10 Great Quotes

Happy Tuesday!

The last time I wrote, I was deep in the winter blahs. I didn’t have much energy and didn’t feel like myself. Well, I am happy to report that I’m feeling a million times better. In addition to stocking up on multivitamins, fish oil, and iron, I bought a light-therapy box from Amazon–and I’m telling you, every day is a sunny one with this thing. Of course, nothing is perfect, but my regimen has been a big help for my mood.

You know what else puts me in a good mood? An inspirational quote. Here are 10 to inspire you today.

1. “Self love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It’s about accepting all of yourself.” -Tyra Banks

2. “Confidence comes from discipline and training.” -Robert Kiyosaki

3. “Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.”-Les Brown

4. “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” -Dalai Lama

5. “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” -Og Mandino

6. “‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” -Alice Walker

7. “Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” -George Jackson

8. “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” -Benjamin Franklin

9. Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” -Oprah Winfrey

10. “Come forth into the light of things; let nature be your teacher.” -William Wordsworth

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Let Light Pierce the Darkness

I talk about personal power a lot on this blog. A firm believer in mind over matter, I think you have the capacity to create joy in your life when you shift your thinking from rigid and negative to positive and flexible. Many times you can decide for yourself how you react to life’s unpredictable forces. You have the luxury to choose whether you’ll find the lesson in every situation or mope around in defeat, the ability to acknowledge that while not everything in your life is going the way you desire, you are generally in a good place.

Sometimes, though, it can seem that despite your efforts to be optimistic, you just don’t feel right, just don’t feel like yourself. You know you need to wake up on time for work or for class, but those extra five minutes of sleep–I’ll only snooze once, you tell yourself–become wasted hours. Slowly, the things you love to do lose their appeal. Feeling lonely, you paradoxically shrink away from family and friends. You hope for each day to finish quickly, which only means that the cycle of lethargy, loneliness, and confusion will begin sooner. That’s not the thinking of a happy, positive person, you tell yourself. Yet, you can’t escape those feelings. As a proverbial winter bears down on your spirits, you hate to admit it to yourself, but you can’t lie anymore: You’re depressed.

This is the revelation I’ve had to cope with for the past few weeks. I cope with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. When the trees disrobe, the temperature drops, and the sky remains dark more often, I want to crawl into a hole. Few things help for more than a moment–not getting my nails done, not wearing a nice outfit, not even going on a trip. I’m cranky and confused. My weight rises. My patience shrinks. I want to cry for no reason. I’m going under. But when spring hits, I’m usually better.

I think about the days before I let cognitive behavioral therapy change my world, dark days when I was very angry, pessimistic, covetous, and self-hating. I think about how my self-worth was so low–non-existent–that I thought no one would care if I were to disappear. I used to think I didn’t have a right to even live on this planet. I was so depressed that I lost a major scholarship and withdrew from school–I shudder at those memories of my former self. Combine that with SAD and you’ve got a real mess. So admitting to myself that I’m in low spirits has been very disconcerting because I try to think and act in ways that boost my well being. How could I be unhappy when I write a blog about happiness, feeling good, thinking positively, etc.? On paper, things are going very well for me, but smiling has felt like lifting a 300-pound barbell over these few weeks. Does that make me a fraud, a weirdo, a head case–or just human? I’m betting on the latter.

Depression can be painful, no doubt. It can rob you of everything you’ve worked for, leaving you feeling powerless and empty. Changing your thoughts sometimes isn’t enough. Sometimes it’s not enough to tell yourself to “snap out of it” or just slap a smile on your face. Sometimes, you need more help. If you’ve been feeling despondent lately, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does my low mood have a pattern? Once a month, once a year, a few times a year?
  • Am I grieving something? It could be anything you’ve lost: a loved one, a job, a significant other, etc.
  • Have I been eating a nutritious diet? Do I get enough serotonin-boosting exercise?
  • Does anyone in my family deal with depression or other mental health concerns?

After you’ve considered these questions, you may feel more empowered to not only be honest with yourself about your despair but to get help for it. Hopefully, you’ll see that you’re not abnormal: According to the CDC, an estimated one out every 10 adults reports depression. So despite what nasty, nagging voices in your head may say, you most likely aren’t “losing it.” You may feel down, but–especially in the case of SAD–you don’t have to be down forever. And while medication may be beneficial in more severe cases of depression, it’s not your only option. In my case, for example, exercise really helps. I can’t say that sweating is a panacea for everything, but when I look back over the last few winters, I see that my SAD was a lot less oppressive when I worked out a few times a week. Exercise–go figure–is one thing I haven’t done enough of this winter.

If you know something just isn’t right with you, don’t let another minute pass without finding out what that “something” is. You don’t want to lose your job, your loved ones, or your sense of human worth because of a temporary slump. I’ve been there, and it’s not pretty. Don’t think for one moment that you’re stuck with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or powerless, because if you look closely at your life, you may discover that those feelings are just an illusion. Do your research. Speak with someone. Reclaim your essence. As trite as it sounds, you can look forward to your spring. You can’t precisely control everything that happens in your brain, but you can control what you put in it. You can overpower over depression and take back your thoughts. The hardest part, often, is resolving to do so.

Why I’m Happy

The great thing about happiness is that it can be experienced even when things aren’t going exactly how you want them to. Even when you know you have more to accomplish, more to achieve, and more to overcome, you can feel good about who you are and where you are in life–and it doesn’t take anything extravagant to do so.

Why am I happy? I’ll give you six reasons.

1. My basic needs are met. I rose from a bed in a temperature-controlled room this morning. I had hot water for a shower, clean clothes and a warm coat, and money to buy a breakfast sandwich. Those things that seem so simple, so commonplace are worth much more than they can seem.

2. I’ve got a few of my wants, too. I don’t have a car, but I do have a handy iPhone with which to check a real-time bus schedule. I wore my favorite eyeshadow today. In addition to the basics, I have many luxuries. I’m grateful for them.

3. I have a job. I woke up to a lovely direct deposit this morning. While everything about my job certainly isn’t perfect, I’m able to take care of both my needs and wants. In this economy, that’s enough to make anyone happy.

4. Not only do I have a job, but I have a job in my field. I’ve been obsessed with magazines ever since I picked up Reader’s Digest at age 6, and today, twenty years later, I’m working at a magazine publishing company. After working numerous temp jobs and fretting about my career path, I can only be happy about how far I’ve come.

5. I’m graduating in May. My education has been a particularly daunting part of my young adult life. I was a journalism major when I started college, but I hated it, so much so that I dropped out of school (that’s where all the temp jobs came in). I endured a loooong serious of fits and starts before changing my major to English and getting the money to finance it all. Eight years after I enrolled at my D.C. university, I am finally set to graduate on May 11, 2013. Nothing will stop me from getting there!

6. I have loving family and friends. While I had to end relationships with people who weren’t true friends, I did gain new friends who are caring, supportive, and honest. My family is open and affectionate, and I know I am loved and able to return their love. For that, I am most certainly happy.

I could go on and on about why I’m jumping for joy today (and I probably will in another post), but instead I’ll reiterate the point that happiness doesn’t require anything extraordinary. You don’t have to be wealthy. You don’t have to lose five pounds or grace magazine covers to achieve it. All you need to do is take stock of what you have–and if you’re reading this post, you have a lot more than a large percentage of people on Earth–and decide that for right now, in this exact moment, it’s enough for you. If you can do that, you can be happy every day.

To Be Cleansed from Complaints

I’ve got a little problem: I’ve been complaining. A lot.

It’s so easy to do. As soon as I get in the car and I’m ready to roll, I’m irritated because someone is driving super slowly. Then someone going straight blocks the right lane so I can’t turn. When I finally get to the convenience store to buy a magazine and orange juice, someone’s buying lottery tickets. Ugh. As if he’s going to win, anyway! And don’t even get me started on the holiday shoppers. ‘Tis the season to curse folks out.

As someone who believes in the power of positive thinking, I am uncomfortable with my behavior. Yes, we all have moments when we’re impatient, annoyed, or frustrated, but dwelling on everything we think is wrong with our lives is an invitation to unhappiness. You have more power to change your mood than you give yourself credit for, and at some point you have to step back and realize that some people have it much, much worse. Some people aren’t so privileged that they can gripe about their Wifi conking out.

So, to counteract the wave of negativity that has seeped into my life, I’d like to start a complaint cleanse. No eye-rolling. No huffing and puffing. Yes, it’s difficult to find a parking spot at the crowded mall, but I get to celebrate the holidays with my friends and family. I have gained a little weight, but I can walk, run, jump, kick, and squat, and I’m generally healthy. My thighs are worth a personal Armageddon.

When I feel I’m about to strangle someone, I will breathe deeply, count to ten, and smile, even for a moment. I will be grateful. I will not let silly little annoyances like kids running around a store make me bitter, even if it would behoove their parents to chastise them.

And if I must kick myself (gently, with purpose and love) from time to time for a rogue squawk, I will be a much more joyful person. My happiness, after all, is worth it in the end.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 24: When It All Changed

“As I stopped feeling like I couldn’t do things, I began acting confident and successful, and I realized that the better I felt, the more opportunity was coming to me.” -Amy DuBois Barnett

I was waiting on something to happen. I was waiting to feel content, to feel as if I could accomplish something, to feel good about my life and about myself. As I hoped and prayed for my life to begin, I cried some nights and zoned out most days.

Why didn’t good things happen to me? I wondered. Why was everyone else so lucky, so fortunate? Where were my blessings? What had I done to deserve such a life?

I waited. And waited. And cried. Wasted time. Wasted money and energy. I wanted what others had and didn’t appreciate the things that were right in front of me, however small. I had nothing to be proud of, so I thought. I had nothing to show for myself. When was it going to be my turn?

Then something happened. Tired of wallowing in despair and blaming the universe and my elementary school teacher for my problems, I opened my eyes. I began to search for knowledge, for truth and wisdom. I devoured everything I could on being a better me. I took a deep, difficult look at myself and saw some things I didn’t like. But with information in hand, I was able to begin the long process of change. I was able to accept full responsibility for my life. I was able to change.

No longer could I blame others for anything I didn’t like in my life. I gained mastery over myself, over my thoughts and feelings, and over my actions. I became the woman I had always wanted to be, the woman I had not fathomed would be me. I made up my mind to accept myself and be bold, fearless, and strong. I became powerful, and that’s when my situation changed. I became confident, and that’s when my situation changed. No more bitterness. No more longing for the past. No more wasting the present. I changed, and everything around me changed.

Of course I still have more to learn, more ways in which to grow. But I’ve done what it takes many years to do: I’ve begun. I’ve realized that I want to live in peace and on purpose, and, with the support of family, friends, and mentors, I’ve made it happen. I decided to stop being a victim and start feeling empowered and confident. I didn’t wait my turn–I took it. When I made that decision, that’s when everything changed.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 22: 7 Tips for Building Real Confidence

I used to think that if I smoothed foundation over my face perfectly, showed enough of my curves, and delicately curled every strand of my long luxurious weave, I’d be confident. If you looked pretty, feeling confident had to be the next step, right?  So I buffed, flipped, and sculpted my face and hair. I did everything magazines and YouTube videos instructed me to. When I finished the heavy-duty labor, I took digital photos of myself to make sure everything looked natural. I had no choice but to be confident after that.

But I never felt it.

I wondered how I could make myself look like a model but still feel like hiding. Weren’t fly hair, makeup, and clothes an “upgrade”? I thought for sure that good looks made people bold. If I didn’t look pretty, I couldn’t imagine any other way of feeling confident. What’s more, all that attention to my looks without any focus on my intrinsic worth was making me pretty vacuous.

Then, after deep sessions with the book that changed my life—”Boosting Self-Esteem for Dummies” (yes, I know)—I had a revelation: If I had a strong sense of my worth as a human being, I could feel courageous regardless of whether my hair was done or I had impeccably cat-lined eyes. When I discovered I was worthwhile, I understood how confidence transcended physical appearance. Ask yourself how you’d act if you believed you were as valuable as anyone else, and do that. It’s a long process, but that’s what true confidence is all about. Here are just a few of my hallmarks for building healthy, sustainable confidence.

1. Maintain good eye contact. Nothing conveys confidence more than the ability to look someone squarely in the eye and speak. Eye contact shows that you value yourself and the person you’re speaking to. Shifting eyes express uncertainty, shame, or fear. It’s easy to look down or away when you don’t feel good about yourself. I made a habit of avoiding others’ eyes. Start looking—not staring—into people’s eyes and watch how they open up to you.

2. Smile. When I struggled with self-acceptance, people asked me if everything was ok because of the down-and-out expression I wore. It was terribly annoying to hear that question, and I’m sure it’s just as annoying for others to have to wonder. I always admired people who looked pleasant, eyes alert and mouth curled slightly upward, but I thought I’d look weird if I tried. After my revelation, though, I found smiling much easier. When you know you can’t control what other people think and you have a right to your own existence, you can smile as you please. It may feel funny at first, but it makes you feel good—and makes others comfortable, and more likely to approach you. I’ve gotten so many positive responses since I started smiling. And I do it everywhere—on the bus, at the grocery store, at work, in the mall. I sit alone and smile now because it makes me feel good. A warm, easy smile beats a frown any day.

3. Breath deeply, walk slowly. Have you ever held your breath in an uncomfortable situation? Doesn’t help much. I used to shrug my shoulders up tight and hold my breath when I felt nervous. Far better for your confidence is to take a few deep cleansing breaths. You’ll feel much more relaxed, and it’s also really good for your lungs. Don’t forget to walk slowly, too. Doing so gives you time to take in your surroundings and feel calm. Take a deep breath and walk like you belong—you do.

4. Speak in your natural voice. When I’m talking to good friends or siblings, my voice feels smooth, slightly mid-pitched, and comfortable. I noticed that when I’m in class or speaking to someone I don’t know, my voice gets really deep and growl-like. Pay attention to how your voice changes when you’re in different social situations. The voice you use when you’re with the people you’re most comfortable with is the voice you should aim to use all the time. Also, speaking slowly appears self-assured. It’s not easy, though. Sometimes my voice volleys between grumbling deep and airily high-pitched. I have to make a conscious effort to meet that mid-range tone, but with practice, it will get easier.

5. Accept that you’re not perfect. Confidence means rolling with your good, bad, and neutral points. It means you can go for things without worrying about how others perceive you because they’re just as human as you are. If you believed that, you’d take risks and feel fine about not getting things perfect. Mistakes are part of life. When you accept that you’ll never be perfect, you’ll feel more confident to try things.

6. Appreciate what you and others have without making comparisons. You may not like some of your facial features or body parts, but you’re better off accepting them. Be generous in complimenting yourself, knowing that your worth is on the inside. Likewise, appreciate and compliment others without comparing yourself to them. I used to wish I were taller or had smoother skin. But as many billions of people there are on Earth, we’re all unique, so don’t waste your time beating yourself up about what you think others have that you don’t. Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is very confident—and attractive.

7. Keep it positive. During my freshman year of college, I hung with a girl who was so down on herself that it was tiresome. She’d constantly complain about her how unruly her hair was, how much weight she’d gained, and how she couldn’t find a boyfriend. I found myself encouraging her more than just hanging out, and it got old fast. I was still struggling with myself at the time, but it was enlightening to see how low self-esteem comes off to others. No matter what, remember to be positive. It’s tiresome to hear someone constantly berate themselves. Lift yourself up—don’t wait for someone to tell you’re ok. You already are. Accept it, enjoy it, and keep it positive.