50 Shades Darker, 10 Things to Keep in Mind for Valentine’s Day

I am honored to publish a guest post written by Karen Amster-Young, co-author of  The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck, with Stories and Ideas to Jumpstart Your Year of Discovery  (Skyhorse Publishing). The book is available at amazon.com and in stores everywhere.

Karen Amster-Young

I love this book and have mentioned it in past blogs!

I know you will enjoy Karen’s take on activities for celebrating this day set aside for fun and romance. (As for me, I’m going with When Harry Met Sally!)

50 Shades Darker, 10 Things to Keep in Mind for Valentine’s Day

By Karen Amster-Young

I didn’t run to see Fifty Shades Darker, the 2nd movie made from the best-selling 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James. It wasn’t because the early reviews weren’t great; it was more about lack of time and making choices and, let’s face it, there are better date night options if you are looking to strengthen your relationship with a significant other. Besides, the books are better. For 50 Shades of Grey, I actually went with a group of girlfriends. We laughed out loud together at the dialogue and cheesy sex scenes like a group of teenagers.

Which reinforces the point of this Valentine’s post: there are many relationships in our lives – from siblings to friends to our kids. When we’re young, we may spend time giving out love notes or something to our classmates and crushes. Now we have many relationships and they are often in need of a shot of attention. Unfortunately we don’t spend enough time on making them stronger – maybe we just never think we have enough time or, more complicated reasons leave us overthinking the matters of the heart.

When you get right down to it, relationships are everything. They fuel all aspects of our life — and without that fuel, the days can feel pretty empty. But no need to go there. Here are 10 low-impact ways you can build bonds and re-think Valentine’s Day. And, let’s face it: with the constant stream of non-stop daily news, we can all use a few days thinking about something else. In fact, on second thought, maybe going to an entertaining, trashy movie with someone isn’t such a bad idea after all!

  1. Plan a group date. More people around takes the focus away from you and your relationship, which can be a good thing sometimes.
  2. Stay in bed and finally treat yourself to a day of doing nothing. Love this quote: “You call it being alone. I call it enjoying my own company!”
  3. Make annoying heart cookies with your kids for their classmates. It’s really about the time together. Remember, they grow up and one day you will miss it!
  4. Smile more often. It actually tricks the brain. It is impossible to feel stressed if you smile.
  5. Married for 100 years? Recreate your first date with your spouse.
  6. Clean house: toxic relationships are not relationships.
  7. Write a real letter to your favorite aunt (or uncle, or cousin or whoever you have been, let’s face it, neglecting).
  8. Plan a girl’s weekend.
  9. Give love to a stranger: volunteer to keep someone company, read to an elderly person or make a home-cooked meal for someone in need.
  10. Show love to your country in whatever way is right for you.

And of course, there is always 50 Shades Darker playing in the theaters. It’s probably the perfect antidote to CNN.  If you’re worried about your brain cell count, try LA LA Land instead for some romance; better yet watch old movies at home – When Harry Met Sally anyone? The best!

 

Three Lessons in Simplicity

The dream was so enlightening I wanted to linger in it for as long as possible. I stayed still without moving a muscle remaining connected to my dream state for a few more minutes. When I finally turned to get out of bed, I made a solemn promise to retain the lesson provided by my nighttime experience.

My fascinating dream started in a panic. I was on a flight to Paris with a group of tourists, all strangers, when I realized I’d forgotten to bring any form of currency. Now in real life that would be something I could resolve, but in this fantasy world it meant spending two weeks in the City of Lights sans money for food, essentials and souvenirs.  My head began pounding with a nasty stress headache. The thing I wanted at that moment, even more than money, was an Ibuprofen, also an item left behind.

Feeling utterly miserable I started to wonder if I died. Oscar Wilde once said, “When Americans die, they go to Paris.” Did this mean I was going to spend all of eternity in Paris without a lousy franc?

Suddenly I had a one of those light bulb moments. I would ask everyone on the plane for a small contribution to sustain me.

Gaining my courage I stood up, announced my plight to the group and walked down the aisle collecting funds from my kindhearted flight mates.

By the time we deplaned, my headache cured itself and I had enough to at least feed myself. I don’t remember much more about the dream except that I was immensely happy with very little in Paris. I enjoyed the simplicity of existing on inexpensive meals and exploring every free venue in the city.

My three takeaways from my dream flight to Paris go like this:

  • If you need help, ask for it. Don’t try to go it alone. Sure I had to swallow my pride and look like a blonde bird-brain who doesn’t have it all together, but such is life. It happens, deal with it.
  • Make the most of the moment. Whether it’s a trip to Paris, or your kid’s soccer game be mindful of where you are. No thinking about the pile of unfinished work at the office or laundry at home.
  • Someone once said, “everything is figure-out-able.” Stay with your problem until you have a plan A and a plan B. Get creative and find some sort of solution.

Wishing you sweet and insightful dreams!

Majoring in Happiness

It happened again last week. While volunteering at a conference, I met Coach Valerie Alexander selling her book, “Happiness …as a Second Language.” One glance at the cover and I was hooked. As I rummaged through my purse for cash, Valerie presented me with a bright lemon-yellow motivational wristband declaring, “Speak Happiness.”  I offered up my most gracious smile. In my book an inspirational band beats a gold bangle.

Full disclosure: I am a junkie, to be specific, a happiness junkie. Whenever I find myself near a book about happiness, I must take it home and add it to my library. Sure, I knowingly practice joy and bliss. On most days, that comes naturally.  But I delight in the study of happiness and aspire to one day earn an honorary degree in the subject.

As a life and career coach, it is sometimes my responsibility to guide clients back on the path to their happy zone.

beautiful girl holds two face masks with happy and angry emotion

Let’s face it, life happens and when discord enters our lives like an unwanted guest, feelings of contentment vanish. Gloomy days turn into dark nights. Unless we make a concerted effort to get back to the light, depression sets in. Mood disorders gone unchecked can influence chronic health conditions. Consequently, happiness is strongly linked to good health thus the popular cliché, “laughter is the best medicine.”

In her book, Alexander writes about achieving permanent happiness. I’m not certain we can always achieve an everlasting buoyant frame of mind, but I do believe a solid understanding of happiness techniques help negate our blue moods.

So when stuck in reverse, what are some activities that pull us out of the doldrums? My first “go to” is to focus on finding one positive in a negative situation. Stay with it until you can find one.

Positive thinking

Next, shift to something that needs your attention. Glimmers of happiness return we when take our minds off our troubles by getting productive. As so aptly professed by the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

The Dalai quote brings me to another strategy to blow away the blues. In a word, kindness. Did you know practicing daily acts of kindness generates a physical reaction?

kindness word inside love cloud blue sky only

Your brain produces serotonin bringing a content, almost blissful feeling. A friend of mine refers to it as a “kindness kick.

When time permits, get on the move. Thrust those endorphins into gear by a solid workout. Or, immerse yourself in nature. Head out the door with a notepad or camera. Jot down or photograph any sign of surrounding beauty.

sunset

Want an activity more energizing? Turn up the music and rock out with your favorite playlist.

This week invest some time into understanding how to create and cultivate a positive mindset. Get serious about the study of happiness. The happiest people on the planet are probably individuals who did homework on the subject.