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19 Sep

Being Thankful Out Loud

An excerpt from Loving Out Loud by Robyn Spizman

 

While it can be easy to feel like it is impossible to make a positive difference in these divisive times, the new book Loving Out Loud: The Power of a Kind Word by New York Times bestselling author Robyn Spizman promises that our words can go a long way in that regard, especially when we share them out loud.

 

Loving Out Loud offers readers creative ideas and practical insights for cultivating kindness in their lives while connecting more deeply with the world around them. The book is divided into chapters that provide readers with powerful ways for raising kinder children; loving their significant others, family, and friends; and valuing teachers, coworkers, and everyone in between. We hope you will enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

# # #

 

Since I haven’t thanked you yet today, let me do so now. I realize you could be doing any number of things at this very second, but you chose to read this article. For that I am truly grateful.

 

Having a mindful, kind attitude can change our view of life. I like to think of it as being a kindness “influencer,” as with social media. Imagine together starting a Loving Out Loud (LOL) campaign of caring about each other. Watch what happens when you share an attitude of gratitude in your world and show appreciation to others out loud — it’s electric and kinetic!

 

Albert Schweitzer summed up gratitude when he said, “Often…our own light goes out, and is rekindled by some experience we go through with a fellow-man. Thus we have each of us cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

 

When we appreciate someone and become that spark, a thank-you becomes a gift and lights us up. We all have so many people to thank. How we thank someone becomes part of our signature style of kindness. Studies continue to prove that the more we do for others, the happier we feel. There is a direct correlation. Cultivating kindness is a wonderful opportunity to uplift others as well as ourselves. When we turn our attention to noticing what we are grateful for, we bring out the best in ourselves.

 

If you stop and think of all the people you know who deserve a thank-you, you’ll be surprised to see just how many have an impact on your day, along with your life.

How a Thank-You Can Brighten Your Life

There are days when we all feel down or blue. A thank-you “out loud” is a really nice way I know to shift a mood. It can begin with the power of a simple hello, showing your genuine delight and lift up another person, including yourself.

 

A kindhearted hello leads to friendships, new contacts, relationships, and more. You are not just breaking the ice but are igniting an opportunity when you take the risk to connect with another person and reach out first, sharing positive words or an observation. You create the possibility of making a new friend. In return, you are also seen as friendly, outgoing, considerate, engaging, complimentary, and interested. These good traits contribute to making a wonderful first impression.

Be Thankful Out Loud

The words thank you are universal in their ability to spread good feelings. It’s clear that when we thank the people who touched our lives in little as well as powerful ways, we celebrate a part of life that validates each other.

 

Think for a moment:

  • Who has helped you along the way in your lifetime?
  • Who wrote recommendation letters on your behalf?
  • Who took the time to teach you to ride a bike, read a book, play an instrument, hit a home run, play tennis, or cook a special recipe?
  • Who makes your life easier or has come to your rescue?
  • Is there someone who has been there for you through thick and thin?
  • Do you practice saying “thank you”?

Every day there are opportunities around you, and when you seize them out loud, you build and increase your LOL radar. When you see someone in uniform who has served the country or provides safety or a public service, get in the habit of saying, “Thank you for your service.” Here are some other ideas.

Make a Thank-You Date

A friend recently reminded me how special it is to thank others out loud with a scheduled “thank you” date or get-together. Every year, she takes her babysitters out for a thank-you lunch dedicated to expressing her appreciation. It makes her kids’ caregivers feel special, and they make new friends at these dates, since they have so much in common. Whether it’s a lunch to thank a teacher, breakfast to thank Grandma for driving car pool, a mother-daughter walk at the park, or a dinner with a friend who volunteered to help you, thank-you dates are memorable and a tradition worth establishing.

 

Having written about the topic of thanks, love, and kindness for decades, I’ve discovered many clever ways to say “thank you,” some that don’t even use those words. For example, I loved it when a younger gentleman gave a handshake to an elderly coworker and said, “I want to shake the hand of the nicest person I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. You are one generous soul.”

 

I continue to marvel at all thank-yous that make us feel appreciated, but some hit it right out of the park. I’ll never forget one I received that made me smile from ear to ear. It has stuck with me over the years as among the most touching thank-yous ever to warm my heart.

 

I sent a holiday gift to a friend of mine’s daughter. As she opened it, her parents videotaped her reaction and sent me the thank-you video capturing her excitement. Her joy in unwrapping her present was off the charts. That was one gift that kept on giving joy!

 

# # #

 

Robyn Spizman is the author of Loving Out Loud. She is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and popular keynote speaker who has appeared in the media for over three decades, including NBC’s Today show more than thirty times. She lives in Atlanta. Visit her online at http://www.robynspizman.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Loving Out Loud. Copyright ©2019 by Robyn Spizman. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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15 Sep

Seasonal Spice Blends

According to Ayurveda, a balanced diet contains all six tastes at every meal. This can be challenging given our western influences. There’s a simple solution! Herb and spice blends called “Churna” that are specially formulated for the seasons. Fall/Winter when it is cold and dry is Vata season. Summer is Pitta season, and Spring is Kapha season. You can use these blends while cooking, or take the shaker with you to sprinkle on your food when you eat out. You can add the churnas to sauces, soups, vegetable or rice dishes, even just sprinkle it on salads, popcorn or snacks. Very convenient, and really delicious. You can make your own at home in the kitchen.
The Vata blend is calming, and includes cardamom, ginger, and other spices. The Pitta blend is cooling, and includes cumin, coriander and fennel along with other spices. The Kapha blend is invigorating, with turmeric, mustard, black pepper and more.
Vata Churna:
Ingredients
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing powder)
¼ teaspoon salt (I prefer Himalayan salt, it is unprocessed)
1 tablespoon raw sugar
Directions
  1. In a dry skillet, roast the cumin and coriander seeds until nutty.
  2. Transfer to a spice grinder and add cardamom and fennel seeds; process to a fine powder.
  3. Put the ground spices in a bowl with the ground ginger, asafetida, and salt and mix all together.
  4. Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
Pitta Churna:
Ingredients
        2 tablespoons fennel seeds
        2 tablespoons coriander seeds
        2 tablespoons cumin seeds
        1 tablespoon turmeric
        2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves (chopped), or dried mint leaves
        ½ teaspoon ground ginger
        1 tablespoon raw sugar
Directions
1.  In a dry skillet, roast the coriander and cumin seeds until nutty.
2.  Transfer to a spice grinder and add the cardamom and fennel seeds; process to a fine powder.
3.  Put the spices in a bowl with the turmeric, mint, ground ginger and sugar and mix all together.
4.  Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
Kapha Churna:
Ingredients
        2 tablespoons coriander seeds
        1 tablespoon cumin seeds
        1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
        1 tablespoon ground ginger
        1 tablespoon turmeric
        1 tablespoon cinnamon
        1 teaspoon ground clove
        ½ teaspoon black pepper
Directions
1.  In a dry skillet, roast the coriander and cumin seeds until nutty.
2.  Transfer to a spice grinder and add the genugreek seeds; process to a fine powder.
3.  Put the spices in a bowl with the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove and black pepper and mix all together.
4.  Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
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06 Sep

DIY Natural Cleaning Products

Here is a list of DIY Natural Cleaning products for just about any job in your home! Follow the recipe and you’ll be amazed by how great your own natural products smell, and how great they WORK! Once you try them you’ll never go back. Saves lots of money, and helps the planet!

Most of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. You can make them easily right in the spray bottle. Be sure to label the bottles when you’re done so that you can tell them apart.

 

All-Purpose Cleaner

 

½ cup white vinegar

10 drops essential oil (tea tree, lavender, or lemon)

2 Tablespoons baking soda

Water to fill up a 12 ounce spray bottle

 

Combine vinegar, essential oils, and a small amount of water in a clean, 12-ounce spray bottle. Add baking soda, then fill bottle to the top with water. Shake gently to mix ingredients.

 

 

Carpet Cleaner

 

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

15 drops of lavender essential oil

 

Combine vinegar and water in spray bottle, then add salt and essential oil. Shake to mix ingredients. Spray on carpets and shake in between sprays. When carpet is dry, vacuum all the areas sprayed.

 

 

Wood Polish

 

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup white vinegar

30 drops essential oil (lemon or orange)

 

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Spray directly on wooden surface and wipe down with a clean, dry cloth. Shake before use.

 

 

Mirror and Glass Cleaner

 

¼ cup rubbing alcohol

¼ cup white vinegar

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

2 cups warm water

 

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to mix. Spray on glass surface, wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Shake well before use.

 

 

Toilet Cleaner

 

1 cup vinegar

½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil

½ cup baking soda

 

Mix vinegar and essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray on toilet bowl, base, seat, and lid. Add baking soda around bowl, scrub with a toilet brush. When all clean use paper towels to wipe down all areas sprayed with the solution.

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24 Mar

Sleep Your Worries Away

by Lissa Coffey

What’s keeping you up at night? Chances are it is worry. Let’s face it, in our hectic lives there’s always something to worry about, even if it’s the state of the world. Worry can contribute to insomnia, or trouble falling asleep. Worry can also cause what is called “maintenance insomnia” or difficulty in staying asleep. This is when we wake us up in the middle of the night, and then have a problem getting back to sleep.

 

Why does worry affect our sleep so much? During the day we might have all the same worries – but we’re engaged in other activities that take the mind elsewhere. At night, when it is quiet and the mind isn’t distracted, all those same worries come to the forefront of the mind, and we can’t seem to quiet them. It is important to give ourselves that “wind down” time to help settle the mind before hitting the sheets. Read, meditate, listen to soft music, or take a warm bath. And of course, make sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable as this is the key to having a cozy bed to climb into.

 

Worrying is nothing new. It happens to everyone, all over the world. Generations ago, the indigenous people of Guatemala created “Worry Dolls” as a remedy for their stress. These are tiny dolls, hand-crafted with fabrics from Mayan costumes twisted and tied around little pieces of wood and wire. It is all held in place with colorful yarn, which makes up the doll’s head, hair, feet and hands. At just two inches high, the dollars are small enough to tuck under a pillow. The tradition is that when worrying keeps you awake, you tell your worries to the doll, who then does the worrying for you so that you can sleep peacefully through the night.

 

This is the traditional story of how the worry dolls came about, and it is a wonderful way to introduce worry dolls to children to help them get to sleep.

 

The Worry Dolls

 

In the hills of Guatemala there lived an old man, his daughter, Flora, and Flora’s two children Maria and Diego. Their home was a small hut made out of mud and wood. The grandfather was a farmer, as many of his ancestors were, and as he taught his own family to be. One year there was a terrible drought. Without enough rain the crops could not grow well, and they had very little food.

 

The whole family would wake up with the sun and tend to the fields in the hope that the rain would come. Then Maria and Diego would go to school for the day. At night, Flora would make tortillas for dinner with what corn they had, and then weave colorful cloth to sell at the market. Grandfather would tell the children stories before tucking them into their hammocks at bedtime. One of the children’s favorite stores was about a magical doll that could grant wishes.

 

One night a robber snuck in and stole all of Flora’s cloth, everything she had worked so hard to make over many months. She cried that she had nothing to sell at the market and didn’t know how the family would get the money they needed.

 

The next day Flora came down with a fever, and Maria knew that she had to do something to help. She got an idea. She went through her mother’s weaving basket and found scraps of fabric in odd colors and shapes. She brought the basket outside, and told her brother to collect small twigs for her. With the scraps of cloth and the twigs Diego and Maria got to work. They worked late into the night, and kept their project a secret. When they ran out of cloth they saw that they had made dozens of tiny dolls in tiny clothes. Maria hoped that these dolls would be magical like the one in her Grandfather’s story.

 

That night Maria lined up a few of the dolls and spoke to them of her worries: “My little friends, we need your help. My family is in trouble. The fields are dry, my mother is sick, and we have no food or money. Please help us. Good night.” She placed the dolls lovingly under her pillow and lay down to sleep. Maria slept well that night, confident that the dolls would somehow help her.

 

In the morning, Maria and Diego packed up all the dolls and walked a very long way to the market. The family was so poor that the children didn’t even have sandals, they had to walk barefoot. When they finally got to the market they found that it was crowded with people. They had never sold at the market before, and she had never seen anyone else sell tiny dolls there, but she was determined that her plan would work. The two finally found a good spot near a shoe seller.

 

Maria and Diego laid the dolls on the sidewalk. The shoe seller saw them and wondered by anyone would want such tiny dolls. Marie explained that there was magic in the dolls. The shoe seller just laughed and said that the magic in his shoes doesn’t help them to sell. Marie was firm and said: “We shall see.”

 

It was a long day, and no one had bought any of the dolls. The children we getting sad, and worried. As Maria was packing up the dolls to go home, a man in fine clothes and a large hat came by and asked what they were selling. Diego piped up: “These little dolls.”

 

“Magic dolls!” Maria corrected her brother.

 

The man looked impressed. “Well, I could use a little magic. I’ll take all of them!”

 

Maria and Diego excitedly wrapped up the dolls for the man, who then handed them a stack of money, without asking the price. Maria thanked him and the man was gone before Maria could say anything more. She counted the money and found that there was enough for the family to live on for a year.

 

The two bought some food at the market and then excitedly headed for home to tell their mother and grandfather the news.

 

“We sold the dolls we made!” Diego exclaimed.

 

“Magic dolls!” Maria emphasized, and she told them the whole story.

 

“This doesn’t sound like any magic,” Flora said to her children, “It sounds like you worked hard and it paid off.”

 

“Ah,” the grandfather chimed in, “but you are feeling much better, Flora, how do you explain that?”

 

“And look! It’s raining!” Diego jumped up and pointed to the fields. Sure enough, it was raining and the fields were getting the water they needed. The drought was over.

 

That night as Maria got ready for bed, she noticed something in her pocket. She reached in to find a pouch that contained the same dolls she had slept with under her pillow the night before. She was surprised because she was sure she sold all of the dolls to the man. Inside the pouch was a little note that read: “Tell these dolls your secret wishes. Tell them your problems. Tell them your dreams. And when you awake, you may find the magic within you to make your dreams come true.”

 

For lots of great sleep tips visit The Better Sleep Council: www.BetterSleep.org

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2911002/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/too-early-to-get-up-too-late-to-get-back-to-sleep

http://blog.shamansmarket.com/the-legend-of-the-worry-dolls/

 

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21 Jan

Better Sleep Can Warm Up A Relationship

For couples having trouble under the sheets, improving their relationship could be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.

Catching extra winks together in bed can significantly help improve a relationship. A good night’s sleep is restorative to the mind and body, gives us energy and improves our mood—all attributes that can make us better partners in romantic relationships. On the other hand, a poor night’s sleep —often the result of a couple’s mismatched sleep styles— can be a major problem for a relationship.

Many couples can live happily together, but they can’t sleep well side-by-side, which can negatively impact their relationship. Sleeping together is an important way for couples to feel connected with each other. And not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling sluggish, cranky and hard to get along with.

If your partner’s sleep style is keeping you up at night here are some tips to bring harmony back to the bedroom and into your relationship:

1.
Problem: Your partner kicks in his or her sleep, waking you up.
Solution: Make sure your bed gives each sleeper enough sleep surface to move around comfortably. For couples sharing a bed, the mattress should be at least queen-sized.

2.
Problem: Your partner likes it hot, you like it cool.
Solution: Ideally, your bedroom should be a cool 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. But a few simple adjustments can make it possible for a person who craves heat and a person who craves cool to sleep side by side comfortably.
• Double-fold the blankets so there is more coverage on one side.
• Invest in a dual-control electric blanket or a twin-sized electric blanket on one side.

3.
Problem: Your partner snores, keeping you up at night.
Solution: Snoring can be a serious health concern, so make sure to consult your physician. If your partner’s snoring is not a serious health condition, try alternative treatments like investing in anti-snore pillows, sprays or nasal strips that are designed to help people breathe more easily.

4.
Problem: Your partner tosses and turns.
Solution: It may be your mattress. Mattresses should be evaluated for optimum comfort and support every five to seven years.

5.
Problem: Your partner loves to cuddle, but you like your space while you sleep.
Solution: Compromise. Before falling asleep, spend some time snuggling together and then agree to sleep apart.

6.
Problem: Your sleep schedules don’t match.
Solution: Try finding a bedtime that works for both of you. Be considerate if you are a night owl or an early riser compared to your sleep partner. Keep overhead lights off and use minimal lighting while you are awake and your partner is asleep.

A bad night’s sleep affects your mood, work and relationships with others. Sleep, like proper diet and exercise, is essential to overall well-being.

More sleep tips at BetterSleep.org

Sleep Tips video

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18 Dec

A Grateful Generous Heart

An excerpt from The Jewel of Abundance by Ellen Grace O’Brian

Although millions of Westerners practice yoga simply for its health benefits, the philosophy and wisdom behind the multifaceted discipline have far more to offer. In The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga, award-winning author and Kriya Yoga teacher Ellen Grace O’Brian reveals an overlooked aspect of yoga: its powerful teachings on prosperity. She draws upon the ancient Vedic tradition of yoga philosophy and practice and shows how spirituality and earthly success can complement each other, leading to realization of the higher Self. O’Brian presents a clear explanation of both the philosophy of yoga and the nuts and bolts of practice, such as setting up a daily meditation routine, incorporating mantras, discerning how to cooperate with universal principles for complete well-being, and cultivating mindfulness in action. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

A grateful heart is a magnet that draws to us what is harmonious and good. This idea is reflected in a playful metaphysical adage: not, “We see things as they are,” but, “We see things as we are.” In other words, our state of mind and consciousness color our perception and determine how we see and experience things. Taken a step further, this dynamic explains how we also then draw to us what corresponds with our consciousness. When our hearts are grateful, when we approach others and life itself with gratitude for all that is given, we generally reap more of the same. The opposite is true as well. When we’re down and depressed and can’t see much good anywhere — that experience will tend to compound itself.

Life in the manifest realm is mixed — light and dark, hot and cold, day and night, up and down, fast and slow, and so on it goes. But beyond all duality and changing phenomena is the unchanging Absolute Reality that we can know as good, as whole and completely supportive of its divine purpose. Isn’t it better for us to call forth the good in every situation? To call it forth in every moment? We can do this through training our mind to extract what is good, what is praiseworthy or useful, and gratitude is one way to do that. Simply look deeply into any relationship, or any situation, and ask what there is to be grateful for. There is always something. When we find it, and call it forth, our heart opens and we become more receptive to the presence of divine grace at hand.

Which comes first, gratitude or grace? They seem to arise together. Gratitude is our natural response to the gift of grace, and gratitude itself opens us to the awareness of ever-present divine support. When we work hard toward something and accomplish it, or desire something and attain it, we generally feel good, and along with that we feel some relief — a kind of “job well done!” out-breath. A very different feeling arises when we become aware of the powerful presence of divine grace that has allowed us to experience more than we ever could have without divine support. On those occasions, we feel something else. We feel awe. We are amazed, inspired, and yes, grateful.

The distinction between relief and awe is a good indicator. It gives us a glimpse into how expansive our life is, how awesome it is or can be.

 

Gratitude Practice

Gratitude stretches us to be bigger, to expand our consciousness, to open our hearts and our minds more fully. When we begin the practice of cultivating gratitude, we often notice that it’s generally easier to feel grateful for what we like, for what we want or find pleasant. It’s more difficult to experience gratitude when what comes our way is unwanted.

I once worked with a woman who had an amazing gratitude practice. It was so pervasive that it was contagious. I found myself feeling grateful for her because her grateful attitude made our encounters so pleasant. Her responses frequently surprised me and helped me to expand my perspective. This was her practice: Whatever I offered her, she responded with a genuine “Thank you!” Her response was always the same. If I offered her my praise and gratitude for something she did well, she would thank me. If I let her know that she had made a mistake or that something was not done well or right, her response was still “Thank you!” This was the key that made this practice so effective. She was truly grateful, her words accompanied by a genuine smile. She never gave one of those “thank you” nods accompanied by a smirk. How did she do that? I never asked her, but my guess is that she was a natural at cultivating spiritual awakening through selfless service. She did what she did as an offering, as her way of worship. She was grateful when it went well, and she was grateful when it did not because that gave her an opportunity to learn.

Being able to say “thank you” to what comes, both pleasant and unpleasant, is unconditional gratitude. “Thank you” can be said aloud when appropriate, or silently as a prayer, but let’s say it! We can practice offering gratitude for something or someone that has pleased us and for something or someone that has not. The first is easy. The second, not so easy. It becomes easier as we hold that whatever comes into our life and experience always brings an opportunity for us. What will we do with that opportunity? When we meet it with gratitude, our potential to prosper and grow in love is multiplied.

# # #

 

Ellen Grace O’Brian is the author of The Jewel of Abundance and director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, CA. Ellen is a yogacharya (an esteemed yoga teacher), a radio host, and an award-winning poet who weaves poetry into her teachings on spiritual matters, pointing to the mystical experience beyond words and thought. Ordained by a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, she has been teaching Kriya Yoga philosophy and practice nationally and internationally for over three decades. Visit her online at www.ellengraceobrian.com.

 

Excerpted from the book The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga. Copyright ©2018 by Ellen Grace O’Brian. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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15 Oct

13 Romance Ideas to Warm Up the Fall Season

1. Join In On Football Season

For many men, “Fall” is just another name for “Football season.” Since you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em! Get tickets to a local game, pack a tailgate picnic and head out to the stadium. Be sure to bring a warm blanket for the two of you to snuggle under, and maybe a thermos-full of hot chocolate laced with coffee liqueur for half-time.

2. Take Advantage Of Pumpkin Season

Jack-o-lanterns aren’t just for kids — this Halloween, pick up a couple of extra pumpkins and spend the evening carving them up together! Maybe you want to work together to create an amazing masterpiece, or maybe you want to work solo to design special “his and hers” messages for one another. Some ideas: a big set of lips and some false eyelashes on a girl pumpkin for him — an “I love you” message that lights up when the candle is inside for her!

3. Play High Stakes Board Games

Take a traditional board game and make up your own rules. Yahtzee can become “Strip Yahtzee,” by simply adding that for every three of a kind you roll, your partner loses a piece of clothing. For every four of a kind you roll, you get a “wish”: a kiss, a foot massage, etc. And for every Yahtzee, set the timer for 5 minutes (and only 5 minutes!) of “high scorer dominance.” You can do something similar with Scrabble – earning extra points for sexy words, or Monopoly – paying for properties with “favors” rather than cash.

4. Share Firelight

There’s nothing more inviting than the glow of a fireplace on a crisp Fall evening. Spread a blanket out in front of the fire, toss around a few fluffy pillows, and serve up some warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Relax and enjoy each other’s company. Soon you’ll be toasting more than your tootsies!

5. Dance In The Dark

Set up an impromptu dance floor in your bedroom. Light some candles, turn on the Harry Connick Jr. CD and hold each other close. Dance the old-fashioned way, cheek-to-cheek, and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Let the music move you, and melt into each others arms.

6. Want To Make It interesting?

When the weather’s crummy and he wants to spend the day watching sports on TV, make it interesting for both of you! Place bets on how many car commercials are shown in the next station break, which team’s cheerleaders get on camera next, how long it takes five minutes to really play. Bet kisses, massages, sweet treats, etc.

7. Puzzle Him

This takes a little forethought – get a jigsaw puzzle and put it together on a piece of cardboard. Put another piece of cardboard on top of it and flip it over. Now write a message to your significant other, or make it an invitation! Be creative, even naughty! Then flip it back over and pull the pieces apart. Keep one piece hidden in your bra. That night, ask him to help you with the puzzle. If you have a glass top table, do the puzzle directly on the table. Once the puzzle is all assembled, have him look for the missing piece under the table. When he can’t find it, crawl under the table to help, and show him your message. It won’t take long for him to find that missing puzzle piece now!

8. Create Your Own Starry Nights

Get a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the ceiling over your bed. Have them spell out a love note to your honey. When the lights go out, you can lie under the stars and cuddle.

9. Wash Your Cares Away

How about a soothing bath for two? Make bath sachets by wrapping cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in pieces of fabric and tying with a ribbon. Drop into a hot bath, add a few capfuls of almond oil. Indulge!

10. Tea For Two

Take a little time-out with an afternoon tea party. De-stress over chamomile and banana bread, and take turns with the shoulder rubs.

11. Recipe For Romance

Cool Autumn breezes call for simmering stews. Spend time in the kitchen together chopping up herbs and veggies and create your own cold-weather feast! Serve with corn bread and your favorite wine.

12. Bicycle-Built-For-Two

Enjoy the last few sunny weekends by renting a bicycle built for two and cruising the neighborhood!

13. Story Time Together

Grimm’s Fairy Tales take on a whole new meaning when read aloud by the one you love. Curl up on the couch and revisit some of your favorites, and love happily ever after.
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11 Oct

Are Your Thoughts Derailing Your Resilience?

An excerpt from Resilience by Linda Graham

Everyone knows what it’s like to be knocked off center, to lose their inner sense of balance and groundedness, at least temporarily, when faced with life’s unwanted curve balls. Whether it’s a troubling health diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a serious car accident, a layoff, or a natural disaster, life can intensely challenge our resilience.

In Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster (New World Library, October 2, 2018), author and psychotherapist Linda Graham, MFT, guides readers step by step through a process of cultivating more well-being in their lives by strengthening their resilience so that they can respond skillfully to any upset or catastrophe that would derail that well-being. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

Sometimes your thoughts can drive you crazy, blocking clear thinking and impeding response flexibility. Sometimes your thoughts trigger further thoughts, evaluations, judgments, and condemnations that reduce your resilience. These thought patterns are ways of filtering reality that can be counterproductive.

You can learn to work mindfully with your thoughts, and with all the amazing, creative, dazzling constructs of your default network mode, especially when those constructs turn dark or constricting, so that you can also experience their coming and going. Even your deeply held beliefs about the truth of the way things are can shift. And you can come to understand the processes of your brain that create, install, and defend those constructs to the death.

Here’s a list of common thought processes that human beings use to filter their experience.

  1. Assumptions: We learn from past experience, and based on that experience we sometimes think we know more than we know. We filter our perceptions of reality through those assumptions rather than seeing clearly what is actually true or needed now.
  2. Projections: We assume that what we have learned is true for ourselves is true for other people as well. We project our assumptions onto them, usually without their knowledge or permission, abandoning theory of mind.
  3. Objectification: We lose the sense of ourselves or another person as an active agent of changing experience. Instead we see ourselves (and others) as an object, a thing, an “It” at the mercy of external events and other people’s choices, powerless to change our experience (or our responses to it).
  4. Mind reading: We presume we know what another person is thinking, feeling, or needing without empathically checking with them. Or we may presume that the other person already knows what we think or need without bothering to tell them directly: “If you loved me, you would know how I feel.”
  5. Discounting the positive: We fail to register positive traits in ourselves or in others, belittling ourselves, devaluing others, and deflecting or neglecting appreciation in either direction.
  6. Overgeneralizing: We may exaggerate attributes of an experience, perceiving things as global and pervasive, applying to everything and everybody; we see things as “always” or “never.” We may take things personally whether or not that’s true or relevant, seeing things as permanent and unchanging. (This overgeneralizing is known as the three Ps: pervasive, personal, permanent.)
  7. Catastrophizing: We may immediately assume the worst: if we sneeze, we assume we’re catching a cold, which means missing work for three weeks, which means losing the job, which means losing our home — from sniffle to disaster in less than three seconds.
  8. Black-and-white thinking: We see everything in categorical terms, with no shades of gray, few options, and no possibilities of compromise. This rigidity in thinking, which can lead to a serious derailing of response flexibility, is also known as neural cement.
  9. Inability to disconfirm: We are so rigid in our opinions that no new information can change them.

You may recognize similar patterns in your thinking.

Exercise: Identifying Thought Processes That Derail Resilience

  1. Review the list above. Identify any of these patterns you recognize as operational in you or in people you know, without attaching any shame or blame. For now, simply acknowledge any patterns you identify that you might want to rewire later.
  2. Pick one pattern relevant to you that you’re willing to investigate; it need not be the one that is most difficult for you.
  3. Track this pattern in your thinking for a week. Notice when this pattern is operating in your thinking; notice when it’s not.

Becoming aware of your common patterns of perceiving and responding, and acknowledging them in your conscious awareness, is essential if you want to rewire them. Steadying your awareness with more and more difficult objects of awareness is reflective resilience.

Mental constructs can be very stable and long-lasting, more like the climate you live in than the weather that changes from day to day. Emotions that might flit through your awareness in a matter of minutes or half a day (weather) can settle into a longer-lasting mood (climate). The moods we deem negative — depression, discouragement, despair — are the ones we’re more likely to notice and want to shift than the lighter-hearted moods of joy or contentment.

As human beings, we adopt roles, preferences, priorities, and goals that filter our perceptions and shape our responses over long periods of time. We prioritize family over work, or work over family, based on deeply held values and convictions. We construct entire philosophies of living, belief systems, and identities that filter our perceptions and response to reality. Formulating values to live by is part of resilience: they are part of a moral compass that guides our life choices. But locking ourselves into values that cannot be changed in response to new experiences is not resilient.

At this stage of new conditioning, you’re simply training your awareness to realize that any thought is a product of the processes of your brain, and thus any thought can change. Entire patterns of thought, no matter how complex, can change. Roles, preference, priorities, and even entire belief systems can change over time — and they do.

# # #

 

Linda Graham, MFT, is the author of Resilience and also Bouncing Back, the winner of a 2013 Books for a Better Life Award. She is an experienced psychotherapist who integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her international trainings on resilience and well-being. Visit her online at www.lindagraham-mft.net.

 

Excerpted from the book Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. Copyright ©2018 by Linda Graham. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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28 Aug

Fashion Trends: Distressing Times Well Worn

I have heard that fashion often reflects the mood of the times. When we are optimistic as a society, hemlines tend to go up. When we feel gloomy, we see more dark gray hues. So it really is no surprise that the fashion trend of the moment seems to be the “distressed” look.

I’ve seen this everywhere. Jeans have manufactured holes in them, strategically placed rips and sanded down seams. Shirts are wrinkled on purpose, just enough to give that worn-for-a-long-time feel to them. Gone are the starched collars and in is a more “easy” fit. Our new shoes are to be worn not only without socks, but also with the laces conspicuously missing.

Our clothes are mirroring our distress. We’ve got a monstrous unemployment rate, and a seemingly endless war or two going on at the same time. We are dealing with natural disasters all over the globe, and an oil spill with repercussions that reach far into the future. The economy basically, well, is there any better word than “sucks” right now? And on top of all this, there’s the whole Tiger letdown, Jesse cheating on our beloved Sandra, and the Gores’ divorce! Yes, “distress” is putting it mildly.

The fact that we have chosen to wear the distressed look tells me that as bad as things are, we have hope. We know we can get through this. These are the kinds of clothes we wear when we’re ready to get down to the business at hand. Those paint splattered khakis? They say: “I can handle anything!” That faded denim shirt? It says: “Put me to work!”

Volunteerism is at its highest level since 1992. We may be pinching pennies, but we were able to scrape up $1.3 million dollars in just two hours when Larry King went on the air to raise money to help clean up the Gulf. This is definitely a “can do” society. We are keenly aware that things are bad, and we’re making a concerted effort to do what we can to make things better.

We are banding together more. Those “six-degrees of separation” have all but disappeared with social networking. Alyssa Milano personally tweets the importance of the mosquito net in helping to combat malaria and with just a few clicks we are sending a net to the cause. Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete have raised awareness and inspired us to take action on behalf of families struggling with autism. Philanthropy has gone viral!

So, yes, with all the events that are happening seemingly at the same time, we’re distressed. But maybe in this state we finally have our priorities straight. Maybe we are starting to understand what is important to us. Our style is changing, and evolving. I see the current trend as a statement that “fashion” as we know it doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that we take care of the issues at hand, and that we take care of ourselves and each other.

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06 Aug

The Plush and Pretty PediPocket Blanket!

If you’re like me, you work hard all week long and Friday night comes along and it’s time to kick back and relax! Couch, TV, kitty cat… what else do you need? A cuddly blanket, of course! I’m kind of a blanket connoisseur. I’m always cold (hey, I’m a Vata! – check out whatsyourdosha.com if you don’t know what that means!) My mom crochets and has made me some beautiful blankets. The only problem with blankets knitted or crocheted is that they are heavy. Too heavy to travel with for sure, and too heavy for summer. So I’ve been on the look-out for a light-weight comfy blanket that looks beautiful enough to keep on the couch, and that I could throw in the car when I travel.

I found one! And BONUS is that it is super long for my long legs, and it comes with a nice little pocket for my cold tootsies!  It’s the PediPocket – and it comes in a variety of colors – you can check it out here: PediPocketBlanket.com

The PediPocket has Clara’s pawprint of approval as well 🙂  Look how cute we are!!

I love the pretty paisley pattern – it goes great with my blue sofa! Plus, the PediPocket is machine washable and dryable, just follow the easy care instructions. The fabric is a plush fleece that feels super luxurious. It doesn’t shrink or wrinkle. I can toss it in the back of my car and take it anywhere I go. It can easily double as a picnic blanket! It’s six feet long, so even my 6’4″ son with the size 12 feet can cuddle up with it!

So now I’m spoiled, and will be finding more excuses to kick back and relax mid-week. Just me, and PediPocket, the couch and Clara. If I’m not on that couch Clara’s there without me anyway!

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