Healthy & Beautiful

My FabFitFun Summer Box Has Arrived!

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For those of you who saw my post about the spring box, know how much I have fallen in love with FabfitFun!  I’m continually amazed with just how much you get for what you pay, which is one of the biggest reasons I continue this subscription.  AND, given that I’ve been so impressed with product quality, I went onto their site for their sale, and picked up a few extra items!  Below is what was included:

Add-ons

  • Summer & Rose Claire Roundie (in pastel-moraccan) – These became all the rage in the last year, for both it’s beauty, as well as its multi-purpose use.  I can’t wait to try this out on my next beach vacation!
  • Zoe Ayla Jade Crystal Roller – I’ve already used this, and am hooked!  It’s made out of 100% pure jade, and can be hand-warmed or put in the refrigerator, depending on what your need is.  It definitely helps relax muscles while increasing circulation!
  • LaTweez Mermaid Tweezers – Funny back story… I had a similar product, from six years ago that was almost confiscated in Qatar, because the light broke and they thought it was a spy camera, but I digress.  The technology of these tweezers have improved significantly since then, with a much brighter LED light, longer battery life (so you can prove they are just lighted tweezers), and an awesome carrying case with a magnified mirror!  They are coming everywhere with me.
  • FabFitFun Electric Travel Toothbrush (in confetti) – While I can’t seem to find this on the site anymore, I’m a big fan of travel-sized electric toothbrushes.  This one came with a slim carrying case and two toothbrush heads!

What’s in the Box

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  • Foreo – This skin care company is one of the most avant-garde, tech-savvy company I’ve ever seen for the beauty industry.  After your download their simple-to-use app, you sync it to your phone, let the device scan your face, and it will tell you not only the age of your skin, but where improvements can be made.  It also times you on how long you must cleanse each area of your skin, using that same device as a scrubber!  I was truly impressed with it, and am excited to use it again.
  • Vasant Brightenup! Exfoliating Cleanser – I used this product with Foreo, and received great results!  The exfoliant is gentle to your skin and smells so good!
  • Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel – After I exfoliated, I went on to use this product, and was also impressed with the results.  My skin was left feeling soft with a bit of a glow!
  • Tarte Sex Kitten Eyeliner in black – First, the cat cap is adorable, but second, the eyeliner is amazing.  I’m a big fan of liquid eyeliners that have a fine, non-destructible tip that leaves a clean line!
  • Tarteist Pro-to-Go Palette – I LOVE eye palettes, and I love sultry colors even more!  I’ve been a big fan of Tarte’s eyeshadows for a long time, and I can’t wait to try these new colors!
  • Yumi Kim makeup case in Peri Floral – Think about how many makeup cases you’ve bought over the course of your life, thinking you finally found the one that is going to organize and hold it all, only to be frustrated when you have to pull everything out, looking for what you need.  Yumi Kim’s case SOLVES EVERYTHING.  Seriously – a brush compartment to organize your brushes, a hidden zippered case for samples, tweezers, hair ties, etc., AND a LARGE compartment for your makeup, including larger eye palettes!  If that wasn’t enough, they are so stylish to look at, too!
  • Coola Sport Organic SPF 50 Sunscreen – Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t really picky about things like sunscreen, opting for whatever I could get my hands on.  These days, I find it so important to find something that’s healthy for your skin!  I was impressed to get this in the box – it’s vegan and gluten-free, too!
  • Erth X FabfitFun “Tu Y Yo” ring – This ring is an understated stunner.  Featuring two freshwater pearls, attached to a 14K gold plated ring, it’s perfect with any outfit!
  • Pier One Marble Ring Dish – Marble is all the rage these days, and this dish is on-point on style (picture below with the Erth ring).

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If you’re interested in a subscription of your own, click here!

Fun, Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation: How To Take Back Your Power

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In going through the last meditation challenge with Deepak and Oprah, I had a hard time getting through some of the practices, because some of them felt recycled, while others were nice reminders. Most really didn’t take me into my practice the way I had hoped.

Then, about halfway through it, they focused on a subject that will always be important: Taking back your power.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a male or a female, young or old, it applies to everyone.

When I speak of taking back power, I don’t mean developing a false ego to “lord” over others.  I mean being able to make decisions for yourself that not only make you feel fulfilled, but also confident that you’re living your best life.

Think about a job you had or a relationship/friendship you were in, that perhaps, made you feel less than you actually were.  You may have stayed at that job or with that person because you either believed it/they could change, or you accepted that you were less than you really were.  Now, think about the day you liberated yourself from that burden.  How did it feel?  What did you do?  Are you onto greener pastures now?

How to Meditate on It

Now, take that feeling of confidence – that feeling of freedom, close your eyes, hold onto that feeling, and breathe. Focus on that feeling for 5, 10, or 15 minutes.  Visualize what it would be like to move on from any current situation that is wearing you down, and insert that feeling into the visualization.  Repeat this daily, preferably in the morning, and try to live by that feeling during the day.  THAT is meditating to not just take back your power in a current situation, but keep it.

I Need More Than Just Meditation For This!

mindbodygreen has a great article on “11 Ways to Take the Power Back in Your Life”.  While written three years ago, I still find it to be a fantastic guide, especially if you feel you’re needing way more guidance than meditation.  It’s a guide, that no matter your situation, will always apply.

I’m big on people sharing and learning from each other, so I’m interested in hearing stories about how you’ve taken back the power in your own situations!  Feel free to leave them in the comments section of my blog.  I promise I read them and respond!

 

 

Healthy & Beautiful, Style

The Review My First FabfitFun Box

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A few years ago, I got super sucked into influencers’ recommendations, thinking, “well if it works for them…”  I’ve bought workout guides and DVDs, books to read, vitamins, apps, etc., almost none of which I stuck with or saw results from.  I quickly took the stance that it was okay to pour over fashion influencers’ outfits and search high and low for the real deal, take makeup tips and make them my own, and emulate workouts they’d post – all still requiring trial and error but costing far less money than ordering products that may not work for me.  That was, until, I received my first Fabfitfun box.

I (religiously) follow two amazing women on Instagram that don’t affiliate themselves with brands they don’t believe in, which means their recommendations are a bit more pricey but certainly, remain high quality.  One of which, that came up with both of them on separate occasions (as well as with many more women I know), is the Fabfitfun box.  You may have seen the ads for this on social media – it’s the box that arrives once a quarter with full-sized products and other goodies, based on your personal preferences on health, wellness, fashion, and personality.

My first box arrived last week, and I’m beyond impressed.  (Note that I did pay the annual subscription for this, and have, in no way, been paid for this review.) 

What came in my spring edition box?

First of all, the box is art in and of itself.  When I opened the plain cardboard box to get to this beautiful container full of presents for myself, I was beyond giddy.  Second, when I opened the box my jaw fell open.  They weren’t kidding about full-sized products that, combined, were far more than what I paid.  Those that cultivate these boxes do an amazing job vetting everything that goes into them to only include what’s on trend and of quality.

Below is a list of everything that was included:

  • Lip statement palette by ISH in #imsmokinghot
  • All natural collagen-infused lip mask by KNC Beauty
  • Leather eye mask by Free People and Understated
  • Skin perfecting lotion (oil free) but Murad
  • Concealing nail ridge filler by Dermelect
  • Superbloom candle No. 14 by Anderson Lilly
  • 18k gold plated black tassel earrings by Ettika
  • Exfoliating body polish by Dove
  • Massage roller by Physique 57
  • Floral fold over bag by Rachel Pally

My Reviews

Certainly, you can’t base a review off of just looking at the products, which means I wanted to give all products a chance, for about a week, before reviewing them:

  • ISH lip palette – I’m super picky about the colors that go on my lips, as well as the staying power.  Unfortunately, this palette wasn’t for me.  I tried varying combinations of colors and just wasn’t impressed.  I’ve seen other users have a great experience though!
  • KNC Beauty lip mask – I’ve tried other lip masks and haven’t been impressed.  This one certainly makes my lips feel better.  My belief is you have to use it consistently over a two week period, which means you need to purchase a second pack.
  • Leather eye mask – The only time I ever wear eye masks is on long haul flights and at hotels (I have no idea why on the latter – it became a thing).  This one comes with a cooling pack that you can place in the freezer, and OMG!  The couple of times I’ve looked overly tired and puffy, this has done the trick!
  • Murad face lotion – My skin is SO FINICKY!  If it’s extra dry outside one day, or it’s a different day in my cycle, my skin requires very different treatments.  It’s taken me years to discover this and even longer to find the right products.  Naturally, I am a skeptic when it comes to trying new lotions.  BUT this one seems to have knocked all others out of the park!  It’s light-weight, oil free, and perfect under any makeup.  I am a huge fan!
  • Nail ridge filler – I use SNS with tips for my nails, so unfortunately, I’ve passed this off to a friend for a review.  I’ll edit this post with her review when she gets back to me.
  • Anderson Lilly candle – My office always has a candle burning for it’s calming effects.  The copper candleholder is BEAUTIFUL and the scent is heavenly, but a bit over-powering.  It’s certainly meant for a bigger room.  The other thing I am a bit unsure of are its ingredients.  Good candles blow very little black smoke into the air.  This one was unfortunately low on the quality scale.  Nonetheless, it’s beautiful.
  • Ettika black tassel earrings – ARE ON POINT for spring, and I’ve worn them over and over again!  ‘Nuff said
  • Dove body polish – I’ve used this product before and I’m a huge fan – especially in dryer weather.  Note (from previous experience), it’s not great for people who spray tan.  You’ll need something stronger for that.
  • Physique 57 Massage roller – Okay… when I first saw it, I giggled (because I’m immature), then I thought it looked a lot like one of those ab rollers, then I tried it.  It’s great for two things – one, back massage with a shirt on (it’s uncomfortable without), and lightly massaging out cellulite and aching muscles.  I’ll definitely keep using it.
  • Rachel Pally bag – It is such a fun, functional bag.  The colors are beautiful!  They make great gifts for others!

I certainly can’t wait for my summer one!

Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation: You Are the Author of Your Own Life’s Story

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I’ve taken a few days off from writing meditative posts because 1) Life. and 2) At the risk of sounding repetitive, I wanted to make sure what I was writing was useful and unique.  Writing/using meditative practices can feel redundant at times, and while practice is what gets us to that elevated state of being, it’s also not helpful to repeat the same things over again.  In order to grow in your practice, especially if you’ve been at it for a while, you sometimes need new information to help feed it.

I’ve written on the topic of “Creating Your Own Life Story” before, but it came from a different point in my life, a point at which I was evolving into who I wanted to be.  A few years later, and I’m a lot more self-aware (in all aspects), am driving towards the things I want, and am finding myself enjoying each of my days as much as I can. In other words, I’m constantly creating my life’s story, and it never stops!

I know, especially in today’s world, there’s so much noise – “buy this”, “travel here”, “do these 80,000 things before you die”, “vote this way”, “hate this”, “love that”. You follow all of these “strong recommendations” on how to conduct your daily life, living in fear (and debt) that you’ll be missing out, or are judged,  and you’re miserable because what you really wanted was something different.  In this scenario, are you really creating your own life story or living out someone else’s?

I used to have major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) a lot.  I believed that other people’s lives, documented on social media, were far better in comparison to mine. I tried to emulate much of what they did and wore, and realized that 1. I was exhausted 2. I felt broke, and 3. I had no idea who I was.  So what if I preferred a different style of dress?  So what if I didn’t get the $1000 milkshake at the newest/trendiest cafe (totally exaggerating on that one, but I once shared a $300 lasagna)?  Was the stress and instant gratification worth the emulation and money for something that would be forgotten on a timeline?  And, that’s just this overly-hyped use of social platforms… this doesn’t even account for real-life situations of going to place after place, event after event, seeing the same faces every night, realizing you’re just as lost and miserable as everyone else… while they are carrying the coveted bag of the season.

Step 1, for me, was getting out of my environment.  I’ve mentioned before the notion of being around what you want to BECOME.  This means living in an environment that nurtures your life’s goals, not prohibits them.  It means surrounding yourself with like-minded people who inspire you to get there.  Unfortunately, Washington, D.C. wasn’t the place for my transformation, so I moved back to San Diego for a year.  While it came with its own challenges, it also came with a lot of GROWTH – it was as though I needed to be a “life” exchange student to independently transform into the person I was always meant to be.

Step 2, for me, was figuring out how to BE healthier.  This wasn’t a checklist, but rather a natural progression.  Sunshine is a good start, and so are long walks by the ocean and the bay.  Then I started hanging out with some of my favorite people who are into holistic approaches to life, including meditation, Reiki, eating well, and workouts designed to relieve stress.  Slowly, over that year I was there, I began to evolve.  I started to naturally move away from certain people who weighed me down negatively, I adopted new, healthy habits that had me looking and feeling better than I ever had before.

Step 3, for me, was to EXPERIENCE my own life.  Feeling freer than I ever had before, I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles meeting all sorts of amazing people, went to Sundance for the first time, flew home a couple of times to attend some super fun events, as well as so many other places to do things I had had on my “bucket list”, but was never sure I’d get to.

… and then… I moved back to Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened.  My lease was up, and I knew that while San Diego was great, I needed to be around a bit more energy.  The decision was then between moving to Los Angeles or going home.  I went back and forth on it until I was just about a week away, and decided that for some unknown reason, it was time to go home.

The thing was… I was different, more relaxed, and happier.  I saw the city in a different light. I took the tools I instilled in me, and made a conscious decision to keep using them as best I could (while not being surrounded by sunshine and water).  I took a trip through Europe for two weeks, experienced pure euphoria on a few occasions during that trip, came back, met someone amazing, traveled to Mexico, India, and Iceland, bought a house, and moved up in my career.  I’ve written two books (which are currently being reconstructed), have been asked to contribute to professional publications, and have finally settled into a great mind/body routine.

The summary on my life matters because I consciously CHOSE to create my own story, to experience my life the way the universe intended.  I said “yes” more and “no” less.  I chose (and choose) to remain present as much as I can to appreciate every moment, regardless of what I’m doing.  I chose (and choose) to not waste any minutes, because there might not be minutes left with someone you love, or even you, yourself.

You’re going… “well, good for you, but why do I care?”  Because everyone is given their own journey from the start, and few actually take it.  YOU have the ability, at any time, to choose what you want to do with your life.  I’m not saying up and quit your job, and become a beach bum; but I am saying if you’re happier by the beach, look for remote work that allows you that flexibility!  If you wish you could have happier friends, make sure you’re making yourself happier first and then you will attract those friends!  Don’t wait for others to create your story, make yourself be the most interesting person in the room because YOU went out and created it.

Live. Life. Fiercely.

So, you want to be on the path to happiness, and you’re ready to create that story that’s all your own.  How do you do it?

Always start small!  Just like any new healthy habit, it’s taking baby steps to make it stick.

  1. Start by looking out a window you always look out of and notice five new things you never saw before – it can even be people!  Appreciate the fact that you saw five new things out of the same view – it means you’re already practicing awareness and looking through a different lens!  Repeat that for a week or so, appreciating, each day, that you can see something different (it’s also fine if it’s different windows).
  2. Do something different in your routine everyday.  Are you usually a coffee and toast person?  Have a bowl of cereal instead!  It forces you to sit down for a minute and enjoy the morning… even if it’s only a minute.
  3. Take stock of the things that make you the happiest – things that have a lasting effect.  No, this isn’t shopping.  Is it your home?  Is it your family?  Friends? Travels?  Pick one (or more) of those and spend more time with it/them.  This is to create that happy feeling, continuously, that propels you into wanting to seek more avenues of long-lasting happiness.
  4. When you’ve mastered these, seek out the new things you want to try that gives you the same happy vibe you’ve been feeling everyday.  Is it learning to skydive?  Dance?  Go do it!  The happy feeling comes from accomplishment of trying it… even if you decide it’s not right for you to do again.

The goal you must always keep in mind is that you are seeking happiness through things that brighten your life.  The more you open yourself up to the experiences, the more you do, become, and are able to share with the world!  Go out there and create your own story.

 

Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation: Creating Peace in Your Life

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It may because I’m getting older (I’ll be 40 in August), but I’ve realized I hate disturbances and do my best to avoid them at all costs.  If I can “be” Amy Poehler in this .GIF then I’m heading in the right direction.

For the first (let’s say) 36 years of my life, I allowed myself all sorts of unhealthy imbalances that left me tired, dramatic, and totally unsure of who I was as a person.  I wanted “the right” people to like me, but in turn, wanted them to make me happy.  I really had no idea who I was, and that wasn’t good.

In the last four years, a lot of things changed.  I went from married to divorced, from living in San Diego, to living back in D.C.  I went from renting to being a homeowner, and financially struggling to get by, to dabbling in investing and certainly padding my savings.  I also went from allowing friends that didn’t have it together, to making peace with the fact that I’d prefer quiet nights in than absorb negative energy.  But, the only way  I was able to get there was to create my own peace and self-love, by spending a lot of time taking stock of my life.

We all have that one aspect of this process that’s the most difficult to overcome and for me, it’s other humans.  By nature, I’m a people person and with my aforementioned affliction, it was super hard to take stock of who I surrounded myself with, what I really wanted in a friend, and ultimately, how to gracefully “exit stage left”.  If you’re like me, then you know that deep down, almost everyone is a good person, and quite possibly, they are just as “stuck” as we are/were.  As time goes on and the universe’s “nudge” to follow your path gets stronger, it forces you into a situation of having to make better decisions for the long run. As the saying goes, “Surround yourself by those that inspire you to be where you want to go.”  While it feels down right wrong to fade out something (or someone) that doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s also important.  It’s part of growing into the person you want to be – the person you have to spend the rest of your life with (you).

Sure, I’m focusing on other humans because that’s where my journey has taken me.  But, it could be anything.  It could be a job, bad habits, holding yourself back from something you really want to do, a need to surround yourself with materialistic goods to make yourself happy, etc.  The point is, no matter how painful, it’s necessary to shed what no longer serves in order to find peace.

Many believe peace is about instant gratification; happiness. The actual definitions Miriam-Webster has includes:

: a state of tranquility or quiet: such as

a : freedom from civil disturbance

  • Peace and order were finally restored in the town.

b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom

  • a breach of the peace

2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions

  • I have been in perfect peace and contentment
  • —J. H. Newman

3: harmony in personal relations

  • The sisters are at peace with each other.

4a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments

  • There was a peace of 50 years before war broke out again.

b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity

  • offered the possibility of a negotiated peace
  • New York Times
5used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

Imbalance feels disturbing

at peace

: in a state of concord or tranquility

  • The problem was settled and his mind was at peace.

(Originally this word was created in the 14th century – that’s a bit ironic given how much of Asia was being conquered at the time, as well as the spread of the Black Plague.  Perhaps this word was the only word to describe what they wanted 🙂

But, if you look at all of the definitions for it, it proves that most people abuse the word “peace” as something that isn’t an ever-lasting state.  If you take a look at “at peace” (at the bottom of the list of definitions), it denotes a timeless state of being – that it’s the end result we all want to achieve.

How To Get There

As with yesterday’s post, this isn’t an easy journey, and certainly one that can’t be forced. But, there is a path and if it’s followed diligently, it will be easier!

  • Meditate – seriously, I can’t stress that enough.  It can be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or whatever works for you.  Putting your body and mind in a state of complete calm becomes somewhat addicting.  You’ll realize you like having no disturbances.
  • Consciously think about what would put you at permanent peace.  Write it down and put it somewhere you can save it.
  • Begin to slowly chip away at how to get to that state of peace.  Is it staying in one extra night a week to save money, helping to slip away from those you don’t truly want to be around?  Is it telling yourself you don’t need to go on Amazon everyday? Is it slowly fading out a bad habit by replacing it with a good one?  Regardless of what it is, take it day by day, or hour by hour if you have to!  Make sure to write down the milestones you want to achieve and if necessary, a plan to get there.
  • Write down your positive thoughts and feelings in the morning, and do it again at night.  Read it once to see how your day went, then don’t look back – living in the past doesn’t promote growth

For those reading this, you’re already on the path to self growth, or are looking to achieve this.  I’m not an expert in the slightest, but I’ve been through enough life to get the hardships, difficulties, and the constant wanting of something better.  I, myself, have followed the above, and I’m a believer in the process!  I hope that each of you find the long-lasting peace you want in your lives.  And if you ever need something to aspire to, save that Amy Poehler .GIF 🙂

 

 

Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation: Putting Your Beliefs Into Practice

It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted on my meditative practices, and over the course of that year, I’ve received a lot of comments and messages about bringing it back.  It brings me so much joy to know that there are people out there that I’ve helped in some way, if even only a tiny bit!

Truth be told, I stopped meditating for a good, long while – not because I hated it or felt it wasn’t working, but because I wasn’t allotting myself the time to do it every morning.  Thus, imagine the negative thoughts, beliefs, and physical “trauma” I started to gain!  All of a sudden, I became tense all of the time, feeling as though my world was a step away from crashing around me, resulting in me losing sight of what is so important: I am/should be grateful for the life I have.  It’s up to me to make my happiness a reality.

In February, I went to a Bachelorette party for a bride that is very into holistic healing – something I believe in as well.  We pulled a lot of tarot cards throughout the course of the weekend and the same thing kept popping up: I needed to make big changes in order to be happy.  She then performed Reiki (which I had never done before, but now swear by) and anything that was causing me to panic suddenly left from the top of my head and flew away.  I’m not joking.  I could literally feel the bad energy leave!  After that, I looked something like this:

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(If you don’t know who the guy in the .GIF above is, it’s Peter from “Office Space, The Movie”. He goes to a hypnotherapist to learn to not be so miserable at work. In the middle of the hypnosis, the therapist dies and Peter is left in a state of not caring about a thing.)

When I got back home, I promised myself to bring meditation back into my routine, and I’ve kept good on that promise ever since.  I was using Headspace to start, but found myself back at the Chopra Center to keep with my Transcendental Meditation, using Sanskrit Mantras.  A little over a week ago, they came out with a new 21-Day Meditation Challenge that helped bring me back to the basics.

For those that don’t know, Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey come out with new, free 21-Day Meditation Challenges every so often, and this one is called, “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body, and Spirit”.  I had pulled away from their challenges for a while because they seemed to follow a path of what was happening in the world, and I really wasn’t getting anything out of them.  But, this new one brought me back to the basics of why meditation is so important: If your mind is healed, so is the rest of you.

In the first nine days I’ve done it so far, there’s a noticeable improvement in my overall mood, my spirit, my thought process, and even my physique (even my brain has muscle memory, so-to-speak).  It has been a great reminder of why each of us need to take 20 minutes out of our day to do some type of exercise geared towards being still, breathing, and letting all thoughts pass through you.

Instead of walking you through my practice this morning, I want to walk you through a concept of why these practices are so important, and up until recently, didn’t truly understand.

I’ve been reading this book called, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One” by Joe Dispenza. Arguably, this is hands down the best book I’ve ever read on how to transform yourself into your full potential.  I read a lot of self-help books, and out of all of them, if you only had time for one, read this!

He structures his book into two parts: The physiology of the brain and how it’s connected to the body; and how to train your brain to think differently.

He breaks down life to it’s very physiological core (through quantum physics), explaining not just our human makeup, but also how the brain and body are separate, yet connected: The body being a vessel for our brain to perform.  When we train the brain to think, react, and feel a certain way, we are also telling our body to automatically respond to it in the same way.  This means that when we allow certain negative behaviors to become habit (i.e. smoking, drinking to excess, or acute anger/depression), our body automatically identifies this as a routine it’s supposed to react to, i.e. only allowing you to feel comfort within these negative habits, not happy ones.  The most profound thing Dispenza said on this was that 95% of our brain is asleep while the other 5% is conscious!  That means that 95% of the time, we allow physical and emotional automatic responses to take over – something that for most of us, isn’t a good thing.  We need to continue to nourish our brain with positivity in order to feel the continual healing effects it has on us physically.  It’s why meditation – the act of training your brain to think, feel, and BE different is so crucial for each of us.

Think of one moment in your life when you felt pure elation.  It could be the day you achieved a physical milestone, such as climbing to the top of a mountain; taking a vacation you had always wanted to take; a pleasant surprise from someone you loved; or even indulging in something little.  Now take that memory, that feeling, and think of how you physically felt.  Perhaps there was a small rush of adrenaline, you felt lighter than air, and/or there was a spring in your step.  Now think of what it would be like if you had those feelings of euphoria more and more.  Suddenly, the small stuff doesn’t matter anymore.  Things that would upset you, no longer do. Or, you walk around with a different lens on life, realizing you have so much to be grateful for and you’d rather remain in that space.  Whatever it is, it’s proof that that happy lifestyle is achievable!  We sometimes just have to work a bit to get there – to train our brains to think more positively on their own so it’s an automatic response.

Tips on How to Achieve This New Mental State

Just as we train our bodies to achieve anything physically, we have to train our brains to be the command center that trains our bodies.  This means “rewiring” our thought processes.  It’s not an overnight process, and just with anything else we train for, we need to do these things repeatedly to get good at it.

  1. Remember that one (or more) moment of pure elation/happiness in your life and hang onto it.  Use it as a goal to try to achieve once a month, then once a week, then once every few days, and so on.  What most don’t realize about this exercise is that by looking to achieve this very simple (yet sometimes difficult to attain) emotion, you are not only reclaiming your own life, you’re making YOURSELF happy for YOU.
  2. Take stock of bad habits and negative thought patterns, and start leaving yourself some reminders about NOT doing these things (post-it notes, throwing out cigarettes, leaving rewards for yourself with instructions on not opening it unless you went a full day without…). Give yourself rewards each week/month, for every period of time you’ve gone without indulging in it, is a fantastic way to stay on track.  For example, you might be a habitual smoker and you decide to quit slowly.  Indulge in a sweet treat if you make it two days, book a weekend getaway if you make it a month, and so forth.  For those trying to break negative thought patterns, start by complimenting someone on something – the reward will be in the positive energy.  Or, pamper yourself with something small to show you love yourself.  This leads to a “want” to continue to do positively-re-inforced things to evoke the positive feelings.  This is also a reward within itself.
  3. To coincide with number 2, at the beginning of each day, write down one positive thought in a journal.  And at the end of each day, write down something new and positive you learned or felt.  Re-read these two entries to feel the gratitude for how great your life truly is.  This practice actually reinforces the connection between mind, body, and soul!

While we’re all on different life journeys, are from different cultures, etc., there’s one thing we all share a “want” for and that is a peaceful existence.  The more we can tune into our own thoughts, behaviors, and actions; and change that for the good of not just ourselves, but for everyone, the more peaceful our coexistence can be!

 

Advice, Healthy & Beautiful

Every Woman Should Empower Herself Financially

When I was in my 20s which was (ahem) almost 20 years ago, I (naively) believed I would find a good man, get married, and never have to worry about my financial future again.  Throughout those years, I had a lot of fun – I traveled, partied, moved to Seattle, San Diego, and back to D.C., bought luxury cars, went shopping for the latest fashions, but NEVER saved a dime.  In fact, I put myself in a lot of debt, living my carefree lifestyle, enjoying every bit of it. I justified the high balance on my credit cards by claiming I couldn’t just sit at home and live a boring life…

In the first half of my 30s, I started my own company, which was accompanied by a huge dip in income in its first year. I went from spending recklessly, to searching for pennies to feed myself, almost overnight.  I missed birthdays, baby showers, bachelorette parties, bridal showers, weddings, and other of my friends’ life milestones because I had no means to bring a gift, or even pay for parking/gas to get there.  I was so embarrassed by my financial situation that I would decline their invitations, citing I wasn’t feeling well (mentally, I wasn’t), or that I had work that needed to be done, because I was on a deadline (trying to make sure I could get paid in a timely manner). I looked back at my twenties and cursed myself for not having saved any money, yet also longed for the fun I had been having, which told me that if I had had the means, I would have kept on with my fast and carefree lifestyle.    It wasn’t until I was married (and subsequently divorced) in my mid-30s did all of that change, forcing me to face my “demons” head on, and change how I viewed/handled money.

When you throw yourself into a situation of having to take care of someone else because they, themselves, make very little, AND you’ve been surprised with a puppy (which I’ll admit, was the greatest surprise of all time); you’re forced to grow up.  I went from a carefree, crazy lifestyle; to almost being homeless; to making a modest income, while having to a support a “family”.

Being married puts a very different lens on how you live your life, as well as the choices you make.  Purchases I used to make independently now affected not just myself.  If I wanted a new top, I had to think about whether I was able to buy enough food for the week, for two people, and still afford it.  While I could go without a lot of food, my ex could not.  There were times it drove me crazy to not be able to even go to Forever 21 for a cheap t-shirt, but I also knew that there were long-standing lessons I needed to learn out of this, and that one day, it wouldn’t be so bad (or so I kept telling myself when I was home on Saturday nights).

To compound this, we moved to San Diego to start a new life together (as D.C. had left me with nothing but sub-par memories and a lifestyle I couldn’t afford), and it meant that my ex (who was a bartender by trade) had to search for work.  We had no idea how hard it would be to 1. Find him a job, because bartending positions were hard to come by; and 2. Find him a bartending position that actually paid decent (sometimes, he came home with $20 cash, since tips are split on a sliding scale).  This meant that rent, utilities, food, car payment, gas, puppy care, mounting debt payments, etc. all fell to me.  While it was the second most stressful financial situation I had ever been in, it was also one of the most gratifying and empowering.

While I had been keeping a spreadsheet of my expenses for years, I started to plan out an entire year’s worth of finances, assuming I was the only one making a solid income every month. I put us on a year-long plan to save as much as I could in case one of us (including the pup) had an emergency, and that meant making large sacrifices in the short term (i.e. never going out unless it was a day trip to the beach, or somewhere else that allowed us fresh air without costing us anything).  This included anything leftover from budgeted financial line items (i.e. we didn’t use all of our grocery or gas money), which would go into savings, as did the small amounts of cash he’d bring home from work.

Unfortunately, this belt tightening led to us moving on from each other, as he didn’t understand why we had to make financial sacrifices in the first place.  He didn’t seem to understand the realities of being on a modest salary, as he had always lived with his parents (he’s from Europe where family life is very different), and didn’t worry about much beyond any money he may have borrowed from them.  He found our situation to be too constrictive and thus, our chapter ended.  Sure, it was painful, but I also found solace in 1. Knowing I was only responsible for myself and my little furry son; and 2. Having a better understanding of what it meant to be financially free, while saving as much money as I possibly could.

In the last 2 1/2 years, since I moved back to D.C., I made good on my self-promise to save more and spend less.  Even while getting raises and bonuses, I opted to save that money, and invest it, so that I could focus on my bigger life picture (including having enough money in my bank account for six months worth of expenses, in case something happened to my job).  I got rid of my car (perks for living closer to the city), saving me almost $1000 a month, which also went into savings.  Before I knew it, seven months ago, I was able to buy a home with a small down payment, and still sock away enough money into some investment accounts and three different savings accounts.  Next year, my savings plan is even more aggressive.

You might be wondering, “Does she actually go out and have any fun, or even see the world?!”  From my other blog posts, you can see the answer to that 🙂  I am lucky to be in a great relationship, in which I’m able to share some of the household expenses, allowing for an increased “entertainment” budget.  Compared to most people’s going out in D.C. expenses though, it’s highly modest.  Below are some of my tips on budgeting and how you, too, can save for the future, while also being able to enjoy life too!

  • Consignment – You love to shop, especially luxury brand names (my weaknesses include shoes and handbags).  Go through your closet and pull out any items you aren’t using anymore, and consign them at your local consignment shop, or on a consignment site, such as Poshmark.  If they are luxury goods, head over to The Real Real and set up an account (best site for that), and opt for store credit when you consign. I allow my sales balance to grow before I purchase a new item on there so that the money I spend comes from the items I’ve sold – not a credit card, or additional cash from my bank account.
  • What to do with a raise – Treat it as though you never got it, and invest it! When I got a raise at work, I took that additional cash and threw it into a ROTH IRA (for now).  I don’t ever miss it, because it’s auto-debited on purpose!
  • You have extra money in your checking account from budgeted items that you didn’t end up purchasing – Throw that into a savings account!  Those cents/dollars add up quick!
  • Budget for a whole year – include EVERYTHING you think you will spend money on – this includes birthdays, weddings, engagement parties, hair, nails, makeup, food, weekly gas, vacations, etc.  Set a budget for each of these items, and be realistic, yet not too conservative.  You might spend $30 on someone’s birthday gift, but estimate $50.  You might spend $100 a month on getting your hair colored, but what if you need a haircut 3 months later? Did it also include tip?  Seeing a budget helps put in perspective your spending habits.
  • Plan for vacations a year in advance – Yes, I’m serious and no, you don’t need to pick a location right away, although it’s helpful!  We’re planning on a 10-day California adventure for November 2018, and we know we want the experience to be everything we want in a trip like this.  I put together a spreadsheet of our drive down the coast, which includes places to stay, the cost per night/person (including taxes), and the URLs so I don’t forget; things we want to see that cost money; the car rental, the one-way flights, etc.  We vowed to start saving January 1st so we wouldn’t have to worry about money on the trip. (Note: It’s also always wonderful to have things to look forward to, and if you get closer to your vacation date, and you can’t go, you’ll be amazed at how much money you have now saved!)
  • Become your own chef! I budget $200 every two weeks for food (for me), I buy food on Tuesdays, and meal prep for the week (I can’t make poor eating decisions/spend money on takeout when I’ve done this).  I’m not saying don’t eat out, I’m saying reduce how many times you eat out in a week – it adds up!  I go out to eat once a week, and I grocery shop on Tuesdays because that’s when all of the sales/deals come out – buying generic brands definitely helps too, as they oftentimes get deeper discounts.  Sounds old-ladyish, but I’ve actually saved anywhere from $20 – $40 by shopping on that day!  I then take that money, and put it into savings, or throw it towards another part of my budget.
  • Be realistic with your evenings out – I used to get major FOMO when I didn’t go out, but I paid for it dearly in credit card debt. Ubers/Lyfts and drinks ADD UP BIG TIME!  It’s one of the hardest habits to curb when you like to have a good time.  For me, I had to stop going out, little by little, allowing myself only a night a week.  While it sounds miserable, it has done wonders for my waist line, my mind, my sleep patterns, and my wallet.  I also find myself looking forward to those evenings more, knowing it’s my one night to enjoy myself. Still, if there’s a special event, such as a concert, musical, or a charity event I want to go to, I have to work through what I’m sacrificing to be able to go to it.  Usually, it’s one of my weekends, or something else in my budget I can live without. And yes, I have friends, which means it’s also a lot of pot luck dinners at each other’s homes!
  • Staying on fashion trends while not breaking the bank – I’ve learned that trendy clothes are rarely worth the pricey investment, yet I love to look my best.  For my staple items, such as jeans, coats, classic shoes, etc., I’ll spend money on those investment pieces, knowing I’ll have them for years.  For the trendier stuff, I have no shame in admitting I go to Forever 21 🙂
  • Reward yourself – Whether we want to admit it or not, we are a reward-based society. I’ve learned that there are milestones in my life that I want to be able to celebrate (no matter how small), and if I don’t have the means, it brings me down a bit.  Thus, I set aside part of my bonus, or even part of my tax return, for monthly rewards that allow me to feel like I’m not so restrictive.
  • Find ways to make a passive income – There are SO MANY WAYS to do this!  Back in the day, I took writing side gigs.  These days, I’m opting for honing my writing craft on evenings and weekends to publish my books, and sell my screenplays – something that will net more passive income in the future, than if I were to take on other writing projects in the short term. Find something you’re good at, and find a way to monetize it!
  • It’s okay to have a credit card (as long as you’re responsible) and if you do have one, make sure you get rewards!  I have a United card, which equates to MILES!  Every purchase I make, is on that card (which I review the expenditures daily to ensure I’ve not overspent on my budget).  Using this card for everything has allowed me to spend a total of $22 on two flights for next year (which would have totaled $800 otherwise), as I racked up enough miles using that card (responsibly).
  • My Amazon Prime account is worth every penny – From movie and music streaming services, to Kindle books, free shipping, Prime Pantry, and Prime days, I’ve saved A LOT of money on things that bring me daily joy.

Now for the first step, and for some real words of advice … none of this will even be possible if you don’t take stock of you and your life first.  I had to ask myself a lot of difficult questions to get here, and many a time, the truth was ugly.  I was spending to fill an emotional hole because I didn’t want to face some of my harsher realities.  When I was depressed with absolutely no self-confidence, I’d spend more to make myself look better.  When I was happy, I’d spend less, opting to save the dollars.  I had to take a look around to see if anyone noticed my shiny exterior, and as it turned out, it didn’t matter what wrapper you put around me, my dull light within was noticeable, far more than a pair of Louboutins.

If you’re one of those that is reading this, and feeling totally helpless because you are where I was 10 years ago, there is always HOPE and always TIME to change this part of your life around!  Start small – one week, go grocery shopping, and each time you have the urge to go out, take that money you would have spent, and put it towards your credit card, or throw it into a savings account, but DON’T SPEND IT! Otherwise, you’re not moving any closer towards your goals.

Or, for another perspective, take your net income, divide that by how many hours you work in a week, and ask yourself if that purchase is worth x hours of work?  For example, Sally wants a new pair of shoes that are $200, and would probably not be worn very much.  She calculates that it would take her four hours of work to afford them.  She realizes she’d rather put that towards a much-needed night out, and leaves the shoe store.

Regardless of how you approach heading towards healthier habits, it’s an incremental process that (literally) pays off in the long run.  I hope that through this, I’ve at least inspired some of you to set yourselves up for better, freer future selves that will certainly be able to breathe a lot easier when you’re ready to retire, make that big purchase, or are able to proudly say you are no longer paycheck-to-paycheck.  And remember, if you HAVE to borrow, you SHOULDN’T spend!

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation Day 17: How Hope Goes Viral

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I once had a boss that no matter what I did, I was never good enough.  I was constantly micromanaged, belittled, and picked apart, regardless of the fact that I increased her small business by $1.2 million in less than a year.  She just didn’t like me and she thought that by using negative tactics, I’d mold myself to who she wanted.  When I left, she threw me a party, to thank me for leaving.  I left relieved but incredibly scared that I wouldn’t be good enough for my new job, and unfortunately, that had a rather negative impact on my entire being, often forgoing sleep to get ahead on the next day, ensuring I was always the top performer.  It wore me out a year later.

I’ve learned a lot since that experience, namely that confidence is everything and if you waver, it leaves you highly susceptible to bullies, and other negative types of individuals. This was a key lesson for me to continue to remember when I eventually became my own boss. I learned a lot about how when other people are controlled by another force, those people, in turn, will do the same to you, whether that’s adhering to another culture, personal work style preference, etc.

Now, imagine working for the world’s greatest boss, where you are encouraged to thrive, think outside of the box, take on new skill sets, and learn from your failures.  He encourages you to keep pushing forward, praises you when you do great things, and helps you become better at the things that need work.  In other words, he instills the hope and confidence in you that you can be great, resulting in great work, and even greater performance.  (Shout out to my current boss, who is THE BEST!)

The reason I give these examples is to show what today’s practice is trying to teach us.  The more we encourage others, and not intentionally try to change them, the more hope and confidence are instilled in them, to be better for themselves and for others.  The more we encourage, the happier we are, the happier we are, the more positive place we are all in.

 

So whether you are the controller/the great “boss” that encourages people, and/or the recipient of this, it’s important to remember that kindness and encouragement, from an internal place of nurture, are key to instilling the right hope in others.

My ask to you is to find one person you know who could use a compliment and PAY it!  Yes, it must be sincere.  But I guarantee you that that little compliment will brighten both your days and you will soon find that, that happy/peaceful feeling is addicting 🙂

Namaste

Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation Day 16: Reigniting the Spark of Hope

PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek_HelpingHand_Shutterstock_0

I’m sure you have heard the term “pay it forward” and perhaps, you’ve even been lucky enough to receive unexpected kindness from another.  I constantly hear stories from people I know who were randomly treated to Starbucks, a door was held open for them, or some other act of kindness was paid upon them for no reason at all.  Even I’ve been the bestower and the receiver in my life (I’ll never forget the time I held the door open for an older man and he was so touched that he insisted on paying for my coffee). In turn, I’ve seen my friends bestow countless, selfless acts of kindness on others, knowing that at the heart of it all, we’re all humans who could use a little pick-me-up now and again.

What we don’t realize is that with each act of kindness we’ve either bestowed or received, we are instilling a little ray of hope in more of the human race.  It’s that ray of hope that can flourish into so much more, the more we all pay it forward.

SO – the next time you see someone who could use a brighter spot in their day, or you feel like making someone’s day for no reason at all, do it!  Let’s spread “hope” by giving someone the best gift of all – a smile and a warm heart 🙂

Namaste

Healthy & Beautiful, Meditation

Meditation Day 15: The Inner Child Reborn

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While I’ve never been to burning man, I absolutely love this photo.  It depicts, so well, what “inner child” truly means (at least to me).

When we were young, we were innocent – free from judgment, criticism, and ego.  We were naive to the world, happily playing outside, dreaming big things.  When we started to get a big older, and understand the difference between right and wrong, particularly as it comes to personal feelings, we started to develop a sense of mistrust in another, perhaps maybe due to some abuse and trauma, which triggered our psyches to eradicate most of our naiveness to the world.  It is through these triggers that we developed into the adults we have become.

As adults, we know the difference between right and wrong, well.  However, we have enough life experience behind us to now choose how we will handle certain situations, as we now understand what it means to place meaning behind something, and what the outcome will be.  But what is so fascinating is a trigger that set off a particular emotion as a child, can certainly trigger that same emotion as an adult.  The only way to change that particular behavior is to remain present and self-aware.

For years – even through my early 30s – my parents could say something to the effect of they were disappointed in me, or lecture me on something with “that tone”; and I’d immediate revert back to a childhood response that was less than adult.  It was weird to me because I’d never react that way to someone else.  As I got older and started to see my friends become parents, my perception changed, and I started putting myself in my parents’ shoes.  It was then that I realized if my “Inner Child” is going to come out, it should only be for the fun stuff.  Here are some examples:

  • My mom still has an Easter Egg Hunt on Easter… and it’s still super competitive
  • We still rip through presents at Christmas like kids, with the same excited reactions when we see what we get
  • When my mom or dad announces they are taking us on a trip, all four of us girls jump up and down like giddy 8 year-olds
  • When a sister and myself get together, we tend to revert to childhood foods, snacks, drinks, and movies, desperately wanting to wear feet pajamas

The point with bringing up these examples is, finding that inner child to have a good time with, helps bring you back to your true self.  That wonderment and excitement you felt when you got the toy you wanted, or someone was proud of you for doing something great, etc. – that feeling deep down is something you want to hang onto and find more of. It’s that feeling that brings out the best in us, enlightens us, and affects others.  It’s something that keeps us young, and keeps us reaching for more.

To conclude, if I could still get away with playing with my Barbie collection and building lego mansions, while dreaming of starting (another) business, I would.  Instead, I have to give a shout out to Lisa Frank for developing “adult coloring books”.  You’re my hero.  I’m going back to my pillow fort now…

Namaste