.

Shout it out! Proclaim it to the rooftops!

But you are more than that.

You are so much more than a body.

Article by: Nicola Casey

Improving Your Mental Health: A Summer Bucket List

Summer is arguably the best season known to man—for most of us millennials, summer is a time to drink cold, age appropriate beverages, get an occasional sun tan/burn, and maybe work a job or internship if you have the drive to do so. Basically, it’s a time of stress free, care free living. For most of us.

But for those of us that struggle with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, summer is just another time of the year where we are plagued by impending stress. Here is a bucket list I’ve made for this summer to help you live the happiest (and hopefully sweatiest) summer of your life.

1. Read!

Summer reading was the probably the only negative part about summer for most of us when we were kids, but this is a different kind of reading! This is the mental sweat I’m talking about where you take on a challenge to learn something new during the summer by reading about it—hey, you can learn about the history of shot gunning beers if you’d like.

2. Take up a new adventure hobby, preferably physical.

Never been able to do a handstand before? THIS IS YOUR SUMMER TO LEARN IT! Whether you are trying to perfect an old skill or learn a new one, don’t be afraid to challenge your body to new feats!

3. Eat something new or something old cooked in a new way.

Adventure can be intimidating for sure. But if you can do one new thing a day, even if it’s taking the long way home from work, THEN DO IT.

4. Meditate.

If you struggle often with anxiety and depression (or any other mental illness and would like to try meditation) I say YES. GO YOU. DO IT. Practicing mindfulness and grounding in our daily lives is crucial if we want to be at inner peace with ourselves and everything around us.

5. Host (or attend) a potluck BBQ.

Food is such a great way to bring people together and summer is the perfect time for barbecues and relaxation with those people that make you feel the most comfortable.

6. DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT BECAUSE EVERYDAY SHOULD BE THE BEST DAY EVER BUT THAT’S NOT HOW THE WORLD WORKS SO EVEN ON BAD DAYS JUST PROMISE ME AND PROMISE YOURSELF THAT YOU WILL DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR A DAY SO THAT EVERY DAY HAS AT LEAST AN HOUR OF HAPPINESS IN IT.

7. Get lost somewhere (not stranded without food or water, just lost-ish).

Finding your way around a new town or through a bustling city is a great way to not only learn about the world around you, but about yourself and the way in which you have experiences. So take a trip to your nearest big city or a new city you’ve never been to before, and wander about. Take in your surroundings and make sure you eat plenty along the way!

8. Face a fear you have.

Whether you’re afraid of roller coasters or terrified of broccoli, take the beauty of the summer as an opportunity to face your fears in some of the best weather we have!

Article By: Alyssa Villani

How Unhealed Childhood Wounds Wreak Havoc in Our Adult Lives

“The emotional wounds and negative patterns of childhood often manifest as mental conflicts, emotional drama, and unexplained pains in adulthood.” ~Unknown

I am a firm believer in making the unconscious conscious. We cannot influence what we don’t know about. We cannot fix when we don’t know what’s wrong.

I made many choices in my life that I wouldn’t have made had I recognized the unconscious motivation behind them, based on my childhood conditioning.

In the past, I beat myself up over my decisions countless times. Now I feel that I needed to make these choices and have these experiences so that the consequences would help me become aware of what I wasn’t aware of. Maybe, after all, that was the exact way it had to be.

In any case, I am now hugely aware of how we, unbeknownst to us, negatively impact our own lives.

As children, we form unconscious beliefs that motivate our choices, and come up with strategies for keeping ourselves safe. They’re usually effective for us as children; as adults, however, applying our childhood strategies can cause drama, distress, and damage. They simply no longer work. Instead, they wreak havoc in our lives.

One of my particular childhood wounds was that I felt alone. I felt too scared to talk to anyone in my family about my fears or my feelings. It didn’t seem like that was something anyone else did, and so I stayed quiet. There were times I feared I could no longer bear the crushing loneliness and would just die without anyone noticing.

Sometimes the feeling of loneliness would strangle and threaten to suffocate me. I remember trying to hide my fear and panic. I remember screaming into my pillow late at night trying not to wake anyone. It was then that I decided that I never wanted anyone else to feel like me. This pain, I decided, was too much to bear, and I did not wish it on anyone.

As an adult, I sought out, whom I perceived as, people in need. When I saw someone being excluded, I’d be by their side even if it meant that I would miss out in some way. I’d sit with them, talk to them, be with them. I knew nothing about rescuing in those days. It just felt like the right thing to do: see someone alone and be with them so they wouldn’t feel lonely or excluded.

Looking back now, I was clearly trying to heal my childhood wound through other people. I tried to give them what I wish I’d had when I was younger: someone kind, encouraging, and supportive by my side. I tried to prevent them from feeling lonely. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s kind to recognize others in pain and try to be there for them.

The problem with my strategy was that I chose people who were alone for a reason: they behaved badly and no one wanted to be around them. I chose people healthy people would not choose to be with. People who treated others poorly and did not respect themselves, or anyone else for that matter. That included me.

And so I suffered. I suffered because I chose badly for myself. And I chose badly for myself because I followed unconscious motivations. I obediently followed my conditioning. I followed the rules I came up with as a child, but playing by those rules doesn’t work out very well in adulthood.

I never understood why I suffered. I couldn’t see that I had actively welcomed people into my life who simply were not good for me. It didn’t matter where I went or what I changed; for one reason or another, I’d always end up in the same kind of cycle, the same difficult situation.

At one point I realized that I was the common denominator. It then still took me years to figure out what was going on.

Eventually, my increasing self-awareness moved me from my passive victim position into a proactive role of empowered creator. Life has never been the same since. Thankfully. But it wasn’t easy.

I had to look deep within and see truths about myself that were, at first, difficult to bear. But once I was willing to face them and feel the harshness of the reality, the truth set me free. It no longer made sense to play by rules I had long outgrown. I didn’t realize that I had become the adult I had always craved as a child. But I was not responsible for rescuing other adults—that was their job.

I have since witnessed the same issue with everyone I meet and work with. One particular person, who had endured terrible abuse growing up, was constantly giving people the protection he had craved but never received as a child. He gave what he did not receive. And yet, in his adult life it caused nothing but heartache for him.

When he saw, what he perceived as, an injustice like someone being rude to someone else or a driver driving without consideration for others, he intervened. Unfortunately, he often got it wrong and most people didn’t want his input, which left him feeling rejected and led to him becoming verbally aggressive. Eventually, his ‘helping’—his anger and boundary crossing—landed him in prison.

He was not a bad person—far from it. He was simply run by his unconscious motivation to save his younger self. He projected and displaced this onto other people who did not need saving and never asked for his help. But his conditioning won every time and in the process wrecked his life.

What ends this cycle is awareness, understanding, and compassion.

We must learn to look at the consequences of our actions or inactions and then dig deep. We must ask ourselves: What patterns do I keep repeating? What must I believe about myself, others, and life in order to act this way? Why do I want what I want and why do I do what I do? And what would I do differently if I stopped acting on my childhood conditioning?

Beliefs fuel all of our choices. When we don’t like the consequences of our actions, we must turn inward to shine a light onto the unhelpful unconscious beliefs we formed as children. Only awareness can help us find and soothe them. Only understanding can help us make sense of them. And only compassion can help us forgive ourselves for the patterns we unknowingly perpetuated.

We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We couldn’t have made any different choices. But once we begin to see and understand how our minds work and how our conditioning drives everything we do, we grow more powerful than we ever thought possible.

It is then that we are able to make healthier, wiser, and more life-enhancing choices for ourselves. We can then break the cycles that previously kept us stuck in unfulfilling and often harmful situations and relationships.

There is always a different choice. We just have to begin to see it.

Article by: Marlena Tillhon-Haslam of Tiny Buddha

Go On These 8 Dates to Save Your Marriage

I’m just going to say it.

I can’t imagine most couples — including me and my husband — following “Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” to the letter.

I have mad respect for the authors, world-renowned marriage experts and Gottman Institute co-founders John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman. Together with their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, they bring decades of scientific and clinical research to the table. Their work is solid.

Their new book, out in time for Valentine’s Day, spells out eight dates every couple should go on and the conversations that should transpire.

“Relationships don’t last without talk,” they write. “This book will help you create your own love story by giving you the framework for the eight conversations you and your partner should have before you commit to each other, or once you’ve committed to each other, as well as throughout the years, whenever it is time to recommit. That might happen when you have a baby, when one of you loses a job, during a health crisis, or when the relationship has begun to feel stale.”

Brilliant.

“Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” has advice for couples.
Still. I have a hard time imagining meeting my husband’s gaze across the table, taking a sip of wine and saying, “I commit to creating our own romantic rituals for connection and creating more passion outside of the bedroom by expressing my affection and love for you.” (Pause for more wine.) “I commit to having a 6-second kiss every time we say goodbye or hello to each other for the next week. I commit to discussing, exploring and renewing our sexual relationship.”

And yet, there it is. On Page 112. “Take turns reading this affirmation out loud to each other. Maintain eye contact while reciting.”

The authors sent more than 300 couples — married, unmarried, heterosexual, same-sex — on the suggested dates and asked them to share their experiences. The couples reported becoming better friends and falling more deeply in love.

I believe it. But I believe it the way I believe eating raw kale for lunch every day will keep me healthier. I’ll eat some raw kale. But I’m also going to eat some tacos.

And maybe that’s the way to approach “Eight Dates” — as a menu. You pick and choose what your relationship is hungry for and leave the rest for another time.

No. 1: The “lean on me” date: This one’s intended to get you talking about trust, commitment and what makes you feel safe and cherished. Without blaming or accusing, ask each other:

How did your parents show their commitment to each other? How did they show a lack of commitment to each other? What do you need from me to show that I’m committed? What areas do you think we need to work on to build trust?

No. 2: The “agree to disagree” date: This is intended to help you address, rather than flee from, conflict. Before you head out, the book suggests an exercise that asks you and your partner to consider some of your differences — in neatness, punctuality, wanting time apart versus wanting time together, how you socialize. With the recognition that not every conflict can (or needs to be) resolved, talk about how to accommodate those differences and ask the following:

How was conflict handled in your family growing up? How do you feel about anger? How do you like to make up after a disagreement?

No. 3: The “let’s get it on” date: In which you discuss how sex and passion should/will look in your relationship. With an open mind and a willingness to be vulnerable, ask some of the following:

What are some of your favorite times we’ve had sex? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try, but have never asked? What can I do to make our sex life better?

No. 4: The “cost of love” date: Work and money are the themes here, and the authors provide a questionnaire to complete before your date. How well off were your parents? Did your family take vacations or travel together when you were growing up? What is your most painful money memory?

Arrive at the date prepared to discuss your answers, and ask each other some of the following: How do you feel about work now? What is your biggest fear around money? What do you need to feel safe talking about how you spend money or make money?

No. 5: The “room to grow” date: Here’s where you talk about what family looks like to each of you. The conversations on this date vary, obviously, depending whether you’re a new-ish couple or married with kids.

For couples without kids, they suggest: What does your ideal family look like? Just us? Kids? What problems do you think we might have maintaining intimacy in our future family?

For couples with kids: How did (or didn’t) your parents appear to maintain their closeness after children? How will we?

No. 6: The “play with me” date: Because shared adventure and fun breed happiness, this date encourages couples to think of new things to try together. (Go fishing! Rent Segways!)

Show up for the date with a list of things you’d like to try, and talk about the following after you share your lists: What adventures do you want to have before you die? What’s a one-day adventure you could imagine us having together?

No. 7: The “something to believe in” date: Growth and spirituality are the topics here. The key, on this one, is asking questions before assuming you know what your partner believes.

They suggest asking: What carries you through your most difficult times? How have you changed in your religious beliefs over the course of your life? What spiritual beliefs do you want to pass on to our kids?

No. 8: The “lifetime of love” date: Talk about your dreams. Not the one where you keep showing up for the history final naked. The one where you find out what your partner wants most out of life: To travel the world? To compete and win at something? To finally ask a particular person for forgiveness?

Again, there’s a questionnaire to fill out ahead of the date. Again, there are questions to ask on the date. On this one, though, I want to highlight the affirmation you’re supposed to tell each other out loud:

“I commit to fully exploring and understanding your dreams and to doing one thing to support one of your dreams in the next six months.”

How beautiful is that? I feel like that statement alone, said with sincerity, could launch and sustain a lifetime of love.

Article By: Heidi Stevens of The Chicago Tribune

101 Positive Body Affirmations

Affirmations are statements that you repeat over and over in attempt to change your unconscious beliefs. Pick a few that you like and look in the mirror and repeat several times each day! If you can find some of these positive body affirmations that resonate for you and really allow yourself to see them, hear them and feel them, you might find some shifts in the way you think about yourself and your body.

1. My body deserves love.

2. I am perfect, whole, and complete just the way I am.

3. I feed my body healthy nourishing food and give it healthy nourishing exercise because it deserves to be taken care of.

4. I love and respect myself.

5. It’s okay to love myself now as I continue to evolve.

6. My body is a temple. I want to treat it with love and respect.

7. My body is a gift.

8. Food doesn’t have to be the enemy, it can be nurturing and healing.

9. Life is too short and too precious to waste time obsessing about my body. I am going to take care of it to the best of my ability and get out of my head and into the world.

10. I will not give in to the voices of my eating disorder that tell me I’m not okay. I will listen to the healthy voices that I do have, even if they are very quiet so that I can understand that I am fine. I am fine.

11. Food doesn’t make me feel better, it just temporarily stops me from feeling what I’m feeling.

12. I have everything inside of me that I need to take care of myself without using food.

13. A goal weight is an arbitrary number, how I feel is what’s important.

14. I am worthy of love

15. As long as I am good, kind, and hold myself with integrity, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me.

16. Other people are too busy thinking about themselves to care what my weight is

17. When I compare myself to others, I destroy myself, I don’t want to destroy myself so I’ll just continue on my journey, not worrying about other people’s journeys.

18. I am blessed to be aging. The only alternative to aging is death.

19. It’s okay for me to like myself. It’s okay for me to love myself.

20. I have to be an advocate for me. I can’t rely on anyone else to do that for me.

21. A “perfect” body is one that works, no matter what that means for you personally.

22. It’s okay for me to trust the wisdom of my body.

23. Just because someone looks perfect on the outside, doesn’t mean they have a perfect life. No one has a perfect life, we all struggle. That’s just what being human is.

24. If I spend too much time trying to be and look like someone else, I cease to pay attention to myself, my virtues, my path, and my journey.

25. When I look to others to dictate who I should be or how I should look, I reject who I am.

26. The last thing I should be doing is rejecting myself. Accepting myself as I am right now is the first step in changing, growing and evolving. When I reject myself, I cannot grow.

27. Self respect is underrated.

28. I can only go forward, so although I can learn from it, I refuse to dwell on the past.

29. ALL images in magazines are airbrushed, photoshopped, and distorted.

30. If people actively judge or insult me, it’s because they feel badly about themselves. No one who feels good about themselves has the need to put someone down to elevate themselves- they have better things to do with their time.

31. I have no need to put someone down to elevate myself.

32. I can be a good person if I choose to be.

33. It’s my life, I can choose the way I want to live it.

34. When I smile, I actually make other people happy.

35. Balance is the most important.

36. If I binge today, I can still love and accept myself, I don’t have to beat, berate and starve myself right afterwards, and I still have the very next moment to jump right back into recovery.

37. Recovery is an ongoing process that is not linear in fashion. If I slip up, I’ll take the opportunity as a learning experience and get right back to my recovery goals/program.

38. Progress is not linear. It’s normal for me to go forward and then backward, and then forward again.

39. I enjoy feeling good. It’s okay for me to feel good.

40. Having an eating disorder is not my identity.

41. Being skinny or fat is not my identity. I am identified by who I am on the inside, a loving, wonderful person.

42. I choose health and healing over diets and punishing myself.

43. My opinion of myself is the only one I truly know and it’s the only one that counts. I can choose my opinion of myself.

44. When I am in my head too much, I can return to my breath, just breath and be okay. There is only this moment.

45. It’s okay to let others love me, why wouldn’t they?

46. I am good stuff.

47. I am compassionate and warm. My presence is delightful to people.

48. My very existence makes the world a better place.

49. It’s okay to pay someone to rub my feet every once in a while.

50. If I am hungry, I am supposed to let myself eat. Food is what keeps me alive.

51. Getting older makes me smarter.

52. It’s okay not to be the best all the time.

53. My well-being is the most important thing to me. I am responsible for taking care of me. We are each responsible for ourselves.

54. No one has the power to make me feel bad about myself without my permission.

55. My feet are cute. Even if they’re ugly.

56. I eat for energy and nourishment.

57. Chocolate is not the enemy. It’s not my friend either. It’s just chocolate, it has no power over me.

58. I can be conscious in my choices.

59. I am stronger than the urge to binge.

60. I am healthier than the urge to purge.

61. Restricting my food doesn’t make me a better person, being kind to myself and to others makes me a better person.

62. Being skinny doesn’t make me good. Being fat doesn’t make me bad.

63. I can be healthy at any size.

64. Life doesn’t start 10 pounds from now, it’s already started. I can make the choice to include myself in it.

65. Food, drugs, and alcohol are not the solution. But they might seem like it at times, but using these things can make more problems. I have what I need inside of me as the solution.

66. There is a guide inside of me who is wise and will always be there to help me on my journey.

67. Sometimes sitting around and doing nothing is just what the doctor ordered. It’s okay to let myself relax.

68. I am a human being, not a human doing. It’s okay to just be sometimes. I don’t always have to be doing.

69. My brain is my sexiest body part.

70. Looks last about five minutes– or until someone opens their mouth.

71. My life is what I make of it. I have all the power here.

72. My body is a vessel for my awesomeness.

73. My body can do awesome things.

74. If I am healthy, I am so very blessed.

75. I won’t let magazines or the media tell me what I should look like. I look exactly the way I’m supposed to. I know because this is the way god made me!

76. What is supposedly pleasing to the eye is not always what is pleasing to the touch. Cuddly is good!

77. I can trust my intuition. It’s here to guide me.

78. Just because I am taking care of myself and being an advocate for myself doesn’t mean I’m selfish.

79. Not everyone has to like me. I just have to like me.

80. It’s not about working on myself it’s about being okay with who I already am.

81. My needs are just as important as anyone else.

82. Body, if you can love me for who I am, I promise to love you for who you are– no one is responsible for changing anyone else.

83. I will make peace with my body, it doesn’t do anything but keep me alive and all I do is insult it and hurt it. I’m sorry body, you’ve tried to be good to me and care for me, it’s time for me to try to be good back.

84. Thighs, thank you for carrying me.

85. Belly, thank you for holding in all my organs and helping me digest.

86. Skin, thank you for shielding and protecting me.

87. Other people don’t dictate my choices for me, I know what’s best for myself.

88. I feed my body life affirming foods so that I can be healthy and vital.

89. Taking care of myself feels good.

90. I can eat a variety of foods for health and wellness without bingeing.

91. There is more to life that losing weight. I’m ready to experience it.

92. If I let go of my obsession with food and my body weight, there is a whole world waiting for me to explore.

93. The numbers on the scale are irrelevant to who I am as a human.

94. Food is not good or bad. It has no moral significance. I can choose to be good or bad and it has nothing to do with the amount of calories or carbohydrates I eat.

95. I am still beautiful when I’m having a bad hair day.

96. My nose gives me the ability to breathe. Breath gives me the ability to be an amazingly grounded, solid person.

97. Being grounded and whole is what makes me beautiful. If I don’t feel grounded and whole, I can get there just by being still, breathing, listening to my intuition, and doing what I can to be kind to myself and others.

98. I am not bad and I don’t deserve to be punished, not by myself and not by others.

99. I deserve to be treated with love and respect and so do you. I choose to do and say kind things for and about myself and for and about others.

100. Even if I don’t see how pretty I am, there is someone who does. I am loved and admired. REALLY!

101. Beauty?… To me it is a word without sense because I do not know where its meaning comes from nor where it leads to. ~Pablo Picasso

How Mindfulness Is Saving My Relationship

“Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

I started meditating and practicing mindfulness more seriously several years ago incorporating it in to my daily routine, initially to help with my anxiety. My practice certainly helped me by leaps and bounds in overcoming my anxiety, but an unexpected side effect has been the impact it’s having on my marriage.

We’ve not been married long, and as many couples before us have experienced, getting accustomed to this new dynamic can be at times… difficult.

Learning to communicate and compromise isn’t always a smooth ride. He cares about being on time (or early), I care about not being rushed. I like the kitchen cleaned after dinner, he couldn’t care less. He gets stressed when he doesn’t know the schedule in advance, I feel stressed when I feel boxed into a plan.

So we argued. And got mad at each other. And created these expectations for each other that we definitely didn’t always meet.

But slowly I started to notice a change. It began with a change in me, my stress level, my tendency to blame, my expectations of him. I found myself more understanding, better able to let go of things that didn’t go my way, and better at communicating when an argument bubbled up between us.

Then my husband started to change too. He’d noticed the changes in me and saw how much better I felt and how much easier communication was with me, and he started mimicking what he saw me do.

He wasn’t letting things bother him as much. In a situation where we would have had an ugly argument, he was now starting the conversation from a place of curiosity instead of finger pointing. But the biggest thing that I noticed from him was how he was willing and able to reflect on how he was feeling and dig into why he felt the way he did whereas in the past he would have become angry at me for making him feel that way.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without judgment. This can be done in day-to-day activities like driving, eating, and in conversation. It can also be practiced as formal meditation.

This simple practice can transform our relationship with our thoughts, give us new perspectives on life and even our own behaviors, and free us from the hold that our emotions can have on us when we identify with them.

Here are changes I’ve seen in myself from practicing mindfulness that have led to improving my marriage.

I’m happier.

Stress is a salty mistress with eight in ten adults suffering daily. And anxiety is pervasive in our society, affecting roughly forty million Americans (including me for thirty-ish years). Practicing mindfulness is a time-tested and scientifically proven method of dealing with and overcoming the hold of stress and anxiety.

When we’re stressed, feeling down or angry, we’re on the lookout for anything to prove that life is stressful or crappy, or that we’re right and others are wrong. We notice the things that bother us like dishes left on the counter, a car driving too slowly in traffic, or the way your spouse asks what’s for dinner.

And when we’re happy, we do the same—look for things to prove why life is great. You notice the nice things, the birds chirping, that your spouse gets up without complaint on Tuesday mornings to take out the trash. It’s also easier to be more compassionate and forgiving from a happy place.

The less-stressed and no longer anxiety-ridden me is a much better wife and partner. From a happier place, I’m not only much more pleasant to be around, but things don’t tend to bother me as much.

I’m a better listener.

As a person with ADD, I’ve always found listening intently in conversations to be a difficult task. The mind wanders to other topics making it difficult to be fully present, take in what the other person is saying, and retain the information for later.

My mindfulness practice has drastically improved my ability to pay attention. It’s like brain training, building the ‘muscle’ that helps direct our attention at will.

I’m better able to fully listen to my husband when he’s sharing with me without always thinking of what I’m going to say next or what I need to do later. He feels heard, and we feel more connected to each other as a result.

I’m much more aware of how I’m feeling.

Not to say that I’m happy 24/7—I don’t think that’s possible, nor would I want that. We have a rainbow of emotions, and there are good reasons to feel them even for a brief moment.

The act of paying attention on purpose trains the brain to notice what we’re feeling. We’re so used to just feeling our feelings, and if they’re not pleasant we either try to run from them, numb them, or lash out.

It’s more productive and much less stressful to look at our emotions with curiosity. Label them. Then ask questions. “Ah, I’m feeling irritated. What’s that about? What’s another way of looking at this? How can I change this situation or cope with it?”

I’m also better able to catch myself before emotions spike high. Once emotions hit their peak in an argument, the horse had already left the stable. It’s tough, if not damn near impossible to reel it back in once you’ve reached the crest of pissed off-ness.

At this point, your brain and body are in fight-or-flight mode where it’s impossible to access critical thinking skills and takes about twenty minutes to calm enough to think clearly to make sound, logical decisions.

Granted, those high negative emotions are drastically fewer and further between for me now with years of mindfulness practice under my belt. However, I’m only human and once in a great while I can feel those emotions rising.

Being more aware of how I feel has helped me resolve difficult or frustrating feelings internally and avoid arguments with my husband.

I’m much more aware of how my husband is feeling.

Mindfulness practice increases your ability to be present, and thus not be distracted by thoughts. As a result, you become more insightful, a better listener, and more observant.

This results in higher levels of emotional intelligence because you are able to see things from another person’s point of view to facilitate better communication. It becomes a powerful tool that makes you more effective in understanding other people, as well as contexts and situations.

When my husband seems upset, I’m better now at putting his behavior into context and empathizing with his emotions. For example, an angry outburst from him directed at me because we should have left five minutes ago, I can see is actually his frustration stemming from a lack of control over something he values—which is punctuality.

I don’t get upset in return anymore. Instead, I empathize with him because I better understand what is causing his emotions and don’t take them personally.

I’m able to forgive more quickly.

Pobody’s nerfect. Mindfulness teaches us to forgive ourselves and others as we are paying attention to the present moment non-judgmentally.

Using mindfulness techniques, a person is able to let go of or forget about the past and not dwell on what the future can be.

Mindfulness can be highly beneficial because we are able to let go of unrealistic or materialistic thoughts and just exist in the moment.

It can be used to accept the feelings of sadness, anger, irritation, or betrayal that you have and to move on from them. Your path to a freer you, begins with knowing what is hurting you the most.

Cultivating a greater capacity for forgiveness has brought me to a place in my relationships where I don’t hold grudges or dig up the past in arguments.

I’m aware of the stories I’m telling myself.

When something doesn’t go our way, it’s so easy to identify with the story we’re telling ourselves and label it as the whole truth.

Mindfulness has shown me the difference between me and my thoughts. They are not one in the same. Thoughts are ideas passing through our minds like clouds in the sky. They are fleeting. They change with context.

Because of mindfulness, when I’m upset I can more easily identify the story I’m telling myself that is making me upset.

For example, I was hurt after my husband didn’t get up and greet me enthusiastically when I came home from a week-long business trip. He stayed sitting on the couch absorbed with what he was doing.

I was upset and went upstairs to fume. Then I realized I was telling myself a story that my husband doesn’t care about me or love me enough. I know that isn’t true. There are a number of reasons why he didn’t get up.

When I came back downstairs he could tell I was still a bit upset, so he asked me about it. I said, “The story I’m telling myself is that you didn’t miss me because you didn’t get up when I came home. I know it’s not true, but I’m still feeling a little upset because I would have liked it if you gave me a big hug.”

He apologized and said he’d wanted to wait until I was settled to love on me. He was much more receptive to “the story I’m telling myself” than he would have been had I started in on him about what he’d done wrong. And I felt better when I stopped jumping to the wrong conclusion and allowed him to share his side while avoiding confrontation.

A few weeks later he calmly told me he was upset about something and started the conversation with “the story I’m telling myself is…”

That’s when I knew our relationship was improving because of mindfulness.

Being able to objectively look at my thoughts and feelings allows me to reframe any situation and gives me the space to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting impulsively.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience it’s that self-love and striving for self-improvement can have a ripple effect through your life affecting those around you for the better. The better me I can become—less stressed, more compassionate, healthier, happier—the better wife, friend, daughter, and coach I can be.

Article by: Sandy Wosnicki of Tiny Buddha

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post at https://tinybuddha.com.

3 Simple Ways to Make It a Happy New Year

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” ~Audrey Hepburn

Happiness and its pursuit fascinate me.

Like most people, I’m curious why on some mornings I wake up and the world is a wonderful place—the sun is shining, happiness oozes out of my heart like warm honey, and the sound of bird song brings a smile to my face. I can only describe this as bliss.

On other mornings, it feels as if all color and wonder in world has drained away. My heart feels heavy in my chest. I’m indifferent to the sound of birds singing outside my window; if anything, it irritates me.

Why? How? What is the difference that makes the difference with happiness? I’d love to have the answers.

All I can do I share my truth. Share how I intend to make 2018 a happy new year.

1. Focus on what makes me feel good

As Tony Robbins says, “Focus creates feeling.”

It’s my choice whether I focus on the good, the bad, or the ugly. The mind, with its negativity bias, will steer me toward the ugly. The worst-case scenario for the future. The memories I wish I could forget.

Identifying with these thoughts, focusing on them, I’ll feel a certain way (crappy).

The great news is, if I steer my thoughts toward the best-case scenario for the future and the memories I hope I’ll never forget, I’ll feel the way I wish to feel.

Matthieu Ricard, the French writer and Buddhist monk, suggests a great practice: for ten minutes each day, connect with thoughts and memories that make us feel good. When I practice this, I take myself to my “happy place” (I think we all have a happy place). Mine is a secluded beach in New Zealand called Ocean Beach.

In my happy place, I imagine it’s 2012 again and I’m back standing on the hot sand, surrounded by my friends as we jump joyfully into the towering waves. I recall the taste of the salty water, the heat of the sun on my back, the sounds of laughter and the great roar of the ocean. Within seconds of reconnecting with my happy place, these warm feelings, much like the waves themselves, begin to flow.

The feelings that were there, all along, inside of me.

I sometimes forget this truth, so to remind myself I’ve written on my wall:

“Will, you are only one thought away from what you wish to feel.”

2. Make the relationship I have with myself my most important relationship

I’ve had conversations with friends before, good people who are real givers; they genuinely care for other people. Yet they neglect themselves. They tell me they feel guilty for making time for themselves; they feel bad for putting themselves first before other people. That it’s somehow selfishto do so.

The way I see it, putting ourselves first is the least selfish thing we can do.

Why?

When I take care of my own needs, I’m able to give more to others because I’m in a good mental place.

When I treat myself with kindness and compassion, this is naturally how I treat other people.

When I honor and look after myself, I’m giving others permission to do the same.

When I look after myself, everyone is better off, myself and others.

A ritual I created this year that I’ll be carrying on into 2018 and beyond is to take myself on dates.

Yep, that’s right, once per week I’ll take myself out on a date.

We deem our loved ones worthy and deserving of dates, why not ourselves?

Sometimes, a self-date means treating myself to a long walk in the forest with a piece of cake in one hand and a coffee in the other. Sometimes, I’ll go for lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant.

The rules for my self-date are simple: I give myself an experience I enjoy, guilt-free.

Most of us are great at meeting the needs of others, loving others, and responding with understanding, compassion, and kindness.

My question is, what will it take for us to show up like this for ourselves?

I know in 2018 there are going to be days where happiness eludes me. I’m going to experience failure, disappointments, loss, stress, anger, and frustration.

All of which will be difficult, but I know this: I can rely on myself to guide myself through them, as I’m committed to prioritizing the relationship I have with myself.

3. Find glimpses of happiness even during tough times

Happiness for me is an inside of job, as my feelings come from inside of me; they’re internal.

When I believe my happiness is determined by the external world, I’m at its mercy.

I may or may not achieve my goals. I maybe will or maybe won’t have health, wealth, and success in 2018.

There are lots of maybes, which are not necessarily in my control.

So, while I may not feel happy all the time, I’ve decided that my overall happiness will not be a maybe.

I’m a firm believer that even in life’s darkest moments, there are, what I call “glimpses of happiness” to be found.

Sadly, this year, my family and I lost a very special lady, my Nana Joyce.

On the day of my Nana’s funeral, I was due to read a poem, but when it came to standing up and reading, however, my emotions and body had other another plan: to break down.

I’d barely read the name of the poem before tears of grief erupted. Uncontrollably.

I stuttered in an attempt to get the words out, but it wasn’t happening.

The realization that my Nana was gone had hit me.

Then something beautiful happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see someone walking toward me.

It was my Uncle Barry.

”Would you like me to read this for you, Wills?”

I groaned something that sounded something like “yes.”

My Uncle Barry proceeded to read the poem, slowly, with a tone of sadness in his voice.

Rather than disappearing to my seat, I stood with him, my hand on his shoulder as I took some deep breaths to calm down.

Despite the strong and shattering grief I experienced, standing there with my uncle, there was a small glimpse of peace, as I knew I wasn’t alone.

Throughout the rest of the day, I noticed more glimpses.

Glimpses of love as my family comforted one another.

Glimpses of laughter as we recalled funny stories from my Nana’s life.

Glimpses of happiness as I acknowledged my family were here on this day as one, supporting each other on this most difficult day.

These glimpses of happiness are always shining, and they work by reflecting back the happiness that already exists inside of us.

They are in the room with me now. They are surrounding you as you read these words.

Acknowledge these glimpses as they appear and you’ll feel happy a lot more often.

Happy New Year.

Article by: Will Aylward of Tiny Buddha

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post at https://tinybuddha.com.

How to Live an Extraordinary Life, Starting Right Where You Are

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” ~Rumi

“Isn’t this a miracle?” I asked myself in the milk aisle at Whole Foods.

It was a Wednesday night after work, and I was buying a few staples to get us through the week. It was a completely ordinary moment in a completely ordinary day, and it was miraculous.

Rewind a few years, same Whole Foods, same shopping list, and you’d find me absentmindedly wandering the aisles, lost in a head full of worries. I couldn’t tell you now what I was worried about then—the house, the kids, money, probably.

My body would be tense, with a hint of tears right behind my eyes.

“Isn’t this supposed to be a miracle?” I might have asked if I had the words to describe that feeling.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be one of those interesting people who did interesting things like paint murals or write books. I wanted to see every continent and learn as many languages as my brain could hold. I wanted to feel excited by my life.

As a child, I had no doubt that this is what growing up would be like.

But, for just as long as I can remember, I also lived under the assumption that I had something to prove. My intelligence, my worth, my place in this world.

Somehow, these two ideas became intertwined.

That part of me that felt so certain that her life would be extraordinary started to have doubts.

Could I really pull it off?

Had I really earned it?

Was I being completely delusional?

Over time, that vision of an extraordinary life felt like a silly childhood dream, and I stopped myself from following it. I worked hard and earned a good reputation, but that excitement, that fulfillmentwas always just out of my reach.

I would let it go saying, it’ll come later, but as I checked off the boxes of life’s to-do list—degree, job, marriage, kids—I wasn’t feeling anything like I thought I would.

The feeling that something was off fueled a restlessness that I mistook for motivation. I poured myself into school and then work, but not necessarily out of excitement. I think a part of me still believed that if you weren’t happy, you just weren’t working hard enough at it.

What confused me about it all was that my life was good. I had a beautiful, growing family, a stable job, and a safe, comfortable house. I mean, I was buying organic milk to pour on my cereal. That’s a privilege.

So, if nothing was “wrong,” why didn’t it feel right?

I’d scold myself for not being more grateful, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t feel the way I wanted.

Then, one ordinary day, while squeezing in another email during my lunch hour, a little thought snapped me out of it.

“You’re missing the point, Leslie.”

Time stopped just long enough for me to notice my racing heart.

Maybe you’ve had these epiphanies, where you’re amazed by your own wisdom and you feel so incredibly clear and awake. Maybe it was during a life-changing event, or maybe, like me, it was during an everyday moment, like buying toothpaste or feeding the cats.

The immediate effect wasn’t anything extreme. There was no out of body experience, no inexplicable knowledge of the universe. Just an ordinary little thought that led to another ordinary little thought.

What if living an extraordinary life isn’t about the details?

Every now and then, I’d pull out a list I made that day and add a thought or two to it.

The point is…

Overflowing.

Seeing more magic.

Doing what you love.

Being happy.

Being present.

Feeling bright, brave, and brilliant.

Waking up and appreciating the mountains.

My children knowing how much they are loved.

Gratefully receiving everything I have.

Letting myself unfold.

Alignment, not approval.

Trusting the wisdom of my own heart.

A hundred percent up to me.

And in a gradual, ordinary kind of way, I figured it out. That feeling I wanted wasn’t an outcome. It wasn’t something that would happen “when.” It wasn’t in the details at all. It’s your feelings, moment to moment, that make your life extraordinary.

There is no committee keeping score and waiting to grant permission to begin. There’s just us, the people we care about, our corner of the world, and those little moments. And we have a choice in what we do with them.

That feeling that something was wrong wasn’t about my reputation or my checklist. It was about my awareness of the miracles right in front of me and my willingness to take conscious, meaningful steps that felt extraordinary to take.

Since that day, my life has changed dramatically.

We live in the same house, we shop at the same store, I have the same job, but now, I’m also one of those people who is curious about everything. Who loses themselves in creative projects just because. Who creates art, writes poetry, and self-publishes books. I’ve become one of those people who sees even the most ordinary moment at Whole Foods on a Wednesday afternoon as extraordinary.

How did I do it? I simply let myself begin right where I was.

You may have a completely different version of extraordinary, and that’s what’s so perfect. How to live an extraordinary life entirely up to you—it’s your life, after all. The action itself isn’t as important as the intent behind it.

As long as your intent is to make something in your world just a little better, to learn something just a little deeper, to try something you’re just a little curious about, it’s foolproof. You could institute pizza Saturdays or travel the world, saving endangered species. Both are extraordinary.

If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few things to try. They changed the world for me.

1. Be tenacious in your appreciation and optimism.

First, slow down and look around. Then, appreciate anything and everything you possibly can. Thank the sun, thank the water, thank the air you breathe. Look out for the funny thing that happened on your way to work, beautiful sunsets, and acts of human kindness. Even when everyone around you wants to complain about the boss, be the one who notices that it’s such a nice day.

When I talked about my day, I used to begin with something that went wrong. Then, I gave myself one tiny challenge: lead with gratitude. I made a point of starting conversations with something positive as often as I could, which meant I had to start looking for those positive things and remembering to bring them up. I discovered so much beauty around me with this one simple switch.

2. Define your extraordinary.

What do you want to see in this lifetime? What do you want to learn? How do you want to feel while you’re living your life?

I’d thought about these things before, of course, but they would quickly get taken over by something more serious. I didn’t want to waste time. My attitude changed when I decided that feeling curious, engaged, and alive was more important than being productive.

I began setting intentions for the week. I’d write down an idea that excited me, a feeling I wanted to nurture, and something I wanted to learn or create. Then, I gave myself small, meaningful challenges that fit with those intentions. Carrying a composition book with me quickly led to filling that composition book, and then another and another.

3. Make friends with your body.

Your body was made for living, so live in it. Use it in a life-affirming way. Don’t just feed it, nourish it. Let it move, let it sweat, let it pump its blood, laugh, cry, and feel. Stretch into it and savor its senses. Rest it when it’s tired, heal it when it’s hurting, love it even when you want to change it, and thank it. And when it has something to tell you, lean in and really listen.

I used to treat my body like it had no purpose. I didn’t nourish it, I overworked its muscles, and I constantly tried to remodel it.

It wasn’t until I started paying attention to how I feel now that I asked myself, is this how you would treat a child or an animal in your care?

My answer was an emphatic, NO.

4. Lose yourself in curiosity and creativity.

Follow the fun and let yourself overflow. Take on a ridiculous project just because it lights you up, even if it’s silly, you’re “too old,” or it’s “wasting time.” Let it be messy. Let it change directions. And let it fail spectacularly. The outcome isn’t as important as the process of it.

I practice this by painting with my children. They are experts at following curiosity and creativity. While I’m painstakingly sketching a dog or a flower, they’re creating imaginary animals in underwater kingdoms and then covering the entire thing in handprints when the inspiration strikes.

Every time, I shake my head with a smile—this is supposed to be fun, remember?

5. Be of service in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Share something. Create something. Teach something. Go where you are masterful and add value to the world in any way that’s accessible to you. Feed the hummingbirds, pick up litter, volunteer in your community. Big or small, it doesn’t matter; it’s the meaning behind it that makes all the difference.

I started by cultivating the kind of presence I wanted to have in my own life. I wanted to feel presentat home, for one, so I reduced the expectations I put on myself. The house may be messier, but our weekend adventures at the park are nothing short of extraordinary.

If you’ve ever wanted to feel differently in your life, take one little, ordinary step. And then another. Let your feelings guide you. Your extraordinary life is waiting for you on the other side.

Article by:  Leslie Ralph of Tiny Buddha

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post at https://tinybuddha.com.