What New Year’s Resolution Would You Set for Your Significant Other?

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”  — Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I don’t often set New Year’s resolutions, but like many folks, I spend time around the holidays contemplating my previous year and what I hope the next will hold. This morning, I found myself contemplating other people’s goals—more specifically, resolutions I wish they would set.

I wish my friend Tracy would resolve to stop bashing her body shape and size and recognize the beauty she truly is. I wish the guy at my local gas station would stop uttering racist remarks. I wish every woman in the world would embrace her sexuality. I wish meat eaters would reduce their intake so that all cows could be raised free-roaming and grass-eating. I wish  Oprah would aspire to produce a Girl Boner TV show.

I wish, I wish, I wish…

Dreams come true… Is there an app for that?

Dreams, come true… There must be an app for that! #FairySelfie

Midway through my wish-fest daydream, my husband entered the room. We had the following conversation:

Me: What resolution do you wish I’d set this year?

Husband: To treat me as your lord and master. *snickers*

Me: Um… Take two.

Husband: Okay. How about to clean the counter? I just put my iPad down in a puddle of water.

Me: That puddle is there because I cleaned the counter! *smiles, batting eyes* Try again.

Husband: Okay, here’s a real one. Take a break from work every hour–ten minutes to walk away and rest your eyes.

Me: What if I’m in the middle of writing something really awesome???

Husband: Then finish and take a break when you’re done.

Don’t you just hate it when someone else is right? ;) What my ever sharp and witty husband was getting at was the importance of self-care and rest. The latter, he well knows, isn’t my strong suit. I probably won’t be pausing hourly, but I plan to prioritize rest and play.

It isn’t easy to slow down or hit the pause button when our plates are full, particularly when we’re passionate about the contents. But as I continually learn, doing so strengthens us, our work and our lives in multiple important ways. The more we nurture ourselves, the more likely we are to bring our own aspirations into fruition. Besides, imagine all the fun and restful ways we can avoid doing housework!

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 Your turn! What resolution would you set for a loved one? What are you striving toward?  

Wishing you a beautiful kickoff to 2014. 

Move Over Weight Loss! 8 Wellness Resolutions Worth Setting

“It is only possible to live happily everafter on a day to day basis.” – Margaret Bonnano

About 45 percent of Americans typically set New Year’s resolutions, according to University of Scranton research conducted in 2012, and weight loss tops the charts in popularity.

Not exactly the most joyful outlook of the new year...

Not exactly the most joyful outlook of the new year…

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather focus on gaining something wondrous than losing something I loathe. Luckily, positivity isn’t only enjoyable, but makes obtaining our goals easier. Here’s a prime example: Saying we want to lose weight immediately places focus on what we find detrimental, working like a mega-volt highlighter on those added pounds. We walk around hyperaware of our “flaw,” a state that can trigger food cravings, stress, depression and even weight gain. This is only one reason weight loss efforts tend not to work for long or at all.

The solution isn’t giving up on weight-related issues, in my opinion, but meeting them in alternate ways. More often than not, lifestyle problems are rooted much deeper than how many servings of ice cream we eat or workouts we skip. It only makes sense that we dig deeper when setting our sights on change.

Rather than aiming to diet, struggling through workouts you hate or fill-in-the-self-tortorous-blank, why not prioritize self-care? Taking care of ourselves makes way for goodness of all kinds. Doing so is also fun, healthier and safer than typical wellness-related resolutions and the closest thing I know of to a superpower. When we embrace it…MAGIC!

wondrous quote self care

That’s more like it!

Whether you plan to set New Year’s resolutions by January or simply strive to better yourself in general, I hope you’ll consider taking a positive stance. All of the following goals can help pave the way for enhanced weight control, wellness and, most importantly, overall happiness.

8 Wellness Resolutions Worth Setting

1. Look in the mirror and express self-love daily. “I love you.” “You’re beautiful.” Say them out loud! Look into your own eyes and mean it. Stare until you see something embraceable. It may sound silly, but I’m telling you, it works. Choose an affirmation that suits your area of challenge, or change it up with new affirmations every week. For a list of ideas, pop by the Huffington Post: Body Image Affirmations: 10 Mantras to Help Stressing Over Your Appearance.

2. Eat more nutritious, whole foods. Focus on more (of you, of wellness, of healthy fare…), not less (of you, of “bad” foods…). Seek tasty ways to savor healthy dishes. Restrictive diets don’t work, but nourishing your body and soul so do! The more you enjoy them, the more you’ll crave the same. If you work best with guidelines, dodge diets and consider these Intuitive Eating principles instead.

3. Engage in physical activities you enjoy. Take a dance class. Hike with friends. Walk your dog. While hitting the gym isn’t a bad thing, particularly if you enjoy it, we’re more likely to stick to and have success with activities we delight in. (Makes sense, right?) The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that most adults aim for 2.5 hours of moderately-intense activity per week. Aim to spend that time not in misery.

4. Prioritize sex! Speaking of enjoyable exercise… ;) Routine sex promotes everything from strong immune function and libido to improved energy levels and a longer life. (Sign. Me. Up!) Prioritize physical intimacy with a partner and engage in solo sex. Seek ways to enhance all of your sensual experiences. Remind yourself that doing so isn’t selfish, but respectful and healthy. To learn more about the benefits, check out Girl Boner Perks for Jollier Holidays.

5. Keep a gratitude or dream-seeking journal. As many of you know, I mentor and provide nutritional counseling for people suffering from eating disorders. A technique that works well for them—shifting their focus from body and food fixation to emotional fulfillment—works brilliantly for weight control and overall wellness. If you find yourself stressed about food or shunning your physicality, don’t aim to shrink your body; expand your dreams and your willingness to pursue them. Journaling grateful thoughts is a proven way to boost inner and outer wellness.

6. Allow yourself some wiggle room! I wrote an article last year about research headed by Katrina Leupp, a doctoral student of sociology at the University of Washington, on the tendency for “Super Moms” to get the blues. The study showed that women who cut themselves some slack—ask for help as needed and learn to “let things slide,” have lower instances of depression. The same holds true for our lifestyle habits. If we aim too high, we’re likely to fall flat. In whatever area you tend to be hardest on yourself, commit to easing up.

7. Say ‘no’ when it means saying ‘yes’ to your wellbeing. It’s been called the “disease to please,” the common tendency to feel so compelled to please others, that we get lost in the shuffle, overextending and often compromising ourselves on others’ behalf. Committing to saying ‘no’ when saying ‘yes’ would stand in the way of your physical or emotional wellbeing is a primo goal worth setting. As etiquette specialists Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh smartly said, “A gift isn’t a gift if it’s an obligation.”

8. Practice mindfulness. With few exceptions, this one does not come naturally to me—but lordy, is it important! Learning to eat mindfully instead of diet can turn something stressful or blasé into a gratitude-filled, fortifying experience. Staying present while we’re driving can literally save lives.  Too many times over the past year, I’ve caught myself physically in one place and mentally in another. While I’ll always embrace daydreaming (it’s arguably a writer’s job, right?? ;)), I’m committing myself to being more present in my daily life.

What goals or resolutions are you working toward? What are your favorite ways to stay physically and emotionally fit? Any questions or items to add to my list? I love hearing from you—so much so, I’ll even don my nutritionist’s cap if you have dietary questions. :)

Wishing you wondrous holidays! ♥

#GirlBoner Resolutions: 25 Sex Goals Worth Setting

Whether we love, loathe or trudge through them, the holidays are a prime time for reflection. One year comes to a close, opening a brand new one. What appears beyond that door relies largely on our choices. While I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions, I embrace any opportunity to examine the then and now with striver’s eyes.

What can we do to live better? Bolder? Happier? What are we willing to face, change, sacrifice or embrace? These questions paired with action can make the hum drum extraordinary, the pretty-darn-good freaking awesome and, if the masses partake, the whole world a better place. What does this have to do with Girl Boner?

Everything.

Sex is so much more than intercourse or procreation. Here at Girl Boner Central, we believe that sexuality is as prevalent in the air we breathe and the music in our hearts as it is in our doings (or not doings) between the sheets. When we deny sexual aspects of ourselves, which too many women sadly do, we’ve little hope of living or loving to the fullest.

As we head into 2013, I hope you’ll consider the sexual goddess you are.

Whatever makes you feel sexy, I hope you'll wear it.

Goddesses come in all shapes and styles.

Girl Boner Goals Worth Setting

While different GB strokes work for different folks (I ♥ puns!), the following resolutions can help increase Girl Boner gusto, sexual pleasure and overall wellness. If a better sex life makes your wish list, you may want to…

1. …talk about sex! More often, openly or honestly with your partner or trusted friends.

2. …masturbate—at all or more often.

3. …experiment with sex toys or other forms of sexual play.

4. …learn to embrace your body as is.

5. …strive for more orgasms, or any.

6. …seek your G-spot! You’ll know what to do next. ;)

7. …explore erotica.

8. …stop telling yourself you’re too ________ (old, fat, boring, ugly…).

9. …look at your vagina with a hand held mirror. Study and explore its beauty.

10. …take an inventory of your sex life. (We can’t hope to improve that which we don’t acknowledge.)

11. …fantasize, boldly. Put safe ones into play.

12. …stop dieting.

13. …prioritize your sexual wellness. Make that overdue gyno appointment.

14. …read sexually empowering books and magazines.

15. …say ‘yes’ more often to your partner, if you tend to decline.

16. …prioritize sleep.

17. …exercise routinely, and work those sex muscles!

18. …pamper yourself for less sex-preventing stress.

19. …sensualize your bedroom.

20. …let yourself think like a stereotypical man now and then. Fantasize. Undress attractive others with your eyes. Give yourself permission to want. (I stole this one from Oprah Magazine.)

21. …have sensual photos taken.

22. …vajazzle! (Huh, you say? Read this post by Natalie Hartford.) You could also try a bikini wax or other grooming techniques.

23. …stop faking orgasms.

24. …empower yourself by seeking support from a qualified expert, such as a sex therapist.

25. …pursue your passions in life.

One of my goals is to make Girl Boner-land as aroused, empowering and engaging as possible. Toward that end, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We’ll delve further into the above listed items down the road. In the meantime, any thoughts or questions about them? Which strike a chord with you? What else would you like to find in Girl Boner-land?

LSR #7: Pursuing Passion

pas·sion/ˈpaSHən/ Strong and barely controllable emotion. N.

—Dictionary.com

Before I transitioned from acting/modeling/writing to writing full-time, I felt like I was in a polygamist marriage of four in a house made for two. Once I filed for “divorce” (ex-nayed the first two), I hit what some might call…popularity. I called it turbulence.

The acting career I’d been neglecting, after months of angst over lost passion, ignited. I was in higher demand than I’d been in ages. What, were the thousands of other actress on strike??? I tried to ignore agents’ calls, but they kept coming. And the more I ignored, the more prevalent they became.

One day my theatrical rep called with a “huge” opportunity. “I know you’re thinking of ending your contract,” he said, “but you’re a shoe-in for this. They asked for you specifically. Please, tell me you can make it… For me?”

Ugh! Wah! I don’t wanna!  “Sure, if it’s that important to you,” I said, shunning myself for caving in. I felt like a hypocritical brat.

Shortly thereafter, my commercial agent called:  “Hey, remember that yoga casting last month?” (Uh, the one I hoped I wouldn’t get?) “The client wants to check your availability for tomorrow.”

And so I surrendered to one more day of pounding the Hollywood pavement—a fit model job followed by a director’s meeting for a primetime show. I could put the modeling cash toward writing expenses, I rationalized. They said it shouldn’t take more than an hour. Maybe I’d write about an actress one day. Chalk the audition up to research. I even went so far as to meet with my acting coach to prepare.

The “short” modeling job went loong, landing me with a hefty parking ticket and audition tardiness. The time and money I’d spent preparing the three-page monologue in part-woman/part-alient dialect went down the tubes when a “star name” arrived at the studio. The casting director shrieked, hugged her and brought her in ahead of me. When I had my chance an hour later, I was ready to put all of my frustration into that monologue. (Take that!)

“Just give me the last two lines, Amber,” the CD instructed, barely looking up.

“It’s August,” I said.

“Huh?” she replied. “Oh, right. Go ahead, Autumn.”

Grrr…I considered improvising—something like: $%*($#(%*&*&(#*$&%($#*%&!!!! Instead, I recited the lines like a learning-to-read robot in need of a battery recharge and walked out, more certain than ever that my heart belonged with the page.

The whole ordeal felt a test from the universe, God, Buddha and Mother Earth combined, assessing whether I was really up for the career change.

So when my agent phoned with a call-back request—the CD must’ve been smoking crack—I declined. I felt terrible saying “no.” I respect and like the guy and he’d put energy and work into my career and this audition. But if I didn’t learn from my earlier choices, I’d learn soon. And my gut told me that the repercussions of repeat choices would be harsher.

The next day, when I could have been alien-ing it out at the call-back, I finished the first draft of my first novel. Tears filled my eyes as I typed the last word, confidant I’d made the right decision.

All goals and dreams require some amount of sacrifice. Prioritizing our passion can feel selfish, but it’s the farthest thing from it.

How would you feel if your favorite author never scripted her series because she chose to pursue a job she hated and spent all of her free time cleaning, partying or running errands for friends? What if Mozart, the Beatles or Elvis chose accounting careers because the arts seemed foolish?

We have a responsibility to nurture and prioritize our passions, particularly if we desire successful careers. 

Like the other Lifesaving Resolutions, pursuing our passions can help save or elongate our lives. Numerous studies have linked happiness and job satisfaction with boosted physical and emotional health. Researchers at the University College London found that happy people are 35 percent less likely to die within the next five years compared to their less giddy counterparts. Happy people are also more likely to eat well, keep up with physical and dental exams, practice gratitude and exercise.

“Generally, people flourish when they’re doing something they like and what they’re good at,” said Daniel H. Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” in an interview with the New York Times. Put another way, following our hearts and working our butts off lends itself to financial and overall success.

I’ve found this to be true time and time again. Within weeks of cutting ties with the acting and fashion worlds I had new writing clients. Six months later, I met my soon-to-be literary agent—during a time I would have been in Sweden, had I accepted a TV gig. And I’m far from a solitary case.

A few famous examples: Susie Orman started her career as a broke waitress. Walt Disney was an ambulance driver. Brad Pitt handed out flyers in a chicken suit. Robin Williams began as a street mime. And before her mystery writing success, Mary Higgins Clark was a single, full-time working mother of five. A common thread among these successful celebs is the desire, willingness and commitment to pursuing their passion.

Whether you’re passionate about writing, painting, dancing, singing, ping pong or marketing, I believe the following steps can help fuel your passion, increasing your odds of health, happiness and success.

Eight Ways to Pursue Your Passion with Gusto

1. Talk about it. Having a passion means we’re crazy-hyped up about something. Sharing it with others amplifies our excitement, motivating us to forge on. We gain and give ideas and plant our enthusiasm and commitment more firmly in our minds. And you never know where the conversation may lead. (Charlize Theron met her agent at a bank.)

2. Learn to say no. Before our passions become full-time careers, others may not take them seriously. But we should. When I write, I’m working. This means that, barring emergencies, I’m not available to tend to the neighbors’ cat (cute as she is), pick up the dry-cleaning (bare as the closet may be) or meet a friend on the opposite side of town for lunch (fun as it sounds).

3. Limit distraction. Phone calls, Facebook, Twitter and web surfing all have places in our lives and, in many ways, help our careers. But spending more time social networking and promoting and less time creating work we can promote is counterproductive. Commit to working in a work-friendly, distraction-free environment whenever possible.

4. Congregate with passionate people. Passion is contagious! Spending time with other passionate folks boosts our morale, inspires passion-geared conversations and makes for an overall better existence. Conferences, aerobics classes, upbeat church services, Twitter #MyWANA conversations (for writers) and motivational speaker events are great places to start.

5. Don’t let others—or you—get you down. Negativity is also contagious. Passion and success can stir up envy, harsh criticism and greed in others. These aren’t the people we best hang out with or listen to. Our own fears and insecurities can function similarly. Keep a distance from negative influences. If it’s you, consider an attitude makeover or “check up from the neck up.” ;) Talk to supportive friends and keep moving forward. Eventually, your emotions will catch up with your proactivity.

6. Study others’ success. As soon as I started writing my first novel, I purchased and read How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words. While I wasn’t sure how my own path would pan out, reading others’ tales inspired me on multiple levels. We can learn oodles from our successful forefathers/mothers.

7. Give back. Having passion generally means we have something to give—our energy, knowledge, talents… Volunteer to share your talents with others. Support the work of others with similar passions. When it comes to social media, sharing of ourselves and supporting others are the BEST ways to go. To learn more, visit best-selling author/social media guru Kristen Lamb’s fantastic post: Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books.

8. Just do it. Suddenly quitting one job to pursue a passionate alternative isn’t always realistic, easy or wise. But whether your passions fall into the brand-spanking-new or hobby categories or you’ve been plugging away at or resisting them for years, action is necessary and doable, as in right now, today.

More rockin’ resources:
The Year to Slay Your Dragon: Ingrid Shaffenburg inspires us to get rid of heavy breathing “dragons” and dream big.
2012 and Planning for Success in the New YearKristen Lamb provides practical tips and inspiration for goal setting and seeking.
Gene Lempp’s Goals and Gremlins, posted on Lyn Midnight’s blog, reminds us to share our goals and allow some wiggle room.
Entrepreneur magazine: Steve Jobs and the Seven Rules of Success, by Carmine Gallo
Oprah.com: What to do if You Can’t Find Your Passion, by Elizabeth Gilbert

What do you do to empower to your passion? What additional steps are you willing to commit to? Any areas you struggle with? I’d love to cheer you on.

Speaking of PASSION, this Friday, I’ll be cheering talented bloggers on as part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. If you’d like to participate by sharing a story or donating a prize, click here. To participate as a cheerleader and have a blast, visit my blog Friday. You just might win a Kindle/$99 Amazon.com gift card or other fab prizes! :)

LSR #5: Groovy Moving

Of the countless available writing guidelines, I believe that one applies to all of us. We hafta write. Sure, we might daydream up some doozies of stories, but without sitting our butts down to the page consistently, the world’s greatest tales might never take flight. A sedentary writing lifestyle leads to one thing: creative atrophy. (Ah… You see where I’m going with this. ;)) Welcome to Lifesaving Resolution #5.

As writers, failure to care for our bodies is like a big time business exec building his or her office out of rotted wood. (What good are our minds if the casing wears out?)

Inactivity runs so rampant in the U.S., researchers have coined the term sedentary death syndrome (SDS): an expanding list of medical conditions exacerbated by a lack of physical activity that causes premature disability and death in millions of Americans each year. The less we move, the greater our chances become for developing arthritis, obesity, breathing problems, depression, gallstones, hypertension, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, memory loss and sudden death.

WOW. That was happy! Why don’t we all pause to do a few jumping jacks?

Yes, the stats are depressing. But I’m guessing they’re not exactly news to most of you. You probably also know the common reasons exercise gets missed—too little time, exhaustion, lack of motivation, strong-hold habits, pain or difficulty, allergic reactions to sweat… (That last one might be emotional. ;)) Here’s the irony: regular physical activity can improve or rectify these hurdles and guard against SDS—once we’re on track.

Groovy Moving Guidelines

Getting and staying fit isn’t as hard, boring or horrible as it seems. (I’m not speaking of the Svens in the room!) With experience at all parts of the exercise spectrum personally and professionally, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. If a girl who wrote papers to get out gym class can do it, so can you. ;)

1. Set realistic, positive goals. Signing up for a marathon when you haven’t run since high school is like aiming to churn out a novel per month. It may seem like a fantastic goal, but for most of us, it’s a setup for failure. And fixating on weight or calories is a bit like striving toward a specific word count, rather than your best quality work. Realistic goals promote steady, gradual change. They also support your wellness and happiness.

2. Consider your motivation. You know how important it is for our main characters to have intense motivation? The same applies to physical fitness. How boring would “Silence of the Lambs” be if Jodi Foster’s character met Hannibal Lector and said, “I’d stay and chat but I could really use a pedicure. Think I’ll hit up Google from the salon.” No. She has to WANT the information in his head as desperately as he wants to withhold it, taunt her and manipulate. We must feel moved, in order to more. Why do you want to exercise?

3. Apply your work style. Personality, worth ethic and overall style play an important role in fitness success. Are you a super independent writer? You may not need much handholding regarding fitness either. If you work best with an agent or mentor, seek the support of a personal trainer or fitness-savvy friend. Do you rely upon schedules and meticulous outlines? Apply similar techniques to your exercise routine. Bore easily and use your calendar for scratch paper? Try something new each week or month. Dig critique groups? Join an aerobics class or boot camp.

4. Savor the path. While there’s nothing wrong with envisioning your book at the airport shop or rolling in so much dough you use twenties as wallpaper, the real prize is the process. Losing ourselves in our stories. Experiencing them as they grow and change. Writing most every day because, even if we hit a rough patch, we’d feel sad if we didn’t. Fitness is similar—or, at least, it should be.

By choosing activities we enjoy, seeking ways to add pleasure and focusing on the positives, fitness success isn’t about a finish line or simple calories in/calories out. It’s about cherishing our bodies, recognizing the miraculous work they do for us and dancing around in our boosted creativity, better sex lives, sounder sleep and kick-butt yippee-hoo moods. (Got your attention there, didn’t I? ;))

5. Rest. As with most things, too much exercise causes damage. Breaks and days off enhance our creative work, emotional well-being and physical fitness. Out tissues repair themselves and strengthen and we’re less likely to get bored. Unless you’re a professional athlete, exercising 60 minutes or longer seven days a week is generally considered excessive. (Getting enough good-quality sleep, water and nutritious food is also important.)

Groovy Moves for the Un-Athletically-Enthused

Walk your story. Ever have an epiphany smack in the middle of a workout? There’s a reason. Movement naturally boosts brain function. (More on this below.) The moment you feel stuck or your eyes feel computer-buggied-out, slip on your sneakers and go.

Walk your dog. One of my favorites! And according to a study featured in TIME magazine, dog walkers are more likely to reach their fitness goals versus their non-pooch-walker counterparts.

Sweatin’ to the Moldies: Okay, kind of gross. But the idea rocks IMHO. ;) Actively cleaning your house is exercise! In other words, you need not make like a hamster at the gym. Pump tunes if you like, preferably with a peppy beat. Wear workout attire. (This is also an awesome time to contemplate your WIP.)

TV Triathalon: Pick a show, any show. Choose three activities you can do on the spot, such as crunches, lunges and jumping jacks. Each time the program moves to a commercial, switch to another activity.

Play! I still love swinging on the big metal and rubber swings at parks. Play with your kids, your nieces and nephews, your best friend, your spouse. Throw a football or frisbee. Remember, the key is finding something you enjoy and doing it.

For more information, check out these fabulous links:

Research Journal: Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Potential: Immediate and Residual Results (2005) That’s right, folks! Exercise immediately increases brain sharpness and creativity. Nothing kicks “writer’s block” like a little tae bo…

MayoClinic.com: Seven Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Key Fitness Guidelines for Active Adults

Dr. Weil: Making Aerobic Exercise Simple and Fun

Dr. Oz Show: 10-Minute Exercise Ideas

Gary W. Small, MD: Keep Walking to Stay Mentally Sharp (via JaneFonda.com)

Jenny Hansen: Fear of the Week: Hot Yoga Might Kill Me. While not a fan of sweaty yoga myself, I highly condone the kind of laughter Jenny inspires. ;)

What groovy moving tip resonates with you? Any you’d like to add? Challenges or goals we can support you toward? If leading a healthy lifestyle helps you feel beautiful, visit The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest—just 9 days away! Spread the word or enter as a blogger for a chance at a Kindle and more…

LSR #4: Trusting Your Instincts

“The solution to violence in America is the acceptance of reality.”
― Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence


I first read The Gift of Fear after flowers arrived at my door from a man I could barely call an acquaintance. The enclosed card had a sentimental message and his phone number. Once I realized who the guy was, I felt an odd mix of emotions. Not only did I have a boyfriend at the time, the sender shouldn’t have known where I lived. I considered calling him to say, “Gosh, thanks, but…” (Ever heard the term Minnesota Nice? ;))

According to de Becker, a world-renowned expert on the prediction and management of violence, that’s the last thing I should have done, next to asking the guy out or proposing. The Gift of Fear taught me not only how to respond, but how lucky I’d been numerous times before—one time in particular.

A Close Call

I was living in midtown Manhattan and had just finished a long work day on the lower East side. I stepped onto the subway, eager to return to my apartment and swap my dress for sweats. My thoughts drifted miles away as the train prodded forward. Then I felt it: Eyes. Staring. Burning into my face like molten cigarettes.

It’s nothing, I told myself, then glanced up to see a man at the opposite end of the train car, his steely stare on me. He’s probably as spaced out as I am, I decided, though my insides quivered and chills coated my skin. One-thousand percent uncomfortable with our eye-lock, I looked away and shuffled my position to block his view. Soon, I was back in daydream oblivion.

After transferring trains twice, per my usual route, I exited and walked three blocks to my building. Once inside, I beelined for the elevator.

“Hey!” The security guard’s booming voice jolted me.

I spun around and nearly ran into the man from the subway. Had the guard not intervened, he would’ve entered the elevator with me. The sneak and I—alone in a locked, metal cube. Instead, he lost his wrestling match with the guard and landed back on the street.

This incident resurfaced again and again as I read The Gift of Fear. Had something worse resulted, I would have blamed the creepy dude—it’s never the victim’s fault, after all. But ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ matter little when our lives and safety are at stake.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways,” says de Becker. “It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart.”

My intuition kicked in that night. But rather than trust my fears, I talked myself out of them.

Instincts versus Intuition

Instincts are “natural or inherent aptitudes, impulses, or capacities,” according to Merriam-Webster. Unlike animals, who act upon their instincts with ease, we humans often reason ourselves out of responding. (I have no good reason to think he/she’s harmful. I’m just paranoid. I’ve watched too many Lifetime movies…) Intuition is the ability to understand something right away, without the need for conscious reasoning. (I just know it’s the right multiple choice answer; I can feel it.) 

And although instincts and intuition can seem like supernatural silliness, they’re extremely scientific.

As we accumulate knowledge, our brains create what social scientist Herbert Simon PhD called chunks. Gradually, our brains link these chunks together and begins recognizing patterns—an act called “chunking.” When we observe familiar details, our brains see a larger composition—flashes we know as instincts or intuition.

Psychologist, David Myers PhD, author of Intuition, puts it another way. He says, “Gut instincts are mental shortcuts used to make a snap judgment based on experience and environment.”

And while we don’t need to know all of the details, why those gut feelings kick in, observing, respecting and responding to them can help save our lives.

Note: Since this post is part of my Lifesaving Resolutions series, I’m focusing on personal safety. But keep in mind that our instincts play an important role in everything from our book writing and publishing success to making wise purchases and dating decisions.

Steps Toward Trusting Your Instincts to Save Your Life

Purchase and read The Gift of Fear, if you haven’t. If you have, I suggest routine review—something I’m in the midst of doing.

Limit distractions when you’re alone in public, whether you’re walking to your car, jogging at the park or getting the mail. (Cell phones and iPods can make your inner voice inaudible. Or make it sound more like Beyoncé.)

If you sense that someone’s following you, de Becker suggests you turn and look them in the eyes. Then take mental notes on their appearance. Note their apparel, body size, ethnicity and age. Yelling the details of an impending attacker’s appearance can help by revealing your preparedness, etching the details into your mind and notifying others.

If someone creeps you out, chuck niceness out the window. In The Gift of Fear, de Becker makes a great point on this: A rational person will understand and not press if you turn them down for, say, a date. An irrational person, on the other hand, wants the attention—even negative. From “Wow, I really like you but I’m super busy right now,” the irrational person perceives that you’re into them, fixates only on the word “like.” And calling them up, even to say, “Leave me alone,” can be perceived as welcomed attention.

Never let a captor take you to a second location, even if he/she threatens you. Your chance of severe assault and injuries are far greater in a second location, such as the person’s home or car. And your chance of rescue drops significantly. To view police sergeant Sanford Strong’s insight on the tactic, check out Life-Saving Advice from the Oprah Winfrey Show. (Fab stuff!)

Use intuition as one, but not your only, tool. Instincts and intuition won’t pull out your mace and spray an offender, but they may prompt you to pull it out of your pocket. Keeping yourself out of high-risk places and situations, such as grocery store parking lots and public restrooms in the wee hours of the morning, lowers your risk of needing to rely on your instincts in the first place. In other words, listen to your “gut,” then guide with logic.

Super Safety-Savvy Resources

How do you think I responded to Flower Man? The first person to guess right will get a brand spankin’ new copy of The Gift of Fear. :) Has following your instincts kept you out of harm’s way? Have you learned these lessons the hard way? Any thoughts on The Gift of Fear? I love hearing from you!
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LSR #2: Dodging Diets

An estimated 75 million Americans diet each year, contributing to an over $70 billion industry.  - U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market

Dieting first gained mass appeal in 1829 when Reverend Sylvester Graham launched the Graham diet. By limiting caffeine and meat and snacking on graham crackers, the plan promised to stave off added pounds and masturbation. (Yes, you read that right.) Since then, the weight loss industry has grown into a $70 billion-per-year industry, with an estimated 75 million Americans dieting at any given time. And the methods are no less whacky.

Regardless of the plan, more than 95 percent of dieters gain lost weight back (and usually more) within five years. Many of us have heard a rendition of this statistic. So why are more people dieting than ever before?? So glad you asked!!! ;)

Some of the reasons:

1) We’re bombarded with images of “perfect” bodies—physiques unattainable to most of us, including the models and celebrities depicted.
2) The diet industry invests millions of dollars into research on consumer palatability. (What will make us buy, and keep buying, particular plans and products?)
3) We live in an instant gratification society. We want results and want them NOW.
4) Food is more available and flavorful than ever before. Most low-nutrient foods are cheap. And many of us are sedentary. Overeating and inactivity lead to weight gain, which leads to dieting, which leads to MORE weight gain…
6) Diets seem exciting, and a balanced diet paired with exercise, bo-ring.
7) Dieting can seem like a solution not only to our weight problems, but ALL of our problems. (“I’d be happy/beautiful/successful if I just lose __ pounds…”)
8) Many diets are disguised as “lifestyle plans.” So even when we know the risks and failure rate of DIETS, we can be led astray.

Dieting contributes depression, stress, binge eating, a slowed metabolism, weight gain, obesity, nutrient deficiencies, bone loss, memory loss, insomnia, low self esteem, heart problems and more. Why is dieting so harmful? Yet another GREAT question. ;)

Some of the reasons:

1) Dieting forces the body into starvation mode—a state in which calories—units of energy reaped from food—are stored.
2) Our bodies are designed to run and thrive on sufficient amounts of calories and nutrients. This is why eating too few carbohydrates, our body and brain’s main energy source, causes fatigue, depression, constipation and food cravings. Extremely low-fat diets interfere with brain function, appetite control, nutrient absorption and even hair health. (Dietary supplements, while useful in some cases, are not suitable replacements.)
3) Food and eating are more than nutrition. What would holidays, weddings and other celebrations be without food? Humans are hardwired to enjoy food. Mess around with that and the results aren’t pretty. Depression, for example, befalls most people who lose normal eating capabilities. (Dieting = not eating normally.) Diets are also tough to maintain in social, family and work settings.
4) We aren’t clones. Our taste preferences, personalities, genes, activity level and overall health play important roles in our food choices and eating habits. Most diet plans run on the one-size-fits-all philosophy, which is best limited to stretchy gloves.

I don’t know about you, but I find all of this depressing…

Onto the GOOD stuff!

EAT WELL, STAY WELL STRATEGIES:
(Notice I didn’t say, ‘Weight Loss Strategies.’ Unless you have a genetic condition, such as Prader Willi Syndrome, eating well—mostly healthy foods, not too much and not too little—promotes a healthy body weight and countless other benefits.)

If ‘calorie’ seems like a cuss word and dieting’s become your norm, it’s time to shift gears… Try one or numerous of the following – whichever resonates with you.

1. EAT MORE healthy food. Focusing on what you “shouldn’t” eat is a mainstay of many diets. It’s also one reason they fail. Instead, stock up on healthy foods you enjoy. Seek tasty ways to prepare fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes and whole grains. Check out health food restaurants and grocery stores. Dine with health-minded friends. And begin substituting low-nutrient foods with nutritious. Swap white bread out for 100 percent whole grain bread, for example, and fatty red meat for leaner cuts, legumes or fish.

2. Color your plates. At each meal, load half of your plate or bowl up with colorful produce. Or incorporate fruits and vegetables into conventional dishes, like pastas, soups, pizzas and baked goods. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables promote positive weight control, digestive health and cardiovascular health and a reduced risk for heart attack, stroke, certain forms of cancer and chronic disease. For overall health, the American Dietetic Association suggests aiming for at least 2 cups of fruit an 2.5 cups of veggies per day.

3. Aim for 80/20. Perfect eating doesn’t exist. Eating primarily (80 – 90%) nutritious fare and cutting yourself some slack (10 – 20%) guards against feelings of deprivation and the risk of going off the dietary deep end once your “perfect” eating falls to the wayside. Registered dietitian Robyn Goldberg recommends eating “play foods” daily—foods consumed for pleasure purposes only.

4. Take baby steps. Small, gradual changes are generally the most effective when it comes to reaching and maintaining wellness. Take an inventory of your eating habits. What areas could use improvements? If you currently eat fast food three times per week, cut back to once per week. If you eat less than one serving of whole grains per day—Americans’ overall average—bump it up to two per day. If you avoid your favorite snacks or desserts like the plague only to overeat them later, start eating a single portion daily.

5. Dig deeper. Food and weight concerns often symptomize deeper issues. If you feel desperate to change your weight or appearance, ask yourself why. (Are you happy with your work life? Social life? Relationships?) Addressing the answers may be all you need to jumpstart healthy changes. To read one couple’s weight control success story, check out my article at Bartlett’s Health: The Fulfillment Diet: Pursuing Passion FIRST.

6. Eat mindfully. Remember those mindful driving tips from last week? Similar principles can enhance your dietary lifestyle. Mindful eating is associated with improved appetite and weight control and a low risk for depression, digestive problems and obesity. To invite mindfulness to your meals, dine in a pleasurable atmosphere, free of distraction (no phone, computer or TV). Eat slowly, observing the colors, texture, flavors and aromas of your food and how you feel physically and emotionally. For more pointers, visit The Center for Mindful Eating.

***Don’t be afraid to seek support from a qualified professional, particularly if you have a long history of dieting, weight problems or disordered eating.***

Whew! That was a mouthful. ;) And a lot to fit into one post. I want to support you all in any way I can, so please speak up! Post your questions, concerns and related topic requests in the comments. If you’re already wellness/nutrition-savvy, what strategies have I missed? Which would you like to learn more about?

Lifesaving Resolution #1: Mindful Driving

“Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a moron.” — George Carlin

A blonde is driving down the freeway when her boyfriend calls on the cell phone. When she picks up the phone he says, “Hi honey, it’s me. I just wanted to tell you to be careful. It says on the news that there’s a car driving the wrong way on the freeway.”

“No, it’s worse!” she says. “There’s not one. There’s hundreds of them!”

Looks like she contributed to the accident. The question is…how?  ;)

Okay, enough funny business. For now. While there’s nothing wrong with a laugh or two, real-life driving distractions are no joke. *pausing while y’all switch gears* (Pun intended.)

A cop friend of mine first alerted me to the dangers of mindless driving—driving with little awareness—several years ago. He said, “If people knew how many accident victims are found with cell phones shoved into their heads, they wouldn’t talk and drive.” Scary visual, right?

Authorities say that driving is a privilege, not a right. Yet too many of us treat it with nonchalance—an attitude that can be more dangerous than a loaded gun. While we can’t change the attitudes or behaviors of others, it only makes sense that we adjust our own. We can lead by example and, potentially, save lives.

Before I delve into the specifics of mindful driving, consider these facts:

In 2009, over 5,400 people died in crashes involving distracted driving in the U.S. alone, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with cell phone use being the most common culprit. About 448,000 more were injured. (These numbers are low-ball, however. Distractions linked with accidents, including cell phone use, often go unknown or unreported.)

Numerous studies have shown that driving while talking on your cell phone—with or without a headset, and texting are as dangerous as drunk driving.

Unlike talking to a fellow passenger, cell phone use takes your mind out of the vehicle. So it’s no surprise that researchers at the University of South Carolina found that cell phone users are four times less able to pay attention compared to non-users.

Driving is the most dangerous activity most of us will ever engage in. But that doesn’t mean we should drive in a state of panic. Driving around fear-filled will only worsen matters. Driving with heightened mindfulness, on the other hand… NOW we’re talking.

Mindfulness, according to Psychology Today, is a state of “active, open attention on the present.” To drive mindfully, you apply similar principles on the road. Rather than drive with complacency, which is the norm, you drive with awareness of and respect for yourself, your vehicle and your surroundings—including other drivers.

Effective Steps Toward Mindful Driving:

  • Before driving, remind yourself of your intention: to drive with awareness. This alone will help cultivate mindful thoughts and behaviors.
  • Know where you’re going. This is a tough one for me, seeing as I’ve been known to get lost in people’s homes and, once, a bathroom. Navigation systems are great, but use them as backup. Get the gist of your directions down before leaving. If you get lost, pull over to gather your bearings.
  • Place a ‘mindfulness reminder’ in your car. An inspiring quotation, meaningful charm and photographs of loved ones provide valuable options—anything that reminds you that life is precious and distracted driving, dangerous.
  • Make your car a NO PHONE ZONE. Keep your phone out of arms’ reach, preferably on silent mode or turned off, at all times while driving.
  • Aim not only to follow traffic laws, but to observe other drivers. (Driving “right” does not ensure your safety.) Keep a distance from drivers driving badly. Report risky drivers to the police—after pulling over, of course. ;)
  • Stop the road rage. If someone is driving too slow, slow down or move over rather than ride their tail. If someone’s encroaching behind you, don’t slow down just to peeve them. Move over and get over it.
  • Breathe. If you feel yourself tensing up, due to poor driving, running late or other stressors, take slow, measured breaths.
  • Drive with little or no music. The thought of driving in silence would’ve creeped me out a few years ago. Now I love it. If you do listen to music or talk, keep the volume at a reasonable level.
  • Turn sounds off and roll your windows down before driving and parking. This brings awareness to sounds of animals, small children and other beings/things in your wheels’ way.
  • Sleep enough. I’ll cover this more in the Healthy Sleep post. For now, know this: sleep deficiencies also bring risks similar to drunkenness. If you aren’t in the proper state to drive, don’t. Take a nap. Call a cab. Develop a healthier overall sleep routine.
  • Don’t over-caffeinate. While moderate caffeine, or the amount found in 2 – 3 cups of coffee, is harmless to most adults, excessive amounts can cause or worsen anxiety, irritability, shakiness and accident risks.
  • Don’t drink and drive (duh). About 1/3 of driving fatalities involve alcohol.
  • Drive when you drive, and cut out other clutter. Although phones top the list of risky driving distractions, other common culprits include applying makeup, shaving, smoking, eating, drinking, toying around with navigation systems, music players or other objects.
  • Meditate. Just not while you’re driving.Practicing mindfulness in any area of your life promotes mindfulness in other areas, which boosts your physical and emotional health. You’ll sleep better, think better, feel better and live better.

Sound like a lot to take on? Choose a few baby steps, starting with awareness of the distractions you’re grappling with now and the intention of positive change.

What do you say? Anything you zen drivers out there wish to add? Are you a non-zen driver, willing to admit your faux pax? State your goal and state it loud. I’d LOVE to hear from you and cheer you on.

Lifesaving Resolutions

“He’s dead.” The phrase I’ve read, written and heard in films many times had never before hit me with such heartache, doom or nausea—probably because I’d before never witnessed a death up close.

My husband and I were heading for our favorite hiking spot when the driver ahead of us lost control of his car, causing it to flip up in the air, hit the side of the mountain and land upside down, crushing and killing him instantly. Had my husband not had the wherewithal to keep a distance from the seemingly distracted driver, there’s little doubt that we would have been involved in the accident and faced severe injuries, if not a similar fate. This blog series is dedicated to the young man who died that day.

I’ll never forget…

If you knew that altering some of your behaviors could improve your day-to-day existence, emotional wellbeing, physical health and life expectancy, would you do it? I hope your answer is a non-hesitatory, exuberant YES! For the skeptics among you, don’t worry—there’s no “catch.” (You won’t have to sacrifice your first born or left foot in exchange.) Willingness to learn, determination and effort, however, are required. Psst! A positive attitude and sense of humor will also help. ;)

I’ve committed to the life-saving resolutions we’ll explore here throughout January. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll sign on, too.

Here’s a sneak peak at the resolutions I’ll be covering:

1. Mindful Driving: Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us will ever do, yet too many of us do so with complacency. With the help of experts, including our own Natalie Hartford, I’ll address the risks and dangers associated with driving while talking on the phone, texting or, god forbid, intoxicated and offer practical tips for improving yours and others’ safety on the road.

2. Dodging Diets: We already know that diets don’t work. But they’re so darn alluring! Holiday pounds, friends’ and celebrities’ apparent successes, eagerness for “rapid results” and diets packaged as “lifestyle plans” bring great appeal. Add to that the $45 billion-plus industry rooting against us, and sheesh. We seem like goners. But don’t worry, we’re not. I’ll soon share enjoyable and effective ways to manage your dietary wellness without the multitude of risks linked with dieting, such as obesity, depression and heart disease. (In the meantime, please chuck your scale, diet pills and manuals out the window. Ah… Doesn’t that feel GOOD?)

3. Laying Off the Smokes: Don’t smoke. Just say know. The dangers of smoking are so well touted, these phrases seem cliche. But similar to the dieting industry, the tobacco industry wants our business big time. Sadly, it continues to win. This segment will include personal stories and expert insight on ways (some revolutionary) you and your loved ones can quit or refrain from smoking for good.

4. Trusting Your Instincts: Intuition is always right in at least two crucial ways, says Gaven de Becker—the world renowned expert in fear and self-defense. And honing in on it just might save your own life. If you haven’t read de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, I suggest you race over to Amazon or a book store pronto. In either case, stay tuned for some of his top tips and their significance.

5. Groovy Moving. No, this isn’t some strange new dance craze or 70′s workout video. Inactivity contributes to some of the most common causes of death in North America and it’s on the rapid rise. But forcing yourself to go to the gym when your soul begs you not to won’t do much good. In fact, you’re more likely to order more pizzas to eat while watching workout videos from the couch. (I’ve only done that once.) (Okay, twice.) Fortunately for all of us non-genetically-workout-enthused, lots of effective and yes, FUN, solutions exist. Promise.

6. Healthy Sleep. Sleep deprivation isn’t just bothersome, but hazardous. Improving your sleep hygiene, on the other hand, increases your overall physical wellness and guards against accidents, obesity, emotional tumult and disease. (Whew! I’ll take it.) After decades of personal sleep challenges, I’m to share what works and what doesn’t. Some of these snooze-friendly tidbits might surprise you…

7. Pursuing Passion. Though this one’s a little less scientific, it’s arguably the most important and at the root of many common conflicts—including those aforementioned. If you haven’t yet stepped fully into passionate pursuits, I hope you’ll consider doing so yesterday. If not, baby steps are a great way to start. This segment will feature clinical research and expert insight, along with kick-butt ways to get your passion-plotting self in gear.

8. Active Gratitude. Many of us consider ourselves happy and grateful. But how often to you put it into practice? Studies have linked gratitude with heightened happiness, physical health and longevity. And you may not have heard some of the useful, most valuable ways we can practice it.

Which of these resolutions resonate with you? Which have you mastered? Which remain on your to-do list? 

Whether you’ve mastered them or not, I hope you’ll join me for fun, inspiring conversations, fabulous expert insight and the revealing of tough-to-swallow, but worthy of discussion, truths.

In the meantime, please have a safe, healthy, SPECTACULAR New Year! :)

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