Our 2013 Joy-Inducing Plan

In modern families it can be difficult to not allow the pitfalls to consume you and/or define you and your family. However, if you make a committment to choose joy, it will give you a new perspective on life. Changing your mindset can truly change the dynamics of your complicated family and surprisingly, it doesn’t begin with focusing on your family’s problems. It begins with focusing on you! Below is our joy-inducing plan that will help you choose joy, thereby making your family more joyful as well.

Get Moving

Do some sort of exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. It can be walking, jogging, pilates, yoga or zumba. Studies show that exercise not only gives you energy but releases natural endorphins that leave you feeling healthy, strong, and happy.

Stop Comparing

I know that social media is supposed to keep us connected, but sometimes it can be a curse. While it’s okay to visit blogs to gain support from others in similiar situations, you still must take everything with a grain of salt. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s because everyone’s journey is different. Instead compare your journey (if you must compare) to where you and your family were a year ago as opposed to now.

Start Forgiving

Replaying the hurt that someone imposed on us (often many moons ago) over an over again is bad for your health! Studies show that that kind of rumination is linked to anxiety, depression, stress and heart disease. Let go of the hurt and remember forgiveness is for you!

Start Helping

It’s no secret that shifting the focus from your problems to someone else’s truly increases your own happiness. Find a cause that’s dear to you and volunteer. It will not only make a difference in someone else’s life, it will make a difference in yours as well.

Girlfriend Time

Again, social media (facebook, twitter, Skype…) can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because it keeps us from connecting face to face. Humans thrive off of human touch (a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a touch of the hand…) and unfortunately, you can’t do that online. So, from time to time, grab your BFF or somebody’s BFF and have coffee, grab a bite to eat, or go for a walk and talk.

Have Sex

Quit telling your husband you have a headache and just go ahead and give him some already. Studies have proven that sex reduces anxiety and depression and just being touched in a sensitive area can increase those feelings of joy throughout the next day.

Fake it Until You Make It

Did you know that facial movements can actually trigger physiological responses? When you smile, even when you don’t feel like it, your brain gets confused and tells itself, “I’m smiling, so I must be happy.” By that same token, if you walk around with a frown all the time, it can have the opposite effect. So. put a smile on your face, whether you feel like it or not.

Plan Fun on a Regular Basis

A wise older woman (she was 91 years of age to be exact) told me that her secret to living a long, happy life was always having something to look forward to. This something can be as simple as game night with the girls, date night with your hubby, a night of a relaxing bubble bath and some soft jazz music, etc. Whatever the case may be, make sure you plan these little jolts of fun and put it on your calendar. Research shows that looking forward to future fun and actually seeing it on your calendar (no matter how small) can give you an immediate boost.




The Friends/Family Balance

This article was first published by Cynthia Hanson of Life and Beauty Weekly

The Beatles got it right: You can get by with a little help from your friends. Trouble is it’s tough to get their support if you don’t see them! So what to do when you haven’t had a girls’ night out in ages or your job leaves you feeling like you don’t have energy for your loved ones? Make a plan to get your life in a balance that includes both friends and family.

“Research shows that maintaining friendships increases longevity and boosts the immune system,” says Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., and author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing and Keeping up With Your Friends. “But it’s hard for many women to prioritize friendships because they don’t seem as crucial as our families, jobs and responsibilities.” Follow this stress-less plan to strike a better balance and stay connected with all the important people in your life.

1. Don’t settle for Facebook newsfeeds.

“Me” time is vital to self-care — and self-care is crucial to staying in balance and having the energy you need for your family. “Give yourself permission to talk on the phone with a friend or do something fun together — even if you have to plan it four weeks in advance,” says Bonior. “You may feel like you keep up with friends over Facebook, but you’re not getting the same emotional connection when you’re clicking and commenting on links. You need more sustained, face-to-face contact or voice contact.”

2. Keep family time separate.

Does your friend always call when you’re getting your preschooler ready for bed? Or when you and your husband are trying to relax after dinner? Solution: Be assertive and set boundaries.

“It’s OK to screen your calls and tell friends that your evenings are family time,” says Joyce Marter, a psychotherapist and owner of Urban Balance LLC, a multisite counseling practice in Chicago. Let friends know when you’re free to dish — perhaps on your lunch hour or before you leave work. That way you won’t miss their latest news or your game of Monopoly with the kids.

3. Set a standing date.

It’s hard to coordinate a meet-up with a friend when your kids’ activities keep you hopping and chores keep you busy on weekends. Choose a day and time that fit your lifestyles and workloads — perhaps coffee at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, or brunch on the third Sunday of every month. Then stick to it, just as you would stick to a spinning class.

“Standing dates are also a good way to get a group of three or four friends together,” says Bonior. “It gets drilled into your brain that it’s something you want to do and should do.” Plus, by having it on your calendar, you’ll avoid all the back-and-forth “When are you free?” texts.

4. Be flexible.

Not big on breakfast, but 8:00 a.m. is the only time your friend is free? Take one for the team and nibble a bagel anyway. What counts is getting together — and it’s a guaranteed mood-booster. “When you connect and laugh with a friend, you know you’re not alone in dealing with life’s challenges,” says Marter.

5. Think small.

Back in the day, you lingered together over martinis and escaped to luxury spas. But those gal-pal outings aren’t realistic right now when you’re busy with family matters. So settle for close encounters of the quick kind. It’s better to squeeze in 45-minute lunch dates between client meetings than to have no F2F time at all!

Be Attitudes for Living a Happy Life

“Hap­pi­ness is a spir­i­tual path. The more you learn about true hap­pi­ness, the more you dis­cover the truth of who you are, what is impor­tant, and what your life is for.” — Robert Holden, Author of Be Happy!

Hap­pi­ness used to be one of those top­ics that not only I shied away from, but also believed that it just wasn’t going to be a part of my jour­ney. Thank­fully those self-fulfilling days of despair are over and I now know that happiness—just like any­thing else in life—is a mal­leable state of mind that can be learned.

Although some of us are born into the world smil­ing, oth­ers like myself have had to learn (and unlearn) cer­tain tech­niques and habits so that hap­pi­ness can be a part of our nat­ural lives. As I under­stand more about my Self and dis­cover who I really am I also rec­og­nize that hap­pi­ness is mine for the choosing.

Below are a few of the atti­tudes and habits I’ve cul­ti­vated over the years that I believe are key to liv­ing a happy life.

Be Authen­tic

Being authen­tic is about being who we really are with oth­ers. Authen­tic­ity is what helps us live life to our fullest poten­tial. It is also an essen­tial ingre­di­ent to find­ing hap­pi­ness within ourselves.

Liv­ing an authen­tic life ulti­mately opens us up to being in har­mony with our true Self so that we can ulti­mately dis­cover who we really are. And, the more true you are to your­self, the hap­pier you will be.

Be Know­ing

Knowl­edge doesn’t have to always resem­ble books and infor­ma­tion. How­ever, when it comes to being happy, know­ing what makes you smile and light up is extremely important.

For me, being cre­ative, spend­ing qual­ity time with close loved ones, and shar­ing what I’m learn­ing with oth­ers makes me happy. What makes you happy could be some­thing entirely different.

Ulti­mately it’s about find­ing the joy within your­self. Accord­ing to hap­pi­ness expert Dr. Robert Holden, direc­tor of The Hap­pi­ness Project, you feel the hap­pi­est when you begin to know who you truly are. “The rea­son why we’re so inter­ested in hap­pi­ness is because we want to have an expe­ri­ence of our true self.”

Be Grate­ful

“We tend to for­get that hap­pi­ness doesn’t come as a result of get­ting some­thing we don’t have, but rather of rec­og­niz­ing and appre­ci­at­ing what we do have.”— Fred­er­ick Keonig, Co-inventor of the Print­ing Press

As sim­ple as it sounds, grat­i­tude breeds happiness.

Peo­ple who have an atti­tude of grat­i­tude lead hap­pier and health­ier lives than those who don’t because grat­i­tude forces us to over­come what psy­chol­o­gists call the “neg­a­tiv­ity bias”—the ten­dency to dwell on prob­lems, annoy­ances, and life’s lit­tle injustices.

By focussing on the good parts of life—the things that we are thank­ful for—we are con­di­tion­ing our­selves to fos­ter­ing a pos­i­tive atti­tude and a healthy sense of well-being which is what hap­pi­ness is all about.

Be Com­pas­sion­ate

Any­time I think about hap­pi­ness or com­pas­sion the first thought that comes to mind is the Dalai Lama.

Hav­ing had the chance to be taught by him while I was in Wis­con­sin a few years back and hear him speak on the impor­tance of prac­tic­ing com­pas­sion with our­selves and oth­ers, I was pro­foundly changed by the expe­ri­ence and have become more com­pas­sion­ate as a result. As the Dalai Lama teaches:

“The great­est degree of inner tran­quil­ity comes from the devel­op­ment of love and com­pas­sion. The more we care for the hap­pi­ness of oth­ers, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” — Ten­zin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

It is true that by car­ing for the well-being of oth­ers, you auto­mat­i­cally increase your own level of happiness.

Be For­giv­ing

“To for­give is the high­est, most beau­ti­ful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and hap­pi­ness.” — Robert Muller, World Peace and Hap­pi­ness Guru

While the tools, tech­niques, and “be atti­tudes” for hap­pi­ness are valu­able, the most impor­tant of these is for­give­ness. Con­tin­u­ally being in a state of prac­tic­ing for­give­ness allows you to move past resent­ment, hate, fear, and inad­e­quacy while step­ping into the mind-frame of love.

Happy peo­ple learn from their expe­ri­ences, pains, dis­ap­point­ments, and are able to fully expe­ri­ence all the joy life has to offer.

For­give­ness may not be an easy task—in fact, it’s one of the most dif­fi­cult ones to practice—nonetheless, it is a sim­ple one and one worth mastering.

Tips to Grow By

Hap­pi­ness isn’t a reward, it’s part of the jour­ney and it is com­pletely attain­able. Sci­en­tists and psy­chol­o­gists have even dis­cov­ered that our brains have a cer­tain level of plas­tic­ity which allow them to be com­pletely trans­formable and capa­ble of change if we so choose.

How­ever, choos­ing to be happy is more that just a choice, it’s a con­scious deci­sion that only you can make for your­self. By being authen­tic, grate­ful, for­giv­ing, and focus­ing on the pos­i­tive things in life, you will be lead to greater hap­pi­ness.

And as Abra­ham Lin­coln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So, make up your mind to be happy and start liv­ing a hap­pier life today.

About Aisha Quinece

“How am I making the world a better place?” is a question I ask myself almost on a daily basis. As a wife, mother, designer, writer, and teacher, actively enriching the lives of others is a responsibility that I take seriously. Supplying you with practical ways to “Create Your Life” is what my blog, www.AishaQuinece.com, is all about. So, check it out, visit me on Facebook, follow me Twitter, and get started creating your life today!

Are You an Anger Junkie?

momfrustratedI was watching the MoNique Show the other night; one of the rare occasions when I’m actually awake (it comes on at 11pm) and happened to catch it. In her opening comedic monologue she talked about being an “Anger Junkie.” Now of course she put her comedic spin on the term and had me cracking up, but as I pondered on the term I realized that there was a lot of truth to her jokes. 

We all get angry of course and I think getting angry can sometimes be beneficial. If you supress your feelings for too long and then release the anger, your anger explodes in a way that leaves you with the feeling of regret. Simply put, bottled up anger affects your judgement.  Acknowleding your anger and dealing with it before you explode increases your chances for controlled anger. The bottled up anger turns into habitual anger (you’re just mad all the time – sometimes without jusitification) and this is what leads to becoming an anger junkie.

Often times when we talk to a remarried couple, husband will say something like, “She’s just mad all the time and I don’t know why,” or “She just nags me and the kids all the time.” I say to myself – yep, she’s an anger junkie. Because stepmoms are taught to keep it bottled in due to the  fear of being labeled as wicked, that anger seeps out over a period of time in different forms (habitual anger).

According to Dr. Steven Stosny, a therapist who treats people for anger and relationship problems, problem anger is habitual — habits run on automatic pilot, processed in the brain much faster than conscious awareness. You are never aware of most of your resentment or anger; by the time you know you’re resentful or angry, it’s already in an advanced state. He further explains how  the jolt of energy you get at any level of anger works like an amphetamine or “speed.” Anger junkies use this jolt of energy frequently in response to an emotional need. For example, they only feel confident when they’re angry, or anger is a response to their anxiety or they use it to enforce a sense of entitlement. These anger junkies who act like bullies. They are hurt so they go overboard to make sure you hurt as well. They feel less confident about themselves, so they put you down to feel more confident. They get upset because you disagree with their opinions and as a result, “making you pay” consumes them.

Is there treatment for ange junkies? Dr. Stosny says that effective treatment for problem anger cannot merely reduce the emotional feelings or arousal of anger; it must restore a state of self-value that is more stable than whatever lowered it, which will replace the habit of blaming with a motivation to improve. And it has to do it fast.

Are you an anger junkie? Take the anger junkie test below to find out.

I use anger or resentment: 

  • For energy or motivation (can’t get going or keep going without some degree of anger)
  •  For pain-relief (it hurts when not angry) 
  • For confidence (only feel cer­tain when angry)
  • To ease anxiety  
  • To avoid depression 
  • To enforce a sense of entitlement   
  • To punish or inhibit honest disagreement with opinions 
  • More than once a day, and when you expe­ri­ence anger, it lasts for more than a few minutes 

Take a Mental Vacation to Avoid Stress

italiancafeLast week I had the best vacation in Italy! I visited the cafes and museums, had a fabulous time at a few fashion shows and enjoyed the company of an old friend that I had not seen since high school. We decided to reconnect in Italy because we both have always wanted to go there. On our first night there we dined at Centrale, a beautiful, hip, chic restaurant/lounge in Venice. The food was amazing! I had a succulent parmesean farfalle pasta with chicken and mushrooms that was to die for…yummy! My friend had the spaghetti carbonara and a glass of white wine.  Afterward, we decided to return to our hotel in order to rest up for the festivities on the following day. Okay, people, I didn’t literally go to Italy last week, but I did take a mental vacation there, and it was almost as nice as the real thing.

Mental vacations are like retreating to that quiet, relaxing place that your yoga instructor tells you to go to when you are doing the final relaxation pose at the end of every class.  They are fun, free and can take you anywhere your imagination allows you to go. Mental vacations are a nice way for moms/stepmoms, working women and just about anyone to escape from the norm. I usually take my mental vacations during my “me” time in a relaxing bath with soft music playing. For those 3o minutes I am not mom, wife, business woman or counselor, and I don’t worry about the challenges of stepmamahood or motherhood. I allow myself to mentally escape to a place where I get to choose who goes along for the ride.

Next week, I think my business partner and very dear friend, Diane and I, will take a relaxing trip with our husbands to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We could all use a couples only vacation right about now. If anyone else wants to join us, please let me know. The plane tickets, hotels, food, and activities are all FREE!

What about you, readers? Describe your ultimate mental vacation in the comments section below and win a brand new Sirius Sportster 5 XM Satellite Radio!

Out with the Old and In with the New – YOU!

womanbluesky2009 has seen its better days-or not! Thank goodness we can look forward to 2010, a clean slate, a new beginning, and a new you.

It sounds cliché but the start of a new year truly is a new start. There are millions of New Year’s resolutions being made as we speak. Unfortunately, 95% of those will not make it to June or will not be followed through upon. How can we make this year different? How can we keep our resolutions and help our lives as well as improve our families?

There is a wonderful article written by Lesley Alderman for the January 2010 issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine titled “Nine Secrets of Motivated People.” Here are her nine points for a better you for 2010 as well as my own interpretations of her list:

1. When you make a plan, anticipate bumps. Peter Gollwitzer, professor of psychology at New York University says that people who plan for obstacles are more likely to stick with projects than those who don’t. When you are aware of all of the “what if’s” of a project then you can come up with ways to work through them should they occur. This way you have a plan to stay on task.

2. Channel that little engine that could – really. A person’s drive is often based on what she believes about her abilities, not on how objectively talented she is according to research by Albert Bandura, a professor of psychology at Stanford. You must first believe in yourself before anyone else will believe in you. Push yourself and love the person you are.

3. Don’t let your goals run wild. This means that you should set expectations and goals for yourself in order to achieve what you set out to do in life. At the same time keep them in perspective. If you have 100 pounds to lose don’t expect to lose all 100 in a month or even two. Set mini goals for yourself and make sure to reward yourself when you attain that next step.

4. Go public with it. Don’t keep your goals or resolutions to yourself. Tell a close friend or family member so you have a support system. Things go much smoother and much easier when you have support and some accountability to what you want to achieve.

5. Lean on a support crew when you’re struggling. Enlist people in your life who you feel want you to succeed and will keep you motivated. Choose people who may have seen you fail in the past and who know how much success means to you, says Edward L. Deci, professor of psychology at University of Rochester.

6. Make yourself a priority. Lesley Alderman states that you will derail your progress if you sacrifice yourself for others in order to please them. Only you can take care of you and only you know what you need. That’s a lot of you’s and it may feel selfish but we must take care of ourselves before we are capable of taking care of anyone else.

7. Challenge yourself and change things up. This especially applies to anyone trying to lose weight or striving for a healthy lifestyle. Doing the same exercise routine can become monotonous or eating the same thing for lunch everyday becomes so boring. As time goes on you will eventually get frustrated and throw that salad or treadmill out the window. Do yourself a favor and research fun ways to exercise and look up new recipes online to spice things up. This way you’re always learning and that helps build new excitement around your new life.

8. Keep on learning. To refuel your efforts, focus on enjoying the process of getting to the goal, rather than just eyeing the finish line, says Lesley Alderman. Take pride in researching or going back to school to reach a new career goal. Take classes or go to events for the things you are passionate about just for fun. You will enjoy learning about things you love even if it isn’t about making a career out of it. It’s all about expanding your mind and your life and learning something new never gets dull.

9. Remember the deeper meaning. Edward L. Deci says it best when he says “You’re more likely to realize a goal when it has true personal significance to you” Enough said.

The more information and support you are armed with the better equipped you are to face the world and also stay true to who you are.