Start the New Year Right – Optimistic Women Live Longer

Positive outlook will give more time to liveI 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

Woman taking a break during holiday seasonIt 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.

Empowering Message of Hope

Author of The Gift of Maybe

Allison Carmen

Dr. Nancy wants to give you a gift this holiday season with Allison Carmen’s empowering message of hope. Once an attorney with a big Manhattan law firm, Allison fought an addiction to certainty. If she wasn’t sure what would happen tomorrow, she would succumb to anxiety and fear.
Then she discovered the philosophy of maybe and it opened up unlimited possibilities. She became a life coach and author and wrote the book, The Gift of Maybe, to help others shed their fear and accept the simple perspective of “maybe it would be okay.”

Maybe Versus Expectations

In this interview, Allison tells the Taoist story of a simple farmer who refuses to view his luck good or bad, but chooses to wait and see what the outcome “may be.” Most of us are programmed to do the opposite. We set goals and expectations and worry about an outcome that is impossible for us to know. Circumstances in life are constantly changing and the only thing that makes them good or bad is our perspective.
Dr. Nancy cautions everyone not to expect fun and joy from your holiday get-togethers, but to take them as they come. Not everyone has a joyful circumstance during the holidays and all that expectation can make you feel worse if you’re mourning a loss or dealing with illness in your family.

 Embrace Hope Not Fear

The-Gift-of-Maybe-BookIf you don’t like where your life is now, maybe offers hope for the future. Allison says that some people have faith in life – whether through God or just a positive attitude – and naturally think things will turn out okay. You can’t know tomorrow, but it is far healthier to hope for something better than to fear something worse.
Check out more about The Gift of Maybe and Allison’s writing on her website, Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Listen to her tell the “Story of Maybe” in this uplifting interview.

Four Great Ways To Give This Season

DNOTreeWebHappiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give ― Ben Carson
For many of us, this time of year revolves around parties, shopping, gifts, and spending time with friends and family. In the quest to find the perfect gift or attend the next party many of us can lose sight of what’s truly important. While we focus on, “Holly, jolly, and bright,” many women see today as just another struggle.
As women, it’s imperative that we work together to create a better world, and in just looking around it’s apparent that there is no shortage of targets that need improvement.**
All the power in the world means nothing unless we use it to help others. I firmly believe that the best focus for helping the world this holiday season is to lift up women and girls. While we are focused on giving, sharing, and caring this season, we need to take the hand of one of our sisters and do what we can to help them along. A huge act or donation of time, treasure, or talent isn’t required to make a difference. Little things add up to a lot.
‘Tis the season to ring that bell, serve that food or deliver those meals, so reach out to help someone else.

  • Shop Smarter – whether it’s buying gifts from a female owned business or looking for ways to support female empowerment through your purchases, you can make your dollars count this season. Look for opportunities to support women in your area. Huffington Post recently rounded up some presents you can give loved ones this season that benefit women around the world.
  • Support A Charity – is there a charity you would like to support? Now is the perfect time to make a donation. A donation to a worthy cause that will directly benefit women and girls is always welcome. Also, in many areas you can “adopt” a family for the holidays and help with the purchase of a holiday meal, necessities, and even wish-list gifts. If you don’t have the means to adopt a family, call the charity and volunteer your time sorting donations, serving meals, or delivering baskets. You can also volunteer your talent by helping them in other ways. Charities value all of the ways we can help them, and all of our donations help them expand the ways they can help others.
  • Mentor – is there a woman in your life that could benefit from a mentor relationship? Could you help her grow in the workplace or community? Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and helping them with their own experience, and through mentoring relationships, helping women step into their own power. The best part is, the benefits of mentoring go both ways. The holidays are the perfect time to reach out and develop a relationship.
  • Reach Out – is there a woman in your life that is suffering this season? Has she recently gone through a loss or divorce? Or maybe she has a schedule that doesn’t permit travel? If there’s a woman in your life that is hurting or lonely, reach out and invite her to lunch, or to celebrate the season with you in some other way. Helping her will not only make you feel better, it will make you grateful for your challenges and opportunities.

It is important, especially during the holidays, to reach out to other women. Each of us needs to support other women everywhere – in our homes, workplace, community, nation, and the world. None of us are as creative, skilled, and powerful as we are together. There is a deep satisfaction and meaning that comes from helping others, so this season, wherever your passion lies, reach out and help make a difference in our world.
** Targets that need improvement: I don’t mean to depress you because of course you already know all this, but just for the record – the majority of women in the world are denied education, freedom from violence, economic security, and a voice in their communities. In fact, equality for many of the world’s women is still firmly set in the Dark Ages. Here in the U.S. poverty continues to be a women’s issue. Nearly six in ten poor adults are women, and nearly six in ten poor children live in families headed by women. Poverty rates are especially high for single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone. Women also still earn less than men and are bringing in only 78 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, fill few government leadership roles, occupy less than 20 percent of corporate C-level jobs, and in their “personal time” assume the bulk of the responsibility for household and family chores. In all walks of life, many women struggle for equality, parity, education, and support on a daily basis.

Post Divorce New Years Intentions

It’s New Year’s Eve and I was inspired today by my youngest daughter. She is a transformational coach and talks about manifestation and setting your intentions on how and what you want your life to be. She and her life partner and soon to be husband are having a big New Year’s Party to bring in 2013.

Holiday Budgeting

Holiday Gifting on a Budget: Gifts That Keep on Giving

holiday-giftingIf you are like me, the holiday season can create a roller coaster of feelings. Two completely opposite emotions instantly come to my mind: joy and dread.

I feel joy because I love the holidays! I love to see family and friends that we often do not make time to see the rest of the year. During the holidays, everyone creates more opportunities for socializing. We stop and take time to connect and share our love unlike any other time of the year.

But I also feel dread because of the pressure of “gifting.” What do they want? Will they like what I pick out? Will they understand if I can’t spend as much this year? This holiday season, we are all thinking about paying bills, keeping our jobs, and maybe even helping other family members who are in trouble financially. We’re wondering how long we can afford to pay for health care and if our savings will still be there when we need it.

Do you know anyone who has a lot of cash lying around for gifts? I don’t! So don’t fall into the trap of using an already-smoking credit card to buy expensive presents for everyone on your list.

Here are some ideas for making your gifts this season more meaningful to you –– and to your “giftees.” When you give of yourself, it’s a “gift that keeps on giving.” This year’s weird economy sets up a great scenario for us to re-think our gifts this holiday season.

  • Give your time. Time is definitely the most precious gift we can give to our loved ones (and to ourselves, for that matter). Consider this holiday keeping your costs down to a minimum with giving the gift of your time. Here are some simple ways to do just that:
  • Write a note. Email has left most of us with a drawer full of unused stationery and cards, so for the price of a 44-cent stamp, you can make someone’s day brighter. Letters or cards can truly touch the person you love and care for, especially if you take the time to share some personal details of your life. We all know what a joy it is in these times to receive a handwritten note. I almost fall out of my chair when a real card or letter comes in the mail. Write these simple words: “I care, I love, and I wish only good things for you.” or “I’m thinking of you fondly this holiday season.” When you take the time to make someone feel special with honest, heart-felt wishes, you’re guaranteed to end up on someone’s “great people list.”
  • Call someone who is under the weather. Better yet, set up a telephone or email tree and enlist several other people to reach out as well. Studies show the more friends women have, the better they recover from even serious illnesses like cancer, so know that by reaching out you are giving the most wonderful form of healthcare.
  • Offer to do errands or any type of job: fix a sink, do the dishes, care for a child, pick up groceries, offer to drive or deliver for them, prepare and share a meal.
  • Visit someone who is housebound. Phone calls are great, but there’s nothing like face time while sharing a hot cup of tea or cocoa. People who are isolated can become especially despondent during the holidays, so the gift of your company is priceless.
  • Expand your circle. Do you know someone who would otherwise be alone on a special holiday? Extend an invitation that includes an offer of transportation. Older people particularly may be reluctant, or unable, to drive after dark.

Give your talents. Gifts of love can be more meaningful than much more expensive gifts, so use your talents in ways that will benefit others.

  • Whip up a batch of holiday cookies for a busy family. You’ll give twice if you make them with other family members and start a wonderful holiday tradition and create memories for children. Include a photo of the kids at work baking for an extra special treat.
  • Share a family recipe along with a sample jar of the perfect sauce, salsa, or relish. A bit of pretty paper and ribbon can dress up the simplest jar.
  • Are you crafty? You probably have boxes and bins of leftover materials, so pull them out and take inventory. Beads, fabric, pinecones, greenery, dried flowers, yarn, paint, tin cans, paper, glitter – it’s all raw material for creating holiday arts and crafts. If your mind is empty of ideas, search the Internet for holiday crafts – you won’t have time to read all the ideas.
  • Tree decorations are a wonderful and welcome addition to any home. If you include your name and the year on the back, they’ll be reminded of your love each time they decorate and take down the tree.
  • Record a CD with your family singing seasonal songs. Make it a DVD and you can add video from your phone. Search online for “Free CD cover template” and you can create a customized cover with family photos.

Give to yourself. Take time for you, to focus on your personal priorities. You’re not doing anyone a favor if you become overstressed and freaked-out by self-imposed pressures this time of year.

  • Watch a movie alone or together with your family. Libraries have excellent collections of DVDs for all ages, and popcorn and cider take the chill off the grayest day.
  • Read alone or to others. Spending a few quiet minutes each day can be like pressing the reset button on a scrambled computer.
  • Relax. It’s important to do something every day just for yourself, no matter how small: spend a few minutes in a hot bath, sing along to a favorite CD, meditate or pray, stretch.
  • Remember to exercise, alone or with others. It’s free!
  • Eat lightly and well. Focusing on nutrition is a great way to come out of the other side of the holidays without regrets.

It is really easy to trim your gift budget this year, and keep from breaking the bank. If you don’t have it, don’t spend it! There are so many ways to have a really wonderful holiday during which everyone will win. You will feel good, they will feel special, and you will discover the best way to truly share the meaning of holidays.

Let this be a time for all of us to really connect. Let’s understand that we are all in this together. We can learn so very much and rise above it. Have a Happy Holiday, and I send you and your loved ones all the blessings of the season.

Stress: The Uninvited House Guest

Yes, the holidays are upon us! Are you rushing about, trying to put it all together? Fully half of you might say you are stressed to the max and already can’t wait for the holidays to be over.

The First Christmas After Divorce

I just finished the first Christmas after my divorce. I never expected or wanted to be divorced. Does anyone? I had planned to stay in the marriage until “death do us part.” But after 42 years of marriage, I found out the kind of news that makes a good Soap Opera. You know the really juicy ones so many people love to watch. Boy meets girl; boy meets another girl and well, you know the ending. None-the-less, It seems strange to me that my family is separated and fractured by a divorce.

10 Tips for Overcoming Post-holiday Sadness

Post Holiday BluesWhether your holiday season felt fabulous, horrific, or somewhere in between, you may experience a post-holiday letdown when the festivities end. There are many causes and what helps you may not help someone else.

People often feel overwhelmed by advertising, hype and “the whole Norman Rockwell thing.” Therefore, your present experience may not live up to the hype or to your childhood ideal.  You may try to keep things the way they were despite inevitable changes like a new baby, divorce, illness, weather emergency or tragedy. Even positive changes such as a new job opportunity can lead to holiday sadness.

In seeking to re-create a past ideal holiday, you might allow yourself to be pushed into doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t really care about, and spending money you don’t have. “Traditions are wonderful but trying to maintain traditions against all odds can also become a trap,” Dr. O’Reilly says. When all the excitement passes,  you may feel let down.

How to Overcome the “Post-Holiday Blues”

It’s important to understand the causes of the blues. People who are sad after the holidays were often sad going into the holidays. The blue feelings are typically a symptom of an underlying problem, so if you’re feeling sad look deeper.

What are the External Causes of Holiday and Post-Holiday Sadness?

  • Loss of a loved one through death, divorce or moving away
  • Loss of a job or home
  • Loss of an opportunity
  • Loss of healthy relationships (toxic relationships

What are the Internal Causes of Holiday and Post-Holiday Sadness?

  • Unresolved grieving
  • Underlying medical condition, side effects from medications or substances, or Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Fear
  • Contrast between past and present
  • Disappointments
  • Contrast between expectations and reality
  • Isolation from others that creates loneliness

10 Tips To Handle The Blues

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 for beating the blues.

  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 can not 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.

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