5 Ways to Wrap a Fabulous Bow Around 2014

2014 is almost over and I don’t know about you, but for me, 2014 was amazing, liberating, frustrating and lot of other “-ings.” Here are a few ways to wrap a giant bow around 2014 and wish it well!

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How I Got Into Meditation and Why You Should Too

I wish I had some awesome story of self-discovery where I met the Dalai Lama and discovered the keys to inner peace, but I don’t. I got into meditation because I couldn’t fall asleep at night. Insomnia and overthinking left me googling healthy ways to get some shut eye. Note to reader: never Google after 1am. Your mind is irrational enough to believe you’re gonna die of some incurable sleep disorder or age like Benjamin Button.

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5 Ways to Find Your Balance

O’Sensei the founder of the martial art of aikido was once asked by one of his students, “how do you keep your balance all of the time.” The master laughed and said: “The art is not in trying to keep your balance, but in losing it and seeing how fast you can regain it.”

I started reading this book Living Balance recently and it’s all about learning how to thrive and live in flow with life’s complexities. This particular quote really stuck with me because it made me realize that I wasn’t living in balance and was moving further and further away from regaining it. I love McDonalds, but the low point was crying at a bar and ordering two large french fries, a six piece chicken nugget, and a large coke and falling asleep on my couch with one chicken nugget in hand. Sometimes life knocks you off balance, despite your best efforts. No one is perfect. The work isn’t in trying to avoid the fall, but in your willingness to get off the ground. Here are five things the universe has taught me about balance.

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5 Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Optimism

I think the holistic movement has gotten a lot of unwarranted flack. I’m not a Whole Foods regular and on a scale of Portland, Oregon to Dallas, Texas, I’m a comfortable Washingtonian, but I definitely think that there are a lot of fantastic things about holistic health and happiness. It’s not just for hippies. In fact, a lot of medical schools are teaching holistic health practices in addition to traditional medicine. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have definitely helped me build and maintain a healthy mind.

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Living Pura Vida: Days 6-8

Day 6: Own Your Day. It’s Yours. 

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I decided to go zip-lining with a few others from the retreat. Zipping across the river, seeing mountains along the way, and feeling the energy of the natural world is amazing. It’s definitely something I encourage everyone to try if you can. Zip-lining is a tangible way to feel and really understand the importance of being present in life. When you’re present you notice things. Sometimes even just little things, a flower, a feeling of contentment, a sound, a smell can completely change the course of your day. When you’re present you can lock into the positive things that you notice and really own your day.

Another girl on the tour who was visiting Costa Rica with friends said she was conquering her fear of heights through zip-lining. I thought that was amazing! There were 13 courses on our tour. Ironically, the first course was the lowest and the scariest at the same time. When you think about it, isn’t that so true about most things in life? Anything you do or try for the first time is the scariest even if you manage to do even bigger, greater things later. Make each day an opportunity to try something new. Stretch your boundaries. Own your day! I’m gonna get super cliche here but the present really is a gift, so rip open that wrapping paper and start enjoying it!

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Living Pura Vida: Day 3-5

Day 3: Bees and Bonfires

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I decided to go to the beach after lunch. The beaches in Costa Rica are more rocky than sandy and it was high tide so there wasn’t really a place to lay a towel, but rather than go back and wait until low tide, I decided to climb a tree log to read. For about ten minutes or so I was super proud of myself for my smart thinking. It was pretty cool looking down and seeing the waves roll under my dangling legs. Unfortunately, a few chapters or so into my book I felt something on my neck and proceeded to swat at it. BIG MISTAKE. I still don’t know what it was, but I’m gonna guess some kind of monster Floyd Mayweather never loses a fight type hornet. As I learned later when I googled hornets, there are apparently 177 types in Costa Rica and one of them has one of the most painful bites. Within seconds I felt the worst burning pain in my hand ever and proceeded to semi jump into the ocean wanting to pull my hand off and throw it in, while also thinking, shit this is a library book. Needless to say I got the dreaded swollen thumb, but hey, I also got a good story and a tiny battle scar.Read More »

Living Pura Vida: Day 1 and 2

Day 1: Give the Unexpected a Big Ass Hug
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If there is one thing I enjoy most about plane travel, it’s the people you see and meet. Everyone is on their own journey but you all ended up at the same place together. I got a call the day before my flight saying that my super shuttle ride to the airport would be coming a half hour earlier than scheduled. Instead of 3:30am (which was the latest I could get for my 6:45 am flight) I had to be ready to go by 3:10am. Read More »

5 Ways to Overcome Life’s Disappointments

Disappointments can be major stumbling blocks because they’ve come to represent the antithesis to hope. When things don’t go as expected or planned or dreamed, we tend to think that we should lower our expectations, lose hope, expect less. I think this is wrong. Disappointment is a grey area. It’s neither black nor white. It’s an unexpected chapter in an otherwise really good book. When you read a book you think ahhh this story is getting really good. “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who was good to everyone. One day she met a magic frog who said that because she was so good to everyone she could have three wishes. Two seconds before she uttered her first wish however, the frog croaked and died.” Shitty story….or is it? Skip ahead 5 chapters and the three wishes she planned on wishing for came true anyway. Here are some ways to manage those unexpected chapters.Read More »

5 Ways to Find Happiness Through Humor

I’ve come to the conclusion that finding the funny is the key to happiness. There are actual physical and mental benefits to humor. When you laugh you increase endorphins, decrease pain, lower stress, and boost your immune system. Laughter really is the best medicine. Here are seven ways to find the funny, build optimism, and elevate your mood.

1)  Make Problems Funny
Whenever guys leave the toilet seat up in our office bathroom I’m always tempted to get a sharpie marker and write “Close Me Son!” on the lid. 1) It’s funny to think about and instantly decreases my irritation 2) It’s a friendly permanent reminder to put the damn lid down. When you think funny, you do funny. Humor actually boosts your problem-solving skills. There is a famous quote from Dwight Eisenhower that says, “a sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done” and it’s true when you think about it. The most effective problem-solvers and admired leaders have a good sense of humor. Find creative ways to diffuse tension and not only will it make you feel better, it will likely be the most effective way to solve the problem.

2) Get Someone to LOL

You ever notice that when someone cries or is really sad, your instinct is to make them laugh? That’s because laughter naturally causes your body to relax and is proven to decrease depression. Also, when you make someone laugh, you feel better as well. Next time you find yourself in a funk, make someone laugh. It will reorient your brain away from whatever is making you feel bad, build your optimism, and help you embrace a forward-looking attitude. Plus, when you make others laugh, they are more inclined to be there for you when you’re feeling down.

3) Turn Disappointments into Humorous Opportunities

I’m reminded of The Rolling Stones’ song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” whenever I face disappointments, because oftentimes when I face disappointments it’s only because I get what I need in the near future. Find ways to turn disappointments into funny moments for yourself. Maybe you didn’t get the job, guy, project, or achieve your goal, but I’m sure there is something slightly humorous about the situation. There always is. Find it and then build on it. Once you do that, associate your attitude with the funny in the situation as opposed to the failure. Every disappointment is an opportunity to dream about your future success. When you think positively you attract positivity into your life. In a way, by facing your missed opportunity with humor, when you finally get what you want, it will likely come in a funny way.

4) Spend Time With Fun People

Funny, optimistic people aren’t stupid or naive, they just understand the secret to building relationships. Most people, if given the choice, would choose to associate with people that make them feel good. Like attracts like. If you’re attracted to pessimism, you’re going to attract pessimistic people into your life. The key then is to hang out with people who see the glass half full. Even if you don’t naturally see life that way, if you surround yourself with people that do, you’re likely to gain a unique perspective and possibly change your own attitude. Optimism doesn’t make you less intelligent or less aware of the world’s problems, it makes you better able to tackle them with zeal. Build relationships with positive people and you’re likely to find joy, positivity, and a stronger network of friends and relationships.

5) Treat Life Like a Game

I think the movie “Life is Beautiful” hits the nail on the head. The movie is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. There will always be problems, there will always be challenges, and there will always be circumstances beyond our control, but the key is to find ways to change your perspective and approach challenges like a game. When we learn to see the humor in life, we’ll learn to win.

Joie de Vivre in Five Steps

I’ve been listening to a lot of French music lately (hence the title) which got me thinking a lot about language and the evolution of meaning. Not to get too abstract, but I’ve come to the conclusion that cultivating joie de vivre (the joyous life) requires that you master its structure. The sentence “ashley name my is” doesn’t make sense, but luckily it has all of the parts to make it correct. Similarly, you have all of the parts to cultivate the good life, you just have to learn how to construct the right sentence.

Step One: Know Who You Are

Yes, I know, so broad, very cliché, and where the hell do you begin? With a battery of personality tests of course. Similar to the way you approach your career, approach self-understanding like a career assessment. Truly understanding yourself and your motivations is pretty much a career in and of itself. No test can truly measure your personality, but personality tests can help you assess your values, communication style, interactions with others, and your way of interpreting the world. I’m a big fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and StrengthsFinder because they really hone in on the positive aspects of your personality and character while still highlighting areas of growth. There are tons of tests out there, but it’s what you do with the results that matter. Just like a career, once you’ve found areas of interest, research, analyze, and reevaluate. It might feel uncomfortable, but in the end when you truly know yourself, you’ll be in tune with the world around you and be able to put steps in place to achieve your goals, live passionately, and be open to others.

Step Two: Fall In Love With Your Authentic Self

Have you ever had an in-depth conversation with a retiree or an old couple? They don’t give a fuck about social graces. They know what they like and don’t like. They know their strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, they’ve learned to accept themselves and others where they are. I think the key to falling in love with life is falling in love with your authentic self. When you really know yourself, you know your strengths and your weaknesses and you accept them. To me, the easiest way to accept your weaknesses is to build on your strengths and supplement your weaknesses with those strengths. I got teased enough in high school to develop a sense of humor. Oddly enough, it was through teasing that I learned that humor was one of my strengths. Granted, it wasn’t until much later that I learned to capitalize on this strength, but sometimes you learn your strengths through unexpected moments or times in your life. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be the person you think others want you to be or the way you think you should be, love who you are. Be authentic and live authentically. Once you do, you’ll start to fall in love with your life.

Step Three: Be A Magnet of Positivity

Once you start knowing and loving yourself, you’ll start becoming a person you want to hang out with. You’ll be happy alone in your own company and in the company of others. Most importantly, you’ll start attracting good things into your life. Think back on your life. When you felt down on yourself did you find yourself continuously attracting negative people or circumstances into your life? Now think about the times you felt confident and good about yourself. Did good things happen? No one can feel happy 100% of the time, but everyone has the potential to feel good about themselves. You can work to cultivate the best version of yourself. Get to know yourself and start doing things that make you happy. Everything will start falling into place once you do.

Step Four: Express Gratitude

Express gratitude for people, things, and life in general. Express gratitude for continuing to know yourself. There is always a reason to be thankful. Say it out loud, write it down, tell someone. Make it a point to express gratitude daily. Always say thank you and let others know you’re thankful. Your gratitude could completely change someone’s day, maybe even your own.

Step Five: Repeat. 

You’ll constantly learn about yourself, need to fall back in love with yourself, and work to attract positivity into your mind and heart. The beauty about life is knowing that the more you repeat, the more beautiful your sentences will become.