Thursday, January 17, 2019

how to be happy: don't compare yourself to anyone else

I had this habit of comparing myself to others. I think maybe we all do this at some point. In high school I knew exactly where my GPA placed me. At the time, it was a good thing. My group of friends pushed each other in a friendly competition. Later, after college and in my second job in PR, I had a manager who liked to pit us against each other. It was in television and it was brutal. My colleagues and I worked ridiculous hours to come up with great concepts especially after our weekly meetings when our manager would start each meeting with "_______ won the gold star the week. Now who is going to blow me away and who is going to disappoint me this week?" It was a stressful workplace that invited malice and a siloed way of thinking. I hated that job but I have to admit, I developed a strong backbone and I learned how not to be so sensitive.

When I was thinking about things that sabotage my own happiness, I realized that there have been times when I was happy but then I saw someone else who did better and I let their success diminish my own joy.

When we were going through the absolute hell of fertility issues, it was devastating to me every time one of my friends announced her pregnancy.  I had breakfast with a friend who exploded with her news. "I AM PREGNANT! Oh my God. It just happened! We are SO happy!" She was so excited that I thought she would literally levitate.  I wish I could have been happy for her. I felt sucker punched. Thinking back, I'm embarrassed that I couldn't share in her happiness. If I could go back in time, I would share her joy with her. I would hug her and I would cry happy tears for her. It happened over and over. Friends and family members became pregnant and gave birth to these beautiful, chubby little babies and I held myself back from spending time with them because I compared myself to them. I felt like such a failure.

One day, I realized that I could make a choice. I could be happy for my friends and family members or I could continue to isolate myself and miss out on getting to know some pretty amazing new little lives.  I found a new therapist who dealt with fertility issues and she helped me to understand that happiness isn't limited. There are not a certain amount of babies being given out. Each time  a friend had a baby didn't mean there was one less for me. It wasn't like musical chairs.

What I learned with each session was that comparing yourself to someone else doesn't bring you any closer to happiness. What it can do is destroy friendships, instill low self-confidence and prevent you from appreciating what you do have. When you are grateful for all that you have in your life (the lessons / the good / the bad), you build happiness incrementally.  I became honestly happy for those around me who had wonderful things happen to them- babies, promotions, new homes... it was all wonderful. Not only did this change in my thinking make me happier, it also improved my friendships. When I stopped being jealous, my heart had room for joy. It's funny how when you're happy for someone else, that leads to your happiness too.

Monday, January 14, 2019

How I'm changing my eating plan for 2019

I think about food way too much. Even before I open my eyes in the morning I think about what I'm going to have for breakfast.  I wish I didn't think this way. I should be thinking about my plan for the day but instead I think about how delicious breakfast foods are. For as long as I can remember food has occupied way too much of my brain. My grandparents (God bless them) believed that French Toast could solve any problem (and it kinda did). I love food. I love the smooth creaminess of macaroni and cheese. I love the way mashed potatoes make me feel warm and happy. I'm a carb girl. Chocolate, sweets, nope. Just give me a loaf of crusty warm bread and butter and I'm good. 

The problem is that this way of eating can only cause weight gain, especially if partnered with unbalanced portion control and lack of any kind of fitness program. To lose weight, I've tried all of the programs (No, really, all of them) from Weight Watchers to Nutrisystem, fasting to a 20-week weight loss program at my gym. I've met with a therapist (we discussed my past and what was keeping me overweight) and a doctor who prescribed a medication that made my heart and mind race (that was awful). I would lose a few pounds but I always gained the weight back when I tried to incorporate "real food" again. Then I would feel terrible about myself and seek solace in food which just made me feel bad about myself and there I was, falling down the rabbit hole.

Then five years ago I spent a week at Red Mountain Resort doing their detox week. Something in me clicked and even when I returned home I kept the program up. I ended up losing 100 pounds by eating proteins, fruits, vegetables and nuts. I felt myself glow like I never had before in my life. I was proud of myself and that just fueled my success. But then I started to feel deprived and angry about foods I was missing. I felt that binge twinge and then it happened.  I had just a little blueberry muffin and then I had a cookie and that 100 pounds I lost came back on.  I just can't control myself with carbs (flour, rice, grains) or sugar. Even just a little sets me off seeking more.  It was like I was almost at the top of a mountain that I had worked so hard to climb, only to let go and free fall. 

Since then I didn't think much about what I was eating. I was going through fertility treatments and my hormones were so unbalanced that food was one of the only things that made me feel better. I soothed myself with carbs which took my mind off of everything. Doritos melted my stress away. Now that Waverly is here though, I look at her and I want to be the best possible mom for this little girl. She is 16 months-old now and I see how she watches me and imitates what I do. 

I want Waverly to have a healthy relationship with food and her body. I want her to think of food as fuel, not comfort. We are careful not to use food as a reward and we try to give her as many fruits and vegetables as possible without resorting to hiding them in other foods.  A few weeks ago I realized that if I care this much about my daughter, shouldn't I care about myself the same way?

Here's the thing: I want joy in all aspects of my life. Including my eating plan. I want to be strong, lean and most of all I want my body and my mind for once to be on the same playing field. 

So, on January 1, I decided to follow a plan that works, a plan that makes me feel happy and satisfied.  I am following a plan that is for the rest of my life. I don't want to  diet. I want to fuel my body with foods that spark joy (sort of the Marie Kondo of eating programs). What I created takes from some of my favorite programs - Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, Whole30 and my original Detox program. I'll be eating vegetables, fruits, salmon/tuna, nuts, some dairy and some shakes/bars that I found work well and don't trigger a carb-loading binge. This is the plan. I'm also going to adding some fitness from walking to kickboxing and hopefully things I've never tried before. I'm going to seek out others who have trailed this path before me 

So far, I've lost 11 pounds since 1/1. More importantly I feel my glow coming back. The sugar and carb cravings have subsided and so has the I-need-sugar-right-now headache. I've already gone down a pants size and I think this is a real fine start to a program that makes me feel happy and not deprived. One of the best things to come out of this in just a few days is that I don't think about food when I wake up in the morning, I know that whatever I have for breakfast (eggs/shake/protein bar/bulletproof coffee) will bring me joy. 

Coming up, I'll post my progress and what I've found that works and doesn't work. If you have any time on how you regained your fitness while increasing your joy, I'd love to hear it!

Glow on!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Happy Places: What's new at Disney Parks for 2019

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will open at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and at Walt Disney World in late fall 2019. 

One of our favorite places on earth (and probably your too!) are the What Disney Resorts including Walt Disney World and Disneyland. So, I was excited to review the release for what's happening at the resorts this year, especially Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.  L and I can't wait to take Waverly for the first time! As Star Wars fans, when we visit, I have a strong feeling Wave  will be dressed in character as Rey. Here's what's coming up at the happiest place on earth, starting January 18th, 2019.

In case you're curious, yes, you will be able to fly the Millennium Falcon.

At Walt Disney World

Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration Arrives at Magic Kingdom Park
Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration will honor those true originals, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, with new entertainment, merchandise and specialty food and beverages at Magic Kingdom.

JUST ANNOUNCED! Mickey and Minnie will greet guests together inside Town Square Theater, wearing all-new, colorful outfits for their special celebration.
JUST ANNOUNCED! Guests will enjoy Celebration Station inside Town Square Theater, where they may sign a guestbook to let Mickey and Minnie know, personally, how much fun they had during the party.
JUST ANNOUNCED! An all-new song, “It’s a Good Time,” will play several times daily as part of the new “Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party.” During this high-energy bash, singing hosts will invite guests to join in the fun with Disney pals including Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and many others.
JUST ANNOUNCED! Mickey’s beloved dog, Pluto, will meet guests under the big top at Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus.

Party with Pixar Pals and More as Disney’s Hollywood Studios Marks 30 Years

JUST ANNOUNCED! May 1, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park will celebrate this milestone all year long, starting Jan. 18 with the reveal of a new 30th anniversary logo.
➤Pixar Avenue will be the place for guests to show off their inner Supers with The Incredibles. Guests will celebrate the heroic deeds of Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible and Frozone, who will make appearances throughout the day during a party featuring lively music, dancing, interactive games and more Super fun. Guests will meet super-suit designer Edna Mode and see some of her greatest creations. They may also spot signs for the whereabouts of the youngest Incredible – the mischievous and multi-powered Jack-Jack.
➤A door to the monster world will open inside Walt Disney Presents, inviting guests to visit with Mike and Sulley from Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”
➤Guests will feel like honorary toys in the new Toy Story Land. Based on the beloved Pixar Toy Story films, the playful land features two new attractions – Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers – as well as fan-favorite Toy Story Mania!
➤In addition, the new high-energy live show “Disney Junior Dance Party!” will feature characters from Disney Junior television series, including Vampirina, Doc McStuffins and many more.

More Broadway Music Than Ever at Epcot International Festival of the Arts
The Epcot International Festival of the Arts comes to life Jan. 18-Feb. 25, 2019, where guests will indulge in world-class culinary, visual and performance arts.

➤The Disney on Broadway Concert Series expands to seven days a week during the festival, providing more opportunities than ever before to hear pairs of Disney on Broadway stars sing favorite tunes from award-winning productions. The lineup will rotate regularly, featuring music from “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” “Beauty and the Beast” and other hit shows.
➤The festival will include 13 Food Studios, plus additional creative food and beverages around Epcot, featuring an expanded selection of delicious new tastes to savor.
➤Art collectors and Disney enthusiasts alike will find artwork for sale throughout the park, from the Art of Disney store to Festival Markets. In addition, special festival merchandise will be available at Mouse Gear and other Epcot locations.
➤The 2019 festival provides fun every day for the whole family, including performance artists, complimentary seminars, hands-on activities and Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt.
➤While experiencing all the Epcot International Festival of the Arts has to offer, guests will want to spend another evening around World Showcase Lagoon taking in “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” which will be ending in the second half of 2019 to make way for an all-new nighttime spectacular.

Feel the Love During ‘Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Guests will take a walk on the wild side at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the “Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party,” featuring Timon and Rafiki from Disney’s “The Lion King.”

➤Each day on Discovery Island, the dance party will encourage young adventurers to let their inner animals roam free on the dance floor as a street band plays a fiery soundtrack in a World Beat style. 
All this excitement will be here in two shakes of a mouse’s tail! To make sure no one misses a moment, guests will find a new countdown clock online at It’s rolling down to when the fun begins on the morning of Jan. 18, 2019!

Special event and ticket offers for Walt Disney World Resort are available here. 

At Disneyland

From Jan. 22 through Feb. 18, Disneyland Resort will celebrate the love of Minnie and Mickey for Valentine’s month. Guests will find a new Mickey Mouse flower “portrait,” and lovely and festive Valentine’s d├ęcor all along Main Street, U.S.A. Guests may also choose to partake in Minnie’s Valentine Surprise, a special scavenger hunt experience in Disneyland park. After purchasing a commemorative map and stickers at select merchandise locations, they may search for the hidden valentines that Minnie has left for Mickey around the park. Upon completion, maps can be returned to a designated location to redeem a special Valentine’s surprise.*

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge invites guests to live their own Star Wars adventure
In summer 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will make history as the largest single-land expansion ever at the Disneyland Resort. In this epic, new land, guests will live their own adventure in a galaxy far, far away and explore Black Spire Outpost. Once a busy crossroads, this spaceport on the planet Batuu is now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, including smugglers, rogue traders and exotic creatures traveling between the frontier and uncharted space.

Guests will take the controls in one of three unique and critical roles aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. On Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, guests can join a battle between the First Order and the Resistance – including a face-off with Kylo Ren. These two new incredible experiences, paired with the land’s interactive components and optional integration with the Play Disney Parks app, will invite guests to become galactic travelers and live their own Star Wars adventures in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
In addition to these two long-awaited attractions, guests may try blue milk, well-known to Star Wars fans, and pop into the local Cantina for libations. They will discover treasures as they maneuver the winding alleyways and merchant stalls, and they may see familiar Star Wars faces, including Chewbacca and stormtroopers. The beauty of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is that each guest is encouraged to choose their unique adventure in the galaxy.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will feature original music created especially for the land by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams.

Lunar New Year celebration returns to celebrate the Year of the Pig
 Disneyland Resort will ring in the Year of the Pig this Lunar New Year in Disney California Adventure, from Jan. 25 through Feb. 17. A joyous celebration of Asian cultures, the Lunar New Year celebration welcomes guests of all ages to commemorate the tradition with beloved Disney characters, and welcome another year of good fortune.

Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession, a limited-time offering during the Lunar New Year celebration, is a bright and bold parade hosted by Mulan and her faithful dragon, Mushu. As a special treat for the Year of the Pig, the Three Little Pigs will join the procession. Delicious Asian food and kid-friendly crafts and activities will be available as well.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival showcases a bounty of flavors 
The vibrant Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival will return to the Disneyland Resort from March 1 through April 23, 2019. Seasoned foodies along with culinary newbies will delight in experiencing this eight-week celebration of California-inspired cuisines. Guests will enjoy indulging in favorite dishes and broadening their palettes with more than a dozen delicious Festival Marketplaces, featuring small plates, specialty wines and craft beers.

From celebrity chef appearances to family-friendly cooking demonstrations, there is something for connoisseurs of all ages to enjoy. In addition, children can participate in Junior Chef, a fun, hands-on “cooking” experience, specially designed for young chefs. Participants will receive a sweet surprise following the seminar.

Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind and Jessie’s Critter Carousel arrive at Pixar Pier
Guests have been enjoying Pixar Pier since it opened in June 2018, bringing the stories and characters of DisneyPixar films to life with exciting attractions, themed neighborhoods and fun eateries. In 2019, Pixar Pier welcomes two additional attractions to complete the land: Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind and Jessie’s Critter Carousel.
This Pixar-inspired land is full of family-friendly fun, including the thrilling Incredicoaster, the popular Toy Story Mania! attraction and the beautiful Lamplight Lounge restaurant overlooking Paradise Bay. Guests have the opportunity to encounter characters from DisneyPixar films, including Mr. Incredible and Mrs. Incredible and Edna Mode from “The Incredibles,” and Jessie and Woody from “Toy Story.” Even the iconic Pixar Lamp makes an appearance, atop the Pixar Pier marquee.

At Pixar Pier and at both theme parks, guests will be able to maximize their visits with Disney MaxPass, snagging digital Disney FastPass selections via the Disneyland app (subject to availability) and receiving unlimited digital downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos captured during the day.

Downtown Disney District continues promenade-wide transformation
The Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort is a fresh, one-of-a-kind Disney experience, immersing guests by day and night in an exciting mix of dining, shopping and entertainment that’s fun for all ages. The Downtown Disney District has been undergoing an exciting, promenade-wide transformation, including the opening of Splitsville Luxury Lanes, the Disney Home store, The Disney Dress Shop and Salt & Straw scoop shop, along with a reimagined design for the World of Disney store. Coming soon: a fresh, new look at Naples Ristorante e Bar plus two new dining locations, Ballast Point brewery and Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes.

Special event and ticket offers for Disneyland Resort are available here

Monday, January 7, 2019

how to be happy: be compassionate

Every morning I talk with Waverly, our 16-month old daughter and as we cuddle, I tell her that she is smart, brave, kind and empathetic, among other things, depending on the day. (She is also funny, sweet, generous, inquisitive and gentle.)

Lately, I have been wondering about the difference between empathy and compassion. I visited The Chopra Center for a better understanding between the two terms. To be empathetic means that you feel viscerally what someone else is feeling. If you watched me step on a Lego, you might  move your foot back protectively. You can imagine my pain.

To be compassionate, however, goes beyond feeling for someone. When you show compassion, you feel their pain but you also try to alleviate it.

"Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D. is the Dalai Lama's principal English translator and author of the course Compassion Cultivation Training. Jinpa posits that compassion is a four-step process: 

1. Awareness of suffering.
2. Sympathetic concern related to being emotionally moved by suffering.
3. Wish to see the relief of that suffering. 
4. Responsiveness or readiness to help alleviate that suffering.

The Dalai Lama famously said in the book "The Art of Happiness,"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

The way I interpret this and the way that I will teach Waverly compassion is that empathy is a passive action but compassion is active. For example, if we see someone outside the market drop her shopping bag, empathy would be "Bummer. Maybe the store will replace her eggs." Compassion is seeing her drop her bag and helping her to pick up her groceries. It means listening intently as someone shares something with you. When you act compassionately, you are showing someone that you care. When someone is going through an issue, all they may need is just to have one person understand and acknowledge what is happening.

I hope that as Waverly grows she acts compassionately. I hope that she is the girl in the lunchroom who doesn't just walk by the person sitting alone at a table. Instead, I hope that it's second nature to her, to ask if they would like to join her and her friends. I look at her now as she is napping in her play space next to my desk and as she sleeps I softly tell her, "Waverly, my sunshine, you are smart, brave, kind, funny, silly and compassionate. You are all of these things. Dream, little one."
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