How Indulging in Your Guilty Pleasures Keep You Happy

I’m sitting here eating my third piece of cake this weekend thinking about what I want to write for my #loveblog prompt, guilty pleasures. Yes, third piece of cake. Saturday it was a rollerskating birthday party for my son’s step-cousin with a gorgeous unicorn cake with amazingly delicious fondant and icing, Saturday night it was the fried cheesecake I finished off for my son after his birthday dinner, and tonight it’s the slice of Oreo Blizzard cake to belatedly celebrate my son’s birthday from last week. Yup, I did it all, dove right in. I can’t say I won’t feel the affects of it when I step on the scale tomorrow morning but I’ll say it felt good to let loose this weekend and gobble it up! Guilty pleasures don’t have to be life ending, actually I think it’s healthy to have some guilty pleasures, whether it’s just on special occasions or it’s something that you can make part of your weekly routine, it’s important to have some of those that you can indulge in, something that makes you feel good. I think having a (healthy or not-too-bad) guilty pleasure is good for you. Maybe it’s long, relaxing bubble baths, or allowing yourself to buy that expensive bag you’ve had your eye on for a while (saving up for it of course – I’m not suggesting you skip paying a bill to purchase it), or having that dessert once in awhile, it’s important to allow yourself to have things in your life that really bring you joy. We call them guilty pleasures but do they really need to be? Do we have to feel guilty about something that brings us pleasure? (Now all this goes with saying that it’s not something that is destroying your life…I’m going to be frank here, if it’s harmful to you or others then it has lost its shine and it’s stepped past the boundaries of just being a guilty pleasure.) I’m the kind of person that believes that our lives should be lived with passion, pleasure and joy. We should be setting out to do things that feel rewarding to us, that make us smile, that bring light to our eyes.

I drink way more hot tea than I probably should in one day – like 8-10 cups per day is kind of my normal.

I can Netflix binge for days on if I didn’t ever have to leave the house.

I have a bit of a collection of paintings I’ve done filling corners in my bedroom and I’ll keep on painting and stacking them up.

I love brownie batter…so I just don’t keep the mix in the house too often…like I’ll mix it up just to eat the batter, I am perfectly happy skipping the cooking part.

I collect quotes like it’s nobody’s business…they’re in all of my notebooks, scribbled in my planner, taped on my wall…anywhere I can write or stick a quote I will.

I kind of like the word sh** – maybe it’s because I was a Navy brat and well it was my first word, in context from what my parents have told me (my toy wasn’t working so out of frustration I slammed it down and yelled “sh**”)…it’s just stuck I guess, I’m sorry…come on, it could be worse.

The truth is, my guilty pleasures can vary from day to day or week to week, it depends on what presents itself, it depends on how my day is, or what’s happening in my world. Sometimes after a long week, my guilty pleasure is turning my phone on silent, staying in bed and disappearing from the world for a bit. And I’m okay with that, sometimes I need that to recharge. I need to give into my guilty pleasures now and then, I need to allow myself that freedom, that flexibility to be me and only me.

What guilty pleasures do you have? How often do you allow yourself to give into them, to enjoy them?

Tonight’s post was prompted by my participation in Brita’s #LoveBlog2018! I am so excited to have the opportunity to participate again this year! This series has opened some wonderful thought processes for me in which I was able to learn more about myself and tell my story to my readers in a new light. Check out this year’s prompts here

Meet Your Hosts

Brita from bellabrita.comBrita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.

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Laura from dofivethingsaday.com. Laura is a big dreamer, full time marketing manager, blogger, and part-time artist. She aspires to inspire people in their everyday lives and help them to live towards their dreams and making the most out of every day by sharing her own experiences and stories.

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Ivana from provocativejoy.com. Ivanna is a registered nurse who loves expressing her creative side. She enjoys thrifting, learning about sustainable living, and anything purple. She writes on Provocative Joy about living unconventionally, and loves to inspire people to realize their potential to be world-changers.

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2017 Bucket List Recap & 2018 Bucket List Goals

Whew, what a year 2017 was. Lots of twists and turns came about this year but I’m still proud to say that I was able to get some items crossed off my bucket list!

  1. Visit New Orleans.
  2. Try absinthe (of course this happened in New Orleans in some super cool underground bar).
  3. Put Mentos in Diet Coke. Yes this was on my list, I never did this as a kid so I set out to knock this one off the list with my kiddo.
  4. Make a sun-melted candle.
  5. Go in a sensory deprivation tank.
  6. Bet on a horse race.
  7. Go on a Troeg’s Brewery Tour.
  8. Go to a St.Patrick’s Day Parade.
  9. Try Guinness.
  10. See a tornado. Okay the real bucket list item was to chase a tornado but having a front row (meaning standing at the door outside) seat to one in your office’s parking lot is pretty darn close!
  11. Grow a lemon tree. This one is still in the works, but hey I started it!
  12. Tour the Haines Shoe House in York.
  13. Run a 10 mile race.
  14. Go to a Wine and Paint Nite.
  15. See a broadway show in NYC.

Not too shabby for making some things happen this year! 

Bucket lists help us set a plan to add fulfillment and excitement into our lives. They give us a little structure and help us schedule in adventures that we dream of. I can’t wait to see what all 2018 will bring for me! Here’s some of the things on my list:

  • Ride a train to Philadelphia and NYC.
  • Try a spaghetti donut.
  • Finish my novel and publish it.
  • Go to a roller derby.
  • Go to a Murder-Mystery dinner.
  • Visit New Hope, PA.
  • Take my son to Dylan’s Candy Store in NYC. His name is Dylan so this one is a bit fun and sentimental.
  • Visit the Baltimore Zoo. Can you believe I live so close and have never been?!
  • Master my grandmother’s Sand Tart recipe.
  • Tell a story at Story Slam/Storytellers.
  • Allow myself to be flawed, embrace my flaws.
  • Sleep in a tree house.
  • Go fruit picking.
  • Learn to belly dance.
  • Go to the movies alone.
  • Make a time capsule.
  • Attend a Wanderlust.
  • Go to the Seawitch Festival in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
  • Try Ratatouille.
  • Stay at a bed and breakfast.

What’s on your bucket list for 2018?

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7 Ways to Build a Strong & Healthy Mind

Building a strong and healthy mind is a key factor in leading a happy and healthy life. We must constantly be challenging our mind to expand to new ideas and new ways of thinking to keep growing. The saying goes, “Life is what we make it”, and that all starts in the mind. Here are seven ways that you can expand, challenge and teach your mind to be strong and healthy. 

  1. Read and practice daily affirmations. – Reading and reciting daily affirmations or mantras will help you train your min to perceive the world from a positive view.
  2. Journal and brain dump. – Journaling helps you release thoughts and feelings from swirling in your head. This helps you process them so you don’t get stuck in one spot. Brain dumping (or list making) is a great way to get racing ideas out onto paper. I find doing this every night before bed helps me fall asleep quicker and get a better night’s rest.
  3. Listen to podcasts. – There are so many podcasts out there that you can tap into. I find these are a great place to learn new things and new, positive ways of thinking.
  4. Read. – Reading not only is a great mind-strengthening task but it can expand your imagination and grow your thought process.
  5. Minimize negativity in your life. – When you minimize negativity in your life you give your mind the space to focus on more positive and progressive things. Unfollow those Facebook naggers.
  6. Try something new routinely. – Take a class, try new foods, visit somewhere you’ve never been.
  7. Meet new people. – Meeting new people opens you up to new points of views and new ideas.
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5 Top Goals To Get Focused on Self-Improvement

September is National Self-Improvement Month and with a new season ahead of us it’s a great time to get setting some new goals. Here’s the top goals to set for yourself this month. *These are high level goals, over the next few weeks we’ll break them down more with tips, tricks, and ideas to soar to the top! 

1. Get Fit. A healthy body is a gateway to a healthy life and mind. It improves our overall happiness and helps boost our energy day by day. Find ways to add better eating habits and healthy exercise routines into your weeks consistently. 

2. Financial Organization. Set goals to build a budget and to stick to it, set savings goals. This goal is all about building more security and financial freedom into your life. 

3. Focus on Building a Healthy Mind. Daily affirmations and meditation are great ways to building a clear and strong mind and to help you manage stress better. 

4. Make “Me” Time for Yourself. It’s important to have time to yourself to decompress from the stresses of every day life. This helps you recharge and reflect for what’s going on and for what’s to come. 

5. Expand and Keep Growing. Never give up on your dreams. Make a list of things you want to accomplish and go for them. Take classes on topics that intrigue you, visit a new place, keep practicing that craft you love. 

 Get signed up for weekly inspirational emails with tips and tricks for building a healthier and happier life!

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55 Self-Care Activities to Add to your Schedule

Self-Care can come in many forms. It can be a healthy habit or a relaxing hobby. It can be eating healthy or exercising or it can be spending time with loved ones. Self-Care is showing ourselves love all around and about taking the steps to ensure we are taking time to nurture our mind, body, heart and soul.

  1. At-home facial mask
  2. Read a book
  3. Paint a self-portrait
  4. Go to a wine tasting
  5. Deep condition your hair
  6. Get a massage
  7. Do a cleansing detox
  8. Practice Chakra Balancing Meditations
  9. Have a movie night
  10. Go on a brewery tour
  11. Get a pedicure
  12. Yoga
  13. Go to a spa
  14. Finger paint
  15. Bake goodies
  16. Visit an art museum or gallery
  17. Drink green tea
  18. Write a letter/send a card to a friend
  19. Go hiking
  20. Go for a bike ride
  21. Go to the beach
  22. Run a 5k for charity
  23. Practice tarot card reading
  24. Meditate
  25. Make a craft
  26. Color
  27. Take a nap
  28. Go to a comedy show
  29. Take a bubble bath
  30. Enroll in a class to learn a new skill
  31. Go to a sauna
  32. Listen to inspiring podcasts
  33. Plant flowers or an herb garden
  34. Cook a new recipe
  35. Clean out your closet
  36. Make a terrarium
  37. Buy yourself flowers
  38. Make a playlist
  39. Go on a picnic in the park
  40. Indulge in a sweet treat
  41. Go to bed early
  42. Make a smashbook all about you
  43. Sit in the sun’s rays and soak up the warmth
  44. Join a supportive Facebook Group
  45. Start Dry Body Brushing
  46. Create a vision board
  47. Read comic books
  48. Hang out with your pets
  49. Look at the stars
  50. Go to brunch and have a mimosa
  51. Use essential oils
  52. Have a take-out night from your favorite restaurant
  53. Journal
  54. Buy a new outfit
  55. Start a quote wall
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How Yoga Changed My Life

I awoke that morning filled with energy. I climbed out of bed without the aches and pains I had felt so many mornings before. I could stretch my arms above my head without feeling sharpness in my neck, standing tall without the soreness in my knees. I stood in front of my closet that morning trying to find something to wear, none of my clothes fit…

Two years ago, I would wake up in pure pain all through out my body. Each day I started exhausted and filled with anxiety about the day ahead. Then I found myself without a job. The main stress driver in my life had been lifted off my shoulders. Without all of that in front of me I saw what I had become. I was 50 pounds heavier, worn out and my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia had stripped me of some many things in my life. That’s when I knew it was time. I had the chance to reinvent my life, my body and how I chose to feel every day.

I had bought a yoga mat a several years back and it sat stored on the top shelf in my closet, still in the wrapping. I started doing yoga at home twice a day, in the morning and in the evening before bed. I started with just 10 minutes a day using a Yoga app I found and downloaded to my phone. A month later I attended my first class at a yoga studio. I was amazed I could do tree pose without completely falling over, though I still wobbled (and still do today). Six months later, I was down 40 pounds and off the pills and injections for my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. I found myself filled with more energy and happier. I had a thirst for life and adventure again.

Today I’m two and a half years into Yoga, still learning, still growing, still consider myself a newer yogi. I have fallen in and out of daily routine and each time I tell myself the story of how Yoga changed my life to remind myself why I practice.

Photo Credit: Anthony Machcinski. Check out more of his work here – Photos by Anthony Machcinski. His work is beautiful and each photo has a story behind it.

12 Powerful Ways Meditation Benefits You

Meditation quiets the mind, opens the heart, and lets the soul speak. It is a place where we can find answers, heal our hearts, souls and minds, and a place where we can find peace away from the chaos of our worlds. 

12 Ways You Benefit from Meditation:

– Helps you with focus and awareness.

– Helps you manage stress and anxiety.

– Increases your energy levels.

– Clears you mind.

– Teaches  patience, discipline, and self-control.

– Can increase your creativity.

– Improves sleep.

– Makes you happier.

– Teaches you how to control your breath.

– Helps you manage pain better.

– Increases self-discovery and self-awareness.

– It strengthens your senses.

Meditation can come in many forms. 

12 Ways I Meditate:

-Sitting still for moments and focusing on only my breath-

-During Yoga-

-Art Journaling-

-Earthing-

-Laying with my crystals placed and listening to meditation music-

-Singing along to my favorite songs-

-Moon Bathing-

-Coloring Mandalas-

-Laying in the grass looking at the sky-

-Guided Meditation Series-

-Mountain Pose in the shower-

-Painting-

My Artist’s Bucket List – Exploring New Territory

As an artist I am always looking for ways to grow. I have several forms of art and artistic expression that I am eager to try.

Oil Painting – my go-to paint choice has always been acrylic, in the last year I’ve expanded into water colors but I still have yet to give oils a try so that’s most definitely on my list!

Macrame – The beautiful wall hangings and jewelry that I’ve seen come from this wonderful craft are beautiful. I think this is a skill that will take more patience but I think it will be relaxing and rewarding.

Pottery – Think “Ghost”. How could you not want to try this? I’m a Virgo, meaning I’m an Earth sign and it absolutely intrigues me to be able to create something from such an earthy substance. I cannot imagine not liking the feel of building and creating something within my hands.

Figure Drawing – I’ve started dabbling in this as I explore with oil pastels but this is something I would like to really take the time and dig into. The art of the shape of the human body is beautiful and I truly want to be able to depict it on paper.

Weaving – The intricate designs and colors that can be captured within a woven piece is amazing. How each piece can tell a story of its handcrafted journey.

Calligraphy – I am a quote and inspirational words fanatic. I think this would be a wonderful skill to master to share that love.

 Screen Printing – Old school style. I tried this out when I was in school and it is so cool putting your artwork onto the fabric. I would like to revisit this skill.

 Dance – I have had dance on my bucket list for a while. The expression that can be shared through the art of dance can be quite powerful. There are many forms of dance that can be explored.

 There are so many forms of art out there. What kinds of art do you do and what’s on your bucket list to try?

Why Working Towards Minimalism Is Important To Me

I see a lot of posts about minimalism that focus on owning less stuff and de-cluttering, this isn’t what minimalism is about for me. For me, minimalism is more emotional than functional. Minimalism is about learning to make room for things that have meaning to my life, things that bring value and joy to me, and about letting go of the things that don’t. It’s about clearing space for better things in my life, allowing space for things to grow. It’s about following my heart and soul’s desire to have more in life, more than just stuff, things bigger and more inspiring. It’s about filling my life with adventure, love, and about filling a fiery desire to live life to the fullest. 

When my Grandparents passed away I found myself in a very emotional state, I became almost materialistic in a way that I needed to possess all of their material things so that they would always be there with me. Maybe this was how I was coping at the time but in the end, having all of their stuff didn’t help me mourn any better. Time is the only thing that can heal a sorrowful heart. 

I grew up with the idea that having stuff meant you were making it in life. I had all of these ideals in my mind that in my life now just don’t make sense any more. Minimalism is about having less stuff, but not in a way that whoever has the least stuff is a better minimalist. It has a much deeper meaning than that. Moving towards minimalism is freeing for me. It is a process of letting go, learning to be detached. It is about letting go of clutter that I thought was providing me safety but really was creating chaos. It is about letting emotions flow through me and not staying stagnant within an object. It is a journey for an understanding that living with less can mean that I’m living with more. 

I have been working towards minimalism for about 6 months now and I’ll be honest, I still own a lot of stuff but I’ve also let go of a lot of things as well. My thought processes are evolving and that is why I continue to work towards minimalism. I am finding more joy and less confusion in my freedom of being able to let go. Yesterday, my Mom’s new puppy climbed on my dresser and knocked down a whole bunch of things, most of them breaking as they hit the floor… a couple of years ago I would have been a mess, one of those items being an oil lamp I inherited from my Grandparents and other treasures I had collected over the years…but in the moment, I wasn’t worried about the stuff, I was worried about the puppy cutting herself on the glass. It is just stuff after all, it is not breath or the essence of life, just stuff. 

As I learn to let go, I find myself less stressed and happier. Calmer in the things that happen in my life, both good and challenging, both big and trivial. I find myself watching less tv, only buying clothes I love (even though I’m still struggling to let go of the clothes I still have), and more focused on working towards the things I really want out of life – like checking off a gigantic bucket list! I am by no means a role model for minimalism but I’m proud to be working towards it and someday I may just get there and some day I will feel as if I can truly call myself a minimalist but for now I’m okay with being a “minimalist in training”. 

Inspiration & Motivation For When It’s Tough To Keep Going

I was browsing through some old posts, doing my monthly reflecting thing, and I came across this one. I wrote it in September of 2014, a true turning point in my life. With Easter soon here, it brings thoughts to mind of hope and new beginnings, a thought of how true pain can bring upon us glorious resurrection. I can’t say that my life became easy, or that heartache stopped to exist in my life after this turning point, and maybe some days I still don’t take it in the best stride, but I do come back from it every time, stronger than I was before. I can’t help but imagine that I am being trained for something so much greater out of this life. In the last three years, I’ve suffered more loss and held greater heartaches but I will not give up hope ever. I refuse to believe that life is anything other than a gift, that our suffering is anything other than lessons. I refuse to roll over and lay. My spirituality has shifted some as I grow but my core beliefs remain the same and I still believe. 

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

I have experienced many trials, challenges, and heartaches in my life (so far) but I do not look back at them with regret or resentment.  A couple of years ago when my ex left me three months before our wedding I was crushed, the very center I had built my future around had been shattered. Though I didn’t know it then, I had been saved. When my Grandmother passed away, I was deeply saddened, but with that sadness I found strength and courage. When my son was angry and told me he hated me I felt as if my heart had been pierced but it gave me focus and motivation to show him how much I loved him, to be a better Mother.
We will all have tragedies in our lives. Some we bring on ourselves, some that are dealt to us, but do not look at them as defeat, for there is no such thing as defeat. These are just twists in our path.

If it wasn’t for my heartaches, for the challenges I overcame then I wouldn’t be where I am today, or who I am today (or have the relationships I have today). Some hurdles I soared over, some I barely climbed but I can say with pride and boast that I survived them, I survived. The Universe does not break our lives but will always be there to give us strength to survive. We will be given the tools to rebuild. Life will always have tests – tests of strength,  tests of courage, and tests of faith.
Having faith isn’t about knowing what the outcome will be, it is about trusting that in the end it will all be well. I used to have a close friend that would always say, “It will be okay and if it’s not okay, then it is not the end”. Those words still linger in my mind. I truly believe that we are placed (or sometimes walk ourselves into) situations so that we may grow, that we may better ourselves. Ten years ago I didn’t have that same belief, I thought the world was against me. But then I learned some valuable advice – what makes us strong, what makes us happy, and what makes us wise is not what happens to us but it is in how we  react to it. I choose to be happy, therefore I am.

I don’t know what all will happen tomorrow but I do know that I will have faith to make it through and that I will come out a better person because of it.

I Choose to be, Therefore I am.