Be Happier in Five Minutes

 
original artwork (c) Jessica Lemmon 2019

original artwork (c) Jessica Lemmon 2019

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
— Jim Rohn

Here’s some food for thought today! Look around. Are the people surrounding you a good representation of who you want to be in life? Are they kind, good-hearted, generous, happy (fill in the blank)? You have the power to drastically change your circumstances and surroundings at any time you choose.

Most of us walk around believing that our circumstances are in control of us. That if we wake in the morning grouchy we are resigned to staying that way all day.

Not true.

Really. It’s not true. If you’re feeling crabby right now you can change it in 5 minutes or less. If you’re willing to do that, keep reading below…

Be Happier in 5 Minutes

(1) Play your favorite song. Music has the power to change a mood. The song that always makes me happy is actually called “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

(2) Smile. Grab a mirror and give yourself a genuine smile. Or a silly one. Even a stupid one. Hold it for 60 seconds and you’ll feel that happiness become contagious. A doctor once did an experiment on clinically depressed people, and the only change they made was smiling at themselves in the mirror for several minutes a day. Guess what happened other than them developing smile lines and crow’s feet around their eyes? Not a single one of them could stay depressed.

(3) Read affirmations. If you’ve never written an affirmation, the formula goes like this: “I am so happy and grateful now that I am [verbing] _______.” One of mine when I traveled to California was “I am so happy and grateful now that I am enjoying the thrill of flying.” It worked. I wasn’t afraid to fly thanks to that affirmation. It’s important to keep the verb in the present (using “ing”) so that your mind understands that the happiness is happening right now, not in the future.

Do you have any tips to
be happier of your own?

I’d love to hear them if you do.
Leave them in the comments below.

 

3 Quick Fixes When You're Caught in a Comparison Trap

A version of this blog first appeared on jessicalemmon.com

haute-stock-photography-nye-celebration-final-6.jpg

You are one of a kind.

It's true. There is no one in the world like you. No one does things exactly the way you do them because they don't have your exact genetic makeup, your history (for better or worse), or your insight. Isn't it interesting that every one of us spends a lot of time, energy and effort trying to blend in with our community? That we quell our uniqueness and instead try and duplicate the success by those around us?

Now, hear me on this one. Inspiration is fine and dandy! Don't think you can't ever study someone's graphics, the way they write, how they sing, or how they make a schedule and learn something from it. We all start by mimicking someone else. That's how you learned to walk and talk. Someone else has been there/done that already and there's no reason to start from scratch if you really don't know where or how to start. But know this...

Everything you need is inside of you already.

Which means that once we start implementing someone else's methods, there should emerge your own unique twist and way of doing things. For example, you might buy a printable form to help with your plotting like this one, but you also might implement your own changes because your method differs from mine. I love those kinds of changes. The tweaks and customizations that make it our own unique thing when it actually started out as someone else's. It's not a weakness that you can't design or plot or sing exactly the same way as someone else. It's a revelation. You found a method within a method that's your own.

haute-stock-photography-nye-celebration-final-27.jpg

Whenever you look at someone in your field and notice they are successful, what immediate thought follows?

Do you think to yourself "good for her!" or is it more like "I'll never be good enough to have that." Or are you a mix of both, feeling happy for your friend but then sad when you compare her journey to your own? As I type this I find myself cringing. I hate admitting that I've been on both sides of that coin. It's definitely not something I want to think when I hear a friend's good news, but this is where I'm learning to be gentle with myself. It's impossible to prevent that first thought from popping into my head, but guess what? It is completely possible to select the one after that.

It’s impossible to prevent that first thought from popping into your head, but it’s completely possible to select the one after that.
— Jessica Lemmon

Who inspires you?

Is she doing good things for the world?

Is she inspiring others?

Well, guess what.

SO ARE YOU.

Here's something to think about: You will always be in someone's rearview mirror, but someone will always be in yours as well.

There is no race.

Stay in your own lane.

Keep your eyes on your own paper.

💛 You were fearfully and wonderfully made to plant and harvest your own unique dream, not duplicate someone else's. When that niggling thought that you're not enough attacks, just remember that the people you admire most are in your life to INSPIRE your progress, not hinder it. 💛

You will always be in someone’s rearview mirror, but someone will always be in yours as well.
— Jessica Lemmon

THREE QUICK FIXES WHEN YOU'RE CAUGHT IN THE COMPARISON TRAP

1. Get off social media. Social media feeds those ugly thoughts and if you're feeling down already, that's not going to help matters. Shut down for a day, a week if you can. Visit that beautiful thing called the OUTDOORS and look around. There's a world beyond what's happening on your screen and it's glorious. 

2. Do something for someone else. Nothing fills your heart more than giving, and it doesn't have to be big. Buy flowers for your grandmother. Take a friend homemade soup for dinner. Drag your neighbor's trashcans from the end of the driveway to the house. If you're too introverted for any of these suggestions, try driving without road rage, letting someone in front of you in line at the post office, or paying for the car behind you at McDonald's. Focusing on someone other than yourself is the easiest way to fix a "woe is me" attitude.

3. Write down three things you've done that you're insanely proud of. Don't just jot them down and forget about them, though. Read them. Marinate on them. Relive the feelings of joy and happiness and satisfaction at your achievements. If you have trouble thinking of three things, think of one. And then schedule time in your life to celebrate what you do well. Life isn't about achieving until you collapse and then getting up and achieving again. The celebration, those moments of NOT striving to get ahead are just as important as the striving.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

You're 3 Steps Away from the Perfect Picnic

originally published by Jessica Lemmon for Harlequin here

Picnic_Depositphotos_13145059_l-2015.jpg

Where I live, we’re in the throes of summer. Both the heat and humidity are at all-time highs, which means many of my “date nights” are spent on the boat or floating around in the lake. A restaurant or movie theater is always an option, but for a perfect summer date I recommend packing a picnic.

My version of a picnic date doesn’t involve hours in the kitchen prepping or hauling the grill to the picnic spot. This picnic is 100% portable and served cold, which is ideal for combatting summer heat, and can easily be enjoyed at two in the afternoon on a Saturday or Tuesday evening while stargazing. Whatever says romance to you and your SO is the perfect time for this picnic.

The necessities:

STEP 1: Procure a “basket”

The hubs and I forgo a traditional picnic basket and choose either a cooler or a picnic tote I bought for just such an occasion.

STEP 2: Gather flatware, bowls, plates & napkins

Plastic, paper or the real thing—it’s totally up to you! While you can choose anything you like, here’s what I usually pack.

  • A selection of cheeses. One hard, one soft—brie and cheddar, for example. I love smoked Gouda and Havarti, too.

  • Grapes, sliced apples, blueberries or strawberries. Vanilla yogurt makes a great topping.

  • I always pack store-bought hummus, but you could opt instead for chicken salad, spinach and artichoke dip, or even bean dip.

  • Bread, crackers, chips or cucumber rounds, carrot sticks and red pepper slices are the perfect accompaniment to dip.

  • Sparkling water or sparkling wine—the option is yours! Just don’t forget the stemware! This is a romantic date, after all.

STEP 3: Find a venue

Whether you’re attending an outdoor concert, boarding a boat, spreading out a quilt on your living room rug or in your backyard, it doesn’t matter where you enjoy your romantic date night, only that you enjoy it together.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me…what’s your favorite picnic food?

Simple Health: Daily Practices

There are so many things we're told to do to stay healthy that lately I've been finding it difficult to corral them into one check-able box on my planner. We know we should drink 8 glasses of water and take our vitamins and exercise, but by the time I jot a list I have fifteen checkboxes and a headache. And I'm supposed to do this stuff everyday?!

To keep from getting overwhelmed, I've developed a system. I'm calling it Simple Health. Know why? 'Cause it ain't that hard, people. We just make it hard. I chunked the major good-for-you things to do into three checklist words. Now all you have to do is these three things to be a superstar. 

  1. Destress

  2. Eat

  3. Move

(1) Destress

PICK ONE EACH DAY.

Destressing is the most important part of your health and there are a million ways to do it. That's not the bad news--that's the good. If there is variety, that means that no matter when you read this, you have time to do one. 

  • Yoga. Even a 15-minute class on your iPad can have you on your way to better health. I recommend the Yoga Studio app since it's clean, quiet, and completely adaptable. This isn't an affiliate link, but an app I've used for so many years I've lost count. BONUS: Yoga can be done at home with relatively little equipment. I recommend a decent mat and if you don't have yoga blocks, a pillow or firm cushion would work fine.

  • Meditation. I'm fairly new to the meditation game, but I'll tell you this much: every time I do it, I feel better. And it's not weird and boring if you use a guide with someone talking you through the breaths. I'm a big fan of Kris Carr's albums since she offers a session as short as 3 minutes but never exceeding 15 minutes. Again, this isn't an affiliate just the program I use myself. Loving the new album as well!

  • Go outside. As a work-from-home writer, this is advice I need to heed for myself! Even in the cold, gray, dreary days, I never regret stepping outside for a lungful of crisp air. It's good for the dog, too, who's as content to stay indoors all day like her mom. ;)

  • Journal. Journaling, beit gratitude or prayer or simply charting how you are feeling for the day can be a great way to "leave it all on the page." Sometimes we don't know how we're feeling until it's in black and white. Want to vent your anger with someone? Write a letter you never send! I've done it and it's always therapeutic and years later when I find it, I remember feeling so in the moment angry but can't access those same feelings currently. It's a great reminder that most things don't matter enough to shackle yourself to them long-term.

(2) Eat

DO ALL EACH DAY.

The second category to pay attention to in your day-to-day happenings is what's going into your mouth. We don't think longterm about this very often, but it's so important to fuel yourself for your future health. Your stomach needs to be full, yes, but what about your gut? Where all your good bacteria live and thrive and fight to keep your immune system at peak performance.

  • Water. You know you need 8 glasses. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into your first glass in the a.m. before your morning coffee or tea, and drink the rest throughout the day. Buy an environmentally-sound Kleen Kanteen and refill throughout the day. Ditch the plastic bottles. They're no good for your health or the landfill situation.

  • Green. Did you eat your spinach today? Either nosh on a salad or blend some up in your smoothies Fresh spinach greens are tasteless when blended into a smoothie. To try: a few handfuls of spinach, frozen banana slices, peanut butter, almond milk, hemp seeds, and a dash of salt. (You won't be sorry!)

  • Probiotics. Mix 'em up every so often to keep your gut guessing. Check with your local health food store for the 411 on good brands.

  • Supplements. If you're doing everything above, you may not need to supplement everything everyday! One caveat: I take Vitamin D daily--we're all deficient. B12 keeps me in super shape as well. On those off days when my throat feels a little tickle, I take Vitamin C (one of those powdered immune-boosting packets works lovely) and Magnesium.

(3) Move

DO ONCE EACH DAY.

I know we covered walks and yoga, but I'm talking actual cardio and strength-building in this category. Again, it doesn't have to be strenuous or arduous. You don't have to sign up for a 60-minute spin class or take to the barbells like The Rock. What you do have to do is...

  • Set your alarm. First thing in the morning is the best way, if not the only way, to be sure you fit in your fitness before your day runs away with you. Especially if you put it off. *raises hand*

  • Have an end goal. Make sure it's not "lose ten pounds" though. Your mind is trained to find something if you lose it, so state your goal in the positive. GAIN muscle. ACHIEVE this many minutes on the stairclimber. BUILD endurance by knowing the goal will be reached in 2-3 months time.

  • See steps 1 & 2. Good habits have a tendency to breed other good habits (the same way bad habits lead to more bad), so focus on the good you're doing and just do your best! If you miss a day, fit in three minutes of arm work with small weights and call it a day. (Pinterest has tons of exercises that can be done in any amount of time.) If you still can't fit in this category, set your alarm for tomorrow and fill out your gratitude journal and start tomorrow fresh.

 

Simple health is just that. Simple. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to jot these into my planner. With checkboxes. 

One step at a time, you can be healthy!

Bad Day Do-Over

Since these blog posts come from my own life experiences, I often try to learn something while in the middle of being ... well, less than Lemmony. I based this site on positivity and good vibes so on days where I'm grumbling about everything (yes, it happens), I try to step back and take inventory of where I am and what I could be doing better. Even when I don't want to.

Being in a bad mood tends to be addicting. The yelling and stomping around almost feels good. It's true! Tony Robbins might say it's because anger makes you feel in control and when there's little going on in your life that you can control, we resort to it as a last ditch effort to gain some.

So. The Bad Day. 

What do you do?!

I call a mulligan. A do-ver. A restart! No one says a case of the "bad days" has to go on for the entire day. What is time but a mythical measurement anyway? If you want to start over here's a tip.

Just freaking start over.

Your day may have begun with you waking up with a sore neck from your old pillow, but it doesn't have to control every move you make for the rest of the day. And if we are talking "vibes" here, let's not forget that what you put out into the world comes back to you. Your neck crick turns into a grouchy email from your boss turns into traffic on the way home from work that turns into you burning your finger while cooking dinner.

Conversely why not stop in the middle of all that justifiable anger and do a few things to restart you? How? I'm so glad you asked.

Dealing with it now

For when you're in the middle of crisis mode...

Peppermint Oil. I recently ordered some essential oils and what a difference it's made in my day-to-day. A few drops on the palms of your hands and a deep inhale an invoke calm feelings instantly. Lavender works well for this, too. I also love, love, love to use essential oils in my diffuser. Right now I'm diffusing a mixture of peppermint and pine which is the perfect holiday scent. (I recommend this one. I have two!)

Get moving. The easiest way to get out of your head is to do something physical. If you can, hop out of your desk chair and jog up and down the stairs or take a walk to the copier or kitchen. Most importantly, breathe. When we're upset, often we take very shallow breaths. Breathing shallow harkens back to the caveman days when we were hiding from big, scary predators and trying to make ourselves as small and quiet as possible. Your boss may be a bear, and chances are she isn't planning on eating you, but your body doesn't know that. Remind yourself by tapping into your relaxation reflex like so:

  1. Breathe in for the count of 4.

  2. Hold for the count of 4.

  3. Breathe out for the count of 4.

  4. Repeat 3 times.

Do something else. As a work-from-home writer I have the luxury of stopping my current task and moving onto something else for a while if I find myself in a rut. My go-to tends to be cooking, since I can run into the kitchen and chop a few vegetables and make a soup in record time. (Thank you, Instant Pot!) If you don't work at home, employ your creativity. Can you take a break? A lunch break? A gym break? Get the heck away from whatever problem is currently tangling your brain in knots and when you get back do that breathing thing we talked about.

Preventing it next time

Sadly, there's no foolproof way to keep away stress. But you can see it coming, which means yep... you guessed it. An ounce of prevention...

Limit caffeine. Easing up on the java has made a world of difference for me, but the choice to ease off didn't come without a lot of moaning and complaints! Now that I'm down to 1-2 cups of half-caff a day I see the direct correlation between my anxiety issues and coffee.

#sad

There is a way to get through it gracefully without feeling like you're giving up your favorite thing ever. 

  1. Drink Bulletproof Decaf Coffee. It's more costly than Starbucks decaf, but Bulletproof's decaf is healthier for you and it doesn't taste like turpentine..

  2. Don't drink coffee after noon. Going down to limited cups of coffee meant I could have them whenever I want, right?! SOMETIMES. Other times I'm twitchy until way past bedtime.

Know your triggers. Hormones? Your kids? Friday afternoon meetings? Anticipate whatever triggers your anxiety button and cut it off at the pass. I love this meditation album from Kris Carr to reset any feelings of ick. It's an instant do-over.

Take notes. If you don't know your triggers it might be a good time to employ a journal or Evernote to help you keep track of what the heck's going on. I've seen many bujo (bullet journal) pages for tracking mood, and there are lots of options for journals that help you track what you eat each day. You can also journal your feelings at night, either in "Dear Diary" form or via a gratitude journal. Erin Condren has an awesome gratitude journal I'm in love with. If you've never ordered from there but want to, sign up here and she'll send you a $10 off your first order.

I've worked hard for years to get my anxiety under control, but if I've learned only one thing it's that there's no way to fully insure it never happens again. There's only recognizing it, dealing with it, and being gentle with yourself when your attitude is less than stellar.

~Jessica Lemmon

 

*some links are affiliate links 

 

 

Staying Sane for Christmas

Dear Santa,

I'd like to maintain my sanity during Christmas. Will that fit in my stocking?

Love, Me


I don't know what it is about the holidays, but stress seems to ramp up for some (all?) people. This season of good cheer and sparkly tinsel occasionally coincides with some not-so-cheerful incidents like an illness, a death in the family, or a stressful month at work. Add in the shopping, the commercials and pressure to buy "just the right thing" and family members all vying for your presence on that special day and you may find yourself wishing you didn't celebrate Christmas at all.

 

So... how do you stay sane this Christmas? Worry not! I have a few tips...

 

(1) Compromise.

Ahh, everyone's least favorite c-word. During the holidays especially, the ole give-and-take can be a life-saver. This tip falls under the category of "choose your battles."

Your siblings want to do a gift exchange even though you planned on buying for each of them. Your husband's mother wants to cook her favorite (pot roast!) and you're a vegan. Whatever issue you're confronted with, keep in mind that digging in your heels might not be the best course of action. A creative solution could help. Agree to the gift exchange with your siblings, but ship the other gifts after the holiday with a note explaining that you wanted to give something extra special this year thanks to a big Christmas bonus. Bring a vegan dish to share to dinner at your in-laws, but assure your MIL that your hubs will eat enough pot roast for the two of you. 

 

(2) Pick one.

Does it make more sense to do all your holiday visits in one day? Then do that! I moved last year, so Christmas celebrations have changed since I'm the one coming to town to visit. The solution? I combine family visits into one day (this year, we're visiting on Christmas Eve) so that the husband and I can spend Christmas Day at home. Splitting our time between family members makes the most sense because we live far away, and they're in the same town. It also gives us a chance to sit around in our pajamas Christmas morning without having to pack up the car and travel on back-to-back days.

(3) Don't explain.

Here's a fun fact: You're a grown-up and therefore entitled to say no. Just because you've always done something a certain way doesn't mean you have to do it that way until the end of time. Don't want your aunt's calorie-laden dessert even though it used to be your favorite? If a simple "no, thank you" doesn't do it, simply repeat it. You don't have to explain why and you don't have to justify your decision. Be polite but firm. If it'll ease the tension at the dinner table, offer to take a piece home whether you plan on eating it or not.

Say you book a cruise over the holidays for your family. Your children are stoked, but your parents are ... well, not. Grandma and grandpa always see the kids on Christmas! Explain to the g'rents that this year you're doing something special but you're available before or after your trip for a special celebration with them. If this meets with resistance (and it might), just repeat yourself. The fact remains: you're not going to come over to their house for Christmas because you'll be on a very big boat in the center of the ocean, but you can come over on the 22nd or the 28th. Focus on the positive and once the date is agreed upon go forward with planning a fun, relaxing get-together.

 

I hope these tips help you keep your sanity during Christmastime, but if not there's always eggnog.

~Jessica Lemmon

 

 

 

5 Ways to Keep a Cold at Bay

Now that weather is cooling down and your body is working harder to stay warm, you might find yourself battling a cold. When you feel the "ick" descending here are 5 fast fixes to put you on the road to feeling better.

(1) Calm down

Stress is a killer, and if you've been working on a project at work or chasing around little ones who won't let you have a break, it's time to take three. Three deep breaths that is. While you inhale, say to yourself "INHALE" and while you exhale, say to yourself "EXHALE." Be in the moment for those three deep breaths and notice what's going on in your body. Are you jittery from too much adrenaline or caffeine? Are you feeling thirsty? Hungry? Is your head buzzing and/or focus is difficult? Assess where you are right now (without judgement), then...

(2) Drink fresh lemon water

Vitamin C is your friend, and so is alkalizing that acidic bloodstream of yours. Slice a fresh lemon in half and squeeze it into 8-10 oz. of water and drink up. Lemon water cleanses out yucky toxins from your innards, too, especially if you drink it upon waking. Make it your new morning habit, and if you can't quite handle half a lemon's juice, start with a wedge and work your way up.

(3) Scrap the sugar

Cache the candy bar, pour out the soda pop, and avoid alcohol. While you're on prevention detail, give your body a break from simple sugars that can put you over the edge.

(4) Eat a vegetable

Or three. Nom on carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, or even a fresh salad. (Easy on that sugary salad dressing!) Make sure you're fueling your body with healthy foods that will give your immune system a vibrant boost.

(5) Rest

Be honest with me... are you getting enough sleep? In order for your body to fight off the crud that's creeping into your life, rest up! If eight hours of sleep at night sounds like a far-off fantasy, it's time to reevaluate your nighttime activities. Shut down the screens (TV, cell phone, iPad) and vow to get ready for sleeping 30 minutes before you usually do. Bench the caffeine early in the day (or stick to a low-caff option like green tea) so that your slumber is restful. If you can't catnap during the day, take 15 to close your eyes and do this simple meditation as you count to ten: Inhale (silently say one), exhale (silently say two), Inhale (silently say three) and so on until you get to ten. Once you've counted to ten, start over at one and breathe/count to ten again. Lose your place? Start at the number one no matter what breath you're on.

Keep up these healthy habits not only when you suffer the first sniffle or feel a tickle in your throat, but every day as part of a strong self-care/wellness practice. They're simple, cheap, and pack a punch when building an already depressed immune system. Plus, they'll make you feel mentally strong and remind you to stress less.

Stay well!