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Monthly Archive: December 2015

New Year’s – Resolution or Intention?

Today, as I write, a turkey is slowly browning in the oven; I’ve baked an apple pie; there will be mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cheese, chocolate … all the things that make up a holiday dinner that I plan on working off over the next few weeks.  But if this year is anything like all my other years, it won’t happen beyond the first 2 or 3 days – if that. When I honestly think of it, the only people I know who can cut back after this season are people who’ve done exactly that all their lives – like my sister.

Sadly, diets don’t really work for me.  What does work for me, beautifully, is focusing my daily life on living it in a way that makes me feel fulfilled.  Not exactly a goal, but an intentional way of living.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work because, according to Steve Errey, they’re often based on other people’s ideas of what is good and right – on what we think we should do, rather on what we want to do; resolutions are like goals, which assumes that we are somehow inadequate and need more of something to feel better about ourselves; resolutions often aren’t actually personally relevant to us – otherwise they’d already be a part of our lives; the timing isn’t great – the new year isn’t a great time to change something that’s probably been with you for a while.  Ray Williams in his article on Why People Can’t Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions, cites a number of studies that demonstrate how difficult it is to change a habit, and that when we attempt to “force” ourselves to change – as we do with resolutions – we’re actually simply reinforcing the habit.  Change takes time, and it also takes more than a resolution.

What works better is to set a New Year’s intention for this new year that both inspires and motivates. This is because, as Jesse Lively beautifully points out, intention is a process; something we can focus on day-by-day.  An intention is a guide rather than a rule; it’s something we can text and challenge, something that can be modified and used flexibly to fit our daily circumstances.  There are many ways a New Year’s intention differs from a New Year’s resolution.  Here are a few –

New Year’s resolutions are goal-oriented, which means they are future-focused.  Intention is process-oriented, which means they are all about the present.

New Year’s resolutions are about what we think we should do, rather than what motivates and inspires us. Intention is all about inspiration.

New Year’s resolutions demand that we change habits and well-entrenched ways of doing; intention demands we examine and test, seeing if how we live works with how we want to live.  Living intentionally means we are inspired, in the present, to change what doesn’t work or no longer works, for what does, in the present moment.  It doesn’t require us to bend over backwards attempting to rewire ourselves overnight.

Here’s a 3-step process that can help you determine and then set your intention for this coming year.

  1. Look at what inspires you: spend some time over this next week taking a look.  It might take a while, and needn’t be hastily determined.  Go for a walk, meditate, spend some quiet quality time with yourself determining what you want to focus on.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, simply meaningful to you, right now.  For me, my inspiration for this year is better health.
  2. Then set an intention: one that will provide a focus for you; something you can use as a guide every day.  For instance, is what I’m doing going to improve my health? Or might it hamper my health?  This includes physical, mental and emotional activities. Decisions and choices suddenly become a lot easier for me.
  3. Know there will sometimes be setbacks: life happens, and we can’t always take strong steps every day.  By knowing our intention and focus, we also know that some days are better than others; we have built-in flexibility.
  4. There will be deviations: because things change, and what might have worked within our intention and focus a week ago, may not work today.  Our intention, not some set of rules, is the determiner.  It lets us bend with the day, flow with the circumstances.

By setting a New Year’s Intention, you are providing a beacon for yourself, because it will guide you on a daily basis based on inspiration that is personally meaningful to you.

What does inspiration mean to you?

I want to invite you to my free webinar, 3 Brief and Unusual Strategies to Manage Stress on January 5, 2015. You’ll be able to use these short, yet powerful, techniques anywhere to transform your day from stressed out to super, freeing yourself from that rock you might be stuck under.  If you’re interested , click here to register.

Arthur’s Story – Never Give Up

Quote of the Week
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

Life Tips – from some inspiring people

At this time of year, I often find myself searching for inspiration. My deepest belief is that the only true meaning we can have in our lives comes from making the world a better place in our own way, be it in the way we support our family, or grow our garden, or contribute to our community.
Sometimes doing this is hard, and this is when I turn to others who inspire me. Sometimes I get my inspiration from friends, and sometimes from spiritual world leaders. Here are some words of inspiration from three spiritual leaders – Pema Chödrön, the Dalai Lama, and Tich Nhat Hahn.
  • Be kind, beginning with yourself. Begin this new season with kindness. Kindness softens the heart and makes room for difference.

If one wishes suffering not to happen to the people and the earth, it begins with a kind heart. (Pema Chödrön)

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. (Pema Chödrön)

The topic of compassion is not at all religious business; it is important to know it is human business, it is a question of human survival. -Dalai Lama

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. -Dalai Lama

When we walk like we are rushing, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. Thich Nhat Hahn)

  • Make fear your ally. Life is about challenge. Unless we stay cocooned, every day will present us with something that tests us, and may bring up feelings of inadequacy or doubt. And every time this happens, we can choose how we are going to approach it.

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. (Pema Chödrön)

Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are. (Pema Chödrön)

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. (Pema Chödrön)

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change – Thich Nhat Hanh

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. -Dalai Lama

  • Every moment of life is precious for its own sake. Be open to your own experiences, taking what’s given you and learning from it – no matter what that might be.

You are the sky.  Everything else – it’s just the weather. (Pema Chödrön)

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. (Pema Chödrön)

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life. (Pema Chödrön)

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

  • Lighten up. Relax and make room for life to happen.

The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves. (Pema Chödrön)

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. (Pema Chödrön)

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. (Pema Chödrön)

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed. (Thich Nhat Hahn)

May you experience these last few days of 2016 with contentment and a quiet joy.

Tich Nhat Hahn – Beginner’s Mind


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

The Last Shopping Weekend & Stress

Work doesn’t stop and neither does holiday shopping these days. The extended hours. The rush to get things done. The added family to visit or to host. And, the financial pressure to outdo last year. It is all upon us as we head into the final shopping weekend before the Christmas holiday.

How do you handle the stress and keep your sanity? Well, I have 5 tips to keep your spirits in check over this weekend and on the days leading up to Christmas. Also, don’t forget to register for my Live Webinar on Stress. It’s January 6th. Here’s more info: https://thejoyofliving.co/live-webinar/

1. Drink water. Seriously! Are your problems and stress going to go away by drinking water? Nope. But it does add oxygen into the blood stream and the motion of drinking water helps to slow you down and think before acting. The more you sip the water, the more time you have to process what is going on.

2. Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose three times in a row. We typically blow air out of our mouths. By reversing the cycle, we are changing patterns in our brain. We have to focus on this change, and therefore we take the attention off of our issues and we place it on corrective breathing.

3. Holiday music. Some people hate it, they said it adds stress to their day. Well, holiday music tends to be upbeat and this changes the brain waves and puts you in a better mood. If you truly despise it, put on your favorite artist. Music does make one feel better and less stressed.

4. Eat something healthy. Part of our stress this time of year is impacted by eating foods that we know will add to our waistline, which puts more pressure on us to “lose the weight” in 2016. If you forgive yourself for cookie moments and add in a healthy snack during your shopping trip, you will feel better about yourself and you won’t have added weight stress. Plus, healthy foods contain loads of vitamins, which can help boost your mood- especially vitamin B12.

5. Designate a stop time before you start. Don’t get so involved in the doing that you forget to afford yourself some me time. If you’re going shopping, set a time for yourself to stop before you leave your house. Don’t feel like you need to get everything done in one day or one weekend. Most stores are open all the way up to Christmas morning. Set up a game plan and then a stop time. Allow yourself at least an hour of me time or veg-out-on-the-couch time every single day up and until Christmas.

Until next time,

Happy Holidays!

How to get from underneath anxiety

The fast-approaching holiday season is a time of heightened anxiety for a lot of us.  It used to be for me too. There are so many expectations we put on ourselves, or others put on us, that the build up to that one day can be incredible.

It’s a scary time – who might we offend? is what we’ve done enough? or too much? If we’re alone, we may feel a longing for family at this time like no other.

This is the darkest time of the year for people in the Northern Hemisphere.  A time for hot chocolate, sitting by a roaring fire, looking inward.  It’s a perfect time for quiet introspection – an activity best done alone.

It’s also a time for welcoming the day back, because this is when daylight begins to increase. A time of gratitude, and good will.

Introspection and welcoming gratitude – both lend themselves to meditation. Deepak Chopra believes this is the perfect time to meditate.  He reminds us that meditation helps us through our fears, reducing them to a manageable size, re-focusing our thoughts on the beauty of the present instead of worrying about the future.

Fear is a natural reaction that’s built into us, called our fear-response. It warns us of a possible danger; and once that possibility is over, so is our fear.  The problem is that there can be so many expectations, that our fear-response doesn’t have a chance to calm down.  When that happens, it can become general, mysterious, seemingly unattached to any particular fearful thing.

This is generalized anxiety.  The good news is that it need not last, and one way that helps is to learn to meditate.  Here are three steps to getting out from underneath anxiety:

  1. Get out of your mind and into your body. Close your eyes, and feel your body.  It helps to bring your focus of attention to a part of your body that you notice, breathing into that area, until the sensations you experience shift and change. Then, move to another part of your body, and breathe into that part, noticing and getting interested in your own physical sensations.
  2. Let go of the fear Once you begin to relax through breathing, become interested in any physical sensations you continue to experience that come from fear – shaking and chill, shallow breathing, tension.  The idea is to let these sensations go a little at a time, by doing something that counters it.  If you’re cold and shivering, get under some warm blankets or take a warm bath.  If you’re breathing is shallow, take slow deep breaths.  If you are tense, say in your shoulders and back, stretch from side to side, loosening up the back muscles and reducing the tension.
  3. Calm yourself into natural relaxation. Once you are able to let go the fear, relax and allow your body to heal.  Lie down, have a relaxing tea, listen to calming music.  Take time to recover, honoring your body’s need to this time.

You can free yourself from anxiety and stress, even during the stress of holiday season.

I want to invite you to my free webinar, 3 Brief and Unusual Strategies to Manage Stress on January 5, 2015. You’ll be able to use these short, yet powerful, techniques anywhere to transform your day from stressed out to super, freeing yourself from that rock you might be stuck under.  If you’re interested , click here to register.

Ted Talk – How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed


Quote of the Week

You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


Sadness & The Pope

I don’t want to start talking religion, to each their own. This said, I read a great piece by ABC a few hours ago and felt compelled to share my thoughts. The piece focused on Pope Francis and his call on humanity today. He wanted people to understand that sadness should never prevail because of the many forms of violence afflicting the world.

There are so many things to feel sad about right now. How is it possible to NOT let sadness rule our lives sometimes? It is the holidays and tight budgets or conflicts with family members could put us in a funk. Maybe you’re facing an illness right now, that’s reason enough to feel sad. The violence and fear in a modern world ruled by terrorism- that causes more sadness and anxiety. It seems that sadness is more prevalent right now and the time of the year makes us more sensitive to it.

So, how do we not be sad? How do we avoid the negative thoughts and anxieties or conflicts that cause sadness? Well, I am running a free webinar on January 6th with 3 Ways to Manage Stress- which often accompanies sadness. You can register here.

Another thing you can do is write grateful lists. Right now, during times of sadness, it is easy to focus on the negative. If you wake up and add writing down two things you are grateful for, the rest of your day- those “things” will stick in your head. It will lessen the hurt and pain and help to become a point of refocus.

To happier times,


December – Looking back and looking forward

How are you going to spend this Solstice?

Mid-December marks the shortest day of the year in our Northern hemisphere – the Winter Solstice.  It’s a quiet, contemplative time, when we want to curl up by a fire with a hot chocolate. A time of going inside.

I like to turn the day into a personal ritual, beginning with a tarot card reading.  I do it in a Gestalt kind of way – What stands out for me as I pull a card? What does it say about my hopes, dreams, past, and hoped-for future? About my challenges and triumphs? Instead of doing this in the new year, I do it on the darkest day.

Marie Forleo suggests something similar, in the form of 3 questions:

  • What did you do this year that you’re proud of? It doesn’t have to be big. We usually end focusing on what we didn’t do well enough, and then beat ourselves up over it. Instead of focusing on the negatives, first focus on the positives – write out these things; it might surprise you!
  • Once you’ve set the tone, then look at your mistakes and what you learned from them. We all make mistakes, but we don’t have to keep on making them.  We can turn these mistakes into learning opportunities that help us grow and thrive.
  • What are you willing to let go of? There are so many things we have on our mind that really simply clutter it up; they aren’t related to what we are moving towards and simply slow us down, distracting us from what moves us.  Now’s the time to drop them.  This also goes for lingering resentments and hurts – you might want to ask yourself what benefit you get from hanging onto them. If the answer is “Not much!”, then drop them and move on.

Steep Your Soul – Richard Rohr

Quote of the Day
While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best. -Tom Allen

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly atmaryanne@thejoyofliving.co


Are You Deflated?

It’s almost Christmas but Thanksgiving has come and gone. Do you feel deflated? Do you feel like a ghost in work and in life, simply passing time and going through the motions just long enough to get through to 2016? Don’t be deflated.

I know, easier said than done. But there is something to changing how we think about what is probably the most stressful, depressing, and challenging two months of our lives! We’re past November, and most of us are fearful of December. Don’t be! I’m going to be promoting a webinar here shortly and I’m hoping you all show up. I’ll be talking about sadness, depression and how we can change our thinking in that webinar.

In the meantime, how do you stop feeling deflated right now? Well, be of service. Yes, of service. Not only is this a healthy distraction around the holidays, it is a helpful one to those on the receiving end. Being of service goes past donating money, it requires your time and your focus. You won’t give up energy, you will become energized!

If you have a senior neighbor who is alone, help him or her clean their home on a Saturday or a Sunday. Know someone who is sick? Make homemade chicken soup. Do something small that will mean something big to another person. Will this remove problems from your life? No. Will it make the fighting family quit arguing around a holiday dinner? No. Will it make you refocus your thoughts onto doing something positive that will benefit another person? Yes! It’s a win-win.

Until next time,