woman creating vision board with cup of coffee.

Create Your Own Self-Love Vision Board

The most important relationship that you will ever have in your life is your relationship with yourself. Creating a self-love vision board is a creative and relaxing exercise that offers an opportunity to cultivate a strong sense of love and acceptance through creativity and the power of visualization.   Vision boards are a collection of images, words, and memories arranged to inspire you and help you manifest your goals or vision. Visualization and manifestation are empowering tools to create a positive and more accepting connection with yourself.    When we have a healthy level of self-love and self-esteem, it significantly impacts our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Vision boards are an amazing tool to help you tap into Love for Self. Ask yourself: Who am I? What am I calling in? What brings me joy? What do I love most about my life?    Once you create a vision board, we recommend placing it where you will see it often — such as near a mirror or on the wall in a room you use frequently. Remember to take a moment each day (or several times throughout the day) to look at it and reflect on what it means to you.   Vision Boarding Materials:  Poster board, as big or small as you desire. Pro tip: you can leave space to add on throughout the year whenever inspiration strikes you. Stickers! Give yourself a gold star! Magazines, postcards, cut outs. You may be surprised where you’ll find inspiration and what messages or images you’ll find on everything from receipts to old flyers once you begin looking. Scotch tape, scissors, glue — or even better: glitter glue! Markers, gel pens, colored pencils, crayons. (Yes, crayons!) Childhood photo. Connect with little you, and make time to PLAY! At no extra cost: your own imagination and creativity.    Listen to our podcast episode on Embracing Self-Love to hear how we create self-love vision boards in our workshops — and to get more ideas on how to create yours!
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bath tub with candles and book.

6 Must-Read Mental Health Books

Mental health books offer indispensable insights into the complexities of the human mind. Kristian Wilson, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy, says mental health books complement traditional therapy or counseling by offering additional perspectives and tools for self-improvement. “They can act as a supportive resource, reinforcing therapeutic concepts and encouraging ongoing personal development outside of therapy sessions,” she says. While not a replacement for therapy, mental health literature can help teach readers to cultivate resilience, cope with challenges, and foster greater compassion and empathy. The power of bibliotherapy Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic practice and form of self-care that uses literature to promote emotional well-being and personal growth. Rooted in the belief that reading can be transformative, bibliotherapy involves strategically selecting books, poems, or written materials that resonate with an individual’s emotional struggles, life experiences, or psychological challenges. Bibliotherapy encourages self-reflection, empathy, and a deeper understanding of oneself and others. It can complement traditional therapeutic methods, offering a unique and engaging way to explore complex emotions, cope with difficulties, and foster a sense of empowerment. “Reading mental health books can enhance self-awareness by prompting readers to reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” Kristian says. “This process contributes to emotional intelligence by deepening one’s understanding of themselves and others.” Integrating mental health literature insights into daily practices supports enduring mental resilience and individual development. Books that discuss mental health serve as invaluable guides on your journey toward emotional well-being. From traditional “self-help” to fictional stories that tackle difficult mental health topics, the books on the following list illuminate the pathways to self-discovery, healing, and personal growth. 1. Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel Topic: Healing from childhood trauma Parent-child relationships can be complicated. How a child grows and chooses to reclaim that power over those situations as an adult can impact mental health for years to come. The first mental health book on our list examines how one woman reclaims her power from her mother after suffering years of abuse at her hands. In this best-selling thriller, the author looks at the dynamic between Rose Gold and her mentally ill mother, taking a bold look at how child abuse and mental illness can destroy the most sacred relationships. This novel tackles how circumstances surrounding childhood trauma can impact victims long after the abuse ends, but also looks at how survivors can reclaim their power from their abusers and move forward. 2. The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib Topic: Battling eating disorders Eating disorders can manifest as coping mechanisms for underlying psychological distress; anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and trauma can fuel their development. Some researchers say eating disorders signify that the person dealing with these issues doesn’t feel a sense of control in their life. This desire to maintain control over food when control of everything else seems to be slipping away is precisely what Yara Zgheib examines in her debut novel, The Girls at 17 Swann Street. The book follows a young dancer named Anna Roux who, consumed by perfectionism, finds herself trapped with her biggest fears: feelings of failure, loneliness, and imperfections. She begins spiraling out of control and develops a serious eating disorder. Her condition becomes so severe that she’s admitted to a care facility at 17 Swann Street. There, Anna meets other girls struggling just like her. Together, they learn to conquer their illness and eat six meals daily. “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” delicately addresses the complicated relationship between mental well-being, self-acceptance, and the transformative power of resilience. 3. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid Topic: Coming-of-age This award-winning novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid may seem an unlikely addition here, but the themes in this coming-of-age story provide insights into the emotional challenges of growing up. Reid follows the fictional life of up-and-coming rock star Daisy Jones. Set in the late ’60s, this exciting oral history weaves the story of her and her band, The Six, and their rise to fame. With its vivid portrayal of characters navigating the complexities of their formative years, including the challenges of fame, relationships, social anxiety, and self-discovery, this fun-filled novel excels as a coming-of-age story. It sensitively addresses mental health, showcasing how characters grapple with their emotional struggles, ultimately emphasizing the importance of support, self-acceptance, and personal growth. 4. The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help You Deserve by Rheeda Walker Topic: Mental health and the Black diaspora Mental health in the Black community is often overlooked. This is why it’s crucial that books dealing with mental health and mental health care in Black communities, written by Black authors, are available. In her book The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health, Dr. Rheeda Walker examines crucial mental health issues in the Black community. She draws from personal experience to look at the Black community’s crisis regarding mental health conditions, including fighting the stigma surrounding them. This is an exceptional mental health book that provides a much-needed perspective on the intersection of mental well-being and racial experiences. By addressing the unique challenges faced by the Black community, this book offers critical insights, tools for emotional resilience, and a supportive framework for fostering mental wellness within a racially unequal system. 5. This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings by Julia Samuel Topic: Dealing with change and crisis Sometimes, the best method for addressing a season of poor mental health is talking with someone who shared a similar experience. Psychotherapist and bestselling author Julia Samuel shares stories from actual sessions with patients, allowing readers to make connections to their unique mental health journey. This book fearlessly confronts the crucibles of family, love, profession, health, burnout, overthinking, and self-discovery. 6. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig Topic: Conquering depression Depression is a common challenge for many and can sometimes lead to thoughts of self-harm. While it may be hard to see in the moment, things do get better, and this is something the author reminds readers of in Reasons to Stay Alive. In this compelling memoir, Matt Haig details when, at the age of 24, he was consumed with an overwhelming desire to end his life. As he shares, he eventually discovered how to heal. Cleverly written, Matt uniquely approaches such heavy subject matter, interlacing it with moments of joy and humor. Write Your Own Chapter of Healing and Growth The story of your mental well-being is still being written, and these books are but the beginning chapters of an epic tale. Keep reading, growing, and celebrating the power of controlling your mental health. Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC, is a licensed mental health clinician in based in Florida. To learn more about how therapy could benefit you, visit Grow Therapy
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Family baking gingerbread cookies during the holidays.

5 Tips for Better Mental Health this Holiday Season

For many people, the holiday season is far from happy. Not many people come from fairy tale families, and others are isolated and lonely, feeling they don’t have anyone who truly cares about them around. Add to this the number of people struggling with mental health problems like depression and anxiety, and the expectations of the season become even more difficult to manage. Whichever of these groups you fall within, I offer a few suggestions below to help make this holiday season a hopefully happier, or at a minimum easier, one. 1. Take time to connect. Social connections are good for your mental health. Share the important moments and stories of your year. Ask questions and create space to really listen and understand the people you are with. You might be surprised by what you hear. 2. Take a break from social media, and perhaps from technology in general. The last 20 years have seen a fundamental decline in the quality of interpersonal relationships as we have moved too much of our lives onto online platforms. Put away your phone, stay off technology when you are with friends or family and spend time in the physical world. If you feel bored, don’t reach for your phone and distraction: talk to someone, go for a walk, or just sit with the feeling. 3. Think about who you are connecting with this holiday season. Not all social connections are good for your mental health. You know what the people around you are really like, who is going to be supportive and who will just drag you down further. Don’t be afraid to let this guide whom you spend meaningful time with, and as importantly, with whom you don’t. 4. Discover what it is truly you want to do for the holidays. Holidays don’t mean the same thing to everyone. If you are uncertain, spend some time reflecting on what is important to you at this time of year. How can you express your values, what will be meaningful, what is your way of acknowledging the end of the year, and of nurturing your relationships? If your thing is to cherish others through food, embrace this, be the family cook and throw yourself into it with all your passion. If it is to be the entertainer, be so, tell stories and do so with enthusiasm. Whatever it is, ensure it is what is true of you. 5. Make sure you find a way to reset and recharge. For some this will come through social reconnection but certainly not everyone. Others may need to be in nature or at least outside somewhere pleasant: if this is you make the effort to do so. Bring along someone who you really want to be with, or not, choose what you need to do. Paul Fitzgerald, PhD, MBBS is director of the School of Medicine and Psychology and a professor of psychiatry at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and the author of Curing Stubborn Depression.
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10 Ideas for Teaching Kids Gratitude

“Please” and “thank you” are often among the first phrases we teach our children. However, as we get older, we realize that being grateful is more than just saying “thank you.” It’s never too early to start teaching kids gratitude, and this is a great time of year to do it! For some of us, being grateful might not come naturally. That’s why it’s so helpful for caregivers to teach their kids how to practice gratitude. For kids, the key is learning how to express thanks beyond the act of simply saying it. 1. Ground yourself in nature Take your child on a nature walk, whether it’s in your backyard, a local park, or a nature reserve. As you explore, encourage them to find things in nature that they’re grateful for—like a colorful flower, a buzzing bee, or a beautiful sunset. Discuss why these natural wonders make them feel thankful for the world around them. 2. Explore gratitude with art collage Set up an art station with magazines, scissors, glue, and a big sheet of paper. Ask your child to flip through the magazines and cut out pictures and words representing things they are thankful for. Then, help them create a gratitude collage that they can proudly display in their room, serving as a visual reminder of all the good things in their life! 3. Secret acts of kindness Teach your child the joy of giving by encouraging them to perform secret acts of kindness. Together, brainstorm simple acts like leaving a kind note under someone’s pillow or writing kind words on rocks and leaving them in public places. By doing these thoughtful deeds anonymously, your child will learn the value of spreading gratitude without expecting anything in return. 4. Scavenger hunt with a twist Instead of finding objects, make a list of things your child can find in their day that they’re thankful for. It could be a warm hug, a tasty snack, or a cozy blanket. As they find these moments of gratitude, have them check them off the list and tell you why each one is special. 5. Thankful storytime Incorporate gratitude into your child’s bedtime routine by reading books that emphasize thankfulness. Choose stories that revolve around characters showing appreciation for what they have, their friends, or the world around them. After the story, discuss the lessons learned and ask your child to share something they’re grateful for that day. 6. Set a good example Children look up to their adults to see what’s acceptable and what’s not. Empathy, kindness, and gratefulness are best taught to your child by practicing them yourself. Make a habit of giving thanks or calling loved ones to tell them you appreciate them. Did your child finish their chores with no complaints? Give praise and tell them how much it means to you. They’ll normalize this behavior and learn mimic it naturally. 7. Bedtime reflections Practicing gratitude at the end of each day is a great way to get your little one to appreciate the little things in life. Was it sunny and beautiful today? Was tonight’s dinner extra delicious? Were the evening cartoons really funny? Tell your child about all the things you appreciate. Then, ask your child about the most wonderful moments in their day and rejoice in how lucky you are to have experienced them! 8. Encourage your child to help others Lending a helping hand is another great way for kids to develop a sense of gratitude. Volunteer with your child at a local children’s hospital, collect canned food to donate to a shelter, or bake holiday cookies for the neighbors. 9. Write thank you cards together Everyone loves a sweet thank you note! Ask your child to think of people who they can give gratitude to. A teacher. A friend. Local firefights. Together you can write a thank you card and deliver it to that person. 10.️ Keep a gratitude journal or jar It can be easy to lose track of the things we’re grateful for in the chaos of life. That’s why it’s beneficial to write things down to reflect upon them later. Have a jar on display and anytime your child thinks of something they’re grateful for, they can write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of each month, your family can look through all the things you’ve been thankful for and celebrate! Suzanne Barchers, EdD is the Education Advisory Board Chair for Lingokids. She is the former Editor in Chief and VP of Leapfrog Enterprises and a former Managing Editor at Weekly Reader. She is also an award-winning author of more than 250 books for teachers and children, two college textbooks, and has served on PBS and the Association of Educational Publishers Advisory Boards.
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4 Ways to Recover From Burnout and Prevent It From Happening Again

Do you ever get that feeling where you just can’t anymore? Maybe it’s at work and you’re struggling to feel motivated to complete normal tasks. Or you might be a stressed parent with an endless to-do list who hasn’t had a moment for themselves. We all go through phases of exhaustion and frustration, but those feelings can get so bad it turns into something more. Enter burnout. What Exactly Is Burnout? “Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stressors in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time,” Kristian Wilson, a licensed mental health counselor in Florida tells Grow Therapy. Coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, the term burnout was initially used to describe the “consequences of severe stress and high ideals in ‘helping’ professions,” such as doctors and nurses, according to the National Library of Medicine. But these days it can affect anyone. “Burnout is an emotional state where one has been working at a particular task or job for so long and without any growth or accomplishment that their productivity and/or quality of work decreases, along with their mental and physical health,” says Cynthia Mobley, a licensed clinical social worker in Massachusetts. Burnout rates have been on the rise for the last several years, reaching a record high. In 2021, the American Psychological Association conducted its Work and Well-being Survey. Of the 1,501 U.S. adult workers who participated, 79% said they had experienced work-related stress in the month before they were surveyed. The negative impacts of this stress included a lack of interest, motivation, and energy in 26% of participants and a lack of effort at work in 19% of participants. In addition, those surveyed also reported cognitive weariness (36%), emotional exhaustion (32%), and physical fatigue (44%). What Causes Burnout? So what actually turns regular stress and exhaustion into burnout? According to Wilson, there are six primary factors: workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values. Workload. Whether it’s a monotonous role or one that’s incredibly chaotic, either can lead to fatigue and eventually the dreaded job burnout. “When you chronically feel overloaded, these opportunities to restore the work-life balance don’t exist. To address the stress of your workload, assess how well you’re doing in these key areas: planning your workload, prioritizing your work, delegating tasks, saying no, and letting go of perfectionism,” explains Wilson. “When you have a workload that matches your capacity, you can effectively get your work done, have opportunities for rest and recovery, and find time for professional growth and development.” Control. Feeling like you don’t have control over your situation can be another cause of burnout. Whether that’s feeling like you lack autonomy, access to resources, or a say in decisions that impact your professional life, all of these can take a toll on your well-being. If you’re feeling out of control, Wilson suggests evaluating your situation so you can get a clear understanding of why exactly you’re feeling that way. “For instance, does your boss contact you at all hours of the day and night, and make you feel like you need to always be on call? Are the priorities within your workplace constantly shifting so you can never get ahead? Or do you simply not have enough predictability in terms of your physical or personal resources to effectively perform your job?” says Wilson. Identifying Reward. Has your job started to feel like it’s no longer worth the effort? While it might have once brought you joy, if that changes, this can be another cause of burnout. “If the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for your job don’t match the amount of effort and time you put into them, then you’re likely to feel like the investment is not worth the payoff. In these instances, you want to look within and determine exactly what you would need to feel properly appreciated,” Wilson suggests. Community. Having a supportive and connected community around you is important. If you don’t have that and you feel isolated and alone in your job, this is when burnout can creep in. While you likely can’t choose your colleagues or clients, you can improve the dynamic you have with them by putting out the extra effort to connect. “It could be as simple as taking the time to ask others how their day is going — and really listening. Or sending an email to someone to let them know you appreciated their presentation. Or choosing to communicate something difficult in a respectful, nonjudgmental way. Burnout can be contagious, so to elevate your individual engagement, you must shift the morale of the group,” says Wilson. Fairness. How you perceive the way you’re treated matters, too. Do you believe you’re treated fair and equitably? If your work goes unnoticed while others get praised for theirs, or if someone else gets special treatment and you don’t, this can have an impact on whether you experience burnout. Values. If your personal values and those of your company don’t align, you might struggle to maintain motivation in your job. This lack of desire to work hard and persevere can eventually lead to a feeling of burnout. “Ideals and motivations tend to be deeply ingrained in individuals and organizations. When you’re assessing this element of burnout, you need to think carefully about how important it is to you to match your values with those of the organization,” says Wilson. Here are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Burnout Are you feeling tired or drained most of the time, no matter how much sleep you get or what you’re working on? Do you feel like you have to drag yourself to work each day or struggle to get started? Chances are you’re experiencing burnout. “Burnout isn’t simply about being tired. It’s a multifaceted issue that requires a multifaceted solution. Before you quit your job, really think through what exactly is contributing to your burnout and attempt to make changes. If you find that despite your best efforts, little has changed, then see if it makes sense to stay or if it’s time to leave,” says Wilson. Some early signs to watch out for include a lack of energy, an inability to be productive, trouble concentrating, a lack of satisfaction with your work, and a general disillusionment about your job. Other mental and physical symptoms of burnout are chronic stress, fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger or irritability, unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, alcohol or substance misuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and vulnerability to illnesses. Tips for Burnout Recovery Recognizing burnout and its symptoms is an important first step. Once you’ve identified you’re suffering from it, you can start making changes in your life to improve. It can be easy to get overwhelmed or feel like you need to take extreme measures, such as quit your job. While this might be necessary, don’t make any big decisions at first. Try starting small and focusing on the short term, like taking a week off and practicing self-care. Then talk with your therapist to make realistic daily goals. But most important, don’t forget to prioritize yourself. Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward solution to burnout. Everyone’s situation is different and the severity of burnout varies. Which means it can take different amounts of time to recover from burnout. But if you begin by prioritizing yourself, you’ll be on the path to recovery. “Take a week off and make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy meals, avoid alcohol and caffeine, get plenty of sunshine, drink the proper amount of water, and participate in positive activities,” suggests Mobley. Here are four other tips you can try to get you on your way toward burnout recovery. Know Your Limits. Stress is part of life; there’s no way to avoid it nor would you want to. It’s part of what keeps us motivated. But too much stress or being stressed too often isn’t healthy. Everyone handles stress differently and it’s important to know how much you can handle and what your breaking point is. Do a self-inventory and ask yourself: what pushes me over the edge? What levels of anxiety am I comfortable with? Understanding yourself and your limits will help with your burnout recovery. Set Boundaries. It’s important to protect your time, space, and sanity, and the only way to realistically do this is to set boundaries for yourself. Maybe this means taking an hour to exercise every day, no exceptions, and not checking your work email while you do. Or perhaps you make a strict rule to not take work calls or read emails on the weekend. You could even consider taking a mental health day to recover when you feel burnout creeping in. Making sure to have these boundaries in place for yourself and your family will help you recover from any burnout you might be dealing with. Take Time to Disconnect from Social Media. In addition to setting boundaries with checking work emails during set periods, it could be helpful to avoid technology altogether for several hours a day. Take time to unplug from your phone/tablet/computer and spend that time doing something enjoyable, like working out, going for a walk, meditating, or simply enjoying the quiet time. Have a Hobby Where You’re in Control. Having an area of your life that you’re in charge of and don’t have to answer to anybody is another great way to work on burnout. Hobbies that are creative in nature, like drawing, journaling, or building model trains, are a great place to start. How to Prevent Burnout From Happening Again Once you’ve recovered from burnout, it’s important to take measures in order to hopefully prevent it from happening again. The burnout recovery strategies mentioned above are also helpful to maintain in your daily life. In addition, you may want some extra support and can try implementing the following tips: Talk with your therapist about getting a burnout prevention plan in place if you’re worried it could happen again. Mobley suggests making realistic daily goals with your therapist to help. Take periodic breaks throughout the day if you notice your focus or concentration decreasing. Step away from work during lunchtime instead of eating at your desk or workstation. Take that time to go outside and get some fresh air or even get some physical activity like going for a walk. Check in on your co-workers to make sure they are doing okay and following the above tips. This helps build a better sense of community and reminds everyone to take care. Stop work at your pre-determined designated time; don’t work overtime if you’re not mandated to do so. Get regular exercise that can help alleviate stress, such as yoga or tai chi, which are both not only good for your body but also your mind. Get enough sleep. Sleep restores your well-being and protects your health. Practice mindfulness, which is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment. The Takeaway Burnout can feel completely overwhelming when you’re experiencing it. But understanding how to recognize the symptoms before things get too bad and being armed with the tools to recover and prevent burnout from happening again will make you a more resilient and happy person in the long run. Alan Deibel a licensed clinical professional counselor at Grow Therapy. He has more than 13 years of diverse clinical experience with a focus on treating addiction, trauma, anxiety, and mood disorders in a hospital setting. His primary modality of treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a person-centered approach. He brings a flexible and creative approach that is curated to meet each of his patients specific needs.
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Young woman stretching in bed

Wake Up and Win: The Power of a Purposeful Morning

Mornings used to be the bane of my existence. I’d hit the snooze button a dozen times and when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I stumbled around in a fog of stress and anxiety. But then, it dawned on me—doing the same thing and expecting different results never works. So, I decided to switch things up by waking up a little earlier, brewing a fresh cup of coffee, and devoting 15 minutes to meditating or gentle stretching. I listened to the soothing sounds of a meditation app while feeling the plush blanket beneath my feet and wrapped up my ritual with sips or hot, rich coffee. My morning routine became a little slice of heaven—a moment of peace and calm to ground myself—that had ripple effects on my productivity, focus, and overall happiness that lasted throughout the rest of the day. Good Morning, Good Health Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, starting your day with a nourishing morning routine can have incredible health perks. Most people already know a nutritious breakfast can jump-start your metabolism, but do you know it can also regulate your blood sugar? Also, a lesser known fact is that hydrating first thing is just as important as a well-balanced meal and can promote good digestion and regularity. Gentle exercise can be just the thing to get your blood pumping and your brain firing on all cylinders. In fact, a study published in Science Daily found that people who did moderate exercise in the morning had better cognitive performance and productivity throughout the entire day. Incorporating these healthy habits into your morning routine may also lower your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Plus, you’ll kickstart your overall well-being and may discover you're a morning person after all! Morning Prescriptions Add some pizzazz to your morning routine with these non-traditional ideas from my prescription pad. To start your day off on the right foot, look no further than your reflection. Set a positive tone with a pep-talk in the mirror. Recite affirmations like "I am confident" or "I am worthy" to lift your self-esteem. Get your creative juices flowing with a little art or strum a sweet chord on an instrument. Love a good read? Peruse a book, an article, or newspaper. Pump up your enthusiasm with a motivational podcast or playlist. If you're a goal-setter, jot down your daily or weekly goals. Trying a simple skincare routine of washing, toning, and moisturizing can have you feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. Or, take a few minutes to do some deep breathing, journaling, or yoga to cultivate a sense of calm in order to tackle whatever the day brings. Your morning ritual can make or break your day, so try different routines until you discover what works best for you. Zen Over Screens Don’t let your phone or laptop hijack your morning vibes. Rushing to check messages as soon as you wake up can leave you feeling frazzled and anxious before you even get out of bed. Instead of immediately diving into a screen, use the time to connect with yourself and the world around you with one of my morning prescriptions. Your brain (and your inner peace) will be grateful! Start Your Day Like A Boss Don’t just take my word for it—many of the world's most accomplished individuals swear by a healthy morning routine. Vogue's formidable editor-in-chief Anna Wintour prioritizes hitting the tennis court every morning to get her blood circulating and her mind sharp. Arianna Huffington, the wellness guru and founder of the Huffington Post, begins her day with meditation, exercise, and a wholesome breakfast—all essential ingredients for maintaining focus and productivity. And also, former First Lady Michelle Obama rises early for a workout to prioritize her own well-being. These powerhouse bosses understand the amazing benefits of a healthy morning routine—and their success speaks for itself. Make Your Morning Routine Stick It takes time to turn good intentions into a lifestyle: about 66 days. So, while it's great to mix things up and try new ones, it’s also crucial to establish a morning routine that you can stick to daily. You can't try something once and expect to see results, right? By making healthy habits a regular part of your morning ritual, you can track how far you've come and fine-tune your routine for even better benefits. Whether it’s making your bed, drinking water, meditating, or anything that sets you up for a successful day, commit to it every day! Transform Your Life, One Morning at a Time Don't settle for an average day by mindlessly rolling out of bed and letting the day happen to you. A healthy morning routine can transform your entire day, and even your entire life. Embrace your morning ritual as a daily act of self-love to fuel your passions and ignite your spirit. Dr. Bernadette Anderson MD, MPH is not your ordinary family physician—she’s a wellness curator, author, and founder of Life in Harmony LLC, an innovative, intentional, action-oriented approach to well-being based on the principles of lifestyle medicine. With over 20 years of experience in health and wellness, Dr. Bernadette is a highly respected authority in her field. Her latest book, Fulfilled. 52 Prescriptions for Healing, Health, and Happiness is set for release in June 2023. She has also been feature in GoodRx, Essence, USA Today, Fatherly, and The Grio. Be sure to follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.
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Depressed woman

The Pebbles Can Pummel You

Determining whether a person is clinically depressed is not an arbitrary decision. Psychiatrists follow strict guidelines specified by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and look for at least five of the following nine symptoms lasting at least two weeks: Feels depressed most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful) Feels markedly diminished levels of interest or pleasure when engaging in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by subjective account or observation) Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain or decrease, or increase in appetite Sleep disturbance Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down) Fatigue or loss of energy Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide I include these criteria not only because I want readers to know that depression can manifest in many ways but also to underscore the importance of seeking professional help if they apply to you or a loved one. Over the years I have diagnosed, hospitalized, and treated many patients with the full range of the symptoms described above. But there are also many who qualify for an “almost diagnosis”—not mentally ill by clinical standards but lacking positive mental health. When I first opened my private practice, most of the new patients I took on were at an inflection point. They sought help to assess a life-changing decision or to understand a relationship, or they were in the midst of a significant transition, often following a loss. The chronic issues in their daily lives did not take center stage. Today more and more patients come to see me because of the ups and downs in their daily lives. They are feeling worn out and worn down by the daily grind. Women seem to feel it the most. Almost half of the women surveyed said they frequently experience daily stress, and more than 40 percent said they feel as if they don’t have enough time. Their lives are nonstop, with a to-do list that seems bottomless. Often a lack of vitality only amplifies their stress. Patients often just give up and sigh, “I guess that’s just life.” The hassles of day-to-day living— the annoying, anxiety-provoking, and frustrating experiences that are embedded into everyday life— are a significant source of stress. Seemingly minor occurrences—an argument with a child or partner, an unexpected work deadline, arriving late for an appointment, missing a train, or dealing with a malfunctioning computer—all contribute. One study’s results indicated that watching the news and losing your cell phone are among the top ten daily events that stress people out. Even a long line at your local coffee shop or not having hot water for your morning shower can be enough to put you in a terrible mood. We know it’s absurd to allow something minor to ruin a minute let alone a day. We try to dismiss these daily irritations as irrelevant or as the “first- world problems” they are. We tell ourselves that they don’t matter in the long run. But they do. Many assume that major life events like divorce, the death of a spouse, and the loss of a job are the most virulent causes of stress, but a University of California, Berkeley study confirmed that so-called microstressors are the ones we need to watch out for: “[T]hese kinds of stressors have been taken for granted and considered to be less important than more dramatic stressors. Clinical and research data indicate that these ‘micro- stressors’ acting cumulatively, and in the relative absence of compensatory positive experience, can be potent sources of stress.” The impact of challenges that occur during everyday living on both a person’s physical and mental health cannot be underestimated and are, in fact, better predictors of health than major life events. This excerpt is from Everyday Vitality by Samantha Boardman, published by Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Samantha Boardman.  Dr. Samantha Boardman is a Positive Psychiatrist with a private practice in Manhattan. She is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College. She received her B.A. from Harvard University and a Medical Degree from Cornell University Medical College, where she was awarded the Oskar Diethelm Prize for Excellence in Psychiatry. 
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Young woman smiling with her luggage

7 Tips to Travel On a Budget and Still Make Happy Memories

Studies show that spending money of experiences rather than material objects will make you happier. You’ll not only be able to create positive memories that will last you a lifetime, but it’s also an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with friends and family too. But if you are currently living on a tight budget, you may feel like you don’t have the means to take those trips that bring so much joy to your life. You will be pleased to know that visiting unique places around the world and having a fun holiday does not always have to be costly. You can still enjoy a meaningful vacation if you budget and plan well. Here are seven useful tips that you can use to take the trips that make you happy without breaking the bank. 1.   Plan Your Trip Random and spontaneous trips may sound exciting but if you are traveling on a tight budget, planning is the way to go. You will need an itinerary that clearly defines where you wish to go and for how long, so research on the countries and cities you want to visit and the amount of time you are going to spend in each place is key. Pro tip: Travel During Off-Season. Not only do trips during peak seasons cost more, but you will also be in the midst of heavy crowds and loads of tourists. Summer holidays are something you will want to avoid. You can get quite a bargain on plane tickets and hotel stays during low-season period. 2.   Choose Your Accommodations Wisely Opt out of expensive hotel stays and look for dorms, hostels, and guesthouses instead. If you are traveling with your family or friends, sharing rooms can also lower costs. If you are up for it and feel safe, sharing a room with other tourists can also be a good idea. You can make use of popular booking platforms (like Airbnb) to book apartment/home rooms ahead of time at nearly half the cost. Take advantage of any friends, family members, and colleagues who live in the area you are visiting to see if they would let you stay at their house during the trip. Plus, your trip may be less stressful on you if you are around good company. 3.   Book Flights Ahead of Time Booking flights ahead and getting a good bargain on return flights will save you added hassle, time and money. Getting tickets nearly a year or even a few months ahead is a good idea if you do not want to worry about running short of money during your trip. When booking your flight, you can always: Pick a flight during the middle of the week such as Tuesday or Wednesday to get premium lower prices. Traveling midweek also makes checking in at the airport easier due to shorter queues. Book economy class instead of business to save up on those bucks. Pick a lower-budget airline with cheap deals and shorter flying times. Pack light luggage as hold luggage costs extra money. If possible, opt for a bus or train instead of an air flight to reduce costs even further. 4.   Watch What You Eat If you choose to eat every meal from a fancy restaurant, you’ll burn a hole in your pocketbook quickly. Make sure to explore the area to see what you wish to eat and what it should cost on average. You can buy cheaper food and dishes from grocery stores or local markets. Cut down on unnecessary drinks and sweets and stay hydrated with water instead. If the place where you are staying has a kitchen, you might want to save money by meal planning beforehand and cooking something on your own. 5.   Earn During Vacation Working while on a vacation or getaway is a brilliant way to recover money spent during the trip. Doing so can allow you to travel for months on end and explore to your heart’s content. A few ideas to earn extra money include: Turning into a travel vlogger to earn money through social media. You can resize video for Facebook or use other software to make your content more interesting. Offer to host other tourists. Teaching travelers skills like skiing during the winters. Teaching a language. Freelancing 6.   Get Travel Insurance Travel insurance can be expensive but is worth it. You can get coverage for financial losses and minimize your financial risks during your traveling period. A good travel insurance plan will cover: Lost baggage. Stolen items. Emergency medical expenses due to an illness. Trip delays and cancelation. Missed flights or vehicle trips. Legal costs incurred due to accidentally damaging property or causing injury. 7.   Seek Out Fun for Free Looking for free things that you can do while you are traveling to can help reduce your expenses significantly. For example, many museums or walking tours may be little to no cost as all. You can also reduce costs by carpooling with your friends or other tourists. This way the fare will be reduced by half or even three to four times the cost. Traveling for leisure should be full of fun and doesn’t need to be burdened by the constant worry of running out of funds. If you follow the tips above carefully, you can travel to nearly any part of the world without it costing you an arm and a leg.
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Live Happy's Tips to Say Goodbye to Clutter

Say Goodbye to Clutter and Enjoy the Freedom of Letting Things Go

Clutter not only junks up your space, it also seriously messes with your health, happiness and productivity. According to studies from Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute and UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, our overstuffed homes rob us of focus, drain our energy, spike stress levels, invite depression and leave us perpetually searching for our keys. But take heart. You can outwit clutter in less time than you’d think. Start with small steps to embrace the things that uplift you and dispense with those that get in the way. End the Paper Chase Find a basket, bowl or tray large enough to corral all incoming paper—mail, catalogs, school forms, coupons, receipts, invitations and warranties. Then marvel as your counters and tabletops magically resurface, and you can instantly find any paper you need. Go through the contents once a week with shredder, recycling bin and folders close at hand. Scan any info you don’t need in hard copy form, sign up for paperless billing and automatic payments and ditch manuals that can be found online. Edit mail preferences at directmail.com (free) and dmachoice.org ($2 fee). Think Small Choose a space you can clear in one short burst—a single shelf, a drawer, a section of a counter, a dresser top, even a laundry-burdened chair. Once done, declare that area strictly off limits to future clutter. Continue with a new spot each day. (Note: Moving the clutter to another space is cheating.) Lose the Baggage Give yourself permission to let go of incomplete art or craft projects lying around in varied states of disarray. Ditto for workout equipment, supplies from past careers or musical instruments you don’t use. You won’t miss their constant nagging. Trust us. Find a Good Home Shoes will pile by the front door until the end of time if you don’t add a rack, basket or other storage solution. Likewise, perpetually lost items— keys, eyeglasses, phones and wallets—also need a place to go. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals reports the average American loses a year of his or her life searching for things. We know you have better things to do. Think Digital You can’t work efficiently if folders, files and icons look like a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle dumped onto your computer screen. Neither can your computer. Dedicate 15 minutes a day for a week to reorganize, delete old downloads, archive folders, clean out your inbox and uninstall and delete apps you don’t use. Trim the Excess Most cooks utilize the same pots, pans and bakeware repeatedly, so edit to your chosen few. Place utensils and small gadgets in a container. If you pull an item out for use, wash it and return it to its original kitchen spot. With the exception of annual helpers like a candy thermometer or turkey baster, anything unused after a month can go. Box It Up Indecision is clutter’s best friend. Whenever you catch yourself saying, “I’ll deal with it later,” place the item in question in a maybe box that you seal and tuck out of sight for six months. (Put a note on your calendar when to check back in.) If you didn’t need or miss anything in the box in that time frame, take it unopened to charity that day. And on that note, if you stumble across a box of things you forgot you had, consider that donation decision already made. Write Away Gather all your pens, pencils and markers alongside a paper pad to test with scribbles. Select 20 winners, then donate the rest. Buy from Home “Shop” your own wardrobe as though you’re in a boutique seeing each item for the first time. Select only those items that you’d buy today. When finished, hang your “purchases” back in the closet; bag unselected items for consignment or charity. Don’t panic if your closet looks spare. You’ve just done yourself the favor of identifying your core style—a feat comparable to upgrading from a department store’s jam-packed clearance rack to the must-have apparel on the mannequins at your favorite boutique. Live with your capsule wardrobe before filling in the gaps. And look for a common thread among your rejects to avoid future error. Clear the Calendar Unnecessary appointments or meetings count as clutter, too. Only spend time on things that matter to you. Celebrate Simplicity After each holiday, cull decor that didn’t make it to this year’s party, whether ornaments, an inflatable yard witch or that whimsical set of Easter Bunny plates. What you do with the surprise discovery of any chocolate treats is up to you. Supply Only the Demand Save time and money by gathering duplicates, such as batteries, sticky notes, lightbulbs and rolls of tape. Keep what you’ll realistically need in the next year and donate the rest. Got 5 Minutes? Nab empty cardboard boxes and grocery bags for recycling. Unsubscribe from three email newsletters (of course you’ll want to keep Live Happy’s). Toss expired products and empty containers from the medicine cabinet. Recycle mismatched plastic containers and lids. Clean the car using one bag for trash and another for items to relocate. Outwit Common Clutter Cons I might need that. If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s not serving your needs. Hypothetical uses infringe on how you really live. It’s an heirloom. You can love Grandma without loving her crystal. Realize the tug is about the memory, not the thing. Take a photo or keep just one goblet, then pass the rest along. I paid a lot for that! Maybe so, but now it’s costing your peace of mind, too. I don’t want to waste. Donating extras is sharing the wealth. I could give that to so and so. With few exceptions, don’t get bogged down in a Plan B. This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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Distressed woman with her face in her hands

Overcoming Anxiety in an Anxious World

I used to suffer from chronic overthinking. A couple years ago I went through a mini phase of extreme paranoia. I found myself rabbit-holing down a deep, dark path of doomsday predictions. Everything from potential volcano eruptions or major 9.0 earthquakes, tsunamis, meteor strikes, killer bugs, more pandemics, losing everything I had worked for, to nefarious leaders with dark agendas, and robot takeovers—every day was filled with, “What is going to rear its ugly head today and try to harm us?” When the alien invasion started to be a very real possibility in my mind, I realized all logical reasoning had gone out the door. I was deep in it, manipulated by conniving fear, all under the guise of, “I am being prepared and educating myself.” I told myself I was getting ready for the next big thing that could happen, not realizing that this was full-blown fear that had manifested itself into a preparation project. I’ve seen in my own private coaching practice and in doing research for my book Return to You: 11 Spiritual Lessons for Unshakable Inner Peace, that so many of us do this, chronic overthinking, especially when things are uncertain. Since we don’t have control over anything outside of us, we tend to worry our days away trying to maintain control of our inner world. This causing more anxiety and prevents us from feeling safe. Overthinking means that you dwell on an event, a person, a feeling or an idea so much, that it completely consumes your thoughts and can ever ruin your relationships and personal wellbeing. To stop the chronic worry, I started to turn to my spirituality and daily routine. Practicing mindfulness and compassion was key to transforming the fear into faith with love. It is all about intention. We can fill our days with worry and fear-based thoughts, or we could choose hope, happiness, and love; we can unplug from the “system,” that promotes separation and worry and stop consuming so much fear-filled media, and instead drop into my heart. We may feel hopeless and powerless against the negative forces in the world, but we have more power than we’ve been taught to believe. Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” So maybe instead of worrying the easiest path forward is to shift our perspective from worry to wonder. These steps can help. Step 1: Drop from your head into your heart. Our thoughts are powerful directives. They will either help us or hurt us, depending on where we give our attention. The mind will analyze, judge, blame, and try to make sense of the world, but your heart trusts, allows, and loves. There is no point in trying to change the world, but there is a point in changing your thoughts about the world, and this happens when we drop from our head into our heart. It’s often been said that our thoughts create our outcome, so if this is the case, we must ask ourselves what we are thinking and projecting about the current situation. If something is causing you dis-ease, go inward to your heart and see what your thoughts are about that situation. Feel your feelings and recognize where you’ve been trapped in fear or blame. We can escape our pain by giving up all thoughts that are derived from attack, blame, or shame. We are never trapped in the world we live in, because as soon as we shift our thoughts, we can change our experience. Step 2: Turn your resistance into assistance. Instead of resisting things in your life you don’t like, channel all the energy into assisting. Where can you help others and turn your pain into purpose? Go inward and ask yourself, “What is coming up for me and how can I channel this energy into support for others?” You can stabilize your focus by assisting others and helping those in need. Sometimes we don’t have control of what is happening, but we can take a step to help the world. Instead of festering in your discomfit, shift into action and be of assistance to others. Being of service is the highest form of happiness and will help you stay focused on the big picture—that we are all in this together and we need each other. Step 3: Judge nothing that occurs. Deepak Chopra said, “If you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world.” When the world seems to be turned upside down and nothing makes sense, it can be so easy to fall into judgment and blame. With so much angst, there can be a lot of separation. Adopt a mentality of compassion and kindness by practicing nonjudgment and compassion for all. Today, practice nonjudgment with everything you see. As you live in a more neutral state, watch how aspects of yourself and life start to feel better. Step 4: Hold up the energetic mirror. Look at what is triggering you and causing you distress. Hold up the energetic mirror and ask yourself, “How is this showing me what I need to heal within myself?” Your external world is a reflection of your internal state, mirroring the deepest truths of your soul. Use this time to recognize all areas and relationships and situations that feel strained. Heal your past by connecting to it in the present. You have a divine assignment not to take things personally. Look at who and what is triggering you and what it is bringing up for you. When you feel your feelings, you release them, and as you do, you connect to the deeper message they can bring. Using the energetic mirror will help you reconnect with your true self, the pure light and love within. We can choose peace, but it must start on the inside. You can access freedom from fear right here and now. No matter what is happening outside of you in the world, you can be calm in the chaos as your inner world is the only world you truly have control over. Excerpted from Return To You: 11 Spiritual Lessons for Unshakable Inner Peace. Sounds True, April 2022. Reprinted with permission. Shannon Kaiser is a world-renowned spiritual and self-love teacher, speaker and empowerment coach. A bestselling author of five books on the psychology of happiness and fulfillment, she guides people to awaken and align to their true selves so they can live to their highest potential. Shannon's newest book, Return To You: 11 Spiritual Lessons for Unshakable Inner Peace, is a complete guide to Shannon's most effective strategies for tapping your innate wisdom and stepping into your true power. Named among the "Top 100 Women to Watch in Wellness" by mindbodygreen and "your go-to happiness booster" by Health magazine, Shannon lives in Portland, Oregon, with her rescue dog, Chance.
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