May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Let’s talk about mental health. With anxiety disorders affecting more than 40 million adults nationwide, it’s important to keep an open dialogue on the topic, rather than brushing it under the rug out of discomfort. Mental health plays such an important role in our physical health, but in our go go go culture, we often neglect that aspect of wellness in favor of doing more and shoving our feelings aside until we can’t ignore them any longer.

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Of course, we know from research that anxiety, depression, and even loneliness can take a toll on our physical well-being. According to Mental Health America, “being lonely can cause the same amount of damage to your lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is more dangerous to health than obesity.” Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

I was excited to learn that Mental Health America offers a variety of resources to help, whether you struggle with mental illness or you are simply trying to make small, positive changes in your life. Their #4Mind4Body Challenge pertains to several areas of mental health, including fitness, mindfulness, sleep habits, and more. I have not yet participated, but I’m excited to incorporate some of these into my life as needed, especially with my Happiness Project nearly at the halfway mark. They also offer an online toolkit that you can download with other resources that may be helpful for you, as well as free and confidential screenings online to check your symptoms (especially if you’re dealing with chronic illness).

No matter what you’re struggling with, please know that you are not alone. You are a light in the world and you matter. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support regardless of what you’re going through. Someone is always there to help.

I write a lot about self-care on my blog, and wanted to point back to a few previous posts that may be a helpful resource.

Lessons For My 21-Year-Old Self

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Left: 21-year-old Val enjoying a cup of gelato in Rome. Right: 28-year-old Val at an MBA brunch.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading through some of my older blog posts. For those of you who are new here, I actually joined the blogosphere in 2010 as a freshman at UCF, with my blog’s focus more heavily geared toward relationships and college advice. It has been fun to look back at my earlier posts and think about where I was at that particular stage in my life and what was important to me.

One of my favorite posts I came across was a list of lessons I wrote to my 16-year-old self, courtesy of my 21-year-old selfIt feels like a lifetime agoand yet, I can remember vividly who I was dating, which friends I spent the most time with, what my struggles were, and where I hoped I would be someday. A lot has changed in the past 7 years — I’ve graduated with my BA and my MBA, I’ve been working in community engagement for several years, I’ve gone from hosting theme parties in the dorms to hosting baby showers, and the list goes on. Because of all the changes that life inevitably brings, I’ve decided to revisit my old post with some lessons to my 21-year-old self from my now 28-year-old self.

  1. You won’t completely forget the one that got away, but you’ll look back on the relationship with fresh eyes.
    At 21, you knew that your high school crush was ancient history, but the guy you fell for in college? That’s another story. You’ll be heartbroken when the relationship inevitably ends, and rightfully so — he was your first real love. You’ll also find yourself in some not-so-sunny relationships in your twenties, and start to look back at that college relationship through rose-colored glasses. But with time comes perspective, and you’ll start to remember the cracks in the foundation: the arguments you had, the tattoos you hated, the fundamental differences that pulled you apart. And then, something miraculous will happen: you’ll realize that you were, in fact, the one that got away.
  2. Making friends as an adult is a lot harder than it is as a college student.
    Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends for life (or at least until age 28 — jury is out on what happens next!). However, as everyone parts ways for graduate school, career moves, and relationships all across the country, those friendships will require a lot more TLC. Be open to meeting new people and exploring new friendships, which will be harder as an “adult” but still important for maintaining your sanity and quality of life. Talk to people you meet at work functions, go to places and events that interest you, and continue to be authentically yourself.
  3. Social media will stick around longer than you think.
    You may now split your time between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the occasional Snapchat, but your pictures will survive online for a lot longer than you realized at 21. Now, you’ll not only laugh at what you wore or how you styled your hair, but even more so at what you posted and how you captioned it. Embrace this and be kind to your younger self — college was a weird time. 🙂
  4. You still don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up.
    Don’t pigeonhole yourself. There are jobs that exist that you aren’t even aware of right now, so it’s important to keep learning, be open, and build your relationships. You’ll grow into whatever you end up doing, so my best advice is to say yes to the things that interest you, challenge you, and scare you, as long as they fit within your values. Learn to say no when you need to, and set boundaries when the situation arises.
  5. You won’t fit every expectation you had for yourself at 16, at 21, or at 25.
    At 28, my life is not what I pictured in high school or college. It has evolved in ways I never expected, and that’s great! As a college student, I never imagined that I would be invited to public speaking engagements, attend blogger events, or do half of the cool things I get to do today. Life will always be full of surprises. Embrace the unpredictable and keep saying yes to the things you love.

What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

April 2019: Happiness Project Recap

I say this every month, but it’s honestly crazy to think that we are already at the end of April! I gave a quick recap of my month in last night’s Link Love post, but for those of you who are just catching up, April has been overall a whole lot better than March in terms of my happiness project. 🙂

If you’re new here, a quick summary: For the year of 2019, I decided to embark on a 12-month long happiness project, inspired by habits and happiness author Gretchen Rubin. Each month follows a different theme, and at the end of the month, I share my results and findings. January focused on boosting physical wellness, February focused on decluttering and creating outer order, and March focused on practicing mindfulness. You can click the links to follow along and find out how I did!

My April theme was a little different: Slow Down and Lighten Up. This goal was, in part, inspired by hyggeor the Danish concept of contentment through coziness and comfort. This month, I incorporated the following practices:

  • Enjoy a cup of tea in the morning.
  • Light candles or diffuse essential oils after work.
  • Under-react to a problem.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Laugh out loud.

April 2019: Happiness Project Recap | Wellness & Wanderlust

So how did I do? While I fell short on some of my goals, I really enjoyed the month of April! I found myself in the practice of brewing a hot cup of tea to settle down and unwind (not always in the morning, though!), and I really enjoyed the ritual of drinking my tea and doing a little reading at home or outside when the time allowed. On days when life was busier, I stopped in the break room downstairs at work for hot water and drank tea at my desk, but I tried to incorporate that as a calming tradition as much as possible and it really did stick. Prioritizing those few minutes to unwind and refocus was truly a lifesaver in a month that otherwise included its share of burnout. I also loved incorporating aroma into my day, whether I lit a candle in the evenings or diffused some lavender or peppermint.

The other three items were a little harder, especially #3. Under-reacting to a problem felt terribly counterintuitive, but on the days I did it, it really did help. This is something that will take some practice for me. Laughing out loud and taking time to be silly were not always high on my priority list, but when things got hard, looking at a funny Instagram page (hello, Obvious Plant!) or watching an episode of Family Guy definitely helped distract from the seriousness from it all and allowed me to take a step back.

This month’s practices were much needed, and I’d like to continue focusing on lightening up and slowing down throughout the remainder of the year. One great way to do that will be through May’s theme of making time for friends, which will consist of the following:

  • Practice “reverse gossip.”
  • Remember birthdays.
  • Show up.
  • Be generous.
  • Bring people together.

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

Link Love April: I’m Sorry to Bother You

Image Credit: The Breeze (breezejmu.org)

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

I can’t believe we are roughly a third of the way through the year! With the month of April coming to a close, I’m pleased to share that it will end on a happier note than March did. This month, I:

  • Accepted my university’s 30 Under 30 award for outstanding alumni. (Go Knights!)
  • Spoke to a sold-out crowd of students about my career and my company’s new brand.
  • Experienced my first on-camera media interview — I will see it live on TV tomorrow!
  • Booked flights for an upcoming vacation. (It’s about time!)
  • Had an impactful psychic reading in Cassadaga (read more about the Psychic Capital of the World here).
  • And more!

As always, I’d love to share some interesting links from around the web on this month’s Link Love. Share your own in the comments section below!

What links are you loving lately? Sound off in the comments!

March 2019: Happiness Project Recap

Happy April, friends, and welcome to spring! I’m excited to begin a new month and a fresh start, as March ended on a heavy note for my family and me. Keeping up with the blog was more of a challenge in March, but I’m looking forward to bringing you some fun new content and sharing some happier adventures with all of you.

Speaking of happiness, I haven’t forgotten about my happiness project! As I mentioned in my earlier posts, January’s focus was on boosting physical wellness (which I successfully did!), while February’s theme was creating outer order through decluttering my home and life (which I also did!). I had high hopes for the month of March, which was focused on practicing mindfulness, and planned to incorporate the following daily goals:

  • Write down the happiest moment of my day.
  • Meditate and use positive affirmations.
  • Turn complaints into happiness.
  • Create my list of personal commandments (and follow them).
  • Practice 4-7-8 breathing techniques.

March 2019: Happiness Project Update | Wellness & Wanderlust

I used my resolution chart as always, but this time around, I had trouble keeping up. Although I included a lot of tried-and-true practices in my happiness project last month, I quickly learned that you can’t put mindfulness on your to-do list. As someone who is very task-oriented, I found it much harder to make time for meditation and incorporate breathing techniques into my every day.

In February, it was easy to squeeze in 10 minutes to de-clutter if I hadn’t done it already, but getting into the right mindset to meditate (or even remember to meditate!) was a lot more challenging for me. I did practice 4-7-8 breathing techniques when possible, and while I still struggle with this particular tenet of happiness, I find myself focusing on my breathing a whole lot more. I also did a fairly good job of turning complaints into happiness when it came to the little things, but once I began focusing on the larger themes of unhappiness in my life, it became a lot harder to look at the positive.

March 2019: Happiness Project Update | Wellness & Wanderlust

My favorite aspect of Month 3 was writing down the happiest moment of my day. Admittedly, I wasn’t always perfect about physically writing it down (maybe closer to 50/50), but I often found myself reflecting on even the hardest days and thinking about the moments that didn’t suck. Often on the bad days, there were still some pretty great things that happened, and when I was able to remember those specific examples, I ended the day on a much happier note.

The month of March taught me something important: I need to slow down. When I make the time to meditate, even for only a few minutes a day, I feel better. When I take deep breaths, my brain does a much better job of focusing. Writing down my happiest moment allows me to take control of how I end my day, and it gives me the ability to decide for myself – was it a good day, or was it a bad day? I will make an effort to focus on these practices in April at my own pace, incorporating them over time rather than merely squeezing them into my schedule.

For the month of April, my theme is to Slow Down and Lighten Up. This month was somewhat inspired by The Book of Hygge, which focuses on contentment and comfort, but also incorporates a lot of other practices I really need to follow:

  • Enjoy a hot cup of tea in the morning.
  • Light candles or diffuse essential oils after work.
  • Underreact to a problem.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Laugh out loud.

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

February 2019: Happiness Project Recap

As I mentioned in last night’s post, it feels like February was over just as quickly as it began! It has been a whirlwind of a month, but I’m proud to share that my happiness project is still going strong.

In January, I focused on boosting physical wellnessand a lot of those habits carried over into February. Although no longer on Whole30, I’ve been eating more mindfully and  continuing to see a difference in how I feel (along with how my clothes fit!). The concept of tackling the nagging tasks was a huge part of my February as well. By facing those annoying little to-dos head on, just a few at a time, I have alleviated a lot of anxiety and now feel way more capable of #adulting.

My theme for the month of February was creating outer order by decluttering both my home and (on a much grander scale) my life. To do that, I incorporated the following daily goals:

  • Follow the one-minute rule. (If it can be done in less than one minute, do it right away.)
  • Spend 10 minutes tidying up before bed.
  • Beware of freebies.
  • Spend time each day de-cluttering problem areas of the house.
  • Tackle the nagging tasks.

Of course, I brought back my handy resolution chart and broke out the stickers.

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How did I do this month? Well, my friends, I think I did great! 🙂 Following the one-minute rule made me much more productive and allowed me not to let the little things fall to the wayside. In addition, spending just 10 minutes to tidy up before bed took a huge strain off of me in the mornings. Nearly every night, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and used that time to wash any pots and pans in the sink, put things away, and tidy up anything I’d left out in the kitchen or living room. My apartment is still not where I want it to be, but at any given time, it is significantly tidier than it was a month ago.

A strong focus of mine was on de-cluttering the problem areas of my apartment. At the end of 2018, I dreaded returning from the holidays because of all of the clutter. Over the years, I’ve accumulated so much junk, bought clothes in nearly every size through weight fluctuations, inherited unwanted items from former roommates, and more. I had two closets completely filled to the brim, drawers that wouldn’t close, and no rhyme or reason to where my stuff was placed.

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I hadn’t realized until then that my clutter was truly a source of unhappiness for me, so I knew that would have to be a major focus for 2019. Although I still have a ways to go, I’m pleased to share that I have organized both closets, my guest bathroom, my dresser, nightstands, and a few other areas of the apartment. I now have logical places for things to go, and am confident that soon I will even have a few empty drawers and shelves. Hallelujah! 🙂 In my line of work, I come across a lot of freebies at events, so avoiding freebies was another way to keep the clutter levels down.

For the month of March, my theme is Practicing Mindfulness by implementing the following goals:

  • Write down the happiest moment of my day.
  • Meditate and use positive affirmations.
  • Turn complaints into happiness.
  • Create my list of personal commandments (and follow them).
  • Practice 4-7-8 breathing techniques.

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

January 2019: Happiness Project Recap

That’s it, folks — the first month of 2019 has officially reached its end. Can you believe it? My January has certainly been a rollercoaster, but thanks to my happiness project, I will leave this month feeling better than when I started it.

At the end of 2018, I was completely exhausted. Between autoimmune issues, a busier than usual workload, and some difficult situations outside of my control, I needed a break — and an attitude adjustment. As part of my happiness project, my theme for the month of January was to boost physical wellnessTo do that, I incorporated the following five daily goals:

  • Embark on a Whole30 to create more intentionality in my food choices and identify any new food sensitivities.
  • Go to sleep earlier.
  • Take a 10-minute walk each day.
  • Act more energetic.
  • Tackle the “nagging tasks” on my list.

Inspired by The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin, I created a resolution chart, giving myself a gold star each day for the goals I accomplished.

Happiness Project Resolution Chart

So how did I do? Well, as can be expected, I fared better in some categories than others. Through my Whole30, I consistently ate nourishing, real foods, while detoxing myself from some of the junk food that my body doesn’t agree with. I managed to lose 10 pounds, clear up my skin, stop getting daily headaches, and decrease overall inflammation.

Acting more energetic allowed me to fake it till I made it on the days when I just didn’t think I had it in me, and I really started to feel more energetic after doing that. The other thing that massively boosted my energy levels was tackling the nagging tasks. 

Happiness Project Resolution Chart

By “nagging tasks,” I’m referring to those pesky but necessary to-do’s in the back of your mind that you don’t particularly want to do but will benefit you in the long run. I always feel like I have a lot of little things that I need to do but don’t have time for, so at the beginning of the year, I made a list of all of those items in an Evernote. Then, each week, I picked a few of those items that absolutely needed to get done, and wrote them down on my dry-erase board on the fridge. Tackling those nagging tasks made a huge difference in my anxiety levels and overall happiness, and I’m excited to bring this goal back into the month of February.

Of course, nobody is perfect, and I did struggle to get those daily walks in (it’s been so chilly out!) and get to bed at a decent hour. These are both areas I need to prioritize in the days to come.

Tomorrow begins the month of February, and this month’s theme is Creating Outer OrderI’m excited to create a life that sparks joy (thanks, Marie Kondo!) and will be implementing the following goals:

  • Follow the one-minute rule. (If it can be done in less than one minute, do it right away.)
  • Spend 10 minutes tidying up before bed.
  • Beware of freebies.
  • Spend time each day de-cluttering problem areas of the house.
  • Tackle the nagging tasks. (It was so effective that I decided to bring it back!)

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

 

Your Health in Action: 5 Podcasts to Make Your Life Happier and Healthier, Part 2

Back in 2017, I wrote about my (then) newfound love for podcasts, and shared my five favorites in the health and wellness space. Since that time, the podcast medium has really blown up, and it seems as though nearly everyone I know has become a podcast junkie. From lightening up a long drive or workday commute to giving us something fun to listen to when tidying up around the house, listening to podcasts can be a great way to let off steam — and learn something along the way. 🙂

Over time, as I began to subscribing to the shows mentioned in my previous post, I began to discover other wellness personalities and business owners whose stories inspired me. Because of that, I’m excited to share PART TWO of my favorite podcasts that will make your life happier and healthier! (Don’t worry, at some point I’ll share my favorite Bachelor recaps and other guilty pleasure podcasts on a future blog post.)

5 Podcasts to Make Your Life Happier & Healthier | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

1. By The Book
Ever hear about a trendy new self-help book and wonder if you should try it out? On By The Book, hosts Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg do the hard work for you! In each episode, Kristen and Jolenta choose a self-help book, live by the book for two weeks, and share their verdicts. These ladies poke fun at the self-help genre while exploring the privilege inherent in many of these books, and their husbands often make cameos in the episodes as they go along with the hosts’ temporary new lifestyles. By The Book introduced me to the concept of hygge (we’ll talk about that more in Month 4 of my 2019 Happiness Project), helped me identify my love language, and made me never want to read French Women Don’t Get Fat.

A few favorite episodes: Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus. The Little Book of Hygge. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. French Women Don’t Get Fat. Year of Yes.

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2. The Goop Podcast
You probably associate Goop with Gwyneth Paltrow and extremely expensive lifestyle products, but her company’s new podcast does not disappoint. Gwyneth and Goop’s Chief Content Officer, Elise Loehnen, take turns interviewing doctors, researchers, authors, and celebrities on a variety of wellness-related topics. Although Gwyneth is obviously the more famous of the two, Elise’s interviews are especially engaging — she is a talented interviewer whose episodes dive deep. From functional medicine to hormone imbalance to the power of the unconscious mind, the show focuses on a variety of subjects that are relevant to listeners.

A few favorite episodes: Why We Use Food to Shame Ourselves. The Anxious Mind. How to Defeat Your Inner Critic. Herbs, Spices, and Proteins to Live By. The Autoimmune Spectrum.

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3. The Living Experiment
Hosted by Dallas Hartwig (co-founder of The Whole30) and Pilar Gerasimo, The Living Experiment explores ways to live happily and more consciously by implementing real-life “experiments” to shift your lifestyle. Their living experiments are practical and relatively simple to incorporate, and the research cited in these episodes will really make you think. The show is currently on a break, so it’s the perfect time to catch up on the existing 100 episodes as Dallas and Pilar both work on their respective book deals!

A few favorite episodes: Imposter Syndrome. Introvert Extrovert. Declutter. Coping. Healthy vs. Hot.

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4. Light and Life Live with Danika Brysha
I’ve been a longtime fan of Danika Brysha, the body positive model and self-care activist who runs Model Meals, so I was especially excited when she began hosting a podcast. Light and Life Live is a weekly one-hour live Instagram series, which is also available through podcast apps. Danika features various thought leaders, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and other wellness personalities about their self-care routines, passions, life paths, and how they bring light into the world. Although there are occasionally some sound/technical issues, Danika’s interviews are well worth the listen.

A few favorite episodes: Shut The Kale Up. Celebrity Nutritionist Kelly Leveque. Almost 30’s Lindsey Simcik and Krista Williams. Whole30’s Melissa Hartwig. PooPourri Creator Suzy Batiz.

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5. Highest Self Podcast with Sahara Rose
Sahara Rose is a leading voice in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian holistic healing science, and the author of The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda. In her Highest Self Podcast, Sahara makes Ayurvedic concepts easy to understand and incorporate into your daily life, and I absolutely love to learn from her podcast. Her podcast focuses mainly on modern Ayurveda and how knowing your dosha (mind-body type) can make all the difference in various aspects of your life. If you’ve ever been curious about eastern medicine, I highly recommend her podcast!

A few favorite episodes: How to Heal From Adrenal Fatigue the Holistic Way. Creating More By Doing Less. Food Emotionality with Amanda Skelley. New Year’s Resolutions for Kaphas. How to Be More Confident.

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What are some of your favorite wellness podcasts? Sound off in the comments below!

My 2019 Happiness Project

Can you believe 2019 is only a few hours away? This year really flew by, but I’m excited to let go of 2018 and bring on the adventures of the new year.
2018 came with its share of challenges, and as the year comes to a close, I’ll admit that I’m ready for an attitude adjustment. Throughout the year, my health and happiness took a backseat to graduate school, a busier-than-ever workload, and other areas of overwhelm. Because of that, I decided to tackle things head-on by embarking on a 2019 Happiness Project, inspired by one of my favorite books by Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project. In her book, Gretchen incorporates various happiness principles and research into her life over the course of a year, experimenting with a different happiness theme each month.
For 2019, I’ve created my own happiness project, focusing on improving various areas of my health and overall wellness in the new year. Each month, I’ll share what I’m working on and how things went down in the previous month!
My 2019 Happiness Project | Wellness & Wanderlust
Below are my areas of focus for 2019. Some of these are inspired by Gretchen’s book, while others come from different books, podcasts, and goals I’d like to pursue.
  • January: Boost Physical Wellness (More on that in a minute!)
  • February: Create Outer Order / Organize
  • March: Practice Mindfulness
  • April: Slow Down & Lighten Up
  • May: Make Time For Friends
  • June: Learn Constantly
  • July: Incorporate Ayurvedic Practices
  • August: Digital Detox
  • September: Work Smarter
  • October: Contemplate the Heavens / Spirituality
  • November: Explore
  • December: Give Back

The reason I’m focusing on boosting physical wellness in January is because I am truly ready for a detox. Between autoimmune issues and a hectic schedule, I need an increase in energy and overall health before I can take on any new challenges. To do so, I’ll be incorporating the following practices into the month of January:

  • Embark on a Whole30 to create more intentionality in my food choices and identify any new food sensitivities.
  • Go to sleep earlier.
  • Take a 10-minute walk each day.
  • Act more energetic.
  • Tackle the “nagging tasks” on my list.

If you’re looking to make a change, I highly encourage you to pursue your own happiness project! Check out Gretchen’s site here for some helpful resources, including a “resolution chart” that can be useful for tracking your progress along the way. I can’t wait to share more with you all through the year! 🙂

Are you tackling a happiness project or any resolutions this year? Share yours in the comments below!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

Link Love September: Salvador Dalí, Trader Joe’s, and Environmental Consciousness

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Happy October! To me, there’s always something poetic about the first of the month taking place on a Monday. It feels more than ever like the time to begin anew, and I’m excited to see where the month takes us. September was a great month — I spent time with family, celebrated my birthday, checked a few items off my 28 at 28 bucket list, took a mini vacation, made an on-field appearance at a UCF football game, practiced yoga with baby goats, and much more — so here’s hoping the adventures continue in October.

What have you been reading lately? Check out some of my favorite links from September and share your own favorites in the comments section.

What links are you loving this month? Sound off in the comments below!