DEALING WITH LONELINESS: THE LONELINESS CHRONICLES

Human connection is an essential need for survival. We will always crave a sense of belonging, and, because of this, when we cannot satisfy this need, a feeling of loneliness is inevitable.

Now, I hate to be a cliche, but a time where I felt the most alone was when my three-year relationship came to an end. My ex-partner was a kind person, but we weren’t good for each other. At that point in my life, any spare time I had was dedicated to my significant other, which meant that I neglected my relationships with friends, family, and myself. When we broke up, I had to face a harsh reality that I didn’t have much of a life beyond our relationship. So for the first time, in a long time, I was alone — and I was lonely.

I’ll spare you the details of a very long sob story, but going through this specific season of loneliness left me with a lot of life lessons that I feel compelled to share with my fellow vinas. Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

WHAT DIDN’T HELP:

  1. Isolating Myself – Yeah, this one seems obvious, haha. If you’re feeling alone, isolation would be counterproductive. When I was feeling lonely, I thought my best bet was to “tough it out,” but this only validated the fear that I was alone and didn’t deserve love.
  2. Meaningless Hookups – I am all for recreational sex with whoever, whenever. What I don’t recommend is seeking physical relationships to fill the void caused by loneliness. This was my go-to M.O. every time I was craving intimacy, but temporary solutions don’t fix long-term problems. When I sought out partners for this purpose, I was always left feeling emptier than before.
  3. Alcohol – I went on a three-month-long bender of going out to the bars and clubs at any given opportunity. Translation, I was filling the void yet again, but this time with too much alcohol. Your objective of a fun evening out shouldn’t be to drink until you don’t feel anything anymore.

WHAT DOES HELP:

  1. Reaching Out – Initially, it was really hard to reach out to my loved ones. I felt that because I neglected our friendships that it would be insulting to try and lean on them for support. I’m glad that I didn’t listen to that voice for long because I would have missed out on some really great moments with my friends. These people provided me with the reassurance I needed the get out of the dark place I was in. In the long run, reconnecting with those I cared about has taught me to be a much better friend in return.
  2. Creating New Relationships – Alongside the rebuilding of my current relationships, I also made it a point to try and meet new people. It was extremely daunting to put myself out there, but it was a necessary step to self-healing. Also, shameless app plug, but that’s actually how I stumbled upon Hey! VINA! Nothing brings two vinas together more than a broken heart.
  3. Doing Things I Loved & Trying Out New Things – In my relationship, I neglected a lot of my personal hobbies that used to bring me a lot of joy. Now that I had more time for myself, I decided to pick them back up. I got back into reading, attending story slams, and traveling. It also gave me a chance to try out things that always wanted to do painting (I wasn’t very good at it). Filling up my calendar with things to do meant I didn’t have much time to dwell upon the loneliness. Which brings me to my next item:
  4. Being Kind to Myself – A lot of the loneliness I was feeling was fueled by negative self-talk, which is why it was unsettling to be by myself. I had to learn to change the narrative and replace my harsh words with affirming ones. This isn’t easy for anyone, but sentences like, “I am deserving of love” or “I have an amazing support system that cares for me” made all the difference.
  5. Embracing Solitude – Not to be confused with isolation, but it’s important to solidify your relationship with yourself. How you go about it will be different for everyone. For me, sometimes it meant taking days off to sit in bed and read or dedicate a day to pampering myself. Time to time, I’d make plans to travel and explore new cities with me, myself, and I. This opportunity for quietness, peace, and self-reflection lead to such clarity and self-growth. After all, being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.

Unfortunately, loneliness doesn’t have an expiration date. You might have many periods of loneliness in your lifetime, but I hope that this list gives you some insight on how to tackle it. Just remember vinas, you may feel lonely, but you’re never alone.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new friends. Download the Hey! VINA app today to do so!

MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN

I don’t mind sharing the fact that I’ve been clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression. Although I’ve managed my anxiety through medication along with removing things that make me anxious, I still battle depression on a regular basis. Some days I’m the stereotypical can’t-get-out-of-bed-to-adult-today type of depressed and other days I am the I-have-no-friends-and-everyone-is-married-but-me depressed. Either type of depressive feeling sucks! The one cliche that everyone notes is “you are not alone.”

It’s easy to feel alone when you’re facing your own battles and situations. Feeling lonely can make you depressed; being depressed can make you lonely. Unfortunately, our natural instinct is to meld one into the other. Loneliness is not the same as being alone. When you’re alone, there’s literally no one around. When you’re lonely, you’re experiencing a feeling. Regardless of how many people are around, you don’t feel as though you’re connecting with anyone. I have children, so it’s safe to say I’m never alone. However, I do feel lonely when I have no one to talk to about the unnecessary door slamming at 7 a.m.

I’m not a medical professional, and always recommend that you speak to a professional regarding your feelings of loneliness or depression. It’s the best thing you can do in the name of self-care. However, I’ll share what’s worked for me in overcoming my loneliness and depression.

WRITE IT OUT

woman writing

Journaling is a popular method for logging a lot of different things, from writing out things you want to manifest to jotting down your feelings throughout the day. Start simple. Use the Notes app on your phone to write down a feeling and the time. Later you can expand on how you felt in that moment and what was occurring. I’m big on technology and apps, and there is one app I highly recommend called MoodNotes (currently available on iOS) by a company called Thriveport. According to its website, “Thriveport’s mission is to create helpful, intuitive, and scientifically sound tools to improve people’s lives.” Try it out.

TRIGGERS

A huge way to analyze and get through a feeling of loneliness or depression is to learn and understand your triggers. If seeing a picture of a normal happy moment triggers a feeling of depression for you, you need to analyze why you reacted that way. One of the reasons it’s so important to keep track of how you feel through the day is to help you find the source of your feelings. Once you learn what triggers certain feelings, you’ll be better able to overcome moments of loneliness and depression. Being able to change your thought patterns around sadness will help you maintain a level of control. We often fall into mental traps by personalizing, blaming, catastrophizing, and so on. Sometimes re-thinking the situation to avoid these traps will help you see a way out.

YOU AREN’T ALONE (REALLY)

Two women on a dock.

The awesome thing that I’ve learned is that I’m really not alone. I’m unique. My situation may seem unique, but I am not alone. And neither are you. The Hey! VINA app shows that there are so many women out there who are looking for support, looking to have fun, and looking to make real connections. There are people that care about you. There are people that want to be around you. You are a good person, regardless of the decisions you’ve made that aren’t. Not everyone judges a book by its cover. You are loved, even if you may not know it yet.

Finding a support system can be a challenge when you’re in a slump where you feel like you don’t deserve one. Always remember, your support system starts with you. Put a smile on your face (Go ahead, I’ll wait. No I don’t care if it’s fake). Pull your shoulders back, and take control of your life and your emotions. You and only you have the power to reclaim your happiness and be everything you want to be.

And you deserve it. That and so much more.

Head over to Hey!VINA to find some genuine connections and start building your support system today.

THE VINA GUIDE TO LOVING YOURSELF

February—better known as “the month of love“—has had us ladies fantasizing about all things relationships, flowers, chocolates, romantic evenings and wine related. However, I have one question for you: What’s more special than celebrating a love that is deeper than the seas, a love that is as loyal as it comes, a love that has been there since day one, a love that lasts a lifetime? AKA, SELF-LOVE.

Now I know this new trendy epidemic of self-love looks really appealing on social media—filled with facemasks, bubble baths, aromatherapy and so on—which I’m totally not knocking, I love it! But to really love yourself is to really put the work in. Luckily, us vina gals are empowered to make a difference in our lives, so let’s get through this guide together, okay?

1) TO LOVE THYSELF, IS TO PUT THYSELF FIRST

When was the last time you put yourself first? For some of us, it isn’t that easy. We might be people-pleasers, draining our own energy to be there for others. Some of us might be mothers, some of us might work three jobs just to get by, but have you heard of the word “self-preservation”? There comes a time where we need to literally say “enough is enough” and admit that you need some me time. And that is totally okay! Preserve some time every day, whether it’s an hour or 10 minutes, and just do what you and your body need at that moment. Give yourself some space to rejuvenate!

2) SWITCH THE NARRATIVE: SPEAK WELL TO YOURSELF. SPEAK UP FOR YOURSELF

How many of us know how to take a compliment, without answering it back with a bit of belittlement about ourselves? How many of us compliment others, without ever complimenting ourselves? If we continue to talk down to ourselves, talk ourselves out of opportunities, feel worthless or inadequate, believe what others view us as, we will truly live that narrative. So, switch it up! Speak powerfully and presently to yourself: “I am beautiful, I am successful, I am living a wonderful, happy life.” When we speak in the present moment, our minds will start believing it. Find power even in your weaknesses. Be patient with yourself. You are what you think, so make it a good thought 😉 Another ritual of self-love is speaking up for yourself. Saying “no” more often to please yourself doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a smart person who knows what you want and aren’t afraid to express it. Speaking up even when your voice shakes is a great form of self-love.

3) STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS + VALUE YOURSELF

Paola shared a drawing with you 24

You saw the memes, the quotes, the “new year, new me” resolutions and this for sure was one of them. So, stop comparing, start valuing! Value your mind, value your heart, value your ideas, value what makes you unique and stand out, value your body which protects you, moves you, allows you to experience the world, and loves you even through your own self-criticism. Your value is more than a physical attribute, it goes deeper than that. “I hated my way into loving myself,” said no one ever! No one can get to a place of happiness without accepting what is. And if I can be your hype-woman for a second: what you are, right in this moment, is so beautiful, colorful, vibrant and unique! Value everything that makes you, you. The only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.

4) END ALL TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS—ASAP

There is just no time for us ladies to be consumed by relationships that make us feel anything less than amazing. Did you know that toxic relationships can cause energy depletion, stress and anxiety, low self-esteem, fatigue, lack of concentration and a weak immune system? Relationships should uplift you, make you want to do better, feel motivated to achieve your goals, and you should feel like you have a supportive partner all the way! If you are experiencing the opposite of that, then it’s best to cut the cord, move on and rise up! Don’t let anyone hold you down. You know what you need for you, deep down.

5) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD VINAS!

So, this one kind of goes with number 4, but it needs to be said! By surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, support you, want to see you do great things and push you to be your best self, that energy can only raise you up and enhance your best self. Good friends, good memories, good food are all a wonderful part of wellness and self-love. Find the gal gang you need over at Hey! VINA to start building that loving circle. 

6) LET GO OF THE PAST, SAY HELLO TO YOUR BRIGHT FUTURE

Past traumas, heartbreaks, wounds, grudges can be very hard to let go of, and this might be a step that needs some extra support from someone you trust. But by knocking down the walls that bound you—that have left you with some resentment or anger in your heart—we can unload the burdens that, in fact, might be holding us back from truly living our best lives. You know you deserve better. Your future deserves better. So why not give the gift of letting go and putting to rest the past to make for an even better future?

7) DON’T WAIT FOR SOMEONE TO CHOOSE YOU, CHOOSE YOURSELF

For our vinas who are single hoping to mingle for Valentine’s day, remember that just because you’re single doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of love! You are the best gift you could give yourself! So let’s get cheesy with our social media posts of self-love rituals and bubble baths with a glass of champagne. Give some MAJOR sensual self-love and show off how loving ourselves hasn’t been easy, but is so worth it in the end. You deserve the world.

So vinas, be good to yourself, push through limiting beliefs, your time is now to radiate! Check out Hey! Vina to empower other women and to start loving yourself.

TABOO TOPIC TUESDAY: MENTAL HEALTH

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel like you have to stay in bed for a couple extra hours when it’s rainy outside. It’s okay to seek help from a therapist, a friend, a parent, a teacher. It’s okay to not be okay. Let’s slash the stigma regarding mental health and remind ourselves that our brains matter!

Mental health and physical health are one and the same; If you’ve broken a leg, you’re not going to be able to participate in a 5k until it’s healed. If your brain is “broken”—or, just not working properly—it’s okay to sit this one out. So, why don’t we view these two in the same light? Why do we prioritize physical health?

Two years ago, I faced many debilitating fears that would not allow me to face my day with 100% ability. I had experienced intrusive thoughts that would constantly linger in my mind, despite trying to tell myself that they were completely irrational.

My mom provided me with a sense of solace when she told me, “If you think something bad is going to happen, it probably won’t happen. And if it does, you’ll at least be prepared and see it coming.” Though these words allowed me to breathe a little more deeply, I didn’t feel fully okay. That’s when I decided to seek help with a therapist. My mom is a social worker, so she was very supportive throughout this process, encouraging me to prioritize my mental health.

Talking to a therapist helped me get some of these weights off of my chest. It’s so special to have someone to vent to and to be completely honest with. After multiple sessions, my therapist decided it’d be a good idea for me to try a mild dosage of an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).

I started taking the lowest dosage of an SSRI last January, and it has helped me to see more clearly. It has put an end to my crippling anxiety, and I feel more like myself again.

Anxiety and depression are just as real and just as valid as a broken bone. We don’t make people with broken bones take on physical activities, so why should we make people with mental illnesses take on mental activities without seeking help first?

The bottom line is this: it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, but do yourself a favor and get help. It has made my life feel whole again. It could make yours feel the same.

Here at Hey! Vina we support taking mental health days to make sure each vina is reaching her fullest potential!

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WHEN SUFFERING FROM A MENTAL OR CHRONIC ILLNESS

“We are all a little broken. But last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.” – Trent Shelton.

As someone who was diagnosed with several mental and chronic illnesses, I have felt myself to be alone, and I am alone still. I have spent most of my life hinting at things, foreshadowing that I was struggling to make friends because of my illnesses. Loneliness comes from the inability to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding views which others seem to find inadmissible.

I voyaged my way into forming friendships that felt right to me. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to form healthy friendships throughout the years, despite my health issues. Below are the steps I followed to form long-lasting friendships. 

ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, learn to accept your personality despite what you are going through. You may get caught up with your health, especially after your diagnosis, and that may make you neglect who you are or how you interact with people.

It is normal for someone who has recently been diagnosed with an illness to lose friends. You must understand that people deal with different challenges on a daily basis. Friends may not entirely comprehend what you are going through, affecting your self-esteem and causing you to critique yourself. Please don’t listen to that voice — the inner critic — in your head that says you aren’t good enough. You are here alive today because you have a purpose. Your diagnosis is just part of who you are, and it isn’t entirely you. Think of yourself as a gemstone; they are imperfect, but they absorb light and radiate color spectrums. Try to turn tragedy into a magical mystery. It isn’t easy but it is worth a try.

ACCEPT YOUR DIAGNOSIS

Before a person can accept a diagnosis, they initially may need to grieve. You must allow yourself to feel pain and disappointment about your life not being the same anymore. Cry and try to talk about it to the ones closest to you. Understand that some of these people may dismiss you or your feelings about your situation, but that doesn’t necessarily define the path your life is taking. Accept that, when you have to come into terms with your diagnosis, you will inevitably be vulnerable. People may say or insinuate things about you that aren’t true — try to trust your intuition about this.

CONSIDER ADOPTING A PET

Pets are noble companions. It may be a good idea to consider adopting a pet, especially if you have been struggling to form friendships with people. They are loyal, and you can always count on them during the good and bad times.

CONTRIBUTE IN SOCIETY + PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE

This is a time for you to consider volunteering in your community! This may expose you to different people and working environments outside of your comfort zone. Volunteering helped me meet different people and people with similar health issues and make new friends.

Volunteer work is not only done to improve your resume; you will learn skills that not only become vital in the workplace, but are also necessary for life. Exploring new places makes you become more self-aware about your surroundings and yourself. Your health issues are a part of your life, however, as previously stated, your health issues do not completely define who you are. 

JOIN MENTAL AND CHRONIC ILLNESS SUPPORT GROUPS

One of the hardest things that I had to deal with after being diagnosed with an illness was educating myself and understanding the emotional aspects of having to deal with such an ordeal. Joining mental and chronic illness support groups either online or in your community can help you process and grieve over your diagnosis. Support groups have always been my safe haven for asking all sorts of questions regarding the illnesses I have been diagnosed with. There are admins and moderators in certain online support groups to help control and manage the group and the tone in which people use to communicate with each other.

Unfortunately, trolls can be found anywhere online these days, but luckily most online support groups, especially Facebook support groups, are private. This means that whatever you decide to post in those groups is only seen by people who are within the group. 

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

If you have issues forming meaningful relationships or friendships, it may be difficult to express your feelings with people without feeling judged. Chances are, you might not be the only one who has had that issue. If you feel lonely and want to speak to someone, you could kindly request people to speak to you in private, which may easily help you make online friends. The same applies to support groups in your area. The only difference is, you get to meet with people on a weekly basis and discuss issues you might be facing.

Trust me, this acts as a form of talk therapy, and getting resources from such platforms helped me expand my knowledge about my illnesses. Most importantly, you’ll get to learn that you are not alone in your suffering. Feeling a sense of community is quite important. In fact, I consider it to be a basic human need.

It is imperative that a vina always remembers to take care of herself, especially when she is ill. If things feel wrong, learn to not pursue them. Learn to listen to your body and your intuition. If your body needs rest, then allow yourself to rest. Trust your own process and your body because nobody is you and that is your power. Articulate yourself in a respectful manner, and learn not to drown in other people’s opinions. Do not be a people-pleaser; learn to please yourself, because you come first. Never speak poorly about yourself, and do not listen to your inner critic, for it is your worst enemy.

Be more self-aware and kind to yourself. Let go of things you have no control over, and let your life unfold into the beauty and terror, and all that comes in between. Always learn from bad experiences, trust yourself, and most importantly, believe in yourself.  Love all the people in your life, and know when to walk away if a relationship fails. Some people will be toxic and narcissistic, others will love you for who you truly are. Unfortunately, meeting new people isn’t easy but if you know your own worth, no one can ever make you doubt yourself. Never lower your standards just so you can have people in your life. This is the hardest lesson I had to learn when I was forming new relationships. 

PEOPLE SKILLS: CONQUER YOUR FEARS

Start new conversations wherever you are. You would be amazed at how small talk or simple conversations with strangers can easily turn into intellectually-stimulating conversations. Approach life as a learning curve because there is not one specific way that people can go about meeting each other. I met all my friends in different ways. Some of my friends were my classmates in college, others were some that I met randomly by politely speaking to them in restaurants or other public places. Most of them I met in bookstores, because I love reading, and I very well consider myself a book lover.

You are still the same person before your diagnosis. Nothing has changed much about you, you just managed to get help from health professionals and that is what a diagnosis represents. It doesn’t symbolize your hopes and dreams, nor does it represent your personality. Go out there and learn more about this world and find people that make you happy.

SUICIDE IS NOT AN OPTION

There was a point in my life where I got so many diagnoses that I was self-harming and I eventually contemplated suicide. I had no friends about me, I was devastatingly lonely. I couldn’t articulate myself well, my speech was always hazy and my shoulders were constantly dropping. I not only considered my body as a burden, but I felt like a heavy burden to my own parents because of all the medical bills and my failure to form noble companionships with people. I didn’t know that this was far from the truth back then.

My acts of self-harm were an expression of my pain. I tried to use my own body as a container for my own rage because of my health issues. I felt lonely, and I sometimes do still feel lonely. What I failed to do was talk to someone that could hear me out. I failed to recognize that ruminating about death was simply me internally screaming for help and wanting the pain to end.

I wanted to live, I loved life, but I hated the responsibility that was posed upon me by my health issues. My health issues made it so difficult for me to function in society. I was constantly on the phone calling a counselor on a suicidal line, in the hopes of getting help. I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to meet people but I had no idea about how I should start meeting people.

My parents talked me out of it, and so did the counselors I spoke to on the phone. If you are in any way suicidal, remember that you are worth it. Find a safe haven or someone who can help you. The inner critic is just playing mind games with you; find people who can talk you out of it. You will get through this and you will have friends one day. 

If you are having these internal thoughts and are thinking of harming yourself, put your safety first and reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

TRY ONLINE WEBSITES AND APPS

If you have issues meeting new people in your area, or if you’ve been too ill to go out, it would be a wonderful idea to consider using online websites or apps like Hey! VINA to meet new people. When I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), I was constantly in a psychiatric ward and that resulted in me losing a lot of friends and struggling to form friendships. I used the Hey! VINA app to meet new women where I lived, and, using my gut instincts, I made new friends and overcame some of my social anxiety. Go ahead and try it!

Sending love, light, joy, and blessings your way. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind together by connecting on Hey! VINA. There, you are never alone in your mental health journey.

CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK FOR A HAPPIER LIFESTYLE

You changed jobs or moved to that new city. You’ve switched partners, became single to focus on you, or tried to shake out your routine. Yet you still feel like happiness is unreachable. Why is that so? Read on for ways to change the way you think and start living a more content life!

BEAT BAD HABITS

There are certain habits that we don’t know that we have.  You might spend too much time on social media and not get enough work done, and this may frustrate the people around you.  The problem isn’t the social media—the problem is that the work isn’t being done.  Their reaction to you may shock you and upset you because, in your mind, you didn’t deserve it.  But if you think about it, nobody would have gotten upset over your social media habits if the work was done on time.

Someone might have said something to you like “It’s always the same thing with you” or “this is exactly what happened last time.” I believe that sometimes, it really is just the situation you’re in.  But other times, when it’s easier to blame the situation rather than do some introspection and change yourself for the better, I think that is the time when you really have to knuckle-down and brave face through the transition that will ultimately change the entire trajectory of your life.

If you start noticing a pattern or a continuous thread of responses from the people around you, it’s time to seriously start thinking about the impact your attitude has on your everyday life—and especially your future.

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THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE CONNECTED

Activating your brain to start noticing the things you do that is causing you to behave in ways that may be destructive to others is no easy task.  You basically have to dissect yourself and find out what the root of your behavioral issues are.  And that is daunting.  I’ve been listening to Dr. Caroline Leaf recently and find her books very helpful.  She speaks about controlling your thoughts and switching on your brain. This is basically the idea that your thoughts control your feelings, and your feelings control your behavior.

If you can control your thoughts and how you think, you can control how you feel—which means you can control your reactions to different triggers and situations.

We all think that we can’t help how we feel.  And perhaps we can’t, but we certainly can help how we respond to our feelings. Have you ever thought yourself into a bad mood?  If you can do that then, as hard as it sounds, surely you can think yourself into a good mood.

FOCUS ON YOU

If you feel that you are always unlucky, that the world is always against you, or that everyone always treats you with disrespect and nobody sees how much you do for everyone, maybe you should go back to the beginning and work on yourself first.  Take some real time out. Away from everything and everyone.  Take a diary and write down all the things that affect your emotions and ask yourself why they do. Write down everything that makes you happy and what you can do to motivate your happiness.  Write down ways you think you can experience that happiness more often and how you can increase moments of happiness into a longer lasting state of being—rather than just bouts of happiness which are dependant on external influences.

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CHANGE YOUR POV

The best way to change other people is to start by changing yourself.  And I know that they say you can’t change other people, you can only change how you react to them.  But I believe something different.  I believe that if you work on yourself and develop skills that will conform to you – not to anyone else’s standard – the people around you and the relationships you have will automatically change.  And in that and as much as you don’t really change the people around you, you certainly change their perception of you and the way that they respond to you.  For instance, if you walk past a colleague for months without saying hello to them, chances are that they won’t see the need to say hello to you.  But if you change the way that you see them and stop one day to find out how their evening was, chances are that they will respond well to that and then one day, they might even start the conversation with you.  Do you see how the colleague in that scenario “changed” from not seeing the need to say hello to you to initiating the conversation?  In this scenario, you might think “Wow, the colleague really changed a lot” but, when you unpack it, you find that the real person who changed was you.

If we focus our energy on ourselves, we can all change the way we respond to situations.  You might think that you can’t help yourself, but if you put the same dedication into yourself that you put into trying to change everybody else, you will soon learn that you can help yourself.  You can change how you think and feel.  You can decide not to blow up a situation.  You do have the power. It resides within you.

Surround yourself with positive influences—download Hey! VINA to meet supportive vinas today! 

HOW TO HANDLE BEING THE STRONG FRIEND WHEN YOU NEED SOMEONE TO LEAN ON

On December 23, 2003—five days after my 24th birthday, two days shy of Christmas and six days before my older brothers’ 26th birthday—my mother passed away quietly in our home after a long bought with cancer.  She was my best friend, confidant and a real-life version of Martha Stewart. I was devasted, broken and silent. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t even move. 2004 is still a blur to me.

What I didn’t realize then was that, in time, my wounds would heal. I would learn to smile again and maybe even look on this day and be at peace with it. Better still, my pain might help someone else get through theirs—and in the years following, it certainly proved to do so.

But what happens when it’s you that needs a shoulder to cry on? Sure, history has proven that you can weather the storm and recover, but being strong all the time is exhausting. At least I know it’s been for me. My girlfriends are great people with huge hearts, but sometimes I feel like life has been much kinder to them and they can’t really understand what I’m going through. I’ve always been the “big sister” with weighty advice and reflective suggestions, but now I needed someone to be that for me. What was I to do?

I decided to take a walk. I walked near a park, around my block and to my favorite coffee house close by. I didn’t go in, though. I sat on a bench outside and soon smelled the comforting aromas of freshly brewed coffee and warm baked goods. I started watching the people come and go around me and wondered where they were going. Who were they going home to? What kind of life did they live? Then it hit me—everyone has gone through something and has a story. Mine was no different and no more important. Sure, maybe I had more loss in my life, but my friends loved and cared about me enough to support me when I was having a rough time. Not everyone has that blessing.

Maybe instead of assuming the worst, take a chance and reach out to your friends and loved ones. Explain to them what you’re going through—they are your friends and family for a reason, after all. Call it a leap of faith, but I’ve found people can surprise you in the most incredible ways. If you’re still concerned, take your trusty dusty pen and write it down.

Next time you’re concerned that your friends may not understand, try one of these actions first:

  1. Take a walk to reflect on the many blessings in your life.
  2. Sit still and breathe deeply—sometimes slowing down is what you really need.
  3. Write it down—seeing the words on the page can be truly healing.

My father always tells us that there is wisdom in all things, and for everything under the sun, there is a time and a season. Everyone goes through hard times and needs a caring shoulder to cry on. Trust the people in your life. It makes all the difference!

Need other strong vinas in your life to be there for you? Start swiping on the Hey! VINA app today. 

17 FREE WAYS TO LIFT YOUR MOOD

I know how to cheer myself up  — and, if I can pat myself on the back, I’m very good to myself, especially if I’ve had a bad day. I’ve spontaneously booked a $150 massage, clicked “purchase” on buttery-soft leather boots, and splurged on (multiple!) technicolor $15 cocktails to shake off everything from a curt comment from a boss to a bad breakup.

Even when I try to cut back, I find that “self-care” can cost major bucks. Books, bubble baths, and cold brews aren’t exactly free! At the same time, when you’re feeling ugh, you’re not exactly super motivated to round up some baking soda, cornstarch, citric acid, and essential oils to build your own bath bombs. So how can you be good to yourself, your bank account, and your well-being? Try one of these strategies:

1) MAKE — AND SERVE — YOURSELF DINNER

No need to run out to the grocery store for ingredients. Even putting a Pop-Tart on a plate and sitting down at a table can make you feel more pampered than if you had scarfed it down standing up. For extra points, dim the lights and cue up a Spotify playlist of your favorite jams.

2) PUT FRESH SHEETS ON YOUR BED

Fluff the pillows and fold down the comforter in the way you like best for that “hotel” feel at a $0 price tag.

3) DRINK A GLASS OF WATER

Or two. Sometimes when you’re feeling a little foggy, you don’t even realize it’s because you’re dehydrated. Have a glass — toss in some cut-up fruit to make it extra fancy — and you’ll be re-energized in no time.

4) MAKE A CUP OF TEA

Rolling your eyes? Me too! Or I was until I actually made myself a cup of tea. I’m a coffee drinker to the core, but finding an herbal blend, boiling water, and sitting down and enjoying a hot beverage after a cold, damp day is much more decadent than it might sound. In other words, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

5) CLEAN OUT YOUR INBOX

A mindless, mess-free chore can stop you from ruminating on whatever’s bothering you, and getting to inbox zero can feel so (so, so, so!) satisfying.

6) LIE IN SAVASANA

Any yoga flow will help you feel good, but if you want to skip straight to savasana, we won’t judge. It’s the best pose — and if it turns into a nap, even better.

7) MAKE A MUG COOKIE

Decadent, delicious, ooey-gooey comfort in a mug, coming right up. There are plenty of recipes online, but here’s a simple and foolproof one: Add one egg, two tablespoons cocoa powder, and ¼ cup powdered sugar to a mug; mix it all up, and nuke in the microwave for a minute. Done and yum.

8) DO A LANGUAGE LESSON ON DUOLINGO

Learning a new skill is fun and free, and the game-like interface of this language-learning app can remind you just how smart, talented, and full of possibility you are.

9) ESCAPE INTO A GOOD BOOK

Kindle offers free reads on the regular, ranging from classics to contemporary fiction. Feeling old school? Hit up the library — or swap bestsellers with a friend. Find the equivalent of literary junk food, if that’s what will make you feel good, or dive into fantasy or science fiction to help you forget the real world.

10) PLAY!

You know how recess made everything better as a kid? The same is accurate for adults. Download a workout app like Zombies, Run (where you run away from zombies while following a workout routine) which can help you get your sweat on (holla, endorphins!).

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11) SAY HI TO SOMEONE

It sounds cheesy, but when you’re super caught up in your own stuff, the best way to break the cycle is to just get out of your head. Say hi to a grocery clerk, a barista, your coworker. It’s great if the “hi” then sparks a conversation, but a simple exchange of hellos and smiles can also cheer you up. Don’t have anyone around you? Surround yourself with people, stat.

12) WATCH SOME DOGS PLAY AT THE DOG PARK

Dare you not to smile.

13) LET YOUR FRIENDS REMIND YOURSELF JUST HOW AWESOME YOU ARE

Run a search in your email for the phrase “you’re awesome.” You’ll turn up all the emails from friends and family who have shared that phrase with you over the years.

14) CUE UP SOME BABY GOAT YOGA

Ideally, you would do baby goat yoga. But since most of us don’t live near the farms offering this one-of-a-kind class, you can also get happy by watching goat yoga. So get on YouTube, stat.

15) TWO WORDS: SAND CUTTING

Again, this is a “even more soothing if it’s watched” type of thing. The official term for videos of people doing mundane things that somehow make you feel chilled out, calm, or even tingly (but in a good way!) is ASMR — autonomous sensory meridian response. Research is mixed about whether ASMR is a scientific phenomenon, but the Internet — and plenty of Reddit threads — confirm it’s a thing. Even if you don’t get any physical sensations, you’ve gotta admit watching videos of sand carving can make your brain turn off in the best way.  Check out @sand.tagious on IG and see for yourself. It’s cool, weird, hypnotizing, and happiness-inducing.

16) CROSS SOMETHING OFF YOUR TO-DO LIST

Even if that “something” is “write your to-do list.” An app will work, but there’s something extra satisfying about doing it with pen and paper.

17) QUIT A SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

You know how there’s always that one thing you don’t mean to be paying for — but somehow still are? Take ten minutes and unsubscribe. Doing so will feel so good — and your bank account will thank you, too.

— Originally published on November 1, 2018 on FindJoy.com

REVERSE BODY TRANSFORMATION: WHAT IS IT?

Reverse body transformation—what is it? It’s what happens when you realize that whatever you’ve been doing has been working for your body but not for your happiness. We take our hats off to anyone who has stuck it out and lost the weight, but we also have tremendous respect for the women who have decided that enough is enough. What is good for one is not necessarily good for another, and the sooner everyone understands that, the better.

While one person may feel exhilaration every time they eat peas and carrots and avoid chocolates and cakes, others feel miserable and measured. When your happiness is dependent on what society’s ideas of happiness is, and when it’s rooted in what you believe is acceptable and standard, you will lose yourself in that standard. It won’t matter how much weight you lose, you will never feel like you measure up. Self-love is about so much more than what we see in the mirror.

I’ve done both the transformation and the reverse transformation, and while I can’t really choose which one made me happier, I can say that I enjoyed having a body goal. Mostly because it taught me that anything with the right amount of discipline is a one-way train to achieving goals. What I learned from the reverse transformation is that I guilt myself way too much. I’m my biggest critic, and I body shame myself probably between 20 and 30 times a day. We are so harsh on ourselves, to the point where it’s hard to take a compliment because you’ve told yourself so many negative things. You couldn’t possibly believe something positive is true.

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Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on Pexels.com

If your spirit is telling you (whether it’s a whisper or a scream) to STOP what you’re doing and take stock of who you are and who you want to be, that is a good place to start asking yourself if you’re really investing in your own happiness, or in an idea of happiness that you have somehow forced yourself to believe.

I am not at all saying that choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is taboo and you shouldn’t do it. I am also not saying that you should let yourself go and not give two hoots about your body. No, the complete opposite. We only have one body, we can’t trade it in for a new one when it’s dead. I’m simply saying that if something isn’t working for you and you are unhappy all the time because you’re hungry, or your lifestyle change is causing you to binge eat your favorite foods, or if you hate yourself for missing a workout and eating that Oreo, then maybe it’s not for you. Maybe you should try something else.  Something that you actually enjoy doing that will keep you healthy, motivated, and most of all HAPPY!

Diane Flores was a bodybuilder when she decided enough is enough. On her website, Living the Goddess Life, she talks about winning 1st place and the overall in the masters division in her last competition and even then feeling incomplete and unhappy. Today, she looks happier than she’s ever been, loves herself to the fullest, and teaches women all over the world what it means to feel sexy, how to chuck that insecurity, and why losing weight in order to feel sexy is a no go.

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Megan Jayne Crabbe’s transformation is absolutely insane. She said that her new body is her happy body and that happiness isn’t a size. Totally agree, girl! Crabbe struggled with an eating disorder in her teens and almost lost her life because of it. That’s when she started her transformation to a healthier, happier version of the always beautiful her.

Body ideals turn us into monsters. We hate ourselves because we believe that those women who have the six pack and the chiseled, lean arms, and the 15% body fat have it all and if we could only look like that we would be happy. It works for them, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you. And remember, it may look like they have it all because of all that, but chances are they have just as many insecurities as you.

I just love Jennifer Lawrence’s idea about self-love. She was interviewed by Cosmopolitan in 2014 and stated that she sees herself as a Victoria’s Secret model all the time. That is a darn great place to be. I sincerely hope that every one of us can one day wake up and just be happy with the way we look and how we are built. That our minds are not consumed with hurtful confidence-breaking words about our perfect bodies, and that we will just love ourselves and see ourselves the way our loved ones see us. As the person we truly are, and that person is perfect.

Transform your idea of beauty and happiness with all the vinas you’re about to meet on the Hey! VINA app now!

BEAT THE WINTER BLUES WITH THESE EASY TRICKS

The winter blues are brought on by the reduced sunlight during this time of year. The decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression. The winter blues, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves. Symptoms include feelings of depression, irritation, lethargy and trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out.

Try to watch out for any of your vinas acting out of the ordinary. If your gals seem to be feeling a bit under the weather—or it’s you with the case of the blues—these tips will aid in getting out of the funk.

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EAT SMARTER

Some foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as tea and coffee, have antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage. Others, such as nuts and eggs, contain nutrients that support memory and brain development. These foods can help supplement the vitamins that are lost with the reduced sunlight.

EXERCISE

Exercise is a great way to get yourself out of bed and has been proven to have similar effects as anti-depressants in curing mild depression. Exercise makes you feel good since it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. If you exercise regularly, it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and help with recovery from mental health issues.

BRIGHT SCENTS + HUES

Some people find that stimulating their senses by painting their walls a bright color — or even their nails — can improve their outlook. Scents can add to your feeling of well-being; try peppermint essential oil or some other energizing scent. Really missing the sunlight? Invest in a light therapy box (also called sun lamps) that will radiate the rays your body craves.

If nothing seems to be helping, reach out to a loved one or a therapist to let them know how you’re feeling. Talking through it can bring a lightness to your wellbeing, and they can further help you with some coping mechanisms.

Bottom line is, winter can make even the best of us feel down. You have to find what works for you and your vinas—whether that be binge watching movies and drinking hot chocolate, ice skating, fixing a healthy meal, or curling up on the couch with your dog. Everybody gets down sometimes, and you just need to find what motivates you to roll out of bed in the morning.

Beat the winter blues by RSVPing to fun vina events in your city on the Hey! VINA app.