THE GREATEST GIFT TO GIVE IN THE NEW YEAR

I am not sure why this is, but when it comes to doing anything for ourselves people have a very funny view about it. Whether that is spending quality time alone with our thoughts, needing to turn down a social invitation because we are a little burnt out, or doing something because it brings us joy, people view it as selfish. To be honest, nothing could be further from the truth. The greatest thing we can do is work on ourselves.

No matter what we are striving to do for others or the world around us, the happier and healthier we are, the more we can bring to the situation at hand. When you know people rely on you for transportation, taking care of your car doesn’t seem selfish does it? Of course not. When people are relying on your friendship, your support and encouragement should making sure you show up in the best state to help them be considered selfish? I think not. Working on your own happiness makes you a better friend, a better lover and a greater gift to those around you.

In this new year let us remember to take time out to do what makes us happy. Let us make sure the ‘Me’ we bring to the world is the healthiest, happiest more energetic ‘Me’ we can bring. If it is not, remember that it is ok to take time out for yourself. Begin today by compiling a list of things that replenish your mind, body and spirit. Make sure to not only want to do then sometimes, but to schedule at least one a week. Keep your joy and vibration up and you will be able to do the most for the world around you.

TRANSFORM TOGETHER

There are many good places to meet friends for social reasons.Here is one that not only accomplishes that, but has an added bonus of science. The science behind making good friends? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me back up and talk a little more about the social pluses of today’s place to make friends. Today’s place to make friends and generally improving your life is the gym. Before you start rolling your eyes and clicking off this website, let me assure you I can relate to your doubts.

At the gym I am usually in a state close to hyperventilating, dripping with sweat, smelling less than ideal and in short, not my ideal self. Why on earth would this be a good place to meet someone? First of all, chances are most people there are in a similar state. Second, all of you already have one thing in common, you are chasing the goal of being healthier. Sure, your goals may be different. It may be you are facing a serious health condition, maybe you are trying to get in shape for your Jamaican vacation or you just want to fit into the clothes in your closet better. That gives enough variety to start some interesting discussions.

Here comes the science. The first one has to do more with working out than making friends, but it good to know just the same. It would fit under the category of psychological science. When working to obtain our fitness goals having a workout partner dramatically increases our chances of success. We find it easy to make excuses to ourselves, but most of us tend to feel a lot worse if we let someone else down. Having a partner that can not only talk us into the gym when we don’t feel like going, but hold us accountable when we don’t make it, will have our butts cursing on the treadmill far more often than when we try to go it alone. Adding to the fact two heads are always better than one when it comes to figuring out how to use that complex machine you never see anyone on but looks like it could really help your fitness.

The second half of the science as to why the gym is such a good place to make friends is even more impressive. When we exercise the brain releases ‘feel good chemicals’. These chemicals are called endorphins. No, they are not the cute animals that swim around the ocean. Those are dolphins. They do, however, cause very similar reactions in our bodies and brains. Endorphins, again the chemical not the aquatic animal, interact with receptors in your to reduce your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. They have been compared to a natural form of morphine.

Imagine everyone you meet being on morphine. There would be a lot less conflict and a lot more mellow happy people. That is exactly what happens after we work out. It is also something I recommend couples try working into their routine. Spending time around someone who has just experienced the rush of chemicals compared to natural morphine should be pretty easy. If both parties are experiencing that feeling such as a workout partner or your loving spouse, great feeling are bound to occur. As the new year approaches lots of your friends will join gyms and those gyms usually run specials to get people to join. Why not find a friend to make that commitment with you? Can’t find a friend who is looking to get healthy? Join yourself and begin to talk to people there. Trust me when I tell you most people would be more than happy to talk about their workouts, diet and fitness routine. I don’t know if this is due to endorphins or just the fact they love to have people working with them.

Try taking and making friends at the gym. You won’t be disappointed. As an added bonus, you will become healthier and happier yourself.

RELATIONSHIP SECRET

Nothing has more influence on the quality of our life and amount of joy we experience, or do not experience than relationships. That is why there are so many books, CDs, seminars and relationship counseling. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. Much like good health, weight loss and stress reduction, people are always looking for that magic pill that will give them immediate success in these areas of their lives.

The bad news is that there is no magic pill that requires no work to transform your relationship. The great news is that there is one step you can take starting today. It doesn’t cost a single penny. This involves a change in mindset. Many of you may read the quote above and find that to be ridiculous. “We have jobs and responsibilities now! I can’t spend time worrying about being charming, flirting and all of those other dating things!” I ask you what is really important then?

Fear can be a great motivator for some of us, so I feel obligated to mention this. Relationships, no matter how long they have been, can end at any time. Even if we feel comfortable and secure in how they are. There are countless stories of relationships that people thought were going great until they wake up one morning and find their partner gone. “I thought they were happy. I thought everything was good.” they find themselves saying. Only in reflection they recall they never asked. They just figured that part of their lives was ‘handled’. They were married. They had kids.

I equate this to other areas of life. If you get in the best shape of your life and then stop working out what happens? Do you stay in that shape? Of course not. If you put a lot of energy into getting a job or promotion and then cease giving any effort do you think you will keep that job very long? Then why do so many of us think that relationships are any different? All relationships have their ups and downs to be sure, but they must be worked at daily.

If our relationship is at its best shape, much like our workout example, if we just leave it alone it will begin to go backwards. This may seem like you are in for a lot more work, and to some degree that is true. What is really important to note is that work has the most amazing rewards. The quality of our lives is the quality of our relationships. Therefor, it makes sense that the better quality our relationships, the better quality our lives. This holds true not just for romantic relationships, although those have the most profound impact, but coworkers, parents, children, the boss and other family members. Another great plus is that the more you work on this the easier the work becomes. When you are listening for clues as to what makes people happy and what upsets them, it becomes easier to do the former and avoid the latter. The more information you compile that more tools you have at the ready.

Do yourself a favor and print out the quote in the picture above. Treat every relationship in your life like you are trying to win it. Not only will you make those around you very happy, but your life will improve dramatically as well.

WATCHING YOUR DIET

People are so careful about their diets today. Gluten-free, Paleo, low-carb, high-fat. It seems every day there is another healthy way that we should all be eating. Then there are the new allergies that people have to look out for. Some are allergic to nuts. Some people cannot consume dairy products or shellfish. In other words, these days people are being far more discerning as to what they put in their bodies. All this is good. It is good that we are eating with the idea of helping our bodies function at peak efficiency.

Ironically, and somewhat tragic to me, is that is where the discernment stops. We spend our days listening to music that is sometimes filled with violence and a total lack of respect. We watch television shows where characters try to get laughs by putting each other down with sarcastic barbs. We read stories in the newspaper, online and social media (more about that tomorrow) that are filled with harsh judgments, political rancor and other drama. Then at the end of the day we wonder why our energy is drained and we feel stressed out.

Like the picture above mentions, we need to mindful of the things we put into our body emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We will do our best to avoid that sweet treat that will only end up giving us cavities and some extra pounds to carry around with us. We should take the same approach on deciding if what we are going to consume with our eyes, ears, mind and spirit will serve us or contribute to our daily downfall. Will reading that article about the latest mass shooting really bring anything good into our lives? Does being inundated with the latest chapters of what is wrong with the world give us anything but a sinking feeling of depression and a sense of hopelessness?

Am I saying we have to be worried about every little thing we watch, read, listen to or even people we hang around? Not at all. That will only cause you to be stressed out about the things that can be unconsciously stressing you out. That would be…well…very stressful. What I am asking you is to be more aware of what is going into your body. In the beginning especially it can be hard to think of I have to get rid of that or I have to stop doing that. That can leave you feeling like your brain is fighting you and with a feeling of deprivation. As I do in all of my practices, here I advocate increasing the positive to decrease the negative.

How do we do that? Do your best to include reading a few pages of something inspirational. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books work well. Filled with short inspiring stories that fill you with joy, they can add a little something special to your day. On this site and in my book we talk about creating a Happy Playlist of songs that bring cheer to your day. Spend time with people who make you laugh, smile and bring your spirit to life. As far as social media, we will delve into that tomorrow. If you have any other suggestions for things to add to your Diet feel free to leave them in the comments below.

ARE YOU AN UMBRELLA?

I love this picture. Two innocent children sharing an umbrella in a storm. As an adult we have an opportunity to share an umbrella every day. To take that thought further, we have a chance to be an umbrella. At this point you may be wondering if I know exactly what an umbrella is for or if I even know what an umbrella is. Why would anyone share an umbrella if it wasn’t raining? Even more absurd, how can a human being turn into an umbrella? Fair questions if I were the one reading this post and not the one writing it.

In its simplest terms an umbrella is an instrument for protecting us in a storm. It is the definition not of umbrella that should concern us here, but that of storm. In life there are many storms. Yes, there are thunderstorms when the winds are blowing fierce and the rain can seem unrelenting. It can be scary to be out in it. We may not want to risk driving if we don’t have to. We may want to stay inside our homes where we are safe.

What we may forget is there are many storms we face every day. There are health storms where the thunder of pain is louder than anyone can imagine. There are financial storms where the debt continues to rain down on us no matter how hard we work. There are the painful emotional storms when the winds of struggle and strife blow us off our path. There are many storms my friends. Storms of addiction, storms of loneliness, storms of depression. They say in life you are either on your way into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. As Eric Thomas said, “Storms are a part of life, but storms are not life.” All of us face storms each and every day.

As you can imagine, the umbrella for all of these storms can be a little different. It can be an umbrella of compassion for someone who has just been hurt or defeated. It can be the umbrella of encouragement for someone who has lost their way. It can be the umbrella of motivation and inspiration for those lost in a storm of negativity and pessimism. There are some umbrellas like love, friendship and listening that seem to work in every storm.

Just like you can walk with a smile on your face through the most intense storm, so can others. Daily, there are those of us who wake up and put a smile on our faces even when we are in the middle of a storm. Just because someone is smiling does not mean the rain is still not falling. Offer everyone you know an umbrella. When given the chance, be the umbrella they do not have. We are all going through storms and we can all use an umbrella.

THE PATH TO ETERNAL BEAUTY

Look in any magazine or watch any reality show and you will run across the same thing, everyone is trying to find the key to eternal youth and beauty. There are ads for creams, lotions, even cosmetic surgery has been refined to an in and out process. There is a new cool laser that can make your fat cells disappear. People spend millions of dollars a year on both hair removal and hair restoration. No matter how many advances or your financial ability to obtain them, one thing is for certain, eventually they will fade.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe there is plenty of physical improvements that make sense to do from not only an appearance stand point, but from a health stand point as well. Having dental work done will not only increase your chances of smiling, adding beauty right there, but help your health in many ways. Engaging in physical exercise will not only have your figure looking fit and trim, but help your heart and circulatory system run efficiently as well. Choosing a healthier way of eating over a crash fad diet will pay dividends for years to come.

Considering the amount of money we spend on items in the first category that serve only as a temporary cover up at best, we certainly could do better. Even the time, energy and effort we spend on items in the second category will only take us so far if we continue to ignore the single most important category to increase our physical appeal. The area of our life we should address first is often relegated to an after thought.

What is the area of our life that will bring us the greatest return on investment in regards to our beauty? It is our spirit, our heart, our inner peace. This may sound a bit cliché to many of you, but it is true. How many times have you come across someone who may not be your normal physical ‘cup of tea’ as it were, but something just attracted you to them? We all like to be around people who make us laugh, smile and enjoy life more. On the flip side, even if the person we are with has graced the cover of a million magazines, if they suck our spirit dry and leave us feeling emotionally drained there is no way we would want to be around them.

How do we invest in this portion of our lives? The answer is simple. Invest in ourselves. When we work to become better as individuals, we have more to offer each other and the world at large. Do something to refresh your spirit. Discover new ways to cultivate joy, engage in activities that make you smile. Foster an attitude of gratitude. Always look for the best in others. If you do these simple things and any others that will lead to an improved you, before long you will become more beautiful from the inside out. The upside here is the more you do this, the greater the beauty becomes. Keep it up and this beauty will never fade. No pills, lotions, fad diets or insane workouts needed.

IT WORKED!!!

A few posts ago I informed everyone of my current medical challenges. The amount of thoughts, prayers and well wishes I received were amazing! I was overcome with emotion. I felt so grateful and so loved.

Another thing that amazes me is the expression of determination and confidence in faith expressed by many people who follow this website. This website honors people of any and every faith. As long as you honor and love each other, what faith you do so doesn’t matter here.

Interestingly enough, I experienced my own miracle while in the hospital. The aorta coming out of my heart was enlarged you 5cm, the size in which the do open heart surgery.

While pondering what this meant for me and my life, I continued to read how friends, family and even people I have never met continued to pray for me. I did my best to relax and feel their love.

For clarity the doctors decided to conduct another test. After what seemed like an eternity, they came back to tell me they now had a measurement of 4.5 cm, where I can just remain on medicine and go for observation. While not ideal, it certainly beats open heart surgery.

Was this just an inaccurate measurement by the first procedure or was it something miraculous? That would depend on your beliefs. All I know is that hearing the strong faith spoken by my friends Julie, Kelly, Mimi and others gave me was invaluable.

You add that to my mother and of course my beautiful Margie staying by my side giving me love and support, and it turned a very trying experience into a miraculous one.

Thank you to each and every one of you who prayed, sent well wished and kept me in your thoughts. I’m certainly not out of the woods yet, but at least more informed and confident going forward. To me, it helped demonstrate and prove the existence of miracles.

WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT?

This is me. Not a very glamorous photo I know. Today at the gym I noticed my heart rate was a tad high. Ok maybe more than a tad, around 220. I felt fine but by the advice of my young lady I called the doctor and was told to go to the hospital.

After several tests and despite assuring the doctors i was able to walk, having to use a bed pan for the first time. Eventually the verdict was I have a bad heart valve, enlarged aorta and a-fib.

In fact, below is a picture the doctor drew of my heart

Not quite what you hope for. While contemplating everything this means for my life, a few things occurred to me. First, I am so grateful to have my beautiful Margie and so many friends and family that care about me.

Second, and the message of this post is how urgent it is to get my message out to the world. My desire to help and inspire as many people as possible has never been stronger.

I’ll keep everyone updated on my condition, but know I’ll be working harder than ever to share as much knowledge with all of you. Again, my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who sent me well-wishes. Be kind to yourselves and each other.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Early in my writing career, and every so often to this day, I ask myself the ever important question, “Why do I do what I do?” This may seem like an odd question to be asking yourself, but knowing yourself and why you do things is important to developing a strong why. Having a strong why is what will keep you doing what you are called to do long after the urge to do it has passed.

My answer is really twofold. The first part is a spiritual one. I believe this is what the creator has called me to do. I was given a gift to be able to find the light in even the darkest situation. This didn’t happen overnight and on occasion takes longer than on others, but eventually I see the positive in everything. I was also bestowed with other gifts as well. When I was a small child riding the city bus with my mom she quizzed me on vocabulary and now I have a rather large vernacular. In what can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse, I am very empathetic. I feel the pain others go through and as such, have a strong desire to make this world a better place.

On the more secular side of things, I have a very strong desire to share what I learn. Why? Why not just keep that knowledge to myself and use it to create a life I love? I certainly have done the second half of that. I do indeed love the life I live. It is not without its challenges, but I love it. My life is in a constant state of improvement. That in itself is exciting to me. I know that no matter how good or bad of a day I am having, I will learn something in the future that will allow me to reduce my stress and increase me joy even more.

Back to the question at hand, “that’s all great, but why feel compelled to share it with others?” Those of you who know my story will have some idea why. My life as a writer and seeker of light began in the darkest of situations. My job was being downsized, my health was in serious trouble and my relationship was in the dumpster. It was out of this despair that a determination to learn how to transform the life I was living to a life I would be loving was born.

As I began to learn and apply things my life began to transform. I noticed the people that were in my life had a lot of the same struggles I had faced. Wanting to see everyone experiencing the joy I was, I began to share everything I was learning. In return, some amazing things happened. First, people shared with me things they had learned and we compounded our knowledge. My friends Amelia and Sharon come to mind. Second, I found myself surrounded by people who were not only grateful, but becoming more joyful and positive, just like I was. This was not only more pleasant to be around, but helped make my journey that much easier and more enjoyable as well. Truly proof you receive that which you give away.

These are the main reasons I do what it is that I do. It is also reasons that all of you should do what it is you have been called to do as well. When we share our gifts and knowledge with each other, we not only brighten each other’s lives, but begin to create a shift in the world at large. We create a ripple effect and the gift and knowledge we share can touch the hearts and lives more people than we will ever know. I can’t think of a stronger why to share the gift of you with the world.

YOU FORGOT A GIFT!!

Just when you thought you opened All of your holiday gifts, I’m here to inform you that you forgot the best gift of all! The funny thing is that you have had this gift not only the entire holiday season, but your whole life! It is the greatest gift you have ever received, yet most of us have never opened it, or at least opened it all of the way.

What is this amazing gift and why haven’t we opened it? I think most of you realize that the best gifts are those that are not material. Good health is a gift that cannot be overlooked. Sadly this year I have lost too many whose health failed them. Bring physically vibrant allows us to fully enjoy the holidays. Good health isn’t the greatest gift…exactly.

The love of family and friends is one of the most precious gifts. The love I have with my beautiful lady Margie has transformed how I experience the holidays. When I stop and think of how many wonderful people I have shared and am sharing my life with I am overcome with gratitude. The love of family and friends is not the greatest gift…exactly.

Memories and moments of joy are gifts that are hard to top. I mentioned I lost several close people this year. I think of times when my uncle and I would travel to a local car show and spend the afternoon together. Although because of his passing, I’ll never experience that again, being able to share those moments with him was a gift that will keep on giving.

The joyous moments we experience both throughout the holiday season and the rest of the year are gifts that fill our soul. Whether it is a heartfelt moment with the one you love, or even the well-wishes from a stranger. They all bring smiles to our hearts and to our faces. Memories and joyous moments are not the greatest gift…exactly.

What is the greatest gift? Why do I keep saying exactly? I keep saying exactly because all of these things are part of the greatest gift – your life. Without being given the gift of life you could not experience, or help others experience, all of the gifts we mentioned above.

What do I mean about not fully opening our gift of life? Each one of us have been given special skills, or gifts that we bring to the world. Some of us can create a beautiful cake, like my love. Some of us can make people laugh. Some can make people think. Some encourage. Some inspire. Some do a little of several of these. Whatever your gift is, understand the greatest gift you can give to yourself, and more to the point here, the world around you, is to live that gift to its fullest.

Maybe your gift is to make people laugh, but you’re so busy with work and family you don’t often get a chance to do so. Take the time my friend. Start writing a humorous book, maybe start a blog of daily smiles. Whatever you have to do to live your gift. When you do you find a spark has returned to your heart and their is passion in your soul. A person living and loving life in just such a way is the greatest gift we can give to our world.

P.S. – I must give credit to my friend Michael Davis for inspiring this post.