how-to guide

What Is Your Partner’s Love Language? And What to Buy Them For Valentine’s Day

By | Food for thought, goalcast originals, heartwarming, how-to guide, stories

It’s the time of year where all of us are focusing on finding the right gift for someone special, as Valentine’s Day approaches. Naturally, we want the gift to be special but how can we avoid falling into the trap of cliches and uninspired presents.

A special gift usually indicates to the receiver that some thought has been put into it, that there is a connection between the two. It tells the person how well you know them, and in doing so, also defines your relationship.

But how can we make a gift even more special and truly understand the needs and wants of our partner?

What are the 5 Love Languages?

It all comes down to knowing your partner’s love language. There are 5 lof them–Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, and Gifts– and they each serve as a blueprint for emotional intimacy between you and your partner. 

“Knowing which “language” you speak, which actions you interpret as love, is essential to navigating and maintaining security in your relationship,” said Caitlin Killoren, a relationship coach at Relish.

First put forward by author Gary Chapman in his 1992 book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, the five love languages was developed from his years as a marriage counsellor. Chapman kept recognizing a recurring pattern between spouses:

“One spouse would say something like, ‘I feel like he doesn’t love me. The other would protest, ‘I don’t know what else to do! I’m doing everything I should be doing.’”

When he asked the couples what each spouse could do to improve the relationship, Chapman determined that the answers fell into five different categories, now known as the love languages.

The five love languages are highly useful to know in order to optimize a connection and love between partners. “When you know someone’s love language, and are able to speak that language, they feel cared for and appreciated,” said Jess McCann, author of “Cursed? Why you still don’t have the relationship you want and the 5 Cures that can change your love life?.

Consequently, you can also end up “spinning your wheels” trying to let someone know how you feel through a way that doesn’t resonate with them. Furthermore, knowing how someone feels loved is the key to good gift-giving!

If you know your partner is especially happy when spending quality time with you, then spending large amounts money on a gift won’t be as meaningful as aN afternoon at the beach or a picnic in the park would.

Jess McCann

Many of us have one dominant and recognizable love language. Most people fall under the “Words of Affirmation” category.However, we can also have secondary languages as well. It is possible to learn your love language by taking the various quizzes on The Five Love Languages website.

1. Acts of Service

Acts of Service

Individuals who fall under this category better respond to acts of service from their partner. Therefore, figuring out their needs and what they need help in is the best way to go. On the other hand, as Oprah Magazine outlines, “ambivalence or a lack of support are more damaging than anything else.”

What would be helpful to your partner? Do they need their car cleaned? Do they need a night off from cooking? What area of their life is the most chaotic and busy? You can usually find a good gift assisting in that place.

“On Valentine’s Day, wake up early. Make coffee and bring it to your partner in bed. Fold a load of laundry. Pick up the living room. Scramble some eggs, make them a smoothie. Save your money on the expensive reservations – all your partner wants is for you to demonstrate to them how much they mean to you,” said Killoren.

2. Words of Affirmation

While everyone enjoys a good word, some of us need more affirmation than others. Partners who respond to words of affirmation would appreciate being told, more or less explicitly, that they are valued or appreciated. People who favor words of affirmation will be particularly affected by insults.

How often do you tell your husband you love and appreciate him? When was the last time you told your wife you liked her outfit or that she looked nice?

For those who need words of affirmation, their absence can lead to feelings of resentment. While you may be thinking or feeling good thoughts about your spouse, try verbalizing them and see the power of your words.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, licensed clinical professional counselor

Write your partner a love letter in lieu of a gift on Valentine’s Day, or make sure to attach one with your gift.

“Leave it somewhere they’ll find: their coat pocket or the driver’s seat of their car,” said Killoren. “Tell them what you remember about the beginning of your relationship, about how much you both have grown since you’ve been a couple. Tell them how much you love them and what you admire about them.”

The more detailed, the better. While a more substantial gift can definitely please your partner, having an expression of your love and appreciation attached to it would definitely render it truly special.

3. Physical Touch

Physical touch

Most relationships involve physical touch, whether platonic or not. Of course, a spouse who favors and needs physical touch, is going to want as much intimacy as possible.

Helping to fulfill his/her need for physical touch can also include non-sexual touches which may ease the pressure off you if you are not as sexual of a person.

Rabbi Slatkin

The most romantic thing you could give your partner on Valentine’s Day would be a morning cuddle, first thing when you wake up. Alternatively, a massage will be well received for those who respond to physical touch.

You can convey your affection through your fingertips, and nothing else, no matter how expensive or thoughtful, will matter to your partner.

4. Gifts

While the “Acts of Service” category is all about anticipating your partner’s needs, this one is more about appreciating them through giving them gifts. These are not something that they need, but more of a special thought on your part.

Additionally, while most people understand gifts as physical items, they don’t necessarily have to be. Indeed, they can be “tangible and intangible items that make you feel appreciated or noticed,” such as “your partner’s concert.”

Gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money, unless you want them too of course. Get your partner’s car washed, pick up their favorite pastries, buy them tickets to see their favorite band.

“They’ll appreciate because they feel loved when they receive gifts, but also because research suggests we prefer gifts that are unexpected,” said Killoren.

5. Quality Time

Quality time can include glamping.

People who favor quality time would prefer “engaging in an activity together, particularly one you both enjoy, like a walk after dinner” or something else that would involve time spent together.  

A good gift for someone with this love language…tickets to an event! Perhaps a concert, or show where you spend time together but are also enjoying something extra special.

Glamping is another great gift for someone whose love language is quality time. There is nothing more meaningful and romantic than whisking your partner away on a getaway in nature to spend incredible quality time together. From enjoying excursions to spa services, there is a glamping site perfect for every couple who just wants to spend uninterrupted time together.

You can do anything you want on Valentine’s Day – all that matters to your partner is that you do it together. “

“If you go out to dinner, linger after your decaf coffees and just talk until the waiter asks you to leave. Go see a classic movie and discuss it afterwards. Visit an art gallery, or stay in,” said Killoren.

As long as you’re together, they’re happy.

Beyond Valentine’s Day

Figuring out our own love language should be a priority for us all. After all, once we understand what we desire and respond to, it enables us to set the standards of our relationships with others. It can also help us in making them understand how to navigate a relationship with us. Therefore, this could prevent conflicts from arising.

While it may take some introspection and some time to figure out, it will eventually be beneficial to your current and future relationships with romantic partners but also with friends and family members.

More helpful articles:

Is Appreciation Deficit Disorder Ruining Your Relationship?

By | challenging, dating, Food for thought, how-to guide, marriage, movie, relationships

Contrary to appearances, Netflix’s hit movie Marriage Story is not a story about divorce. It is, as its title indicates, a story about marriage. More specifically, it is the story of how a good marriage goes bad for one simple reason: Appreciation Deficit Disorder.     

What is appreciation deficit disorder?

While Appreciation Deficit Disorder isn’t a clinical disorder, if it was it would be defined as something like this: a “disorder” characteristic of the character we meet individuals like Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson)– who are in decent, functional relationships, but who are “appreciation-deficient” with regards to themselves, their spouses, and their relationship as a whole.

In fact, the failed marriage between Charlie and Nicole could be considered a textbook example of this as-yet undiagnosed “disorder” because it displays all the classic symptoms of this brand-new, made-up malaise.

Here are the symptoms of appreciation deficit disorder:

1. Physical and emotional withdrawal 

Example: Charlie and Nicole have been living parallel lives for the last joyless and sexless year of their marriage.

2. Criticism 

Example: Nicole repeatedly criticizes Charlie for being selfish, whereas Charlie repeatedly criticizes Nicole for being… Nicole;

3. Contempt 

Example: harlie claims that Nicole hated him during the last year of their marriage, whereas Nicole feels Charlie has been contemptuously ignoring her core needs; 

4. Negative sentiment override 

Example: The spouses are both so flooded with negative emotion that they each accuse one another of rewriting their shared past, as when Charlie insists that Nicole has only decided, after the fact, that she wasn’t happy with their life in Brooklyn, when at the time she was.     

Fortunately, appreciation deficit disorder contains, embedded within itself, its own obvious cure: appreciation. 

Indeed, the renowned couples therapist Terry Real considers appreciation not only the single “most effective” strategy for improving a relationship, but he goes so far as to say, “This one principle is equal to all the others combined.”  As we will see, most of the top couples therapists in the world agree.  

How to avoid appreciation deficit disorder:

Step 1. Appreciate one another

Marriage Story opens with tender and heart-warming expressions of mutual appreciation between Nicole and Charlie. At first sight, it certainly doesn’t seem like they suffer appreciation deficit.

The world’s pre-eminent marriage researcher, John Gottman, would say (with one important reservation) that Charlie and Nicole both have good “love maps,” a term that evokes the amount of “cognitive room” one has for all the little quirks of their spouse’s personality and personal history, as well as the marriage itself.

Gottman’s research shows that having good love maps is the very foundation of the seven-story “sound marital house” that constitutes a strong, sustainable relationship. His research also shows that having good love maps is a necessary prerequisite for building the next level up in the sound marital house, “fondness and admiration.”

Step 2. Be grateful for the things you appreciate

Researchers like Sara Algoe, Amie Gordon, Emily Impett, and Samantha Joel would also be impressed with the way that Charlie and Nicole express gratitude for how their partner invests in their relationship– a tendency that functions as a “booster shot” for relationship commitment and overall happiness.  

For instance, even when Charlie complains about Nicole’s untidiness – “It’s not easy for her to put away a sock, or close a cabinet, or do a dish” – he nevertheless expresses his gratitude for her effort and attributes it to her fondness for him: “but she tries for me.” 

Likewise, Nicole peppers her appreciations of Charlie with generous expressions of gratitude, singling out, for example:

He takes all of my moods steadily, he doesn’t give in to them or make me feel bad about them.

As the marriage historian Eli Finkel explains in his widely-praised book The All-or-Nothing Marriage, “In the long run, people who experience elevated levels of gratitude also experience stronger relationship commitment and are less likely to break up.”

But if Charlie and Nicole are so good at appreciating one another in all of these ways, then why do they break up?

Step 3. Express your appreciation 

While they feeling appreciation, Charlie and Nicole don’t express their appreciation out loud to one another. When we finally hear Nicole’s appreciation of Charlie articulated out loud, we come to understand that one of the main factors that causes both their marriage and their divorce to unravel is the unwillingness to give voice to appreciation. 

Most of the top couples therapists in the world – John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Terry Real – emphasize the crucial importance of not just appreciating our partners but expressing that appreciation. 

For instance, Terry Real writes, ”When I speak of cherishing, I do not mean just feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I mean doing something to let your partner know what you are appreciating.”

Gottman makes the same basic point:

When you acknowledge and openly discuss positive aspects of your partner and your marriage, your bond is strengthened.  

Why is expressing appreciation so important?  Perhaps for the same reason that it’s so important not just to appreciate a house plant, but also to water it.    

Step 4. Appreciate one another’s life dreams

Why does Nicole refuse to read her appreciations out loud to Charlie?  While there are many answers to this question, they all ultimately boil down to another, more fundamental symptom of ADD.

Nicole is both hurt by and angry at Charlie because he has failed to listen for and appreciate her deepest needs and most-cherished longings.

According to Gottman, whenever there is a gridlocked conflict in a relationship the thing to do is dig down to what he calls the “dream within the conflict.” 

By “dream” he means the hopes, aspirations and wishes that are part of people’s very identity and that give purpose and meaning to their lives. In Gottman’s experience, the best way to drill down to the dream beneath the conflict is to explore the underlying symbolism of the surface-level desires at play in the disagreement. 

If he had taken me in a big hug and said ‘Baby, I’m so excited for your adventure and of course I want you to have your own piece of earth’ then we might not be getting divorced.

The marriage researchers Shelly Gable and Harry Reis have shown that when partners communicate and celebrate their individual successes with one another they both feel greater positive emotions and mental health, and also experience increased feelings of trust, intimacy, and satisfaction in the relationship.

As Eli Finkel explains, “Enthusiastic responses are beneficial because they convey the listener’s shared joy in the event and appreciation of the personal significance of the event for the discloser.”

Step 5. Appreciate (or, at the very least, accept) your partner’s influence

In Marriage Story, Nicole complains that all of the furniture in their apartment was Charlie’s taste. She bemoans the fact she didn’t even get to pick their apartment but just moved into his.

More generally, and perhaps most significantly, she remarks that during their marriage:

It would be so weird if he had turned to me and said ‘And what do you want to do today?’

In their long-term study of 131 newly-wed couples who they followed for nine years, Gottman and his fellow researchers found that even in the first few months of marriage, men who allowed their wives to influence them had happier relationships and were less likely to eventually divorce than men who resisted their wives influence. 

“Statistically speaking,” he writes, “when a man is not willing to share power with his partner there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”

Marriage Story Adam Driver Scarlett Johansson

Step 6. Appreciate and assert your own needs and dreams

It seems fair to say that Nicole also fails to appreciate her own dreams and assert her influence in a way that Charlie can understand.

She says, “I made noises about wanting to move back to LA, but they came to nothing, but “making noises” is a far cry from clearly and insistently articulating your dreams and desires. And unfortunately, as Terry Real writes:

You cannot create an extraordinary relationship unless you’re willing to do the hard work of identifying what it is that you want and pursuing it.

It is for this reason that, out of the many possible forms of appreciation that exist, Real prioritizes the cultivation of self-appreciation. 

“First and foremost,” he says, “I want you to cherish yourself.  I want you to value your own wants and needs. I want you to value your voice.”

Real has a confrontational way of encouraging people to appreciate and express their own wants up front. He invites them to swallow this bitter pill:

You don’t have the right to complain about not getting what you never asked for.

Step 7. Appreciate relationality

If Nicole had discerned and appreciated her own dreams more fully, she might have been able to summon the courage to not only stand up for herself but to speak up for herself and ask for more out of Charlie and for more out of their marriage. 

This is the very essence of what Real calls “fierce intimacy” or “daring to rock the boat.” Grabbing your partner by the collar and saying, ‘Such-and-such is really important to me. You better take it seriously. I’m not kidding.”  

Unfortunately, because Nicole doesn’t fully appreciate her own needs, she cannot articulate them to Charlie, let alone roll up her sleeves and fight like hell to make sure he meets them. 

Rather than moving from disempowerment to what Real calls “relationship empowerment,” she moves directly from disempowerment to what he calls “personal empowerment.”  

In Real’s view, “traditional femininity” teaches women disempowerment (i.e. “shut up and eat it”).  In contrast, third-wave feminism teaches women “personal empowerment” (i.e. “speak out and leave it”). But the next step is what he calls “relationship empowerment,” which encourages women to “stand firm and mean it.”

Marriage Story appreciation

What is real “relationship empowerment”? 

Something like this: “How are we going to be together in a way that works for both of us? How are we going to negotiate our needs? This is what I’d like. Tell me what you’d like.  And tell me what you need from me to help you deliver.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that if Nicole and Charley had had the guts to have this kind of conversation they would have been able to work things out. But it certainly would have upped the odds. And it certainly would have been better than either staying in a marriage plagued by Appreciation Deficit Disorder, or complaining after the fact about never getting what neither of them ever asked for. 

By identifying the problem and addressing it maturely with these tools, you’re well on you’re way from moving from “appreciation deficit” to “relationship empowerment.”

Where to go from here:

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work For You (And What To Do Instead)

By | Food for thought, how-to guide, mindset, motivating, self

New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing. While I’m very aware that, for many, they can be powerful, life-altering promises to the self, it does seem that the vast majority of people fail at keeping their resolutions.

I’m actually convinced that speaking these promises out loud to others at holiday parties actually lessens one’s chances of success. Let’s face it: New Year’s resolutions are gimmicky.

The fact is, if you’re going to make meaningful changes in your life, the time is now, not later.

Studies on the holding power of New Year’s resolutions are inconclusive at best. One survey finds that 4 out of 5 people will eventually break their resolutions, while another reports a higher success rate. Yet, both agree that approximately a third of resolutions don’t make it past the first month.

Another study found that less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved. While there’s a lot of advice floating around out there, I believe that in order to do your personal goals justice, you need to understand a few key truths about failed resolutions.

Here is a helpful guide for implementing change in the New Year:

1. Significant change is not instant (nothing worthwhile is)

It’s hardly news that people often centre their resolutions around kicking bad habits. Whether it’s smoking, drinking, or not eating right, I’d say stopping unhealthy behaviors makes up the bulk of New Year’s resolutions.

But we often underestimate how long it takes to kick a bad habit. Common knowledge says about 3 weeks. We also often forget that when you stop doing something ‘bad,’ you need to replace it with something ‘good.’ But it can take 66 days on average before a new habit becomes, well, habitual.

My point? Many people become discouraged and give up long before putting the necessary time in.

2. It’s better to do one thing wholeheartedly than 10 things halfway

Resolution enthusiasts often make long lists of rather all-encompassing behaviors they want to change, like losing weight rather than gaining it or saving money rather than spending it.

Many of these goals require serious heavy lifting and sustained effort. So start by picking only one thing and then dedicating all your efforts to achieve it, starting from scratch.

There is no need to multitask when it comes to self-improvement.

There’s a resolution for you: stop glorifying people who multitask and hone in on your individual goals.

3. Cold turkey is not necessarily hardcore, succeeding is

If your goal is to cut back on caffeine, promising yourself you will “never drink coffee or energy drinks ever again” is an extreme statement. This method is called ‘cold turkey,’ and it involves abruptly ceasing a habit without preamble.

While it can be the most effective tactic for some, scaling back slowly and gradually sticks much better for many. So rid yourself of the notion that it should be all or nothing.

4. You can’t skip the process (the journey is the destination)

It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed by focusing on the destination (substantial changes down the road) as opposed to the journey, which contains small changes in the here and now. But unfortunately, the journey cannot be skipped over.

Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy says that for years her resolution was to ‘become a runner.’ To her, this meant becoming a hyper self-disciplined person capable of tackling marathons.

Each January, she’d start running, only to quit weeks later, feeling like a failure. But one day she decided to just go for a run—without thinking of all those future runs. She didn’t worry about time or judge herself for needing a process. This was what ultimately helped her focus on starting to run rather than feeling like a failure for not being a runner. 

5. Motivation has a shelf life and it’s best to acknowledge that

No one stays motivated for all 365 days of the year. First of all (particularly for those of us who live through winter seasons), coming down from the holidays can feel particularly harsh.

With the entire year still ahead of you and summer a million miles away, big life changes involving massive self-discipline can represent a serious challenge. Not to mention, when you have a whole year to achieve something, it’s easy to procrastinate—possibly forever.

Short-term daily or weekly goals tend to be more successful because you feel rewarded regularly and motivated to keep moving toward that next achievement. And then one day, you’ve accomplished something big, without even noticing how you got there.

What to do instead?

If something in your life’s got to give and you’re determined to make New Year’s resolutions, I do hope I’ve convinced you in a more general sense that one need not wait until January to implement change. That being said, I offer you these additional tips as well:

  • Put less pressure on yourself by setting well-integrated, forgiving intentions rather than die-hard, goal-oriented resolutions. The difference? An intention lacks the inherent succeed-or-fail opposition. It also values effort, experience, and process rather than only results, and is rooted in the present instead of the future.
  • Base your intentions on what you want to be doing rather than what you think you should be doing, and it’ll make all the difference in the world.
  • Frame it positively. Instead of telling yourself you will watch less TV, or drop that extra weight, or be more social, why not enroll in a dance class and commit to going?

Ultimately, as the American poet Carl Sandburg said, “beware of advice, even this.” No two people are wired the same way, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to self-improvement. One thing’s for sure, though: if you have the will, you got this.

More helpful articles:

Struggling With Your Mental Health During the Holidays? Try This

By | Food for thought, how-to guide, inspiring, mental health, personal essay, self

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Isn’t it?

The truth is, despite the obvious benefits, the holidays can be a stressful time. From sorting presents, endless socializing, unrestricted indulgence and sky-high expectations, it takes skill to flourish during the festive season.

Although most of us feel pressure as the end of the year draws closer, those whose mental health is already strained may particularly struggle.

I know this all too well; during my darker years of anxiety and depression, part of me dreaded Christmas.

The pressure of holiday happiness

In an attempt to fit in with the Christmas spirit, I went to great lengths to sustain a facade of happiness, which exhausted my energy. Below the surface, I felt anxious and guilty for not feeling a certain way.

Why can’t I enjoy Christmas? Everyone else is happy, what’s wrong with me?

These 4 tips have helped me flourish during the festive break; they’re applicable to everyone, but particularly those feeling a little anxious about the upcoming period.

Here’s how to handle holiday struggles:

1. Embrace imperfection

Experiencing depression or anxiety is hard any day of the year. But added pressure to be merry and socialize may make symptoms stronger. Excessively high standards around how we feel at Christmas are created by “shoulds” — statements of the way things should be.

This is emotional perfectionism. For example, you may hold beliefs such as “I should be happy on Christmas Day,” “I shouldn’t feel anxious relaxing with friends,” “I shouldn’t get annoyed during social events with family.”

Anytime we hold to such “should” statements, we deviate from our reality. Expectation creates distance from reality and resistance to how you really feel.

What’s the solution?

Simply bringing awareness to your should statements eases perfectionist tendencies.

Ask yourself: what way do I feel I should be?

In addition, many of us have perfectionist ideas of how the day will unfold. How do you feel the day should unfold? Write your answers down in a journal or talk them through with someone you trust.

Then, using cognitive rationalization techniques, challenge those should statements.

For example, “I should be happy on Christmas Day,” can be altered to “I’m not feeling too happy, and that’s okay. I’ll be with what I’m experiencing and try my best to enjoy the day.”

2. Set boundaries

Expressing and setting healthy boundaries was a massive breakthrough in my mental wellbeing, particularly around Christmas.

I live away from home, so I don’t see my family much. When I’m back, it’s an adjustment. I love my family to bits, but they’re a lot more talkative and active than I am. At one point, this used to frustrate me. A lot.

One Christmas when I was struggling in my personal life, it reached the point when I snapped.

I realized I was expecting them to just know I was struggling to keep up with conversation. I engaged in difficult conversations, but expressed that this was simply a difference in character and it didn’t mean there was a lack of love if I needed a break.

My family were great about it, respected my honesty, and things improved.

When setting boundaries, I remind myself to do so with compassion and not resentment.

The longer we go without expressing boundaries, the more we place blame, and this opens the door to resentment. Instead, we have to take responsibility and express with heart.

A note on this topic: if your loves ones encroach on your boundaries and there’s no room to express that, or your boundaries are completely disrespected, remember there is no obligation on your part.

You can leave the situation if this feels like the right thing to do for you.


3. Care for your physical health too

Do you have a sweet tooth? A recent study by the University of Kansas discovered added sugars contribute to depression. Those sweet Christmas delights trigger metabolic, inflammatory and neurobiological processes that can further decrease low mood. 

While that’s not to say treats have to be canceled, it’s worthwhile paying attention to your diet if you are prone to depression.

Be aware of how certain foods affect your mood. Adjust if necessary.

Additionally, alcohol consumption is a hot topic in relation to mental health. I quit drinking 18 months ago, and I’ve noticed an increased sense of ease around Christmas. Years before, I had become aware that I had anxiety due to the constant opportunities to drink. They felt like obligations, really, and I didn’t have enough conviction in saying no. 

As I socialized over beer and mulled wine, my mental health deteriorated, and I didn’t feel strong enough to abstain. If you’d like a break, I recommend talking to a loved one and explaining why, if you’re comfortable.

Lastly, getting in the gym when I can, even if only for a moderate session, keeps my body in check and creates more ease in my psyche.

4. Embrace impermanence

When you’re a kid, the holiday build-up seems to last forever. Every advent calendar door opened or candle lit feels like the equivalent of a few months as an adult.

With Christmas music starting mid-August and adverts incessantly invading personal space from September, the day itself can feel really significant.

While it can be, remember that, like everything in life, this too will pass. In the blink of an eye, it’ll be New Years, then January, then summer, then Christmas music in supermarkets again.

I find this a useful reminder to avoid creating “fixed” concepts in my mind.

No matter how the day unfolds, soon it’ll be yesterday, then last week, then a few years ago.

Not only does this put the magnitude of the festive period into perspective to alleviate unnecessary pressure, it will remind you to compassionate towards yourself, too.

It’s also a gateway to appreciating the days as they come– and to going into the new year stronger than ever.

Here’s How to Survive a Holiday Breakup– and Thrive Instead

By | Food for thought, heartbreak, how-to guide, relationships, uplifting

It’s common knowledge that the holiday breakups are the most popular kind.

Known as the “turkey drop,” mid November to mid December tends to be when many couples decide to split. The holidays put people in a good mood, sure. But these extra jollies can make shaky couples even shakier.

But why during the holidays?

Life coach and certified sex therapist Jacqueline Mendez told OkCupid that “many couples break up during the holidays because the cracks that already exist in the relationship are magnified. There is a huge push for love, glee, and happy feelings and when a couple does not have the bandwidth to support this, it breaks.”

As well, many people observe their significant other up-close-and personal with their families, which can offer unflattering insight into problematic relationship dynamics.

Add to this the fact that loads of family time often removes the ability for couples who rely on sex for their bond, to well, bond. It ain’t an easy time of year.

How I handled it

Personally, I’ve found it’s easier to break up when the sky is blue and everyone’s showing a little more skin. But hey—who among us has a choice in the matter?

Truth be told, I too have been through a holiday heartbreak. It was crushing, sure, but also turned out to be a time for deep reflection, self-insight, and growing as a person. And, okay, you got me—maybe even kissing someone new at a drunken Christmas party.

Let’s face it: these are all the ingredients we need for moving onto bigger and better loves!

If you’re going through a holiday breakup, I feel you. Whether you’re the breaker or the breakee, it can be devastating. If you need a little help getting through it, consider the following.

Here 6 tips for surviving with your heart intact

1. Accept your state of mind

Nobody said it was easy, and you don’t need to put on a brave face. The sooner you accept that, the less stressful it will be, and the quicker you’ll start to heal.

If you can be kind to yourself, everything else will fall into place.

This means: making an effort to interact with loved ones, but it does not mean forcing yourself into doing things that make you want to puke.

Feel free to respect where you’re at, and bow out of any activities that are giving you the heebie jeebies (couples’ massages as a family, anyone?)

2. Know you’re not alone

During the holiday season, it can seem like everyone and their cocker spaniel has a fiancée or is swapping tongue under the mistletoe or by the menorah.

But in reality, close to half of all adults are single, and that includes just over half of those between 18-34.

So, remember: you’re really, truly not alone!

3. Don’t delay damage control

Depending on the exact timing of your breakup, you may want (need) to take care of certain logistical matters.

For instance, save yourself the trouble of having the same breakup explanation conversation 2000 times at your family’s holiday party by having a friend or parent spread the news on your behalf.

And, unnatural as it may seem, if you have to return your ex’s gifts, or cancel flights or reservations, get it over with immediately to avoid dragging out depressive feelings.

4. Be social (or at least stay active)

If you had a bunch of social plans with your ex, don’t replace them all with melancholic solo time.

Though, of course, some nurturing solo time is a-okay.

Make plans for coffee/dinner/drinks with good friends, join a yoga class, take up running, or simply make a point of doing things that make you feel good, like seeing a play, going to the movies, or taking long walks. 

5. Do things for others

A holiday breakup may just be one of the best times to focus your energies on others rather than yourself.

Volunteering at a charity or shelter can be an amazing way to give back.

Not only will you be helping others, but you’ll meet new people, and hey, your heart may even feel a bit more whole.

6. Stay off social media 

If you’re away from your support network over the holidays: get off– and stay off– social media!

“If someone is struggling through a breakup and fixated on their ex, staying actively engaged in the relationship through social media will make it harder to move forward and the recovery will take longer,” clinical psychologist Dr. Cortney Warren tells Bustle.

Go one step further and block or unfollow anyone who’s going to make you feel bad.

The bottom line is this:

Breakups are never easy, but they can be especially brutal during the holidays. Try treating yourself the way you’d treat a close friend going through something similar.

And ultimately, never fear, ‘cause a fresh new year is almost here– and with it comes new possibilities and even new love.

More proof you can get through your breakup:

The 6 Stages of Change To Create the Life You Want

By | challenging, Food for thought, how-to guide, self, self-development

Resilience is forged in the fire of determination. It’s the courage to take action when facing fear and resistance. Although sometimes we’d like it to be easy, all meaningful change ignites fear and resistance to some degree. Self-actualization — the manifestation of our full potential — is a long, painful process for this very reason.

A potential pitfall I’ve noticed with spiritual practice, is that it can become excessively inward focused.

Picture the monk in a cave in the Himalayas, with no external distractions and days filled with hours and hours of meditation

Meditation increases self-awareness and awareness is a catalyst to meaningful change. But unless you pair awareness with action, you’ll freeze at this step.

Changing your behavior is a courageous leap, particularly when you realize that your life are out of alignment. Building an authentic life is an immense challenge; and it’s the path few take.

But it’s essential for living a fulfilling life.

Are you ready to change?

Face your fear to create the life you want

Meaningful change is intimidating. What happens when we realize jobs, relationships, or life situations aren’t what we want in our heart of hearts?

Such realizations can trigger all kinds of fear-based responses in the ego. We fear rejection, loss, or failure.

But it’s crucial to mix spiritual intelligence with getting stuff done, right? We aren’t here to play small, but to live fully and authentically. This takes an immense amount of courage and effort. And in my experience, it requires a smart, structured approach.

This is where behavioral psychology comes in. I find immense value in Prochaska and DiClemente’s model of behavioural change, The Stages of Change Model (also known as the Transtheoretical Model). The model was developed in the 1970s by examining people who successfully quit smoking.

Typically, change is seen as all-or-nothing

The Stages of Change model provides a different approach. Progress in this framework is cyclical. Moving up and down stages is common. By understanding this model, you’re more likely to stick to new habits, and avoid self-sabotage or perfectionism.

Prochaska and DiClemente formed this based on healthy habits, but it’s just as applicable to our dreams and deepest desires, including self-actualization. I recommend using this model as a journaling tool (or discussing it with a coach) for various areas of change.

Let’s look at each stage in detail:

1. Precontemplation

Precontemplation is the point before you even entertain change as a possibility.

There’s zero awareness around the need to change; perhaps due to denial or ignorance.

At this stage, you have no thought of changing, even if others see the need for change.

Without awareness, you may underestimate how problematic a certain behavior (or lack of behavior) is, while emphasizing the drawbacks of making change. Applied to self-actualization, pre-contemplation is intertwined with shadow work.

Ignoring or denying the shadow self, anger, or jealousy makes contemplation impossible.

2. Contemplation

Contemplation is the moment of awareness; the lifting of the veil.

The contemplation stage is introspective. Meditation and mindfulness expedite the shift from precontemplation to contemplation.

This stage is balanced: you equally assess the pros and cons of making change.

When contemplating behavioural change at this stage, you may feel hesitation and doubt. A common example is setting boundaries; a fundamental practice in living authentically.

Communication is key, yet the build-up to such conversations can take a while. There can be lots of contemplation before finding the courage to set boundaries — particularly with those you love.

3. Preparation

The preparation stage is the beginning of exploration.

Using boundary-setting as an example, you may reflect on what your needs are, what needs have to be communicated, and what you’ll say to communicate them. You may buy books on communication rely on your support system for guidance.

We’ll refer to this as the information-gathering stage, or the “Google it” stage.

By this stage, there’s a clear determination to take action in the near future.

A common example with physical health would be researching gym plans, looking up exercise routines, or prepping the cupboards to start eating healthier.

Man cleaning face

4. Action

This is the “Just Do It” moment of change.

It’s crucal that your actions are congruent with your values and authentic desires. I say this because, many times in my life, I’ve pursued goals or taken action due to ego-driven desires.

A common misperception is to view this as the final stage of change.

Believing the moment of action is “final” leads to setbacks and complacency. Your action has to be repeated.

5. Maintenance

Sticking to the new action and developing consistency is the true test.

Remember: the Stage of Change is a spiral model. What this means is, you’re expected to oscillate between stages, rather than consistently progress.

Keep in mind there’s a significant difference between a lapse and total relapse.

And, remember: in all big changes, there will be lapses. Lapses are guaranteed! You may reach the action stage, face setbacks, and return to contemplation. Be kind when this happens.

Most people slip up at this point because they see progress as linear, and change as a success or failure.

Rather than seeing setbacks as failure, it’s much easier to recognize the setback as a lapse, and take action to correct the behavior as soon as you can.

If you find yourself spiralling to an earlier stage, it’s a good time to reassess your goals.

Were they aligned with your deepest wants and needs, or from a place of ego? What can you do better? Do you need more tools or support systems in place? Reflect without judgement.

To remain vigilant, self-monitoring is needed. Applied to a diet, this could be counting calories or checking weight loss. Spiritual growth isn’t as easy to define; but it could involve commitment to a meditation practice, journaling to see progress, or remaining self-aware to ego-triggers and behavioral patterns.

6. Termination

At this stage your new behavior is ingrained and habitual. However, it’s important to note this stage is often not included in health promotion programs because it’s incredibly rare.

It’s likely most of us will be at a stage of consistent maintenance

This is apt for the process of self-actualization. Ego-driven desires and impulses may remain, to some degree, throughout our lives. We just become much better at handling them and choosing to live from a place of heart instead.

I almost decided not to include this stage purely because the ego can play tricks and decide you’ve reached termination stage as a way to breed carelessness. But with this new perspective on change, I hope you’re able to progress and avoid excessive self-criticism on the path to creating the life you want.

It isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

How I Conquered Social Anxiety by Assuming Positive Intent

By | emotional health, empowering, Food for thought, how-to guide, mindset, personal essay, self

Did you know: only 4 percent of the universe is visible? The other 96 percent is a mystery scientists call “dark matter” and “dark energy.” This is significant; humanity goes to great lengths to understand the nature of the physical universe, yet even with advanced technology, the majority remains unseen, unknown.

This obscure nature of the cosmos is a metaphor for our subjective universe. Most of us have an inherent desire to just know, to observe, to see what is there to see. But the vast majority of our lives are mysterious — as much as our egos would like to tell us they have all the answers. 

People are mysterious in their own way, too. We never know what other people really think. We never know why they do the things they do or why events unfold as they unfold.

And without active self-inquiry, we don’t even know ourselves as well as we might think.

The analytical mind’s ties to social anxiety

This is a potential problem. The analytical part of your psyche always seeks to know, to understand. If allowed to roam free, it will attempt to make meaning of empty space and fill gaps in knowledge with assumptions.

When applied to social anxiety, your overactive analytical mind will attempt to explain people’s behavior or “true” thoughts and feelings.

It’s a double-edged sword. Because life is 96 percent mystery, there’s a broad spectrum of assumption in our understanding of it.

Consequently, the standard of our tool for understanding — the mind — becomes essential to our quality of life.

Filling the gaps is irresistible for the ego, which always attempts to self-authenticate by exploring its environment to make sense of its identity.

This is a process which affects all of us to various degrees, but the task is to ensure the process is skillful, not unskillful.

How I eased my social anxiety

When I suffered from social anxiety, my mind assumed the worst. This affected my thoughts in any given moment.

They don’t like me, I’ve upset this person, that person is judging me.

I was also plagued by ruminations after social interactions.

I made a fool of myself

Most debilitating was the latter, ruminations triggered by assumptions. A short-circuit in my analytic brain attempted to find meaning based on little evidence. This fuelled my anxiety and made it worse. In turn, I then felt more anxious about future social events!

It’s not an exaggeration to say at times, my life was unbearable due to the assumptions I was making.

The mantra that changed my life

During therapy around that time, I came across a short-but-sweet, life-enhancing motto:

Always Assume Positive Intent

I discussed this with my therapist and we both agreed how beneficial this approach was.

The key to Always Assuming Positive Intent is to understand that, with so much unknown, there’s a huge, blank canvas to project assumptions.

And, with a little imagination we can drastically alter those assumptions, and get them working in our favor.

Don’t ignore the 4 percent

The key with this technique isn’t to delude ourselves or absolve responsibility from hard truths. When the observable 4 percent of the universe presents itself, we have to see it as it is.

That’s not to say we practice believing in these assumptions. It’s crucial to maintain a mindful approach, and acknowledge that assumptions are just thoughts, and not truth.

However, this mantra’s greatest utility is alleviating tension when the mind wonders and worries.

Always Assuming Positive Intent is a doorway to compassion

Compassion is a catalyst to seeking to understand from a place of love, not judging from a place of fear.

Always Assuming Positive Intent is a cognitive tool to counteract the moments when we assume the worst. It has its roots in Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which challenges unhelpful thoughts, and rationalizes them.

This approach is best complemented with acceptance of the unknown. It’s to be held lightly; mini-narratives created consciously and loosely, a buffer to fill space skilfully, a moulding of clay.

How to Always Assume Positive Intent

Practically there are two ways to apply Assuming Positive Intent.

The first is an internal application; to change the thoughts we have.

When noticing we are assuming the worst in any given situation, we can play with the assumption and ask ourselves:

What would the best possible assumption be?

This can be as outrageous as we want it to be! After all, we’re moulding the conceptual clay, without mistaking it for truth.

That person who blanked you this morning? They caught your eye, thought you were attractive, and felt self-conscious.

Your partner’s angry at you for not replying? They’ve missed you lately and want to feel intimacy and connection.

A recent study by Queen’s University Belfast discovered that people with grandiose narcissistic traits are generally happier and less stressed. I can’t help but think this is because, with a heightened sense of self-importance, narcissistic people always assume positive intent in any given situation. After all, why wouldn’t they?

Inquiring to understand

The second application is in action.

As conscious beings, we have the gift of being able to inquire. Like the Hubble Telescope peering deep into space seeking to understand what’s out there, we can peer into the souls of others by seeking to understand what they think, feel, or believe.

It’s not easy, but it is a trait that greatly benefits all relationships.

If finding yourself in conflict, or even just questioning why someone is acting in a specific way, seek to understand by opening up a conversation from a place of sincerity. By assuming positive intent, you’re more likely to master emotions and remain balanced throughout the conversation.

Transforming your universe

What are the bigger benefits of Always Assuming Positive Intent? When it becomes second-nature, the benefit for our lives is significant.

Many of us are familiar with paranoia. But we’re less familiar with pronoia — the opposite perception; a feeling that the universe is conspiring to help you.

Assuming Positive Intent is a mini-step in the direction of pronoia, a technique to get the vast unknown working in your favor, to re-balance and re-align, to stare into space and see support in the sparkle of the stars.

This Dad’s Letter To His “Childless Self” is a Vital Lesson to All Parents

By | Food for thought, how-to guide, inspiring, news, parenting, relationships

Pregnancy is hard, as is being a new mother, and sometimes it feels to many young mothers like no one is really checking in with them and making sure they don’t feel they have to handle everything on their own.

Meghan Markle discussed this reality in a recent documentary and now, one dad has shared a letter to his “24-year-old childless self” in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.

Ted Gonder just saw the birth of his third child, and while on paternity leave, he took some time to think about what he learned over the time he’s been a husband, and a dad.

The wisdom he wanted to impart to his younger self, pre-kids, is a powerful lesson to new dads and future dads alike.

His lessons to his younger self:

View this post on Instagram

My wife @franzilovesmondays with a brilliant dose of perspective, truth, and gratitude. ⠀⠀ “Lets talk #paternityleave – I have never felt so emotionally safe and protected than during this postpartum journey. Why? Because @tedgonder had the chance to take a 4-week paternity leave from his #remote leadership position while kids were on summer break and new life moved into our house. Here is what this meant for us and got me thinking about: – he was able to take the boys on adventurous afternoons and get their energy out while I recovered and rested with little Atlas – we were able to sync as a family and feel connected from day one (and yes…that is important for dads too!!) – we share the love, the new emotional labor of caring for another child, and the commitment to making this family adventure a meaningful one (not exhausting one) for all of us – because I was living with and surrounded by my sister, our best friend and the kids’ god father and my husband plus my mum I never had the feeling that I have to toughen up and just do it on my own. Where are all the communities and mama supporters these days? How have we as mums gotten to the point where motherhood is a race to the top rather than a shared vision of raising a village of strong, fun, fulfilled, and connected kids? – have we ever thought about the correlation of postpartum #depression and loneliness? Becoming a mom…no matter whether its for the first, second, or fifth time is a hormonal and physical sensation that should be a) appreciated and b) enjoyed… With my husband at home I feel like I was 100% able to do so. – last but not least: those boys are also my husband’s kids. He loves them. He wants to be around them. He wants to make them feel like that we are a strong-rooted family… So why would he not benefit emotionally from this break of everyday work-AND family life and just be a #dad for a moment? ⠀⠀ As an entrepreneurial family, I am shouting this out to all other fellow entrepreneurs thinking about the #mentalhealth of their employees. Be at the forefront of making life possible for your teams- that is how potential and productivity get unleashed” #mytinytribe #baby #mom #digitalnomad

A post shared by Ted Gonder (@tedgonder) on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:37am PDT

Now a 29-year-old father of three, Ted reflected on everything he didn’t know before he became a dad.

To kick things off, Ted acknowledged all the work his wife Franziska went through in carrying their children to term.

Baby bonding

One big lesson he gleaned from that: “Wifey carried baby IN her belly for 9 months. So you carry baby ON your belly for 9 months every chance you get.

Not only does it help her recover but it bonds you to your kid more than imaginable

Diaper duty

Ted also took the time to acknowledge how physically draining breastfeeding is for a new mother, encouraging partners to take over as much diaper duty as possible.

“You will get over the grossness fast,” he counseled. “And you will prevent imbalances and resentment in the relationship.”

As an added bonus, if other new moms complain about how unsupportive their husbands are, “your wife will be bragging about you.”

Treat your partner

But Ted realizes it’s not just about helping to care for your baby. To support his wife more directly, Ted advises: “Make her the decaf coffee every morning. Even if she leaves it cold and forgets to drink it most mornings because she falls back asleep while you’re working or (later) taking the kids to school.

She was up all night feeding the baby so help start her day in a way that helps her reset.

Acknowledge her strength and beauty

Ted also noted that pregnancy, labor, and birth all take their toll on a new mom’s body, and that can seriously affect confidence.

“It’s important to “tell her she is beautiful and help her see that in the moments when she is feeling most self-critical and hopeless about her body,” Ted noted.

He suggested reminding her that she’s a “superhero” who “literally just moved all her organs around” to “give you a child that will be a gift to you for the rest of your life.”

Ted’s biggest takeaway

Having a baby does some major things to a woman’s hormones, so Ted advises himself to be patient and — above all — compassionate

“Remember your job is to be her rock through all of this, so toughen up and keep perspective when her tongue is sharper than you know her best self intends,” he wrote. “Normal will return soon and you want her to be grateful that you kept it together… not resentful and disappointed that you hijacked her emotions by making her problems yours.”

Gonder shared he wished he had been able to find some “good dad advice” along his own journey, so he’s providing that for other dads now.

Ted’s personal insight into what we would have done differently in the past 5 years is great, but what do childcare professionals think?

We turned to an expert to see how parents can build off of Ted’s letter to himself.

How to be a supportive partner

1. Do the heavy lifting

Ted was spot-on about helping lighten the figurative load for a new mom, but doing the literal heavy lifting is a big help as well.

“During pregnancy, her body including hormonal influxes can lead to back and pelvic pain. To help prevent your wife from developing aches and pains,  try to take over the heavy lifting like grocery bags, lifting other children, moving furniture, cleaning and or laundry,” said Marianne Ryan, a physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist with more than 30 years’ of experience treating prenatal and postpartum women.

2.  Give her massages

Acknowledging and celebrating what a new mother went through is just the first step. A more hands-on approach will help as well.

“Tell your younger self to offer your wife a massage when she is sore during and after pregnancy or take care of the baby while she goes for a massage or physical therapy sessions to relieve back pain,” said Ryan.

3. Food and diaper duty

Changing diapers isn’t the only part of carrying for your baby that you can take over, especially to help a new mother get some much-needed sleep.

“One thing you can do with a newborn is to have your wife go right to sleep after a 9-10p.m. feed and you take over caring for the baby in another room for the next few hours. When the baby wakes up around midnight, you feed and change the baby. Then when the baby wakes up 2 to 3 hours later your wife can resume feeding the baby. That way she will be able to get 4 to 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep,” said Ryan.

4. As much emotional support as possible

“Eating nutritious food on a regular schedule will help her feel more grounded and less cranky. If she is busy nursing the baby, you can make her a sandwich to eat while breastfeeding to help keep her blood sugar levels from plummeting. If you don’t know how to cook, try to buy some prepared foods that she likes and have it ready for her to eat,” said Ryan.

You can keep some healthy snacks ready in the refrigerator like cut up pieces of cheese and fruits. 

5. Make sure to feed a new mom

As Ted mentioned, new mothers are recovering physically and totally sleep deprived. Along with compliments and thanks, compassion and understanding are the ultimate aid.

“Understand that she may be short tempered and cranky. If you respond even-tempered and ask her how she thinks you can help her she will find that very helpful. Don’t try to guess what she needs you to do. Keep a clear line of communication open,” said Ryan.

When Mindfulness Backfires: The Ego-Trap of Inauthenticity

By | challenging, Food for thought, how-to guide, mindset, personal essay, self, Spiritual Health

Mindfulness is authenticity. Through a balanced approach to inner experience and the outer world, we learn to express ourselves genuinely. We uncover deeper truths of who we are, we learn to accept the authenticity of our thoughts and emotions.

But on the spiritual path, ego-traps are never far away. And even a practice with authenticity at its core can result in inauthenticity.


The trap of intellectualization

Meditation has changed my life. The ability to create distance from my thoughts and emotions has enhanced my relationship with myself, with others, and with the wider world. Yet there have been moments where I intellectualize meditation. 

Previously, I’ve written about my surprise at taking a break from meditation. The space from the practice highlighted that I’d developed a belief that meditation would lead to a certain outcome.

Meditation can lead to authenticity, but when intellectualizing the process, there’s a risk of spiritual bypassing — a term describing the tendency to use spiritual ideas or practices to avoid unresolved issues.

It’s escapism masked as spirituality

In my early days, I’d intellectualized the idea that someone who meditates is always calm, present, focused, at ease. This became an issue for me.

I was playing the role of the meditator

Admittedly, meditation did make me calmer, more present, more at ease. However, the issue arose in the moments when I didn’t feel these qualities.

At times, I felt anxious, erratic or groggy, or was generally experiencing “negative” emotions. These are all parts of the human experience, of course.

Yet rather than experience these feelings — remember mindfulness is experiential– I ignored them, and simply acted as if I were calm. I played the role of “the meditator.”

The effects of this weren’t particularly catastrophic, but the irony was, in attempting to act mindful, I was sabotaging my mindful practice.

In these moments, I wasn’t allowing myself to experience my authentic being.

Acting mindful vs. Being mindful

Mindfulness is meant to embody authenticity, but when your ego takes over, you can fall into inauthenticity instead. Here's how to stay on the right path.

What, then, is the difference between acting mindful and being mindful?

To explore this further, it’s important to understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

When acting mindful, we allow the belief to lead:

I should be mindful, that means I should be calm, cool, collected, at ease.

Actually being mindful means applying mindful non-judgement to our current experience. We observe beliefs, sensations and feelings, and accept their presence. Our actions, then, aren’t being led unconsciously by our beliefs.

However, being mindful still allows us to act against impulses or emotional states. And our ccceptance creates space to remain calm when faced we are faced with difficult emotions.

A case study of anxiety

To provide a solid example, let’s say I am experiencing anxiety.

In the first scenario of simply acting mindful, I would resist or suppress the anxiety, and tell myself “I shouldn’t be this way.” I’d attempt to act “calm” or “cool” despite my true feels — This stifles authenticity.

When anxiety arises while we actually being mindful, we acknowledge its presence and accept it as best we can. We move freely and express as authentically as possible, even if this expression is acting in a way which feels anxious.

The motivation for the behavior in both instances is different. In the first example, we behave in a way we believe we should behave. In the second, we accept our experience and behave authentically, while trying our best not to react or become consumed by thought or emotion.

It’s not glamorous

The more we develop expectations about meditation or spiritual practice, the greater the risk of falling into ego-traps, or spiritual bypassing.

One common mistaken belief is that spiritual growth is all lightness, love, joy, and compassion

These traits are cultivated through practice, but true growth requires facing trauma, and being able to accept so-called negative emotions.

As Toko-pa Turner writes in Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home:

“True healing is an unglamorous process of living into the long lengths of pain. Forging forward in the darkness. Holding the tension between hoping to get well and the acceptance of what is happening. 

“Tendering a devotion to the impossible task of recovery, while being willing to live with the permanence of a wound; befriending it with an earnest tenacity to meet it where it lives without pushing our agenda upon it. 

“But here’s the paradox: you must accept what is happening while also keeping the heart pulsing towards your becoming, however slow and whispering it may be.”

These words are a reminder that authentic expression involves finding the balance between accepting what is, and keeping your heart pulsing towards becoming.

How to stick to the path of authenticity

Any time we find ourselves resisting elements of our experience — such as anxiety or sadness — or craving elements of experience — such as happiness or joy — we veer off the path of authenticity, towards an idea of how to be.

In these moments, it’s vital we reconnect with ourselves. Exercise forgiveness. Express self-compassion. And then we return to the moment, one breath at a time, re-establishing our desire to move towards authenticity, not to act, but to be.

It’s Time to Throw Yourself a Debt Funeral — Here’s How

By | Finance, Food for thought, how-to guide, motivating, news, success, success stories

Debt can feel like a crippling part of the lives of many. It may seem like you’ll never be out of the red. And when that triumphant moment occurs when you see the other side of your debt, you are likely to want to celebrate.

Mandy Velez, a New York City-based journalist from the Daily Beast, recently did just that in the most creative of ways: She celebrated the “death” of her student loans by holding a funeral.

When Velez was able to pay off her $102,000 balance of student debt in approximately six years, she knew she had a tremendous reason to celebrate.

She dressed up in her funereal best and had a playful, celebratory photoshoot in a local cemetery to commemorate her achievement.

Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me.

“I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight,” Mandy wrote on Instagram.

What Mandy did right

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DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD💀 It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after 6 years, I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight. Let me tell you about my journey: It began in 2013, when I graduated with a total of 75K in student loans. I moved to New York, but I made sure to pay more than the minimums, which totaled to $1K a month. It was like another rent. I took jobs not based on what I really wanted but what could help me survive. I did this for five years straight. Even after a lay-off during this journey I hustled like hell and never missed a payment. It was more than most people can do, and I, a single, childless, able-bodied woman consider myself lucky. But still, I carried this burden alone. I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills. Then last fall, something in me broke. Maybe it was feeling like my life was on hold, but I just remember thinking I was DONE. I didn’t want to owe anyone anything more. I wanted to start saving for my future. A house. Kids. A life. So I made a decision—I’d become debt-free by 30. I’m proud to say I accomplished my goal 2 years early. In fact, I killed that last 32K in EIGHT months. I cut my budget and lived off of less than a third of my monthly salary. (Turns out, packing lunches and not taking Ubers can save you a ton.) I worked my ass off at work and asked for raises, and got them. I worked three jobs at once, my day job and then side hustles. I walked dogs until my feet literally bled. In the cold. In the rain. In the heat. Nothing was beneath me. I babysat. I cat sat. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. I cut my food budget down to merely salad, eggs, chicken and rice. I said “no”—my God I said no—to making memories with my family and friends and prayed there would be other opportunities in the future. Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me. 1/3 📸@120ish ___ #studentloans #loans #studentdebt #studentdebtcrisis #freecollege #studentloanforgiveness #debtfreejourney #babysteps

A post shared by Mandy Velez (@mandyvel) on Oct 9, 2019 at 8:26am PDT

Mandy’s story is one that is familiar to so many of us. When she graduated from college in in 2013, she did so burdened by about $75,000 in student loans. For a long while, she was paying them off at the most she could afford – about $1,000 per month.

However, Mandy was determined to be debt-free by the time she turned 30, and so, as the years passed, she started to take more drastic and extreme methods.

To do this, she cut her budget in a big way and lived off of less than a third of her monthly salary. 

Many quickly discovered many little ways to save a lot of money. She started to packing her own lunches (buying lunch out every day adds up fast!), quit using taxis or Ubers, and traded in brunch dates for walks in the park.

She also supplemented her demanding full-time job by taking on odd jobs, like dog-walking, babysitting, and getting work as an extra on TV shows for extra cash.

By doing this, she managed to eliminate $32,000 of her debt in just eight months

“I celebrate my freedom but I don’t feel we student borrowers deserve the hardship that comes with these loans: high interest rates, sketchy providers, yearly tuition hikes, the list goes on,” she wrote.

But it’s not for everyone

Mandy did a fantastic job eliminating her student loans. Her hard work and determination immensely paid off, but there’s something else to consider.

“I love how Mandy hustled to decrease her debt,” said Jen Narciso, founder of Investor Mama. “She is clearly a baller who knows how to get things done!”

Not everyone looking to eliminate their debt is in the same flexible place in their lives as Mandy. More urgent expenses caused by dependents such as children make it much harder to save.

“I really appreciated that she said, ‘not everyone could do what she did and that the game is rigged.’” said Narcisco. “I 100% agree with that and that’s why I think it’s so important for readers to be educated,” said Narcisco.

How to reduce your debt differently

Although Mandy did a remarkable job and accomplished quite the feat by eliminating her debt, she clearly acknowledges that this may not be an approach for everyone. 

However, here are a few suggestions that others may want to consider in their approach to debt repayment.

The best way to pay off loans is to increase revenue or decrease expenses.

“The three largest expenses that a person typically has are 1. housing, 2. car and 3. groceries. If you can reduce these three items, you can use the difference to pay-down debt so much faster,” said Narciso. 

To reduce housing costs, you can also “house hack.”

“It’s an awesome strategy where you buy a single family and rent out rooms or a multi-family,” said Narciso. “Live in one unit and rent out the rest. Tenants pay off your mortgage letting you live rent free.”

This allows you to multiply your savings rate by eliminating majority of your housing expenses and putting it towards your debt.

“My husband and I did this with a child by purchasing a two family, allowing us to live in a high end neighborhood with great schools and paying a fraction of the cost to own m or rent,” said Narciso.

Mandy also did a great job with reducing her food bills.

“If you have a family and can’t reduce your grocery bill as much as she did, you can still meal prep for the week and buy in bulk. Spending a few minutes at the beginning of the week planning, can help you save hundreds of dollars a month,” said Narciso. 

There’s a lot we can learn from Mandy:

Establish a household budget

Mandy established how she could reduce her monthly spending by reducing food consumption, uber use, and entertainment. 

“By committing to reducing her spending, she had more disposable income to use to pay off her debt obligations,” said Robert Gauvreau, an award winning CPA and founding partner of Gauvreau & Associates CPA who specializes in helping entrepreneurs grow, scale, and turn a profit.

“One of the best ways to eliminate debt is to live within your means and use any increases in compensation, not to increase your spending and lifestyle, but rather to utilize these amounts to repay debt at a more rapid pace,” said Gauvreau.

The “hustle”

So many people continue to work within their 9 to 5 and use the rest of the time to rest, refresh, and live. If eliminating your debt is a priority, there’s another way to think about your time.

“One way to find a quicker approach to eliminating debt would be to find a passion and/or side hustle, that can generate some extra income which can be used to eliminate debt obligations,” said Gauvreau. 

Even better, as you enter into a side passion project, you may find a real opportunity to focus on your passion and earn income while pursuing it.

The debt-snowball method

This is a debt-reduction strategy that focuses on paying off accounts, starting with the smallest balances first.

“When the smallest debt is paid in full, you roll the money you were paying on that debt into the next smallest balance, while repaying the minimum payments on larger debts.  This is certainly an approach that focuses on small wins and creates momentum towards the debt elimination. It has proven to be an effective approach to debt elimination,” said Gauvreau.

Debt consolidation

“One of the major reasons so many people get themselves in a position where they feel ‘stuck’ in their position, not able to eliminate debt in their lives, is due to high interest loans which require significant interest payments, and once these are taken care of, there is nothing remaining to start paying it down. Typical debts of this nature include credit cards (usually in the 19% to 21% range) and other high interest loans.  It would be beneficial to review these high interest debts with a traditional lender to see if they would be willing to transfer these high interest loans into a more traditional, low interest loan, that will have a fixed term of repayment (and an option to add ‘extra payments’ over the term),” said Gauvreau.

Pay high interest debt first

“Although the snowball method is an effective approach to debt repayment, if you would extrapolate the payment of small loans off first, rather than focusing on paying off high interest loans first, the system is slightly flawed. Any opportunity to eliminate high interest loans off your debt portfolio will have a significant impact on your ability to accelerate debt repayment,” said Gauvreau.

Accelerate payments

Some people may not be as willing to eliminate all aspects of social life as Mandy was, and that’s okay too. 

But if you’re truly focused on speeding up your debt payments, “you will need to commit to a budget, and find extra money, on a weekly basis, to make additional payments towards principle repayments,” said Gauvreau.

Have you ever looked at a mortgage or car loan and had the loan provider demonstrate the difference between $1,000 monthly vs. $250 weekly payments?  If you did, you would know that the individual who pays the weekly amounts will pay off their debt much faster and will eliminate their debt years earlier.  

At the end of the day, Mandy’s success is inspirational. We can learn not just from her strategies for debt repayment, but also from the unique and ecstatic way that she chose to celebrate her impressive achievement. Your success deserves to be celebrated — even if it’s a with a funeral.