The Truth About Love and Heartache.

Love is a powerful shield against the inevitable bumps in the road of your life’s journey.

We all know the warm and fuzzy feeling we experience when we are in love.

But beyond that, research from various scientific fields has linked love to tremendous benefits in our emotional, mental, and physical health, our happiness and even our career and financial success.

Healthy lovers help each other recover faster from illness, reduce stress, depression and anxiety and grow brain regions involved with creativity, emotional intelligence and resilience. No wonder most of the movies we watch, songs we listen to, and commercials we see are all stories of love. 

But why do so many of these stories talk about heartache?

For decades, researchers from all across the world have tried to answer that question. 

The problem is, when our love life suffers, we lose our parachute that keeps us safe during the falls of life. Relationship distress leads to responses to threatening and stressful events that make things worse, reduces our immune function, and leads to depression.  And it leads to us being too jaded to invest in love again.

The good news is that research has also opened the door to recognizing barriers to a healthy relationship and effective strategies we can employ to overcome them and harness the power of love. 

In light of the highly-commercialized Valentine’s Day, which at least places love in the forefront of our mind where it should be, I wanted to share a handful of myths about love that we need to be mindful of in our quest to make love a positive aspect of our life. 

I am hoping my insights will inspire you to assess your current perceptions and perhaps consider experimenting with these principles to enhance your own experience of love. 

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” 

― Erich Fromm

Myths about love

1.    We think Love is something we “fall into.” 

We are constantly bombarded with an idealized version of what love is all about. According to movies, commercials, and songs, when we meet “the one” we will know it, bring out the best in one another, and walk into the sunset in eternal bliss.

This notion is flawed, as it sets us up for failure. 

In reality, we cultivate love through committed actions and hard work to rise up to a disciplined way we choose to interact with another, so that together we can build a safe haven that makes us stronger in dealing beautifully with the ups and downs of life. 

No matter how good our love relationship is, it is always a work-in-progress. 

The work involves choosing to do all the little things daily that keep us attuned to our partner, reflect that we are there for them, and show that we will emotionally respond to them in good times and, especially, in bad. 

Here are some tips from the experts to incorporate in your labor of love:

  • It is the small things you do daily that allow you to strengthen your bond and build trust. Answering the question:“What does our relationship need from me?” is a great way to uncover what these daily small things your relationship needs to flourish.
  • Increasing your tolerance for differences, and gentleness in how you approach your different points of view, allows you to feel more connected.
  • Conflict is not the real problem as long as you are mindful of keeping the positive to negative interactions in a five to one ratio.

Once the foundation is set and we have done the hard work of planting our garden with all the right fruits and vegetables that we need, we then don’t have to work as hard anymore.

We can enjoy feeling more assured, assertive, and confident and view life in a more adventurous and expansive way.

“If you have a responsive love partner, you have a secure base in the chaos. If you are emotionally alone, you are in free fall.” 

—Dr. Sue Johnson


2.    We don’t give love the respect and priority it deerves.

We all want to be happy in love, but sometimes it seems that we don’t realize how sacred and powerful love is.

As a consequence, we often sacrifice love in the name of other important elements of our life, such as our career or our finances. Interestingly, the Grant study, Harvards longest study in human development researching the factors that contribute to life fulfillment, reveled that secure relationships were by far the biggest contributing factor to career and financial success! 

What we don’t realize is that the bond we share with our primary mate, when nurtured adequately, gives us access to superpowers!

Research shows that healthy, attuned lovers are able to reduce each other’s stress response, heart rate, and trigger the release of a potent hormone called oxytocin, which actually turns off fear.

Fear prevents us from expressing our full potential in all areas of our life.

If we tend to play small in life, chances are, our primary attachment bonds in childhood did not arm us with the confidence to expect positive outcomes, so we are more fearful. Negative models from past experience create unconscious limiting beliefs and anticipatory responses that prevent us from being bold in life.

Love can actually reshape our brain and replace old wounds and limiting beliefs with confidence, courage, and grit.

And the well-documented way our brain activates to diminish threats that is associated with a secure attachment, leads to incredible physiological and psychological benefits. 

So how do we harness the power of love in a more practical sense?

The next time you experience internal discomfort, remember that your partner is the solution and not the enemy. Instead of shutting down or turning away from him/her, reach out to them instead. Identifying our emotional needs and sharing them with our love allows them to respond to us and offer us the comfort and support we need.

“The power of love can help to free us from the trappings of past experiences and to live in the true sense of joyful wholeness.” 

—James Van Praagh

3.    We perceive depending on others as weakness.

We are hardwired in our core to meet our powerful need for intimacy. Yet, we experience great discord in life because we define dependence as a weakness. 

Central to this issue is our fear of vulnerability and our confusion between healthy interdependence and co-dependency. 

The critical difference of interdependence from unhealthy forms of dependence is how we show up in the relationship. When we have a solid sense of self and self-worthiness, we don’t engage in maladaptive behaviors, such as people pleasing, manipulating, or blaming. We instead balance our own needs with the needs of the relationship and work toward the beautiful balance of giving and receiving without fears of being abandoned or losing our identity.   

We then feel free to be vulnerable and create true intimacy.

As we have learned from world renowned vulnerability expert, Dr. Brene Brown, there is immense power in creating wholehearted connections where we allow ourselves to be fully seen. This includes the courage to go out on an emotional limb to ask for help when we need it.   

Far from the conventional view of this as weakness, being able to reach for our loved ones as a resource to calm and comfort us is a strength.

“It seems to me that if we, as a species, are to survive at all on this fragile blue and green planet, we have to learn to step past the illusion of separateness and grasp that we truly are mutually dependent. We learn this in our most intimate relationships.” 

—Dr. Sue Johnson

4.    We blame love—and our lover—for our suffering.

Every love affair begins with an incredible cloud nine, fairy tale sort of feeling. But sooner or later, pain shows up, right when the initial honeymoon phase ends. It is at that point that we tend to blame the relationship and the object of our affection for our suffering. 

What is actually happening below the realm of our conscious awareness is that once we have allowed ourselves to get swept in by the strong force of love, our nervous system regurgitates our historical sensations of what happened in the past when we depended on another.

If our past did not leave a positive imprint on our neurobiology, our automatic response is to become fearful. We may be afraid of being rejected, losing our self, losing our independence, being abandoned, and the list goes on.

And then what happens is all the things we are afraid of saturate our body and our mind and in the process of fighting these old memories, we project them onto our love!

John Gottman’s 40-year research, which predicts divorce with 90% accuracy, has identified four hallmark behaviors that will absolutely drown even the best relationships. These are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stone-walling. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself any time you feel you are beginning to go down one of these poisonous reflex responses. (You can also receive a cheat sheet of these questions along with a feelings inventory in your inbox when you join the Myndzen community by clicking on this link:

—What am I feeling right now?

—What about this makes me feel this way?

—How much of it is true and how much of it is a story based on the past?

—What can I do differently that is within my control?

 Reaching out to our love for comfort instead of blaming them for our suffering will not only help us reduce our internal negative arousal in the moment, but it will also strengthen our bond. They can then become a resource as we grow toward emotional intelligence.

“We are born in relationship, we are wounded in relationship, and we can be healed in relationship .”

— Harville Hendrix

5.    We expect love to complete us. 

There is no bigger disappointment than the rude awakening of our beloved asking us to make a change in ourselves right after we believed this was the person for whom we could do no wrong. After all, this one was supposed to be “the one” who would bring out the best in us, right?

Not exactly.

The relationship which protects us from all dangers and threats in life, which gives us the freedom to be ourselves, and supports our growth and our dreams does not work like that.

Rather, it requires two complete, whole individuals who are each committed to personal evolution.

That does not mean that the ones of us who experienced adversity in childhood, wounds, or traumas are destined to miss out.

We all have issues, some of us more and greater than others. However, the difference for our personal evolution is how we handle those issues and what we are committed to do toward our own individuation and self-actualization.

The path to our own healing may seem daunting and we may avoid it by simply changing partners in hopes that our issues will disappear by magic.

But the truth is, until we love ourselves wholeheartedly and commit to our own healing and growth, we will not be able to see the love of a partner and feel safe. This is true even if the archetype of our ideal partner falls in love with us.

After all, the greatest truth about love and heartache, is that until we find harmony within, we cannot create it with another.

 Final thoughts

Love is a powerful shield and a disciplined way we commit to interact with another to powerfully address the ups and downs of life and reach our full potential.

A healthy love relationship has a positive effect on our well-being, our happiness, and our life expectancy. 

To be happy in love, we may want to revisit some current perspectives and default responses that are myths, and not true.

We can recognize and commit to the hard work that is required to rise to love.

We can embrace the power of love and actively engage in doing the “small things often” that will resist the conditioned ways of expressing our pain.

We can learn to speak a new language—the language of emotions—and strengthen our bond through exposing our vulnerabilities.

We can let love be the mirror of our soul and our guide down the path of our own personal development and healing.

Because the truth is, only when we heal ourselves, can we be happy in love. 

Notes: The information in this article was informed by my personal review of studies, my participation in Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s “Art and Science of Love Workshop,” Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotional-Focused Therapy, and the application of this research in my own life.  If you enjoyed this article, you might want to review an earlier article I wrote listing some of the most significant benefits of love. You can find it by clicking here.

A Holistic Framework to Design New Year’s Resolutions that Work!

The countdown to the New Year is almost here!

We are just days away from opening the door to new beginnings. But how satisfied are you with how this year went? Was it all that you wished for, or do you feel disappointed because this was yet another year that you were not able to meet the goals you set for yourself?  Or perhaps you met your goals but feel frustrated because they did not bring you fulfillment?

I have a little secret to tell you.

If your efforts did not bring you satisfaction this year, there is a good chance that your energy was misdirected. 

Where you invested your time, attention, and resources is not what has the power to bring you fulfillment. 

As an Integrative Wellness practitioner and the poster child of the cost of success without fulfillment, I want to share with you a life construction framework that can help you design your new year to be the beginning of a truly satisfying life.

The truth about New Year’s resolutions

During this time of the year, most of us take the time to reflect on what went well, what did not, and what we would like to do differently in the new year.

“A  New Year’s resolution is a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.” – Wikipedia

But why do New Year’s resolutions have such a high failure rate?

By January 7, a quarter of us give up on our new year’s resolutions, and a mere month later more than 60% of us will give up on them as well. What is the real barrier to lasting change in life improvement endeavors?

New Year’s resolutions’ blindspots.

Broadly speaking, our definition of success, which gives birth to our life strategies and new year’s resolutions, comes from our family, society, educational system, and culture. 

It is an external view of success created by others and is problematic in the following ways:

1.    This view of success focuses predominantly on material accomplishments, such as the size of our bank account, house, or job title.

2.    It impacts only the physical aspect of our being while overlooking the other dimensions of our being, which are just as important: 

·     Our mental dimension, which includes our thought patterns, self-perception, beliefs, and how we view the world.

·     Our emotional dimension, which includes our feelings and the relationships we have with ourselves and with others.

·     Our spiritual dimension, which includes our true self, our personal development, our connection to community and the world, and our connection to a higher power, whatever that definition is for you.

3.    Directing our energy to meet status quo expectations does not provide us with the motivation we need to fuel the transformations we want to accomplish. When our efforts are supporting someone else’s vision, and lack emotional, spiritual, and mental rewards, we lose steam quickly.

4.    Living someone else’s vision negatively impacts important areas of our life. 

For example, one may unconsciously sacrifice their primary relationship or deep connection to their children for a leadership promotion or a higher paycheck. Or one can have an incredible career at the expense of the health of their body.

I know all too well the cost of not nurturing all aspects of ourselves and how they affect one another!

As a young immigrant chasing the “American Dream,” I placed too much emphasis on climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of my emotional, mental, and spiritual health. The imbalance in the neglected parts eventually resulted in the collapse of every part of me, including my spine. Living with a severe spinal condition is not easy. But it was my awakening to understanding why Integrative Medicine is the biggest trend in Wellness.

“Integrative medicine embodies the original, but often-forgotten, model of health and wellness: It focuses on a whole-person approach equally addressing the patient’s mind, body, community and spirit as the means to reach optimal health.”-Dr. De Mello

I personally may never be able to restore my physical health to its beautiful original state. But today I am living my life’s purpose: To inspire and empower my fellow human beings embrace the transformative power of holistic (integrative) wellness.

I wrote this article to share with you a step by step path to bring holistic wellness home. If your current life planning method has left you feeling unfulfilled, I invite you to try planning your new year using an approach that works. The holistic life model has allowed me and my clients to break through conditioned ways of being and live a healthier, balanced life we enjoy. And you can too!

A new approach—The Holistic Life Model

At no point in our life do we get educated on the importance of caring for our entire being. A robust body of scientific evidence however, indicates that the most effective path to well-being is possible when we consider and care for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Our mind, body, and spirit are not only interconnected with one another, but also have a significant impact on all important areas of our life: health, career and finances, family and relationships, and spirituality and self-development. 

You can bring the Holistic Life Model home this year by creating a life plan (and new years resolutions), that involves caring for and nurturing all of you—the WHOLE person. Do you typically try to address a physical problem by taking actions to bring well-being into that physical area alone? Instead, you can begin to address the physical problem by including actions to bring or increase well-being into all four areas of self: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

For example, you probably will not be able to experience lasting positive change in weight loss endeavors if you only focus on creating new eating habits. Weight loss is most successful when we combine addressing core issues that perhaps lead to emotional eating in combination with new eating habits. Which area of your life is causing you stress that you attempt to soothe through food? Is it your primary relationship, the one you have with your manager, or your difficult sister? Improving the quality of that relationship will help address the cause of emotional eating and increase your chance of accomplishing your weight goal.

Here are the steps you can use to plan a Holistic, Fulfilling, Happy New Year:

Step 1: Clearly define your vision.

If you had a blank canvas, what kind of masterpiece would you dare to create for your life?

Allow yourself the freedom and the space to dream for a minute. 

Write down the elements of what you would define as a fulfilling life of health and balance if you paid attention to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual self in all important areas of your life: health, career and finances, family and relationships, spirituality and self-development. Don’t limit your self by one-dimensional visions, like “becoming a millionaire.” Envision what kind of parent, or partner you want to be, how would you make a change in your community? In your vision, what do your daily rituals look like? What are your spiritual practices?

Don’t limit yourself by focusing on what you don’t want, like dropping an extra ten pounds. Dare to dream about what excites you. In your ideal life, would you be in the best shape of your life? Would you challenge yourself to win a dance competition?

By taking the time to create your life vision, circumstances will no longer drive your life. A strong vision will allow you to bring intentionality to all that you do to support you in becoming who you want to be.

Step 2: Identify the area currently in need of the most improvement.

This step can be a tricky one. Often times, an imbalance in one area is the root cause of what we experience as a problem in another. The experience I shared earlier—of trying to lose weight by dieting, when the root cause of your weight gain is emotional eating to deal with stress from a toxic relationship—is an example of this. 

You are the expert in determining which part of your life needs your attention today to provide you with the highest return on your investment in improving your life experience as a whole.

Maybe you have accomplished much success in your career, but your primary relationship suffers. Maybe you have worked your way into great physical fitness, but your finances are in disarray. Maybe you have a great home, but you feel lonely. Or perhaps you have a good job and are financially comfortable, but you don’t feel fired up because your company’s vision is not congruent with yours. The clarity that comes with recognizing your biggest area of struggle will allow you to take the small, bite-size steps that will positively impact every aspect of your life.

Step 3: Determine the actions within your control that contributed to your problem.

The conventional way of thinking leads us to an automatic path of blaming external circumstances for our problems. However, this approach deprives us of the power to change the trajectory of our life story.

How did you contribute to what has become a challenging area of your life?

Maybe you can see how a person you chose to keep in your life did not honor your personal values or boundaries. Perhaps you kept one eye closed because you were afraid of being alone.

Maybe you followed a career path that is not meaningful to you for the high paycheck or because you believed it would enhance your sense of self-worth.

Or perhaps you played small and sacrificed your full potential because you were afraid of failure.

Becoming crystal clear about which of your actions created a problem in any aspect of your life may seem hard, but it is so worth the effort.

By recognizing your power to create your reality, you open the door to endless opportunities to make the necessary changes in the new year that will help you change your problem area into a break-through.

Step 4: Identify the small steps you can take today that will move you toward your vision.

We often get overwhelmed by choosing goals that are too elusive, like “being a millionaire,” meeting “the one,” “driving a Tesla,” or “living in a beach house.”

 At the end of the day we all just want to be happy. Yet we forget that happiness is a state that we are in control of defining as we grow, learn, and do.

Perhaps going to happy hour was once your definition of what fulfilling social time looks like.

However, if your new vision is to live a life of service in the best shape of your life, maybe starting a hiking meet-up group for working moms is the action that will give you happiness now. 

Happiness emerges when we choose all the little actions we can feasibly do every day that support and nurture our life vision.

When looking at the area you chose to prioritize as needing the greatest amount of improvement, what small actions can you take every day mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically to support this new life vision? If your vision is to be in the best shape of your life this new year, you can start small. For example, you can commit to daily 15-minute walk after dinner each night; Establish a fitness buddy to share fitness rituals with; Make a healthy vegetable soup for the week.

By taking small steps everyday that help us live our goals, as opposed to waiting for the day when they come to life, we can reset the tone for new happiness.

Final thoughts 

As one year is coming to an end and a new one is about to begin we take the time to reflect on what has worked for us and what we plan to change to be happier.

Yet it appears that the compass of our traditional new years’ resolutions is societal expectations that misdirect our energy and leave us feeling drained, unfulfilled, and stuck at the end of the year.

It is clear that the traditional model of building a fulfilling life does not provide us with the framework to bring wholeness to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual dimensions. 

There is a different way to approach life that puts us back in the driver’s seat—the Holistic Life Model.

This model requires that we are brave enough to step outside the orbit of status quo expectations and clearly define our authentic life vision.

Rather than only focusing on the size of our bank account, it involves deciding what kind of partner, parent, or community member we want to be. 

This compelling vision then generates the unfathomable motivation that helps us align our daily actions to support it.

When we choose to live a conscious, holistic life, we end every year fulfilled because we experience satisfaction in the present moment, as opposed to waiting for an elusive goal to become a reality.

So why wait for January 1? You can choose this moment to begin your new, holistic life.

If you need help to do this, I am here for you. It is my mission as a certified Integrative Wellness coach to support you in changing anything that is not working for you by focusing on what you can control.

Because I can tell you one thing with certainty. Despite all the amazing adventures of my life, achieving goals and experiencing life in three different countries, nothing—no money, no job titles, no awards—can top how amazing it feels to take back control of your life.

Happy New Year!

Tips to Make the Holidays Less stressful. (And more Merry & Bright)

We typically refer to the holiday season as the most wonderful time of the year. 

But is that true for you? If it is, I am happy for you.

But if it’s not, you are definitely not alone!

Statistically-speaking, it appears that for a good three months, including the time before and after the holidays, our stress level is at its worst for the majority of us.

Further, seasonal depression abounds during the holiday season. Many additional financial strains, extra work demands for end-of-the-year deadlines, and dealings with family members challenge our ability to stay positive, present and calm.

Not to mention, many of us have to rise to the occasion of having a “wonderful life” when our reality is not congruent with the commercials and holiday shows that bombard us. Many of us are divorced, single parents.  Some of us live thousands of miles away from home. And others are adjusting to life without loved ones who are no longer here.

Between the extra expenses, gifts, travel, decorations, dinner parties, loneliness, distractions of our normal routine, long lines, loss, divorces, extra traffic, dealing with family, and oh-so-many expectations are you surprised we suffer from holiday stress?

It does not matter whether the holiday is Hanukah, Christmas, or Diwali. The extra load the holidays place on our already-full plates often exceeds our capacity to rise to the occasion without taking our bodies out of whack.

However, there is a magical gift to be found in the holidays and in the rest of our life. If the script that was passed on to us is causing us exhaustion, anxiety, pressure, and strain, it is 100% within our control to change it!

We are the creators of our reality and we can re-write any part of our story to make it more balanced, sustainable, jolly, and bright!

Here are nineteen suggestions to consider in re-writing your holiday story, in order to savor the festivities without burning out.

Upgrade your mindset

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1.    How we celebrate Christmas as we grow older can change.

The holiday tale you were handed as part of your family history includes a myriad of family traditions that perhaps are not realistic today. 

If you want to write a new holiday story that fits your current reality, you can start by choosing a new theme. Then you can determine the plot, the protagonists, the roles, and the dialogue that work for you. Here are some suggestions for a new story with a happier ending:

2. Set your own standards, expectations, and what “good enough” looks like for you. Don’t try to keep up with traditions that are unrealistic based on your life’s circumstances.

3. Focus only on what you can control. 

4. Enjoy the journey without being distracted by worries about the result.

5. Strive for balance as opposed to perfection.

6. Explore ways you can turn to-do list items into opportunities for connection. My lovely friend Steph role-modeled this beautifully when she hosted a Friendsgiving soiree this year. Everybody contributed to a lovely meal, and part of the joy was decorating her Christmas tree together. What a great way to enjoy the moment and take the decorating chore off her to-do list!

Prioritize and plan ahead

7.    Set a budget without being afraid of being a Scrooge.

You may know of the character, Scrooge, from the story The Christmas Carol. He was miserly and selfish. But you can set limits and still be generous.

After all, how generous we are with our time, energy, and money hinges on the love and thought we place into things and not the quantity.

What if you avoid over-spending, as well as the overwhelming lines and exhaustion of holiday shopping, by creating gifts for your dearest ones? 

You can spend time with your children decorating useful everyday things, like coffee mugs for example. Or you can play some holiday music by the fire while reviewing your photos from the past year. Select your favorite photos of adventures you shared with family and friends. You can then order prints of those photos, place them in frames, and turn them into wonderful gifts.

8.    Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas.

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You may remember the Grinch,  Dr. Seuss’s mean-tempered character, who was so irritated by the holiday festivities that he decided to destroy Christmas.

When you lose yourself in an attempt to please everyone and surpass everybody else’s expectations, guess what happens! You burnout. The typical symptoms of burnout— exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, and ineffectiveness—can turn the nicest of us into the Grinch! What good is staying up all night to prepare the perfect holiday gathering if you are so snappish and irritable that you cannot enjoy it?

Do you remember the last time you gave up sleep, wholesome nutrition, or your little healthful rituals to rise to the unrealistic expectations of your family, friends, or work?

How did that feel in your body and spirit? 

The truth is, it is impossible to be the perfect mother, daughter, cook, and executive all at the same time. It is imperative that we take control of our priorities by being mindful of what is important to our well-being!  

To avoid burning out this holiday season, incorporate the following when setting your holiday priorities. 

9. Put yourself on top of your priority list! 

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10. Plan ahead how you will spend your time, your money, and your energy. 

11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

12. Nurture your body.

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Don’t let the holiday over-burden your need for rest in between sprints. A short 15-minute walk can be a great way to de-stress. There is a great sense of peace in the sound of the wind whistling through the trees and the extra blood pumping through your blood when you gift yourself with a few minutes of activity in nature. Not to mention, research has revealed that even short amounts of daily exercise activate the same brain circuits as anti-depressants do.  

13. Nurture your mind. If extra contact with relatives, which takes you out of your zen, is on the menu during the holidays, purposely infuse positive activities in between visiting with them. This can include committing to a guided meditation before you go to sleep, listening to an uplifting podcast on the way to work, or simply planning to spend more time with people who uplift your spirits.

14.  Enjoy the moment. Resist the urge to let your mind wander to stressful thoughts. Although this is easier said than done, training your attention to stay in the present moment is an incredible practice. Its benefits go beyond being a popular fad. Keeping your attention in the now has many physiological and psychological benefits. Some of those benefits are blood pressure reduction, increased optimism, and even growth in regions of your brain that are associated with inner strengths, like improved concentration and problem-solving.

Dare to be you and do things differently

15.    Let Rudolph show you the joy of being different .

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Do you remember the story of Rudolph, one of Santa’s reindeer, who was shunned by the other reindeer because he had a bright, red nose? But then the light of his nose saved Christmas as he guided Santa’s sleigh on a foggy night. 

The stress to conform can increase during the holidays. Once upon a time we lived in small communities with family structures that had defined roles and plenty of support available. Today, the pace of life is very different with many single-parent households, moms in executive roles, and family members geographically spread around the nation or the world.

High demands are placed on us during the holidays.  It takes courage to defy the familial norms and traditions. Choosing how you want your life to be during the holiday season means you have the opportunity to create new traditions that are aligned with who you are today.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind as you become a holiday tradition pioneer:

16. Align traditions with your interests.

What traditions are linked to what gives you joy? For example, I discovered that volunteering for a cause I am passionate about is a fantastic new holiday tradition with many benefits. It gives me the opportunity to savor my connectedness to the whole, spend wholesome time with my daughter, and deepen my sense of gratitude for our blessings. 

17. Master the art of saying no. We have associated a negative connotation to saying no to things that take us off-kilter. But whether you kindly decline to attend one more holiday affair or to host your negative relative for ten days, consider what you are saying yes to when you say no. Perhaps you are saying yes to peace of mind, centeredness, and a better night’s sleep!


18.    Choose the definition of the greatest gift.

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Beyond over-indulging, over-spending, forced family time, and endless to-do lists, the spirit of the holidays is really about pausing and opening the door to love.

The greatest gift we can all give to ourselves, our families, and the world we live in is taking back the reins of what is 100% within our control. We can choose all the ingredients and the small steps to take to create the life and the holiday season we love.

During this time, give yourself the space to reflect on what you need to continue, to stop, and to start doing in the coming year. You can use the following prompts to reflect.

o  What activities, choices, and people brought you happiness this last year?

o  How does your current self-care ritual feel? How do you nurture your body and soul? What more do you need?

o  What are some of the biggest pearls of wisdom you gathered this year and what would you like to do differently in the new year?

By pausing, reflecting, and choosing what you will do to move toward what you truly love, you can not only design a peaceful holiday, but a more satisfying life. 


19.    Remember what a wonderful life looks like to you.

Our busy lives, in and out of the holiday season, don’t always provide us with the opportunity to reflect on what truly makes life wonderful.

I know from personal experience how draining, stressful, and unfulfilling losing ourselves in all the things we “should be” doing can be.

Meeting a never-ending list of others’ expectations and standards obscures the wonder of life and deprives us of the joy that we all deserve.

But we can use this holiday season as the catalyst for positive change.

We can:

  • Decide which parts of our history we want to bring forth into the present moment.
  • Dare to incorporate new traditions that serve us well.
  • Elevate our self-care and honor our limits.
  • Prioritize and plan how we use our energy to honor what is important to us.

And then, the miracle happens. A door opens to a truly wonderful life. We feel calmer, more grounded, and can shed a tear for a special someone we miss yet smile at the glistening shine of a fresh snowflake.

And that is when we not only enjoy the festivities in the present moment, but we become a beacon of light for our families, our colleagues, and the collective whole.

May you have a wonderful, joyful, and peaceful holiday season!