15 Reasons To Travel While You’re Young + Thoughts on Traveling & Social Media

Travel

I got the travel bug from my grandmother, who has been to so many countries that she probably wouldn’t be able to count them if she tried. My grandma goes on at least one trip abroad a year and usually comes back with a very odd and very humorous souvenir for us. Every time I talked to my grandma when I was growing up, I was so amazed at how she would casually bring up some incredible trip she took.

I always wanted to be like her. She’s so well-traveled, cultured, and so interesting – and I’m not the only one who thinks that. She’s someone that everyone loves and is intrigued by the second they meet her. I remember after my friend Pat met her for the first time, he turned to me and said one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Heather, your grandma is dope!” She is a dope grandma indeed. 

She’s a lady who does whatever the hell she wants regardless of what other people think. One of my favorite things she’s ever said to me was, “I don’t think I want a boyfriend, that might cramp my style.” If there’s one person I want to be like when I grow up and one person I want to make proud of, it’s her. And one way I plan on doing that is by exploring as much of this miraculous planet as I can, just like her.

With no surprise, my grandma was incredibly supportive of my love for travel. Not only does she pass on her travel stories and experiences to me, but she’s funded several of my trips. She generously took me to Paris for two weeks for my Sweet Sixteen, paid for my month-long graduation trip through Europe, and took a spontaneous and impulsive trip with me to Niagara Falls this summer. 

Today, my grandma’s writing is tattooed on the side of my body. It reads, “A life full of travel and wonders of our planet.” It will remind me for the rest of my life to get out of my bubble and explore the world as much as I can.

Just like my grandma, I want to encourage others to explore too. To put their money towards a plane ticket instead of products. So here are the top reasons why I believe it’s important to travel while you’re young in hopes that I will inspire at least one person to buy a ticket!

1. Travel expands your mind

I know this is the very first thing that people usually say about travel, but you don’t realize how true it is until you’re sitting in some random spot on the other side of the planet having your mind blown. I remember watching an opera in Rome and seeing flamenco dancing in Spain. Those are two experiences that I will never forget because I was utterly amazed seeing this in person. All I could think of was, “WHAT?! This is a thing?! People actually do this?!” It’s incredible seeing someone who’s spent a lifetime perfecting some dance that you would have never even heard of before.

When you travel, especially for an extended period of time or with a group of strangers, you regularly have those moments where you’re shocked by what you’re seeing or how other people interact in different cultures. You experience and learn things that you wouldn’t have otherwise known until you went there yourself.

Sometimes it expands your mind to things that are unpleasant. On my graduation trip, I learned so much about the Holocaust and World War II after visiting Germany and seeing a concentration camp that I would have never have learned unless I had visited Germany and gone on local tours. It’s best to travel while you’re young for this reason because your brain is still developing so you’re still very impressionable. Expanding your worldview during this time is crucial because you’ll be more open-minded than you would be if you started traveling after retirement. It allows you to expand your world-view and shape new opinions before settling into your ways.

2. It gets you out of your comfort zone

When you go on a trip abroad, you encounter language barriers, you get lost, and you have awkward moments when you encounter customs that you aren’t familiar with. It makes you feel out of place and puts you far out of your comfort zone, which is a great thing!

Interestingly enough, something about traveling to a foreign country also makes you more willing to take risks and try things that you wouldn’t if you were at home. I remember what it was like going zip lining in Costa Rica with Matt or going on an ATV tour underneath a volcano. The Heather that lives in Florida and spends most of her time going to the same coffee shop to write every day would NEVER do those things. But whenever I go on a trip, I take advantage of experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t try or wouldn’t want to spend the money on. Travel makes you do things that you normally would hold yourself back from, but THOSE moments are the ones that you remember for the rest of your life and tell at parties (or on your Tinder dates, lol). 

3. You meet life-long friends 

Something about dropping everything and traveling to a foreign country with strangers makes you connect with them on a much deeper level. When you travel to a new country with someone, rely on each other to get around, experience new things together, and spend entire days making memories and opening up about your lives back home, you form a very powerful bond. 

It’s a connection that you wouldn’t have had with that person if you had just met at a coffee shop or a bar back home. You create life-long memories with that person, making you much closer together and creating a relationship that you’ll look back on for the rest of your life. For that reason, I know that whenever I reach out to the girls I went on my trip with that they will always be happy to hear from me and we’ll catch up as if no time had passed.

Case in point, I just got back from visiting Cincinnati last night and while I was there I got to see my Europe travel buddy, Emily. We were attached at the hip the entire time we were abroad and now I consider her to be one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She had just landed from New York City yesterday morning and raced to come visit me for the remaining hours I was still in Cincinnati. When we reunited we ran up to each other on the sidewalk, threw our arms around each other and hugged in the most dramatic, rom-com fashion.

4. Travel helps you discover what you really want

When I left for my month-long trip abroad, I was very unsure of what I wanted, but the week I came back, I could look at my life with such clarity. I’m not exactly sure why this happens. Maybe it’s because travel allows you to step away from your life’s problems and have some space so that you can look at things with fresh eyes when you come back. Or maybe it’s because travel changes you, so you come back a slightly different person than the one who left.

Whichever it is, all I know is that my questions and dilemmas I’d been struggling with for months had been resolved when I got back: Where should I live? What career should I pursue? What do I really want in life? What projects do I want to pursue?

I was also very surprised by the number of other people on my tour who were having some kind of life crisis or question that they were seeking the answer to while we were away. I wasn’t the only one who had been hoping to solve some problem or answer an important question. For example, I remember that a handful of people were very unsure about whether or not they wanted to stay with their significant other. They were trying to figure out if they saw themselves staying with this person long term after they returned home or if it was best to go their separate ways. The trip helped them answer their questions. I remember one of my friends even bought a journal so she could do stream of consciousness journaling about her relationship and that helped her gain so much clarity. If you’d like to learn more about stream of consciousness journaling, checkout my blog post, “Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It.”

5. Traveling while you’re young allows you freedom before you get tied down 

Yeah you could travel when you’re older, but you also have to consider that you’ll have a full-time job, extra bills, a mortgage payment, a dog that needs to be cared for, a significant other that doesn’t feel like traveling to the same country as you, kids, etc. I could go on and on with other reasons, but the point is that it won’t be as easy to drop everything and backpack your way through South America when you’re 35 or 40. It’s much easier to travel while you’re young because you’re not tied down to anything, and because it will be so much easier to hop back into your normal life without much of a disruption. For example, coming back from an extended holiday when you’re in your teens or early 20’s will have little to no impact on your career because it’s not already established. It’s expected that you’re still traveling, learning about what you want, and changing during this time.

You also have to consider that if you travel while you’re young, you only have to pay for yourself, not an entire family. It’ll cost far less money and you’ll be FAR more likely to actually do it. Simply put, you’ll never feel as free as you do RIGHT NOW.

6. You won’t regret it

You know that moment when you decide it’s freaking time to clean out your closet? Your clothes are overflowing, you can’t find anything, and you realize it’s that time of year to make some donations? You know how whenever this happens you inevitably find clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them and think, “Uggghhhh, why did I buy this!? That was such a waste of money!” Yeah, that doesn’t happen with travel.

I’ve never heard of anyone having buyer’s remorse over taking a trip. You won’t look back at your photos and memories of your summer abroad and think, “Ugggghhh, why did I do that?” “Why did I move to Paris for three months and work at that bakery? How stupid of me.” That just doesn’t happen. Traveling is one of the very few things in life that people spend their money on that they don’t regret. Sure, you might end up going over budget on your trip and be a little bit annoyed at yourself for spending so much. However, the feeling of regret will never enter your mind.

7. Travel makes you humble

The other reason why you should travel, especially while you’re young, is because it makes you humble. You’ll see people all around the world who are living with less than you and realize what little you need to take care of yourself and to be happy. I learned this lesson on my trip to Costa Rica. After coming back I wrote a blog post about this called “A Lesson in Pura Vida.”

I wrote about how I had noticed that the people in Costa Rica lived in what I can only describe as shacks. Their houses were made of tin and they had very few possessions and modern-day luxuries and conveniences. But they were the happiest and nicest people I have ever met in my life. Seriously! It was like they were all enlightened. They walked around with a huge smile on their face and saying hello to everyone. I could tell that they were happy and relaxed – not chronically stressed out. At the time, I went to a private college, drove an expensive car, lived in a gated community, and nannied for families who made over six figures. Yet none of the people that I was surrounded with were happy to be alive. They were stressed out, bitter, and materialistic. They were driven more by possessions and promotions than by anything else (I’m not claiming to be above this). However, these people in Costa Rica had next to nothing, and they were HAPPY. Very, very happy. That trip was humbling and made me reflect more on what’s important in life. 

The second reason why travel makes you humble is that you realize that you’re not the center of the universe. You’re dropped off at the airport in what sometimes feels like an alternate universe. You don’t understand the language or the way people are interacting with each other. Even though you know intellectually that there’s a wide world out there, you typically don’t think much about the world other than your own small existence. Then in the middle of all of this, you’re attending local tours and learning from someone about their political problems or issues that they face in the community. In these moments, it will hit you just how large the world is and how closed off you had been because these issues weren’t on your radar. For example, I didn’t know anything about the poverty rate in Costa Rica as I was going about my daily life in St. Augustine, Fla. It never occurred to me.

Lastly, if you’re traveling while you’re young you’ll most likely be staying in cheap accommodations, eating less expensive food, and finding experiences within your budget. You’re not rolling into your trip to the south of France in first-class seats, sipping champagne, eating caviar, and staying at 5-star hotels. You haven’t hit that age in life where you think, “Alright, I’m going on a trip. It must be luxurious.” No. You stay in hostels, you share bathrooms, you eat at places that are cheaper to accommodate everyone in your group, and you share cramped spaces on trains, planes, and automobiles. Having to be so accommodating with other people and share space is a humbling experience. 

I think that this is an important lesson to learn and it should be learned as SOON as possible. It’s better to become humble when you’re 20 rather than when you’re 45. It makes you a better person.

8. You’re in great shape

Some people decide that having a career and a family are the first priority to them and that travel is something that can wait until retirement, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Because while you do want to make retirement fun and enjoyable, you also have to consider that you won’t be in as good of shape as you’re in when you’re a teenager or in your 20’s.

Your body can handle walking for miles to sightsee all day, hiking up mountains, getting less sleep, carrying a backpack all day, lugging your suitcase around, etc. The physicality of traveling alone just makes more sense to do while you’re young. And you never know what sort of health problems or limitations you might have in old age. 

9. Traveling empowers you

Before I left for my month-long trip to Europe, I was nervous as all hell. It also didn’t help that every person I talked to said something along the lines of, “Oh my God! Four weeks is SO long! I would never be able to do that. You’re crazy. You’re gonna want to come home by week two!”

I remember the night before I left I sat across from my boyfriend fighting off a panic attack for serval hours and drinking wine trying to calm myself down. The next day I was bawling while I was saying goodbye to Matt outside the airport! I. was. a. mess.

But when I landed in Florida after that month, I came back and thought “Oh my gosh! I freaking did it! That was awesome!” It’s a very powerful thing to see yourself doing something that you once considered to be scary. It helps you realize how much you’re capable of and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges or aspirations. Before I left for my trip, I thought a month would feel like forever and I might want to come home, but when I came home I realized that a month was nothing. I could easily take a trip for two, three, four, or even six months at a time. I realized that the fear that I had was all in my head. I set this limitation for myself that I now realize was completely ridiculous. 

10. You can handle cheap accommodations

I’ve noticed that as you get older, the accommodations that you feel you deserve continue to increase in cost. I know that I was going on a trip to a foreign country right now, I would be perfectly ok in cheaper hotels that my older family members wouldn’t even consider staying in. I don’t feel as if I’m somehow deserving of first-class tickets, 5-star hotels, and a luxurious mattress to sleep on. Those things would be fabulous and I would be appreciative of it, but I feel perfectly ok with slumming it a bit to check countries off of my bucket list.

However, it’s not just that as you get older you feel entitled to better accommodations, your body also needs them. I’m 24 now, and I know that my body can handle sleeping on crappy mattresses and taking a 10-hour plane ride in super small airplane seats. But if I was 70 years old right now, that wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be able to bounce back as well as I can right now. That’s something you also have to keep in mind.

11. You’ll come back with TONS of stories 

The best part of spending your money on traveling is that you come back with tons of stories and memories that stay with you forever. Half the time they’re stories of something wonderful and exciting that you experienced – like when I learned how to make homemade pasta while I tasted wines in Rome (it was Amazing with a capital A). Or sometimes they’re stories of something bad or scary that happened on your trip – like when two of my friends Martha and Emily had a near-death experience during the riots in Paris after the World Cup Final. But even the “bad” memories end up turning into hilarious stories that you get to share and laugh about when you get back home.

It’s been over a year since I went on my tour and I still find myself saying, “That reminds me! When I was on my trip…” I didn’t even realize how many interesting things happened until I came back and would have conversations with people and it would remind me of some experience that I had in Amsterdam, France, or London. I still love telling the story of what it was like experiencing the World Cup Final while I was in Paris or celebrating my sixteenth birthday in Paris which coincidentally is the same day as the French Independence Day. 

12. You’ll have help

One of the added benefits of traveling while you’re young is that you’ll most likely be able to convince mom and dad or grandma and grandma to help you fund your trip. That’s one of the best parts of traveling while your young because you’re family members are eager to help you out financially so that you can make some memories and have a good time. I’m now past the point where my family is jumping up and down to help me pay for a trip, so take advantage of the help while you can!

On top of that there are tons of tours that are cheaper and cater to teens and young adults with a smaller budget but still want to see as many sights as they possibly can. I personally am in love with the tour company EF Tours. I’ve been on two of their trips so far and have loved every minute of it. They get you to all of the attractions, book your flights and hotels for you, hire a tour guide to take you from place to place, and plan fun excursions. They’re also relatively cheap because they use the same hotels, hostels, tour companies, and local business so frequently that they are able to get everything cheaper than it would be if you went on your own. 

You also have the benefits of student discounts, so remember to bring your ID with you and ask if you can use it wherever you go! These perks make traveling while you’re young much easier because the total cost of the trip will be significantly less than you would pay in the future if you decide to take the same trip. 

13. It makes you more independent 

When you’re younger, if you’re anything like me, you may a bit timid and shy. This means that having to get around for the day in a foreign country by yourself can be a bit nerve-wracking, but those moments of travel are good for you, even if they’re a bit unsettling.

I remember there was one day when I was in Paris and everyone that I was friends with on my tour decided that they wanted to spend the day at Chipotle and relaxing in the hostel. I thought this was absolutely crazy. “We’re in PARIS guys! You can have a burrito bowl when you get home!” So I had no choice but to go off by myself if I wanted to do anything interesting. At first I was completely terrified and scared of being alone. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way back?! But I ended up walking all around Paris and seeing the entire city. I saw the major attractions and went to places like the oldest bookstore in the city to buy a book and tried the best hot chocolate in Paris. I got pictures EVERYWHERE, ate as many macaroons as I could get my hands on, and ended the night watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It ended up working out perfectly because I was able to do so much more that day than I would have done if I was with a group of 5 or 6 girls. And I realized that I’m much more independent and capable than I thought. I was so proud of myself by the end of the day and so fulfilled by getting around a foreign city all by myself that it became one of the most memorable days of the tour. 

14. Travel makes you more accepting of others

Another reason why I believe that it’s vitally important to travel while you’re young is because it makes you much more accepting of other people.

I feel that today, we need this lesson more than ever. There’s been so much hatred in America fueled by the media in recent years. Mostly because media channels learned that they can make money by pinning people against each other and because this last presidential election was “harrible.” Hugely, “biggly,” and catastrophicly “harrible.”

Because of this we’ve become accustomed to getting offended if someone has a different opinion or experience than us and rejecting them. Our country has been in a place where all people do is fight and hate people who are different. It’s especially toxic for all of the younger generations who are impressionable and mimic the behavior they see while growing up. And I’m not just talking about children. I’m talking about the teens and college students (like myself) that watched all the adult figures in their lives turn against each other for a solid year because of this last poisonous election.

My concern is that if THIS is how people feel about other American citizens than what is our perspective of the rest of the world’s population? If we can’t even learn to live in harmony with our neighbors, how do plan on having successful international relations? Today more than ever, I feel it’s important for people to get outside of their own inner circle and learn about the rest of the world. To learn about different cultures and different views, but most importantly learn that we can all be accepting and COEXIST.

I can hear my grandma in my head right now saying her famous line, “Haven’t people ever heard of the word HUMAN?! We’re all HUMAN!”

15. “Life is short and the world is wide.” – Simon Raven

Last but not least on my list of why it’s important to travel while you’re young is that there’s a HUGE world out there and life is short. Not to end on a morbid note, but a long life is not guaranteed to any of us. You have no idea what could happen in the future. I would love it if the universe would grant each and every one of us a long, healthy, and happy life, but it doesn’t work that way. People get sick and accidents happen. It’s best to fill your life with the experiences that you dream of while you can instead of putting things off for a perpetual “someday.” “Someday I’ll rent an RV and travel around the country.” “Someday I’ll see the seven wonders of the world.” “Someday I’ll go to Thailand.”

Someday is not set in stone. Someday is not promised. 

Traveling & Social Media 

Before I wrap up this post, I didn’t feel as if I could close up this week’s blog post without mentioning social media (particularly Instagram) and traveling. It felt irresponsible to share this post without addressing the problem of people traveling solely for getting attention and become famous online.

One of my favorite travel bloggers and Instagram influencers is Aggie, better known as “Travel In Her Shoes.” She’s someone who became very famous for her love of travel. She would travel for months and months at a time before she even was on Instagram and would take photos just for herself. She lived a very traditional life as most of us do for a while. She went to college, graduated, got a corporate job and was MISERABLE. So Aggie and her boyfriend at the time decided that they wanted to live a life of adventure and passion. They bought an old sailboat online, sold all of their possessions, fixed up the boat, and set sail from Mexico to Australia. Their story got picked up and since that day she’s made a career of her traveling and living the life that many of us can only dream of.

But Aggie recently opened up in a social media post this week about a topic that I believe needs to be talked about. Her Instagram post was inspired by a recent Ted Talk given by Joseph Gordon-Levitt on “paying attention” vs. “getting attention.” The talk is called “How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative.” The Ted Talk is amazing and I HIGHLY recommend watching it as soon as you can. He talks about how (as a result of social media) most people today now view their creativity as a means to GET attention rather than paying attention, enjoying yourself, and collaborating with other creatives.

Aggie shared that traveling used to be very much about paying attention. It was a way to get out of your small little bubble, disconnect with family and friends, find yourself, and fall in love with another country. She admits that now, due to social media and influencers like herself, traveling has become a way to GET attention. “[People] sign up for a sort of their own Truman Show,” as she puts it. They get addicted to waking up each day and getting attention from their followers as they post gorgeous travel photos and share their stories. Because of that, they’re afraid to go back to their normal lives. They’re afraid that if they do, they will be forgotten and won’t receive praise from their online following. And that’s exactly what happened to her. The addiction to keep showing up, traveling, and getting attention is what caused her a falling out with the man she was in love with, getting extremely sick this year, losing her hair, and falling into a depression. Since then, she’s taken a step back and slowed down on traveling and focused on herself more.

I want to talk about this issue because the sad truth is that many people today travel just as a way to get likes and followers. People sign up for trips, buy expensive clothes for their photos, and spend their entire vacation staring at their phone. I can’t say that I’m above this myself. I will admit, my motto was “do it for the gram” for several years there, and my travels were a part of that too. But that’s NOT what travel is about. Travel should be about the reasons I listed above, not to become the next big travel blogger or YouTuber! It defeats the entire purpose of travel. So if you are going to book your next flight, remember that exploring the world is about the reasons I listed above, not about the social media posts that will come as a result. Travel is about PAYING attention, not GETTING attention.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thank you for coming to Lost Online! I hope that this post was entertaining and I hope that it inspired someone out there to go on an adventure. If it does, PLEASE reach out to me!

A special shout out to one of my Gram (who is somewhere in Morocco right now living her best life) for being my role model, for passing on her travel bug to me, and helping me to come up with ONE more reason for traveling while you’re young (just because I liked the sound of “15 Reasons” more than “14 Reasons).” Not only is she the source of inspiration for this week’s blog post, but she’s also my #1 supporter and reader. Hi Gram (: I love you very much.

Lastly, please send your thoughts and prayers to my incredible friend and photographer Ray Reyes and his family who lost his father, Edd Reyes, very suddenly last week. You can read Ray’s most amazing, tear jerking words about his father’s life in his Facebook post here. And thank you for your patience as there’s been a delay in getting blog posts published at this time. But as we all know, family is more important.

“Time is the most precious commodity we can share with our loved ones. With time, you can do all you need to do and say all you need to say. But you can’t wait forever, because time has already passed, the time is absolutely now and we have no idea how much time we have in our futures.” – Ray Reyes

Remember to comment your thoughts below. I love hearing from you! Can you think of any other reasons why Lost Online readers should prioritize traveling while they’re young? What are they? Did you have a favorite reason on this list? What was it? Do you have a travel bug too? Where’s your next adventure going to take you? Did this post inspire you to take a trip anytime soon? Do you have a family member that has been influential in your travels too?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto and Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.

This Day Could Have Gone Much Differently: A School Shooting During My Therapy Session

Lifestyle

On Wednesday, Aug. 21, I had a really busy day. I was working on things from home and was jam-packed with tons of projects for my website and YouTube Channel. So much that I had hardly eaten all day and I still wanted to go to the gym that evening. My boyfriend Matt suggested, “Why don’t you go out and get a smoothie? You can walk down to RawkStar, get a smoothie, and walk back. It’ll be nice.” So I decided that was a great idea. I put on my shoes, grabbed my bag and was about to walk out the door when I realized my phone was about to die. I stopped for a second and thought about leaving it behind while I walked down the street to grab a smoothie. I would just be down the road and would only be without it for about 20 minutes. But I didn’t want to do that. I put my phone on the charger and sat back down on the couch with my computer ready to work some more.

Now, you might be thinking it’s because I’m a sad millennial that can’t stand the thought of being separated from my phone for more than 5 minutes. But that’s not why I didn’t leave. I didn’t leave without my phone because I was worried that if a shooting would happen, I would be without my phone and unable to call for help.

Later that evening I told Matt about that and laughed it off, thinking to myself I’m just paranoid. I waited until my phone was charged and then went out for my smoothie before going to the gym. Then, later that night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about the very real possibility that a shooting could happen. Last year there were more shootings than days in the year. I thought about how scary it is that we live in a country where we have to fear this in our everyday lives and I remembered how in my last two years of college, I was terrified to be in the library. Whenever I was in the library to work (which was almost every day) I would plan where I would run and hide if a shooter walked in. Those were some of the last thoughts I had before falling asleep.

The Next Day

The next day I woke up and went about my day as usual, not thinking about any of those grim thoughts I had the day before. I got up, had my coffee, worked from home, edited some videos, and then started getting ready for my therapy appointment. It was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and it was getting closer to that time. I got dressed and got myself ready and stood in the kitchen contemplating leaving early to go to therapy. I thought how nice and sunny and beautiful it was outside and thought about how I could pass the half hour before my appointment sitting outside on a bench or in my car in the parking lot listening to my podcast.

But I decided against it. I decided to just wait until it got closer to the appointment to leave. When I finally did make it to the building for my therapy appointment, I was surprised and extremely confused by what I saw. Cop cars had circled a building, which is actually a church, preschool, and counseling center in one. Police started to fill the parking lot and the pastor was outside talking to the police and visibly nervous. 

I got out of the car, confused, and wondering if I should just turn around and go home, but I didn’t. I turned off my car, got out and walked up to the police and the pastor to ask what happened. Right where we were standing, a man fired a shot into the windows of the preschool just minutes before I had arrived. Shock is the only way I could think to describe what I felt right at that moment. 

They assured me that the children were safe and had been evacuated into the church. I asked if they caught the shooter yet, to which they responded, “No.” I froze for a moment and looked around in circles, knowing that just minutes before I arrived, a shooter had been standing right where I was. What if he was still here now?

The pastor and the police kept talking and finally I had to interrupt because I quickly realized that they thought I was a concerned parent waiting to pick up their child. I shared with them that I had a therapy session at 3:30 and the pastor told me that he would get me through a side door. I followed him, looking around behind me to make sure we were safe and walked in. 

Two minutes later, my very happy, bubbly therapist greeted me with a big smile and asked how I was. I could tell right away she had no idea what was happening. “Do you know what’s happening right now?” I asked her. Her eyebrows furrowed and she said, “No, what’s going on?” “A shot was just fired at the preschool, the building is surrounded by police.”

Right then, a not so pleasant woman came around the corner and yelled at me to get into the room so she could talk to my therapist privately, and proceeded to tell her what I just said. She told her that we could continue with our session and they wouldn’t interrupt us, or we could leave. My therapist walked back inside and I could tell she was just as shocked as I was. 

We decided together that this was not the right day to proceed with the session and we should both just reschedule and go home. She then proceeded to tell me how she attends service in the church and was just there this past Sunday. She told me that she had been sitting in the very back row by the door, and was distracted throughout the entire service because it had occurred to her that if there was a shooting inside the church that she was in the most vulnerable position. Here we were less than a week later. 

She also told me that she doesn’t believe this was random. Apparently, the church has a sign out front that says “Dear God, please help our elected officials stand up to the NRA.”

We both rescheduled for next week and I walked outside to get into my car and go home, only to discover that the police had blocked off the parking lot and I was unable to leave. Here I was again outside in open air, standing where the shooter had stood, and not able to leave. The police huddled together in one area and were discussing how they needed someone to get the video footage of the area. Finally, I found a police officer and walked up to her telling her that I was supposed to see my therapist but we decided to leave given the circumstances. I asked her if she would be able to move, but it turns out she had to then get permission for me to leave. I waited in the parking lot, shaking, looking around me hoping that this person wouldn’t return. All I could think about was if the shooter was still in the area, they might decide to target the police and anyone else standing in the parking lot. The police officer then came back, looked at my ID, took down my information and said that I could leave.

That evening, I was in shock for several hours. I occurred to me that had I left even just a few minutes sooner this day could have gone far differently. I could have been in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time. If I had left any earlier, I would have shown up at the same time as the shooter, possibly witnessed the shooting, and possibly been killed just for being the only other person in this empty parking lot.

Once I calmed down and came out of shock I started crying because I realized that we’re no longer safe anywhere. This building is a CHURCH, a PRESCHOOL, and a place where people go to for therapy. This place, out of all places, should particularly be one where people should feel safe and comfortable. 

This problem seems harder to wrap your mind around when it’s on TV. But when you’re standing there in my position, surrounded by cops and hearing people frantically try to find video footage and make sure the little kids are safe, it doesn’t seem so complicated. 

This SHOULDN’T be a problem. 

This needs to be changed.

America has proven time and time again that we are NOT capable of having guns. How many school shootings have to happen for us to realize that?

Takeaways

Now that I’ve had some time to think and process what happened, I thought of a few takeaways: things that I really want you to come away with after reading about my experience. 

1. DO Something

Stop posting on social media and take real action. There is nothing that makes me more angry on social media than when people are posting about how “😩😭😔” they are about an issue but don’t do anything to address the problem. It seems like nothing but a cry for attention online and to show how deep they are. If people actually cared, they would stop sharing their feelings on social media and take real action to address the problem. Sure you might have reshared a post about gun violence, women’s rights, or the Fair Oaks Farm calf abuse, but did you actually do anything about the issue? Being #sad about something isn’t going to change the state of our country. 

After this happened, I didn’t want to just be another mindless person sharing their feelings and sad emojis on social media for their friends to see. I went searching for things that I can do to help with gun control. In my search, I found this article on “30 Gun Control Actions You Can Take Now.” Once I’m done writing this post for you today, I’m going to do several of these myself. 

For now, I have signed up to join the Woman Against Gun Violence. By becoming a member of WAGV, they will notify me about upcoming events, what’s happening with gun legislation, and simple things that I can do to help reduce gun violence in our country. It could be something as simple as making a phone call or writing an email or attending a rally. 

2. Trust Your Intuition

The day before this happened I thought about the possibility of being in the wrong place at the wrong time of a shooting on two different occasions. I had no reason to start thinking about this. I didn’t see a post about gun violence online recently and I no longer watch the news. Nothing was making me think about this subject, I just did. And less than 24 hours later I show up minutes after a shooting. Even my therapist was worried about a shooting before it happened and opened up about her own fears of the reality of becoming yet another victim of gun violence.

We all must learn to tune into these feelings that show up and trust our intuition. I’m sharing this with you not because I have it figured out, this is one thing that I really need to work on. I always doubt myself so much that if my gut tells me to turn right, I’ll turn left, and I end up regretting it EVERY time because my intuition has never been wrong. Unfortunately, we live in a time and culture where we’re taught to think only with our heads. Things like gut instinct, intuition, or a “hunch” are seen as being ridiculous and “wooh-y.” If you tell someone you have a bad feeling, they’ll most likely laugh and make jokes about you’re a psychic.

But your gut is like a second brain and is usually MUCH smarter than our other brain. It gives us that knot in our stomachs when something is wrong to keep us safe and point us in the right direction. Collectively and individually we need to learn to trust that again. There are some things that we might not be able to see, explain, and prove, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

3. Nothing is a Coincidence 

Just like I shared in my last couple posts, the universe has your back. Since yesterday I keep telling myself thank goodness I didn’t show up any sooner! Thank goodness my therapist was already inside the building in her office and not walking in at that time. Thank goodness I decided to stay home instead of leaving early like I sometimes do. Otherwise, I would have been right there. 

I want you to take some time to really think about this and reflect on your own experience. Most people haven’t just missed a shooting by minutes, but many of us have had some moment in our lives just like this. Where we realized we got SO lucky because we ran a few minutes late, or decided to go somewhere else, or decided to stay in one night. You must have a moment like that buried somewhere in your memory. 

Take some time and think about that today. Search your memory for a time when this happened to you and don’t brush it off as a random coincidence. Remember that we have a greater power looking out for us.

Take time to feel grateful for those moments because the sad fact is that not every single person was that lucky.

4. Gun Control

One of my all-time favorite comedians is Jim Jefferies, who created this bit for a comedy show that blew up and went viral. It became such a sensation that it was even referenced on the news several times. What started out a simple comedy sketch blew up into a sensation that helped people understand the flawed logic that many Americans have when it comes to their precious guns. 

Now you might be thinking, “Who the hell is the random comedian, and why is he talking about gun control?” But I think Jim Jefferies is the perfect person to talk about this topic. Here’s why: 

  • He talks about this subject in a way that is super funny and relatable, meaning that this message has been able to reach millions simply by the humorous way that it was delivered.
  • He’s from Australia, where he shares they had 11 massacres and finally the government decided to take away guns which put an end to gun violence.
  • Jim Jefferies had a home invasion where he was tied up and cut while the invaders threatened to rape his girlfriend. He shares that owning a gun wouldn’t have helped him in the moment. How would he have known as he was naked in his house that two guys would randomly bust in with weapons? It’s not like he was “ready” and had a holster on him. 

The reason why I absolutely love this video is because he addresses all of our flawed views of guns including, “I need it for protection,” “I’m a responsible gun owner,” “If gun control were to happen only the criminals would have guns,” and “The answer to gun violence is more guns.”

There’s one argument that I think is the most important thing that we need to take away in these conversations about gun violence. Jim Jefferies explains that every American should be able to have a gun. Yep. Everyone. Everyone and their mother who is a “responsible gun owner” should be able to have a gun. But guess what…that’s not how society works! We have to play to the 1% of people who are going to use it for bad reasons. As he says, “We have to walk as slow as our slowest person to keep society moving.” 

Sure, maybe the majority of people who have guns would be “responsible” with guns should be allowed to have them. But there are too many people who feel the need to walk into a preschool and murder a bunch of 4-year-olds with an assault rifle. There are too many kids who will pick up a gun thinking its toy and shoot their brother or sister in the stomach. And there are too many people who have the worst days of their lives who have too many drinks and remember they have a gun in the house, and how easy it would be to end it. There’s also too much domestic violence as it is. You have an abusive, drunken husband in the house who gets mad at his wife over something stupid, do you really want to know what happens when there are guns in the house?

This argument that gun lovers share over and over again is, “Why should I have my guns taken away? I’m not crazy. I’m responsible.” It just doesn’t work. Because as Jefferies says so eloquently, “That’s the thing about crazy people, they don’t know they’re crazy. That’s what makes them crazy.”

You should also be able to drive as fast as you want to all the time. But guess what. We can’t. That’s not how society works. 

We need gun control because unfortunately, we live in a country where this is not the first shooting at a PRESCHOOL. We can’t attend church, or send our 3- and 4-year-olds to preschool, or go to therapy, or go get a f*cking smoothie before a workout without living in fear of being shot. When are all of us going to get on the same page and finally come together and admit that WE NEED GUN CONTROL? How many children have to die? How many shootings have to happen?

Now, I realize that there are plenty of pro-gun people who would rather die than hear someone even mention the idea of gun control in America, but you’re reading a post from a girl who just missed a shooting by a few minutes yesterday and who knows THREE other locations that I used to go to that all had shootings. This is a very real issue that finally needs to be fixed.

I can also think back to middle school and high school and remember three separate conversations I overheard from other students where they shared that their fathers had a gun collection and gun safes. In each conversation I heard, the students shared that they knew how to use a gun, they knew the safe combination, and if they REALLY wanted to, they could bring the guns into school and murder people. This is America.

On that note, if you’d like to take a look and end this story with a much-needed laugh, you can watch it HERE: Part 1 & Part 2. I know this post is very different than what I typically write about, but this felt like something too big to not write about. And if you know me personally, then you probably understand at this point that writing about my experiences helps me to re-frame things more positively in my mind and process my experience. 

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

The Broken Window Theory & How to Create Massive Change in Your Life

Self-Help

Can you believe that it’s already the end of summer? How freaking quickly is the year flying by? It seems like just yesterday I was writing down my New Year’s resolutions and determined to create a better me in 2019. Well, if you’re anything like me, then you’re probably nowhere near checking off those resolutions and wondering “Who the hell did I think I would be in 2019? Superwoman?”

I’m not the only one who’s made this mistake over and over, and it doesn’t just happen during the new year. We’re all interested in improving ourselves in some way, whether it’s getting in shape, learning a language, learning how to cook, deepening our yoga practice, reading more, etc. But in our good intentions and excitement from a sudden wave of inspiration, we try to do too much and we set ourselves up for failure. We want to change, but often try to create a drastic change in such a short period of time which inevitably only leaves us feeling guilty and disappointed.

This happens with both the bad habits we’re trying to break and the good ones that we want to adopt. A very popular example would be trying to quit smoking cold-turkey. We all know someone (or maybe we are that someone) who’s always “trying to quit.” Don’t worry, there’s no judgment from me!

One of my latest examples was that I wanted to start keeping my apartment cleaner so Matt would be happier to come home to a clean space and our home would look lovely all the time. I decided that each and every day I would have the dishes done, the laundry done, the counters spotless, fresh flowers in the kitchen, the floors vacuumed, the bed made, and the bathroom cleaned – 24/7. I decided this randomly one evening after a surge of inspiration to tidy up the house. Well, it’s now weeks later, and how beautiful do you think the apartment is looking right now? It’s NOT.

My clothes and piles of laundry are scattered all over the apartment, and there’s no sign of my resolution to keep the house clean. The clothes have taken over yet again. If I ever go missing, you just might find me trapped under a pile of clothes in our bedroom. 

As a self-help and self-improvement junkie, I understand more than anyone that desire to improve oneself and feel that sense of personal accomplishment when your goals are met, the house is cleaned, you’ve eaten healthy, and you’ve worked out that day. There’s nothing better than that feeling of being proud of yourself. But too often, we get so excited about that potential to create drastic change and become a better person, that we try to create massive change in our lives overnight. We try to lose 20 pounds immediately, we try to read five books in a month, or we try to go vegan in a weekend. But ultimately those changes don’t last. Changing one’s lifestyle and behaviors takes time and learning.

The Broken Window Theory

This blog post was inspired by a podcast by The Minimalists who I’ve referenced many times before. If you haven’t heard of The Minimalists, they’re best friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who became popular after releasing their documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix. They’re authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers who spend their lives sharing how living with less helped them find happiness, freedom, and fulfillment that money and possessions can’t give us.

In one of their “Quickie” podcast episodes, called “How Small Changes Make Big Progress,”Joshua and Ryan discussed how small everyday changes in our lives helps us move toward sustainability because those radical changes just don’t stick. Radical changes are like crash diets – it’s not feasible to keep that going all the time. However, making small healthy changes, one meal or snack at a time is what gives people the results that they want. Over time, those small changes eventually start to multiply. 

In this podcast episode, Ryan talked about an example of this that he witnessed when he was visiting Tokyo. He noticed that the city was so immaculate and clean that whenever he would see a piece of trash on the ground, it motivated him to pick it up! The city looked so clean and perfect that he felt the need to keep it that way. I think that’s really saying something, because how often do we go out of our way to pick up trash when we’re walking around? 

Joshua gave his example that resonated with me so much that it was the part that inspired this post today. He shared that this phenomenon is often called “The Wildfire Theory,” but he thinks of it as “The Broken Window Theory.”

He explains how in the 1990s in New York City, people were trying to make the city nicer and over time the urban planners realized something interesting in their efforts to turn the city around. They noticed that if there was ever a broken window in one building and they FIXED it, other buildings nearby start fixing their broken windows too. However, the areas that they didn’t fix ended up getting more broken windows and eventually would attract graffiti and other vandalism. Of course, they also noticed that whenever there was a little bit of graffiti, this lead to MORE graffiti. This realization prompted urban planners to not only fix windows all over the city but to create a 24-hour graffiti removal service. All you had to do was call the hotline, and someone would be there to remove the graffiti within 24 hours!

I love this example that Joshua gives because it’s safe to say that the majority of us have noticed this with our own eyes, and I think that it’s much easier to grasp the broken window theory than to picturing a wildfire. The other reason why I love this example is that the same is true for our everyday lives. As Joshua says, “We all have our own broken windows.” They take the form of past traumas, household clutter, toxic relationships, financial stress, smoking cigarettes, unhealthy eating, and weight gain. They’re the things in life that we want so badly to fix, but we can’t. Why? Because that’s A LOT of freaking changes.

And the broken windows are often so subtle that we don’t notice them as the start of a much bigger issue. They show up as the pajamas we throw on the ground in the morning; the laundry that piles that we don’t put away; the “to-do” list that keeps growing; the appointments that have to be made; the dishes that stack up in the sink; the Oreos that we ate last night; the toxic emotions we’ve bottled up since childhood. We don’t make the effort to fix the problem soon enough, or maybe even notice it happening, so it creates more and more chaos.

Then when we decide to make a change, we try to take on too much at once. We try to turn over the entire city of New York in one week; we try to clean our entire apartment in one night; and we try to knock out a to-do list that’s been growing since we rang in the New Year. The reality is that these broken windows have to be fixed the same way they were created: gradually. 

The added challenge that we have to take into consideration is that those “broken windows” are years of habits that have become so ingrained in us that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. It all becomes automatic. We get up in the morning and we throw our pajamas on the ground; we eat dinner and we leave the dish in the sink; we do laundry but we never put it away. So how on earth could we change all of those things at once? I don’t know this for sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s impossible.

How to Create Massive Change in Your Life?

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna leave you on THAT note – by saying it’s impossible, that nothing can be done. So I put together a list of seven ways that you can fix your broken windows in a way that’s gradual AND reasonable, and that have the potential to actually stick long-term. I recommend trying all of them and then picking the one that you find the easiest to incorporate in your life. 

1. Fix one broken window at a time

My first piece of advice is to fix one broken window at a time. If you want to get in shape and focus on your health, maybe don’t declare to the world that you’re going to do P90X every day for the next 90 days, give up all the foods that you love, and stop drinking. Side note: I saw someone do this before and he looked MISERABLE… and also went back to his bad habits once he was done. Just as quickly as he got a six-pack, he lost it. 

Instead make the decision to exercise for an hour 3-4 days a week, or to run a 5k, or get 10,000 steps in. Then, after you’ve made one change and adapted to it, make one dietary change every couple of weeks. Maybe give up that one thing you eat WAY too much of. I met a woman once who lost 25 pounds because she gave up Pepsi! PEPSI! That’s all she did!She didn’t throw in an entire exercise regime and dietary changes all at once. She worked on ONE broken window: her soda addiction. I met her after she had lost all that weight and she talked to me about what her next healthy change would be. She was in the process of trying to decide how she would incorporate exercise next.

So pick one “broken window” and do something that is actually going to work for you in your everyday life. Fixing that window will help you gradually fix the other windows, and in the end, it will last.

2. Set the bar low 

If you find yourself not being able to accomplish those big things you set out to do, set goals that are so ridiculously small, that it would be impossible to NOT do them. Set the bar extremely low! Don’t put pressure on yourself to quit smoking immediately, instead, say I’m not going to smoke after ___ pm. Or I’m not going to smoke more than ___ amount of cigarettes a day. Or I’m only going to get ___ packs a week. Set the bar low and give yourself a chance to adjust.

Here’s another example: You know how much it sucks to unpack after a trip? You know how you have to unpack that suitcase, but it sits there on the freaking floor for days, sometimes weeks, overflowing with clothes that you never want to put away? Ok, maybe it’s just me. I REALLY hate laundry in case you couldn’t tell. Whenever I catch myself doing this… which is anytime I go anywhere, I make the decision to put away ONE item in the suitcase every time I walk by it. Once I decide that I’m able to tackle the suitcase in no time, but if I tried to do it all at once, it wouldn’t happen. 

Set the bar so stupidly low, that you have no reason and no excuse to not follow through. If you want to accomplish something BIGGER, like a bigger goal or lifelong dream, not just unpacking a suitcase, plan out each of the steps that you’re going to be taking. Decide each low bar that you would have to set for yourself in order to finally actualize that dream. Decide to enroll in a course tomorrow, or research your target market, or write one page of your business plan, or finally register as a business, or write ONE page of your book. Write down each low bar you have to set for yourself and accomplishing the bigger things in life. It will make it far less scary, far more reasonable, and it will finally get you moving in the right direction.

3. Gretchen Rubin’s One Minute Rule

If it’s a matter of the little things accumulating and getting out of hand, try using a trick that I learned from happiness expert, author, blogger, and podcaster Gretchen Rubin. She came up with this “One Minute Rule” that’s become incredibly popular with her audience. The idea is that if you can do something in one minute or less, you should do it right away.

This trick helps to tackle countless broken windows throughout the day and prevent them from spiraling into a bigger issue. For example, a plate can be rinsed off and put in the dishwasher in about 5-10 seconds, so you should do it right away. It gets little tasks out of the way and keeps them from boiling up. For that reason, it takes you a few seconds to do something, rather than letting dozens of simple tasks get out of hand. At that point, it would take you an hour, or even several hours of running around trying to do so many things at once. We’ve all been there when we’re trying to clean up a room that we let get messier and messier for the last month, which means that we have to spend the next half a day cleaning to get everything done. It takes so much more time and energy to tackle all of it than it would to chip away one task at a time.

It’s a great trick to adopt as far cleaning and putting clothes away if you’re like me, but it could also be used in everyday life. Because I’m writing this post right now and was reminded of this rule, it finally prompted me to call someone back that I’ve been putting off for two days, even though I knew it would only take me 60 seconds. If you have to do anything that takes a minute or less, like write a quick email, then write the damn email! Otherwise, all it does is add to the collection of broken windows you have going and weigh on your mind. 

4. Set a power hour

This next tip is also one that I learned from Gretchen Rubin. (I really love her in case you couldn’t tell). The idea is that if you have a lot of tasks stacking up – maybe they take a minute or maybe they require a little bit more time and energy – you should set an hour aside each week to tackle them.

You know those tasks that aren’t necessarily hard or difficult, but it requires you to do a few steps, or make a couple of calls, or research something first, or dig through your filing cabinet, so you just keep not doing it? The thought of spending those next 10-15 minutes working on this random annoying task that you don’t want to have to do, keeps you procrastinating and not doing this thing for weeks. I do this to myself whenever I have to go looking for a new doctor. For example, when I decided that I wanted to see a therapist, it took me several weeks to finally start making calls and searching for someone because I knew I’d have to spend at least 20 minutes, researching places in the area, calling people, repeating my insurance information, setting up appointments, and then going to consultations with different therapists.

This task wasn’t hard, but it felt annoying and inconvenient. It took more time and mental energy than putting away some dirty dishes, so I continued to put it off. I’m sure you have some task like that you really don’t want to do! For things like these, it’s a good idea to select a day of the week and set aside one hour to power through these random tasks that you’ve been setting aside. It forces you to finally get it done and make some progress, and it finally eliminates that task that’s been weighing on you and making you unhappy and anxious.

5. Decide 1-3 things you want to focus on the next day

One way to tackle your broken windows, eliminate bad habits, or even accomplish larger goals, is to decide the night before what you will focus your energy on tomorrow. I like to incorporate this whenever I feel myself losing focus on my work and getting stressed out. Each night before bed, get out a notebook or a post-it note and reflect on what you would like to focus your energy on the next day. Remember to only pick one to three items.

I find that this works because otherwise, it’s easy to look at the mountain of tasks that you need to get done in order to be successful or reach a goal, and think to yourself, “Where the f*ck do I even start?” For example, sometimes my list looks something like: 1) Create welcome email 2) Edit new video 3) Start ____ post. Or 1) Publish post 2) Choose quotes for Pinterest graphics 3) Brainstorm ebook ideas. It’s a short list of goals that you know you can reasonably get done the next day and provide some direction and support so you stay on track.

You can use this trick with work, with getting in shape, or with breaking bad habits. It’s even been helpful for me in the areas of spirituality and self-improvement. If you’re trying to lose weight, your list might look something like: 1) Go to the gym for 20 minutes 2) Make dinner at home 3) No snacking after 9 pm. Or maybe 1) Look up ab workout ideas 2) Get some healthy snacks at the grocery store 3) No chips. The beauty of this list is that it varies every day, so you don’t make the same mistake of making a drastic decision or lifestyle changes at once. 

6. Say no

I felt the need to mention saying no on this list as well because too many people try to take on more than they can handle. Not only is it a way that we self-sabotage, but it’s also a reflection of our culture now. It’s a culture where we treat each other like computers that are meant to be productive, to perform, and to function all day long, rather than connect, love, and LIVE.

It’s a culture where high school students feel as if their self-worth is defined by how many AP classes they’re in and if we’re not making six figures, we’re not good enough. I believe that we won’t be able to create massive change in our lives and fix our broken windows unless we learn to first slow down and cut back. Otherwise, our physical and mental energy is drained, while more windows break in an effort to keep all the balls in the air. But here’s the thing, while we desperately need to learn to say no to other people, we especially need to learn to say no to OURSELVES.

We’re our own worst critic and nobody expects more from ourselves than we do. Which is when I get 10 new ideas for blog posts, I expect myself to be able to do all of them. When I have an idea for a video, an email, a graphic, a book, I think that every idea I have to say yes to in order to be the superhero version of myself I want to be. I do this with collabs, with my website, with challenges I make up for myself, and with classes and programs that I learn about. It’s the reason why Matt is always having to have an intervention with me at our kitchen counter and say, “You’re trying to do too much. You’re gonna stress yourself out. You can’t do it all.” While we may have thousands of epic and wonderful ideas, it’s impossible to say yes to all of them. By saying yes to every idea, you’re not even able to see one through completely. So learn to slow down, and say no. Say no to family members who demand too much from you, say no to friends who treat you more like an assistant than a friend, say no to coworkers that try to pass off their responsibilities onto you, and above all, say no to yourself. You can’t do it all. 

7. Remind yourself that it’s going to take time

Last but not least, when it comes to creating massive change in our lives, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s going to take time. I’m so guilty of this because I want everything done, perfect, and completed right away. I’ve very impatient when it comes to my progress and I have to remind myself of this almost daily. And I know I’m not the one human being in the world who does this to themselves. I see it in my friends and family too.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and create expectations that we would never expect from anyone else. And we expect that we should be able to get things done immediately. We go to one CrossFit class and immediately think we’re weak and bad at it because we can’t deadlift 200 lbs. Or we take one yoga class a year and get frustrated with ourselves because we can’t do a headstand right away. When it comes to ourselves, we think we should make progress far faster than is reasonable, which is why it’s so important to remind yourself that things take time. All you can do is to try your best, and eventually, you’ll get there. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I hope this post was helpful for you by highlighting the biggest pitfall that millions of us make every January – we expect to make a massive change in our lives overnight. When it comes to accomplishing lifelong goals, breaking bad habits, or creating healthy change in our lives, for some reason, we feel as if we should do it instantaneously. The problem is that many of us have our own little “broken windows” that have to be fixed before we can do that. Like sleeping in too late, eating unhealthy, holding ourselves back, or staying in toxic relationships. But if you take small steps, and make one change at the time, that effort begins to spread like wildfire.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you noticed that you’ve made this mistake before? Or maybe are making it right now? What are some examples where you’ve done this to yourself? Have you thought of any of your own broken windows? How do you think you could create massive changes by using some of these tips I mentioned? Do you have any other suggestions that you think might help people create massive change in their lives? Let me know in the comments!

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

What’s in the Mail? Muscle MX + My New Favorite Products

Product Reviews, What's in the Mail?

Hello, and welcome to my brand new section of the website called “What’s In The Mail?”

If you’ve been a loyal reader and Instagram follower of mine, then you’re already very familiar with my boyfriend Matt, the emotional support behind Lost Online. He keeps me sane through all the ups and downs of building a successful blog from the ground up. But when he’s not giving me hugs, cuddles, and words of encouragement his REAL job is with IRONMAN Triathlon as an Account Executive of Expo Sales.

At every race, health and wellness brands that are interested in exhibiting their products to a large and active lifestyle audience pay to be a part of the IRONMAN Village Expo. Matt sells expo space for triathlons and marathons all across the country. While negotiating with these companies they sometimes offer to send him free samples of their product. 

Since Matt started working for IRONMAN he and I have been able to test out a wide variety of products that suddenly show up in our mailbox, from activewear laundry detergent to Keto bricks, to Chaga Mushroom shots, and EVERYTHING CBD – pills, creams, sprays, tinctures, you name it. Since we always seem to be trying out some new health and wellness-related product that we haven’t heard of before, he and I thought it would be fun to create mini-reviews on whatever happens to show up in the mail!

This is where Matt and I will showcase and review what we received and each of our thoughts on the product. This new section of the blog is a little bit different than the reviews that I typically do where I create a full blog post and take photos. I prefer to only create entire blog posts on products that I’m really obsessed with because of the amount of time, work, and energy that goes into creating a post.

“What’s in the Mail?” is going to be mini-reviews of products that we received and both of our thoughts on the products. I thought this could be interesting for you all to read since the majority of the time he and I have opposing opinions on the products. I hope you enjoy this new addition to the site and make sure to stay tuned to discover what could possibly be your new favorite health and wellness products.

I just want to throw it out there that we will NOT be trying to CONVINCE people to send us products or asking for products in exchange for a review. We’re simply reviewing the samples that have been given to us and providing our honest thoughts. We have such a good time experimenting with our new samples anyways that I thought why not share it with you all too! After all, we love trying them and the companies are hoping for word of mouth advertising and exposure anyways!

So what’s in our mailbox this week? Muscle MX CBD Balm

This new CBD product was made with the belief that no one should be constrained from leading a full and active life because of pain and discomfort and that the healing powers of cannabinoids and other all-natural ingredients exemplify an active lifestyle. By developing innovative ways for people to apply and utilize cannabis, the creators of Muscle MX believe that can help people improve their lives by living freely.

Before I get into my own review of this product, I’ll first share Matt’s (: He’s been in many photos of the blog before, but this time you get to read his own words! Next go around, we’ll make sure to get some of his love-able personality in the post for you. 

Matt’s Thoughts: 

Muscle MX CBD Balm is a product that I will definitely be using again. It has significantly helped with my neck and knee pain. The two different balms that were given to me were the extra strength heating and extra strength cooling.

The balms come in an easy to use “deodorant roller” cartridge that makes the application super easy and no mess and balm residue is left over on your hands. You just roll the bottom part clockwise to get more of the balm to show! This applicator is a nice feature. The balm does take a bit to kick in but once it does you can really feel the cooling/heating ingredients in the product. The only downside to the balm is that it sticks when put on under your clothes and it is not fast drying, so take that into account when using.

For the benefits of the balm, I have been using both and when my muscles ache or I have sore joints for exercising, I put this on and within about 15 minutes it significantly reduces the pain. I use both in conjunction with each other. The heating balm really helps to loosen up the muscles and joints and then followed up with the cooling, helps to relieve any pain that I have.

I would highly recommend this product to anyone who is highly active and works out 5-6 days a week. Great product for those people who do endurance esports and put a lot of wear and tear on the knees!

Heather’s Thoughts:

I like that I tried this product now, instead of a year ago, because luckily I now have a lot of products that I can compare this to in my mind. I have tried MANY different topical pain products because of Matt’s job, the wellness fairs we go to, and my own research and curiosity. I’ve been on the hunt for good pain relief products whether they include CBD in the ingredients or not. Matt and I are both active people and we both have knots in our necks and backs like you wouldn’t believe! For that reason, I’ve tried very similar items that don’t appear to have done anything special for me, but with this one, I can say that it does work and it’s fast-acting. Unlike many other things I’ve tried, it helps relieve the ache relatively fast.

My biggest problem area, as far as pain goes, is right in between my shoulder blades. That’s where I collect stubborn knots because they’re in a spot that’s so difficult to get to and loosen up without the help of a masseuse. However, after I applied this product, I noticed that the ache started to fade to the point where I had forgotten I was even in pain. I didn’t have to take a pill or have Matt massage the area, it just started to slowly feel better until I thought nothing of it. 

What I like about this product too, is that there’s an Activate Balm for heated relief and a Recovery Balm for cooling relief. I particularly like the Activate Balm for heated relief especially in the evenings before bed because I like the warming effect. The cool one I could see using right after a workout or maybe in the morning because it feels more refreshing. 

The one downside was I noticed with this product is that it was sticky. Whenever we use the product it tends to make the containers gross and sticky so you have to whip them off with a paper towel after. Even though it comes in a roll-on package like deodorant, there’s always some product that goes over the plastic when you apply it on yourself. Then when you put the cap back on it pushes the access product down the container. It’s the same problem you’ll notice when you apply chapstick or deodorant, but Muscle MX is pretty goopy and sticky, so it makes the package and your hands a little bit messy. It’s nothing that a paper towel can’t fix, but it is a bit inconvenient. This is also another reason I prefer to use it at night. I also recommend using this product when you’re wearing a t-shirt you don’t care about. However, the good thing is that the products came in a little black bag so we can store them without them getting anything else sticky.

I will say I wasn’t 100% blown away with these two products. My #1 go-to topical treatment for pain is still Deep Blue Essential Oil by doTERRA, BUT Muscle MX does work and is worth a try. I like to use it for dull aches and pains, but if I was in A LOT of pain I will still reach for ibuprofen or Deep Blue Essential Oil.

The other pro about these products is that they aren’t expensive. To get the bundle with both the Active and Recovery Balm like we have, it only cost $30. The price is very comparable to similar CBD products on the market. Overall, I think Muscle MX is worth a try, especially if you’re someone who is REALLY interested in CBD and trying out new CBD items. 

What I’m Loving Lately

At the end of these posts, I thought it would also be fun to share what products I’m loving right now. These are products that I use constantly or I’m very obsessed with, but I don’t have enough to say about each of them individually to warrant an entire blog post. Here’s what I’ve been loving as of late:

1. Body products from Neob Niagara.

Some of you probably already know that I recently took a very spontaneous trip up to Niagara Falls with my grandmother and my cousin, Devon. It was a quick trip up and back, but during our short weekend there it was wonderful. One of the highlights of my trip was going to Neob Niagara, which I found out about through Instagram. It’s a business that has lavender fields and other flowers and herbs that they grow on the property. They offer tours and lavender picking, and let you roam around the fields taking majestic pictures surrounded by lavender.

They also sell many different body products and essential oils that they create themselves. There’s everything from body sprays, soaps, lotions, shampoos and conditioners, cleaning products, and much more. I decided that while I was there I wanted to bring back some products especially since I’m fragrance-free and loved the idea of bringing back body products that were created from the very flowers I saw with my own eyes. Oddly enough, I came back with mostly rose scented products! Although, the company is most known for their “Glorious Lavender” I’m obsessed with their Rose Geranium products. There’s something so lovely and feminine about Rose, that it’s one of my favorite scents. I decided to try their Rose Geranium Body Spritz, Rose Geranium Whipped Butter, Rose Geranium Body Lotion, and Glorious Lavender Rosemary Shampoo

Since I’ve bought these products I’ve been using the body mist and lotions constantly. They feel so luxurious and smell better than any other fragrance-free lotion or product I’ve been using. Plus they feel particularly special having walked through those fields of flowers myself. And of course, they smell absolutely incredible! I use the hand cream morning and night, the body mist when I’m about to walk out the door into the hot Florida sun, and the lotion every night after my shower. My absolute favorite products is the Rose Spritz, because it’s like wearing a subtle perfume. It smells lovely, and it isn’t overwhelming. If you’re interested in trying them yourself, you can find the products on their website at neobniagara.com.

2. Rose Quartz Stone Bracelet

The next product that I’m absolutely loving is this gorgeous stone bracelet that I bought from a quaint little apothecary in the historical town of Niagara-on-the-Lake called Maison Apothecare. The stone is made from rose quartz beads, wooden beads, and one lava stone beads. I completely fell in love with the color of the bracelet the moment I saw it, and love it even more once I learned that you can put essential oils on the lava stone to make it even more special. I don’t know how much you would actually be able to smell it throughout the day, but I still loved the idea. I knew from the moment that I saw this bracelet it was perfect for me. It’s so beautiful and so feminine, I’ve been wearing it ever since. 

3. Brown, Beaded Indie Market Bracelet

The next product that I’ve been obsessed with lately, is a second stone bracelet that I bought in St. Pete at the Indie Market that happens every Thursday evening. The bracelet was created by Mystic Sisters and is a beautiful stone bracelet with gorgeous brown and nude coloring in it. The reason why I love it so much is because it flatters my skin tone perfectly. At first, I thought I was the only person who noticed that but since I bought this bracelet, I’ve gotten so many compliments on how pretty it is and how it flatters my skin tone. Several of those comments were actually from MEN!

I don’t know about you but I think that means a lot. How often do men compliment us on something like jewelry… especially a compliment that specific?! That’s how you know it’s a beautiful piece of jewelry when even men take the time to point it out! I’ve been in love with this bracelet since the moment I bought it that I’ve been wearing it almost every day. I especially love wearing it along with my rose quartz bracelet.

4. Maison Apothecare Facial Brightening Serum

Next, is another product from Maison Apothecare – their facial brightening serum! The serum is right up there with Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum and the Iluma Brightening Serum in my opinion. It’s so luxurious and you can see the serum brightening up your skin the moment you start to apply it. It works so well and makes my skin so beautiful that I wish I could use it twice a day, however the directions say to only use the product at night time about 3-4 times a day. This is one product I’ll mostly likely re-order because you all know my obsession with serums at this point. I may have a bit of an unhealthy addiction to serums…

5. doTERRA Rose Touch

My next favorite product that I’ve been using each and every day is my new doTERRA Rose Touch roll-on essential oil. (I’m starting to notice a bit of a rose theme in this post today.) This essential oil quickly became one of my all-time favorite doTERRA products. This is the one essential oil that I don’t use for health, cleaning, or beauty purposes, but rather I use it as a perfume! It’s such a soft, subtle, and feminine scent, and I think it smells absolutely amazing. What I love about this product is that it’s rose essential oil, NOT rose-scented perfume, so it smells very flattering, but is also very natural. It doesn’t smell like you’re wearing perfume, it smells like you use a nice rose-scented soap.

I also love this product because it comes in a roll-on package, so it’s easy to apply just like a roll-on perfume. I started using this product daily, so now I keep it right on my jewelry dish and I put it on at the same time as my jewelry before I walk out of the door.

6. Autumn’s Aqua Acrylic Pour Painting

Last, but certainly, not least is a painting that was created by my sister, Autumn. She’s a painter, photographer, and a student at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Autumn, recently started to create these stunning, blue acrylic pour paintings! She sells them on her Etsy and started to promote her paintings on Instagram too. One day she created a few of these acrylic pours and shared them online and I loved this one the second I saw it.

I’m definitely not promoting this for the sake of my sister getting some eyes on her Etsy, I genuinely love this painting. If you don’t already know (even though my social media does a good job of giving it away) my absolute favorite colors are turquoise and blues and I’m obsessed with acrylic pour paintings. They’re so simple, yet so beautiful at the same time. I had my sister let me know the moment she uploaded it to Etsy and I bought the painting immediately. The only downside is that Matt and I are currently out of wall space for new artwork, so I’ve had it propped up against a wall so I can at least enjoy it! She creates a bunch of pieces similar to this one and even created a blue acrylic pour skateboard, which I believe is still available!

And that’s it for my favorite products at the moment and for “What’s in the Mail?”

I hope you all love this new addition to the blog! As always let me know what you think in the comments! Did you like this new addition to the website? Is there anything in particular you want us to review? Are you interested in seeing more of my favorite products?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online! 

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Announcement: I’m Seeing a Therapist + How I Discovered I Had Depression & Why I’m THANKFUL For It

Self-Help

This week’s blog post is a bit different for me. If you’ve read Lost Online for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the fact that’ll I’ll occasionally write about announcements in my life like starting at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition – but never have I shared an announcement THIS personal. 

I’ve debated about sharing this so many times with mental illness being such a sensitive and personal topic but finally decided that keeping this a secret wouldn’t feel authentic. Because I am so passionate about self-help and wellness I really feel called to share my decision with you about seeing a therapist. Keeping such a big decision private (as someone who preaches self-help and wellness each and every week) just isn’t me. I like being honest on my website, even if it’s not always the cool thing to do. 

Very recently, after realizing that I had depression which wasn’t planning on leaving my side anytime soon, I decided to start seeing a therapist. For the first time in my life, I didn’t just entertain the idea or talk about it. I finally picked up my phone, actually made a call, and booked my first ever therapy appointment – a huge step that I wasn’t sure I would ever take. Since that day I keep giving myself mental praise, “Hell yeah, I actually f*cking did it. I took the first freaking step!” It’s not very often I feel proud of myself, but today I am. Up until this point, the idea of seeing a therapist seemed as terrifying to me as much as swimming with a Great White shark. 

So I wanted to come here today, as I normally do, to talk about what prompted me to finally start seeing a therapist NOW in hopes that it will inspire someone else who may be going through something similar and just needs to hear that they’re not alone.

The Build-Up

It’s been nine months since I first moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. with my boyfriend Matt. I could still remember how excited and thrilled I was that I finally graduated from college and was about to start a life with my partner. It was such an exciting time, picking out the decor, signing a lease, grocery shopping together! I was finally growing up and I could not wait. My entire life I looked forward to the day when all this would happen – when my life would start, when I’d have someone to come home to, when I’d finally be FREE to live as I please. I know it sounds crazy, but I honestly thought that once I moved out and had my own place life would be WONDERFUL. It would be perfect. It would be filled with travel, love, beauty, money, friends, adventure, rainbows, and unicorns. LOL. That’s not what happened. 

Here’s what actually happened: Since I first moved to this coast to sunny St. Pete, nothing happened as I expected. There’s been so many big life changes, decisions, and challenges that I didn’t see coming for the life of me. For the first time ever I was in a new town trying to make a life for myself without family or school providing some structure and support. I was alone having to make friends as an adult (which is surprisingly difficult). I’ve tried so many times to make friends with people only to be canceled on and stood up again and again.

I had to get used to a whole other family that’s now in my life with their own opinions and oh so many expectations. I’ve had to deal with WAY more family drama than you would expect both in my family and Matt’s. I’ve been pressured into buying a house before I was ready, with NO ONE around me respecting my feelings. I then fell in love with a house and had that dream taken away after we discovered a disturbing termite infestation and had to resend our offer. 

I felt real financial stress for the first time. I’ve felt the pressure to find a job while being asked every single day, “So did you find a job yet? How’s the job hunt going?” (Apparently, when you are job hunting, it’s the only thing you’re allowed to discuss with people.) I’ve been spewed so much unwarranted advice about job hunting from people who haven’t looked for a job in 20 years. 

I then had months of sleepless nights struggling with the decision to leave my full-time job to pursue what I wanted. Then, I got let go from another job, followed by months of working at home from my kitchen counter leading to a very isolated lifestyle because there’s no “blogger office” you can go into to hang out with people.

That’s not even including the health problems, friend drama, and family issues that are way too private to share online. But the biggest challenge of all – I can’t make one decision in life without someone feeling the need to intervene and share their two cents with me. Wherever I want to live, whichever house I live in, whichever dog I get, SOMEONE has an issue with it. I really believed that once I was on my own that I would be magically liberated from the opinions and judgment of others.

If this is what everyone meant by, “Wait until you get into the real world,” I finally understand what they mean.

That transition period from college to adulthood is extremely overwhelming, and then you throw in health problems, a new city, a new family, and financial stress and it’s no wonder I’ve been so anxious and depressed over the last nine months. There’s been A LOT going on, and those are just the bullet points. 

It reminds me of a quote I just saw on Instagram today that said, “Being an adult is just saying, ‘But things will slow down a bit again’ to yourself until you die.” I think that sentence wraps up the last nine months of my life perfectly. 

How I Discovered That I Had Depression 

All of that brings me to these past few months when I’ve felt so low, so defeated, so disrespected, so helpless that I just felt like, “What’s the point?” “Why even get up early, get a bunch of work done when life keeps handing me one shit sandwich after another?”

My depression stayed while the excitement, motivation, and inspiration fell away. I ended up spending way too many days over the last few months in sweat pants, greasy hair, exhausted for no apparent reason, not feeling like myself at all. So many days I felt lazy, unmotivated with overwhelming sadness or sometimes not feeling anything at all. Sometimes even just getting out of bed in the morning felt like going to war. It seemed impossible. What’s worse is that staying in bed turned into a vicious cycle where I felt guilty and disgusted with myself for not working and getting more done.

Once I was up, I couldn’t even bring myself to take care of myself, do work, eat well, or go to the gym. Some days I would binge on junk food for comfort, other days I wouldn’t eat a thing. Because of how low I felt, I isolated myself more and would hardly leave the apartment. 

It was about nine months of lead up and slowly feeling worse and worse until one day I realized: I don’t think this is normal. This doesn’t seem to be one of my typical “ruts” that might last a few days. It seems more serious than that. 

But I still wasn’t 100% convinced that I was experiencing depression. I thought that in order to be depressed you had to have suicidal thoughts or actions, which I don’t. I still want to live and continue to grow, I still have hopes, dreams, and aspirations, but I still felt terrible and sad most days. So, I became more and more curious about whether or not that’s what I’ve been experiencing. 

This eventually led me to into a google-searching black hole one night. I started looking up articles about how to tell if you have depression and found a long collection of articles that all had similar titles. Most of them said, “30 symptoms of depression,” “20 ways to tell if you have depression,” “12 secret symptoms of depression,” “15 little known side effects of depression.” You get the idea. Well, it turns out, I had ALL of the symptoms and “secret” side effects of depression, aside from one – bed sores.

It turns out that I had depression all along, and just didn’t realize it. It wasn’t until I had every symptom and checked with Google before I finally realized that’s what was going on. It was difficult to finally admit to myself that that’s what I’m going through, especially being someone who’s so immersed in self-help and wellness. I would love nothing more than to “fix” myself and be a perfect, shiny, glimmering example of health, happiness, self-love, and positivity for you. It also was somewhat of a relief though, because there have been too many times when Matt asks me for the third time in one night, “What’s wrong?” Followed by me saying, “I’m tired,” because I honestly don’t know what to say. 

Finally Seeking Help

There have been many times I should have seen a therapist throughout my life, but I never went through with it. I was way too scared to finally take the leap and I had so many irrational fears about what might happen if I actually DID see a therapist. I was afraid of being labeled or being viewed as a freak who couldn’t get their life together. I was scared that I might hear people say to me, “What the f*ck would you have to be depressed about?” Especially if it was my family saying those things. It would make me feel so guilty when they’ve worked so hard to give me the life that I have now. Seeing a therapist seemed almost unfair or even wrong. However, what terrified me the most was the thought of sitting across from a stranger and crying for an hour about my deepest and most personal issues. The thought of that still makes me cringe.

Even though I know SO many people who see therapists and talk about how much it’s helped them through depression, anxiety, family problems, and trauma, I couldn’t bring myself to do it for the longest time. Which only meant that the longer I put it off, the more I built it up in my mind and the scarier it seemed. 

But now here I am, a self-help and wellness blogger that spends days experiencing overwhelming sadness and not being able to get out of bed. I’ve read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, tried all the supplements, adopted all of the self-care rituals, and here I am – experiencing depression. It was that thought that FINALLY made me pick up my phone one day and seek out a therapist. There comes a point when if you experience depression, you can’t leave it up to random authors to play the role of your therapist for you, you need to actually talk with someone. 

So here I am at the start of my own therapy journey and I just had my consultation appointment today (as I’m writing this). After making that initial phone call and setting up my appointment, my fears surprisingly went away and were replaced with an emotion that I was NOT at all expecting: excitement. It appears that all of the overthinking that I did about whether I should or shouldn’t see a therapist for years made that initial phone call scarier than actually sitting down with someone. 

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is the incredible amount of overthinking you’re doing with the problem. Let it go and be free.” – unknown

Viewing Depression in a Positive Light 

Now that I’m finally taking a leap of faith and moving forward with a therapist I’m feeling very hopeful about what’s to come. It’s allowed me to reflect on the last 9 months without being so triggered by it and think about the advice that I wish I could give myself when I first moved to St. Petersburg. I put together three main takeaways that I want to share with you today so that it may reach someone else who needs need to hear this too.

1. Life goes in phases

There will be moments when you feel on top of the world and there will be moments when you’re feeling down. You’ll have the best days of your life, but there will still be the worst days. But as much as it sucks when you’re hurting and life keeps kicking you when you’re down, those times are necessary. It would be impossible to feel on top of the world all the time or else you wouldn’t appreciate it. If everything went your way you wouldn’t realize how special it was and would take it for granted. 

That’s why it’s important to honor the highs and the lows equally. To feel happy and grateful when things are going well and to trust that everything is working in your greatest favor when they are not. 

2. It’s always darkest before dawn

Just as I shared in my latest blog post, “How to Recognize Universal Signs, things falling apart of “bad” things happening is a good thing. A lot of the time, it’s actually the universe working in your favor. I believe that many of the good things that happen to us would be brought into fruition without something falling apart. Just like how you wouldn’t have met your soulmate unless you broke up with that douchebag you used to date in college!

I’m going to go ahead and quote myself for a minute, in case you haven’t read the last blog post yet.

“We can’t expand, fulfill our purpose, or become our highest selves if everything is going well and if everything was EASY. We can’t continue to improve and learn important lessons if everything is rainbows and unicorns all the time. We’d be way too comfortable. And if there’s one thing that I know in this world, it’s that you can’t grow inside your comfort zone…Challenges happen because it’s the universe pushing you to level up.” – Heather Ione Clark

It reminds me of one of my absolute favorite quotes in the world, from author J.K. Rowling: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” If it wasn’t for her challenges, the world would have never been blessed with the magical, wizarding world of Harry Potter!

But just as much as I believe that challenging times happen to us so that we can reach our soul’s purpose, I also believe that the rough periods are happening to us for another reason. We all have lessons that we’re meant to learn in this lifetime so that we can evolve and become our highest selves. Even though it’s much easier to take the victim mentality, instead look at it from the perspective of, “What can I learn from this?”

When I take this healthier and more positive perspective, I’m able to understand that this depression I’ve been experiencing is happening for a greater purpose – it will help me to grow, finally address traumas that I haven’t let go of, and it will help me to inspire others to seek help too. 

3. It’s ok to not be ok

It’s ok if you’re not always feeling “#blessed” like how you are in your Instagram captions. Let’s be honest, we all have crap days and years that don’t quite go how we imagined they would. And that’s ok. I don’t think I’ve met one person who didn’t struggle with some trauma, whether it be a broken relationship with a parent, a sexual assault, or an eating disorder. We all have our things.

When I first decided to see a therapist, I debated not sharing this with you. I didn’t want to admit that even I feel the need to see a therapist. Because I’m a self-help and wellness writer, I should be 100% ok, right? False. Even your super hot personal trainer eats cake sometimes. We’re all human here. 

But I’m sharing this because although this blog is all about self-help, health, and wellness, I’m not claiming to be PERFECT. I’m not claiming to have it all figured out. This is about my journey, my advice that I learn along the way, and above all – transparency. Sharing the not so gram-able moments about my life in hopes to help someone else. Because I know other young women just like me share the same challenges, and I want them to know that it’s ok to NOT be ok. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope you enjoyed this week’s post and it helped you to reflect on your own experience. Lastly, I just want to say that if you’re having a similar experience as me, don’t be afraid to make the call. Those few minutes it takes to call someone are scarier than actually sitting down and talking things out. Trust me, you will be so happy and so proud of yourself that you took the first step. 

“At any given moment we have two choices: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you recently taken the first step to see a therapist? Do you currently see a therapist? Looking back at the time of your life when you decided to seek help, what are some of your own takeaways? What advice would you give to others who are going through a hard time? Do you believe that “bad” things happen for a reason? Do you believe that we’re meant to learn something from moments like this? Even if you don’t AND even if you haven’t seen a therapist, let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

How To Recognize Universal Signs

Spirituality

I came across a funny meme the other day on social media that said: “When you’re waiting to hear back from the universe about that big request you just made…” With a bunch of pictures of a guy not doing anything and staring blankly into the distance while sitting at his kitchen table, on a bench, or standing on the street. I’m not really one for memes anymore, but this one had me dying of laughter the moment I saw it. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve prayed and asked for something and sat around twirling my thumbs waiting for the universe to bless me instantaneously. But of course, it doesn’t work like that!

As you already know from my recent blog post, “How I Transformed my Life with the Law of Attraction: My 8 Powerful Manifestation Techniques and What I Learned From It,” I’m a HUGE believer in the Law of Attraction. I’ve used it to manifest trips, money, material possessions, my partner and the work that I’m doing now.

However, many people have NOT had this same experience. Why? Because we live in a time of instant gratification. We can heat up our food in 45 seconds, summon our favorite TV show with the click of a button, tweet our thoughts out to the entire world whenever the mood strikes. We’ve become so freaking spoiled and so used to getting WHATEVER we want IMMEDIATELY when we want it. Which means that when many people are trying to manifest their dream life with prayers and visualization, they expect even those things to happen immediately too. (Trust me, I’m not above this myself.)

We expect our magical and mysterious universe to have “freaky fast delivery” as if it’s a damn Jimmy Johns restaurant chain. The biggest mistake that people make is they give up on their dreams before they even have a chance to manifest because we’ve become so ridiculously impatient – and that is where recognizing universal signs comes into play.

If you’re a spiritual person just like I am, and you’re trying to manifest something or have a prayer answered, you’re going to want to get used to noticing the signs that the universe is giving you. Not only will it give you hope that everything you ask for is coming your way so you don’t lose faith, but it also helps you find peace in the meantime. That way, you won’t end up like that meme.

Even though the universe might not answer our prayers in 45 seconds, it does always stay in touch with us. In fact, universal signs, synchronicities and coincidences are around us everywhere we look. They’re surrounding us constantly, to the point that we don’t even notice them. Because we’re surrounded by the magic of the universe throughout our entire lives that you could say we’re like fish in water. A fish doesn’t know that it’s in water, because water is ALL that it knows. 

Although it’s impossible to recognize every single sign, and every single action the universe is putting into motion to help us evolve, it is possible to exercise your ability to recognize signs and get better at it. I will say that I’m no expert on the universe because I don’t believe that any of us are. However, I have exercised that muscle over the last six years and have learned to spot little moments in the day that show me that the universe is on my side and everything is working out in my favor. 

Here are the top TEN universal signs that I’ve learned to spot and how you can recognize them in your life too! And if you have any signs that you’ve discovered in your life be sure to comment below and let me know what they are!

1. Meaningful coincidences

The number one universal sign that I’ve learned to spot is meaningful coincidences.

Psychologist Carl Jung was the first person who introduced this concept calling these occurrences “synchronicities,” “meaningful coincidences,” or “a-causal parallelism.” However, this phenomenon has actually been known for thousands of years by our ancestors before modern science came around and we all became skeptics who couldn’t believe something unless we could see it, feel it, study it and prove it. 

Jung introduced this concept in the 1920’s and then went on to write books and papers about the subject, describing it as “the underlying cosmic intelligence that synchronizes people, places and events into a meaningful order,” and “the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.”

This concept also gained popularity thanks to one of my all-time favorite books, “The Celestine Prophecy.” This book is a New Age spirituality book, where the main character goes through an epic adventure and journey through Peru to discover and understand nine spiritual insights required to reach enlightenment which all stems from a moment in his life when he starts to recognize instances of synchronicity. 

“Have you ever had a hunch or intuition concerning something you wanted to do? Some course you wanted to take in your life? And wondered how it might happen? And then, after you had half forgotten about it and focused on other things, you suddenly met someone or read something or went somewhere that led to the very opportunity you envisioned?”

-James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

Everyone has these experiences. However, highly sensitive people are more likely to experience such coincidences since we are more tuned to and aware of what’s going on around us. I’ve been noticing this happen to me ever since I was in middle school. I’ll be thinking of someone when suddenly they’ll call me, or I’ll be thinking of a movie and then turn to the TV and it’s on, or I’ll be going around working through the day to suddenly realize that someone else has been making the same stops to all the businesses that I have. 

If you’re hoping to start picking up on universal signs, start with this one. Become more aware of your environment, the people, the conversations you have. Then, begin by opening up a note on your phone or carrying a small notebook with you and jotting down the coincidences you see happening. Devoting your attention to that moment enough to write about it and remember it will strengthen your ability to notice synchronicity wherever you go. 

2. Familiar faces and names 

This next one is also mentioned in “The Celestine Prophecy” as well and is considered to be another meaningful coincidence. Have you ever been walking around and noticed someone that looked extremely familiar to you or had the same name as a close friend? When the universe is sending you signs, you might start to notice that everyone walking around in public has a familiarity to them, even if you’ve never seen them before in your entire life.

When I started picking up universal signs I saw this constantly. Walking around, everyone seemed to resemble someone that I knew. There were countless times where I would meet someone new and they seemed so familiar to me as if I had met them before. It was a feeling of deja vu, but it was always with other people. I wouldn’t experience deja vu at any other point, but when I would see random people walking around, I would feel it. At one point, I even went to a book club meeting to discover that three of the women there were named Kelly (my mom’s name), Penny (my grandma’s name on my mother’s side), and Joanne (my grandma’s name on my father’s side). 

If you’re waiting for a “sign” from the universe, you’re trying to manifest something, or you’re in a transition period of your life, you’ll most likely notice this in the people in your environment. You’ll hear the same names, see the same faces and recognize people with the same body language of someone you love.

I personally believe that this happens because when you’re in the right vibrational frequency to manifest and you’re connected to the higher power (whatever that is for you) you start to pick up on the fact that we are all one. We are all connected on a cosmic level and everywhere you go, people will feel like a long-lost friend. 

3. Messages through song

If you’re super lucky, you’ll experience messages through song, which is one of my favorite universal signs because it’s so clear and unambiguous. You’ll be thinking about something that you want to do or maybe something that’s worrying you, and suddenly a song will come on with the exact messages you needed to hear. 

I will never forget one day in the car when I was thinking about something that I wanted to do, and a song came on that answered every doubt and every worry that I had, and was so accurate to my situation that it was like I was having a conversation with someone about what I was thinking.

Many people would choose to ignore when this is happening, but when you’re waiting for something to happen or asking for a sign from the universe, it will answer you through your environment and music is one of the easiest ways to communicate that to you because you’re already listening. If this does happen to you, make sure to listen carefully to the lyrics and replay the song to make sure you clearly comprehended the message. 

4. Your inner dialog

The next way the universe will send you signs and try to guide you is through your own voice. You know that voice inside your head that tells you you have to do laundry, or go to the bank, or pick up more toothpaste, or talks non stop when you’re trying to figure out what to wear in the morning? That’s the voice I’m talking about. We all have that inner voice and that inner monologue, BUT sometimes it’s not exactly ours.

If you take the time to meditate, get still, and silence your mind, you may be lucky enough to hear a message in your voice. Some people call this their higher self, the universe, God, or spirit guides. It’s how we channel messages from a higher power when we need a sense of direction. Many people have experienced this voice tell them to take some action and some have even said that it’s predicted their future.

When this happens, we’re simply channeling information from something outside of ourselves. If you’re new to this, I wouldn’t think too much about it though. Come into meditation for several minutes and ask a question out loud or in your head that you want the answer to. If you’re like me, your brain might want to start thinking about the answer or the solution, but don’t allow your thoughts to wander. Focus on your breath or do a full-body scan, and eventually, you may notice little words of wisdom, advice, or insights suddenly popping into your mind. They’re different for everyone, but I find that the messages are often very short, maybe only a few words in length, and they won’t be thought out. There will be no reasoning behind them, and they will simply appear in your head. 

You may also notice this happening even when you’re not trying to channel it through meditation. Sometimes that voice pops in your head as you’re going about your day, or maybe when you’re going through a difficult time, or in a state of flow. It’s often hard to recognize as a download because it comes to you in your own voice, but those messages are important to pay attention to. 

5. Your visualizations appearing

Another universal sign to look out for is your visualizations appearing in front of you. This one is really similar to manifestation, which we associate with getting something that you want in life. However, for this universal sign, you will notice visualizations that you’ve been thinking about appearing in your surrounding environment. Maybe you keep having this vivid visualization of a park, or the sky, or a tree, or a body of water and suddenly, you’ll notice that exact same image you’ve been seeing in your head actually show up in your environment.

The first time this has ever happened to me it was so surprising because I was thinking about this same image for weeks and thinking that I wanted to make it a book cover someday. Suddenly, I saw the image I’d been holding in my mind in real life. Also at this exact same moment, that’s when I was receiving a message through song that I’ve mentioned before.

If you’re looking for comfort and universal signs, make sure to look beyond yourself and pay close attention to the nature that surrounds you. 

6. A feeling of home

Another universal sign that you’ll find when you’re in alignment is a feeling of being home, being complete, being content, or at peace. It’s so incredibly comforting and relaxing because it’s a feeling of being exactly where you need to be. Your mind isn’t racing, you’re not anxious and you feel relaxed. You may feel this way when walking through nature, or walking through the halls of a business you’re interviewing at, or on a plane going somewhere, or after you’ve done your spiritual practice. That feeling of being at home, even when you’re NOT actually at home, is the feeling of being in alignment and being at the right vibrational frequency to receive.

When you do have this feeling, it’s often accompanied by coincidence and synchronicities surrounding you. Let’s say you have this feeling when you first walk into a coffee shop. You may start to notice that someone else in that coffee shop has the same breed of dog that you do, there’s a picture on the wall of something that relates to your childhood, and the barista has the same name as your mom. Or maybe your favorite song will come on or the person sitting at a table is reading a book that you’re read before or have been meaning to read.

Whenever that happens to me, I always feel so at peace and happy and overwhelmed with the possibilities and the mystery of the universe. Make sure to savor each of those feelings that you’re having and each one of those coincidences and use that as an opportunity to practice gratitude or visualization. At that moment, you are in the exact right frequency you need to be in and the universe is showing you through every aspect of your environment that you’re in alignment and you’re exactly where you need to be.

7. Timing

Timing is one universal sign that we all LOVE given how impatient we’ve become because it’s when things are happening to us in a way that’s so convenient. It’s when things are flowing so effortlessly and naturally without us trying to make it happen. It’s just like when you get in your car to go to an appointment and magically catch every single green light between your house and your doctor’s office. This could happen to you throughout the day in a bunch of little ways, or it could happen to you around big life events.

Let’s say you meet someone at a coffee shop who’s looking for a person just like you to fill an open position, you two get to talking, and by the following week, you’ve landed a position at a dream job. It wasn’t forced in any way. You didn’t have to fight for the employer’s attention. You simply met someone, acted like yourself, went on an interview and found that there was such compatibility between you and the employer. It all worked out flawlessly. Even people who don’t believe in universal signs and a magical universe that has our backs will find themselves chatting everyone up about how “everything happens for a reason.” You’ll notice the universal sign of timing when everything is flowing naturally without resistance. Even if you don’t exactly have what you want YET, the universe is clearly setting things up in your favor.

8. Your personal signs

Once you have strengthened your ability to recognize universal signs, you’ll start to see signs that are unique to you. We all have own very own symbols that keep showing up especially when we are more enlightened and connected to the higher power. That’s the universe sending you your very own message.

It took me a few years before I figured out what my signs are and before that, I didn’t even notice that we could have signs unique to us that continue to show up throughout our lives. Eventually, after years of practicing the law of attraction and spirituality, I started to notice that I would always see yellow butterflies, hawks, shooting stars, and cardinals whenever I was in alignment and before I started to receive the things that I wanted. I would notice this especially after I did my spiritual practice and visualization. When I was outside, or even if I just looked out my window, I would see all of these things. I also noticed that if I put myself in a state of flow and used my creativity more than normal, I see shooting stars constantly. 

You may also notice difference animals appearing in front of you regularly. Maybe you’ve never seen a woodpecker and now you see one all the time. Whenever you see something in your environment out of the ordinary that sticks out to you, take the time to reflect on it, and maybe even look up the meaning of certain symbols that you’re seeing. 

9. Repeating numbers 

The most common universal sign that people talk about is repeating numbers, particularly sets of three repeating numbers. Many people call these angel numbers and believe it’s their guardian angels trying to communicate with them. I like to think that it’s the universe or my higher self. Whatever you call it, seeing repeating numbers follow you around is a good thing. It’s how a higher power that often sends us warnings, comfort, and hope. 

Seeing repeating numbers could have a unique meaning to you, but generally, meanings already apply to each number. The more repeating numbers you see in your environment, the more the universe wants you to hear the message. Similarly, the more numbers you see repeating together means the stronger it is. For example, seeing the number 7777777, is a stronger and more powerful message than 77 or 777. Also, seeing two numbers that repeat together, such as 4141, also have their own unique meaning. You can often look at the meaning behind each of the two numbers and combine them to determine what the larger message is. Here are the general meanings of repeating numbers below:

  • 111 – Your intentions are manifesting quickly.
  • 222 – Relax and trust that you’re on the right path. This number also represents partnerships or connections and could mean that you’ve found your soulmate. 
  • 333 – You’re being helped with something that you’re working on.
  • 444 – You’re being guided through whatever you’re focusing on. You’re protected.
  • 555 – Huge changes are coming your way. A major transition is coming, the more 5’s the more impactful it is.
  • 666 – Your thoughts need refocusing. Don’t be dragged too far into the worldly illusion and focusing too much on material things.
  • 777 – Luck is on your side. The universe is congratulating you for your right choices. 
  • 888 – Financial abundance is coming. You’re progressing well. You’re coming into your power.
  • 999 – You’re being nudged to finish something that you have yet to complete.
  • 1111 – You’re on the right path. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re becoming enlightened
  • 000 – Represents a fresh start and new beginnings. It’s also a reminder that you create your own destiny.

Looking at the meaning of different numbers now makes a lot of sense. I remember when I decided to leave my full-time job to pursue content creation, I was seeing 11:11, 222, 7777, and 555 everywhere I went, even though I didn’t understand what those numbers meant. Now, I can see that I was receiving the message that I was on the right path, I should relax and trust that path. The universe was also congratulating me on taking that step and letting me know that major changes awaited me. 

Pay close attention too if you’re driving around or going about your day and suddenly you start to see 1111 or 222 everywhere you go. Seeing a number regularly means that you have to pay attention to it. It’s not a coincidence seeing your bill at a cafe was $5.55, you looked at your clock when it was 5:55 pm, you have to take exit 55, and you go to a friends house where the address is 55. 

You’re meant to infer a message from it. Different numbers also mean different things to everyone, so 222 might be something different for me than it does for you, and that’s ok. The important thing is that you’re paying attention. 

10. Things falling apart

This last one is a little bit bigger and not nearly as comforting as the other signs, but I absolutely HAD to mention this one because it’s so important – things falling apart or “bad” things happening to you. I saved this one for last because it’s the one universal sign that I’ve noticed that isn’t fun at all, however, it’s so necessary and it mustn’t be passed off as a sh*tty day. 

If you’re a spiritual person, then you probably react the same way that I do when something bad happens to me. I think, “How on earth could THIS be happening to ME? I’m a good person, I’m spiritual, I try my best, I’m pursuing a dream even though it’s hard as all hell. Why would this terrible thing be happening to ME? I listen to the universe and follow my dharma and THIS is how it repays me?” I immediately fall into a victim mentality. But after this happened to me for pretty much all of 2019, I’ve finally learned to understand that even the sh*tty things that happen to us are universal signs. They’re the universe playing tough love on us and working in our favor.

Why? Because we can’t expand, fulfill our purpose, or become our highest selves if everything is going well and if everything was EASY. We can’t continue to improve and learn important lessons if everything is rainbows and unicorns all the time. We’d be way too comfortable. And if there’s one thing that I know in this world, it’s that you can’t grow inside your comfort zone. 

Challenges happen because it’s the universe pushing you to level up. This happened to me a few different times this year. Something really bad had to happen to me to push me to do something that I’ve been talking about since I was a teenager! I kept talking and talking and talking about how I was going to do these THREE different things for a very long time. And it took something “bad” happening to me and something falling apart in my life to finally push me to take action. It showed me that things fall apart to make room for something better. 

Think about it, hasn’t there been a time when you felt so horrible and devastated that something happened (like breaking up with an ex, but years later you look back on it and think “Thank God that happened to me! I needed that to happen in order to __(fill in the blank)__.” Things have to dissolve, breakaway, and fall apart in order for something new to come into fruition. Just like how there couldn’t be life without death. So while those other nine signs might be easy and fun to spot, remember to keep this last one in mind. 

Thank you for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope this post was helpful and allows you to spot universal signs in your life with a little bit more ease. Don’t get too distracted by spotting the signs or spend all day waiting for them to show up and give you that inner comfort, but do pay attention to your surroundings. Know that there’s something bigger beyond all of us that is carefully working to bring us closer to accomplishing what we came into this lifetime to create. Have faith. 

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you spotted these universal signs in your life too? What are some examples? Do you have any other universal signs that you’ve recognized that I didn’t include on this list? What are they? What did you learn from them?

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Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.