Holidays

Beating the Blues – 10 Ways to Have a Joyful New Year

When the glitter settles and the holidays bustle is finally over, many of us sink into sadness and feel blue and let down. Whether the causes lie inside, outside, or both, you can take a deep breath, refuse to feel bad, and get serious about taking control of your life and your emotions. Here are 10 proven strategies that will help you beat the blues and get your life back on a happy track.

  1. Grieve the loss. If past losses have caused your holiday blues, take time to finish grieving over your loss. It’s important to feel the sadness and grief and get clear about the reality of the loss. With acceptance, the intensity of the blues will lessen and a normal pleasure in life will return.
  2. Seek serenity. Many losses can be addressed through the principles of the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Learning to identify which is which is a key to happiness after the holidays and all year round.
  3. Practice self-forgiveness. Repeat these messages:
    • “I deserve to be happy.”
    • “I am lovable.”
    • “I am valuable.”
  4. Stop obsessive thinking. Thoughts such as “I didn’t do it right, my gifts were lousy gifts, I said the wrong thing, it’s my fault, I woulda-shoulda-coulda,” can be stopped with a strategy of prayer or meditation.
  5. Avoid the ambush. Do not get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, which can lead to poor judgment, bad decisions and regret. Stay away from substances and behaviors often used to numb pain, including alcohol, excessive spending or sexual relationships.
  6. Flee toxic people. Stay away even (or especially) if they are relatives. Increase time with people and environments of calm and good humor. Let go of resentments related to holidays past and declare an amnesty in family feuds.
  7. Take off the target. Some people’s families are downright predatory, turning as a group against one member. Being the target feels terrible, but don’t give credence to the criticism. Bring it into perspective by making a list of who was the target at the last six family gatherings.
  8. Practice extreme self-care. Manage stress by getting back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. Restore a balance of sleep, healthy eating, exercise and other activities. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression, so claim time for aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices or other calming activities.
  9. Reach out to other people. The blues naturally make a person withdraw,  instead seek out friendly nonjudgmental company.
  10. Volunteer. Helping someone in need will highlight the many reasons a person has for feeling gratitude despite the pain.

Is It More Than The Blues?

Depression can have many different causes and help is available. Please consult a mental health professional if three of these symptoms of real depression last more than a couple of weeks:

  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Dulled emotions, irritability, explosive anger
  • No enjoyment for usual activities
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unresolved grief issues
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Thoughts of suicide should never be taken lightly. Instead, dial 911 in the USA or Canada or go to a hospital emergency room.

Know that happiness is your choice to make.  Focusing on loss and regret brings sorrow; focusing on gratitude and hope brings joy. Use your gratitude journal to get you started. Write down six things at the end of the day you are grateful for. You can start small and build from there. You’ll find when you turn the page and start being grateful for what you have that’s healthy and supports your happiness, more things, people, activities come your way.

 

How to Create Your Wonderful Holidays and Life

How have the holidays been going for you so far this year? Several years ago, divorce turned me back into a single woman after many years of marriage, and I’m happy to say my holidays these days feel just fine. The adjustment was challenging, and I confess I had some blue days, but by now I’ve learned that the secret to creating a wonderful holiday is to make my own choices and not allow other people’s stereotyped ideas to define me. Each of us has the right to spend the holidays the way we want to, right? Yes, you do, too. Yet, too often we let others dictate what we do, for our holidays and for our entire lives.

Women are doing that much less today than we used to because we are gaining more confidence in our own rights and abilities. We can learn a lot about this from single women because they build their lives outside the traditional stereotyped wife-and-mother roles for women. They may be single parents, or happily childfree, and heads of their own households. They pursue meaningful careers, and enjoy a rich social life, a strong and supportive circle of friends and family, are important to a lot of people and spread joy and good works throughout their communities.

During the holidays do your expectations keep you from seeing your circumstances for what they really are? Do you wear rose-colored glasses or focus on ways you fall short and feel depressed? One stereotype is that of the unhappy spinster alone at the holidays, but read on.

Bella de Paulo noted in Psychology Today that articles about making your unmarried life work focus almost exclusively on single women. Why? Because stereotypes assume women would rather be married and mothers, but the reality is quite different. Even more women than men said they thought being single helped them by allowing them to focus more on their work, or their studies, on making more friends, or on prioritizing their own needs. They said that being single makes them feel empowered, and able to enjoy the adventure and journey of their lives.

Many women who feel trapped by their choices imagine that becoming single is the only way to gain control of their lives. But what if you could ask for the support and assistance you want for your holidays rather than feeling trapped in impossible expectations? What if you could skip the parts of the holidays you hate and create new traditions? Guess what! You can. Go for it!

When women learn that I’m divorced, they say, “Well, you don’t have someone at home that controls your money.” I reply, “That’s right. Why do you?” It’s a worthy question. If you were in charge of YOUR life, what would you want your holidays – and your coming year — to look like?

Many women have never allowed themselves to ask such questions and feel like they have no choices. That’s not true at all. We learned a lot about stereotyped gender roles while working on my new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. It takes focused attention to change our holiday experiences, just as it takes work to change other parts of our lives. I’m convinced the best way to handle such discomfort is in solidarity with our women friends. Together, we can laugh at ourselves, create a vision for our futures, and find the courage to ask for what we want.

Here’s to creating the best holidays – and the best lives – that we can imagine for ourselves.

How to Balance Your Crazy Busy Holiday Season

‘Tis not the season to run yourself ragged, but I know that for many women, that’s what happens during the holidays. If your constant companion is an endless to-do list, you are not alone. As women, we tend to give, and give, and give some more taking care of people at home, at work, and in the community. Now that we’re well into the holiday season – aka the season of giving – we ramp that up and our time revolves around (likely unreasonable) expectations about parties, shopping, gifts, and spending time with friends and family. In the quest to hit the deadline, find the perfect gift or attend the next party many of us lose sight of our own health and wellbeing. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves overwhelmed, too exhausted to do or give another thing, and waiting anxiously for the holidays to be over.

With all you have to do, it may seem counter intuitive to reach out to another woman for help. Sure, she’s busy too, but your women friends really can help you get through a stressful holiday season with year-end deadlines at work. With their encouragement, you will find new ways to be kinder to yourself and maybe even cross things off your list, as long as you can find the courage to ask for the help you need. As we wrote in, In This Together, “You can put five women together in a room, and within an hour they’ll have analyzed the problem, made a plan, divided up the action steps, and begun to work toward a solution. Women share skills of problem solving and mutual respect and complement one another’s strengths.”

With our “tend and befriend” approach to stressful situations, women can be your strongest allies and your greatest source of encouragement this time of year. A quick cup of coffee with a friend could help you prioritize and develop a path forward. A quick phone call with a colleague can give you an action plan and make your unmanageable situation suddenly doable. We have been taught to conceal our vulnerability. But when we act authentically and invite others to help us solve a problem, we discover strength and power to accomplish things far beyond anything we can do alone.

Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change, knows that it’s a balancing act and that it can be tough to manage overwhelm at the end of the year. At this time of year, leaders like Kathy can be thinking, “I can’t believe how much I have to do. I can’t believe other people have already done their holiday shopping while I haven’t done laundry in a month.” Kathy recommends three tips to manage end-of-year overwhelm:

  1. Write everything down to manage the details
  2. Take your time on each task rather than rushing
  3. Take yourself for a walk at least three times a week

Those are all great, effective ideas, and I want to add: Reach out to other women. Especially during the holidays, each of us needs to support other women everywhere. Not one of us is as creative, skilled, and powerful as we are together.

Ultimately the most important thing you can do for your health and well-being this season – and every other day of the year – is to be true to yourself. You really can’t be all things to all people. No, you can’t. So take a break, take a breath, and nurture yourself and your connections. You deserve a happy holiday season, too! And the better care you take of yourself, the more you will have to give. It’s a miracle!

Generosity, Gratitude and Grace

by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
For my gift to you this holiday season, I want to look closely at the three G’s: generosity, gratitude and grace. Let’s think about what those attributes mean to us and the people around us when we give these precious gifts to ourselves.
This time of year always brings out generosity in people as we rush around trying to figure out the best gifts for family and friends, and I like to think of how giving to others really affects us. Every time I reach out with feelings of generosity to help another woman, I receive far more than I ever give. I never want to take that returned gift for granted. Beyond the rewards I feel for helping someone achieve her purpose or move closer to her dream, I am convinced that each little gesture of giving back gets passed on as that person helps someone else. And they always do—always.
“Pay it forward” has become popular in our society as we pass on the payment for the next cup of coffee to the person behind us. But it has much larger connotations when you think about the energy each gesture of kindness creates as it spreads from one person to the next, and beyond your reach to others in ways that you can’t even imagine. If we remind ourselves as we move through our days that we can affect each person we meet positively or negatively, it helps us choose to be generous with our kindness, our respect and appreciation for other people. When we intentionally choose that course every minute, even when someone pulls out in front of us or makes an unkind remark, we gain the power to over-ride a knee-jerk response and remain calm, forgiving, and even grateful for the challenges we receive.
Speaking of feeling grateful–In our culture, women have trouble simply saying “thank you” and expressing gratitude. For some reason, we don’t feel that we are worthy of receiving compliments or gifts. Why we think we have to be worthy to feel grateful is beyond my understanding, but we’re programmed that way by a lifetime of self-esteem challenges in our society. When someone gives us a compliment, women are too often ready with a, “yes, but…” We need to think of the disservice to the person honoring us when we negate their compliment and instead simply feel grateful. We have to let go of our self-limiting beliefs to do this and that takes practice. We have to compliment ourselves and feel our self-worth, look in the mirror and tell ourselves how good we are, pick out the positive aspects–that kindness you showed someone who needed it, how you finally established healthy boundaries with your family, how you pulled off that negotiation at work—and practice, practice, practice.
A gratitude journal is recommended by many professionals (including me) for working yourself out of a stuck frame of mind. When you’re at a low point, thinking about what you are grateful for and writing it down opens your eyes to the many blessings in your life. Do this every day and you will quickly begin to feel grateful and positive about the future. I have long recommended it in consultation and know from personal experience that it works. I have also worked in crisis response and think it’s interesting that the most resilient people always speak about what they still have when they’ve suffered devastating loss. There is a lot of loss around me right now with the California fires in my back yard, but people are saying, “We’re still alive. My family is safe.” Being grateful helps us to focus on what is important–the people we love–not the stuff that is replaceable. And acknowledgement of our gratitude for their survival makes us strong and affirms our values.
We think of grace as an adjective to describe the way someone moves, like a dancer, with poise and surety. But it’s a magical characteristic with the larger meaning of bestowing love and blessings. Grace defines how you live each day and along with gratitude and generosity helps you live your life’s purpose. This is the most important gift and powerfully shapes every relationship you develop. When you develop grace, you’re acting from your heart without judgment or requirements to earn your love. We accept what makes us different and honor those attributes that help us lift each other up in support of one another.
It’s exciting to spend time with like-minded women who share and support one another with generous kindness for their unique gifts. I recently attended Take the Lead Day in New York City. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch videos from the event here. At the end of the day, everyone was so excited and charged with energy that we didn’t want it to end. The feeling of so many women feeling positive about themselves, the message and their future of having the power to achieve parity and take their place as leaders in our businesses, communities, and to make a difference in the world is indescribable. But it brought home to me why we need to support one another and try to create that feeling each and every day.
I wish that feeling for you, not just through this holiday, but into next year and the many years ahead. Reach out to your sisters with generosity and feel grateful for all your gifts. Bestow gifts on yourself as you care and honor yourself. You matter and are a powerful woman who has the ability to share your gifts with others. Pass it on, so that we can all experience what it means to live in and with grace.

Five Great Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

‘Tis the season to be stressed and anxious. There aren’t enough hours in a normal day for many of us, and now besides our daily responsibilities, we are adding holiday cards, parties, shopping, gifts, and opportunities to spend time with friends and family. In the quest to find the perfect gift or attend the next party, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed and too exhausted to do or give another thing.
More than 40 percent of women rank stress and anxiety as a negative influence on their personal health according to Everyday Health’s Special Report: State of Women’s Wellness 2017. In fact, researchers found that 43 percent of the women surveyed name stress and anxiety as a top threat to personal wellness. Some 55 percent of millennial women ranked stress and anxiety at the top of the negative factors on personal health, while slightly fewer members of older generations said they considered it a negative (44 percent of Gen-Xers; 33 percent of baby boomers).
Stress and anxiety are factors in life that we learn — and continually relearn — to live with and manage, every single day. As Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and author, writes, “At best, stress is a constant hum, at worst, it’s an acute and insidious pain.” That means that we need to learn to manage it, and take extra care during the busy holiday season.
So, what can we do to reduce the stress and actually enjoy this time of year?
Get plenty of sleep – Adequate sleep is beneficial in so many ways, and Joy Bauer reports on the Today Show, this time of year it can help you strengthen your resolve, improve your sanity and maintain your weight. Some studies also show that when you routinely clock a good night’s sleep, you’ll be more likely to make better food choices. Science also shows that sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, likely leading to a case of next-day munchies and a holiday of sugary sweet bad decisions.
Get some fresh air – Go into your calendar and schedule yourself 10 minutes of fresh air 3 days this week. Whether it’s going outside and feeling the cold air or the warm sun, going for a walk with no destination, or finding a favorite tree to look at, take 30 minutes this week. You won’t lose out by taking three 10-minute breaks. You will get a fresh perspective. Blood will flow better to your brain. You’ll return calmer and more refreshed. You’ll look at the list, do the next best right thing and say to yourself, “Oh, I have got this.”
Keep it simple – Stress levels can increase dramatically this time of year, especially if you have too much on your plate. That doesn’t mean that you have to cancel your plans, but make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. The holidays are the perfect time to delegate. Perhaps instead of taking on the responsibility of preparing an entire meal alone, you could ask for help in the kitchen or ask guests to bring a dish. Involve friends and family members in planning events, and split up tasks in the planning stages. Most importantly, know your limitations and learn how to say “no.”
Do the next best right thing – Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change says that we should take one task on the list and focus on it. Don’t rush. Don’t speed through it. Breathe. Write that personal email to someone you haven’t connected with in awhile. Take a few minutes to cut the article out of the paper. Slow down. Don’t speed up. Take your time with each correspondence, activity, and phone call. You will be more creative. You’ll feel more relaxed, and suddenly you’ll find yourself enjoying year-end activities.
Know our spending limit – Set a budget, and stick to it. Never, ever buy gifts that you’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off.Give something personal or show love and caring with any gift that is meaningful. Instead of making the holidays a time where breaking the bank becomes the norm, make it a time to do meaningful activities that don’t revolve around spending unnecessary dollars. Set new traditions, volunteer, or work on projects to help others. Those types of activities can provide deep meaning and value, perhaps more so than a “thing” can. And you’ll show the next generation how we can work together to make the world a better place.
Ultimately, this time of year we need to manage our stress levels, be our best selves, and reach out and connect with the people in our lives. We can’t do that if we’re overwhelmed or frazzled. The season is about sharing love with one another, and no matter who you have to share yours with, share it with yourself. Be kind to you throughout the holidays and the new year. It will be the best present you will receive–guaranteed.
 

Five Ways Thanksgiving Gratitude Gives Back to You

Appreciation, or gratitude is the first and most fundamental happiness tool. Gratitude is the purest, strongest form of love. It is the outward-bound kind of love that asks for nothing and gives everything. Gratitude is the antidote to fear. Fear is strong, but love is stronger – Dan Baker, PhD.
It’s definitely that time of year, and many people are thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. However, gratitude shouldn’t just be an annual November exercise, but a daily practice.  More and more researchers are finding that gratitude doesn’t just make you feel like a better person, it’s actually good for your health. What’s more, gratitude is more than simply saying thanks, it’s a way of seeing the world.
“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.”
Emmons also reports that people who keep a gratitude journal have a reduced dietary fat intake — as much as 25 percent lower. Who knew gratitude was a diet aid? Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. And having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging to the brain. Being thankful has such a profound effect because so many positive feelings go along with it, Emmons said.
Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to show gratitude, according to Emmons, because the two go hand-in-hand. “The word ‘thanksgiving’ literally means, giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is an action word. Gratitude requires action.”

Gratitude can help you:
Experience fewer aches and pains. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people report feeling healthier than other people. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health and exercise more often, which is likely to further contribute to longevity.
Have better immune health. Not surprisingly, gratefulness is also linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health. For example, a University of Utah study showed that stressed-out law students who were optimistic had more immune-boosting blood cells than people who were pessimistic, according to WebMD.
Help you sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before bed has been shown to help you worry less and sleep longer and better. Another study found that gratitude predicted better sleep quality and duration and less sleepiness during the day. Researchers explained that when falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts that impair sleep and more likely to think about positive things, thereby enhancing sleep quality.
Boost your energy levels. In Emmons’s gratitude-journal studies, those who regularly wrote down things that they were thankful for consistently reported an increasing sense of vitality. Control subjects who simply kept a general diary saw little increase, if any. The reason is unclear, but improvements in physical health, also associated with giving thanks, may have something to do with it. The better your body functions, the more energetic you feel.
Keep your heart healthy. One study involved 186 men and women, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of heart attack or even an infection of the heart itself. Researchers had participants fill out a questionnaire to rate how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives. It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. When blood tests were then conducted to measure inflammation or plaque buildup in the arteries, researchers found lower levels among those who were grateful — an indication of better heart health.
It’s important to remember this week –– and every week –– that gratitude is a lifestyle strategy, rather than something we do casually during the holidays. Our lives are all filled with miraculous gifts to be grateful for, to savor. By taking the time to feel grateful for those gifts , we in effect honor the things that make our lives so rich and full, and improve our health along the way.

Your Big, Bold, Passionate Summer

Seven Ways Women Can Find Adventure in Their Own Backyard (and Why They Should)

If you’re like most women, your life is well entrenched in routine. But Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly says breaking out of your rut and expanding your world can propel you to success. Here are tips to help you plan the most adventurous summer yet.

Each morning you struggle to wake up and try not to become too frazzled while getting ready for work. Eight or nine (or more) hours later, you come home, check as many chores as possible off your to-do list, and collapse into bed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Even your hobbies and downtime are part of the same old routine: book club on Tuesday nights, TV on Thursday nights, dinner with your girlfriends every other Friday.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, a CNN article suggests that trying out new hobbies and discovering new interests might stave off memory loss. But also, says Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, when we exist and endure instead of approaching life as an adventure, we not only miss out on lots of fun, but we squander our full potential.

“I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with so many women who are amazing, successful, high-performing leaders in many different fields,” says O’Reilly, who, along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, www.drnancyoreilly.com). “And one thing they all have in common is their courage and their sense of adventure.

“They’re not satisfied with the same old, same old,” she adds. “They’re out there setting goals, connecting, taking risks—not just professionally but personally too.”

In other words, how we work and how we play are deeply connected. When we approach life with enthusiasm and intensity—whether we’re driving a collaborative project or learning how to surf—we grow, learn, gain new skills, and expand our sphere of influence. And when we see that taking risks pays off, we’re willing to take more.

That’s why O’Reilly has a summer homework assignment for women: Be brave. Try something new and fun. Expand your world. Not only will you increase your joy in the moment, you’ll get practiced at boldness and adventure. With time this attitude will become your default setting, increasing the likelihood of success in all areas of your life.

“The good news is, you don’t have to travel to Timbuktu,” adds O’Reilly. “There are adventures waiting in your own backyard that you have probably never considered.”

Here, she shares seven tips to help you wring every drop of joy and excitement out of this summer:
Don’t waste the weekend. How many times have you realized that it’s Sunday evening and you haven’t accomplished any of the things you meant to over the weekend (other than sleeping in and binge-watching a show on Netflix)? This summer, O’Reilly encourages you to make the most of your weekends by rising early(ish) and spending your time purposefully.

“Set a goal for every weekend to do something you’ve never done before, whether it’s visiting a new state park, learning a new sport, throwing a neighborhood block party, or even just cooking a new type of cuisine for dinner,” O’Reilly suggests. “And accept the fact that these types of activities almost never happen on the fly—you need to talk to your family and decide in advance how you want to spend each weekend.”

Get out of your vacation rut. Is your family going to a certain beach this summer because, well, that’s what you always do? Even if your family thoroughly enjoys a familiar destination, consider making plans to visit a new place this summer. For example, instead of experiencing the surf and sand, you might rent a mountain cabin or plan a road trip through several national parks.

“Vacationing in a new place will be a treat for your brain, your eyes, your taste buds, and more,” O’Reilly comments. “You’ll probably meet interesting new people as well. It’s fine to use some of your vacation time to rest and rejuvenate—but be sure to plan a few adventures too. Maybe this will be the year you finally take that surfing lesson or tour the landmark you’ve always wanted to visit.”

Find creative new day-trip destinations. Imagine a 100-mile radius around your home. Chances are, there are more fun places and events in that radius than you can cram into one summer: hiking trails, historic sites, lakes, new restaurants, museums, community theaters, festivals, and more. Whether your family is taking an out-of-town vacation or not, plan to visit some of them. (What better way to make the most of your weekends?)

“Some friends of mine block out one weekend every month for a day trip,” O’Reilly shares. “They keep a folder full of clippings and ideas, and they are slowly working their way through it. What a great idea! Remember, adventure isn’t something that can be found only hundreds of miles away. You may be surprised by what your area has to offer, and by how much it has grown and changed while you’ve been stuck in a rut.”

Learn a fun new skill. One of the great things about summer is that the pace of daily life does tend to slow down somewhat. Take advantage of longer days and more relaxed schedules by taking the time to learn something new. Sign up for a class, join a club, or ask a friend to share her expertise.

“Your new skill could be kayaking, target shooting, water skiing, mountain biking, yoga, woodworking, or even skydiving,” O’Reilly says. “If you’re not at least a little nervous about what you’ve chosen to do, move on to something else. Remember, the idea is to challenge and exhilarate yourself—and that won’t happen if you’re not stretching beyond the boundaries of what feels comfortable.”

Do at least one thing to give back to your community. Men and women who care enough about others to volunteer their time, talents, and treasure are the kinds of people you want to meet. And on a personal level, giving back enhances gratitude and contentment, and can even reduce stress levels. So whether your “cause” is homeless animals, adult literacy, or clean oceans, get involved this summer.

“I want to be clear that giving back doesn’t have to mean writing a big check,” O’Reilly comments. “Your time and talents are just as impactful. If you can’t find a preexisting organization in your community that speaks to your heart, pull together a group of likeminded folks and start your own project, like a community vegetable garden.”

Make a point to meet new people. Your kids will meet new friends during summer sports and day camp—and you should try to do the same! If you’re putting O’Reilly’s previous tips into practice, you’ll already have dozens of new people in your orbit. You might also attend networking events, get on a new team at work, introduce yourself to familiar faces at the gym, and respond “yes” to more social invitations.

“I would especially encourage you to seek out other women,” O’Reilly urges. “Women inherently know how to make satisfying, mutually fulfilling connections. In fact, I am seeing the growth of a true women-helping-women movement in which we are creating an ever-expanding network that offers expertise and support to women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields.

“Most of us are so busy and overwhelmed that we just don’t make it a priority to connect with other women,” she adds. “But when you’re purposeful about doing this, your life will become richer, more exciting, and more creative. When we join hands, we can accomplish so much.”

Do all of these things in the spirit of joy and gratitude. There’s one important caveat when it comes to stretching your boundaries and planning an exciting, adventurous summer: You have to approach this goal with a positive, open attitude. Otherwise, your plans won’t feel any different from the other uninspiring items on your to-do list, and they definitely won’t help you to take your power and reach your potential.

“That said, when you’re in the midst of the daily grind, summoning up positivity can be easier said than done,” O’Reilly admits. “The good news is, a significant amount of our happiness comes from the ways we perceive our world—and we can choose to have an attitude of gratitude. Instead of thinking of what you have to do, focus on what you get to do. Every time you learn something new, receive a new opportunity, or learn a new skill this summer, allow yourself to savor the moment and say thanks. You’ll find that your joy levels steadily rise—and that you are more and more excited to expand your world.”

“As an adult you may not get a summer vacation—but it’s time to recapture the excitement and anticipation you felt as a child at the beginning of each summer season,” O’Reilly concludes. “Start with one or two ‘adventures’ from the list above and notice the changes in your mood, creativity, motivation, and maybe even energy levels. Here’s to the most exciting summer you’ve had in years—and to expanding your potential!”

~

Originally appeared in “Home Based Working Moms” May, 2015.

Start the New Year Right – Optimistic Women Live Longer

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a tough year – from the never-ending political cycle, to terror attacks, Zika, Brexit, Syria, shootings and a variety of natural and man-made disasters – it’s safe to assume our collective nerves are shot. However, the New Year could, and probably should, offer us all a new beginning. In fact, taking an optimistic view of year to come could actually help us be happier and healthier.
According to a new study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women who have a positive outlook have a much lower risk of dying from serious illnesses, especially cardiovascular diseases. The study finds that a higher degree of optimism coincided with a lower mortality risk from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection.
If your cup isn’t naturally half full, don’t worry. Optimism isn’t necessarily inherent, it is a talent you can pick up along the way. Researchers from the Harvard study report that it has been demonstrated in randomized trials that optimism can in fact be learned. And from a family, community, and global standpoints, if associations between optimism and broader health outcomes are established, it may lead to novel interventions that improve public health and longevity.
WebMD defines a pessimist as someone who tends to habitually explain the events in their lives in a way that makes them seem dire. They tend to blame themselves, while assuming that whatever went wrong will stay wrong — and bring everything else down with it. A pessimistic outlook is typical of the 50% of Americans who assume things are always getting worse.
Martin Seligman, PhD, and author of Authentic Happiness, writes that optimism is the exact opposite of pessimism, and optimists approach problems from a position of empowerment. Some see overcoming adversity as a challenge, one that they will gladly attempt to conquer. Optimists are more resilient in the face of disaster or tragedy and are happier with their lives in general. One reason for this is optimists learn to cope well and make connections with others who help and support them.
That’s what Leading Women and the women helping women movement is all about – helping women connect and lead a life of empowerment!
How we view our lives and the world we live in not only makes a difference in our health, it can make a difference in how we relate to ourselves and others. My co-author Kristin Andress writes that, “When you focus on mastering your mind, and thus your perceptions and perspective, you discover different paths in the landscape of your possibilities.”
Framing and reframing your experiences can prevent you from spiraling into a vortex of anxiety or despair. The ability to catch yourself when you get that sinking feeling lies in being aware that it is happening, and choosing to pause and select a new perspective. This is much more than seeing the glass half full or making lemons into lemonade. It is a matter of deciding how you will integrate your way of “being” into your life and lifestyle. The power to reflect on your perspective and reframe it gives you an opening to see the world, other people, and yourself in different ways. Typically it is also a much more peaceful and satisfying way.
2017 is a brand new year, and the perfect time to take control of our power and perception, learn to master optimism, and in turn have happier, healthier lives. We can also reach out and connect with other women and help them find a way to take control of their lives. We are all sisters; when we connect, we truly can change the world!

Take a Break and Enjoy the Holiday Season

It seems our lives become busier than ever during the holiday season. We stress over the Christmas parties we’re hosting or invited to frantically shop for last-minute gifts in over-crowded stores, and rush to attend numerous events. According to an American Psychological Association poll, nearly a quarter of Americans say they feel extreme stress when the holidays come around. 69% of people say it’s due to a lack of time, another 69% say it’s a lack of money, and 51% say it’s the pressure to give or get gifts.
Even the media sets us up for disappointment during the holidays. If we don’t find ourselves in the midst of today’s version of Norman Rockwell images of a happy family and friends enjoying the festivities, we have somehow failed in our pursuit of successful living. Yet often there just isn’t enough family to go around. When our children have children of their own and in-laws and extended families, our expectations for a full house on Christmas day fall short.
So what can we do to reduce the stress and actually enjoy this time of year?
We can start by taking a break. Ongoing pressure makes us feel overwhelmed and that makes it impossible to be our best. Simply taking a few minutes for a walk, or a cup of coffee and quiet contemplation can help us reset and jump back into the season. Mayo Clinic also recommends that we:

  • Know our spending limit.Set a budget, and stick to it. Never, ever buy gifts that you’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off.
  • Give something personal.You can show love and caring with any gift that is meaningful and personal. It doesn’t have to cost a lot.
  • Get organized.Make lists or use an appointment book to keep track of tasks to do and events to attend.
  • Share the tasks.You don’t have to do everything yourself. Spend time with friends and family while you share tasks like decorating, wrapping gifts, and preparing the holiday meal.
  • Learn to say no.It’s okay to say “no” to events that aren’t important to you. This will give you more time to say “yes” to events that you do want to attend.
  • Be realistic.Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special for you.

This time of year, we need to be our best and reach out to those in our lives, and in our communities to create a better world. We can’t do that if we’re overwhelmed or frazzled. The season is about sharing love with one another, and no matter who you have to share yours with, share it with yourself. Be kind to you; give yourself the gift of time and balance and do things that you really love doing throughout the holidays and the new year. It will be the best present you will receive–guaranteed.
 
 
 

Making Humbug Holidays Happy

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.20.44 AMThe media sets us up for disappointment during the holidays. If we don’t find ourselves in the midst of today’s version of Norman Rockwell images of a happy family and friends enjoying the festivities, we have somehow failed in our pursuit of successful living. Yet often there just isn’t enough family to go around. When our children have children of their own and in-laws and extended families, our expectations for a full house on Christmas day fall short.
I have been the champion of creating new traditions after divorce, developing new memories and the resilience that came along with it. And here I was feeling like the Grinch had really stolen Christmas. Why in the world couldn’t we get together just one day out of the year to share our love and just be together as a family? I felt really sad until I began to think about some of that family I really didn’t want to be with.
The holidays are definitely not the same for everyone and making up this story of how happy we’re supposed to be only increases possible situational depression. So after I allowed myself to be sad for awhile, I turned my thoughts to doing good for others. I took a gift to a neighbor who I hadn’t seen for awhile. I wrote Christmas cards, sent gifts and thanked everyone who had been generous with me this year. I shared my love from afar and made plans of my own.
The holiday season is so poignant with memories that if we experience a loss during this time of year, it seems to mark every holiday season for years to come. A friend of mine called and told me about all of the issues in her family: one had cancer, another had lost his wife, and it made me see my own life more clearly. Then we started talking about all of the people we didn’t want to see and the funny things going on in our families and out of our laughter I realized that no one has that ideal family. The season is about sharing love with one another, and no matter who you have to share yours with, share it with yourself. Be kind to you; give yourself the gift of time and balance and do things that you really love doing throughout the holidays and the new year.
 

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