Cooley’s Anemia Conference for Patients and Friends

I’ve been working really hard on building a brand new website for my blog. We’re talking loads of customized features. I really love how it’s coming along and can’t wait to show it to you! For that reason, I’m going to keep the next few blog posts really short and simple, because I just don’t have that much time to do all of the work that I’m doing plus my full-time job!

Here are some pictures from the Chicago conference where I just gave a presentation. Hope you like them. See you in two weeks!

My sister accompanied me on the trip. :D

Some Chicago pretzels… didn’t get to try the pizza. These were good!

Here are some of my friends and I just enjoying each other’s company!

Some really cool LED lights above a picnic area. We even saw some fireworks!

And finally… a pic of me giving my talk.
me-talking

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Woohoo!
Josephine


 

30 Day Happiness Challenge

Ever notice how most people socialize by talking about the things that are going wrong in their lives?

Concentrating on negative ideas gives us little time to focus on the positive aspects of life.

That’s why I’m creating a 30 Day Happiness Challenge. Let’s shift your mind away from bad thoughts in order to concentrate on what we adore about each day. You can share in the comments section below or create a calendar of happy days.

I’m starting this challenge today, May 26, 2014 — Memorial Day in America. The idea is to plot out what you loved about each day.

You can start today… don’t worry about starting when I did. I figured I’d start a few days before posting so you have something to read and use as a reference.

Summer Happiness

Summer happiness with my sister, Gloria.

Make a real attempt to release yourself from negative thoughts by watching them pass by without focusing on them or talking about them. Only think and talk about the good stuff.

Let’s go…

DAY 1 Happiness: Sunshine, kundalini yoga, cool breezes, organic groceries, iced coffee, roofdeck, my creativity, Jill Scott, cool shower & sweet smelling soap, Hudson River, boats, new friend, his amazing green eyes, pretty dress, good conversation, laughing, sparkly bracelet, sense of well-being, sense of tranquility, sense of alignment, New York City, yummy dinner, stranger who gave me a hug, kiss, and gift, fun, new experiences.

DAY 2 Happiness: Cozy bed, green juice, kundalini yoga, sense of peace, sense of ease, sense of tranquility, Fiona Apple, sunshine, blueberry rooibos tea, delicate pink flowers, my boss, my co-workers, my job, my ability to pay my bills on time, warm breezes, sparkly bracelets, nice hospital staff, Tracy Chapman, text messages, tan skin, toned arms, delicious roasted kale, my sister.

DAY 3 Happiness: Cozy bed, waking up with a ton of energy, cute Facebook messages, kundalini yoga, cool shower, cool breeze, Starbucks, my Spotify “chill” mix, my job, my boss, the people I work with, Natane B., Brendon Burchard, “Power of Emotions” book, ramen noodle soup, Kabbalah, sense of calm, sense of peace.

DAY 4 Happiness: Cozy bed, Spritz for Web, kundalini yoga, blue sky, my pretty plant, grasshopper wheatgrass juice drink, wellness day at my hospital, meditation with awesome neuropsychologist, excellent nurse, one stick, mid-day nap, harps, violins, Lori F., sunny sky.

DAY 5 Happiness: Cozy bed, kundalini yoga, pushing through negative memories, feeling good about life, my job, my coworkers, my boss, trusting things will go well, Adam H., my fun weekend plans, learning, feeling healthy, Shri Mataji, Abraham Hicks, my new friend with the amazing green eyes, his presence, delicious raw oysters, tastiest gazpacho ever, Damara’s text, warm weather, eating outdoors, tranquility, calm, happiness.

DAY 6 Happiness: Sunlight, cool breeze coming through my window, sense of ease, Jill Scott, kundalini, 30 days of happiness, Christina F., Brooklyn, Bobak Ferdowsi, excitement, fun, mom, dad, JJ O., the absolutely breathtaking view of the Hudson, the open sky, the Manhattan skyline.

Day 7 Happiness: Waking up happy, delicious breakfast, Oliver Q., great photo shoot for my book and new website, Chelsea Market, Jat K., Maine oysters, Chelsea piers, sky gazing, gorgeous weather, awesome street dancers, delicious dumplings, relaxing on my couch, my apartment, the East Village, New York City.

Day 8 Happiness: Waking up with a greater understanding of my thought patterns, meditation, french bulldogs, jokes at work, nice sushi chef at work, my job, my boss, my co-workers, organic apples, rainbows in the mist, Jamal K., triple delight, gratitude, great friendship.

Day 9 Happiness: Waking up vibrant and ready for the day, chakra meditation, green juice, my job, my boss, my coworkers, fun responsibilities at work, East Village, NYC, my apartment, amazing jalapeno + daiya cheese + tomato on rye sandwich, the sound of thunder, nighttime meditation, my cozy bed.

Day 10 Happiness: Waking up to amazing text messages, chakra meditation, amazing job, great boss & colleagues, fun projects, stress-free atmosphere, Shake Shack, Barnes and Noble, my new friend with the amazing green eyes, his philosophy class, fun, interesting, adventurous, nighttime meditation.

Day 11 Happiness: Wake up feeling tired but grateful, chakra meditation, singing Al Green in the rain, my fun job, my awesome boss, my nice coworkers, fun projects, my book arriving, feeling excited, afternoon meditation, excited about new website design, happy to sleep.

Day 12 Happiness: Waking up with ridiculous amounts of energy (I really don’t know how I sleep so well), green juice, Billy Joel, CNBC, rainbow on the staircase, after work event, hanging out with John, fun, his intelligence, his knowledge of social media, our optimism about our future endeavors, warm summer weather, sunny skies, welcoming weekend, evening meditation.

Day 12 Happiness: Waking up happy and well rested, Shri Mataji, delicious breakfast, gorgeous weather, nice people at the bank, nice people at the post office, nice people in the streets, birds chirping, colorful dresses, Diplo, strawberry and durian fruit shake, the book I wrote, my friend Don, Thai food, Maleficent, Angelina, the night sky, sense of power, sense of centeredness, sense of purpose, sense of hope, sense of change.

Day 13 Happiness: Meditation, sunlight, church bells, birds chirping, final book edit, box of wishes, learning, hoping, Shakira, music videos, Drunk in Love song, dreaming, singing, ready for the week.

Day 14 Happiness: Waking up with the memory of a funny happy dream, meditation, cute outfit, completing projects at work, website revisions, meditation, sleep.

Day 15 Happiness: Waking up with a ton of energy, getting a lot of things done at work, feeling refreshed after the gym, the cool waitress at the Coffee Shop, dinner with Sonya, Barnes and Noble, evening meditation, sleep.

Now that we’re at the halfway mark, you can apply this new technique to continue evolving your happiness: begin each day with a sheet of paper with a line drawn down the middle. On the left side, write down the things that you absolutely have to get done in that day. On the right side, write down the things you worry about.

Name the column on the left “For Me to Handle” and name the column on the right “For the Universe to Handle.” A weight will fall from your shoulders as you allow the universe to help you through what you perceive to be challenges.

Why bother? Because, instead of taking action to resolve the things you consider to be problems and then coming up against resistance, you are giving the problems to the universe and then taking action according to your inner guidance system and the natural flow of life.

Example statement to the Universe: “Please help me focus my attention where it needs to be and allow you to guide me to the places and people who will bring me ______” With _____ being whatever it is you’re seeking.

Day 16 Happiness: Cozy bed, mediation, green juice, Jill Scott, awesome job, fun environment, gym, Kabbalah class, Natane B., David G., amazing dinner, sleep.

Day 17 Happiness: Waking up with tons of energy, meditation, fun job, great boss, awesome coworkers, wall of chocolate kisses, exercise, sound of rain, forgiving myself when negative thoughts creep in, allowing myself to feel emotions without judgment, my cousin Kelly, fun dinner, sleep.

Day 18 Happiness: Clarity, meditation, fun job, great people I work with, ramen soup, Stefan A., fun, laughs, meditation, sleep.

Day 19 Happiness: Sleeping in, meditation, feeling good, getting everything done that I needed to do, amazing lunch, my rainbow rock, the Chelsea Market, lounging in the sun and enjoying the grass/sky, relaxing, new website, JJ O, gratitude, excitement for future, hopeful, meditation, sleep.

Day 20 Happiness: Sleeping in, meditation, meeting up with my sister and cousin, having a nice breakfast together, getting pictures done for my new website, laughing, East Village, NYC, green juice, skyping with my parents, meditation sleep.

Day 21 Happiness: Feeling cozy in bed, looking forward to my day, meditation, my job, my boss, my coworkers, no traffic, good nurses at my hospital, caring people, nice bus driver, my apartment, sleep.

Day 22 Happiness: Loving my bed sheets, meditation, my job, my boss, my coworkers, no traffic again, my awesome nurse, Stefan A., jokes, sleep.

Day 23 Happiness: Waking up grateful, meditation, my job, my boss, my coworkers, my project at work, Kabbalah, Natane B., sleep.

Day 24 Happiness: Waking up feeling better, gratitude, meditation, feeling clarity, feeling ease, feeling content, good conversations, jokes, rainbow on the steps, my homemade salad, preparing for Chicago, meditation, sleep.

Day 25 Happiness: Up and ready for Chicago, mediation, green juice, fantastic weather, sister time, wonderful smooth flight, friends, fun, laughing, catching up, dressing up, gratitude, drinks, rainbow LED lights, fireworks, sleep.

Day 26 Happiness: Gratitude, cozy bed, meeting up with more friends, making new friends, sharing my book with people, sister bonding, learning, sharing, helping, laughing, dancing, sleep.

Day 27 Happiness: Meditation, grapefruit juice, prepping for talk, giving two talks, learning from others, nice weather, great flight, cozy bed, sleep.

Day 28 Happiness: Meditation, grateful to be home, my apartment, NYC, rainbow, busy day, feeling accomplished, emails from people taking an interest in my book, excitement, beautiful vision of future, daydreaming about the Maldives, sleep.

Day 29 Happiness: Meditation, nice weather, busy day, smooth project launch, relief, relaxing at home, vision of tranquility, sleep.

Day 30 Happiness:


 

12 Steps to Stop Depression

Stop Depression Baby PicI think I’ve struggled with bouts of depression throughout my entire life. This probably isn’t unreasonable, since I’ve lived with medical challenges from infancy to adulthood, been bullied by teachers and kids, watched childhood friends die, dealt with difficult family members, experienced a terribly painful divorce, and lived with all the typical burdens regular people experience.

The problem is, when you’re scarred so deeply, the memories live inside your mind and replay themselves as if they’re still real. People say, “get over it” or “you just need to chill.” Easy to say when you haven’t experienced a lifetime of trauma.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to keep my mind in check and stop myself from sinking into Hell. I am pretty upbeat on most days, but my bad days are just plain awful. Fortunately, I have been a diligent student of my own personal growth and wellness since my early teens. That’s when I started to recognize that there was a better way to think about my life.

My goal isn’t to gain sympathy from you. It’s to help you on your journey to living a happier, less reactive and dramatic (i.e., insane) life. And trust me, certain things (like fear of loss/abandonment) trigger my negative thought patterns in a way that is truly brutal. When I feel hurt by someone I try to rectify the situation by thinking about what went wrong one thousand different ways. But the truth of the matter is, the idea of being of hurt is a thought that that stems from something that happened in the past, which no longer exists, and my perception of it can be controlled.

So, how do I keep myself afloat each day without medicating myself (legally or illegally) into oblivion? By the way, I take zero psych medications, but do think everyone is different and sometimes certain people really do need them. I also rarely drink and say no to all drugs, because I don’t believe in disrupting the body’s homeostatic balance and also see this type of abuse as an act of self-harm.

If you’re not on any medicine to reduce anxiety or depression, ask your doctor if you can refrain from going there because I really believe that psychological pain exists for a reason — and that reason is to wake you up and shift you towards a life of peace through the practice of mindful awareness.

Depression is the result of reckless mind chatter. In other words, when your brain speaks to you using words like “if only things could be different,” “why didn’t it turn out that way,” “I was hoping ___ would happen,” “I should have been _____ about ___” and so on.

If you look at the words used to describe your depression, you’ll notice that they are 1) negative and self-defeating, and 2) based on thoughts about the past or the future.

Sometimes we try to correct situations by repeating past experiences in our mind or by creating imaginary thoughts about the future. Unfortunately, when we’re in a depressive state, our mind-made movies tend to be dark and unhappy. This makes us even more depressed.

What we also tend not to realize is that every one of our thoughts moves us closer to creating a certain reality. For example, when someone plays a sport they often see the move they’re about to make before they make it; the strength of their vision determines the success of their real-life outcome.

If you are constantly cycling ideas of pain and suffering through your mind, you will only experience more pain and suffering. Your thoughts will lead you to the same type of darkness, because you will gravitate towards circumstances and people that resonate with your negative mind-made drama. These people and circumstances will most likely be negative themselves and bring you MORE PAIN. Ever hear that saying “misery loves company?” When you’re miserable, you talk about your misery, which then makes other people talk about their misery and it’s an endless cycle.

So, what do you do about it? Here are 12 steps to stop depression:

1) Find the root cause of your depression by examining the words you use to describe your unhappiness. This can be really difficult to do on your own. I would suggest opening up to someone who is non-judgemental and trustworthy. Allow them to act as a sounding board to your issues. You can hire a coach like me, if you’d like. Email me info@josephinebila.com for a free intro session.

2) Once you learn more about the words you use to describe your unhappiness, recognize the patterns or ways that you use them repeatedly in your everyday life. Again, if you’re unaware of what’s causing your pain, you may need help from an outside source to help you recognize your patterns.

3) Understand that your words are describing a story which is often fictional and not based in reality (reality = present moment). Ask yourself what your role is in the story. Remember — you can never control anyone else’s part in the stories you tell yourself. You can only control yourself.

4) If you become emotional about the pain that exists in your mind, cry about it. Get angry. Express all of the feelings you might be suppressing. You’ll be amazed how much relief you get from allowing that negative energy to leave your body.

5) Remember that life happens through you, in the present moment. People tend to behave reactively, instead of proactively because they think that they are a victim to whatever is taking place in their environment. What we don’t realize is that our thoughts brought us to and created the environment that we are in.Refrain from victim mentality by understanding that your choices create your reality. No external force has more power than you do in your own life. Take root and stand tall for what you want. Also remember that every moment spent living inside your useless mind chatter, or worse — someone else’s mind chatter, as it impacts your life — is a moment wasted in reality. You’re missing out on living if you’re constantly thinking about past mistakes or future problems. To get out of your head, try lighting incense or a candle, run your hands under water, or walk through nature and pay attention to the sensations you’re experiencing. Try to re-frame your thoughts to see the good in all, rather than the bad.

6) When it comes time to sit and plan for the future, create a vision for yourself that uplifts and inspires you. Hold that positive vision for yourself at the back of your mind while you go about your day-to-day tasks. Call on it when you need it. Leave it when you’re experiencing life in the now.

7) Realize that every person is innocent and doing the best they can with the wisdom they’ve discovered thus far. Even if she was texting three different guys with kisses and hugs! I know this is really difficult believe when you feel really hurt by another person’s actions. But, if you release people from being guilty, you end up reducing the guilt you feel about the situation. This will help you take greater responsibility for the part you play in your own life.

8) Understand that the same exact experience of pain will appear over and over in your life until you correct your thoughts and actions around it. What does this mean? For example: say you’re depressed about the way things played out in your past, so you take that energy and mindset with you into everything you do in the present. That energy warps your thoughts and actions in the moment and eventually disrupts everyone else’s thoughts and actions in the moment. So, your mind-made drama ends up ruining what could be really great right now. What you carry over from the past will follow you everywhere you go in the present. Everyone’s subconscious mind knows you’re miserable, even if you don’t say a word.

9) Remove yourself from the presence of anyone who is depressed. Realize that you have probably attracted them into your life because of your own depressive state. Like attracts like. Depressed people carry an incredibly heavy energy. Do your best to not live in the drama of your mind by constantly talking about the pain.

10) Realize that you may eventually experience a string of days without any sadness, but then get triggered by something and fall right back into Hell. When you’re in Hell, ask yourself what stories you told yourself to get there. Hell rarely happens in reality. It typically happens in your mind when it’s trapped in the past or future.

11) Depression can sometimes be the result of imagining what’s going on in another person’s mind. Don’t be afraid to ask people questions to alleviate yourself from wondering what someone else is thinking. There’s a really good chance that you will not correctly guess what someone else is thinking, so communication is mandatory for a mind that is healthy and based in reality.

12) If you are having a good day, but suddenly feel the pain of depression creeping in, watch it and tell it to “stop” and say “not now.” Think of your mind as having two parts. One part seems to be uncontrollable and works against you by speaking unkindly to you. This is your ego. The second part is in your full control. It’s loving and caring, but will speak to you in whispers until you finally learn how to hear and respond to it more readily. You want to quiet the loud emotional part of your mind (ego), so you can finally begin to experience the freedom and peace of the soft subtle mind (your true self).

Every seemingly negative situation that arises in life is meant to shake you, break you, and teach you the art of surrender. The only reason we experience pain is because our ego wants things to be different than they are and refuses to accept what the universe is giving to us. When seemingly bad things happen, I believe it’s because our free will has chosen incorrectly in the past. The universe is self-correcting and will take you out of your own mess and lead you to a better path. Unfortunately, our ego will always want something more, it always lives in fear, it lives in resentment, it lives in judgement, and it lives in guilt, it lives in the past and future. You will experience pain as long as your ego is in control of your life. Fortunately for you, you can control it and rise above.


 

Why Patients Don’t Challenge a Doctor’s Diagnosis

challenge a doctorI found an interesting article about patient wellness in the Wednesday, April 13, 2014 UK Metro newspaper while vacationing in England. The article was called, “Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis” and was based on research done by the medicalaccidentgroup.

I’m going to display the answers patients gave along with my response to each. Let me know if you agree with me in the comments below.

  1. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: To avoid confrontation
    • My response: Your health is in your hands. Trust your instinct and don’t be afraid to stand up for your own well-being.

  2. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: Don’t want to offend
    • My response: Instead of challenging a doctor’s diagnosis and possibly offending him/her, ask questions about it. Ask him how and why he came to his conclusion. Be diplomatic and express yourself in a way that is not antagonistic. Try to remain calm and remember that the doctor probably has your best interest in mind.

  3. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: Hope to get better in time
    • My response: Be as knowledgeable as you can about your diagnosis and don’t rely on time to heal whatever’s going on. Take action to provide yourself with the necessary care to get healthy again.

  4. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: Don’t want to overreact
    • My response: Talking to your doctor about your diagnosis is not overreacting. It’s turning yourself into your best advocate. You want to be able to speak up for yourself and know what’s going on in your care. No one else will take better care of yourself than you.

  5. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: May not get another appointment
    • My response: Doctors make money on you returning to their office. You shouldn’t worry about getting another appointment just because you want to take care of yourself and know what’s going on in your health.

  6. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: They may not take me seriously
    • My response: Some doctors can be arrogant, yes. But this doesn’t mean that you should allow anyone to make you fear standing up for yourself. Trust yourself and speak up.

  7. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: Don’t want to hold them up
    • My response: Don’t worry about asking a doctor to spend more time with you. This is your LIFE you’re talking about. Your future relies on you getting well.

  8. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: Too rushed
    • My response: This is a tough one. If a doctor makes you feel rushed, that’s a good sign that you probably need a new doctor. Usually doctors want to help people get through their diagnosis as comfortably as possible. Most doctors will spend the extra time helping their patient understand what’s going on and try their best to not make them feel panicked.

  9. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: A friend persuaded me not to
    • My response: Having a support system is great. Just don’t listen to them if they make you go against your gut feelings. Trust your gut and say what you need to say if you feel like saying it.

  10. Why patients don’t challenge a doctor’s diagnosis: A previous bad experience challenging a doctor
    • My response: Don’t let your past rule your present. No two doctors are alike. Believe that your doctor has your best interest at heart.

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    If you know anyone who has been newly diagnosed, please share this blog post with him or her!

    In good health,
    Josephine


     

The Virus That Shall Not Be Named

Scarlet Letter

Present Day Scarlet Letter Stands For Something Else

Several weeks ago, while having brunch with a friend in New York City, I overheard two late twenty-something women talking about a mutual friend who was undergoing treatment for cancer. The blond girl in the seat parallel to me (and one foot away) said, “Yeah, and I think she had to get a blood transfusion.” Her brunette friend responded, “Oh, that kind of sucks.” The blond girl replied, “I know, I feel so bad.” Then there was a long pause.

The brunette returned to the conversation with a whisper as she cut into her fried blue cheese stuffed date wrapped in bacon, “My dad doesn’t think you can get HIV from bodily fluids. So ignorant.” They snickered in unison. This is when the wheels in my mind started spinning and I stopped eavesdropping.

I looked at my plate. A mountain of deep green organic arugula leaves garnished with walnuts and pear slices, lemon juice and olive oil, sat atop it. I pondered the great irony of the moment. There I was, a 35 year old woman who has been receiving blood transfusions every few weeks since the age of three to treat a rare genetic anemia called beta thalassemia major (my body cannot produce functioning red blood cells on its own), adhering to a vegan diet, listening to two seemingly healthy women talk about cancer and “the virus that shall not be named” over a plate of fried cheese and bacon. I wondered if the two women were aware that their food choice was carcinogenic (i.e., cancer causing).

Beyond contemplating the very different methods that my neighbors and I used to fuel and nourish our bodies, I thought about the friends I had made throughout the years who literally committed suicide because of the social stigma attached to having a blood disorder. A heaviness sank in my chest. My mind grew dark at the absolute sadness and terror I felt over the subject of their conversation. Then I wondered what it was that makes us fear, whisper and poke fun at certain diseases? Is it because in the 90’s people began associating blood disorders with promiscuity and drugs? Maybe we think some diseases are less painful and easier to manage than others? Or is it because certain illnesses are viewed as being more lethal?

Today’s medicine has made HIV a chronic medical condition. Of course, it can be passed on to others through direct contact of bodily fluids, where most other diseases cannot, but unless you’re planning on having sex or sharing needles with someone with HIV, there’s no need for caution.

Humans believe that their minds make them superior to other inhabitants of the earth. The collective ‘we’ believe it is right to dominate and kill other animals for selfish purposes. ‘We’ believe that the earth’s land and its resources are there to use as ‘we’ please, and ‘we’ have uniformly agreed that certain life threatening diseases are more socially acceptable than HIV and other less known disorders.

Social acceptance of a disease is expressed through certain words and behaviors. If someone has cancer, for example, the topic can be boldly and honestly discussed. We understand and honor hair loss. But if someone has HIV, the conversation becomes soft, secretive, and often times mocking. We do not accept symptoms of this disorder.

How do we move away from our impulse to criticize what we fear and move into a more loving and inclusive mindset? When someone brings up the topic of a disease that makes you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Are you responding to your thoughts with irrational fear and ignorance or intellect and compassion? Are you educated on the topics that you are commenting on? Have you rightly determined if the topics you feel intimidated by pose a real or imaginary threat to your life? Remind yourself that all humans, regardless of medical status, need love, desire a sense of community, and seek health and happiness in their lives.

If you eat poorly (i.e. fried foods, processed foods, animal products), know that you are putting yourself at greater risk to develop a serious disease that will force you to experience pain, medical responsibilities, despair, and an overwhelming sense of your own mortality. As someone who began making routine hospital visits since the age of six months, who had no choice but to kept alive by transfusions of red blood cells from an early age, and who regularly goes to the hospital for medical treatment, I can tell you that when adults get sick, no matter what disease they face, they all respond with dread, terror and a fear of rejection from society.

My life and good health have been a blessing that has forced me to reflect upon some heavy issues. Humans are awakening into compassion for those who live with difficult health complications, because our food choices have made us more diseased and because the internet has brought many topics to our attention.

No one deserves to be negatively judged, labeled or seen as an outcast. To quote the ancient Roman Playwright Terence,“Nothing human can be alien to me.” Before you, a friend or a loved one becomes that person who needs to be reminded that they are loved and accepted, I challenge you to awaken into compassion now. Love each other equally. Let’s evolve together.

If you liked this blog post, please share it with a friend and tell me about any similar experiences you might have had in the comments below.

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Let’s remove stigma together,
Josephine


 

8 Ways to Improve Your Life

I’m writing this blog post at 3:26 AM EST because I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep because I woke up wondering if I’ve been making good decisions lately.

My self-talk sounds something like this when I’m feeling out of sorts:

  • Am I doing the right things in my career?
  • Am I making the right decisions about my life?
  • Should I spend my time and positive energy on people who don’t give as much to me?
  • Do I have control over my health insurance bills?
  • I wish I could hug my grandma.
  • Maybe I should move upstate and live closer to my parents.
  • Will my book and all of the work that I do ever prove meaningful?
  • The rent is too damn high.

After allowing my mind to wander through its negative loops, I had the thought, “Whatever is happening right now is meant to teach you a lesson.”

I then reminded myself that nothing good ever came of life when I tried to control it according to the timeline in my brain.

Of course, it’s not easy to “let go and let God,” as they say. Especially if you have a type A personality like me.

But all of this got me thinking about the silly tricks the ego plays to keep us thinking small, in lack, and feeling unworthy.

So, I created a guide to remind us which thoughts and actions to take to improve our lives.

8 Ways to Improve Your Life

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If you know anyone who tries to predict the future or control outcomes, please share this post with them!

Let go,
Josephine


 

Why Go Vegan: A Sweet Story

Beans, the French bulldog

Beans, the French bulldog

Why go vegan? That’s a statement that I used to Google, because I wanted to know why anybody would choose to stop eating meat.

The results of my search were usually pretty gruesome. I came upon videos detailing the horrors of factory farming and learned that meat has lots of negative impacts on health like cholesterol, bacteria, and carcinogens. But for some reason, every video I saw and article I read didn’t really stop me from eating meat.

Then, four years ago, I had an accident that completely changed my life for the better. Watch my video to see how Beans, my French bulldog, got me to stop eating meat for good.

If you watched the video, you’ll understand why people asked me if I put the dog to sleep after what happened. Can you believe that that question was the first thing people said after asking me how I was feeling? My life would have never transformed the way it did if Beans wasn’t around to see me through my recovery.

Beans comforting me during my recovery.

Beans comforting me during my recovery.

In case you’re wondering where Beans is today — he’s happily living with my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend Lesa. They both give him oodles of love and I’m very fortunate to say that we’re all friends, so I get to see Beans every once in a while. That makes me so happy!

Is there an animal in your life that you love unconditionally? Tell me about him or her in the comments below. And please share this story if you like it!

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Peace and happy Beans,
Josephine


 

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

gym selfie

A picture before heading into the gym.

The inevitable “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” post is being brought to you by my own sheer laziness and inability to focus.

When I was 32, a Psychiatrist told me that I have attention deficit disorder. He prescribed me with Adderall. I took the drug for one week and thought it was the worst thing I’d ever been prescribed. The stuff made my left eye close halfway and made my brain feel numb. I felt so lethargic I could drool. I tossed the pills in the garbage and never saw another Psychiatrist after that. I’d rather live with my intense energized personality than a listless indifferent version of myself. Guess I could count this as one thing you didn’t know about me, but I won’t. :-p

Anyway, lately I’ve had a lot of work to do. My website is being rebuilt and my upcoming book is getting designed. I need to write a lot of copy for both. I seriously can’t wait to show you them, because they look insanely spectacular. I’m so excited! Just a few more months and we’re off!

But, now, without further ado…. here’s my list:

1. I have played a variety of instruments, starting with the piano at the age of four, then the viola, then the clarinet, then the guitar, and finally DJ turntables. I also owned a set of drums as a kid. Unfortunately, I never stuck with any instrument, so I can’t play any now and I regret that.

2. Out of all the instruments that I’ve played, piano and viola were my favorites. I also know for a fact that I would have been a killer DJ if I had started younger. ;)

3. I hated playing sports as a teen, so I became the manager of my high school’s varsity field hockey team and earned a varsity letter the easy way. Ha

4. My spleen was removed when I was eight years old, because it was enlarged. I almost got left back in school that year due to my frequent absences.

5. I received special help in math for the entire duration of my formative education, but got straight A’s in my college statistics classes without any additional help.

6. One of my childhood math tutors was the older sister of my best friend. Today, she’s one of my closest friends and a professional writer/editor. She’s also the editor of my upcoming book!

7. I consider myself to be a pretty big geek who used to play a ton of video games all day long (I mean ALL DAY), until life became too hectic and I got an Apple computer. Real games are meant for PCs. I was never a tremendous console gamer, but Nintendo will always hold a special place in my heart.

8. At the age of 19, I sang in a competition that took place in a mall. It was my first time singing in front of an audience, so I was petrified. Something went right, because I was asked to perform in the next round of the competition, which took place in Los Angeles, California. My dad didn’t let me go because I was too young, so that was the end of my professional singing career.

9. I was also the lead singer in an electronic band when I was in college.

10. I truly dislike roses. The only flower I dislike more are lilies. I prefer tulips or any other flower that has a delicate appearance and comes in a rainbow of colors.

11. I don’t watch any television shows. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

12. The only sports I enjoy watching are boxing and ultimate fighting championship. Other sports I can tolerate watching include soccer, tennis, football, basketball, and ice hockey. Fortunately, I don’t turn on my TV, so this is a non-issue.

13. My ethnic background is Italian and Puerto Rican. I’m first generation Italian and second generation Puerto Rican.

14. The last movie I saw in a theater was “This Is The End.” I loved it.

15. The sexiest features on a man are his haircut and his mouth, unless he has stunning green or blue eyes.

16. I absolutely love indoor cycling and weight training.

17. Someday, I’d love to own a French bulldog, a Boston terrier, an exotic shorthair and maybe a Scottish fold. I’ll be the Angelina Jolie of international pet breeds.

18. When I’m not working on my wellness efforts, I work in the entertainment/media industry. To date, I’ve worked in radio, film, publishing, and television.

19. My media career has introduced me to a variety of actors and musicians, from Diana Ross to Tom Cruise. The crazy thing is, I’ve met bloggers with bigger egos than some of the A-list celebrities I’ve met. Cracks me up every time.

20. I prefer city tours over beach vacations, unless it’s a romantic getaway.

21. I am not a fan of Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

22. The best food I ever ate was in Sicily.

23. I’m a morning person.

24. I eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Fuji apples are my favorite.

25. I love building things, from toy models to jewelry. I’m also really into drawing and painting and would love to increase my skills in these areas.

Thanks for being patient with me as I work on my various other projects.

I always like to learn more about people, so if you feel like telling me a bit about yourself please do so in the comments section below!

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Arrivederci,
Josephine


 

How to Find Comfort in Times of Stress

There are times when my dizzying array of responsibilities seems so daunting that I wonder how I manage to keep up with it all. Work, life, family, friends, romantic interests, hospital appointments, health insurance wars, blogging, social media, my personal business, etc. Needless to say, it sometimes feels difficult to find comfort in times of stress.

Comfort at home

No stress, only comfort, at home.

When life feels chaotic or I see that I am beginning to put too much emphasis on any one area of my life, I know that it’s time to slow down and do something to rejuvenate my spirit.

People tend to think that taking time for themselves is a huge undertaking that is impossible to achieve. What they don’t realize is that there are really simple ways to decrease stress. The problem is, in order to achieve comfort in times of stress, we have to be fully present in the experience.

What does it mean to be present in an experience? It simply means that if you’re worried about paying your bills on time or you’re worried about whether or not you said something to make your friend angry, you put those worries aside and concentrate on what is happening in the time and space that you presently occupy, using your senses.

Comfort can come from feeling safe, loved, connected to others, or by expressing yourself creatively. As you take action in something you find comfort in, ask yourself if you are fully experiencing the moment of whatever it is you’re doing.

My comforts come in many forms. Below are my top five. Share your favorites with me in the comments section below!

Drinking tea is my primary go to when I feel a bit stressed. There’s something peaceful about taking slow sips of tea, allowing it to warm the body from the inside. According to research done by Steptoe, Gibson, Vounonvirta, et al. (2007), “6 weeks of tea consumption leads to lower post-stress cortisol and greater subjective relaxation, together with reduced platelet activation.” In other words, a decreased stress response in the body. You can read about their study here.

Lately, I’ve been drinking this organic blueberry rooibos tea because it 1) tastes good, 2) is caffeine-free, 3) is high in antioxidants, 3) has minerals that are good for bone health, and 4) improves circulation.

RIS-01062-3


When I have more time to spare, I turn on certain movies that I’ve seen numerous times but include sounds and visuals that I find very comforting. The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress In America 2009” report states that of the 1,568 adults surveyed, 36% cited movie watching as a stress reliever. You can read about the study here.

Here are a few of my favorite movies.

  • Lost in Translation

    Lost in Translation

  • Garden State

    Garden State

  • 200 Cigarettes

    200 Cigarettes

  • Sleepless in Seattle

    Sleepless in Seattle


Over the years, I’ve had so many great animal friends. Petting an animal is a really easy way to reduce stress. According to research done by Anderson, Reid, and Jennings (1992) “Pet owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than non-owners.” You can read about the study here.

Here’s a picture of me with my favorite dog friend, Beans.

beans


Nothing can be more comforting than a chat with someone who cares about you and has been by your side through good times and bad. According to Berkowitz (2002) “Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.” This is especially true for women. When men are stressed, they prefer to be alone. Read more about this research here.

I’m fortunate to have lots of people who fall into this category. Here’s a little collage of the people who make me feel safe, loved, and happy. :)

stress relief support network

Left to right, starting with large image: My cousin Kelly, me, and my sister Gloria. Bottom row: my friends Alicia, Bryan, Stefan, Catherine, Steve (with Kelly), Lori. Going up from the bottom: Me with my friend Christina, me and my grandma, my dad, my aunts Betty and Christine with my mom and myself, and me with my friend Jamal.


I enjoy being creative. If I find myself stressing out about a project that I’m working on, I stop working on the project and throw myself into an artistic endeavor. According to Curl and Forks (2008) “Art making provided the participants of their study with a significant decrease in stress.” You can read more about t he study here.

Some of my favorite creative hobbies include jewelry making, singing, and drawing.

jewelry making

If you know someone who is going through a stressful life event, please share this post with him or her. Show them that there are lots of easy and scientifically proven ways to resolve the stress in their life.

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To your comfort and happiness,
Josephine


 

13 Ways to Stop Feeling Unloved and Unwanted

This is a story about me feeling unloved and unwanted, but it begins with what I call a “God Complex.”

18th Birthday

Balloons for my 18th birthday from my then boyfriend.

Most people I know who have thalassemia (including myself) have a “God complex.” We like to frame ourselves as unshakable pillars of strength to our family members, we try to prove our physical stamina by partying harder than our healthier friends, and because our medical needs feel so out of control, we fiercely try to control all other aspects of our life.

A “God complex” ironically comes from a place of complete insecurity. There’s a darkness that lives inside me that says I am absolutely and utterly unlovable. After all, what guy would want a woman who needs blood transfusions to live, has scars all over her body, and might die before him?

And because that belief lives in me, my brain/ego tries to keep it alive by attaching itself to men who have little to no ability to make me feel loved. This is usually because they don’t love themselves and/or have chaotic life situations that render them emotionally void. I’m rarely ever anybody’s first thought or number one priority.

My preference for unhealthy men began when I first started dating at the age of 17. Fortunately, meeting guys has never been a problem for me. Unfortunately, if five guys want to date me, I always go for the one who has the least capacity to show up for me in mind, body, and heart.

Why? Because I grew up believing that I am completely unlovable and that deep rooted fear is hardwired into my brain’s circuitry.

And no matter how many people tell me that I am “beautiful,” “wonderful,” “intelligent,” “amazing” or whatever positive reinforcement they might use, deep down that painful negative self belief still exists.

So, I hurt myself over and over through my poor relationship choices. And I cry. I cry a lot when I think about how many times my heart has been catastrophically broken by choosing the wrong men.

Can you relate to anything I’m saying? Tell me in the comments below – they keep me going.

Consistent Meme

But it’s getting better, because I’m on a healing journey. The nine year old girl who once believed she was such a horror that she should live under her parents’ staircase and get fed by a stick (yes, I really thought this) is evolving.

I still occasionally find myself with men who are unworthy of my time, but on the rare occasion when that happens, I acknowledge the negative feelings that get stirred up in me and find the self-love to kick them to the curb.

Most of the time.

Well, after several months of painful recognition that I’m slowly torturing myself.

Amazingly enough, things have gotten better because I’m finally learning to love and concentrate on myself more.

My relationship anxieties have greatly subsided over the years, but they still re-emerge when I get mixed signals from a guy.

If he says something like, “I think you’re incredible, but I don’t know when I’ll be ready,” or “Just keep living your life,” or my favorite one: “I’ll probably end up marrying an average girl, but think of you when I’m with her” I know I’m probably in for a bad time. Deep down, I know these aren’t mixed signals. They’re fog horns telling me that these guys don’t want to be in a relationship with me and I should leave before they drag me through hell.

Unfortunately, I can’t stop myself from hoping that time will change his heart. I can’t stop myself from living in the fantasy that “he’ll come through for me… for us” and I hate that I am this way.

If only a boxer would appear out of nowhere and punch me in the face whenever a guy drooled those words into my ear, because that’s exactly how I feel when he finally breaks my heart.

You're the one Meme

Sometimes it’s very difficult to ground myself in reality. My creative mind has helped me cope with a lifetime of physical pain and trauma. What I’ve learned is that my imagination is no place for a relationship. And, frankly, I’m just as tired of my “happily ever after” fantasies as I am with my “what if,” “why hasn’t he,” “what does he mean” fantasies.

Part of my fantasy comes from a need to control. I can’t control my health, so I try to control anything else that I possibly can.

My mind needs to know that someone loves me and will be there for me, which leads to a dependency on certainty, but that certainty is not based in reality. It’s just a fantasy built on a desire to control an outcome.

No one ever has certainty. How many people are married for years only to be blindsided by a person’s behavior down the line? How many people wake up healthy and die the next day. Nothing is certain. I just have to learn to relax and feel comfortable with not knowing what might happen.

I’m not someone who tries to mind read and I am very good about giving people space to be who they are, but I lose my cool as soon as I feel he is behaving out of sync with his words or his present words don’t align with what he’s said in the past. I can’t deal with uncertainty. I hate it. But I need to remember that control is a figment of my imagination.

So, I work on my mind. I get closer to God. I meditate on my thoughts and breathe. But my decades old anxiety hides very well and hasn’t been quick to resolve itself.

That’s why I take even greater action using these steps.

  • I watch my fears as they bubble and brew, then force myself to snap out of my mind’s fantasy and return to the space that my body occupies.
  • I tell my partner how I’m feeling and if he can’t handle it, he exits himself; if he can handle it, he walks alongside me and helps me understand the difference between my fears and reality.
  • If I’m not in a relationship, my insecurities lay dormant. That’s just the truth. I can’t feel insecure about losing what I don’t have.
  • I talk to my therapist and we work on resolving the childhood fears that still live inside of me.
  • I do breathing exercises: three deep breaths in, one deep breath out and stay present in the room that my body occupies.
  • I remind myself that I can only ever truly know and control myself.
  • I remind myself to not compare the new guys that I meet with the terrible guys I’ve met in the past. This one’s hard to do, especially if they use the same words.
  • I allow myself to feel my feelings and not hold them inside.
  • I remind myself that every relationship presents me with a unique opportunity to evolve, heal, and become a stronger person.
  • I remind myself that there’s always another dude waiting right behind the last.
  • I create space for someone new by removing artifacts that remind me of past relationships.
  • I forgive myself and remind myself of the abundance of love that I have from my family and friends.
  • I explore all that I am curious about and work on creating an even better life of my own for myself.

If you know anyone who has ever had a broken heart or felt sad about his or her relationship status, please share this with him or her.

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To believing we deserve a better kind of love (and finding it),
Josephine


 

How to Be Lazy and Find Your Purpose

Is it possible to find your purpose in life by being lazy?

There are some days when I seriously drag myself everywhere because I don’t want to do anything. Productivity goes out the door when I get into this physical/mental state.Lazy Meme I just want to vegetate on my couch, play video games and order take out for lunch and dinner. Trust me, I know how to do “lazy.”

Whenever I feel this way, I allow the feeling to be expressed as big as I can. I don’t force myself to do any task that I don’t I really want to do. Heck, I don’t even answer text messages or phone calls (unless I really want to or it’s an emergency).

What are your hobbies/interests? Share them with me in the comments below!

I think it’s really important to give yourself time to engage in activities that you feel are fun but useless. Of course, this is difficult to do when you’re responsible for other people, but it’s always important to do things for yourself and take at least a few minutes to completely zone out. This is the absolute best way to recharge and ramp up enough energy to focus on things that really need your time and attention.

The same kind of rational should be used when creating lifestyle changes (a.k.a., dieting, exercising, etc.). You don’t want to force yourself to eat kale when your dying for a cookie. Allow yourself to have one cookie! ONE is the keyword here.

When I feel lazy, I give myself ONE full day of playing video games for 10-12 hours straight. I can’t stand TV, I don’t like movies much, but I do adore video games. My single day of total zone out allows me to recharge so much that I’m able to have several consecutive days of working for 12 hours straight.

If I didn’t allow for that time, I wouldn’t get half as much work done. So, in the spirit of letting go of the absolute need to work, work, work without any play, I want you to think about an activity that you absolutely LOVE, then give yourself time and permission to do it.

What’s interesting is that the activities you love have a lot to do with your life’s purpose. If you’re like me and you love video games, but you know you have absolutely no talent to make a career of your passion, don’t deny yourself of it’s pleasure just because there’s no money in it.

Create space for your passions, because some are meant to revitalize you while others are meant to give you a career. Participating in the things that you adore gives you energy to spend time on activities that may be more lucrative.

If you know someone who feels guilty their passions, share this with article them. Help them alter their expectations of themselves.

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To zoning out,
Josephine


 

Forget Goal Setting, This Will Change Your Life

Jo at Age 14

From left to right: me, age 14, our friend Helene and my sister.

Being an overweight teen was no fun at all. I was made fun of, looked down upon, and had the lowest self-esteem imaginable.

I had no idea how to lose weight on my own, so I ended up asking my best friend who was a vegan to teach me how to eat.

I remember the two of us sitting on the couch in my parents’ living room. She asked me a series of questions about my food intake and wrote down ways to modify my diet.

To be honest, I don’t remember specifics of our conversation, but I do remember that I lost weight by reducing the portions I consumed, adding exercise, and removing my daily intake of potato chips. I lost 35 pounds over the course of one year.

I didn’t turn veggie at that point, but I do remember that I made a conscious decision to not just create a goal to lose weight. I decided to learn how to live differently in order to affect a lifetime of change.

What does that mean? It means I knew that in order to lose weight for good, I had to make systematic changes to my lifestyle.

The dictionary defines a system as “A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.”

So, in my example of wanting to lose weight and keep it off, my complex whole was an overweight body. The elements that created my overweight body were my poor self image, a family that overate, lack of exercise, bad snacking habits, and a lack of self discipline/vision.

I knew that I had to forever modify the elements that made up my complex whole in order to sustain my desired weight. In other words, I changed the things in my life that I felt made me fat.

  • First, I asked my mom to stop buying me potato chips, as they were (and still are) my greatest vice. To this day, I do not keep any munchies in my house, because I know I’ll eat them if they’re available to me.
  • Second, I modified the way I viewed meal time. Instead of it being a source of pleasure and community (because I always ate with my family or friends during school hours), I viewed food as a source of fuel for my body. An energy source, rather than a faithful stress reliever. I then challenged myself to view exercise as a source of pleasure and stress relief – and it worked.
  • Third, I recognized patterns at meal time that kept me unhappy with my weight and changed them completely. I stopped overeating, eating fried foods, eating too many sugary foods (breads, pastas, flour), not eating any fruit or salad/veggies.
  • Fourth, I started paying attention to calories on packages and didn’t allow myself to eat more than 1,200 calories each day. Here’s a calorie calculator to help you figure out how much energy you need to eat each day (if weight loss/gain is your desired change).
  • Fifth, Each time I recognized that I had an increased desire to eat, based on self-esteem issues or some type of internal stress/anxiety, I made a conscious decision to move that negative energy into action through weight lifting.
  • Sixth, The most important part of this was that I was absolutely determined to never get made fun of again by the crappy kids in my school. The vision of success that I held for myself helped me hold all of these elements together in my mind.
  • Seventh, If you’re feeling very brave, share your desired outcome with someone you respect and trust. Social pressure helps us stay on track, follow through on tasks, and stimulates others to be interested in your progress.

As the elements in my system changed, my life changed for the better…forever.

Now it’s your turn to create positive changes in your life.

I’ve created a .99 cent homework plan for those of you who want more in-depth help.

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To your future,
Josephine


 

2013 Gratitude – Review in Pictures

NeverEnding Story

Empress and Bastian

Have you ever seen the movie “The NeverEnding Story?” It’s not a holiday film, but it was a film that I loved as a kid.

In the film, a child empress loses her kingdom and planet due to an unseen force that causes all but herself and one grain of sand from her empire to crumble and disappear.

The reason she and one grain of sand survive is because the hero of the movie, Basitan, a young boy who skips school to read “The Neverending Story,” a book about the empress and her planet, believes he is a part of her adventure and finally participates in it to save her.

The movie comes to mind whenever I hear from you, my readers, whether it be via email or through social media. You are a part of my story and you keep me inspired and eager to Continue reading


 

How to Not Fear Illness

Josephine Age 8

Josephine, Age 8

I learned how to not fear illness at a very young age. It all began when I was seven years old. That’s when I first became aware that I was going to die. The awareness came after my best friend at the hospital passed away from hemophilia. My response to her death was an obsession with my own mortality; I constantly thought about what it would be like to die.

Thinking this way shifted my perception of myself. I began to view myself in the third person. Yes, it’s completely bizarre, but it’s true. I began to look at myself as if I was a strange body with a thought processing system; as if the two were not one in the same. Of course, I didn’t think about it in those terms back then. Instead, I just looked out of my eyes, down at my body, and out into Continue reading