Happy New “Day”!

Happy New Year! A bit late, I know, but better late than never. The New Year is traditionally a time to start over. An opportunity to break old habits and make new ones. For many, the start of a new year signifies a time of change. We make resolutions to become healthier, more successful, and happier people. We place big expectations on ourselves with very little room for error. Expectations that we often have little faith in meeting from the start. And now, here we are mid-way through January, and how many of us have already abandoned our New Years resolutions? Maybe you’ve already fallen off the diet wagon, or perhaps you’ve once again over spent on your budget, so you’ve stopped trying. Well, now that your “New Year” plan has fallen through, how about a “New Day” plan? Every single day that you have breath is a new opportunity to make those necessary life changes. January 13th is just as much of a blessing as January 1st. And if you fall short on that date, there’s always January 14, 15, and 16! Don’t allow the day of the year to become your excuse for failure. After all, failure is only permanent when you stop trying.
Be Blessed

365 Days of Thanksgiving

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes we get so caught up in the roller coaster ride that we forget to be grateful for all that we have been given. Each of those up hill journeys is something to be thankful for. Every friend or family member that has been there for you, every unexpected blessing, every moment that has brought a smile to your face, are all reasons to give thanks. So as you celebrate with this special day of thanksgiving, take a moment to think about all the things you have to be grateful for. As you do, make a plan to remember and acknowledge that feeling of gratitude everyday of the year. A thankful heart opens the door to more blessings, and even more reasons to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgivng!

Practice Your Smile: Look The Part and Change Your Life

Did you know that smiling is good for you? I’m not talking about the emotion of happiness, but the simple act of smiling…even when you don’t feel like it. Aside from adding to your physical appearance, smiling releases Endorphins (or what I like to call “happy chemicals” ) in your brain. These “happy chemicals” are proven to actually change your mood, reduce stress, and relieve pain. In essence, smiling is sort of like a drug (a drug you can’t overdose on or get arrested for having).

This came to mind while reviewing some of my psych notes earlier today. There is a form of psychotherapy I used with clients called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Its based on the idea that our thoughts are what causes our emotions. So basically, by just changing your attitude, you can change the way you feel. The law of attraction says that if we change the way we feel, our circumstances will soon follow. Smiling is a good start. Many of us will have to get reacquainted with our smiles because we haven’t used them in so long. If you need to practice in the mirror for a minute, go ahead.

Have you ever heard the expressions “Look the part” and “Dress for success”? People in the business world use this concept to show confidence and command respect so that others will take them seriously. This has nothing to do with your size, shape, or the cost of your clothes. It’s about the way you put it all together and how you carry yourself….regardless of your position. I don’t care if you’re the CEO of the company or the guy that mops the floor. Get up, groom yourself properly, and press your janitor’s uniform like you were pressing a Brooks Brothers suit. Practice your smile a few times, and (in your best Will Smith in MIB voice) say to yourself “I make this look good!”.

Most importantly, don’t be discouraged by others. They may not understand the change initially, and you’ll probably hear a few whispers as you pass by, like “who does she think she is?” or “where did he think he was going today?” Ignore it. Remember, misery loves company. Don’t fall into that trap. My motto is, if you’re talking about me, bad or good, it means I’ve left an impression! Keep smiling, and I guarantee it will be a good day!

Be Blessed

Building A Healthy Relationship: Four Questions to Ask

Being in a relationship should be a happy and loving experience. Of course, life will bring it’s own share of problems, but things are that much worse when you and your partner are mismatched from the beginning. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you to evaluate the health of your relationship, and make the best relationship decisions.

1. Is this person a good match for you?  Being a good match goes far beyond what we initially get to know about a person upon meeting. Physical attraction and a compatible zodiac sign (yes, some people choose partners this way) is nowhere near enough information to determine a person’s fit in your life. Think of your interests. What types of things do you enjoy doing? Is this someone that you are going to be able to enjoy these same activities with? When you’re involved with a night owl, your 5:00 AM jog might not appeal to him/her very much. I’m not saying that this relationship can’t work, but you will need to adjust your expectations and be prepared to compromise quite a bit.

2. Do you share many of the same values?  Are your religious and spiritual beliefs in line with each other? Love does cross many barriers, to include religion and spirituality, but you have to be mindful when differences do exist. A devote Christian will experience frustrations with a partner who refuses to acknowledge their faith. Religion has managed to separate entire countries.  Imagine the effects on personal relationships if not considered and approached with care.  Consider also your ethical and moral values. What are their views on family and career issues, and how do they align with your own? Be prepared for the sacrifices you both will have to make if the relationship is to work.

3.  Am I attracted to the actual person, or to the fantasy?  In other words, do you want to be with this person for who they really are, or are you more excited about the idea of being in a relationship. Many of us are simply in love with being in love.  People enjoy being in relationships for various reasons… a standing Friday night date without the fear of rejection, having someone there for emotional or even financial support, or perhaps just out of a fear or dislike of being alone.  Take a close look at your relationship and evaluate your feelings about your partner.  If you are more concerned with being in the relationship itself than being with that particular person, you may be in it for the wrong reasons.

4. Does this relationship meet my standards?  What is most important to you in a relationship, and are these things being met?  We all have varying expectations of how we are to be treated and what our partners should be doing to meet our needs. First, get your standards in check. You cannot expect more of another person than you are willing to give yourself. If you have evaluated your expectations and find them reasonable and returnable, then don’t stray from them. If you settle for a relationship that is beneath your standards, you will at some point resent the decision.  This is not fair to you or your partner. Being honest with yourself (and your partner) about what you want from the start will be a major key in maintaining a happier and healthier relationship in the long run.

Be Blessed

Are Your Prayers Going Unanswered?

The Bible says that whatever we ask for in faith, and according to God’s will, it will be given. I believe this completely, and I’ve witnessed it many times. My philosophy is that God never simply says no, or refuses us any blessing altogether. However, His answer may be “not right now” or “wait…I’ve got something better”. When we ask God for something at the wrong time, He may require us to wait until we are ready to receive it. Haven’t you ever prayed for something and thought God didn’t hear you, until months or even years later when you realized your prayer had been answered? Sometimes God has to prepare us, or personalize that blessing for us first. Then sometimes He’s just waiting on us to get our lives right. As a child, did your parents reward you with toys and treats when you were misbehaving? Well, neither will God. Purposely disobeying His commandments and not faithfully believing and following His word will not bring you blessings. He throws us freebies every now and then, even when we’re bad, just because He’s a gracious God; but He expects our obedience. What we actually ask for in prayer also makes a difference in whether or not our prayer is answered. Asking “According to His Will” is the key. When I was younger, I used to think that God’s Will was this predetermined list of mystery prayers that He routinely answered. If your prayer wasn’t on that list, it wasn’t getting answered. But it isn’t a mystery at all. God’s Will is simply everything that He intended for us in His word. If you want to know if you are asking  for something according to His will, just consult your Bible! In the case of prayers to find love, marriage is glorified in the Bible, so of course God wants you to find a loving mate. Pray for it! But if its another man’s wife you want, that prayer may not get very far.  Look to God’s word to understand why. So if you’ve been praying faithfully and not seeing results, really stop and evaluate your life. Are you doing your best to keep God’s commandments? Are you asking according to His will? Is your faith strong enough ( do you really believe He will answer)? God knows that we are only human and therefore far from perfect.  Blessings do not come by righteous living, but by your faith.  If you ask Him, He will forgive and accept you every time you mess up. I promise you, If you do your part, God will do His.

Be Blessed

Stop Chasing And Let the Right Man Find You

Relationships can be hard work, but they don’t have to be painful.  After reading several posts from women on the subject of love and relationships, I wanted to write something that speaks specifically to women and the way that we love. There are a totally different set of roles and expectations for men that I will speak on at a later time.

In a previous post, I wrote about our natural ability to spot unhealthy relationships and letting go of them. This is always the sad and difficult part. But with a new day, we get a new opportunity to get love right. You can always look forward to rebuilding your love life and moving forward, each time with a better perspective of the what works and what makes you happy. Every one of us has been, or knows a woman who has been, devastated by a relationship gone wrong. We hurt, we pull ourselves back together, and we start all over again with a new man… just to experience the same devastation once more. It can feel like a cycle. I saw the perfect illustration of this a few days ago while watching with my 5 year old Maltese, Teddy. During a play session, I noticed that Teddy would stop periodically, look over his shoulder, and reach for his tail. He did this repeatedly; running around in circles. The closer he came to catching a hold of it, the harder he worked. At one point, he just finally gave up and rolled onto his back in exhaustion. Sound familiar?

How many times have you chased a relationship until you finally gave up from exhaustion? For many women, that exhaustion comes in the form of low self-esteem, or feelings of worthlessness. For some others, it may result in compromising yourself and your own happiness by settling for a “relationship” that is beneath your standards.  And even when we manage to regain our strength and recover from the exhaustion, just like Teddy, we get up and start the chase all over again. Is this not the very definition of insanity? How about a different approach…stop chasing.

I’ve been in the field of counseling for many years, and have heard just about every relationship scenario out there. It’s always easier to blame others (i.e. the men in our lives) for not making us happy. I ask you, who gave someone else the power to decide how happy you are? Before even attempting to get involved in a relationship, you need to be satisfied with yourself. If you don’t feel as though you are in good company when you’re alone, why would anyone else? Once you’ve created your own “one woman fan club”, take note of how differently men will respond to you. There is a reason why most men are uncomfortable crying in front of us. Weakness and desperation are not attractive traits to them.  And contrary to popular belief, it was not a characteristic of women in past times either.

I read a blog recently that talked about the mistakes women often make in relationships by being too aggressive, professing their love to a man first, and being too available. Some of the suggestions made were to let his calls occasionally go to voicemail, and never initiating dates. Surprisingly, the comments that followed were from disappointed readers, describing the techniques offered as misleading and dishonest. I disagree. I see them as a show of strength and patience.  Now, I’m not talking about being cruel or manipulative; but keeping your position of a lady and expecting to be wooed. God blessed us with the essence that men are naturally and instinctively drawn to for a reason. If He meant for us to do the pursuing, He would have given us the higher testosterone instead. Have you ever noticed how the guy that you aren’t interested in dating (and most likely giving little attention to) is the one who keeps hanging around, yet your dream guy (who gets all your attention) keeps running away?  Men were not designed to be chased, and most often will not find it attractive. Even if he does temporarily respond to the chase, he won’t adjust well to being captured. It’s not within his nature. Your job as women is to simply be “good company”. A woman who is happy enough with herself that she doesn’t need a man by her side 24/7 to validate her. These are often the women that have happier and healthier relationships. So, before you speak negatively about this not-so-modern approach to dating, give it a try. I guarantee it will make a difference in your next relationship.

Be Blessed

Recognizing Unhealthy Relationships and Knowing When to Let Go

Walking away from a relationship, bad or good, is always difficult. I can speak from experience when I say that the heart has a mind of its own, and can be quite rebellious when it comes to following your good judgement.  To make matters worse, many of us (myself included) have a tendency to love hard. The harder you love, the greater the pain when you finally do recognize that your relationship is not within your best interest. Most of us know the very moment that our relationships turn sour, whether we want to acknowledge the signs or not. Our brains recognize it, but our hearts aren’t yet ready to accept it.

I often chuckle when I hear people say “listen to your heart”, because the heart rarely makes sense.  It is the one part of our being that is rarely on the same page with the rest of our senses and intuition. It often stands against everything within us, including our sense of self preservation. It will tell us to go left, when we clearly should go right. In some instances, its perfectly fine, even adventurous and spontaneous, to allow the heart to lead.  It can make for an emotionally wonderful experience.  But when your very safety, sanity, and emotional well-being are at risk, there is no room for adventurous and spontaneous.  You must find the strength to listen to that tiny voice in your head (it’s always there, we just suppress it when it doesn’t say what we want to hear) that’s telling you that something isn’t right.

Thankfully we never have to worry, though most of us do, about not seeing the signs of an unhealthy relationship. We have all been equipped with the ability to spot danger.  It’s called instinct.  If you just trust your instincts, you will know when you are in danger of becoming emotionally unhealthy.  It will be just as clear as recognizing when you are becoming unhealthy physically. When you realize you are in the company of someone with a terrible cold, you cover your mouth and take action to protect your own physical health. Well, get into the same habit of protecting your emotional health when you realize your relationships are becoming toxic.  Remember, you never need permission to protect your heart…no matter how rebellious it may be.

Be Blessed