Finding Balance “The difficulties of trying to meet your own needs as well as the needs of work and the demands that others place upon you can be extremely stressful. The challenge is even greater for single gay men who have the added responsibilities of extended family members, caring for pets, trying to build or maintain a social life and having to make ends meet on one paycheck. Together, we can identify what is truly important to you so that you can make better decisions when managing your time.

How to Cope with Tragic Events

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, I felt it was important to provide some information on how to cope with tragic events.

When the unthinkable happens it is normal to have strong reactions. Of course, these reactions will vary depending upon how someone was personally impacted by the situation. There is no right or wrong way to feel or respond.

 

Critical incidents may include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Death of a loved one: friend, family member, co-worker, etc.
  • Serious accidents, injuries or illnesses
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Violent attacks
  • Robberies
  • Fires

When tragedies happen, people naturally try to gain control of the situation. They may deny their emotional reactions to maintain distance and “hold it all together.” Frequently, people try to keep the event from having any effect on their lives at all. While denial can help people cope in the short-term, remaining in the denial phase for too long can have negative consequences on a person’s overall health and well-being. People experience reactions on multiple levels: Emotional, Physical, Cognitive, and Behavioral.

Common reactions include:

Emotional Physical  Cognitive Behavioral
Anxiety Fatigue Confusion Isolation
Fear Twitching Forgetfulness Increased alcohol use
Numbness Nausea Distraction Increased drug use
Uncertainty Headaches/body aches Flashbacks Restlessness
Anger Sleep disruption Poor judgment Being jumpy or edgy
Guilt Sweating Poor concentration Relationship problems
Grief Dizziness Nightmares Appetite Changes
Disbelief Digestive problems Suspiciousness Decreased sex drive
Depression Breathing problems Shock/denial Decreased productivity

 

How to take care of yourself:

Generally, these reactions are temporary, and should pass within a few weeks. While they are a normal, expected response to a crisis, here are some things you can do to reduce their impact and restore normal feelings and functioning more quickly:
• Remember all these reactions are normal. What you are experiencing is an expected, temporary response to a traumatic event. Be patient with yourself and recognize that healing takes time.

• One of the most effective treatments for dealing with personal trauma is talking – to friends, loved ones, ministers or sometimes a counselor. Discussing the event repeatedly is a common, normal and helpful activity for many people who have undergone personal crises.

• If talking isn’t possible, try writing out your thoughts and feelings. You might want to write to someone who is special, or to pretend you are writing to that person. You might want to write out your feelings to yourself. What is written needn’t be sent or shared with anyone else; just putting words to feelings is often helpful in clarifying emotions and reducing your stress.

• Moderate physical exercise (walking, stretching, etc.), alternated with periods of relaxation, may be helpful, but consider seeing your doctor before starting any new exercise program to determine the frequency and type of exercise that is appropriate for you.

• Drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, should be avoided. Instead, substitute other stress- reducing activities. While drugs may temporarily ease the symptoms of stress, they also mask emotions and feelings, sometimes slowing normal recovery.

• If reactions to the crisis are excessive, short-term use of medication, prescribed by a physician specifically for you, may be helpful and appropriate. Consult with your doctor about this.

• Limit the amount of time you watch the news. The 24/7 news cycle constantly pumps tragic events into our homes, and more importantly into our minds. If it gets to be too much, turn off the television or change the channel.

• Be productive and make necessary decisions, but don’t make major life changes until you are sure the crisis has passed.

• Concentrate on what you can control in your life, and let go of those things you have no control over.

• Use your support system – your friends, family, pets, religion, hobbies, sports, etc. Most people want to help but do not always know how. Tell people what you need and want, as well as what you don’t.

• Pamper yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat regular meals even if you don’t feel like it. Be as self-nurturing as you can—plan enjoyable and relaxing activities into your schedule.

• Spend time with others. Don’t isolate if it makes you feel uncomfortable, or if it is hampering the progress of your recovery.

Be patient with yourself as you go through the healing process. Recurring thoughts, flashbacks, restlessness, etc., will eventually fade away. Give yourself permission to recover at your own pace. Remember that you are having normal reactions to an abnormal, stressful event. Be as loving to yourself as you would be to someone you truly love. If your reactions persist for some time, seek professional help to aid you in your recovery.

A Dose of Vitamin M

Motivation is the driving force behind life-enhancing change. It comes from knowing exactly what you want to do and having an insatiable, burning desire to do what’s necessary to accomplish it. Motivation is necessary to keep your dream on track. It’s the power that keeps you moving forward when the going gets tough.

 

Here are 5 top tips to help you supercharge your motivation:
 
1. Create a vision board and fill it with images of your desired goals. The car you want to own, the house you want to live in, the area where you want to live. Yes, these are the obvious ones. Others could be pictures of vacation destinations, trophies, first-class travel tickets, clothes you want to buy, fine restaurants you want to frequent. Or, perhaps it’s you completing a project that has a positive impact on the world – whatever you can think of that gets your pulse racing.
 
2. GET ANGRY. If you want to change your life for the better then get angry about it. Having a blasé attitude towards change isn’t what’s needed and it won’t create a strong enough desire within you. So ask yourself: “Why do I want to change?” Is it because you’re FED UP with being in debt? Is it because your job is DRIVING YOU CRAZY and you want OUT? Is your life DULL AND PREDICTABLE? Are you SICK AND TIRED of doing the same thing week in and week out? Are you BORED, BORED, BORED BEYOND BELIEF by all the dull, uninspiring, unhappy people you associate with? THEN GET ANGRY ABOUT IT! Write it all down – all of the frustrating, unrewarding, miserable things that make every day a drag. Is this how you want your life to remain until your final days? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? Remember the words of Albert Einstein:
 

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.”
 
3. Speaking of your final days, start to appreciate the value of time. Time is one of the most precious resources you have and it is also a NON RENEWABLE resource. You can either use it fully or foolishly squander it. If you want to create change you’re going to have to invest a lot of time to make it happen. Start to reduce the time you waste on irrelevancies: Television, news media, weekends spent shopping, partying, dining out, visiting an endless line of relatives and friends – these won’t help you get what you want and all of them will rob you of time – valuable time that you can use much more effectively by investing it in YOU. Remember this: You have a finite amount of time here on Earth. You don’t know how much time you have – none of us do. However, it’s how you use the time you have that counts. So make your time count and that means starting from right NOW.
 

If not NOW, WHEN?
 
4. Conformity. Are you a mindless little sheep who’s way too timid to pursue your own path? Do you have to follow where everyone else goes, doing exactly what everyone else does and getting the same level of happiness as all the others? Seriously, does this describe YOU? Are you too frightened to be different because others won’t like it if you pursue a different direction? Do you dutifully follow the herd because if they’re doing it, then it must be right? Remember, if you do what everyone else does you’ll get what everyone else gets. Do you want to be a mindless, timid little sheep who blindly follows all the others? Or, do you want to be a leader, a warrior who possesses the courage to be uniquely you and to do what you want to do and make your dreams a reality? If so, then this means you have to be more like a tiger than a sheep. Besides, haven’t we got enough sheep already?
 
5. Conquer your fear. Fear is the force that is determined to stop you in your tracks and rob you of your dreams. But it can only do so if you let it. Are you going to let this cruel destructive charlatan trample on your dreams, steal your happiness, and crush your spirit? Imagine this thought haunting your final days: I didn’t do the things I wanted because I was too frightened to live. And by then, it’ll be far too late to conquer fear. Refuse to let fear spoil your life and start taking action – now!
 
The world is waiting for your unique talents and gifts. Why keep it waiting any longer?

 

Make the Yuletide Gay?

For many gay men the holidays are an extremely difficult time causing increased feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. The demands and expectations placed upon us during the holidays can be overwhelming. Instead of being a time of joy and celebration, the holidays often become a source of anxiety, conflict, and disappointment.

Several factors contribute to these feelings. As children we had high expectations and fantasies about the holidays. We were flooded with messages and images from television, movies, and advertisements of beautifully decorated homes, and blissful holiday experiences with family and loved ones. For many, however, our lives were less than idyllic, and the images and messages we were fed didn’t match what we experienced or felt on the inside.
 
As gay adults, the holidays pose many unique challenges. Gay men are often forced to make compromises because of who they are. Same-sex couples may be faced with homophobic parents or family members that place undue burdens upon them. Singles may feel like an “outcast” for showing up to family gatherings alone. Oftentimes a significant other may not be welcomed to attend an event even though straight siblings can bring their dates. Worst yet, many guys are completely estranged from their families. Others are isolated due to the death of a partner or having no friends around to celebrate the season with. These internal and external factors cause a lot of stress, leading to isolation and despair around a season that is supposed to be filled with joy.
 
The hype of the holidays makes us believe that the only way to be truly happy is to celebrate with family and loved ones. Truthfully, however, it’s really all about your attitude. There are lots of things you can appreciate and enjoy should you find yourself on your own this holiday season. To do this, you must focus on staying positive, and avoid slipping into negativity.
 
Here are a few suggestions to assist you:
     

  •  Acknowledge and accept your feelings. Don’t criticize and beat yourself up for feeling blue. Tell your ego to be quiet! It doesn’t mean you’re a “loser” if you’re alone this season. That’s complete nonsense! Be kind to yourself. Let go of shame and accept where you are right now. You can always make positive changes.
  •  

  •  Remain open and don’t isolate – If someone asks you what your plans are, don’t avoid the issue and say you have something to do when you really don’t. Be honest and tell them you don’t have any plans. If you’re lucky, they might just offer you to join them in a meal or a fun event.
  •  

  •  Embrace the opportunity for some solitude. Reflect on your life and what you want to accomplish in the new year. This is the perfect time to take inventory of your goals and objectives and develop a plan to achieve them. You’ve got some alone time on your hands. Use it to your advantage.
  •  

  •  Have some fun! Catch up on movies or shows you’ve been dying to see. Get some DVDs or have a Netflix marathon. Many new movies are released on Christmas Day, so take yourself out to see a great new film. Catch up on your reading, or chat and play games online.
  •  

  •  Enjoy the company of pets. If you have a dog or cat enjoy playing and spending time with them. Take your dog for a run in the park. If you don’t have any pets, you may want to consider house and dog sitting for friends who are away. This could definitely be a nice change of pace for you.
  •  

  •  Avoid using drugs and alcohol. If you are in recovery, be sure to stick to your program. The holidays can be a big trigger, so be sure to have supports in place. If you are involved in a 12-Step program, be sure to attend meetings. If you are not in recovery, avoid excessive drinking and reduce your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant, and excessive drinking can definitely make you feel sad.
  •  

  •  If you really dread being alone, seek out some volunteer opportunities. One of the best ways to get outside of your “head” is to donate your time to others. Serve dinner at a homeless shelter or visit seniors at a nursing home to bring them some holiday cheer. You will boost your energy and self-esteem by giving of yourself to others who are less fortunate. You’ll be glad you did!
  •  

  • Check out your local LGBT Community Center to explore social events that may be happening. Connect with others who might also be alone. If you are a person of faith, attend religious services in your local community. Balance your alone time with activities around other people. You will feel less isolated.

 

Remember that no one is responsible for making you happy. This is a choice you get to make. The fact of the matter is that there are many people right now who are involved in bad relationships, or dealing with miserable family situations who would give anything to be in your shoes. Accept what is, and enjoy your own company. Take pleasure in doing things you love but don’t always have the time for.

 

If you expect to be alone this holiday season, please make it a good one. Be good to yourself – focus on what you want to achieve in the new year, enjoy some quality alone time, interact with new people, and help those in need. This is a great opportunity to learn even more about yourself!

 

Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life

Thanksgiving is the natural time to reflect on all the things that we are grateful for in our lives. However, it would benefit us greatly to experience gratitude on a daily basis instead of just thinking about it once a year.

Studies have shown that an “attitude of gratitude” has wide-ranging psychological and health benefits. Gratitude elicits positive emotions such as joy, contentment, hope and happiness, which in turn provides direct physical benefits by boosting the body’s immune and endocrine systems. Additionally, when we recognize and appreciate the good in our lives, we are certain to create more of it because whatever we focus on expands into our life experience.

 

Here are some benefits of gratitude:

 

Reaching your goals: When you feel grateful, it tends to be a lasting and selfless feeling. It’s much more than just a momentary burst of positive energy; it has staying power that will provide a great boost for you to reach your goals.

 

Showing gratitude is a two way street. Learn how to effectively express your
gratitude and, just as importantly, to receive it as well.

 

Strengthened relationships: There are many ways you can express your gratitude to your loved ones, including saying, “Thank you,” writing a letter, or giving them a thoughtful gift. When you learn to avoid taking your loved ones for granted, you’ll have a long lasting and loving relationship.

 

When you express your gratitude to others, ensure that you’re open and expressive. People don’t know what you’re thinking; hearing it can make all the difference.

 

Improved communication: Gratitude can mean better communication all around. By expressing your gratitude to strangers, they’ll be more likely to show an interest in helping you, too.

 

Gratitude is such a powerful entity that it can even help you communicate with your pets! They should be appreciated too.

 

Effective and constructive criticism: No matter how we express constructive criticism, it often makes the recipient defensive or even angry. No one likes a blow to the ego. In this situation, a grateful attitude can take you a long way. You can express criticism quite effectively when you also emphasize what you appreciate about them.

 

Gratitude Journal

 

One of the best ways to emphasize the positive aspects of your life is to start a gratitude journal. Get yourself a notebook or journal and start by writing five to ten things that you are grateful for. You can add entries each day or at least each week as you think of them. Keep the journal near your nightstand and read your entries before you go to bed at night. This is a much better way to end the day rather than watching all the horror stories on the evening news. By participating in this activity on a routine basis, your focus will shift. You will begin to look for and identify more and more things that you are grateful for, and you will want to enter them into your journal. Your entries don’t have to be spectacular or life altering events; they can be as simple as “I am so grateful to have a warm bed to sleep in at night” or “I am grateful for my friends who love me.”

 

As you practice reflecting on what is good in your life, you will appreciate yourself and your life more fully each day. Although you still have many goals and dreams you want to pursue, you can accept and appreciate where you are in your life right now. You will never be finished and you will never get it done, so focusing on what you love about your life right now will bring you joy!

 

“We can walk this earth in one of two ways – taking it for granted or taking it with gratitude.”
~ Rev. Mark F. Phillips

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
~ Melody Beattie

 

Guilt Free Holiday Eating

As the holidays approach, we find ourselves surrounded with cookies, cakes, candies, stuffing, sauces, and a variety of delectable foods. Trying to eat right and have well-balanced meals is usually tough, and makes us feel guilty when we stray from our normal routine. But should we really be remorseful? And do we really have to substitute low-fat foods for our traditional holiday favorites? Certainly, you will find sensible approaches to eating; however, sometimes it’s really nice to just let down your guard and go for it!

If you typically watch yourself and maintain a healthy diet throughout the year, the holidays can be a time to let yourself relax and loosen the reins. Obviously, we all have to eat to survive; however, food and socializing go naturally together. As humans, we love to share our meals. Whether it’s with your partner, friends, family or co-workers; food is almost always shared. During the holidays, our socializing increases with parties, events, and family functions where food and drink are abundantly served. Clearly, we are not just gathering for nutritional purposes, but rather to catch up on the latest news and gossip with those in our social circles. Of course it’s a bonus if you can have a healthy meal, so when you approach a banquet table, remember, you always have the power of choice to pick the foods you want. You should eat the way you want without any shame or guilt about it afterward.

Give Yourself a Break

If you’re concerned that you’ll waver too much, set a goal for yourself. Be realistic and remember to focus on your accomplishments. Prioritize what is important to you and recognize that it is okay to set boundaries with your time and your diet. You know you can’t be everywhere and do it all, so try not to please everyone. Decide what is truly important to you and commit to it.

Take into account the difference between simple facts vs. hype. Recognize that gym memberships and weight loss programs will be advertised throughout December and especially in January. They will talk about holiday weight gain, and lack of exercise, while manipulating you with guilt and shame. But do individuals really gain up to 10 pounds or more during the holiday season? Numerous studies indicate the average person only gains about 1-2 pounds throughout the holiday and winter season. The problem is that many individuals do not lose the added weight, and so it tends to accumulate over the years.

What does this mean for you? It means you can take it a bit easier as well as consider exactly how you plan to lose that extra pound or two, or perhaps not gain it at all. Remember what you’ve always heard: everything in moderation.

Finding Balance

As with anything in life, an excessive amount of a good thing can turn out to be bad. Here are some tips to help you maintain your healthy eating goals throughout the holiday season:

•   Don’t skip meals and go to your event hungry. Instead, make an effort to maintain your normal eating habits whenever you can.

•   Have a healthy snack ahead of time. A healthy granola or power bar will help you to manage your food cravings and eat less.

•   When you arrive at your event, take a look at the available food and beverages and make a quick plan of what you want to eat.

•   Choose to fill your plate with the healthiest foods first, such as fruits, vegetables, salads, etc. Politely decline any foods that you don’t want.

•   Keep track of how much you drink. Alcoholic beverages add unnecessary calories to whatever you eat. Try to drink water or seltzer in between alcoholic drinks to consume less.

•   When you’re going to indulge, cut back on something else later to even yourself out.

Physical exercise is also important. If you exercise, stick as close as possible to your usual routine. Schedule half an hour a day to complete some type of physical activity. Walking is always a great option. It’s better to do something than nothing. Incorporating physical activity with your holiday eating strategies will help you maintain your current weight and overall well-being.

Ultimately, the holidays are meant to be fun! Approach them on your own terms and let go of any pangs of shame, guilt, or bad feelings.

My Mind is at Peace

Stress is as much a mental issue as a physical one and it is important to know how to soothe and clear your mind. Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of things when you get home after a long day. You may even find yourself dreaming about work or other stressful situations each night. These are all signs that you are dealing with too much stress. But how do you let go of these nagging thoughts and feelings?

Clearing and soothing your mind can be achieved by focusing on something that you really enjoy. Everyone has the ability to focus, however, some people are more adept at maintaining their focus than others.

What you need is something that will distract you from the disturbing or unwanted thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing. Think back to a time when you were so engrossed in something that the time just flew by. This is the point where you want to be.

Getting to this point is easier than you might think. If you are having trouble allowing all the stress and tension to leave your body, you might want to try meditating. Mediation can help to relax your body and mind. If meditation doesn’t appeal to you, try using soothing music or sounds to help you relax.

Sounds to listen to that can help you focus and relax include the sounds of ocean waves, the sounds of a waterfall or the sounds of birds chirping. All of these can help ease, clear and soothe your mind.

It can also be helpful to have a point or object to focus on. Try lying on your bed and look at a picture that holds a special meaning to you. Perhaps it’s a picture of you vacationing with your friends, or a picture of you and your boyfriend at a special event. Maybe it’s a picture of a pet you cherish. Once you have your picture, put on your music or sounds, and let it envelop you. Stay focused on your picture as you connect to the positive thoughts and emotions you experience, allowing them to wash over you.

Reading is another wonderful source for relaxation. Losing yourself in a story is a great way to get out of your head. and helps you take your mind off worries and problems. Books can quickly transport you into another place and time and will easily transform your state of mind.

Another great way to relax and get back in touch with your body is to go for a massage. A great massage can relieve the tension in your muscles, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated once again.

Soothing your mind involves learning how to discover or reconnect to the pleasures in your life. Once you have found what brings you peace, embrace it. Get into the habit of soothing your mind on a regular basis. You may want to start an evening routine to help you to wind down and relax before going to bed. Designate a specific time to start your evening routine, and do things that help soothe and relax you. Turn off the television, stop taking phone calls (unless there is an emergency), and stay off the internet. Dim the lights so your natural melatonin levels start to kick in. You might want to take a warm relaxing bath or shower to relieve and wash away the stress of the day. Do whatever it is that works for you. It’s important to quiet down all the external stimuli that bombards you every day, so that you can calm and soothe your mind. When your mind is at peace, you think clearly and precisely. Order is restored and you are able to reconnect with the good in your life and the positive vision you hold for your future.

Any time that your work or life in general is getting you down, treat yourself to something that makes you truly happy.

“A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.” 

~ Wayne Dyer

I Am Gay, Happy and Free!

You’ve heard it countless times that happiness comes from within, and this is absolutely true. Yet it’s also a fact that we sometimes need external motivation in order for us to achieve what makes us happy. Everyone has a different idea of what they need to be happy. No matter what it is, we all desire joy in our lives.

As gay men, we sometimes look outside of ourselves and make comparisons. We may feel that we come up short in some way. We don’t have the right body. We don’t make or have as much money as our friends. We don’t even have so many friends. We don’t travel and lead exciting lives like other gay guys we know.

If you’re like me, you may have often wondered, Where do I fit in? I know I’m gay, but I don’t always relate to what’s expected of me as a gay man. Well, the truth is, when you come to realize and accept that you don’t have to fit into anyone’s mold of what it means to be a gay man, freedom and happiness ensue. You now get to create your life in your own unique way. You step into the driver’s seat, and you become the leader of your life.

Here are a few tips you can use as a guide to live authentically and increase your happiness:

Acknowledge your need to be happy. Although most of us say we want to be happy not everyone has a strong enough desire to make it their primary goal. We get bogged down by life’s challenges, which can lead us into frustration, anger and even depression. Although we may not always have control over what happens in our lives, we definitely have control over our thoughts, interpretations, and reactions to life events. Ask yourself: Do I want to be right or happy? What is most important here? Then refocus your attention on your emotional well-being. What would make you feel better in this moment?

Let go of the status quo. If your life no longer feels like it fits who you are, it’s time to be honest with yourself. Give up the need to be like everyone else. Stop behaving in preconceived ways because you are gay and think you must live accordingly. You don’t have to live an “image” of what it means to be gay. Learn to live authentically by being true to yourself, not what society or anyone else dictates to you.

Know what makes you tick. Every individual is different in the way they perceive happiness. Although we all share the basic goal of happiness in life, we may have dissimilar outlooks on how to get there. One man’s heaven is another man’s hell. Understanding your personality and preferences will give you clarity on what makes you happy and how you can remain in that state for longer and longer periods of time.

Discover the things that make you happy. Start to brainstorm and make a list of the things that bring you joy. Jot down everything and be truthful. This may include material items, or intangible ones like being loved by someone, getting your dream job, traveling around the world, and so forth. Engaging in activities, and spending time with people, in places, and with things that bring you joy on a more frequent basis will definitely increase your happiness.

Make an action plan. Once you have identified items on your list that are crucial for your happiness, it’s time for implementation. Set goals that are aligned with your authentic self; develop a plan, and make a commitment to make them happen.

Seek support. No man is an island. We all need support and encouragement. Locate a mentor, therapist, or life coach who can support you in achieving your goals. Make an investment in yourself. You are your number one asset. Don’t neglect yourself. Give yourself the gift of someone who can fully support you on your journey.

Get moving and be happy. Remember, as you shoot for happiness you must also savor the journey and choose to be happy each day. In every stage of life we can always find things to be grateful for. Acknowledge your achievements and be grateful for your life as it is right now. You can still set goals while embracing the now. Cultivate the positive feelings you experience as you move forward, knowing you are on the path to being all you want to be. You’ll discover that you are already a much happier guy!

“How simple it is to see that we can only be happy now, and there will never be a time when it is not now.”

~ Gerald Jampolsky

Why It’s Time to Boost Your Well-Being

Your well-being should be the top priority in your life, yet so many of us place our health and wellness on the back burner, leaving it unattended until it boils over on us.

Health seems to be something that’s largely taken for granted. We feel invincible until it fails us. This is clearly the wrong attitude. If you take preventative action, you’ll not only feel better, but your body will thank you by adding years onto your life!

Improve your Health for the Right Reason

Nowadays many people struggle with their weight. As a result, more people than ever are trying to slim down. The problem is a lot of us aren’t trying to lose weight for the right reasons. If you need to lose weight, be sure to do it for yourself, not for anybody else.

Losing weight goes far beyond the superficial. Don’t lose weight only in order to look good, but for your overall health and wellness.

When you try to improve yourself for other people, you can lose sight of your motivation if your relationship changes. The motivation needs to be within you, not someone else. The deeper your commitment to your health, the more difficult it is to cheat on a diet or forego exercise.

It’s also important to realize that you must love yourself first before anyone else will. People are drawn to others who have self-confidence and self-respect. When you care about your well-being, not only will you take better care of yourself, but others will be more likely to do the same.

Here are some ways you can put yourself first and take better care of your health:

  1. See your doctor. If you haven’t been to see a doctor in a while or are in need of an annual checkup, start by making an appointment to get your health evaluated. This will give you a good foundation for what improvements you need to make.
  2. Find an exercise routine you can incorporate regularly into your lifestyle. It can be as easy as going for a walk. Just put on your shoes and get outdoors. The fresh air and the walk will do wonders for your health.
  3. Make changes in your diet. Try reducing red meat, refined sugars and alcohol for starters. Increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake. Be sure to start off each day with a healthy breakfast and don’t skip meals. Drink plenty of water throughout the day as well.
  • When you eat poorly, you’re doing a huge disservice to your body. If you eat unhealthy foods, you’ll likely end up unhealthy with chronic health issues like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, just to name a few.                

  The healthier foods you eat, the better you’ll feel and the stronger you’ll become.  

      4.  Find time to relax. It’s also imperative to take care of your mental health by incorporating relaxation techniques into your lifestyle. Regular relaxation helps reduce stress and anxiety and recharges you so you can bring more energy and passion to all areas of your life.

  • Consider taking up yoga or meditation.
  • Find time to pursue hobbies you enjoy to help bring you contentment and happiness.
  • Spend time outdoors and be with nature.
  • Connect with your higher-self.

If you take good care of yourself, you’ll be able to enjoy your life to the fullest. Use these tips every day to improve your physical and mental health and put yourself first. Following a good wellness plan will help keep you fit, boost your energy, and allow you to experience more joy in your life!

The Happiness Choice – Simple Ways to Find Joy Today!

Happiness is a choice. It‘s true. You can choose to let life’s circumstances get you down or you can choose to be happy no matter what challenges life brings.

Happiness is already within each of us and we are born to be naturally happy! So why is it that, as we get older, we forget where to find happiness within ourselves and, instead, allow outside forces to undermine our joy?

You can determine your own happiness by following these simple strategies:

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Cliché, I know, however it’s so true. You don’t have to let life’s troubles and problems get you down. Yes, there will sometimes

be troubles because life isn’t always perfect, but you can definitely choose your reaction to situations. Look at the positive side of things and work hard to see the good in people and circumstances.

Find something you love to do and do it. Do you have a lifelong passion, dream or desire? Mine is singing. Connect with activities that bring you joy, and make time for them. Taking small steps towards a dream or goal will help you feel like you’re accomplishing something. You’ll find drive and determination to reach your goal when it’s something you absolutely love to do.

• Do you have a gift or talent you’re not using? One reason so many people are unhappy is that they’re not doing what they’re called to do with their God-given talents. Each and every one of us has a purpose in life. You have natural gifts and talents to help you achieve your purpose, so use your gifts effectively!

When you’re feeling down, don’t wallow in your sorrows alone; do something about it. Seek out support. Call a friend who you know is positive and cheerful. Talk about your feelings and listen to their advice. So often, people allow themselves to go deeper and deeper into self-pity or depression because they think it has to be that way. If negative feelings persist, seek professional help. The truth is, you don’t have to be sad and you shouldn’t be. You can decide to be happy. You just have to make up your mind to do so.

Think about all the things you have to be thankful for. Often you may get so caught up in what’s wrong with your life that you forget to look at what’s right and good. Take a step back and reflect on your life. How far have you come from, say, six months ago?

~ Do you have family or friends to be thankful for? Yes, it’s true, they may not always be everything we’d like them to be, but imagine life without them. Now, be thankful that you have them in your life.

~ Do you have a job? Maybe it’s not your ideal job, but in today’s economy, those of us who have an income can be thankful for it. You can always make changes to find or do something new.

When you’re feeling down, journal your thoughts and feelings. Often you’ll find that just getting your feelings down on paper will allow you to work through them, helping you to feel better about yourself and your beautiful life!

If you’ve been prone to look at life negatively, then you’ll have to put more energy into seeing and choosing happiness. But don’t let that stop you from being happy! You, too, can learn to be happy.

Practice the steps above and train your mind to focus intently on the positives. When you feel a negative thought coming on, or your mind gravitates toward the negative, learn to recognize it, stop it in its tracks, and then start thinking happier thoughts. Pave the way to a happier and more joyful life.

Starting from this moment onward, make the conscious choice to be happy!

5 Quick Ways to Get Back into that Skimpy Swimsuit!

How many times have you heard someone say that they want to lose five pounds? And how many times have you heard that the diet starts tomorrow?

Tomorrow? Why not right now?

The truth is, losing a mere five pounds is very realistic and it can be a great kick-start to your metabolism and energy levels. Plus, it can help you fit into your favorite jeans, or skimpy swimsuit for that upcoming vacation. You have to make the commitment to start now, not tomorrow, not Monday, but right now!

Below is a healthy plan to help you shed 5 pounds quickly, easily and most importantly, the healthy way. As with all diets, check with your doctor before starting any weight loss or exercise plan.

1.     Begin by drinking more water. Your body requires water (especially in summer) to function properly and with the right amount of water, your digestive system will work more efficiently. Plus, by filling your stomach with water, you’ll eat less and feel full faster.

 ·     Water helps flush your body of toxins and water weight. Yes, more water actually helps your body get rid of excess water.

·      The daily minimum intake of water is 64 ounces (or almost 2 liters). If you’re like most people, your current intake of water is probably less than half of the recommended amount, so drink up!

2.     Get off the couch and get active. When you move your body you build muscle, which burns fat. There are so many activities that you can engage in that don’t cost money or require expensive gym equipment to help you get fit and lose weight.

Here are some ideas:

·      Walking around your neighborhood or in a local park

·      Biking

·      Hiking

·      Running

·      Swimming

·      Throwing a ball with your friends or partner

·      Frisbee

·      Volleyball

·      Tennis

3.     Make healthier food choices. To effectively boost your calorie and fat burning processes, eat healthier foods like leafy green vegetables, fruits and lean meats.

·   You’ll also want to limit your intake of red meat, high calorie and fat dressings, gravies and sauces and avoid sugary drinks, candy or other foods with lots of sugar.

·     Sugar causes you to put on weight, so when you eliminate sugar, you help eliminate weight gain. Also, try to choose natural or organic foods in order to avoid consuming chemicals that may actually cause you to retain weight.

4.     Use portion control to limit the amount of food you consume. Studies show that reducing the amount of food you eat actually produces the quickest weight loss. Obviously you want to do this in a healthy manner, not obsessively or out of control.

·     Eating 6 small meals a day, as opposed to the three larger meals you’re probably accustomed to, has been shown to be healthier, help reduce fat stores and to increase metabolism.

 ·     If you’re wondering what a healthy portion looks like, it’s all in the hands. In other words, a healthy portion or serving size is about the size of your fist, palm, or hand, depending on what food you’re eating.

 ·     Close your fist. That’s a healthy portion size for a serving of rice, pasta or other side dish.

·     Open your hand and look at the size of your palm. This is the perfect amount of chicken breast, pork or other types of meat. It should be about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.

 ·     The size of your entire open hand is the perfect size for veggies.

5.     Replace unhealthy snacks with nuts, raw veggies or fruit. Here are a few examples to help you choose healthier snack options:

·     When you’re craving chips or other salty, crunchy snacks, grab a handful of nuts instead. They are healthier for you and satisfy the craving for salt or crunchiness. Also, try to buy nuts with less salt. Natural or raw varieties will help to reduce your salt intake too.

·     When you want something sweet, grab a piece of fruit like an apple, banana, orange, or melon. The natural sugar is way better for you than eating a bowl of ice cream or a handful (or two) of cookies.

·     Have the munchies in general? Nibble on some raw carrots, celery or broccoli.

Losing 5 pounds can be fun and make you feel so much better about yourself. Probably the best part is that it can be done quickly, in as little time as a week or two, depending on your specific circumstances.

Whether it’s to kick-start your weight loss plan or to fit into your favorite jeans or skimpy swimsuit again, taking off 5 pounds is a step in the right direction to a healthier, more fit you. It begins now!