What Do You Value?

I value October
I love October

I love October and I get all into it. During the month of October, my birth month, I always make a point to be extra good to myself.  And by being good to myself, I mean making sure that I have time for the things that I value. All the things that I find important.

In a world where everything moves so quickly and things can be overwhelming and  loud, its so easy to forget the things that matter most to you. This is how I spent my glorious October honoring my values.

I Value Intellectual Stimulation

I value Intellectual Stimulation
Book Discussion at the Schomburg Center

So The Street: A Novel is one of my favorite books in the world. If you’re into exploring complex sociological concepts through fiction, I definitely recommend it. I read it for the first time when I was about 16 years old. And though it resonated with me then, I didn’t get how deep it was until about 10 years ago when I reread it. My favorite types of books, are those that I can read over and over and learn something new each time or get a new angle. And it was so awesome to be in a room filled with people from all walks of life talking about something that I loved so much.  I left the auditorium feeling really good and stimulated. Intellectual stimulation is very important to me and I have to make room for it in my life or I feel unfulfilled.

I Value Intimate Gatherings

I value time with family
Celebrating My Birthday
I value time with family
Various October gatherings

Honestly, I am an introvert and sometimes being around tons of people exhausts me to no end. I crave time alone with my thoughts. But… I also need to connect with my loved ones because not doing so leads to isolation. And believe me, I know all about that. Since I don’t want to be isolated, intimate gatherings are how I stay connected while honoring my needs.  And October was full of these gatherings! I had people over for my birthday which was sooo much fun! My cousin threw a bowling party for her birthday the very next weekend. And then I had a card party the following week. So much fun! I’m still recovering from all the laughter and drinks.

I Value Nature

October in Central Park

If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, then you are very much aware of my love affair with nature in general and Central Park specifically. And October was full of Central Park time.

These are just three of my values. I encourage you to know what you value and make space for them in your life. This how you stay fulfilled and feel alive. This is how you THRIVE.

If you are having trouble figuring out what you value or how to make room in your life for yourself, be sure to check out my 6 week coaching program- Jumpstart Your Life!

The Essential Guide to Starting Your Life Over, Getting Unstuck, And Getting Out of Your Own Way

Starting Over in Life

Today, I am writing this post while sitting in my very own living room in New York City. This time last year, I was living in Chicago and would not have been able to predict this at all. I wanted to move but was not exactly sure how I was going to make all the pieces fit together. All I knew was that I was starting over, no matter what.

Have you ever reached a  point in your life where you thought, “How did I get here?”

I have too. That’s where I languished mentally for about a year.

I did not like the mind-numbing monotony of my life.  There was nothing exciting or interesting to look forward to in my immediate future. Basically, I was in a deep rut. I had allowed my world to get too small and I was suffocating in it.

What I needed was a change of pace, an adventure,  and some fresh new energy. Also, I had conquered all of my immediate challenges and was in need of new challenges and fresh obstacles. And thinking the same thoughts over and over was mentally exhausting.

When my  mom passed away a few years back, I had promised myself that I would not let myself languish too long in any one place, physical or mental. So I decided that I needed to shake things up. It was my life and I was the only one responsible for how I felt and my happiness.

I needed a do over. I needed to hit the reset button.

So, I decided to leave Chicago, my adopted city for more than a decade and return to my hometown, New York City. I left New York at the age of 17 to go to college and never returned. I had gone out into the world and  put together a comfortable life for myself.  My past accomplishments made me proud. And now  I was ready to come back home and start the next phase of my life.

But moving to New York and creating a new life for myself was no easy feat. Deciding to do it was the easy part. I had to make things happen. And starting over is never easy.

Step 1–When Starting Over, Take Stock of Lessons Learned

Even though I had decided that moving back to NYC was in fact what I wanted to do, I did not want to discount or minimize the things that I accomplished  in Chicago. I started a business and had some really transformative relationships. It was in Chicago that learned how to maintain a household and save money. I learned how to get jobs and leave them with connections that could help me in the future. I learned how to drive and earned a master’s degree.  In Chicago, I had learned all these major life skills through trial and error.  And I’m grateful because I can use these skills in New York, where the stakes are a bit higher.

Before embarking on a new phase  and making dramatic changes, be sure to take stock of all the things you’ve learned in your present life phase and think about ways that you can build on this foundation in your next phase.

Step 2–When Starting Over, Honor What You are Leaving Behind

In addition to taking stock of the lessons that I learned, a part of me was really sad to leave. I love Chicago. I love the people I met. At one point, I never thought I would leave. And if I’m being honest, there was even a little part of me that tried to sabotage the move because Chicago was just so comfortable for me.

And even though Chicago no longer fit the life I wanted I was so thankful for her because at one point she was everything I needed. You will never hear me speak ill of her! But life is about growth and movement.

Step 3– Sketch It Out

But deciding to move was not enough. I was looking to do a complete life shift, so I had to imagine a new life for myself. Location was just one aspect. But I also had to think about: what type of experiences I wanted to have, what type of people I wanted to be around, how I wanted to feel. Sometimes we get so focused on what we don’t want that we don’t make enough effort imaging and naming  the things that we do want. Vision board anyone?

Starting Over with A Vision Board

I got busy naming and claiming the exact neighborhood I would live in and what my apartment would look like and how much my rent would be. Next, I looked up the activities that I knew I wanted to participate in. Then, I made a budget that allowed room for all the things I wanted to do.   I even named the organization that I would work for.

In order to get the life I wanted, I knew that I had to design it. Because if I wasn’t purposeful, I could end up in the same old rut that I was breaking away from. So I needed to be intentional, like an artist making decisions.

Step 4– Make Small, Gradual Moves

Knowing that I was going to be moving to NYC, I knew that I would undoubtedly be moving into a smaller space. So I slowly started to get rid of things. Books, dishes, clothes, housewares.

I also sought to re-familiarize myself with my hometown. After all, I had not lived in NY for many many years and never as an adult. A few things I did:  visit family more,  joined email lists of organizations that held the types of events I planned on attending after the move. I also reached out to my network to see if anybody knew of any job opportunities. I started watching YouTube videos about NY culture.

Step 5– When Starting Over, Make Some Big Moves

Starting Over By Closing My Business

About six months after I decided to move, I closed down my physical office space. I had not made any definite plans. I did not have a job and I certainly did not have an apartment. But somehow I knew that closing down my business would bring me dozens of steps closer to my real goal. And it was super scary. Yet I knew that it sent the right signals to myself and the universe that I meant business and there was no backing down from it.

I also spent one whole month in New York staying with family. While I was there, I really imagined how my life would look on a daily basis. I reached out to people I hadn’t seen in years. It was a lot of fun and my mind really started to see this move as a real thing.

Step 6– Be Singularly Focused About Starting Over

When you are committed to starting your life over, you have to be singularly focused. I for one am very susceptible to succumbing to multiple attractive projects at the same time. But to undertake something as big as relocating and changing your lifestyle, you have to concentrate on the monumental task at hand only, even if other things fall by the wayside. I admit that this is why I was away from the blog for so long. I was getting my ducks in a row and brainstorming and figuring everything out. Some days, it was all I could think of. That meant that other things had to fall by the wayside. But the goal of starting over was more important that anything else at the time so it was given priority over everything else.

Step 7– When Starting Over, Do Not Give Up 

Starting your life over takes a great deal of perseverance. And I was firm on two non-negotiable parameters: I had to have a job and an apartment before I moved. Even though I had tons of friends and family in NYC, it was very important for me to be self-reliant. That meant that I wasn’t going to put anybody out or be a burden or inconvenience.

Finding jobs and apartments in Chicago had been relatively easy, but finding them in NYC appeared impossible. I had begun sending my resume off to several jobs in late 2014 and did not land a job until late 2016.

And there were some pretty bleak times. Like the time I had managed to get a phone interview through a college acquaintance. I was interviewed by 2 women and the interview lasted about an hour. I felt pretty good about the interview when I hung up the phone. In the 90 seconds it took me to walk to my kitchen, pour myself a glass of water and walk back to my living room, I had already received an email from them notifying me that I was not selected for the job. Damn, that’s how y’all feel?

Or going apartment hunting and seeing super expensive teeny tiny walk up apartments with no light and that reminded me of elevators or cells. Or finally finding an apartment that I thought was perfect for me only to be rejected because the landlady preferred another couple.

But I kept at it.

In the end I got a better paying job with a better organization than the one that rejected me in 10 seconds. And I also ended up finding and securing a rent stabilized apartment in a better location, for a better price with all the amenities I wanted. It was almost spooky how much my job and apartment matched the original sketch I imagined when I first made the decision to move.

Starting Over in a New Apartment

The moral of the story  is not to give up. Just focus on putting yourself out there and moving toward what you want with steadfast determination. The rest is not up to you.

Step 8– When Starting Over, Build the Life You Want

Starting Over with Family

Life does not simply unroll in front of us like a plush red carpet. We have to actively pursue the things we want.

A major reason I moved back was so that I could spend time with family. And huge part of my vision included long leisurely walks in Central Park and all around Harlem. So I got busy making sure I was doing those things.

Starting Over in NYC

I moved 6 months ago and I am still adjusting. Driving a car here still scares the daylights out of me. And the non-stop pulse of the city is both exhilarating and exhausting. I’ve set up some of my life rituals- my Sunday walk in Central Park with a cup of coffee and an audible book. Exploring fancy neighborhoods where celebrities live. I found a hair salon through trial and error.  I’ve made a few new friends.  But there is still much that still needs to be done. And I am excited about all of my new challenges.

Are you considering starting over too? Do you need to hit your reset button and need some help?  Please look into my Jumpstart Your Life in 6 Weeks Program.  Or consider another program. It might be just what you need.

No Sugar, No Flour- Day 30

nosugarnoflour

(Please note that this is an account of a personal experience and not an endorsement or recommendation of any sort. This should not be mistaken for health care advice. And I urge everyone reading this to consult their physician or registered dietitian for nutritional advice because I am neither.)

Many in my self-love challenge community know that this year my self-love practice is focused on my physical health. I want to be healthier in general and lose a considerable amount of weight in particular.

In January and February, I focused on being more active and going to the gym.

While I knew I needed to radically change the food I put in my mouth, to some degree I felt really stuck and overwhelmed. I would make a commitment to myself to eat better and then it seemed as if my self-control would betray me almost without fail.

And I would feel really awful afterwards. And every day was a struggle– knowing I should do better, but not knowing how to make it happen.

Then I heard a neuro-psychologist talk about the addictive properties of certain foods, namely flour and sugar and the way they affect the brain. She argues that certain people are more susceptible to the addictive nature of these foods than others.

And the solution to this is total abstinence from flour and sugar.

For those in the back, I’ll say it again: She advised a lifestyle change in which people don’t eat any foods that contain processed refined sugar or flour of any kind because it’s the flour and the sugar that addict people and trick the brain into thinking that you need more and more. Some experts have even gone so far as to label sugar and flour to be drugs, or even worse, toxic poisons.

This completely changed the way I thought about food.

Now it’s not like I thought pop-tarts, cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes, or doughnuts were good for me. I mean, I wasn’t delusional.

But I didn’t quite know how eating those types of sugary, doughy “foods” leave my brain craving more and more until I felt powerless to control the cravings.

In other words, the more of those things I ate, the more I craved those things.

The solution it seemed was to completely eliminate all of those things from my diet.

Now, I cannot express to you just what a big deal this decision was for me. I mean, virtually ALL of my favorite foods had flour or sugar in them– preferably both. And it took me a couple of days to process this information. But I eventually knew I had to at least try it.

The first thing I did was make a list of all foods I wouldn’t be able to eat, if I were to adopt this lifestyle. Including all the foods I listed above, I’d also have to eliminate- cornbread, crackers, noodles, sweet potato pie, bread of any kind, syrup of any kind, honey, virtually any kind of box cereal, any kind of boxed food in the grocery store, many salad dressings and many many more things. So really quickly, I knew that I would be cooking almost every meal I put in my mouth.  Manufacturers put sugar or some type of “syrup” in dang near everything.

The second thing I did was start to compile interesting recipes that did not include flour or sugar, so that I didn’t wind up eating the same thing over and over. (If you follow me on Pinterest, sorry for the recent overload of butternut squash recipes.)

What I Ate

Since March 1, 2016,  I have not had any flour or refined sugar.

I found a no flour, no sugar food plan that dictated 3-4 meals a day with no snacking in between, broken down as follows:

Breakfast: one serving of grain/or starchy vegetable, one serving of fruit, one serving of dairy, and one serving of meat or protein

Lunch: one serving of protein/or meat, one cup cooked veggies, one cup fresh veggies

Dinner: one serving of protein/or meat, one cup cooked veggies, one cup fresh veggies and one serving of a grain/or starchy vegetable

Snack (optional): one serving of dairy or meat/protein with with one serving of fruit

So here’s what my food has looked like for the past 30 days:

My usual breakfast is one cup of skim milk, 1/2 cup plain oatmeal (not the sugary instant kind), 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter, a banana, and a few chopped walnuts. But sometimes, I’ll have scrambled eggs and potatoes with yogurt and a piece of fruit.

nfns-breakfast

Honestly, the first day that I had this breakfast I really missed the sugary oatmeal, so I was not in love with it. But funny enough as the weeks have gone by, my bowl of oatmeal is my favorite meal of the day.

On days that I have a lot of writing to get done I will have a cup of coffee right after breakfast or lunch as well. Since I can no longer have sugar and limit my dairy to 1-2 servings a day, I lighten my coffee with a bit of coconut milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It gives the coffee a creamy texture, and a nutty flavor and it is very very good.

Four hours after breakfast, I have my lunch.

nfns-lunch2
Lunch example–One cup cooked string beans, One cup fresh mixed veggies, 4 oz of roasted salmon

Honestly, I’m still getting used to a meal with no starch or grain. This is my least favorite meal of the day because of that.

I have dinner five hours after lunch and one some days I REALLY feel the absence of a grain/starch.

nfns-dinner
Dinner Example–One cup of steamed cabbage and carrots, one cup of roasted winter veggies, one cup of fresh kale and red onion, and 4oz of tilapia

Dinner is usually very filling and satisfying.

Four hours after dinner, I usually have a snack because I don’t like to go to bed with an empty stomach and depending on when I had dinner on some days, it has been as much as 6 or 7 hours.

nfns-snack
Half a cup of cottage cheese and half a cup of unsweetened apple sauce

The Result

Getting though the first 7 days was very difficult. I’m not even gonna lie. It took a whole lot of effort to eat on a particular schedule and to plan out my meals  in advance simply because I wasn’t used to eat. Further I was not at all used to not snacking between meals.  But by day 3, this part got easier. I just fell into a routine.

By about day 4, I started to have really intense cravings for certain sugary and doughy foods. It was kind of ridiculous, honestly. And I had a headache for like 48 hours straight. I was irritable and began to notice how advertisements for these foods were EVERYWHERE.

But…

Almost immediately after cutting out the sugar and flour, my body started to feel better. I was able to move more. I woke up each day feeling a bit lighter. Honestly. I didn’t realize just how bloated I had been.

By day 14, I had noticeably more energy.

My vegetable variety has increased a great deal. In the past 30 days, I’ve had avocado, cabbage, carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, red peppers, yellow peppers, habenero peppers,  string beans, squash, white potatoes, cucumbers, red beans, and romaine lettuce. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that many different vegetables in such a short period before. I don’t know why, but that felt like a big accomplishment. LOL.

And I lost 10 pounds.

So I’m planning to continue. I’m going to take it one day at a time and continue to monitor how I feel. I’m hopeful.

I’ll keep you updated!

Self-Care is Self-Love in Action

self-care

I want you to think of everyone that you have ever really loved. I mean everyone. Romantic relationships, family members, friends. Even pets, if you like. Everyone.

How did you show them that you loved them?

You probably showed them that you loved them, both in big and little gestures– gifts, sweet words and pet names, doing things for them, being protective, providing for them in ways they can’t provide from themselves, etc.  This is the price of love and when we love someone we usually love to be able to do these special things for them.

Caring for our loved ones is how we nurture our relationships. It’s a privilege.  This is how we show our beloveds and the world that they are special to us.

But for some reason, we find it hard to do these loving gestures for ourselves.

We claim that we love ourselves, but:

  • We talk badly to ourselves.
  • We refuse to do the things we need to do to make our lives run smoothly.
  • We neglect ourselves.
  • We allow other people to treat us shabbily.
  • We give up on our hopes and dreams when they seem to difficult instead of seeking our help and support.

And more to the point, if someone treated someone that we loved the way we treated ourselves, we would probably tell our loved one to  distance themselves from that harmful person.

All of us in the self-love challenge community have made a commitment to loving ourselves more and that means we have to

  • stop neglecting ourselves
  • stop  putting everyone before us
  • finally start tending to the important parts of our lives that no one can do for us

This is the basis of self-care.

And the great thing about it is, self-care feeds on itself. Like compound interest. The more you care for yourself, the more you feel loved and want to care for yourself.

So here’s my question for you: How do you take care of yourself? How do you nourish all the important components of your life?

In the comments below, I’d like to hear what your self-care plan is.

Clear Out Your Inner Junk Drawer

Let it go(1)

Do you have a junk drawer?

A lot of people do.

It’s the place in the home where you can put any and everything that doesn’t seem to really have a place of its own. Things like extra condiment packets, old batteries, tape, pencils, scissors, take out menus, tools, etc.

And because the junk drawer is so great at storing things, you can kind of forget all the stuff that’s in there. And the irony is when you actually need something that’s in it, you can’t find it. Years can go by without clearing it out and before you know it, you have all this useless little stuff that you never use, just taking up space in your home and being an eyesore.

junkdrawer

But do you also notice that sometimes, we behave like we are junk drawers?

We hold onto useless baggage from the past that other people left in our lives just for the sake of holding onto it. And all this useless stuff weighs on our emotions, self-worth, and relationships.

Here are some examples:

  • An ex-lover was unfaithful and treated you badly which made you feel unworthy, so now you hold on to that “junk belief” just because a temporary person came and dropped it in your mind.
  • You got fired or let go from a job, so now you hold onto the “junk belief” that you are disposable and have little value.
  • You made a mistake for which you were embarrassed and now you carry around a great deal of shame around this mistake, even many years later.

But you are not a junk drawer.

And you simply have to let all this stuff go. Stop holding onto old useless resentments, shame, heartaches,etc. Let it go! Forgive people. Forgive yourself. Try things again. Try new things. Live in the present. Because life is happening now.

Junk is stagnant and still, but life is always moving, growing, developing, and changing. Since you are alive, you must do these things too.

Because the more you hold onto all that junk, the more it weighs you down and gets in the way of living. You will remain stuck and stagnant too.

The more you hold onto these useless unnecessary junk, the less free you are.

And I don’t know about you, but I want to be free!

So here’s what I want you to do right now:

In the comments section below, please tell me what junk beliefs have been hanging out in your mental junk drawer for far too long that you are finally deciding to let go of.

Can’t wait to read them.

Til next time,
Jennifer

Self-Love Manifesto

Self-Love Manifesto
Click on image to see enlarged version.

I believe in the power of self-love.

Because EVERYTHING begins with the relationship we have with ourselves. And when that relationship is rooted in uncompromising love, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.

Self-Love is the ability to see your own value as a human being.

Self-Love encourages you to set healthy relationship boundaries that prevent other people from treating you badly. And it’s through self-love that we can stop sabotaging ourselves. Self-love is believing in your own worthiness enough to say what you need and go after what you really want.

But most of all, self-love is believing in your yourself enough to get up and keep living after each fall.  After each disappointment.

And I know all about falling. Believe me.

My mission is to teach as many women as I can how to love themselves no matter how many times they have fallen. I want more women to understand that they are valuable and worthy just as they are right now and that they do not need any source of validation in order to “achieve” worthiness.

Below is my self-love manifesto. Please download it and share it with whomever you like. These 10 statements are the basis of my self-love practice. I try to practice each of these statements everyday in real time. And as all things, it’s a practice. Some days are easier than others. But this is my foundation.

The Abundant Life Practice Self-Love Manifesto:

  1. I am enough just as I am. I don’t have to do anything to make myself “worthy.” I am my own source of validation.

  2. I have many things to be thankful for. So I begin each day with a grateful heart.

  3. I make mistakes often. This is how I know I am alive and willing to try new things. There is no other way to grow. Life is all about growth.

  4. I have wonderful gifts to share with others.

  5. I give myself permission to let go of everything that gets in the way of loving myself.

  6. I must always put myself first. I understand that I cannot give anything to anybody if I don’t first give to myself.

  7. I don’t take the actions, words or beliefs of others personally. Because what other people think, do and say is always about them, not me.

  8. I forgive myself and others easily. This is how I let go of the past.

  9. I stay away from people with bad intentions. This is how I protect my precious time, energy, and spirit from being wasted and devalued.

  10. I practice a habit of self-care that honors all the parts of me—physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.

If self-love is difficult for you, I encourage you to adopt the Self-Love Manifesto and practice it until self-love becomes easier. You can also sign up to take the 7-Day Self-Love Challenge.

The Backlash from ‘Formation’ and What It Means for Black Women’s Mental Health

Beyonce Formation

Everyone knows how much I loves me some Beyonce.

So last week when she dropped a unexpected new single with a video, performed in front of the whole country during the superbowl half-time show, AND announced a tour that would be coming to Chicago all within a matter of 48 hours I was in awe.  It was all so… well… Beyonce.

Beyonce literally changes the game every single time she drops new music. And it is wonderful to witness.

On top of all this Beyonce magic, the song itself seems like it’s on par to become a Black girl’s national anthem. “I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros”….. ” I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils.” She said these lines surrounded by images of a drowning post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Black Lives Matter movement imagery, and Black cultural tradition symbolism.

beyoncecopcar

I immediately recognized “Formation” as Beyonce’s personal protest anthem: the media has not been very kind to Blue Ivy’s natural hair or Jay-Z’s wide nose and full lips. And American political systems historically have dehumanized and devalued black lives. Here was Beyonce, I admit unexpectedly, taking a stand against this hatred of her family and her community.

And to add gas to the fire of Beyonce’s protest song, the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary happily coincided with the 5oth anniversary of one of the most revolutionary Black protest movements in recent history–The Black Panther Party. So Beyonce used her platform to pay homage to the Black Panthers by dressing up in the black leather, black berets, and afros that were the uniform of the Black Panther Party and perform her protest anthem during Black History Month at that.

black panthers

But the backlash to this celebration of self has been swift by people all too eager to ignore the demands of respect.

A politician in Canada has publicly considered banning Beyonce from entering Canada. The UK has banned her song and video from the radio and television. Rudolph Guiliani dismissed her performance as anti-police, unprofessional and disrespectful. And other’s derided it as divisive and evidence of “cultural decay,” whatever that means.

Beyonce’s response? A simple, “I wanted people to feel proud and have love for themselves.”

But how does wanting people to feel good about themselves get interpreted and vilified as a political controversy worthy of being banned?

The answer: Very easily if you’re a Black woman.

To be a Black woman is a beautiful thing. But it also means that you are constantly mocked, under-appreciated, and copied without recognition by mainstream society. You are a caricature. You are told that you are too dark, too big, too loud, too bossy, too domineering. You are told you that you should be more like other women. You are told that we should be loyal to others, but not to expect loyalty in return.

And all of these messages serve to make us feel less than. When little black toddlers are misaligned in the media for having “too nappy hair” and being “ugly” physical features, we know the world devalues us very early. It is psychological warfare and the toll it takes on your mental health is costly.

But if we are to love ourselves– and we absolutely must–we have to know that we are OK just as we are. We cannot alter ourselves enough to make other people appreciate us, nor should we. We know from history that this strategy simply doesn’t work. Those of us who have tried to lighten our skin, surgically alter our bodies and faces, educate ourselves into respectability know that this never compels those that devalue us to see our worth and beauty.

We cannot wait for other people to “get” us because they never will.  We must be ourselves right now.

To me this is the lesson to take away from Beyonce’s “Formation.” Name and claim your worth.  Know your worth despite what others say.  Celebrate and appreciate yourself. Even those things that you have been taught to be ashamed of.

We have to continue to create environments, cultural products and perspectives, and support systems that validate ourselves and our work.  This is how we protect and promote our mental health.We create healthy, inclusive, and affirmative spaces to protect us from the onslaught of mainstream media and values.

This is our task and no one will do it for us.

What do the Lonely Do at Christmas?: 5 ways to keep your spirits up during the holiday season

happy

Am I the only one who loves that Emotions song, “What do the Lonely do at Christmas?”

I was listening to it earlier today and it got me to thinking, what exactly do the lonely do?

The Christmas season can pose special problems for people who spend it alone. If you are single or don’t have many friends or family, Christmas is just one of those holidays that can make you feel especially lonely and like you’re missing out. If this holiday season finds you alone and/or feeling lonely, here are 5 tips to help you get through the season:

1. Get into it!

Christmas only comes around once a year. In a few weeks, this Christmas season will be over and done with.  So enjoy it while it’s here upon us.  Just because you don’t have anyone to spend it with, doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the season.

Here are some ideas to get in on the Christmas spirit:

  • Send Christmas cards to everybody in your address book.
  • Go see The Nutcracker live.
  • Watch your favorite Christmas movie (Mine is Trading Places except for Dan Akroyd’s 5 minutes in blackface. Ugh!)
  • Relive your days as a child and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or that cute but kind of weird clay Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
  • Make a Christmas song playlist and play on repeat.
  • Make a Christmas movie playlist and play on repeat.
  • Decorate your house and buy a tree.
  • Make hot chocolate and sugar cookies.
  • Go to your local Christmas festivities.
  • Cook a holiday dinner and bring leftovers to work to share with co-workers.

The holiday spirit and a festive mood are not solely reserved for people with significant others and children. This is your Christmas season too. Your life does not begin after there are others around you. It’s happening now, so live it. Get in on the fun.

2. Do something for others

Each of us has so many gifts.  And since Christmas is the season for giving, use the season as an opportunity to spread your gifts. Spending some time thinking about how you can connect to others by sharing your gifts might also help you feel less lonely. If you’re stuck on how you can do this, you can start by donating your time to a charitable organization that might need extra hands during the Christmas season.

If you are a member of a church, you can find ways to get more involved with different service groups or ministries. You could go to a homeless shelter and ask how you can help.  You can also help out closer to home by asking an elderly neighbor if there is anyway you might be of service. Doing things for other people just feels good, and who knows you might have some fun and get the chance to meet new people.

3.  Go on an Adventure

If you can and are up for it, go on an adventure this season. Who says you have to be at home on Christmas? Since you are alone, you get to define what this season means for you. Maybe it means it’s the season for your next adventure. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just try to do something you’ve never done before.

Adventures remind you that there are always new experiences and new opportunities to be had. So harness the power of the unknown and go on an adventure in order to invite new energy into your life.  Take a drive or hop on a bus and explore a nearby city. Perhaps you can take advantage of the day off from work and spend the night in a hotel in your city’s downtown. Ooohh or even a spa trip! Sounds like fun to me.

4. Do something really nice for yourself (I mean REALLY nice)

Sorry, I just couldn't resist...
Sorry, I just couldn’t resist…

Take this opportunity to give yourself a gift. The point here is to treat yourself. It can be a material item like that pair of shoes (or car) you’ve been wanting to buy. Maybe get a mani/pedi. Or you can finally forgive yourself for something that happened in the past. Whatever it is, be sure to treat yourself nicely during this season. Take care of your lovely self.

5. Do not isolate yourself

Now is not the time to isolate yourself. Make sure you attend that office holiday party or that dinner party that your neighbor invited you to. Be sure to send well wishes to the people who are actually in your life even if they aren’t loved ones. Send out all those “Merry Christmas” text messages  and respond to those that send them to you.  Place those Happy Holidays phone calls (Do people even make phone calls anymore?)

I know that even if you do all these things and more, sometimes feeling lonely can be too much. If the feelings of loneliness seem unbearable or too much for you to deal with, please make sure to contact a counselor or therapist to speak with who can help you manage these feelings. Remember that you do not have to soldier on alone, there are people who can help you. So be sure to reach out to them.

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Everyday Abundance: Summer Edition

orchards

Now that Labor Day is behind us and the kids are back in school, summer has unofficially ended.

So, how did you spend your summer? Did you get a chance to celebrate the sun and heat that summer brings?

Part of living an abundant life is appreciating and making the most of the small joys we experience everyday. These small things make up our lives, so we might as well revel in them.

Each day is a gift and a reason in and of itself to celebrate. You are alive. That’s plenty to be happy about.

For some reason, we get so preoccupied with waiting for the big things. We wait for huge monumental things to happen in order to give ourselves permission to celebrate. We wait for big things because we think they are what make our life worth living.

But honestly that’s not very fun and furthermore, when we recognize and celebrate the small pleasures, we train ourselves to look for joy everyday. In short, we tap into our Everyday Abundance.

Here’s a snapshot of the abundance I experienced this summer:

1. Fruit Orchards

usfruitorchard
Having fun in the fruit orchards.

I am definitely a bonafide city girl, born and raised in New York City. But if I could split myself in two and have one part of me live in the city, while the other part lives in the country, I would jump at the chance. I love the country and wish I had the chance to go out in nature more often. This summer, my bestie and I headed out to Pick Farms to do some fruit picking one bright, hot and clear August day.  I have been to some gigantic and sprawling orchards in the past, but this small quaint one was really nice too. Aside from the occasional fellow picker we ran into, we pretty much had the orchard all to ourselves.

Along with pear trees and blueberry bushes, this farm had

Chickens:

chickencoop

And raspberries:

raspberries

And apples:

apples

But the true stars of the show, were these orange fuzzy PEACHES:

peachtree

 

peaches

I absolutely love peaches and they were everywhere. All ripe and big and beautiful.  We must have picked about 50 of them, as much as we could carry.

And what did I do with all those fresh juicy peaches?

You guessed it!

peachpie
An ooey gooey sweet peach pie. I can still smell and taste it. My kitchen smelled so delicious!

2.  Summer senses

One of the things I love best about the summer is that every single living thing seems to be out on display.

In the summer, everything in nature wants to be seen and noticed. So they whip out their most vibrant colors, loudest sounds, and most fragrant perfumes and put on shows for the world to see.

And for some reason, we seem more primed to notice them. Our senses become captivated. From the smell of cut grass to the feel of mosquitoes as they land on our skin, to the sounds of bees buzzing, we know the sights, sounds, smells and feels of summer.

And everything is so darn beautiful without even really trying.

purplealleyflowers
These beautiful delicate lilac wildflowers grow on their own in the alley behind my house.

 

sunflowers
The tops of some very tall and unruly sunflowers that grow in my neighbor’s backyard.

Summer also has a sound all of its own. I spent countless afternoons listening to the cicadas in the trees right outside my living room window while working and reading. It’s such a peaceful sound. I have fallen asleep on my couch on many hot afternoons while the cicadas sang me to sleep. Here, listen:

 

3.  Spending time with family

Summertime is when we all relax a bit from our hectic rhythms that we adopt during the other seasons. In the summer, we tend to slow down and take time. In the summer, we have barbecues, and picnics with friends and family.

This July I went down to North Carolina to spend a few weeks  with my brother, sister, nieces, and nephews. And as always, I had such a good time.

I enjoyed my nature walks with my hilarious and beautiful niece. Good times!

 

These were a few ways that I appreciated the abundance that summer brought me. And I’m waiting blissfully as Autumn approaches. Autumn is my absolute favorite season, so I will be celebrating BIG TIME.

What about you? In what ways was your summer abundant? How did you celebrate the summer?