5 Sureproof Methods to Make Birthdays and Holidays WAY More Tolerable

We all have a little Scrooge in us. (Come on, don’t deny it.) Sure, we say we love the holidays but the pressure is intense and the need to retreat to a remote desert island and drink bottomless pina coladas is great.

Both birthdays and holidays carry a lot of psychic weight. Expectations abound, memories from the past can rise up and bite you on the ass, and old, stale family dynamics can make it a complicated time.

But guess what? We have answers! That’s right. We just made your holidays merrier and your birthdays brighter.

  • Rely on yourself for the best plan. The biggest problem with most holidays and birthdays is the weight we put on others to make it memorable. Expectations can be slippery slopes. If people step up to the plate, great. But if not, we feel disappointed.

Try this out: Imagine no one existed on the entire planet. It’s only you, wandering the earth. How would you celebrate your birthday? What offerings would you give yourself? Then start your actual birthday or holiday by doing one or two of those kind, self-loving acts.

  • Roll with the punches. It’s imperative not to be a control freak when it comes to those special days. Because life is immensely unplannable. It rains, you get into a fender bender, your throat hurts and the dog just pooped on the carpet—all these things can happen and then some.

So start the day with an attitude that says, “Yeah whatever…I’ll roll with it.” Ask yourself first thing in the morning to be more accommodating and Zen-like and you’ll find the day flows more easily. #findyourinnerhippie

  • Spend time with the past. One of the reasons holidays can be particularly hard for many is that they’re often loaded with memories. People have died or moved on, locations change and there’s a deep, existential knowledge that you can never go back. And that’s okay. But allow yourself some time to be melancholy. Let yourself shed a tear or 50. It’s all right to miss your past lives. And by allowing yourself this reflection time, you free yourself up emotionally for new experiences.
  • Truly celebrate the best of you. We spend much of our lives in a state of mild (or serious) self-recrimination. We scold ourselves for a myriad of “missteps.” Think of your birthday or a holiday as a time to celebrate the best that you have to offer. Detail in a list what you like about yourself. Write out the ways in which you changed in the past year for the better. Thank yourself, truly thank yourself, for your gifts to the world.
  • Keep it simple and sane. Because holidays and birthdays can be emotionally intense, do your best to simplify. Overdoing can lead to feelings of disconnection, where you’re just speed-walking through the motions. Do your best to plan ahead and make sure the plans remain simple.

Remember this: a winning holiday or birthday can be very basic. It might include a walk in the woods, a meal with a friend and a good movie. It may include some downtime where you curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. Allow yourself to simplify. Your psyche will thank you for it.

Listen, holidays and birthdays are not for the meek at heart. They can be emotionally evocative and tough to navigate. They can also be sweet, life-affirming and celebratory. The more you can sit with the paradox of it all, the happier those life events will be.

Source: Wordgasm

Why You Should Burn your “Five-year Plan” while Laughing Maniacally

Malcolm is one of my most focused and professional friends. I met him during an internship I had at a TV station during my college years a long time ago.

He was on the fast track for success with every intention of meeting each goal on his five-year plan: move into a management position, eventually become a station manager, marry, own two homes and have kids.

I secretly envied Malcolm. What was my big “plan”? Five years? I barely know what I’m doing in five minutes. It felt like a serious character defect of mine: I couldn’t plan as well as Malcolm and therefore, probably wouldn’t reach my goals (once I decided what the hell those goals were, of course).

When I ran into Malcolm years after my internship, he revealed that his “plan” hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped. The station laid him off, he married and divorced after 3 years. He had a daughter whom he saw on weekends and holidays. He actually did have a management position: at a local appliance store.

Laughing Maniacally

A smile snuck onto my face. (I couldn’t help it!) Somehow it seemed like a victory for people desperately lacking in 5-year plans. People who dare to let life just…happen.

So here are some tips on readjusting your life goals so they don’t feel like a 2-ton weight on your back but actually feel reachable, doable and dare I say, fun:

  • Think daily first. What does it take to create a winning you now, not later? Maybe an exercise plan keeps you focused and motivated. Or watching your diet makes you feel primed and ready to go. Just imagine you’re preparing for a big date with Life. You want to ready yourself. You want to look good and feel good. That way, you’re prepared for opportunities when they arise (which they will more often because you radiate “winner”, baby).
  • Dare to think small. One of the reasons those clunky life plans don’t often work? Because we’re often thinking too large. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream big, of course. Dream as big as you’d like. But when shaping your life direction, think of small, manageable steps that you can successfully take.
  • Make room for crazy, unplanned life. Nobody ever plans for that cancer diagnosis. Or that divorce. Or that house burning down. Or that child of yours never talking to you again. Life is packed with random deviations that foil our trajectory. And we have to roll with it. What choice is there? If you have trouble accepting that you only have so much control, then meditation is a great tool to help you let go of rigid expectations and simply be. Let. It. Be.
  • An unplanned life is totally worth living. Maybe you’re simply not the type to plan your future. Guess what? That’s all right. This isn’t a life-planning contest where you have to line up all your ducks in a perfect row. There is no finish line (well other than that finish line) and no “grand prize” at the end. The dreamer types might ultimately accomplish more by letting life happen instead of constricting it to a potentially limited mentally-bound plan.

Malcolm actually went on to be quite successful. He now works as a marketing strategist in New York, helping small business owners like me focus our talents…and well, plan our business. Yes, of course, I find this ironic. But strangely, I get it. You see, Malcolm didn’t realize that his ability to create a life plan was an asset in and of itself. He’s doing something he innately knows how to do—using that planning skill I envied.

And I…well, I do sometimes just watch life go by. I also create, spend time with friends, write and sing with a band. I cook, garden, make love, yell obscenities at jerks and take amazing naps. I surf and own a German shepherd puppy. I started a small marketing business and am damn pleased to not work for anyone but me.

I allow my life to feel full without knowing exactly where I’m going. Because guest what? I don’t want to know exactly where I’m going. Afterall…where’s the fun in that?

4 Quick Methods to Quiet that Annoying Negative Voice in your Head

No matter what the situation, remind yourself “I have a choice.” – Deepak Chopra

Being negative can be a plain old bad habit, like biting your fingernails or chewing with your mouth full (please don’t do that—it’s just plain gross). And like any other well-worn habit, it’s not always simple or easy to break.

Here’s what one reader asked Direct Self:

I need some help with my chronic negativity. I wake up in the morning arguing with people in my head, telling them what I really think. It’s not like I’m in a bad mood or anything. It’s just bad thoughts, a habit. It’s like I’m preparing myself for negative situations in advance. And that’s no way to live. So any advice from your team would be welcome.” – Timothy S., Houston TX

negative voice in my heat

Timothy, we get you. Negative thinking loops can be broken. Here’s our advice:

  • Snap the proverbial (or actual) rubber band. Maybe you’ve heard of this age-old technique to stop a bad habit in its tracks by snapping a rubber band around your wrist when you’re feeling a craving (in this case, a craving to be negative).

It’s not as silly as it may sound. You may want to try an actual rubber band but you can rely on the power of your mind as well; simply “snap” as a method to remind yourself that you’re thinking negatively once again. This helps because often, our negative thinking is so entrenched, we don’t realize it’s even happening. Snapping helps us to become instantly aware when we veer off-path. The best part? Simply the act of catching yourself (becoming aware) is often enough to stop negativity in its tracks.

  • Donate an hour to negativity. Remember: the name of the game isn’t to think positively 100% of the time. That’s crazy unrealistic. Negativity is often needed to help purge painful and frustrating events from our system. So allow yourself some time to royally bitch about life. Call an understanding friend, write in a journal, punch a pillow, play out a decadently dark fantasy in your mind’s eye. And remind yourself: it’s all right to feel negatively sometimes.
  • Find the REAL source of your anger. You’re sure it was that bitchy cashier and her condescending tone that put you in a negative mood, but is she really the source of your problems? Maybe she reminds you of other people who have disregarded you. Maybe you’ve been feeling unheard in general. Maybe you’re still pissed at your Dad for talking to you the same way.

Negativity often has a much deeper source than daily annoyances. Dare to look deeper. When have you felt this way before? That’s the big question. (If you’re struggling to find the underlying cause, consider seeing a good shrink.)

  • Find your daisies and unicorns. Like the snapping technique, replacement fantasies can cognitively help shift your internal gears. So take a moment to reflect on internal positive “pictures” in your life. Maybe it’s a beach house you visit every summer. Or a rose bush in the backyard where you grew up. Or a family photo that warms your heart.

Once you’ve “gathered” your pretty pictures, keep them in a special drawer in your brain. When you’re feeling pissed off, gently suggest to your mind that it accepts a new vision. Then insert one of your pretty pictures instead. Stare at it for a moment. This technique reminds us that we have the capacity to feel better at any given moment, even when we’re not feeling so “positive.”

Tim (oh, and the rest of the world), we hope we gave you some pointers on the best ways to manage chronic negativity. It’s a tough habit to break. Maybe the idea isn’t to “break” it entirely but to gently adapt it so it doesn’t rule your world.

10 Quick and Damn Easy New Year’s Resolutions

Escuyer_New_Year_2014_8

What is it about New Year’s resolutions that make you feel like a loser before you’ve even tried them? Maybe because they’re often too big, too extreme. We think we’re supposed to remake our entire lives! And then when we fail, we feel disappointed in ourselves…and done with New Year’s resolutions.

But what if we picked more manageable New Year’s resolutions? What if we took baby steps towards self-improvement instead of colossal, overblown strides?

Here at Direct Self, we understand that self-improvement is an incremental process. So give these mini-resolutions a try for 2015.

1. Hug more. Easy, right? And so helpful—for both you and the receiver. Hugs are proven to boost self-esteem and lower stress. So get hugging this 2015!

2. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Instead of starting a new diet or going on some serious detox program, try the simple act of starting your day (right after you wake up and before you’ve ingested anything else) with a glass of water. It’s cleansing and hydrating.

3. 5 minutes of quiet time daily. Meditation can be a serious undertaking for some. But what if you called it “quiet time” and made five minutes for it daily instead? Turn off the phone, put the computer to sleep and just be quiet in whatever way feels comfortable for you.

4. Breathe more deeply. Shallow breathing leads to a stressful state of mind. Breathing more deeply is simple to integrate into your life. (You could even try it right now, as you’re reading this.)

5. Get more personal. Tell your friends and loved ones what you like most about them. Compliment a foe of yours just because you can. Dare to be more personal with people. We’re humans after all. We like intimacy…we need intimacy. Feed loved ones with kind words. The kindness returns to you in spades.

6. Go for a walk. Nobody is telling you to join a gym for 2015. Or run a marathon. Simply walk for 15 minutes on a daily basis (or less if that works better for your schedule). Notice how you feel before and after. Your mind naturally expands after walking and your body appreciates the additional oxygenation.

7. Eat your fruits and veggies. If you haven’t figured it out by now, trust us: you need raw foods in order to truly thrive physically. So get out of the diet mindset and instead think of ways you can integrate more healthful foods into your life. Your body will thank you for it.

8. Cry more. Crying is extremely therapeutic and cathartic but many of us don’t dedicate concerted time to it. Spend some time weekly releasing your emotions and feel the lightness in your spirit when you’re done.

9. Raise your consciousness. Most of us don’t strive for spiritual goals. But opening your awareness is often easier and more accessible than you think. Here’s a simple way to do it: go outside and look at the sky for a few minutes. Allow your mind to focus on nothing else but the pure expanse around you. Realize you’re part of a wild and wonderful universe. Note the freedom in your mind and body after you’re done.

10. Be honest. How’s that for a simple resolution? Or is it? Do you find yourself mindlessly uttering lies to get out of doing things or to make someone feel better? Well stop it! Practice the mature act of being honest with others. (Of course this doesn’t mean painfully honest but most of us recognize the difference.) Life is too short to lie so frequently. Cut back on the little lies and you’ll feel a greater amount of personal freedom.

See? Most of these resolutions don’t require a spendy membership or cosmetic surgery. They’re simple, accessible and easy to implement. Be gentle with yourself this upcoming year. Set goals that you can actually implement!

10 Small Gestures that will Make Someone Feel Totally Amazing

I lost my sweater last week at the local bar. It was my favorite sweater—one I had for years. But it was a big bar and a crowded night. Maybe someone picked it up by accident? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t find it and was quite distraught.

But you know what was amazing? Total strangers stopped what they were doing and helped me. Soon, almost everyone there was looking under tables and behind bar stools. It was a real team effort. And it touched me.

No, I never found the sweater. But the blow was softened by the kindness that was shown to me. It made me realize how little it takes to make another human feel good.

10 Small Gestures that will Make Someone Feel Totally Amazing

Here are 10 small acts that you can do today that will make another feel loved and cared for:

  1. Write a hand-written letter. What? What’s handwriting? In a day of electronic messaging, a letter or card holds a heightened, intimate importance. Keep a batch of pretty blank cards in your desk to send to anyone you want to reach out to. They’ll feel a personal touch that an email just can’t recreate. It’s a little mailbox surprise!
  1. Compliment. People love being complimented. It doesn’t take much to find an aspect of someone you like. Dare to share it with them. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. An added challenge? Compliment someone who stirs up insecurities in you. It reminds you that you’re beyond those petty, ego-based thoughts.
  1. Physical touch. We are human animals and yearn for touch. Yet most of us receive so little of it. The next time someone is sharing a story with you, dare to put your hand on his or her shoulder or hold hands. Remember that touch can often far exceed words.
  1. Help with little tasks. Is the elderly woman across the street struggling with her groceries. Help her. Or what about the car ahead of you, struggling with directions. Back off instead of riding his tail. An overworked waitress? Tell her you’re in no hurry.
  1. Listen better than you normally do. Most of us have a listening mode we switch on when someone is talking. And most of us think we’re doing a good job. But you know as well as I do: we’re often distracted and not listening wholeheartedly. The next time someone is sharing something with you, no matter how small, take a moment to remind yourself that listening is art…and it can always be improved.
  1. Tease and flirt. Many of us walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders. It’s hard to make room for some fun. So the next time you see someone struggling, dare to be a little sassy. Touch a face, make a joke, smile invitingly, tussle hair—break down the walls. These types of small, sexy gestures help others loosen up.
  1. Make a special meal. Nothing says love better than food, right? If you’re not the best cook in the world, look up a recipe online. Watch a YouTube video. (It’s not rocket science!) Remember: the way to our hearts is through our stomachs (and not just men!).
  1. Dare to share your true self. People are flattered, consciously or not, when you share your feelings. So dare to open up a little more, even to an acquaintance or colleague. You’ll notice that he or she will tend to the same. That’s how humankind thrives: through kindness and sharing.
  1. Give an anonymous gift. Drop off something small at a friend’s house: a bottle of wine, a shirt you found at a thrift store, a bouquet of wildflowers picked in a field, a bottle of essential oil that lifts the spirits. Giving a gift anonymously possesses its own distinct specialness.
  1. Help any charitable organization. It doesn’t take much. Most people think in terms of giving hours or days to a charity, but what about sharing an important social media post with friends? Or sending $5? Whatever you do, don’t wait for tomorrow. So many need help today and it may not take as much as you think. With the holidays on the horizon, think in terms of giving…and not just a bunch of merchandise to family and friends. Give in a real way.

See? It’s not that hard. These are all relatively easy ways to lift the spirits of others and in doing so, lift your own. Nothing in this world feels as important as helping others. It’s a tried and true method for self-actualization.

3 Ways to Have Fun with Failure and Flaunt your Flaws

I went to a fancy ballet one night. In New York City. Opening night. The principal ballerina fell while making her first jump. The crowd gasped. She remained on the ground for a moment, shaken, staring downward.

And then she got up quickly. And finished the ballet brilliantly.

I didn’t get the sense that she looked back on that face-planting incident. She didn’t even seem shaken by it (although she might have been). She came across as poised, bold and focused.

I never forgot that night, that fall, that elegant recovery.

We all fall flat on our faces in a myriad of ways. But some people allow those failures to stop them while others shrug them off and move forward. What’s the secret to having fun with your failures and celebrating your so-called flaws?

Here’s a few points to remember the next time you screw up royally:

Perfection is (yawn) boring anyway. Making mistakes and being imperfect are part of the sexy, messy world of being human. As Billy Joel sings: “You’re only human. You’re supposed to make mistakes.” (And yes, he emphasizes “supposed to.” It’s our duty to mess up in order to grow.)

happy and fun and not worry about failure

Your failures make up the complex, rich tapestry that is you. So remember: there’s only one red-hot mess like you, baby! Own it. Don’t try to perfect it.

Children are allowed to make mistakes…and we’re all children. Would you ever mock a child for making a mistake or “failing” at something? No. Most of us understand that a child needs latitude to make a mistake because he or she is still learning.

So why don’t the big kids get that same break? We’re all works in progress. We’re all little children inside. If you view your mistakes as you would those of a child, you give yourself a much-needed soul break. And you give yourself the opportunity to try again without the threat of self-recrimination. Be the child, be the kind, supportive parent.

Failures are stepping-stones. If we don’t peacefully allow ourselves to frequently fail, we don’t have the opportunity to learn and move past those failures. So it’s pretty critical to accept our screw-ups or we won’t accomplish much of anything. (How’s that for a scare tactic?)

Okay, let’s say you like to sing but you think you stink. Well first of all, you’re not alone—most people (sadly) hate their singing voices. But here’s the catch: in order to get better, you have to allow yourself to sound crappy. Because that’s part of getting better! Give yourself room to fail repeatedly. Embracing failure (ironically) is one of the keys to success.

I still think of that dancer sometimes. My guess is that she’s leading a peaceful and successful life somewhere. Switzerland. Yep, I picture her there. What she displayed that night must spill over into her life in all sorts of ways. She must lead a life that’s freer, more expansive and more joyful—at least that’s how I imagine her.

4 Easy Ways to Escape the Holiday Madness and Function like a Human Being Again

 

Overwhelmed by Holidays

Bah humbug. Bah humbug to the rampant consumerism that consistently make us feel like we never spend enough money or get enough stuff. Bah to the family dysfunction that seems to be especially nutty around the holidays. Bah to the overeating and excess that takes us off our course of wellness and onto a treadmill of belly-busting overindulgence.

But wait! There’s hope. You can have your holidays and your sanity at the same time. Don’t believe it? Try these easy, grounding approaches.

Make Alone Time a Priority. Spending some time alone is imperative when holiday madness descends. Let me clarify: this does not mean being alone with your cell phone, laptop and iPad. That’s not alone; technology creates distractions from true, healthy aloneness.

So if you’re stuck with your crazy family for a few days, tell everyone the following: “I’m going out for a walk. I’ll be back shortly.” Easy to say, right? Then leave. Walk. Breathe. Reflect. Center. Show your psyche that you care by giving it a break.

Find your True Holiday. If you could have a perfect holiday, what would it feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Chances are, it wouldn’t be loaded with stuff and food and booze (okay maybe a little of those things).

For most of us, a perfect holiday would be imbued with a feeling: a feeling that we’re safely ensconced in the depths of Winter and that we’re going to make it through the darkest night; a feeling of peace and harmony; a feeling of being in touch with Nature and Time; a feeling of deep love and connection.

How can you bring your perfect holiday into fruition? Maybe you won’t experience it the whole time but at the least, dedicate a portion of you holiday to that special, child-like, snow-covered vision/fantasy that we all secretly possess.

Clear the Proverbial Plate. The holidays are a great time for purging and forgiving, though this critical aspect is often buried under a heap of plastic junk made in China. Who haven’t you forgiven? What “closets” haven’t you cleaned? Take the time to write a letter (even if you don’t send it) to those in your life with whom you’d like some closure. Or dare to make a call out of the blue and reconnect. It is the end of a year, afterall. Close it out properly.

Allow for the Holiday Blues. Most of us know that depression increases during the holidays. And it’s no surprise as to why. It’s a yearly landmark that reminds us of All Holidays Past. So if people have died or you’re no longer speaking to Aunt Sally but had a great time with her in the past, we feel that sting more profoundly than most times of the year.

Make some time to grieve over holidays past. Miss the people who are gone. Dedicate some prayer and send some love their way (if you believe in a Spirit World, those spirits are grateful for your prayers). And if you had crappy holidays in the past, grieve over that too. We all deserve sweet, love-filled holidays though that’s not how they all turn out. It’s all right to be sad about that.

Holidays aren’t for the meek at heart. Seriously. Things get ugly in this frenzied, “Black Friday Everday” ultra-consumerist society we live in. It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground and easy to feel spun out, sad and confused.

Remember the steps above and try to practice one every day until January 2nd. You’ll find yourself recreating the holidays, built on your dreams and special values. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself enjoying them once again.

How to Be Amazing When You Feel Like S#%t

Whoever said faking it is a bad thing? Everyday, we fake a little in order to get by. You don’t like that co-worker of yours but you still offer a friendly “good morning”, right? Or how about that in-law coming over for the holidays? You’re going to do the best you can to make her feel welcome even though her mere presence makes you bristle.

As the old adage goes, “fake it till you make it.” The key to faking positivity is to think of it as a game. You’re working from the outside in to make change happen. We can shape our reality by being good actors on the stage of life, playing out roles that end up seeping into our real “off stage” being.

how to feel amazing and happy

So what traits can you “fake” into existence?

  • Courage. We all experience degrees of fear every day of our lives. But it’s important to not let it rule us. If you’re asking for raise, for instance, dare to look your employer straight in the eye. Straighten your back. Act the role of an assertive person who deserves a raise. Maybe deep inside you’re feeling terrified but you’ve made sure that on the outside, you look firm and strong.

Still struggling? Imagine your favorite hero or heroine asking for a raise? Or a highly successful businessperson you admire (or one you don’t. You might not like Donald Trump but do you think he would squirm when asking for a raise? I don’t think so.)

  • Sexiness. It’s tough being sexy, isn’t it? Oh sure, people look sexy but that’s very different than feeling sexy. Most of us struggle with exhibiting our true sexual nature. And for good reason. The world around us often penalizes us for doing so (especially women). But being sexual feels good and natural. So paint a picture in your mind. What if you did feel confident with your sexuality? Really confident? What would it look like? How would you dress? What would your posture be like? How would you speak? Once again, look to people in your life (or celebrities) who ooze that certain something. Dare to imitate it!
  • Compassion and warmth. Life can dole out some pretty hard days–ones that leave us feeling totally depleted of love and kindness. We end up feeling guilty because loved ones, well…aren’t feeling the love. Remember, it feels good to be kind and available to others. So the next time you’re feeling cold and kicked to the curb, put a gentle smile on your face. (That alone signals to others that you’re approachable and available.) Another helpful “fake it” technique? Listen. You may not feel like talking after a hard day anyway so the act of listening takes the spotlight off of you and makes another feel cared for.
  • Vigorous and full of life. This can feel especially tough when you’re beaten down. But it’s possible to fake liveliness into existence too…and pretty easily. Go for a walk or better yet, a run. (Nothing beats circulation to bring you back to life.) Listen to some loud music, dance and sing out. Fake a hearty laugh for one full minute. Breathe in fresh air and breathe out that crusty, old negativity. Your body responds to these “outside in” cues and you’ll be glowing with life in no time.

Of course, you don’t want to try these approaches for others. That’s “faking it” in a bad way. Ultimately you want to make these changes for yourself. Sometimes your mind needs to be tricked into feeling differently. A ripple effect soon happens and soon, your shitty day just turned into a pretty day.

How to Fake Date and Open your Heart Again

When I agreed to a date with Ken, I was filled with, well, a sense of dread, truthfully. I looked at his photo online again. Cute enough but hardly my type. He also liked televised sports a lot. Bleh. I actively dislike televised sports and would much prefer playing them than watching them. He hates cats and I have two…great.

How to Fake Date and Open your Heart Again

So why was I going on a date with him? Because it was time to break the proverbial ice and “get back on the horse again.” But why not wait for Mr. Right, you ask? Because come on, I don’t have centuries to wonder when that magical unicorn will appear at my door.

When I told my friend about Ken, she said, “Oh you’re fake dating. Great idea!”

Fake dating? Was I? Hmmm…I guess so.

Ken and I had a nice time. We had more in common than I thought. We shared similar tastes in music, food…even politics (and you know that one isn’t always easy). We even shared a certain kind of chemistry. Was it earth-shaking fireworks chemistry? Nope. But there was a warmth between us that felt comfortable and genuine. I went home that night feeling good about my choice…not great, but good.

So if you’re ready to open up your heart again but keep waiting around, remember that Mr. Right Now is more important than Mr. Magical Unicorn Right. And here’s why.

  • Practice makes perfect. So what if he or she may isn’t The One. You still have several hours in the company of another to perfect your game. Do you remember how to flirt? How to tell a story in an engaging way? How to make someone feel wanted? Appreciated? Think of a fake date as a practice run. Work on those rusty romantic techniques of yours. Blow the dust off of your heart and give it a trial run. (Consider it feng shui for your future!)
  • Lovers attract other lovers. We all know that for some strange reason, it’s easy to tell the people who are actively engaged with a lover or a significant other. They seem to cast an air of confidence and desirability. (Think of how hot you look and how attractive you are to others after you’ve had great sex, for instance.) Fake dates will give you a dose of that magical and magnetic mojo.
  • Mr. or Ms. Right will become clearer in your mind. Okay, let’s play out the worst-case scenario. You have an awful fake date. He chews with his mouth open and interrupts every sentence you speak…and he wore a baseball cap the whole time!

Before you go home feeling sorry for yourself, figure out exactly what went wrong. What traits (and be as specific as possible) didn’t you like? How would you have preferred that he or she act?

It’s deduction, dear Watson. By knowing what you didn’t like, you begin refining the list of things you do like in another. You could also take a moment and decide the few qualities that weren’t so bad about baseball-cap-wearing dude. Maybe he was rough around the edges but had a killer smile or a contagious laugh.

Ken and I actually went on a second date. It was even less eventful than the first one unfortunately. But we shared a delicious dinner together and it stopped me from watching re-runs of Gilmore Girls (I seriously have to stop watching that show).

And get this! He’s going to help out with a business plan of mine. So an added bonus? Mr. or Ms. Right Now might serve another role in your life.

So really, what do you have to lose going on an imperfect “fake” date? The key is to learn from it and sharpen your mojo. Somewhere out there, a unicorn awaits!

How to Break Icy Silences and Bridge Old Gaps

Admit it. We all have them. People in our lives we just don’t speak to anymore. Maybe it was caused by a big blow-out argument or perhaps (as is often the case) your connection just fizzled out, leaving a gaping silence that’s lasted years. Nobody’s quite sure what happened…but it did.

So what can you do when there’s unfinished personal business in your life? How do you decide if your pride is standing in the way or if human nature is simply taking its course and releasing people from your life that simply aren’t meant to be there anymore?

How to Break Icy Silences and Bridge Old Gaps

Here are some methods to see whether it’s worth it to reconnect or simply walk away from the proverbial table:

  1. Think fondly of that person. No matter how angry you are at Joe for the awful things he said that drunken night, he was still a friend of yours. You shared good times too. In order to begin the healing process, you need to put that person in a warm and loving place in your heart. Recall the good times, remember his or her best attributes, allow yourself to miss that person again.
  1. Reach out in small ways. Most people are overwhelmed by the steps it would take to heal with a loved one who has hurt you. It seems almost insurmountable. But what about a card in the mail, with no expectation of a response? What about “liking” a Facebook post Sally posted? What about telling a mutual friend that you said hello? It may not heal all of the wounds, but it’s a start. And hell, if it’s all you can manage, then at least you tried.
  1. Imagine the worst…and be all right with it. What’s the worst that could happen if you reached out to that certain someone in your life? Would he or she reject you? Yell at you? How would you respond? How could you change your response this time? By envisioning the worst encounter, we come face to face with our inner demons. We roleplay and prepare. Often we find that the worst-case scenario isn’t all that bad afterall.
  1. Ritualize a peaceful ending. Listen, some people are just not meant to be in our lives anymore. It sucks, it hurts…but it’s for the best. Thing is, we still need to acknowledge the ending in a formal way. But doing this, we send a message to our soul, requesting closure and release.

So how do we honor an ending? Grieve. Allow yourself to be sad, hurt. Look at old photos, read correspondences. Remember the good times. Then imagine putting that person on a sailboat, kissing him or her goodbye and wave from the dock as they drift off to sea. Or write a letter that encompasses all of your feelings. When you’re done, fold it and put it close to your heart. Ask for peace and resolution and then bury the letter. Or burn it. And breathe, knowing you’re a little closer to making peace.

  1. If it’s still nagging at you, it’s a sign. It would be great to permanently sweep those tough feelings under a carpet, but our minds don’t always allow for that. So if months or years have passed and you still feel that certain awkward feeling of incompletion, it may be time to act. Yes, it will be difficult. As time passes, the ice seems to harden even more. But as we’ve already addressed, the worst-case scenario isn’t all that bad. And even if communications go poorly, you can rest easier knowing you tried. Then put that person back on the sailboat and off they go. Kiss and wave, baby!

Hurt feelings between friends or loved ones is never easy. But remember this above all else: it doesn’t take as much effort as you’d think to make things better. Even a little better. Letting it fester for the rest of your life? No…life isn’t meant for festering, is it? Sores fester. You…you’re meant to heal.

How to Kick your Pathological Cell Phone Addiction & Get Back to Life Again

My friend and I go out to sing karaoke every Friday. It’s the only night she spends away from her husband and my chance to socialize and have some fun.

Last weekend, I loosely clocked the amount of time she spent on her phone. It added up to ONE QUARTER of our time together! Think about it. That’s one hour out of four hours. That’s time we’ll never get back.

text on phone is bad

Listen, I can spend way too much time on my phone or computer (hello, guess what I’m doing now?). I’m not a purist obviously. But I still want some plain, old-fashioned life amidst the techno-mania, where I fraternize with my messy fellow humans and sing one-hit wonders from the 70’s.

So here are a few pointers I gave to my friend that night (though she wasn’t really listening):

  1. Cell phones are not warm and cuddly. No matter how hard you try to find intimacy through a hand-held device, you will not find it. You’ll find something close to it at times—somewhat akin to seeing a mirage of water in a desert when you’re dying of thirst—but its not real and it never will be. Humans are messier than electronic devices, this is true. But it’s a beautiful kind of messiness that reminds us all that we’re alive.
  1. Cell phones create distant observers of us all. Let’s take your average concert, shall we? Today we see more people trying to capture the event via their phones instead of, um, actually experiencing the music (crazy talk, I know). Besides, really—do those videos or images you take at a concert really amount to anything? They look crappy, annoy other audience members and are a lame attempt to prove to others that you’re somewhere that “matters.”

Remember, life only happens once (or so they say). Stop living twice removed and actually remember how to experience an event instead of recording it. (Remember closing your eyes and getting lost in the music?)

  1. Texting looks silly and can be dangerous. Seriously, is this what we think of as an advanced society, our heads buried into a little gadget and our fingers moving about furiously? In addition, that kind of tunnel vision is dangerous. Bad things happen to preoccupied people. Take a look at the beautiful world around you. Open your eyes to the old lady on the bench smiling at you. Open your eyes to the rose bush in full bloom. Open your eyes to the oncoming traffic…hello!
  1. Cell phone communications are mostly fluff. What if we used cell phones for only the more important messages in life like “I’m lost. Give me a call” or “Holy shit, I’m in labor and I didn’t even know I was pregnant”?

What if we got back to genuine communication with people? What if we dared to look someone in the eye and say, “You know what? I think you’re hot and I have for a long time.” Or “Even though I’m related to you, I have trouble being in the same room as you for extended periods of time.” (Okay, well that might be an overshare.)

But the important takeaway message? Dare to communicate important things—like your feelings or your thoughts—in person. It’s an insult to human nature to share deeper feelings via a flimsy text. It’s cheating!

My friend continued to text a good portion of our Friday night “together.” She sat still on a barstool, head down, not looking around. I, on the other hand, met a sweet bartender who told me I have beautiful eyes. I danced with a posse of old ladies to the 50’s tune “Runaround Sue.” And I sang—sometimes poorly, sometimes spot-on. But mainly, I chose life over technology. When do you?

How to Recover from Lingering Heartbreak in 5 (Kinda) Easy Steps

What was it about certain paramours in our life? They seem to linger in our souls long after they should. It’s like they’ve been tattooed into our hearts and now we’ll never be able to remove them.

Truth is, it may be impossible to completely remove the memory of that person. But we can take steps to lessen the frequency and sharpness of the pain and own back our lives again. Read on.

How to Recover from Lingering Heartbreak in 5 (Kinda) Easy Steps

  1. Reality Check Time! Undoubtedly, that certain someone gone from your life has now taken on magical, god-like abilities. We no longer see their faults because we’re too busy inflating their attributes.

But its time for a shot of reality. Every time you find yourself thinking about the wonders of Joe or Jane, spend an equal amount of time reminding yourself of qualities you didn’t like so much. Maybe it was the way she constantly interrupted you (forgot about that, huh?) or the way he never held the door open for you. Write out a list. Get down to the nitty-gritty, like that annoying throat-clearing noise he made or her witch-like cackle. Remind yourself of the real person you loved so deeply, not a glorified object born of your imagination and not reality.

  1. Make up a NEW Mr. or Mrs. Right. We become so accustomed to thinking that Joe or Jane is the only person on the entire planet that we truly want, we often forget that (believe it or not) there are all sorts of people we may be attracted to. Even in the midst of your heartbreak, do you swoon a little when you see that certain actor or actress in a movie? Or what about that cute guy at the grocery store that always smiles at you? Or that pretty waitress at the diner? No, you don’t have to date these people. The point is, use your imagination and build a new person unlike Joe or Jane. What would he or she act like, smell like, look like? Play out a perfect date in your mind. How would it be magical? Healing?

Having trouble imagining the new love of your life? Dig into some movies or television shows. There are tons of romantic archetypes that will fit the bill. Want to know the amazing part of this experiment? The more you visualize, the more likely that person will magically appear in your life. Create them into being. You’ll be surprised how the world responds in kind.

  1. Clear the mind, clear the heart. Obsession keeps heartbreak alive. It’s kind of like the mental version of picking at a scab. The key to breaking that vicious mental cycle is spending dedicated time to clearing the mind of everything. Consider it a kind of mental re-booting. Besides, doesn’t your mind and body deserve a rest? Obsessing is stressful. Meditation, prayer, stillness, deep breathing—whatever technique you want to employ—can offer up some much needed breathing room in your head.
  1. Cry…but not for too long. Crying is one of the most therapeutic tools we have at our disposal. We all know how good we feel after a soul-cleansing sob. So take time to cry over your loss. Dig deep into the pain (you may find it extends back into your childhood) and feel the release. But there’s a small caveat: don’t cry too long. Excessive crying can keep us stuck in an endless pit of despair. Allow some grieving time then gently shift your mind back to a task at hand. Or maybe just take a walk in the fresh air. Remind yourself of the big world out, still pulsing with opportunity and aliveness.
  1. Love does last forever. Once we are loved and love another, it’s permanently recorded in the Universe. A unique connection has been created that never really goes away. And while we often think of loss as forever, remember that (as the overplayed song from The Titanic reminds us), “the heart does go on.”

So while you may not be with that person in the physical form, he or she is still there—just on a different level. Feel free to converse with her about a recent problem or share with him your new favorite song. (No, not actual communication–because during a break-up, its often best not to reach out.) But no one is stopping you from imagining his or her presence until your heart is ready to move on.

Blah. This advice is hard to give. And you know why? Because heartbreak can border on the unbearable. And it can least for years! Any pat or simple solutions sound inauthentic or weak, like “smile” or “just think positively.” But life is short. And bemoaning a romantic loss for too long robs you of something very precious—more precious than Joe or Jane will ever be—your time on this planet.

6 Physical Steps to Break the Worry Chain

Most of us think our problems—and their solutions—lie within. If we focus hard enough, we’ll figure it out, right? But you can’t always think your way out of a thinking problem. Sometimes you have to look beyond the chaos of your mind and practice some physical methods to feel better.

man look at sky

So the next time you find yourself furiously figuring out life’s problems and hopelessly stuck in a worry loop, try these out-of-the-box techniques.

  • Look to the sky. This deceptively accessible technique is enough to shift your mind from worry to wonderment. Spend a few minutes simply gazing up at the sky and allow your child-like mind to relax into the expanse of it all. How does this allay anxiety? The immensity of the sky opens our minds and offers an instant sense of relativity. Suddenly our big, bad problems seem small in comparison to the endlessness of the space above.
  • Run like hell. Most of us have heard of the “fight or flight” reaction, right? Anxiety often provokes a need to either stay and fight or run for cover. So what if you actually ran from your problems…hauled ass and ran? You’d probably find a natural sense of relief, simply by following the primal urge to get the hell away. You’d also experience the anxiety-busting relief of exercise. (If you’re not up to a full-fledged run, try a brisk walk where you imagine leaving your troubles behind you with every step. Remember: those nagging worries are not invited on your head-clearing walk. Leave them at home.)
  • Wash that mind right out of your hair. Water has such magical properties, doesn’t it? It can cleanse our spirits and leave us feeling reborn and rejuvenated, ready for the world. Try taking a conscious shower. The sole purpose of this shower (or a bath) is to rid yourself of problems, not just to bathe. Before entering the shower or tub, imagine your worries all over you, on your body and caked in your hair. Then as you bathe, imagine washing those worries off of you and down the drain, never to return.
  • Eat your cares away. Now before you think I’m advocating binging out on chocolate marshmallow ice cream, remember that good food can ground us. Often when we’re worried, we feel out of our bodies, as if we’re floating several feet above. A good, nourishing meal can bring us back into our bodies and feel whole again. An added bonus? The act of making a meal helps us focus on a practical task, which naturally guides the mind toward a calmer place.
  • Complete something, anything. We all know the gratification we get after completing a household project (like cleaning out that closet or washing a load of laundry). When life seems beyond your control, find something in your living area that you can fix/change/repair/clean. Again, a focused task relaxes the mind and you have the added satisfaction of knowing that closet is finally organized.
  • Pick a healthy angry activity. Remember that fight or flight reaction? Well a good actual fight can help too. No, I’m not talking about knocking out the next annoying person who gets in your way (there are laws stopping us apparently). But there are physical activities that feel like fighting and help to purge that free-floating anger. What about chopping wood? Or hammering a nail? Or heavy yard work? Even sweeping a floor can provide natural relief (sweep those damn problems out the door!).

Remember, the world around us provides us with many healthy ways to physicalize and express our anxiety and worry. So take advantage of your surroundings instead of resorting to your chattering mind for answers. Make change from the outside in. (Besides, it’s way cheaper than 10 years of therapy.)

5 Techniques to Increase your Star Power

We all shine on, like the moon and the stars and sun. – John Lennon, Instant Karma

Why is it so hard to imagine that each and every one of us possess a certain star power? Perhaps because we’re habitually trained to believe that only a certain few possess this seemingly magical ability to attract and charm. And well, we’re just small fries in comparison, right?

woman want to start again

But we all are rock stars in our own right. That inner dazzle just gets buried in a heap of insecurities and a world where perfectionism reigns.

So here are a few easy ways to increase your star power and get your rock star back.

  • Define your brand. If you could cast yourself in a movie, who would play you? How would he or she dress? Walk? Talk? Act? By being more aware of your particular look, you begin the creative process of branding yourself. You know how to showcase your strengths and the world takes note of your individuality.

If you don’t like how you appear in this internal movie, then what could you do to change it? What look distinctly says you and no one else?

  • Walk the walk. Have you ever noticed how celebrities walk with a sense of purpose and pride? Their heads are held high and their chests forward and open. How is your walk reflecting you? Do you have your own unique swagger or do you walk, head down and shoulders caved in, looking beaten by life? You can change yourself from the outside in, so if you’re walk doesn’t reflect the real you, fake one. Then take note of how much more powerful you feel, even by faking a more “take charge” walk.
  • Speak like Bogie or Bacall. A voice is a powerful tool. Movie stars certainly realize this, which is why they have voices that are both welcoming and commanding. How do you sound to your “audience”? Do you speak with authority or are you barely squeaking by? One easy suggestion to improve your vocal power? Practice reading aloud. Use your best “actor’s” voice. Open the back of your throat (like you’re yawning), use diaphragmatic support and project your voice to the other side of the room. Then ask yourself how it makes you feel to speak differently. Maybe it feels awkward at first but with repetition and practice, you’ll be speaking like a star in no time.
  • Draw from the “real” stars. We all have stars we are drawn to but don’t take much time to explore the reasons why. Often we have “star crushes” because we secretly see ourselves in these people. Write down a list of your favorite celebrities. What qualities do you share? Which qualities would you like to increase in yourself? Don’t be afraid to watch them for inspiration—you’re not copying them. You’re simply using their image as a template for who you want to be.
  • Dare to be a diva. Have you ever just taken over a room? Walked in and simply demanded attention from those who surround you? Before you think this is an egotistical act, remember that we’re not obligated to go through life in a constant state of “sorry to bother you” humility. We’re allowed to flex our egos from time to time. (Successful people do it daily!)

If you have trouble “daring to be a diva”, imagine that you are royalty. Walk through your life, even just for one day, with that thought in the back of your mind. You’ll find the world reacts to you differently. And you simply feel more confident and in command. (Again—another outside-in approach to personal change.)

So remember: shrinking violets are hard to see and too much humility is just plain annoying. These simple external approaches often trick the mind into believing you’re someone larger than life…because guess what? You are.

Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise.” – Maya Angelou

8 Methods to Make Yourself Younger by Using your Mind

Age is truly a state of mind. Unfortunately many of us are programmed to believe that we’re old and falling apart, often way before our time. It’s in the language we use (“Oh, I can’t do that anymore. I’m too old”) and our internal messaging (“Look at those wrinkles! I’m getting old and ugly.”)

use your mind as a younger

That negative inner talk has a powerful effect on our minds. It’s a dangerous type of brainwashing that our mental and physical self will validate, if we don’t watch it. “I’m too old” eventually becomes that aching back or a nagging feeling of ugliness.

But there’s hope.

Just as we negatively programmed ourselves about our age, we can just as easily program the reverse. The best part? This mental restructuring reflects in your overall look. A happy, healthy mindset = a naturally younger looking you. Promise.

Name your strengths. Don’t focus on the way you could run faster or swim longer 20 years ago. Remind yourself of your physical power now, not then. What is physically strong about you? What aspects of you reflect health, strength and vitality? Maybe it’s your shiny hair or sparkling eyes. Or perhaps it’s your amazing backhand or the 5K you recently ran.

Quiet your Mind, Pretty your Face. Try this. Look at yourself in the mirror and then sit for 5 minutes and focus solely on your breath. Allow your face and body to relax with each exhale. Gently let go of the nagging inner chatter and simply relax. Now go check the mirror. Voila. You’ll notice a more radiant look, guaranteed. A spiritual makeover is only five minutes away!

use it, your mind

Move it or Lose it. One surefire way to feel old? Sit in a chair all day and then watch television all night. Oh…and eat copious amounts of processed food. There you go—you’ll feel older, guaranteed. Even a daily 15-minute walk is enough to suffuse the body with oxygen and energy. Can’t even manage that? How about dancing to a few songs in the privacy of your own room? Feel the tingle in your body afterward and remember that movement = energy and energy = vitality.

Burn the magazines. Advertising thrives off of the belief that you are inferior and need to be “fixed” by using this product or that service. Give yourself a break from the perfectionism mass media encourages and instead, read a book about people who never let age hinder them. (Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was 40 and didn’t launch her popular TV show until 50. Or famed runner Fauja Singh ran his first marathon at 89.) Feed your mind with tales of empowerment and strength. And toss the airbrushed perfection in the bin.

Soften your perfectionism. Listen, your body changes as you get older (shocker, right?). But what about trying to embrace those changes? Maybe that silver-gray hair adds a certain dimension to your look. Or those laugh lines warm the look of your face. Perfectionism is downright exhausting—give it a rest. Instead, remind yourself of people you know who seem to radiate beauty simply because they are comfortable in their own skin, regardless of their flaws and imperfections.

Watch your language! Seriously. You cannot look or feel younger if you constantly moan about [fill in the blank] falling apart or your aching [fill in the blank]. If you truly are feeling poorly, work on changing it! Go to a chiropractor or a nutritionist. Get more exercise. Try some yoga. Treat yourself to a massage. But stop blaming your age. It’s this simple: when you take care of your body and mind, it automatically reflects in your appearance, regardless of age.

Sex it up. We all know the natural glow the comes after having good sex. Our bodies feel warm, relaxed and loved and we radiate an unmistakable energy that’s simply beautiful. Unfortunately we can’t always dial-up good sex (if you can, please give me number). But luckily there’s a back-up plan: practice feeling sexy solo. Wear a sexy outfit or take a luxurious bath or reading a racy novel. Just remember: you are a sexual being, everyday, regardless of the amount and quality of sex in your life right now.

Go all natural…and learn to like it. What do you look like without all of the extras (make-up, clothes, etc.)? How do you feel naked? Horrible? Well then, walk around naked for a while and get used to the feeling. Stop hiding. Remind yourself that you can exist in this world with absolutely nothing on and still look amazing in your own right. That way, when you do dress up, etc. you know that the real you underneath it all looks just the way you’re supposed to. Beautifully imperfect, like the Mona Lisa.

Think this is all bunk? That you can’t change the way you look by simply thinking and acting differently? Then try these exercises for a few weeks and report back. You’ll discover that beauty really does come from within and has all along. It didn’t require a lotion or a pill. You simply needed to remember.

Self-help for the Right Here, Right Now