Think Positive Monday: When All You Feel Is Negative

thinkpositivemonday
Two weeks ago was a rough week for me. No matter what I did I couldn’t get myself out of a negative mood. I lost myself in a fit of ugly crying almost every day. It seemed like whenever I tried to lift myself up I would end up feeling worse. Nothing seemed to be going my way. And then we turned back the clocks and the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. only made everything worse. I just couldn’t get myself out of the dumps.

During that week I was catching up with a friend. I was venting and ranting about everything in my life. It wasn’t until I paused and stepped outside of the conversation to realize how everything I had said was 100% negative.

I said to my friend, “I’m sorry all I’ve talked about is negative stuff.”

And she replied, “Don’t be sorry! That’s what is going on right now!”

And it’s true. Sometimes life is simply negative.

I think sometimes we’re afraid to admit that life is hard or that we are failing. Especially us women. We are afraid that we will sound weak or like we are not happy with our life. When that’s not usually the case. Sometimes we just hit bumps in the road or we are just having a bad day. But things will always get better. You simply have to push forward and find the good. No matter how annoying, silly, and impractical that sounds in the moment.

I’m so grateful for this weekly series because if forces me to continue to be positive, even when I just want to have a pity party and complain about every little thing. Last week I couldn’t help but feel a bit hypocritical, writing my sunshiny post when meanwhile I could barely pull myself out of bed. But it helped. It’s a reminder that you have to try.

It’s like working out. You don’t really love going but you do it to improve your health. You have to practice the positivity exercises even when you don’t feel like it. Give yourself an hour or day to be upset and then try to move forward with practicing positivity. 

We all know the saying, “misery loves company” don’t let your thoughts duplicate to the point that they are the only thoughts habitating your mind.

Step out of the situation and give yourself a minute or to and practice a positivity exercise. Things aren’t going to get magically better, but I bet over time you will begin to learn to deal with the negative occurences in your life in a much healthier way. 

Think Positive Monday: How a Smile Can Change Your Day

thinkpositivemonday
Smile. By just reading the word the sides of my lips start to form themselves into a grin. Try saying “smile” out loud. It always evokes a positive image. A feeling of happiness. It has the ability to not only brighten the day of those around you your own as well. 

A smile. A free accessory that is never going to go out of style. So why don’t we use it more often?

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We all can recall the overpowering joy we feel when we’re laughing uncontrollably with a group of friends or while watching a hilarious TV show or movie.

But what about when we’re not having a grand ole time? What about when a smile is the furthest thing from our mind?

Whenever I’m in bad mood and sporting a frown, the last thing I want to hear is, “Smile, things can’t be that bad, can they?” Usually they’re not. But that’s not for an outsider to decide. Or is it?

As I grew older I began to think, why not try out a smile when I’m feeling down? At least other people won’t bother me. What could it hurt? It’s just a smile. The results created a philosophical question. I’m not kidding.

After a rough afternoon, I decided to throw caution to the wind and spread a big smile on my face. Soon my mood began to lift. Almost…magically. I began to look at the brighter side and could almost laugh off a few of the bad elements of the day. This sparked the ago old, chicken or the egg questions:

What came first: The Smile or the Good Mood?

Turns out, the basic act of smiling has very effective powers over our mental and physical health. After doing some research, I found some neat facts about the benefits of smiling.

5 Benefits of Smiling:

1. Smiling Lowers Stress and Releases Endorphins 

It has been reported that stress is as bad for you as obesity or high blood pressure and that nearly 3/4 of Americans suffer physically from daily stress. Not good, right?

But those same researchers are learning that one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to relieve stress is by smiling. When you smile, your body releases endorphins, the chemicals that make you happier. These are the same chemicals released during physical activity.

Get that same beneficial high by smiling throughout the day. Feel you body calm down. Happy people do live longer!

2. Smiling strengthens your immune system and lowers your blood pressure

Proving that a smile can lengthen your life, studies also show that smiling strengthens your immune system stronger by making your body produce more white blood cells to help fight illnesses. It’s also been proven that smiling will lower your blood pressure. Try it out at home, if you have a monitor. Take a blood pressure reading. Then pause for a few minutes smile for an entire minute and take a second reading while you are still smiling. I bet you’ll see a difference!

3. You’ll be more approachable

First impressions are immeasurable. You know the phrase, “Put your best face forward”? Use your smile to attract new friends, put people at ease, get people to trust you and be a better leader. 

A smile is an open invitation to engage and interact with you. Don’t close yourself off from opportunities and experiences.

4. Smiling is contagious

You know how when you see someone in the same room as you take a big long yawn you can’t help but do the same? Well the same goes with smiling. When you see someone else smile, the area in your brain that controls facial movements is activated and your start to grin yourself.

Who wouldn’t want to spread happiness around and draw people in? Especially in bad or stressful situations, one smile can lead others to follow suit, encouraging a more relaxed and healthier way to deal with the communal stress. 

5. Smiling makes you more flexible and comfortable

True, my blog name has the word “adventure” in it, but I more often find myself sticking to things that are in my comfort zone. Although I love trying new things, sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me. But studies show that if you simply smile while doing uncomfortable things or during awkward situations your anxiety levels can go way down. 

Wow, those are a lot of benefits all from one little smile. 

So will you try to smile more throughout the day? Especially in situations where a smile is the last thing on your mind?

Remember, it’s hard to recall all the negative thoughts when a smile is telling our body that life is pretty awesome! 

 

 
 

 

 

Do What You Want To

Last week defeated me in more than one way. I felt drained, stressed, anxious, and like I had no extra room for happiness in my brain. My happiness and spirtuality didn’t seem like a priority.

On Sunday morning, my husband Ryan, who had an equally grueling week, said, “I know you want to rush out the door, but just take 16 minutes to watch this video with me. It’s important.” The video opened my eyes.

I curled up in bed with Ryan and was introduced to SloMo, the eccentric 70-year old who can be found performing a type of Tai Chi on roller blades while blasting classical music in San Diego nearly every day. The 16 minute video about SloMo instantly changed my perspective and I found myself re centered and awake. Ready to live.

At first glance, SloMo appears to either be a crazy homeless man or a mentally handicapped person aimlessly skating along the boardwalk. But oh was I quickly reminded to not judge a book by its cover! SloMo is John Kitchin, a retired neurologist who abruptly gave up his career in medicine and moved to a studio near the beach to live out what he loves doing most, skating in slow motion on the boardwalk.

Before he transformed into SlowMo, John Kitchin lived an all too ordinary life, one that was overworked, over scheduled, and obsessed with money and material objects. He was lost and unhappy and  had turned into a self-proclaimed “asshole”. One day while working at the hospital, Dr. Kitchin met a 93-year old man who was relatively youthful and was smiling.

Dr. Kitchen asked him what his secret to living such a long life.

His response? “Do what you want to”.

Twenty years later a lost and unhappy Kitchin gave his life a hard look. He was living by society’s rules that hard work, making money, and buying nice things will make your life complete. Here he was depressed and frustrated – living a life that was 90% about money and only 10% about spirituality. He was ready for a change.

At this time he also began to start seeing things a little fuzzy. Faces were beginning to be a little out of focus for him. He made a spastic decision to quit his former life as a capitalist and live a life doing what makes him happy.

Fast forward to his life living in a studio apartment on the beach, living out his day creating art and music and smiling and high fiving passersby as he happily skates toward the horizon for hours a day. He’s made his own rules. He has discovered that his one-legged way of slow motion skating provides a way for him to experience a sort of religious ecstasy and a connection with himself, calling it The Zone.

At first he thought this was all connected with his mental breakdown and he was going to continue to lose sight of himself and deteriorate until it killed him. Seven years later he has never felt more connected, happy, or centered. “Do What You Want To” has become is mantra for living.

Is he on to something? Decide for yourself. Believe me, it’s worth the sixteen minutes of your day:

SloMo has reminded me to slow things down. Forget the rules that others are making for you and make your own. Simplify your needs. Find what makes you happy. Reframe your life. Do what makes you happy a little bit each and every day. I will like my life depends on it, because it does.

xoxo Katie

Happy in 102 Words

happy in 102 words

As I approach my 31st birthday on March 26 I find myself more and more reflective. I’ve grown tremendously during this past year and have never felt so comfortable in my own skin. I utter the word “happy” far more than I ever have.

I was inspired by Kym’s (from Travel Babbles) post in which she summed up happiness in 102 words. There’s a skill in conciseness, one that I am not typically strong at. I think happiness comes down to being content with who you are and where you are in the present moment while simplifying and broadening your perspective at the same time; a unity of opposites if you may.

We have the tendency to over complicate happiness. Sometimes, we see a smile and start to instantly pick it apart, looking for hidden meanings or intentions, and analyze it to death (what IS Mona Lisa smirking about?) when it is simply a smile; an outward expression of joy.

So with that said and in celebration of the art of brevity here is my current state of happiness summed up in 102 words:

It’s that magical time of year where I lie auspiciously between stability and the unknown, my mind split between contentment and anxiety yet waking up smiling nearly every day. March is the Christmas Eve of Spring. My heart is tender, warmed by puppy snuggles as I get lost in a book. Outside the rain falls and the wind blows reminding me that Spring is coming and with this new season comes a new tenure of highs and low. March marks a new year to my time in this world and my mind happily wonders to the unexpected gifts she may bring me.

Life is good. The unexpectedness makes it beautiful.

xoxo Katie

 

Love Story Part Two: Rewriting My Story

katie rewriting my story

Read Part One Here

I started telling Ryan and I’s love story last week. The story began at the beginning of my journey to finding love with Ryan. It is not your typical love story – as it starts in heartbreak years before I even met Ryan.

But, this is the story that brought me to Ryan and this is my story to tell.

It was October 2009 and my week’s vacation at the beach had come to an end. I tearfully said goodbye to my mother and brother and hopped on a plane back to Chicago to face my future. I was so hurt on the inside but I masked it with a fiery rage. Zero part of me wanted to have a conversation with him. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and run away. I could barely walk with out shaking as I collected my bags at baggage claim and made my way out to his waiting car. My heart felt like it was going to explode when I made eye contact with him for the fist time. He looked guilty. He looked sad. But, to me all I saw was a loss. Something I didn’t even recognize anymore. I spent five years of my life with him but I did not know him anymore.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I tried to make things work. Giving up felt like quitting and I’m not a quitter. But as October turned into November it became easier to see that the life we built together was over. But, it’s hard to say goodbye to something that you’ve held so close for so long. It was a decision that was stalled and ignored. I laid in bed and tried to sleep it off. At the beginning of November, we jointly made the decision that I return to my childhood home in PA for the duration of the holidays.

So four years ago, on this week in November, my father flew out to Chicago and helped me pack up my tiny two door coupe with just enough clothes and belongings to get me through New Years Eve.  The following day, he, my dog Maggie, and I started the 12 hour drive to Lancaster, PA. I left with a horrible sinking feeling, like how you sometimes feel when you are leaving for a trip and feel like you left something crucial behind like your ID or your camera. But along with that sinking feeling, I was overcome with a sense of freedom of letting go. Yet, I still held hope that the heart I knew hadn’t completely been buried in tarnished memories. I still held hope for not only my future but our future.

The usual happy tidings and excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas weighed down on me like a bag of bricks. I couldn’t make it through most Christmas songs without breaking down in tears and I suffered countless panic attacks. I felt both comforted and claustrophobic in my childhood bedroom – recently remodeled away from my girlhood pink carpet and twin size bed. I felt so lost. I settled into the comfort at home, but part of me still didn’t feel like I belonged.

winter 2009

It wasn’t just the loss of love that made me feel so out-of-place, it was the fact that my identity was so wrapped up in that love, in that life. But the love and support that I felt from my family and girl friends pulled me though.

Sometime before Christmas, it was clear to me that although I had never experienced this much pain or this much confusion, I was better off here than there. I was better off with out him. With out that life. It was time to call off the wedding. I felt like a failure. Like a disappointment. I was 26 years old and had no idea where my life was headed. Thank goodness my mom handled all of the dirty work. It was just all so embarrassing.

But, I was ready to rewrite my story. I decided to go back to school – and took some classes at the local art college to get certified in web design and graphic design. I accepted a new job using these skills and gained back some confidence. I ignored all of the phone calls with him, pleading for me to take him back. Crying out that he had changed his mind, that he had made a mistake, that there was nothing else he needed but me. I ignored it all and kept reinventing myself.

Eric's wedding 2010

I travelled almost every weekend to be with friends. Yes, I probably drank too much, dated too many losers, and slept too little, but I had fun. I also created bonds with girlfriends during this time that are everlasting. I found my soul mate in a college best friend – a bond stronger than any I had with him. I’m forever grateful for this time and the bonds it help me create with girlfriends. Life wasn’t perfect, but I was surviving.

Jeanette and I

katie jeanette and laura

My defense mechanism was a giant wall of coyness and coolness. I let no one in other than my family and girlfriends. I dated boys that were not dating material. I tried on all different types. I treated some badly, just because I wanted to feel what it was like. But, I was still wounded.

I was the girl who would sometimes cry at the bar. I was the girl who would never reveal anything personal about herself. I was the girl who didn’t let any man in, but then got hurt when I didn’t receive anything in return. I craved validation. I was the girl who had no idea where her future was headed.

Five months after I moved back into my parent’s home, my Dad and I flew back out to Chicago to pack up the rest of my belongings and mark my furniture for professional movers to bring back. Walking into my old home was a strange experience. It felt haunted, I didn’t recognize the ghost of myself that I caught glimpses of. I was ready to officially say goodbye. I wasn’t that girl anymore. Yet, I still didn’t know the girl who had replaced my former self.

For the next year, I was an explorer. In many ways, the world felt like a fresh new place. I was rewriting my story. I learned that only I could control my destiny and I was going make sure my new life was just what I wanted. I was searching for myself again. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find – was she going to be better than the person I was with him? Was she going to be better than the person she was before him? Was I going to have to force myself to love her? Will she love me?

I was searching for love, but the most important kind, self-love.

Once I finally started to feel comfortable with myself again and could see a future, I decided I wanted to share her and it with someone. In the beginning of summer 2011, I decided to try a free online dating site.

What did I have to lose?

Stay tuned next week for Part 3: Second Chance

xoxo katie

 

Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m a Recovering People Pleaser

Katie, I am enough

Disclaimer: This post was a little awkward for me to write, and I’m nervous for you to read it.

You see, I’m a people pleaser. I’m always concerned about making other people happy.  I’m alway worrying about doing the right thing. I’m always comparing myself to others, making sure expectations are met. I’m always worried that if I say no to someone, I’ll be a disappointment. I do whatever I can do to avoid conflict and to make sure everyone around me is happy.

I’ve stayed in failed relationships way too long. I’ve taken on extra responsibilities at work even though my plate was already too full. I’ve made social commitments when I was emotionally drained. Saying “yes” has become a habit. I’m looked at as the nice one, the sweet one, the one who will do anything for us. But, where do I fit into this picture? It usually ends up with me being unheard and taken advantage of. Often, people never even know my needs, because I never make them matter enough to be heard or valued.

I was scared to write this, because I don’t want to be conceived as whiny or negative. I was always like this. I remember writing a diary as a young girl (one of those really cool ones with a lock and a key!) and thinking “oh, I shouldn’t write that, what would my mom think when she reads this if I die?” That seems very morbid and narcissistic for a young girl doesn’t? In my early twenties, I’d get so stressed that I made myself sick and or wouldn’t eat. My high stress job and relationship were ruining me. Even after a gall bladder surgery, I was still suffering from chronic heartburn, stomach pains, and anxiety. It’s gotten better over the years, but I still have my sick moments a couple of times a month.

Lately, I’ve been trying to break this habit – to recover from my people pleasing ways. What caused me to start writing this rambling blog post? In addition to my position at a consulting company, I’m a freelancer for non-profits. I honestly love working for non-profits because I like to do work that is bringing change, which means something. However, the money is never there. Last week, I received a call that my biggest client can no longer afford to pay my salary. I was crushed. I had invested a lot into this organization – not just my time and work, but emotionally. Yes, I was getting paid, but I also did a lot of work for free. Whenever anything was asked of me I’d say yes. Even if it stressed me out to the point that I had chronic heartburn and stomach pains and I’d be up past 1 am working, I did it because I cared and because I was “such a nice person”.

I didn’t want to let this company down. I wanted to impress them too. And now, they wanted me to continue “helping” them, but strictly volunteer. I’d lost about 30% of my net income. It was a big loss. Ryan’s in law school – money is tight. I would need to find another source of income. And yet, I considered saying I’d do the work for free. Or, I’d be on call if they’d need me in a bind.

I knew how this would turn out; I’d basically be doing all the same work but getting no income. When I mentioned this, I was reminded that everyone else in the organization was not getting paid. That they simply cared about the cause. That hurt so much. I would love to have the luxury to volunteer my time for organizations I care about. I want my work to mean something.  But right now, my time is my money. And I feel like they know that. They’re all in a different, ahem, tax bracket than myself. But I know when I’m being swindled. They know I always say yes and they’re taking advantage. It hurts and I’m going to put my foot down. For the first time, I need to put myself first. (Even simply writing that sentence makes me feel SO selfish.)

I am enough. There, I said it. My thoughts, my values, my life choices are enough. I’m not going to bend myself to please others than those that please me in return. I am enough. I need to focus on what makes me happy. This blog has been wonderful; it’s been a great tool for me to re-connect with who I am. It’s been a way for me to break free of the professional persona I’ve had to put on and show my true self.

I’m going to listen to my heart and my bones and do what is healthy for myself. I’ve started this week with my desire to de-clutter my home and simplify my life. I’ve been going to bed earlier, reading more each night, and staying off my phone. I’ve noticed changes. In the past I have worried that my other job is not “enough”. I compare myself to others with fast moving careers and think I am a disappointment to myself. Fact is, I love the consulting company I work for. Like any other job, it has its up and downs, but I’m fascinated by the creative work that we do and the people we meet. It’s low stress and healthy for me. It is enough. I love that I’m not so stressed out at the end of the day that I have zero energy left for any other projects (like some other work mentioned above). I have energy to do the things I love, work out, read, write, support Ryan and make our home a nice place – these are all things that make me happy. I am choosing to love my life. I am enough.

xoxo katie