Yesterday, I gave my 5th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #4 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 5th speech). The purpose of the speech was to work on the skill “How you say it”, and I already knew I wanted to talk about the topic of stress. I struggled for awhile, trying to figure out how I could be creative with this one to satisfy the requirements of the project, and I had only 5-7 minutes for the speech. While preparing, I kept getting that song from Salt N’ Pepa stuck in my head…you know the one from 1991, called “Let’s Talk About Sex”? Well, I kept singing it in my head while thinking about this speech, but kept replacing the word “sex” with the word “stress”. Then it hit me…rewrite the chorus to be about stress and start off my speech with it.

I spoke with my Toastmasters mentor to see what she thought, and she loved it. But she also gave me the wonderful idea to have a few other Toastmasters join in with me on the singing. So I hit up three of my fellow Toastmasters that I felt would be game for something like this, and they willingly agreed to help a sista out!

The end result? I think it went really well, and I accomplished my purpose. I was able to creatively talk about the topic of stress, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. Ultimately, I want people to walk away from my speeches happier and motivated to do something to make their lives better. Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I said. I wish I would have recorded it, but I completely forgot…maybe I will just have to give it again someday!

I started off by asking everyone to clap along with me, and once everyone got going on that, I launched into singing the first line of my rewritten chorus…the three people I had doing this with me then each sang a line, and I wrapped up by singing the last two lines. Here’s the rewritten chorus:

Let’s talk about stress baby,
Let’s talk about you and me,
Let’s talk about all the good kinds and the bad kinds,
there may be,
Let’s talk about stress,
Let’s talk about stress,

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Let’s talk about stress!

We’ve all heard of stress. Throughout childhood and adulthood, the word stress is thrown around quite a lot. You may have said or heard such phrases as:

“My job causes me so much stress!”

“Studying for exams is so stressful!”

Or, if you’re where I was just a few years ago:

“O.M.G.!!! My daughter just got her learner’s permit, and just thinking about her driving STRESSES ME OUT!”

Sound familiar? Merriam-Webster defines stress as a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc., OR something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. When you’re under stress of any kind, you undergo a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms that, if left unchecked, can be detrimental to your health. So what do you do?

Let’s talk about…the types of stress. There are two types of stress a person can experience: acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute stress, also known as the “fight or flight response”, is the most common form of stress. It is your body’s immediate reaction to a perceived threat, scare or challenge. Acute stress can be quite thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. Because it is short term, it doesn’t do extensive damage, and is highly manageable.

A single episode generally doesn’t cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress can cause mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and even physical difficulties such as a heart attack.

Some examples of acute stress would be getting a promotion, getting a speeding ticket…or giving a Toastmasters speech!

AcuteStress

Chronic stress is the grinding stress that wears away at you day after day, year after year. Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. Some examples of stressors that could cause chronic stress for a person are an unhappy marriage, traumatic experiences, unwanted career or job, poverty, chronic illnesses, relationship conflicts, and dysfunctional families.

chronicstress

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know when you’re experiencing stress. So what are the signs?

Let’s talk about…the symptoms of stress. According to Web MD, common symptoms of stress include:

  • A fast heartbeat.
  • A headache.
  • A stiff neck and/or tight shoulders.
  • Back pain.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating, and sweaty palms.
  • An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.

These symptoms can occur whether the stress you’re experiencing is good or bad, and there are a myriad of other symptoms that can crop up as well.

Take a look at the following clip from Kindergarten Cop, which shows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character experiencing acute stress:

Recognize any of the symptoms we just covered?

Let symptoms like this go on for too long, and it can cause permanent damage to your entire body. So how do you deal with stress and its effects?

Let’s talk about…how to manage stress. Stress is a part of life that can’t be eliminated. Even the positive changes in our lives, like buying a new house or getting that job promotion, can cause all the unpleasant symptoms we just covered. Therefore, it’s in our best interest to learn how to manage stress in our lives before it gets out of control. There are many things a person can do to manage stress, so it’s important to find what works best for you. The American Psychological Association provides the following tips to help ease stress in your life, which I’ll be giving you more info about after the presentation (here’s the link to the handout I had for everyone):

  1. Take a break from the stressor
  2. Exercise
  3. Smile and laugh
  4. Get social support
  5. Meditate

Personally, I’ve used all five of these tips for myself when experiencing stress, in various combinations, depending on what the stressor is. So now what?

Let’s talk about…next steps. Now that we’ve discussed what stress is, what the symptoms are and how to manage it, you need to do a little homework. First of all, if you suffer from any of the symptoms we covered and suspect they may be due to the effects of stress, then you need to determine exactly what the stressors in your life are. Remember, even “good” stress can wreak havoc on your health, so you really need to figure this one out.

Once you’ve identified the stressors in your life, you’ll need to come up with an action plan for how to manage them. Remember, you have to implement things that resonate with YOU, so don’t sign up for a Zumba class if dancing in front of large groups would cause you MORE stress.

Finally, remember that stress will always be part of your life. But if you can learn to identify when you’re experiencing it and find the techniques that work to help you manage it, you should notice your health doesn’t suffer. And you’ll need to revisit things from time to time, as our stressors won’t always be the same, and the management techniques that work today may not be effective tomorrow. Eventually, Arnold figured out how to deal with his stressors (the kids he was teaching)…take a look at how things changed for him once he did:

See, with a little dedication, stress can most definitely be managed and controlled so that you can lead your happiest life possible.

Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

Minions_FriendsQuote
(Photo courtesy of QuotesNHumor.com)

Have you ever stopped to consider how important it is to have friends? Or how much of an influence friends have in who you are and how happy you are? I think many of us take friends for granted and probably don’t think too much about what life would be like if we were suddenly friendless.

For the past 6 weeks or so, that’s exactly what my life has been like. Friendless. I didn’t realize it, of course. I talked in my last post about how busy I’ve been. So busy that I’d been neglecting the things I need to do for myself, so I re-committed to getting back on track with working on my happiness. And since my last post, I have definitely gotten better about doing the things I said I was going to. But guess what? I was doing them BY MYSELF.

To be fair, I wasn’t LITERALLY by myself. At golf lessons, I had my teacher there with me. At work, I had co-workers there. At home, my husband and I were able to spend more time together, and we had some family come visit us for the July 4th holiday. And don’t get me wrong…I enjoyed spending time with ALL of these people. But they weren’t my “friends”, if you know what I mean (sorry if you fit into one of these categories, but hang with me here…I promise I am not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings).

My friends…my TRUE friends…are the ones I can unabashedly be myself around. You may think I should be able to be that way around my family and my husband, right? Well, not really…not for me, anyway. Sometimes I have to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself to avoid hurting them or making them worry about me. Sometimes I feel like if I tell them exactly what I am thinking and feeling, they’ll think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind! Please tell me some of you know what I’m talking about on this one!

William Shakespeare said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” If you ask some people who know me, they’d say I have a lot of friends. But I don’t. Not really. I can count on one hand (OK, maybe 1.5 hands) the number of people who meet this definition of friend. People I can truly let down my guard with. People I can admit my deepest thoughts and secrets to. People who will tell me the God’s honest truth, no matter what I may WANT to hear.

The past two weeks, I noticed I was really “off”. I was sullen, didn’t want to do anything, had no energy…basically, I was miserable. I first attributed it to the long hours I’d been spending with my full-time job, including a couple of business trips. But last week, I had a normal work week, and some down time, but was still miserable. And I had re-committed to the things I talked about in my last blog, so I was frustrated with why I was not happy.

My gut told me to reach out to my friends. Those people I consider to meet Shakespeare’s definition. Two of them were available to get together with me this weekend…one yesterday and one today. Wow! All I can say is W.O.W.!

Until I got together with the two of them, I didn’t realize how much I’d been starving for some good ol’ quality time with a FRIEND.

When my one friend saw me yesterday, the very first thing she said to me was, “What’s up? Something’s not right with you…what’s going on?” Throughout the course of our conversation, we came to realize that what was wrong with me was that I’d relegated myself to being friendless for at least the past 6 weeks. I was so busy with work and family obligations that I let my friendships fall by the wayside. I realized something was off, and I thought it was with my slacking on the meditation and the other things I mentioned in my last post, so I’d put forth the effort into those things. But I let go of my friends in the process.

I guess I subconsciously realized it, because like I said, I reached out this past week to my friends. During the time with my friend yesterday, she exclaimed at one point that she could already see a difference in my whole demeanor. That I looked so much happier. All from just some good, quality conversation with someone I truly love having as part of my life. Someone who I can be myself around and not feel like I am “less than” when I admit to not being perfect.

This morning, I connected with another friend. One that I haven’t seen in person in quite some time. Yeah, we’ve connected through e-mails and social media, but let’s face it, social media just isn’t the same. Nothing takes the place of that live, in-person time with a true friend. The cool thing was that even though I hadn’t seen her in person in a couple of YEARS (yes, you read that correctly…YEARS), we picked up as if we hadn’t missed a beat. And that’s another sign of a true friend. No blame going on, no guilt trip…just genuine delight in spending some quality time with each other after so much time apart.

I gotta say, I feel so refreshed right now. And I realize, now more than ever, that having friends is part of finding your happiness. So I promised my friend yesterday that I wouldn’t let myself get into this situation ever again. No matter what, no matter how busy I may be, I will make more time for my friends. This past 6 weeks of being friendless has been so incredibly lonely. At least I had my family around, and I know that helped to a degree…I can’t even imagine how strong that feeling of loneliness would have been if I had NO ONE. No one should ever have NO ONE to confide in and talk to.

Ever since yesterday, I’ve had “You’ve Got a Friend”, by James Taylor, in my head. I love this verse:

“If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there.”

That’s how it is with a true friend. When you need them, they are there for you. No matter what. All you have to do is ask them to be there for you. I love that I have a few people in my life that I can count in that category.

If you’re having trouble making time for your friends, take a look at what you’ve got going on and figure out where you can fit them in. Don’t feel like you’ve got to go through everything alone. Don’t assume you’re friends are too busy for you. If you haven’t heard from them in awhile, then YOU be the one to reach out…don’t wait for them to come to you, as that may very well be what THEY are doing…waiting for YOU. Sometimes we think we’re bothering people, when in reality, they are craving time with us just as much as we are craving it with them.

So put yourself out there. A true friend will answer the call.

Namaste,

Melanie

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. ~~ Attributed to Hanoch McCarty

Several posts ago, I wrote about how I’ve dubbed myself the Happiness Advocate. I truly feel it’s my mission to help everyone, including myself, find happiness. We all deserve happiness, in my opinion. It’s our God-given right. He didn’t create us in His image with the intention for us to be miserable all the time, after all.

In my last post, I admitted I’ve been struggling with my own journey. I’ve gotten a lot better when I do the mirror exercise, though, and I am finding it easier not to pick myself apart in terms of what I see from a physical aspect.

But there is another area in my life where the struggle is worse than it’s been in a LONG time…my insecurity with being “good enough” in the things I do. Constantly feeling like I’m “less than” everyone else and feeling like I don’t measure up. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this…am I?

NotGoodEnough
(My daughter, Morgan, graciously helping me out for this post)

Being noticed for what we do or make is something we all crave. It helps us feel affirmed, to know that we are of value and that we are significant. It’s not wrong to want this, but it can certainly make us feel very vulnerable at times…sometimes to the point of detriment. When we aren’t noticed, then sometimes we resort to comparing ourselves to others.

It’s not uncommon to compare ourselves to others…this is also part of human nature. The unhealthy part about it is when we start to talk ourselves into the notion that the people we are comparing ourselves to are better than us.

    She’s beautiful.
    He’s so amazing with calculations.
    She has a successful career.
    She’s a kick-ass yoga instructor.
    They have more money.
    She gets to stay at home with her kids.
Her house is so pristine…it’s like a museum!

If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know that low self-esteem is something I struggle with, and I thought I’d been very diligent as of late to address it in order to find my happiness. So why has the past month been so hard for me in this area? I seem to constantly be comparing myself to everyone around me, and I come away most of the time feeling like I am just not good enough at the things I do.

Last week, I really started to get frustrated with myself for doing this. I wondered, “WHY? Why have I been beating myself up these past few weeks? Why do I feel “less than” in every aspect of my life…as a professional, as a yoga teacher, as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend? WHY?”

So I took a self-imposed time out and meditated on it a bit. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the source of the problem.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t done the things I need to do for myself. When I get super busy, I tend to just PUSH PUSH PUSH, like a well-oiled machine, focusing on the task at hand until it’s done. I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t stop comparing myself to how others are doing “it” better than I am, so then I get paranoid and start over, trying to be better than before. I drive myself crazy when I do this, but this is how I roll, apparently.

When I get this way, I forget to stop and take some “me” time. As I thought about it, I realized I didn’t remember the last time I’d meditated. And that I’d been very sporadic with my exercise habits. I’d been missing more yoga sessions than I cared to admit. No WONDER I’d been such a wreck and was acting really horrible to myself…again!

During my “time out”, I came to realize two things:

  1. I create these comparisons to others all by myself. No one told me I needed to be better at anything…I did that to myself. It’s ME who subscribes to the “he/she is better than me” mindset.
  2. I have the power to do something about it. It is MY reaction, MY brain…which means I control how I react.

As I meditated some more on it, I knew that I needed to get better at changing my thought patterns and habits. It’s not an overnight change, though. It takes a lot of hard work and practice, and self-forgiveness, to teach yourself to realize how awesome you truly are. So here’s how I plan to tackle this and get my life to a point where I can be happy with exactly who I am, and be comfortable that I am exactly who God intended me to be:

  1. Try new things. A change in routine can be a great way to give yourself a boost. For me, I decided to take golf lessons. My husband found me a nice set of used clubs for a great deal, and then I saw a Groupon ad for lessons at a good deal, so I figured this was a sign from above. I’ve had two lessons now, and I am really loving it. By no means am I the female version of Tiger Woods, but I am loving the way the club feels when it makes contact with the ball and goes (generally) in the direction I want it to. I love the way it feels to be outside on the green, soaking up the sun and feeling the nice breeze. And I like my teacher. He is kind and patient, and he tells me stories that make me laugh when he sees me getting frustrated…when I start laughing, he says, “Now that you’re loosened up from all the stress, try hitting the ball again…Even Tiger doesn’t hit a good shot every time.” And I usually find that I do much better once I let go of having to be perfect and just have fun with it.
  2. Take care of yourself. This means, for me, making sure I exercise regularly, meditate, get enough sleep and eat right. I’ve been doing really well lately with eating the right things and not letting my cravings win. I’ve also recently gotten back into my strength training…I’d forgotten how good it makes me feel to lift heavy things! And I have also picked back up with my yoga practice, as I had let my busy schedule get in the way too many times to count. Now I need to get dialed back in to my meditation practice and getting my sleep back on track. Baby steps and patience will get me there. I deserve to give myself the gift of health.
  3. Be honest. Know your triggers so that you can be aware. When they hit, you’ll be better able to figure out how to take yourself out of the situation before it becomes a problem. Be open with others and tell them how you feel…it’s so therapeutic to share with others. If you keep everything to yourself, it’ll eventually drive you mad. Many times, when you share your feelings with others, you find they totally get it…most of the time, people tell me, “OMG! I feel the same way sometimes! I am glad I’m not alone!” That makes me feel better instantly…to know I’m not all by myself when the poop hits the fan.
  4. Know your strengths. We all have them. Every. Single. One of us. For example, I have a good sense of humor and love making people laugh, and I also love to build people up. I also have a knack for making up silly lyrics to the tune of popular songs, which always makes my older daughter cringe a bit in embarrassment (tee hee hee)! When you can recognize your strengths — and embrace them and be proud of them — you’re less likely to pick yourself apart.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! Life happens and things won’t always be sunshine and roses, so don’t be so hard on yourself when you slip now and then. Practice not criticizing yourself at every opportunity by taking a deep breath and taking a moment to reflect before beating yourself up. Remind yourself of your strengths, that you are loved, that you are beautiful, there is no one else like you, and that you deserve happiness. The more you practice, the more you will be able to resist the urge to compare yourself to others.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all different and we are all beautiful. I need to remember this and believe it for myself. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I know I can do it. Another strength of mine just so happens to be that I am stubborn! And right now, that is a very good thing!

Namaste,

Melanie

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the fairest of them all?” ~~ Snow White’s evil stepmother

queen(Photo courtesy of Doug Craig)

If you’ve ever read Snow White or seen one of the big screen adaptations, you probably recognize the quote above. Snow White’s evil stepmother utters this quote over and over to her magic mirror throughout her time as queen, and it always told her that SHE was the fairest of them all…until Snow White came along. And then all of a sudden, the queen went to great lengths to destroy Snow White, so that she could once again be the most beautiful in all the land.

Now I know this is just a fairy tale, but think about something for a minute. The queen was just trying to get a little boost to her ego. She had no self-esteem and no self-love, so she was dependent on this mirror to tell her how beautiful and wonderful she was. The thing is, she never believed it herself, and her soul was dark because of it. Snow White, on the other hand, was not only beautiful, but she had a heart and soul that was pure love. Snow White believed she was the best she could be and she was happy with who she was, no matter what her circumstances were.

Sound familiar? I know many people with the “wicked queen complex”, as I like to call it. People who are constantly looking for recognition and praise from others. People who never seem to be happy because they’re always looking for the next round of praise. When I look at these people, I notice they surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear, who feed their ego. But when I look at them, I also notice that no matter how much they are told how wonderful they are, they still don’t seem to be happy.

Truth be told, I used to be one of those kinds of people. Heck, I still am a lot of the time. I am working on it, but it is HARD for me. So hard!

For many months now, I’ve been working on improving my health and wellness. I’ve incorporated meditation, I’ve pared back on my commitments, and I am spending more time with my family and friends.

About two months ago, I started working with a friend of mine who is an amazing energy healer. I was having a lot of pain in my legs and in my back and shoulders, and she offered to see if she could help. When she started working on my back and shoulders, she immediately noted that this pain was due to something emotional rather than physical. As she continued to work on me, she said I needed to work on loving myself and trusting myself, and on speaking my truth.

I was floored, because when I thought about it, I realized she was right. I am great at building others up, but I am always beating MYSELF up, always thinking I could be doing something better, always apologizing for everything.

She gave me some mantras and meditations to do, and I eagerly started working on them. I am a very task-driven, Type A personality, so I love it when I get “assignments”. I also ordered an amazing workbook by Louse Hay, “Love Yourself, Heal Your Life”. This book was recommended as a great one to help with developing self-love, and the thought of having a multitude of “assignments” to do sounded like just what I needed.

LouiseHayBookCover

When the workbook arrived in the mail, I was SO excited! I started reading it right away. In it, the author says that you should do each exercise until you’ve got it down and feel like you’ve truly accomplished it before moving on to the next one. OK. Easy enough.

Or so I thought. The first exercise I did is the Mirror Exercise. What you’re supposed to do is stop and look at yourself in a mirror as often as you can, and every time you do, you’re supposed to say something nice to yourself. That didn’t sound so bad.

The first time I tried it, though, was so UNCOMFORTABLE! I looked at myself and immediately wanted to pick apart what I saw.

  •  “My face looks fat.”
  • “My skin looks blotchy.”
  • “Look at those wrinkles on my forehead and around my eyes.”
  • “Is that a double-chin?”

You get the idea. So I closed my eyes, opened them, and tried again. This time, I really looked and STRUGGLED to find something nice to say. So I said something cheesy like, “You have pretty hair” and then walked away, emotionally exhausted from the attempt.

Wow! This was going to be harder than I thought. But I don’t back away from a challenge, so I vowed to keep at it. I thought I was making some progress until I went to my chiropractor this week. He looked at me after the adjustment and said, “You really need to start believing in yourself. You don’t trust yourself at all. You need to trust that you’re worth standing up for.”

Hmm…OK.

Then today, I saw my friend who’s been working with me. I told her I was experiencing some pain again in my back and right shoulder, and she went back to what she told me the first time I worked with her. I told her I’d been working on it but that it was not going so well. She gave me some more mantras, ones I can use with my mirror exercise, so that maybe it will be less difficult for me.

When I got home, I took this pic of myself:

Melanie_05172015

After I took it, I started analyzing it. I started to do what I usually do, which is to pick myself apart. But then I said, “No! Enough! I am worthy. I honor myself and I respect myself too much to continue to treat myself this way.” Then I looked again…not at my blotchy, post-yoga skin, but in my eyes. To me, my eyes look like they truly believe I am worthy, don’t you think? I think my head knows, but it’s my heart I need to work on. I need to believe it to my very core.

Yoga has been wonderful to me throughout the years in helping me believe in myself, but somehow, I’ve lost my way a bit. I think I’ve spent so much time working on my students that I forgot about ME. I definitely have not been very good at practicing what I preach.

Well, that’s going to change. I want to be happy from the inside out. I am willing to do the hard work, even if it means dealing with uncomfortable feelings as they rise to the top. I am worth it. I know that now.

If you’ve never done the mirror exercise, I encourage you to try it. It might be uncomfortable. VERY uncomfortable. And it might feel silly or awkward. But that just means you need to do it all the more. I never realized how hard it can be to say something nice to yourself. But if you can’t love yourself and say kind things to yourself, you can’t expect others to love you and be kind to you. You’ll never be happy…truly happy…until you can look yourself in the eyes and say, “I love you.”

I want to be Snow White, not the evil queen. How about you?

Namaste,

Melanie

A few posts back, I talked about how I gave my first speech in Toastmasters back in December. This month, I completed my 4th speech! I’ve decided to focus each of my speeches on something that helps people find happiness in their lives, as I truly do feel like it’s my mission in life to help others find happiness. Maybe at the end of my 10 speeches (that’s how many you have to do in order to complete the Competent Communicator series), I’ll have my material all set for my first book. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

This latest speech was titled, “Don’t Be So Serious!” It focused on getting across the message that when embarrassing things happen to you, or you make a mistake, do what you can to roll with it and not dwell on it. Because if you dwell on things, you’ll be miserable. Look for the lesson in the situation, and learn from it…and you’re on your way to finding your happiness.

I started off my speech with a clip from the movie Sixteen Candles. If you’ve seen the movie (from WAY back in 1984), you probably remember the scene where Sam’s grandparents see her for the first time in awhile and notice she’s “gotten her boobies” (tee hee hee!). Here’s the clip in case you don’t remember, or haven’t seen the movie…you only need to watch the first 1:10 of the clip.

After watching the clip, I launched into my OWN embarrassing story, which had the room cracking up (which was EXACTLY what I was hoping they’d do, by the way). Here’s the story I shared:

It was about 10 years ago. My husband, daughters and I were at the grocery store to get some items we needed for a party we were hosting the next night. We had a lot of things to get, so I gave half the list to my husband and older daughter, while my younger daughter and I took the other half of the list.

We were zipping through the aisles, putting the necessary items into the cart, checking off the list…things were going SPLENDIDLY! And then…I turned down the pasta aisle.

As I was strolling along, I saw my husband up ahead, so I figured I’d catch up to him and see where he was on his half of the list. As I got up behind him, I “passed gas”. It was SUPER loud and quite stinky. My husband HATES when I do stuff like that (it happens more often than I’d care to admit), so I figured I’d make light of the situation by saying, “That was a good one, wasn’t it?”

He turned around and said, “It sure was lady!”

O.M.G.!!! This wasn’t my husband! It was some random guy with a similar build in a similar outfit, but he was not MY husband!

Yes, I think you could say I was embarrassed. But, in true “Melanie” fashion, I decided to laugh it off. I looked at the man, smiled, and said, “Looks like my job here is done!” Then I kept strolling down the aisle in search of my REAL husband, so we could skidaddle!

William Arthur Ward said, “To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.” After that incident in the store, I’d like to think I am a bit more mature now! :)

If you have a hard time laughing things up…if you constantly dwell on the mistakes you think you’ve made…then now is the time to make a change.

Yesterday, I came across the following article. I am always in search of exercises that can help people tap into their happiness, and I absolutely think this article is a must read for anyone who wants to be happier in their life.

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/6-exercises-positive-psychology-boost-happiness/

The article contains 6 different exercises that can help you in finding happiness, but the first exercise is one that really jumped out at me, because it totally validated everything I said in my speech. Here’s the exercise:

Exercise #1: Three funny things

Write down three funny things you experienced in a given day, and why those things happened. For example, was this something you were directly involved in, something you observed, or something spontaneous?

When you can laugh at yourself and your circumstances, it means that you don’t take life too seriously. Best of all, laughing is contagious!

So…what are you waiting for? Invest some time in yourself because guess what? You deserve happiness! We all do, so don’t let it pass you by.

And, if you feel so inspired, I’d love for you to share the things you came up with in the exercise above. You never know how sharing your experiences might end up helping someone else.

Namaste,

Melanie

You can ask yourself, “What’s it like to be me?” You know, the only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That’s where home is. — Bill Murray

The above quote is Bill Murray’s response to the question “How does it feel to be you?”, which he fielded during a press conference at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival after the screening of his film St. Vincent. The resulting speech he gave has been dubbed the “Bill Murray Dharma Talk”, and I really enjoyed listening to it. You can listen to it yourself by clicking here, and it also has the speech typed out if you don’t want to watch the video.

I happened to come across this “dharma talk” right at the end of March, and I thought it was such perfect timing, as my focus in my yoga classes for March was dharma. I’d felt like it was challenging for me throughout the month to really get across the message that I wanted to my students…and then I happened across this wonderful little speech by Bill Murray and I felt it really helped tie things up rather nicely.

Dharma can mean many different things, depending on the religion or philosophy you subscribe to. Check out Wikipedia for an example of what I mean. But to me, the way dharma is described in the Bhagavad Gita is the one that has always resonated with me the most. In chapter 18.47, it says, “It’s better to do your own dharma imperfectly than another’s perfectly.” Dharma here means “life purpose”. If you’re truly doing what you’re meant to be doing, then everything else in life falls into place naturally. If you’re doing things that are helping you work toward meeting your dharma, then it’s all good, no matter the outcome!

I definitely feel like I am working towards my own dharma…FINALLY! I’ve tried lots of different things in an attempt to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing and what makes me tick. These last couple of years have definitely brought me a long way. And I think it’s because I finally stopped to listen to my own heart, rather than trying to copy what others are doing. Also, I figured out that a person’s dharma changes along their life’s journey. We have stages in our lives, after all, so it’s only fitting that our dharma may need to change in order to meet us where we are at that particular stage in our lives.

It’s been hard for me in many ways. I’m typically a Type A “have to have a plan” kind of person. But that way of thinking was totally stressing me out and making me miserable. Now, I still have a plan, but it’s just not so rigid. If something doesn’t feel right, I try and figure out why and make the necessary changes. This means I have to be a bit more of a “go with the flow” kind of person, and that was an uncomfortable feeling for me at first. But it’s getting easier every day, because I can see a difference in myself. I feel happier. I feel more sure of  myself. I feel more at peace. And I definitely feel like I am more “at home” with myself now, more confident.

So. What’s it like to be YOU? Do you know what your life purpose is? If you’re not sure, I urge you to take the steps to figure it out. You won’t be sorry, because once you figure it out, there will be no stopping you. And once you’re able to truly be YOU, you’ll finally be home.

Namaste,

Melanie

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” ~~ Stuart Smalley

Who out there used to watch Saturday Night Live back in the 1990s, when they had the “Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley” skits? Maybe I am dating myself by admitting this, but I was a big fan of SNL back in those days, and the Stuart Smalley skits were some of my favorites.

Stuart-Smalley-220x300
(Photo courtesy of Parent Pathway)

If you’ve never seen those skits, they were hilarious! Google it, and you’ll find a multitude of video clips to watch. Each skit was focused around some aspect of self-help, and one of the many catchphrases that came from those skits has stayed with me all these years…”I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Those skits resonated with SO many people. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard people mimic Stuart Smalley, and it always brings a smile to my face when I see or hear someone imitating him.

This month, I’ve been focusing on bhakti with my yoga classes. Bhakti translates to spiritual or divine love. However, I chose to spend time in class focusing on self-love for the majority of the month. After all, how can we expect to properly love the Divine if we can’t even love ourselves? And how can we love others if we don’t love ourselves? How can we truly find happiness if we don’t love ourselves? I truly believe learning to like and love ourselves is where we must start, and so that’s where I chose to spend the focus in class.

How do you feel about yourself? Do you like yourself? Do you love yourself? I hope the answer is a resounding “YES!!!” If it is, you probably don’t need to read any further. However, I am willing to bet that for most of you readers out there in Blog Land, you have one of several responses:

“Umm…hmm…SOMETIMES I love myself.”

“No, not really. If only I were __________, then I would love myself.” (YOU fill in the blank. Some that come to mind are thinner/prettier/younger/richer….sound familiar? I know I’ve said these, and many more, to myself over the years.)

“I’m not sure. I have a few things to improve on, and then I know the answer will be yes.”

Why do so many of us feel this way about ourselves? I wish I had a good answer to that question, but I don’t. Somehow, some way, our society has conditioned us to always be on the lookout for the next best thing that will bring us closer to perfection.

But guess what? We’re already perfect! Spending time on your mat is a great way to begin to see that. When you step on your mat, you’re forced to focus on the present moment, and you are encouraged (or at least, I sure hope your teachers are encouraging you) to be OK with whatever shape your body is able to achieve, as long as it’s safe and feels good. My time on the mat all these years has certainly allowed me to see that I am perfect just as I am in every pose, even if I have to modify like crazy! And you know what? I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I love myself.

Now don’t get me wrong. Occasionally, I still find myself having a pity party for some reason or other. I’m human, after all. When I see a yogi or yogini in a pose that is not possible for me, I sometimes beat myself up, wondering why I can’t look like that. And when I go clothes shopping, I get so frustrated because of the weight I gained from the steroids I was on, and I pick apart my body because of how squishy and plump I’ve become.

But you know, others don’t seem to see me the same way I see myself. When I’ve beat myself up over a pose not looking like I think it should, I’ve had teachers or other students tell me how graceful or peaceful I look, and that they wish they could look like that. Hmmm….

Also, I recently changed my Facebook profile pic…a little reluctantly, because I was comparing it to earlier profile pics and picking apart how much heavier and bloated I look now than I did then. But I changed out the pic anyway. I figured, “What the heck! It’s what I look like, so here goes!” And you know what? The comments that came back from my friends reminded me that I need to stop the negative self-speak. Things like, “You’re beautiful on the inside and the outside.” Hmm…maybe there was something to these wise comments I was reading. When I looked at the picture with this new mindset, I saw myself in a different way. When I really looked, my expression was one of contentment and peace…things which, as you know if you have been following my blog for awhile, I’ve worked really hard to achieve. And when I saw myself in this way, I saw the beauty within and realized that “YES! Yes, I DO love myself, dammit! And I want everyone to know it!”

So my dear readers, I urge you to really think about how you feel about yourself. And if you can’t say you love yourself, then ask yourself, “WHY?” What is it that is so bad that you can’t say you love yourself? My guess is, if you really dig deep, you’ll see that you are perfect and pure and love…right here…right now. Love who you are RIGHT NOW. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!

Namaste,

Melanie

For the month of January, I’ve been working with my yoga classes on the concept of sankalpa. This translates to intention, resolve, determination. Many people confuse this with setting resolutions (as in New Year’s resolutions). However, sankalpa is much more than the typical superficial resolutions most people set. When you create a true sankalpa, it is much deeper. Here’s how I’ve been explaining it to my classes:

A typical New Year’s resolution might be something like, “I will lose 10 lbs.”, or “I will pay off my debt.” Heck, we may even get a lil’ deeper than that and say something like, “I will change my career to be something more meaningful.” Sound familiar?

I’ve set resolutions like this myself almost every single year. Do I ever achieve any of them? Sometimes. But I notice that when I do, I never really feel the sense of accomplishment I hoped I would. Do you ever feel like that when you reach some goal you’ve set for yourself? I mean, it’s great to lose some weight or pay off debt, but it’s all about ME when I set these sorts of resolutions or goals.

When you set a sankalpa, it’s meant to be something that not only affects YOU, but also those around you. At least that’s how I like to look at it. Let me “break it down like a fraction” as my husband likes to say, and give you my personal example.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that my posts have become more philosophical, especially over the last year. For quite some time now, I’ve been trying to figure out my purpose in life, as I really wasn’t feeling like I was fully doing what I was meant to be doing. As I was working on my first Toastmaster’s speech in November, it all came together and hit me like a ton of bricks. All the soul-searching I’d been doing finally opened my eyes and helped me discover what I truly feel is my purpose in life…to be a Happiness Advocate, as I like to affectionately refer to myself now. I performed the speech in early December and posted it here on this site, as I felt it was relevant to the material on this blog.

Well, between then and now, it feels like my life is on warp speed…in a great way! So many opportunities are coming my way and I wondered, “Why? Why am I so lucky all of a sudden? What did I do to deserve this?”

I’ll tell you what I think happened. As I wrote that speech – as I figured out my life’s purpose during that process – I also set my sankalpa, my intention. Without even realizing it. My intention is to find happiness and infect everyone around me with it.

002
(See? Even my Raspberry Leaf Yogi Tea fortune agrees with me.)

First I had to start with myself, because I can’t expect to make anyone else happy if I’m not happy with my own life. And Gosh Darnit, I’ve been working at this for a REALLY long time and I finally AM happy. I know what makes me tick and what brings me joy. I learned that to truly be happy, I have to find the good in EVERY situation I am faced with. Every situation, no matter how bad it may seem, is presented to us for a reason. There is always a lesson to learn, and it’s from those lessons that we grow into the people we are meant to be. Most importantly, I learned that be happy, I need to love myself…and I do…I definitely, FINALLY, love myself. Now that I look at life through that lens, how can I NOT be happy?

Now I’m not saying that I am always rosy and cheery and all that. We all have bad days, after all. Days when I think, “Why isn’t this happening FAST enough?”, “Why can’t I do THIS yet?” But I quickly change my thought process to, “What is the positive in this? What can I learn from this?” When I do that, I find that smile and that sense of peace.

Magically, it seems like people are starting to notice.

  1. My yoga classes are getting bigger and my students are TRULY leaving with smiles on their faces. Is it because I’m this uber-amazing yoga teacher who has the most awesome sequences EVER? No…if you have been to one of my classes, my sequences are nothing crazy or special. Is it because I’m so graceful on my mat when I teach? HECK NO! Again, if you’ve been to my classes, you know that I rarely do the poses with you, and when I do, it is obvious just how UNgraceful I am in most every pose I do. I think people are coming back because they can see I’m happy. Authentically happy. I wear my heart on my sleeve (or tank, if it’s warm in the room), and I think people appreciate that I am real. Real clumsy, real nerdy, real goofy…real HUMAN.
  2. I’ve been given some new yoga opportunities, most notably, helping to lead a retreat in Aruba in November 2015. Click here for more info on that…I’d love for you to join me if you can!
  3. I’ve already talked in past posts about my full-time job and all the cool things that have been happening on that front.
  4. I’ve been nominated for something at work that is wellness related, and it’s all around this journey I’ve been on. I don’t know if I’ll win, but just being nominated is…well, WOW!
  5. I’ve been asked to share my story at a gathering coming up for people who suffer from chronic illness, to show that you CAN come out on the other side. I was told I was asked because I have a “happy energy”. I’ll take that!

Here’s perhaps the coolest thing of all…at least to me. This past weekend, I went to an energy session with a couple other ladies at this really beautiful space in Monroe, NC called The Inn and Rosehill. It was a gift from my parents for Christmas and my birthday. It was five glorious hours of dabbling in Reiki, numerology, and intuitive healing. WELL…during the numerology session, it came out that my soul’s urge is to…WAIT FOR IT… Make. People. HAPPY! Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. See the pic for yourself. Can you say V-A-L-I-D-A-T-I-O-N?

008
(Here’s the write-up from the Numerology results…cool, huh? In the middle box, zoom in and you’ll see it says “Joy Soul’s Urge”.)

Seriously, all this hard work I’ve been doing the past couple of years, trying to make sense of so many things thrown at me…it’s paying off. And something tells me more is to come. I’m only just beginning, I can feel it!

Yoga has been crucial in all of this. It allowed me to cultivate patience when I struggled to understand something that was happening to me. It allowed me to appreciate my breath and how healing it can be. It allowed me to develop my meditation practice. It allowed me to realize that I am beautiful, no matter how clumsily I move or how much my body changes due to medications. It allowed me to figure out what my sankalpa is…not just for 2015 but for the rest of my life. Most importantly, it allowed me to find happiness. Won’t you join me and let it help you find YOURS?

Namaste,

Melanie

Last week, I took a quick quiz to determine what my mantra for 2015 should be. I took it for fun, just to see what it would say…I do these kinds of quizzes all the time. You know the ones I’m talking about:

  • What’s your personality type?
  • Which 80s movie defines you?
  • What job is best for you?
  • Which U.S. state should you be living in?

I see these quizzes on Facebook ad nauseum, as many of my friends take them and share the results. Sometimes I end up taking the quizzes myself, I’ll admit. It’s fun to see what they’ll tell me, you know? I usually get a good chuckle out of them. I don’t usually share the results for everyone to see, but sometimes I do. Guilty!

Last year, I signed up for a subscription to My Yoga Online, who recently merged with Gaiam TV. I joined because I love their stuff. Since they merged with Gaiam TV, they have a plethora of articles and videos about not just yoga, but also Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation and many others. They constantly have themes and challenges that I join in order to encourage my personal growth. I love it, as I don’t always have time to get to a class in a live studio.

Anyway, last week, I got an e-mail from them with this quiz to find out what my mantra should be for 2015. I had nothing else to do so I thought, “Why not? Let’s see what it says for me.” I’ve been trying to incorporate mantras into my meditation more, as it really helps me to focus my thoughts. So I thought maybe, if I could find one that REALLY resonates with me, it might make my meditations even more effective.

I went through the questions, and liked them right away. Just answering the questions themselves got me thinking and excited, for some reason. Questions like, “When you daydream, what do you find yourself thinking about most often?” I never thought about that before, but your daydreams are what often reveal your true passions and purpose to you, don’t you agree?

At the end of the quiz, it revealed my 2015 mantra to me. Ready? It was:

Iamhere

“I am here.” Hmmm…interesting.

At first, I was not quite sure about this one. But then, as I am sure the creators intended, I started to mull over it and really think about it. And then it started to sink in and I thought, “How totally PERFECT! This IS the mantra for me!”

“I am here.” All by itself, it’s profound. But then I started adding things to the end of it, and it became even more so.

  • I am here…NOW, in THIS moment.
  • I am here…for one more day.
  • I am here…for you.
  • I am here…to serve others.
  • I am here…to love unconditionally.
  • I am here…to spread happiness.
  • I am here…as God’s child.
  • I am here…to help where I am needed.

These are just things I came up with in a few minutes. Imagine how many more I will be able to add to the list as I think on it more.

I’m not even going to wait for the official first day of 2015. This one resonated with me to the point where I am going to start bringing it into my day, each and every day, starting now. I will wake up, breathing in the words “I am” and breathing out the word “here”.

What’s your mantra? What words could you incorporate into your daily life that would boost you to the next level? Take the quiz that I took, and see what you think. I’d love to know what comes back for you, so feel free to comment and share here.

Namaste,

Melanie

First of all, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! I used to dread the winter season, as I hated the cold air, and the dry skin it gave me, and all the snow I was going to have to drive through (I used to live in Connecticut and Massachusetts, so bad weather was definitely a big concern for me up there). But now, I actually look forward to this time of year…with the shorter and colder days, it’s the perfect time to look within and become more introspective. It gives me a chance to get to know myself better, so I relish it now.

I’ve been following a blog called “Starr Struck” this past year, and it’s become one of my favorite blogs. It’s written by Mary Catherine Starr, a fellow yoga teacher, which is why I began following it. She writes several times a week, but by far, my favorite thing she does is something called “Simple Joys of the Week” (SJOTW). Each week, she lists her favorite things as they relate to the five senses: Hear, See, Taste, Smell and Touch. I like these posts because I think they’ve helped me find joy in ways I may not have traditionally thought of, just by becoming more aware of what my senses have to offer.

In her latest post, she did something pretty cool, which is to list out the sensory experiences that made the biggest impact on her from the whole entire year. It got me to thinking about what made the biggest impact on ME during 2014, so I decided to follow in her footsteps and list out the simple joys in life that have made the biggest impact on my life. I’m not trying to be a copy cat or anything, but I love this concept, and I think we could ALL do with a little bit more joy in our lives. So if putting together my own list helps inspire YOU to find joy in some new and unexpected ways in the coming year, then I’ve achieved my purpose.

Ready? Here we go!

HEAR: Spotify
I’ve been using Spotify for a couple of years now, but my use of it really exploded in 2014 once I decided to subscribe as a Premium member. For a music addict like myself, Spotify is DA BOMB! For those of you who come to my yoga classes, you know how much I love to weave in remakes of popular songs and make you guess who the original artist was (and you know that many times, a prize goes to the person who guesses correctly). Using Spotify has made my ability to find these crazy remakes super easy, and it allows me to organize things into folders and all kinds of other neat features, which means I don’t have to spend nearly as much time as I used to putting my playlists together. One of my favorite features is that I can create a radio station based on a particular song, and then all the songs it plays are “like” the song I created it from. I know other programs have this radio feature, but with Spotify, whenever I come across a song I think I’ll use in a class, I can actually add it straight to a playlist while it’s playing…LOVE! I know the free version of Spotify has an awful lot as well, so check it out!

SEE: My Daughters Reaching Milestones
Holy wow on this one! Both of my daughters achieved major milestones in their lives during 2014. My youngest daughter completed elementary school and began middle school this fall, which was a huge thing for our family…she is quite literally a pre-teen now, going to the middle school dances each month at the YMCA in town and hanging out with her friends ad nauseum.

 017(This is Casey a couple of months ago, enjoying a cupcake from CupCrazed Cakery)

But perhaps the biggest thing of all for our family is that my oldest daughter graduated from high school and just completed her first semester of college! It’s so hard to believe she is officially an adult now, as I still see her as my little baby girl every time I look at her. It took me awhile to get used to her not being around every day, but I am so proud of the woman she has become…I have no worries that she will do great things with her life…she makes me so proud!

001(This is Morgan at college, holding her dorm’s mascot, who is named Strawberry Shortcake…cute, isn’t it?)

TASTE: Gluten-free Cupcakes from CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill, SC
I’ve been gluten free for almost three years now, and let me tell you…it is TOUGH to find a tasty dessert that is gluten-free. One that doesn’t taste dry or rubbery, or make me feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. And if you know me at all, you know that I absolutely LOVE my desserts! Well, the CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill has got my back! First of all, they are located about 5 minutes from my house, which can be very dangerous when I am needing my sweet fix. But twice a week (and sometimes more), they offer gluten-free cupcakes. And I’m not talking your boring old yellow or chocolate cupcakes with white or chocolate frosting. No…this place switches up their flavors constantly and I’ve never tried one that is bad. My favorite so far was a gluten-free salted caramel cupcake…YUM! They post their menu daily, so you always know what kind of interesting flavors you can expect. Oh, and if you’ve ever heard of that lil’ TV show called “Cupcake Wars”, well, this place was featured on it…and they WON! Sweet (pun COMPLETELY intended)!

cupcrazed-logo-200x200.jpg

SMELL: Lavendar and Frankincense essential oils.
During 2014, I decided to be a dōTERRA representative, as using essential oils has done wonders with helping me with everything from stress to inflammation to keeping me from catching the latest virus going around. Two of my favorites are lavender and frankincense, especially mixed together in a hot bath with Epsom salts or in a diffuser. The frankincense helps pull out all the inflammation and boosts my immune system, and the lavender calms me down and helps me sleep. Can you say, “Heaven”? My favorite thing is that dōTERRA essential oils can be ingested (most of them, anyway), so you can add them to recipes or use them for a variety of medicinal purposes. Check out my dōTERRA site to learn more about these wonderful oils!  

TOUCH: This one is easy…my dogs! Nothing makes me happier than cuddling on the couch or in my bed with my dogs. I love the way their fur feels to me (especially Lexie…her fur feels like velvet to me!), I love the warmth they give off as they lean in against me (whenever one of them leans into my stomach, it totally takes my stomach aches away!), and I love the way their kisses feel! Loving on my dogs always makes me feel better. I know my husband agrees with this, because he and I constantly argue over who gets to have a “doggy nap” on the weekends. :)

026 035 011

Other MAJOR simple joys from 2014/this past year of life? There have been so many great things that have happened in this past year, it’s hard to list them all. But here are some of the top ones that come to mind:

  • My 30 Days of Happiness challenge. Each day, for 30 days in a row, I listed 3 things I was happy for on Facebook. It started off as only a 7-day challenge, but I decided to keep going at the urging of followers who wanted more. This made me the HAPPIEST of all! To know that others wanted more HAPPY stuff…well, that’s what I was shooting for, and before I knew it, others followed suit. It’s like we started a Happiness Revolution!
  • My full-time job in the Healthcare IT arena has been amazing this past year. I really feel like I blossomed in many ways and finally feel like I have a good handle on my purpose here.
  • I made great strides in moving through my Lyme Disease treatment. I have had my bad days, sure…but I have many more good days now, and seeing progress. I’m starting to feel more like ME again…that is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again!

There are a few other great things in the works, but they are not far enough along yet for me to mention them. More to come on these things in the New Year.

What are your year-end simple joys? Take some time to reflect on them over the next week or so, if you can! And if you wouldn’t mind, share them here by commenting on this post…I’d love to know what made you happy this past year!

Namaste,

Melanie

Rejuvenate

Join me in Aruba in November 2015! Click the pic to learn how!

Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.

Join 711 other followers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 711 other followers

%d bloggers like this: