Put it in the Suggestion Box: I Need an Advice Detox

Self-Help, Spirituality

Hold onto your seats guys! This one’s a doozy. Pull up a chair, grab your blue light glasses, and pour yourself a cup of coffee.

This is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for some time now, but have always stopped myself from writing out of fear that it may come across too pessimistic. But after careful consideration, I decided to do it anyway. Partially because I was lucky enough to meet someone who has had a strikingly similar experience as me. And since then I started to think, maybe I’m not the only one who struggles with this issue… Maybe this is something that’s brewing inside of many of us, but we don’t talk about it out of fear that other people will think we’re too negative, overly angry, or overly sensitive. So here it is. 

This is a post that I’ve created to share my life-long struggle with other people’s opinions about how I “should” live my life. I’ll be sharing my experience with overly opinionated people pushing me to live my life according to their values and opinions leading up to WHY this matters. NOT just for me, but for everyone. I dive into this social issue and explore why I believe this is so prevalent in our interactions, how age and gender play into it, and end with a spiritual reason for this tense energy we’re finding in the 21st century. I also share the important takeaways that I believe we need to hear NOW more than ever so that we can all finally live in a world where we’re allowed to break away from the mold and be different! Where we’re allowed to choose a different path, pursue our interests without judgment, and live according to our personal values. Let’s get into it!

My Story 

I’ve been a bit unfortunate to have figures in my life who are extremely opinionated about virtually every aspect of my life – from the food I eat, the house I buy and to the fact that I want a dog! I’ve had unwarranted opinions thrown at me to the point where it’s become the most talked-about issue during my therapy sessions. And according to my therapist, I’m not the only woman who has had an experience like this (but we’ll get to that later).

Because after 24 years of every important figure in my life having an opinion about how I should live and what I “should” and “shouldn’t” do, I’ve reached max capacity for other people’s “advice.” I’ve been forced again and again to live according to other people’s standards that I can’t take any more input.

Here’s what I mean…

The earliest piece of “advice” or rather opinions that I remember getting as a child about how I “should” live was when an estranged family member told me that I shouldn’t study cosmetology and open up a salon someday, even though that was my life-long dream. Instead, he told me that I should marry a rich man from the country club to take care of me. True story. “You’re not going to CUT HAIR!” he said to me. “How are you going to take care of yourself!? How are you going to buy groceries!?”

Fast forward to my most recent example which happened today (the day I started writing this post). I went to Home Goods to make several big purchases like an office chair and a chair for our living room. I must have told the woman at the register 10 times that I DIDN’T want to open up a credit card, but she wouldn’t listen to me. She felt that I needed to have a Home Goods credit card SO BADLY because SHE loves HER Home Goods credit card. Therefore, I should have one too!

She kept calling me “crazy” over and over again for not wanting to open up the credit card and actually wouldn’t let me buy my furniture any other way! Can you believe that?! Never has someone turned away my money at a cash register before! I was trapped at the register and then ganged up on by two female cashiers who refused to run my card to pay for my purchases. For whatever reason, they felt that I needed to have this credit card and wouldn’t listen to me no matter how much I said that I didn’t want one. Finally, I choked back tears at the cash register as I was forced to open up a card I never wanted (without even hearing the “rewards” or “benefits” of a Home Goods card).

For as long as I can remember I’ve been pressured into making certain decisions and hearing people’s so-called “advice” without being respected at all. From the color that I choose to paint my walls, to the dog I get, to the credit cards I open, to the college degree I chose to pursue, I’ve been bulldozed by others. Sometimes it’s the people who are closest to me, and sometimes it’s strangers. 

This is an issue that has plagued me for as long as I can remember. From the time when I was a child, to even today as I go about purchasing my furniture or home.

I’m not talking about friendly advice that one person passes onto another. I’m talking about someone inserting themselves into my life decisions and refusing to respect my opinion. I’m talking about having to full-on defend myself for months over a choice that I made that doesn’t impact the other person. I’m referring to “advice” like this:

  • “You shouldn’t get a dog. You’ll regret it. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have my dog.”
  • “You shouldn’t get a Samoyed.” (Even though that’s the breed I’ve wanted for a decade)
  • “You shouldn’t move to St. Pete. You should live in Hyde Park instead. That’s where I would live.”
  • “You should buy a house.”
  • “You shouldn’t buy a house.”
  • “You shouldn’t buy THAT mattress, you should get the ______ mattress instead.”
  • “You shouldn’t get your Apple Watch at the Apple store, you should get it at Best Buy.”
  • “You shouldn’t paint your walls white, that’s boring. It’ll just look washed out.” (Even though that’s MY style)
  • “You shouldn’t quit your job. You should wait a year until you get a promotion.”
  • “You shouldn’t go to Europe, you might land a six-figure job at Louis Vuitton.” (This one still confuses me)
  • “You shouldn’t study cosmetology.” (Even though that was my life-long dream since I was 4-years-old)
  • “You should go to business school.”
  • “You shouldn’t move to Florida, you should stay in Wisconsin and finish your degree.” (Even though I have severe seasonal affective disorder)
  • “You should break up with your boyfriend, he seems TOO into you.” (Ummmm it’s called love, and isn’t that a good thing?)
  • “You should eat dairy.” (Even though I’m lactose intolerant) 
  • “You should at least eat butter.” (Yep, still lactose intolerant over here)
  • “You should be on birth control.” (Even though it made me lactose intolerant, severely depressed, and made me lose my hair!) “It doesn’t matter, you should still be on a low dose of birth control.”

These are just a few examples of the opinions I’m talking about. Maybe you can relate?

“Why do you care, Heather?”

From talking with other people about this issue, I’m starting to notice a pattern in how men and women respond to this problem. When I voice this struggle with women, they tend to agree with my frustration. They may or may not have the same experience as me, but they understand how someone blatantly disrespecting my life’s choices is infuriating. When I talk about this with men, their response is, “Why do you care?”

For example, one night when I was venting to a friend about opinions someone said to me about what my family “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing during the most difficult year of their lives (apparently we’re making all of our life decisions wrong) he looked at me, turned his head to the side, furrowed his eyebrows and said, “My question to you is, why do you care? What does it matter to you what someone else thinks?”

And I’m willing to bet there’s someone else reading this post now, thinking the same insensitive thought. “Why do you even care, Heather?” 

Here’s why I care: I’m tired of living my life having to defend every single decision that I make. Who I choose to date, what dog I’m getting, where I get the dog, what house I want to live in, what TV I put in my own damn living room, or what podcast I listen to. I’m only 24 years old and I. am. exhausted. I’m so, completely, 100% exhausted. I’m tired of having arguments with people where I defend the choices I make that don’t even affect them. It’s too frustrating. 

There comes a point where you can only be disrespected by so many people. There comes a point where you can’t take having to argue your life decisions anymore. I hit my limit about two years ago.

Secondly, you and I are human beings. And you know what that means? We all have our own tastes; our own opinions; and our own values. And one person’s tastes, opinions, and values are not BETTER than another’s. This is why we choose to live differently. Some of us choose to not get married or have kids. Some of us decide that we need a big house and a high paying job, while other people decide they want a more simple life. Some of us like the color white for a living room and some like it beige. And guess what? That’s ok. We are all very different people. If we were all clones of each other and made all of the exact same decisions, life would be SO BORING! It wouldn’t even be worth living in the first place. We would all be clones who ate the same food, went to the same school, vacationed in the same spots, decorated our homes the same, etc. There would be no such thing as color, art, or diversity.

Life would be like that movie “Pleasantville” with Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire. In the movie, Pleasantville is a television program and is a “place where life is simple, people are perfect, and everything is black and white.” A place where all the citizens are simple-minded and the world has absolutely no problems, worries, or violence. And NOTHING exists outside of Pleasantville. 

One night, while Pleasantville plays in the background, the brother and sister start fighting over the remote (apparently a magic remote) which ends up transporting them into the world of “Pleasantville” forcing them to live in this black and white, 50s lifestyle where everyone’s desires are repressed and everyone is exactly the same as each other! Do we really want real life to be like that? I’m thinking no.

Why does this matter?

So at this point, you might be wondering, “Ok, why does this matter, Heather?” Well, it turns out that my theory was correct: I’m not the only person who struggles with this issue! In fact, this is something that countless people struggle with, but we just don’t talk about it.

During one of my therapy sessions, my therapist shared with me that my experience seemed more extreme than most of her patients, BUT not abnormal. This is actually a very common complaint among women in particular. Most of her patients that she sees struggle with being bulldozed by other people’s opinions about what they should and shouldn’t be doing. According to my therapist, the difference between me and the other patients she sees is that at least I still fight back.

The patients that she sees who struggle with this challenge have completely given up on asserting themselves altogether. After years of this happening, they reached the point where they have lost their voice. Instead, they’ve become so convinced that their opinion is invaluable and wrong that they don’t make choices for themselves or speak up when they feel uncomfortable.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that I feel so sad. It’s heartbreaking to me to know that there are girls who have completely given up altogether. Who have accepted that society doesn’t respect them enough that they find it easier to let other people sit in the driver’s seat of their own life. If you ask me, I think this needs to stop.

The reason why this matters is that it’s about time that we all learn an important lesson. A lesson that history should have taught us over and over and over again by now. We have to learn to RESPECT each other. To COEXIST. To live in harmony with the other people in our lives without feeling the need to fix them or shape them into how we want them to be.

Because A) It’s not nice. We’re adults and we should know this is freaking rude. Right? AND B) I bet 99% of people would say that living in a Pleasantville would be extremely boring and not fun at all.

So, why do we try so hard to control another person when we know these things to be true?

Why do we do this? 

After putting much thought into this over the last year, I have a few theories as to why we do this to each other.

1. We tend to think we know more than everyone else

I noticed this in people, regardless of age and gender. The vast majority of us think that we know more than everybody else. That we have the correct tastes, opinions, values, and perspective and everyone else is batsh*t crazy. It’s why whenever election time comes around the entire country’s population ends up dividing into two groups and HATING each other. Come election time in every cocktail party, class discussion, and neighborhood conversation you could cut the tension with a knife.

2. We can look at each other’s lives with clarity

Isn’t it interesting how when you look at another person’s life you can tell exactly what they have to do to better themselves? For example, you can look at your friend’s toxic relationship and think, “If she would just break up with him she would be SO much happier.” But when it comes to our own lives it’s a mystery! We’re so emotionally involved in our own lives that we can’t look at it clearly. Yet, we can look at someone else’s life and see what WE feel they need to do to improve because we’re not as invested in it. 

However, it comes across as treating the other person like they are our project. As if we have some sort of authority over another person’s life when in reality NONE of us have it figured out. And also none of us REALLY know for sure what another person “should” or “shouldn’t” do because we’re taking an outside perspective of their life and placing our life experiences on it.

3. We like having a sense of control over others

Playing off of what I said in #2, our own lives are a mystery to us. We all have problems, we all have issues, and health concerns and life crises, that we honestly don’t know how to fix. It’s stressful and overwhelming, isn’t it? Which is why New Year’s Resolutions fail over and over again. It’s hard! Life is hard! Which is why having a sense of control over someone else makes us feel good. It makes us feel better that even though our lives are FAR from perfect if we could just insert ourselves into a conversation and share with someone all of the opinions we have about improving their lives, it makes us feel better. In some cases, it gives us a little power trip because we are asserting ourselves over another person and putting them down. 

But it also makes us feel in control in a good way. It makes us feel valuable, powerful, helpful, smart, and capable. Our own life might be a mess, but at least we were able to fix someone else’s problem. For many people, even if their opinion was not invited or appreciated by the other person, we still feel as if we helped out. A classic example of this would be the relationship between mothers and their children. Moms LOVE that feeling of swooping in and telling their children what to do because it makes them feel happy and helpful regardless of if it actually helped.

This does not mean that we like controlling other people like puppets (although let’s be honest some people do) it just means that we like having control in general because many people lack that control in their own lives.

4. Gender plays a huge role in this issue 

I’m a young woman. Therefore society tends to view me as someone who is weak and needs assistance. As someone who can’t possibly know what she wants out of life and have her own valid opinion. People feel the need to swoop in and “assist” young women by telling them what to do. But it’s not just MEN who do this. In my own experience, most of the time it’s actually women doing this to other women. Society views young women in particular as if they were children who need to be guided and assisted through every decision.

This is also why when I talk to men about this issue they have NO idea what I’m referring to. Men aren’t typically bulldozed in conversations. When they say “NO” to someone, people hear the word “no.” When women say “NO” to someone, people hear the phrase, “I don’t know, convince me.”

And lastly, I think it’s safe to say that gender plays a huge role in this issue because of how men respond to this topic. I’m referring to the question, “Why do you care?” It seems to me that men don’t have to care about someone inserting themselves into their business, but women do. Because when women say no to something or voice their opinions it’s often followed by a long lecture from the other person trying to convince them to choose differently. Men’s opinions and decisions are often respected in society whereas women have to struggle with this issue for decades. If someone doesn’t respect a man’s opinion, they can just go on with their day, but for women, this is an issue that comes up every day for years. We have to constantly defend our opinions so we HAVE to care about this topic, simply because it’s something that affects us more.

I believe that if I was a man, I wouldn’t have people arguing with me about my paint color for TWO YEARS. And I certainly don’t think that I would have been forced to open up a credit card after saying that I didn’t want one.

Disclaimer: I’m NOT at all shaming men in this post and not saying that this experience is the same for all men and women everywhere. I’m simply saying that throughout history and even now, men have been allowed to assert themselves and make their own decisions without needing to defend them. Again, I want to acknowledge that I know this is not 100% the case for everyone.

How do we fix this if we’re on the receiving end?

Of course, you know that I’m not going to leave you hanging with this problem fresh on your mind without addressing HOW to fix it and my takeaways. If you are struggling with this same problem, here are 5 tips that I put together to help you hold your own in a world that just won’t listen.

1. Trust your intuition 

Trusting your intuition is something that I’ve talked about many times in my blog by now. If you want to learn more about intuition, make sure to check out my blog post “How to Recognize Universal Signs.” But I’m bringing it up again now because I know first-hand that it’s extremely difficult to trust your intuition about your own life’s decisions when you have people SCREAMING at you to make another choice. Even if you’ve had a knowingness your entire life about what you should be doing, when it’s you against everyone in your family or every professor at your school, that internal compass is so difficult to trust. It’s much more subtle than a room full of people drinking red wine and criticizing your decisions. 

You look at these people in your life being so vocal about what you “should” be doing, that eventually, you trust them over your own instinct. Even though your internal compass, gut feelings, interests, and skills are all pushing you towards one thing, all of that can be immediately replaced with someone else’s voice, closed-mindedness, and fear-based mentality. Because your intuition doesn’t have a physical voice. You have to really want to listen to it.

But deep down, only YOU know what’s right for you. Only you can tell what’s the right decision for you to make for your own well-being and happiness. As loud as people may scream, as rude as they may get, as nosey as they may be – you have to trust in yourself. Your intuition can give you all the answers that you need and only by having that faith in yourself can you be happy and reach your highest potential and evolvement.

2. Keep it a secret

In a previous blog post that I wrote, “How I Freed Myself From the Opinions of Others,” I wrote about how I learned that if I kept secrets about my life’s decisions from the people who are unsupportive of me I saved myself countless arguments and passive-aggressive comments. 

The people who are supportive of my lifestyle, my dreams, and my interests I share everything with. But the people who aren’t supportive of me, I’m very selective about what I tell them. At first, when I made this decision to keep secrets from people, I remember feeling very sad about it. I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to open up and talk about myself with family, friends, and other important people in my life. But then I realized that with unsupportive people, I’ve never been able to open up to anyways! Keeping secrets about myself has been a lifesaver! 

But I don’t mean keeping secrets in a sketchy or negative way. I just mean that if someone I know is extremely against a choice I make, I’m not going to bring it up and invite an argument. If someone you know has very strong opinions about plastic surgery, then why tell them you’re getting it done if you know it’ll lead to a fight? If someone you know is against a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle, then why mention that you’re going vegan or gluten-free? It’s unfortunate that we have to omit details about ourselves from conversation to avoid being talked down to, but it works.

3. Surround yourself with supportive people

The next thing that I recommend doing if you’re on the receiving end of criticism is to make it a point to surround yourself with positive people. This took me a while to do, and I’m still trying to work on it. But I made it a point in the last year to connect with people who have the same interests as me and are supportive of my lifestyle and my decisions rather than surrounding myself with the same types of people I used to and hoping to earn their approval and acceptance. 

What I’ve learned from that experience is that your mindset is very influenced by the people around you. I went from having an extremely fear-based mentality thinking that I was never going to amount to anything to having faith in myself and seeing my own potential. Whether you realize it or not, you are very influenced by the people around you, and if you want to become the best version of yourself you have to connect to people who lift you up.

I will admit this is something that takes a while to do. You can’t just change your entire network automatically, but you do it one day at a time. My favorite way to do this is by getting someone’s number and scheduling a call or meeting them for coffee. It takes a while, but by slowly building that one relationship at a time, you’ll look back at your experience over the last few months and realize what a profound change your new circle has had on your mindset.

4. Practice what to say

I’ve been talking about this in therapy for weeks and I’ve analyzed this issue for the last year trying to figure out why people do this to me and how to stop it. But still, all that analyzing didn’t help me when someone made me open up a credit card that I didn’t want. It didn’t make all of the opinions from others come to a halt. If you’re on the receiving end of this, the best thing that you can do is spend some time alone and PLAN OUT what to say when something like this happens.

Because I know that when I’m actually in a place where someone is disrespecting me, I’m so shocked that I don’t even know how to respond. For that reason, the situation gets out of hand and before you know it you’re stuck talking with someone who’s being extremely forceful about their opinions or you have multiple people ganging up on you at the same time. To prevent this from happening, I recommend writing and practicing ready-made phrases to say when you’re in the situation. These phrases should be short and sweet, not some long drawn out explanation as to why your opinion matters (like I did in this post lol). They should be short phrases that you have ready so you can use them when you notice this happening.

For example, Matt came up with one once where he said: “Thank you for the suggestion, we will take it into consideration.” It was great, and certainly got the point across, but it was a tad formal! But don’t just choose the phrase and hope that you’ll remember it or be able to use it in real life, it’s important to visualize it and practice. Practice saying this to yourself (maybe in the mirror) so you can practice how assertive you want to come across as well as your tone or facial expressions. This will allow you to practice the phrase so you can use it easily in real-time.

The other reason why it’s important to practice is that by playing around with the way you say it you’ll practice a way of saying the phrase that doesn’t come across as being rude. If it does it will only cause the person to get defensive. 

5. Remember that change starts with you

There are people like me who are more-so on the receiving end of this behavior, but because of this, it’s often behavior that they eventually learn and do to others even if we don’t realize it. For example, have you ever been going about your day having a conversation with someone and say something and immediately think, “Oh my gosh. My mother just came out of my mouth!” That happens to me all the time. We don’t just pick up on someone’s physical habits, we also learn how to interact with others.

Because I’ve become so hyper-aware of people disrespecting my decisions I’ve caught myself passing my opinions and “advice” onto others. The most important thing to take away if you notice that this has happened to you is self-awareness. Don’t just play victim, but notice what has happened to you and recognize that urge to react the same way to others. It’s surprising how much passing our opinions onto other people has become a knee-jerk reaction. Become self-aware so that you can resist the urge to do it to someone else because change starts with you.

Important lessons for all of us. My takeaways:

As much as I felt that it was important to share advice for people like me on the receiving end of opinions, this is a topic that’s not just up to people like me to change. This is a challenging social issue that’s going to take everyone to change. So I wanted to include important lessons and takeaways for all of us to embody. Because it’s not fair for certain people to be steamrolled in life just because of their gender or demeanor.

I think that it’s vital that we all learn these basic lessons and carry them into our interactions with others so that we can all live in harmony regardless of having different opinions, styles, or values. It’s completely ok to have a close relationship with someone (whether it be a family member, friend, co-workers, or neighbor) and have different opinions or disagree. If we all embodied these lessons today, I know for a fact that we would live in a much better world. 

1. Understand there’s a difference between advice and opinions

Over the last several years where I became extremely frustrated with people trying to control me, I gained a reputation for hating ADVICE. But the truth is, I LOVE advice. I appreciate advice and I regularly ask people for advice about health concerns, business, blogging, etc. It’s why I network with other female entrepreneurs, have a business coach, see a therapist, see a wellness ambassador, etc. I love talking with other people about life and hearing their advice.

What I don’t love is someone offering me their opinion and being extremely disrespectful towards me about my choices, style, and life decisions and arguing with me in an attempt to try to pressure me to do something else. Such as live in a city that I don’t want to live in. That is not advice, that’s someone shoving their opinion at me and then trying to pass it off as “helpful advice.” Advice and opinions are two entirely different things. Advice is usually given when someone needs help with something. You give advice when there is a problem that someone is having or if they need help making a decision.

If I said that I was unsure of which town to move to after graduation, and you suggested that I drive through the different towns around Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami to help me decide which area I saw myself living in, THAT’S giving someone helpful advice. Now, if I were to say that I’ve made up my mind that I want to live in St. Pete and have wanted to live there for a year and you were to respond by spending months trying to get me to live anywhere else and disrespecting a choice that I have made, that’s NOT helpful advice. That’s just projecting your opinions and feelings onto me while disrespecting a life-choice that I have already made. See what I mean? Advice and opinions are two entirely different things.

2. Know that everyone’s path in life is different 

If there’s one thing that I really want to become common sense is that everyone’s path in life is different. What tends to happen is that older generations tend to persuade younger generations to live the way that they did and make the exact same choices. But the problem is that every person’s path in life is different, as it should be. Every soul comes to this planet with their own mission, with a purpose, with unique skills and traits that nobody else has. And once we are in these walking, talking, breathing, monkey suits we have our own unique life experience, and as a result, we will choose a different path in life. Choosing to follow your own path, trust your intuition, and make your own choices is what we are all meant to do. Which is why it’s important that we all respect we’re each on our own journey.

3. Remember that times have changed

We’ve all heard that phrase “times have changed” but let’s take a minute to reflect on just HOW MUCH has changed in the last few decades. The world that I grew up in was extremely different than the one my parents and grandparents grew up in. Of course, it was because of the internet. As one adult in my life put it, “your world was much larger than the world we grew up in.” And I think that’s the perfect way to describe it. 

We connected with people online, we grew up as our technology evolved drastically, we watched people’s lives online, and we learned of more opportunities. In fact, it was other bloggers, YouTubers, and podcasters I found on the internet that inspired me to pursue a career in this. For our older family members, their world was a big as the community and the neighborhood they lived in. There weren’t travel bloggers and YouTubers that they followed that exposed them to new things. Now, the world that we live in is extremely different than the one that our parents and grandparents did. This is not to discount anyone’s life experience, it’s just to say that some of the opinions and “advice” that I’ve received doesn’t exactly apply anymore. For that reason, an ideology, opinion, or piece of advice that worked wonderfully several decades ago, is not going to work in 2019 and 2020. 

Which is why when I’m on the receiving end of getting so-called “advice” or opinions from people, it’s not always correct. Their minds are not open to the lifestyle and the career that I want for myself. They’re projecting their ideas on to me, without considering how different my values and ideas are having grown up in the 2000s. It’s important to remember this now and for many years to come, the world is changing quickly, and the advice we give doesn’t always apply for future generations. 

4. Know that people will ASK for your advice if they need it 

As I’m writing this takeaway, it sounds ridiculous to me. Saying that people will ask for advice when they need it, sounds like it should be common sense. But in reality, it’s not. I’m shocked by how willing people are to offer opinions about what I’m doing with my life when I haven’t even asked for them. So I feel the need to pass on this one simple lesson: people will ask you for advice when they need it. 

If someone presents you with a problem or says something along the lines of “what do I do?” THAT’S when you chime in. You don’t chime in when someone has already decided that their lifelong dream was to study cosmetology and argue with them until they change their mind and finally study business. Advice should serve a purpose, and it should be invited at least to some extent. 

5. Know that advice only needs to be shared one time or two times TOPS

Real advice should be given one or two times TOPS. It’s no longer advice when it’s repeated for months, when it comes up at every family dinner, when it’s morphed into one of the top things you discuss with that person. A good way to give someone REAL advice respectfully is to share it once. Once. 

If the person liked that advice and appreciated it, they will listen to you or they will reach out and ask to hear your thoughts again. But repeating it over and over and over does neither party any good. It only creates a source of tension. For example, repeating the same piece of advice “you shouldn’t paint your walls white” for two years to somebody only comes across as you being confrontational, picky, or scolding that other person. Sharing that opinion ONCE is plenty.

When a piece of “advice” is discussed in length for years or months to persuade someone to make a different decision or take a different path in life, it’s not true advice. That’s just trying to control another person and openly disrespecting the other person’s choices. 

6. Understand that old age doesn’t automatically make someone wise

Over the last two years, I’ve started to understand that old age doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is wise (even if they think they are). I used to believe that the adults in my life knew everything. I might have not liked them or agreed with them, but I thought that they were WISE. I thought that they were these authority figures that just knew everything. That they knew what was the exact right and wrong thing to do.

I mean they obviously looked older than me, they have more life experience, they certainly acted like they knew WAY more than I could fathom. But then something interesting happened. I graduated from college, I moved out of the house, and I became an “adult.” And I realized… HOLY SH*T I KNOW NOTHING. I wasn’t suddenly enlightened the moment that I became an adult. I realized that there was really no difference between me and adult figures in my life who were so vocal about how I should be living it. We’re all just basically kids with cars! And some extra money. So why did I have people in my life who were trying to be in the driver’s seat of my life? And why do WE also try to control other people? None of us have it figured out.

Old age doesn’t mean that you automatically know better than a younger person. But we tend to think it does, which makes us closed-minded. It also doesn’t mean that the older people in our lives know all the answers and that we should blindly trust them. None of us were gifted a book when we grew up called “How To Do Life.” Or “Everything You Should Know About Life.” We’re all trying to figure this sh*t out! Which is why we can’t just look toward someone else and think they have the answers for us. It also doesn’t mean that just because WE may be older than another person that we know what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing.

With this realization, I was able to understand that it’s not AGE that makes someone wise. There are women I have met in their 40’s and 50’s that act like they’re 13 and have no emotional intelligence (turn on “The Real Housewives” if you want to see what I mean). And there are 20-year-olds who amaze me with their wisdom. It’s traits like being open-minded, non-judgmental, and self-aware that make someone wise, so let’s carry those traits into our conversations with people!

7. Understand that another person’s life is not your project

I think that it’s worth mentioning that many people insert themselves into someone else’s lives out of a place of love. When you care deeply about someone you want the best for them. However, in doing that sometimes it comes across as trying to fix another person and make them a project. A classic example that comedians love to joke about would be the women who are attracted to certain types of men because they like the idea of helping them. But we all know how that plays out. 

For healthy, happy, supportive relationships, it’s important to understand that one person’s life is not ours to makeover (with the acceptation of the Fab Five from Queer Eye). You can’t project- manage someone’s life no matter what your relationship is. 

8. Know that there’s a paradigm shift 

I want to end this on a spiritual note because I know that this post focuses on a topic that’s not as pleasant to discuss. If you read Lost Online you’re probably aware of my New Age spirituality and philosophies that I like to sprinkle into my posts. I like to take an approach that encompasses self-help, wellness and lifestyle practices, and spirituality because I think they are all equally important.

That being said, in the time that we’re in right now, there is a massive change in consciousness occurring. More people are starting to have spiritual awakenings, question the old ways of doing things, and ask questions like, “What is my purpose in life?” The old paradigm is being replaced with the new one to take us all into our next stage of human evolvement. 

One of my all-time favorite books that talk about this topic is “The Celestine Prophecy,” by James Redfield. In the second chapter of the book, it discusses how “history is not just the evolution of technology; it is the evolution of thought.” Throughout each stage in history, we can see the physical advancements we have made as well as changes in how we view the world. “The Celestine Prophecy” discusses how there is this massive awakening happening and why. That in itself could require it’s own blog post, but the reason why I’m mentioning it here is that this paradigm shift is a major cause of the tension that we see in our interpersonal relationships. There’s friction between younger generations and enlightened individuals with those who are still ingrained in the old paradigm. It’s not just a disconnect that happens because of age, but a disconnect caused by different individuals embracing old and new ways of viewing the world and our purpose on earth.

When I look at this topic from that spiritual perspective, I can find so much peace and contentment. I don’t feel as if I’ve been bullied, I don’t feel like a victim. Instead, I feel kind of honored. I feel happy that I’m one of the individuals who can raise the vibration of the world and be a part of this incredible transformation. If you’re going through a similar struggle as I am, I encourage you to adopt that same change in mindset. Know that it’s not you against your family or friends or co-workers. We’re just at a point in time where people who are embracing the new paradigm are living in the same space as the old one, which is ingrained more in logic, fear, and routine. We can see this change happening everywhere we look today. It can be tense or stressful at times, but we’re living in the most incredible and beautiful period of time. We’re living during a time when everything is shifting. We’ve concurred the physical world, the scientific world, infrastructure, and industry and now it’s time to take the lessons that we learned throughout all of history and evolve. So if you find yourself being bullied by people into making different choices in life, stay true to yourself and understand that the tension your experience is just because you’re on a higher frequency than most.

Thank you for coming to Lost Online!

Wow! So this was a very loaded blog post this week. I went through my experience, I explored WHY I think we have this problem, how to deal with it through self-help practices, and lessons that I feel like everyone must embody if we want to change moving forward.

This was one of those blog posts that I created very much for myself, but also for other people out there who encounter this problem too. It took me several weeks to complete because I knew that by writing about this struggle I will be able to reframe it in my mind. Also because I wanted to fully comprehend every aspect of this social dynamic including how gender, age, and spiritually play into it. For that reason, I kept getting new insights that I originally haven’t discovered. I hope that I did the topic justice and relayed the message as positively as I could. Lastly, if you also struggle with external pressure from others stay true to yourself and what you know is right and know that there is NOTHING wrong with you. Your opinions, preferences, values, and style are valid.

Now, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts! Let me know in the comments what insights you have about this topic! Have you had a similar experience as me? How has this affected you? How do you cope with it? How do you recommend that we fix this on a global scale?

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.

Why I Quit my Full-Time Job to Eat, Sleep, Blog, Repeat

Lifestyle

Yep, that’s right. I quit my stable, full-time, job to become a blogger! You must think I’m batsh*t crazy. Maybe I am. Like I’ve said on my Home Page, I’m one of those crazy nut-jobs who believes you should do what makes you happy over what makes you fit in because our time on earth should be spent doing the things that fill us up and make our souls shine. It should be spent fulfilling our life’s purpose.

Too often people live their lives for a paycheck. They’re so scared to not have stability, or a 401k, or a healthy retirement fund. And I get all of that! Trust me, I panic about all of those things at least once a day. Because the thought of not having control and that fear-based mindset we have about old age, finances, and retirement, is scary.

And you know what’s even scarier than that? The thought of disappointing other people. That’s truly what holds people back the most in life. Because even if YOU know that you would happy quitting your corporate job to move out west, live in a tiny house, and raise some chickens (that was literally the first random example that popped into my head), you know that it would bother your family or friends. You know there would be people who question you and argue your decision even if it has absolutely nothing to do with them.

There’s all of this external pressure to be a certain way from the people in our lives and society at large. The thought of giving up the lifestyle that you’ve had your entire life could be paralyzing. But that fear-based mentality is what traps people in a lifestyle they’re actually miserable in for most of their lives. It may give them a cozy retirement, a Mercedes Benz, designer bags, and fewer rude comments from family, but in the end, it costs them their happiness.

That was the main reason for leaving my full-time job behind. I never wanted that to happen to me. But even still, I know that there are people who question this decision. And I also know that there are other people out there who need some inspiration and motivation. People who aren’t fulfilled with the life they’re leading and need to know that there’s someone else out there who knows how they feel. This is why I left my job to become a blogger…

1. You only get one life

The thing that terrifies me a million times more than finances or disappointing people is realizing at the end of my life that I wasted it. That I spent my life consumed with being the person that I thought I should be rather than being the person I’ve been dreaming of becoming since I was a little kid. There would be nothing in the world that could fill me with as much regret than choosing to NOT live my life on my terms. For that reason, even if I completely fail as a blogger and don’t amount to anything, I’ll still be happy that I did it. I will never regret this decision because I know that I had to at least TRY to give myself peace of mind. Not trying would be a decision that would haunt me, and it would always leave me wondering, “Why didn’t I at least go for it? Why did I hold myself back?”

2. This has always been my dream

Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to create content for a living. I dreamed of creating blog posts and YouTube videos so much that I didn’t even see myself doing anything else. Even though I would tell people my “plan” after college, I never truly believed what I was telling them. While I might have always shared that I was going into public relations, I honestly didn’t see myself living that life and going through with it. But I always saw myself doing this.

Call me crazy, but I believe that there’s a deeper, spiritual reason for this. I believe that if you have these life-long aspirations, they’re not meaningless. I think that we have these dreams ingrained in us because it’s what we are meant to do in this lifetime. If you spend your time fantasizing about a certain life or accomplishment for years and years, it’s your soul’s purpose to do that. These things aren’t random.

The day that I first heard someone explain this is the day that I realized it didn’t make sense for me to do ANYTHING else. It seemed absurd to continue living my life doing any other work but this. To work 40 hours a week doing something that made me unhappy while ignoring that internal voice that told me every day, “This isn’t what you want to do, Heather!” I bet you have your own dream like this. Maybe it has to do with your career, or maybe it’s something else like booking a trip. But whatever that nagging dream is for you that bugs you in the same way as those little devil and angel characters that appear on people’s shoulders in movies, you are meant to do it! Why else would you spend 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 years dreaming about that thing? It’s not random, it’s your soul’s mission.

3. To build a foundation for myself

I know some people probably think I’m insane for leaving a job to start a blog and become a health coach. I continually heard the suggestion that I should wait a year, or a least a couple of years before leaving my job to pursue my dream, that way I would save some money, get a raise, and earn a promotion. That is the option that makes the most sense financially and the option that our society considers to be smart and appropriate. But I left when I did because I knew the importance of starting early.

It makes much more sense to start working on your life-long goal SOONER rather than later. Why? Because overnight success takes TEN YEARS. Overnight success happens by working at something little by little every day, week, month, and year. These things take time. A lot of time, I should add. 

So I knew that if my end goal was to be a writer, blogger, speaker, and YouTuber within the self-help and wellness industry, it’s going to be a LONG time before I get there. It’s going to take building a solid foundation for myself first. The very early stages of following your dream are the most important and they set the stage for everything that’s to come by preparing you and teaching you vital lessons along the way. For that reason, I knew that for me it just made more sense to start while I was younger.

I also had to consider that my dream was much different than most people. My life-long dream requires years of building a personal brand, attracting a following, and developing my core message. It involved me getting sponsors, networking with other health and wellness professions that could help me in the future, and developing multiple streams of income. When your goal is to become a successful author and blogger, the path to success is not as cut and dry as “get a 40 hour a week job, stay for 10 years and then start your business.” If I was to become a successful author, I’m going to have to most likely endure years of showing up weekly and putting in the work before anything big happens. For that reason, I knew that I couldn’t put off until tomorrow what I can work on today. 

4. I’m not corporate

Another reason why I quit my job to pursue my dream is that I knew ever since I was very young that if I had a traditional, corporate job I would be miserable. It simply wasn’t me. Being in a corporate setting doesn’t seem to mesh with my personality.

For example, I’m someone who likes to have tattoos, and wears flowy bohemian pants, and wears lots of rings. Whenever I’m in my professional attire and show up to work I feel like I’m being fake. Or like I’m wearing a costume all day. I feel like a 4-year-old girl who put on her mother’s heels and is playing grown-up. I don’t think I could spend the rest of my life working a corporate job mainly because I don’t think I’d be able to handle feeling fake and not being myself for 40 hours a week. I don’t want to wait until 6 p.m. to kick off my black, work-appropriate, closed-toe shoes to finally be myself. I couldn’t stand feeling restricted and uncomfortable for that much time every day.

On top of that, I also don’t like to talk about the same things that my older co-workers always wanted to discuss at any job I’ve had. The conversation always seemed too boring and cookie-cutter for me. I’m someone that likes to talk about health and wellness, going fragrance-free, traveling the world, seeing therapists, journaling, and pursuing your dreams. I don’t want to hear about what you ate for dinner with your kids last night and what car your wife drives! I want to hear about what books you read! I want to hear about your life-long dreams and your side hustle! I want to hear about what bodyworkers you see or what trip you plan on taking next.

I always knew that I just didn’t fit in with the 9-5 life or co-workers. I was the girl who wore a giant tigers eye necklace to work, who used essential oils at her desk, who did acro-yoga on the weekends, and who blogged about self-help. I’m the odd one in the office. 

5. To feel like I make a difference 

It’s very difficult for me to work at something when I don’t feel like it matters. For example, if I had to work a 12-hour shift at Subway making sandwiches, I would probably scream. All I would be able to think about is how it doesn’t matter whether I’m there or not. I need to feel as if what I’m doing makes a difference in the world.

In school, it was easy to do things that I didn’t believe mattered because school was school, and I absolutely had to be there. I knew I had to show up and pay attention in class and I knew that I had to get random part-time jobs along the way. But when it comes to working after graduation, I feel myself spending an entire day at a traditional job thinking to myself, “Why am I doing this? How is this job even making a difference in the world? Is this really what I spent two decades of my life preparing for?”

However when I worked on campaigns that had messages I believed in, and when I worked at coffee shops and had meaningful conversations, or when I got to spend the day writing – I felt content. I felt like I had a good day because I enjoyed myself and did what I felt made an impact on the world, no matter how small or large. I was happy with how I spent my day because to me it felt productive and mattered. But working a job where customers are nasty to me or all I do is make more money for someone else, I can’t do that. I need to feel as if I’m adding value to the world and spreading messages that help people live happy, healthy, and meaningful lives. Otherwise, what’s the point?

6. To say goodbye to Groundhog Day

You know that Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” where his character is caught in a time loop and he’s repeatedly living the same day over and over? To me, that’s what the 40-hour corporate work week feels like. Even though my calendar says it’s a different day of the week. It all feels the same. And it’s excruciating.

I know I can’t be the only one who hates groundhog day! If there’s not variety and spontaneity in my life, I’m deeply unhappy. Because of that, my work performance suffers. It’s always happened to me for as long as I could remember. If there’s not variety, change, or progress, I feel miserable. For some reason, I get it in my head that life is only ever going to be like that. I feel as if every day will be the same for the rest of my life.

I know it’s crazy but I have an especially difficult time with it than most people and I find myself fantasizing about doing something drastic like joining the Peace Corps or moving abroad to learn Spanish. When I was working full-time I spent half my days seriously contemplating moving to Malaga, Spain for 9 months. I was about to drop everything, move to Spain, learn Spanish, and stay with a family the entire time. Before that, my previous groundhog day panic almost caused me to move to Hawaii and build a tiny house. I have a ROUGH time being tied down to a schedule. I wanted to work for myself because that way I could live life on my own terms and chose to do whatever I wanted that day and make spontaneous decisions. I could take a trip without asking for permission. I could get Christmas Eve off without a boss treating me like they’re doing me a HUUUGE favor. I could say goodbye to Groundhog Day and spend my existence however I wanted.

7. I loathe fear tactics 

I will be honest, I’ve had very bad luck in the past with previous supervisors or managers and for that reason, I’ve been told that my experience is out of the ordinary. So maybe you won’t be able to relate to this one. The majority of people that I’ve worked for (not all of them) used fear tactics as a way to motivate people. I was once told after working a job for 2 months, “I need you to prove your worth to me or else…” They were trailing off to imply that I may be fired if I couldn’t prove that my position mattered and made an impact on the company. I also have heard bosses proclaim to an entire room of employees how unhappy they were with performance and how “things are going to change around here.” Leaving everyone standing in a circle with a scared look in their eyes wondering if they’re going to be the one who gets fired. 

I don’t know about you but I’m DEEPLY against motivating people through fear and think that this part of our work culture needs to stop. We all know that people are far more motivated and productive when they are HAPPY with where they work and when they feel as if their management cares about them and respects them. People work better through being incentivized and motivated positively. Not to mention they are more loyal employees who will stay at the company longer.

However, the main reason why I loathe fear tactics is that I’ve noticed throughout every job that if a manager is using fear tactics I get so nervous and focused on what they think of me that I end up performing worse. I make errors, I mess up, I miss things that they told me to do, and I don’t meet their expectations. I get so scared that I turn into an idiot. My mental energy becomes so focused on what they think of me that I’m unable to do my job which only makes them more unhappy and makes me even more nervous. I hate working for anyone who makes me feel that way. Who fills me up with dread to the point where I’m unable to even do a good job in the first place. Whether I do become successful at this or end up getting another job in the future, I will NEVER be able to be at a company that makes it a point to scare the sh*t out of their employees every Monday morning meeting.

8. I crave freedom

If you read my previous blog post, “15 Reason to Travel While You’re Young,” then you know about how I have a serious travel bug that was passed on to me from my grandmother. I dream of traveling to as many countries and cities as I can. I want to see all of the major sites, I want to travel around our entire country someday, I want to breathe in the fresh air at all of the natural parks, and I want to swim underneath as many waterfalls as I can. That’s my dream. I crave freedom and travel and booking that next adventure. For that reason, I want to build a career for myself that allows me that freedom. One where I don’t have to stress out about asking my boss for permission to take my vacation days.

I want a career that allows me that extra time to cross things off my bucket list. Because that’s what I care about more than anything else. Living a life that is exciting, adventurous, and fulfilling. For me that means the freedom to travel, or as my grandma’s handwriting tattooed on my side reads, “A life full of travel and wonders of our planet.”

9. I don’t want to spend my life making other people rich

There’s a famous quote from Tony Gaskins Jr. that I always think of whenever I have fears about pursuing my dream and wonder if I should have just kept a traditional job instead. The quote is, “If you don’t build your own dream someone else will hire you to help build theirs.” How true is that? If I don’t have the courage and faith in myself to create a business doing what I love, someone will hire me for a measly salary to build their vision. And who says that their dream is more important than mine? And why should I have so much more faith in someone else’s dream than my own?

From where I stand, there’s pretty much those two paths in life: either you follow that epic dream you have for yourself and build your own career, or you work for someone else and make all of their life goals and aspirations happen. And there’s so much greed that no matter how much work you put in, the management, the CEO, the board of the company will always want MORE, MORE, MORE. That’s corporate America for you. To me, starting to build my brand was a way to add some real value to the world, accomplish my soul’s mission, and escape the toxic environment of corporate America (where people are treated like robots meant to make money for the 1%, not like human beings).

10. My introverted personality

This point may seem like the most insignificant and random point on my list of reasons why I left my full-time job, but in reality, I think it was the number one reason. It may not seem like it with how much I share about myself on my blog and YouTube Channel or social media, but I’m actually very introverted. And if you know me personally then I’m sure you’re very familiar with how much of an introvert I am.

As much as I love traveling the world, meeting new people, and being spontaneous, I’m also a homebody. Part of the reason is that I’m an old soul, as I talked about in my recent blog post “An Old Soul Trapped in a Young Body.” But mostly, I’m just a very introverted person. I feel better when I spend most of my time alone. I feel exhausted, drained, uncomfortable, and stressed out when I’m surrounded by groups of people for extended periods of time. I can only take it for so long.

When I was working a full-time job I was extremely overwhelmed being around people 40 hours a week, and then coming home and spending every other waking hour with my boyfriend. The only time I had alone was when I was showering! (I nearly ripped Matt’s head off one day when he flirtatiously suggested we shower together. How dare you try to take my ten minutes a day to myself!) I felt like I was never able to relax and recharge. 

That’s why I knew I had to build a career for myself where I was able to spend most of my time as an introvert. I could still meet up with other creatives, network with other wellness warriors, go to conferences and meet clients, but I wouldn’t be with people 100% of the time. Because as an introvert, I need that space to myself. Sadly, most of the corporate jobs don’t allow people to be introverted. There’s a really interesting Ted Talk by Susan Cain called “The Power of Introverts” about how our world is set up for extroverts and about how introverts offer skills and talents that could add so much value to the world if only we allowed our introverts to be themselves. I highly suggest listening to it, whether or not you’re an introvert OR an extrovert.

11. But above all, to create a life doing what I LOVE

My final point, “to create a life doing what I love.” Oh, you must think I’m so cliche and ridiculous, but hear me out. For the longest time, the American Dream was about equality of opportunity. It was the idea that any goals or aspirations could be achieved by any American regardless of gender, age, or color. We did this through the 40-hour workweek. Americans showed up and worked harder and harder knowing that with hard work and motivation they could create a comfortable, happy, and healthy life for their family and future generations. But then, something interesting happened. The American Dream changed.

It became one that was focused on material goods and keeping up with the Joneses. It happened for a variety of reasons, but that’s far from the point. As our culture changed, so did the American Dream. It became far more focused on appearances, material goods, and social status. It became less about working hard for the dream that our family could have opportunity, education, and stability and more about what car is parked in the driveway. And with this shift in ideology, any concept of creating a life doing what you loved vanished.

We became obsessed with working so that we could earn more, spend more, and keep up with appearances. Consequently, we all filled ourselves with stress and anxiety, spent the day at jobs we hated and blew our money on consumer products. Now we have millions of people across the country wondering: “What’s wrong with me? I got a high paying job, I’m earning six figures, I bought my dream car, I have a big house. Why am I unhappy?”

Hmmm… maybe it’s because we’ve built our entire lives around things that are outside of ourselves. The idea of looking inward and creating a life based on what we want and what would make us happy seems so far fetched, foreign, and unrealistic. The people who claim do it are viewed as unicorns and are thought to have gotten lucky.

But now, people all across the world are starting to wake up. To realize that this idea that was hammered into our heads is just ONE template on how to live. Just because the generations before us found financial success through a traditional 40 hour work week and a boss that they couldn’t stand, doesn’t mean that that’s the ONLY way to live. It’s just ONE way to live. It doesn’t mean that creating a life doing what you like is impossible. And the people who are viewed as unicorns are the few who woke up decades ago and decided to do what they wanted regardless of what other people thought.

I’m one of those people that the majority of society still deems as unrealistic and crazy. I know that with hard work and motivation I could find success not just in a 40-hour workweek at a corporate job, but even by creating a life doing what I love. And I would much rather work hard at creating a life that I love. One that fills me up and makes me happy with the work that I do. Not one that just pays the bills and buys me a fancy car at the sacrifice of my own dreams.

Thank you for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post about why I left my full-time job to pursue blogging and NOW health coaching! I decided to share my reasons for leaving my traditional job behind because I know the battle that goes on in your head when trying to decide whether or not to take the leap into the great unknown and pursue your life-long dreams. And I know that there are many other people out there who are currently dealing with this mental battle and weighing the pros and cons every day in their heads on the way to work. I want you to know that you’re not alone and you’re not insane for wanting to break free of what you’ve been told you SHOULD do throughout your life. Only YOU know what’s best for you.

I also want to acknowledge that I know not everyone can up and leave their job behind to pursue their interests. I know that many people have mouths to feed, high mortgage payments, high medical bills, and student loans that make it impossible to leave their job. To those people, I want to say that I understand that it’s not as simple as this blog post may make it seem. What I will suggest for you is to figure out a way to incorporate your side hustle into the schedule EVERY DAY. No matter who you are, you do have time somewhere in your schedule. The important thing is to at least take action and move the needle forward each and every week so that you are always getting one step closer to making your side hustle your full-time career. Figure out ONE thing that you can do each day to help you move forward and make progress, and if you’re having a hard time, hire a business coach! It’s ok to ask for help.

Before you head out, let me know what you think in the comments! Did you ever leave your full-time job behind to pursue your dream? Are you thinking about doing it yourself? What are some of your reasons for focusing all of your energy on your own goals? What’s your biggest, craziest, wildest dream? Is there a way you can bring it into fruition while keeping your 9-5?

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.

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.

My Holistic Approach to Treating Depression with Herbology & Self Love

Health & Wellness, Self-Help

I made an appointment. I filled out the forms. I was asked personal questions. The health professionals checked my pulse and tongue. By the end of my appointment, the herbalists all reached the same diagnosis: my heart was broken.

Seeing a Western Herbalist?

Years ago if you would have told me that whenever I got sick I would be seeking out the help of an herbalist over a doctor, I don’t think I would have believed you. But sometimes we surprise ourselves like that.

It all started several months back when I ended up getting really sick. I was suffering from tonsillitis that wouldn’t go away, chronic stomach aches every night that lasted hours, and what I thought was my fourth or fifth breast infection. So of course, I went to the doctor. And then another doctor, and then another doctor, and then another and another and another. I had so many appointments, but they always ended up going the same way. The doctor would shoo me out as fast as possible, give me a prescription, and say that they didn’t know what was wrong with me.

After experiencing that for many months in a row, I finally decided to change my methods. I decided to instead go to Traditions Herbal Clinic in St. Petersburg, Fla. I enjoyed my experience and their holistic approach at Traditions so much that when I started to experience depression, getting in for an appointment was my top priority. No way was I going to take random depression pills. Nope. I had already tried that once before when I was a teenager.

I am not at all saying that taking pills is wrong and I know that for some people it is extremely helpful, especially for those who suffer from clinical depression. But pills don’t work for me and I’ve found that they tend to only create weird side effects for me. Plus, being so involved in self-help, health, and wellness, seeing a traditional doctor and going on pills was not at all what I wanted to do. Instead, I was going to go to the Herbal Clinic and go about healthily treating depression by trying to heal from the inside out, not cover up the depression with a band-aid.

My Holistic Approach to Treating Depression

If you’ve never been to an herbal clinic before, it’s the exact opposite experience of seeing a traditional doctor. The approach at herbal clinics is to get to the root of the problem, rather than treat a symptom. The herbalist will sit with you for an hour or more discussing EVERYTHING from your mental health to digestion. They also use very traditional methods that have been used for centuries before we had people in lab coats with medical degrees throwing pills around like candy on Halloween. At the Traditions Herbal Clinic in St. Pete, they specifically use a mixture of Western and Chinese Herbalism. In each visit, they will examine your pulse in nine different places on each wrist to get an idea of how the organs are functioning, and they do a tongue examination. 

The way the appointment works when you go to the student clinic is you sit with them for about an hour and go over everything with them. They write down their thoughts and theories on what’s going on with your body, then one of the owners comes in to make sure it’s correct and to see if they have any other recommendations or additions. The owners include Dr. Bob Linde, AP, DOM, RH(AHG) and Renee Crozier, RH(AHG). (You could choose to see the owners themselves, however, it does cost more money.) I saw Allison for my appointment and then Renee who specializes in cancer care and traditional healing.

After you see both the student and the owner and discuss your health history, systems, diet, lifestyle, digestion, etc., they put together a very specific herbal formula for you and create a wellness plan. The formula and wellness plan that they put together have very specific recommendations that are supposed to help you to heal physically, spiritually, AND mentally. This is exactly the approach that I wanted to take to treating depression. I wanted to sit with someone who talked to me rather than shooed me out of the office and I wanted to be put on a holistic formula rather than with pharmaceutical drugs that only address a symptom. I also decided to begin regular therapy. Which, if you’re interested in hearing about that, make sure to read my last post, “I’m Seeing a Therapist + How I Discovered I Had Depression & Why I’m Thankful For It.”

My Appointment

Disclaimer: I just want to say that the people at Tradition’s Herbal Clinic are extremely knowledgeable in traditional healing and herbalism, so I know I’m not doing their hypothesis justice by trying to explain it myself. But I will try the best I can!

The day I went in for my appointment I filled out all the paperwork and health history information. After that, Allison took my paperwork with her to review for a few minutes and then we started. She asked me all sorts of questions related to what I wrote down, discussed my symptoms with me, checked my pulse and tongue, and even asked me very personal questions about my lifestyle and relationships. Renee then joined us about mid-way through the appointment. 

About an hour and fifteen minutes, both Renee and Allison had come to a conclusion that I’ve never heard before from any kind of doctor or health appointment I’ve had: they concluded that I was suffering from a broken heart.

They shared with me that just as we have PHYSICAL organs like the heart and the brain, we also have SPIRITUAL ones. We have a physical heart just as we have a spiritual heart and they’re both connected. Meaning that when we’re having problems in the body they can manifest as mental issues and vice versa.

In my case, they believed that I have a broken heart, and because of outside influences and comments that I had stored in my memory and internalized, I had also developed awful self-talk. All of this sadness and negativity was building up in my heart and my mind creating depression and symptoms in my physical body. They believed that if I didn’t get a hold on it and heal myself that those mental issues could later manifest in the body and create serious diseases as I age, such as coronary artery disease.

Herbalist Recommendations & Wellness Plan

To heal my body and my heart, Renee and Allison recommended I drink loose leaf tea twice a day that they made for me later that night. The tea is made from a mixture of eight different herbs including schizandra berry, tulsi, eose, hawthorn berry, hibiscus, and passion flower. They also wanted me to take a flower essence tincture three times a day by placing four drops of the essence under my tongue. Aside from their formula they would create for me, Renee and Allison wanted me to be taking Probiotics REGULARLY (not just when the mood strikes) as well as magnesium and vitamin D supplements.

Above all, they wanted me to work on my mindset, my self-talk, and learn to love myself. (Easier said than done, right?) Their suggestions for this were to get three different books that they felt could help me the most, but they wanted me to listen to audiobooks because I remember better when I hear something rather than read it. Two of the three audiobooks they recommended included, “The Four Agreements,” and “The Fifth Agreement,” both by Miguel Ruiz. They believed that I would benefit if I learned to adopt the agreements: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and do your best.

They also believed that I could gain some insight from these books by learning about HOW we make agreements with ourselves and internalize beliefs. They also thought that it would help me learn about how humans spew emotional poison onto others creating more unhappiness on an individual scale which has a ripple effect out into the rest of the world.

The last audiobook they wanted me to listen to is “You Can Heal Your Life,” by Louise Hay. This one is about how our limiting beliefs and ideas are often the cause of illness and how we can change our thinking to improve the quality of our lives. 

Lastly, Renee and Allison wanted me to talk to myself. Also not something I was expecting to hear! They wanted me to talk to myself out loud and in my mind giving myself compliments or saying affirmations. The hope this that though me doing this regularly, my mindset will start to shift and become more loving and compassionate towards myself rather than being an invisible bully that follows me all day.

Those are my herbalist’s recommendations for helping with the depression that I’ve been experiencing from all the stress and big life changes over the last year. From here on I’m supposed to follow their recommendations for the next month until my second appointment. Then I’ll have a follow-up appointment where I’ll go back to meet with Allison and Renee and they’ll examine me again to provide new recommendations to incorporate and to discuss my next round of healing with a second herbal formula. 

My Self-Love Challenge

Because I have an entire month left of taking their advice before the next appointment, I thought it would be nice to make this month a time of serious self-love. Because not only do I want to go into that next appointment having made progress and taking their suggestions seriously, but I also want to see if shifting your mindset is even possible in the first place. I know it must be possible because all the books and blogs talk about it, but I’ve always been so skeptical about whether I could do it myself. Could I REALLY shift my mindset and get rid of my negative self-talk? I hope so. 

So I decided to layout a month-long self-love routine for myself that will help me heal in more ways that one. Here’s my month-long self-love practice!

Morning and Nighttime Skincare Routine – This one may seem very random, but when I got stuck in my rut I was extremely lazy and unmotivated. Throughout all my life I have always had a pretty involved skincare routine complete with oil, a cleansing, a toner, a serum, moisturizer, eye cream, and SPF. But when I felt so low, I could hardly bring myself to wash my face. Now, I’m making it a point to focus on my skin again first thing in the morning and at the end of the day as well. 

Moisturize – I recently came back with all of these gorgeous lotions and body products from my super spontaneous trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake. So as part of my self-love practice, I will also make it a point to moisturize after a shower. As much as I hate the idea that people think self-love and self-care is PAMPERING because it’s NOT, I’ve been completely neglecting those things after I started to feel low. Adopting this simple act of pampering is just one way that I’m showing love and appreciation for myself by taking those few moments just to make myself feel good on the outside, which I believe can also make you feel good on the inside. 

Self Love Reflection – Next I’m incorporating a self-love reflection into the day whether it’s through stream of consciousness journaling or quietly reflecting on something that I love about myself or that I’m proud of. The point is to help me get rid of the negative self-talk by slowly replacing it with happier and more pleasant thoughts that lift me up. 

Affirmations – I’ll admit I’m super new to affirmations. I hadn’t come across any affirmations that spoke to me and I NEVER remembered to do them. But to me, it seemed too weird walking around my apartment throughout the day telling myself compliments as Allison recommended. I decided that as my way of “talking to myself” as she suggested, I would find a list of affirmations and I would say them aloud to myself and meditate on them. This way has been working well for me because I don’t have to think up what I want to say. I instead pick an affirmation for the day and repeat that affirmation until I feel like it’s sinking in. If I’m feeling extra motivated I will read through a list of affirmations or pick several. But either way I pick one affirmation for the day, repeat it for several minutes in the morning, and then make it a point to remind myself the affirmation throughout the day by writing it down in the morning and keeping it close by.

My absolute favorite list of affirmations that I discovered came from Peaceful Banyan Tree in an article titled, “20 Powerful Affirmations of All Time.” I LOVE this list because it covers positive thinking, health, confidence, self-worth, happiness, letting go, money, success, stress, and today. It hits on all of the areas that bring us full-body health and wellness. For that reason, this list has resonated with me and helped me choose my morning affirmation with ease.

  • I am able to find positivity in every situation.
  • I create only positive thoughts and radiate positivity.
  • I am getting stronger and healthier every day.
  • I am taking good care of my mental and physical health.
  • I am becoming a better version of myself every day.
  • I am confident to overcome any hurdles.
  • I know my self-worth and I am worthy of the best.
  • I believe in myself.
  • I am overflowing with happiness, joy, and satisfaction.
  • I choose happiness over doubt and fear.
  • I forgive myself and everyone else for all the mistakes.
  • I choose to release hurt and resentment.
  • I am a money magnet and attract money easily.
  • The universe is creating opportunities for me to earn more and more money.
  • I see success and abundance everywhere.
  • I am becoming more and more successful every day.
  • Every breath I take fills my soul with calmness and ease.
  • I am at peace now.
  • Today is the most beautiful day.
  • Today I lay the foundation for a wonderful future.

If you’d like some more ideas, make sure to check out my “Mantras” board on Pinterest @LostOnlineBlog.

Pray – After doing my morning affirmation, I decided that I would end with a prayer. I ask the universe to help me take the affirmation into the day, and for help in healing and becoming my highest self. I don’t have a script and what I say tends to vary each day. I always speak from the heart and say whatever feels good at the moment. This is my favorite part of my daily ritual because it makes me feel so at peace.

Supplements and Herbs – For the longest time I completely stopped taking my supplements or I would take them very randomly. But the thing is with supplements you have to take them for an extended period to actually receive and notice the benefit of it. For example, when I started taking biotin for my hair and nails, I didn’t notice how much it helped until at least three months later. Now, as part of my self-love practice, I’m making my supplements and my herbs one of my top priorities along with my formula from Tradition’s Herbal Clinic.

Audio Books – In the afternoon or evening that’s when I’ll be incorporating the audiobooks that were recommended to me. Whether it’s at the gym, in the afternoon when I’m done working, or as I’m getting ready for bed, this is where I’ll take the time to absorb all of that knowledge that my herbalists believe will help. So far I’ve listened to “The Four Agreements” and part of “The Fifth Agreement.” I like them so far because the advice is so simple, but I can see how if you adopt The Four Agreements you could be free from all of the dramas that cause us so much pain, and also have greater self-love. 

Gratitude – At this point, you all are very familiar with how much I believe in my gratitude practice, so I won’t rehash all the benefits again. You can check out my blog post, “My Daily Gratitude Practice,” or “Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It.” But it should come as no surprise that when I started to feel so low that I could hardly get myself moving for the day, so of course I didn’t end up sticking to this ritual either. So I’m making it a point to reinstate gratitude in my day. 

Read – Whenever I fall into a funk, I always tend to start numbing with Netflix, which always makes me feel so much worse in the end. I feel as if I’m unproductive and lazy and like I didn’t accomplish anything important. I decided that as part of my self-love ritual I would stop watching shows and instead read in bed every night, not just when the mood strikes. I’m so happy that I’ve adopted this one because I already had so many great conversations with people over our shared love for the book that I’m reading right now: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Meditate – Last but not least is meditation. I’ve been following along with the happiness series on the Headspace app lately and it’s helped me to find some peace and serenity right before I go to bed and fall asleep. I’m such a night owl that usually the moment my head hits the pillow I’m 100% awake, but whenever I meditate before bed that’s not the case. I’ve adopted this last habit because not only will it help me feel a sense of calmness in my mind, but it will also help me to take care of myself by falling asleep at a reasonable hour and be able to wake up earlier than usual. 

How is it going?

It’s now been two weeks since I went to the herbal clinic and got my formula. I’ve been taking it every day aside from the days when I was in Pennsylvania and Ontario because I didn’t want to lose it or be questioned about my brown paper bag of herbs at the airport. I don’t know if the formula is what’s helping or if it’s a combination of self-love practices, supplements, herbs, and books.

I do feel much better than I did before though. I have finally pulled myself out of my latest funk and I’m hoping I’ll keep feeling this way for at least a few weeks. I think what is actually helping me the most is that I LOVE trying out wellness practices and products, so I don’t know if it’s their suggestions exactly, or if I’m just so excited to now be going to therapy and to get to test out all of these recommendations and share my experience. 

I have been feeling incredibly proud of myself though because I didn’t think I would be able to take so many recommendations from someone and incorporate it into my life with such ease. I mean really, I have a hard enough following my dentists one simple piece of advice – floss. But I really want to get better, so I’ve been doing everything! 

Lastly, I just wanted to share that this is how I’m treating my depression right now. I’m seeing a therapist, seeing an herbalist, and adopting self-love. I hope that you find some nuggets of wisdom in here that might help you, however, I’m not suggesting that EVERYONE treat depression by repeating affirmations or taking probiotics. Some people do need medication and some people have serious clinical depression and suicidal thoughts that an herbalist is not equipped to fix. If you’re suffering from depression I HIGHLY suggest that you see a doctor and a therapist. Just keep in mind that these things like rituals, books, and supplements can serve a purpose too, and I believe that trying a mixture of traditional and holistic recommendations will help you heal the fastest. 

Thank you for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thank you for reading and make sure to let me know you’re thoughts in the comments! I’m particularly interested to hear what people think about this post and how I’m going about healing myself. 

What are your thoughts about this post? Did you get any ideas from it? Have you had depression before? How did you go about treating it? What worked for you? Do you believe in going using a mixture of traditional and herbal treatments or do you believe one is better than the other?

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.

An Old Soul Trapped in a Young Body

Lifestyle, Self-Help

Do you have a few moments from your childhood that stick out the most? Small moments that maybe only lasted a few seconds, but are ingrained in your head so perfectly and permanently? I have two moments just like.

I vividly remember being dropped off by my mother at a daycare when I was very young and again on my first day of elementary school. During both of those moments, I stood still after my mom left looking at all the other children run around the room. I remember standing there watching them shouting, playing, and having fun. On the first day of elementary school, I distinctly remember a boy running across the room with a huge smile on his face and chasing someone. Both of those times, I was taking in everything around me. Seeing the other kids, not knowing what to do, and wondering how long I would have to stay. I remember these two moments so perfectly because of how I felt. I remember looking at the children my age and feeling so out of place and so awkward, but more than anything I had this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t belong.

Those two separate days being dropped off at school stand out the most in my memory because they were the first times in my life that I realized I didn’t fit in with my age group. Although those may have been the first times, they certainly were not the last.

The reason why I’m writing this post today is because not too long ago I had an entire weekend where I felt this way. I experienced three full days of feeling awkward and alone and like I didn’t fit in. But I’m glad I did. It helped me become more comfortable with myself after that weekend. Those three days made me deeply self-reflective and overwhelmed me with flashbacks from countless moments where I felt like an alien among my peers. I was reminded of how hard it had been to fit in and how stressful it was spending my 24 years of life fighting with who I was. As uncomfortable and emotional as it was, that weekend helped me to finally let go and accept myself for who I am – an old soul trapped in a young body. A person who’s oddly mature for their age and who’s tired of pretending to be something that I’m not. And just like that I learned to finally love and accept that part of my personality.

That experience also gave me the inspiration to create this post to share a glimpse of what it’s like growing up as an old soul in a young body. This week’s post is a bit different from what I typically write about. It’s much more introspective and gives you a bit of a peak behind the curtain about what shaped me to become the person I am now – someone who’s not comfortable with the mainstream standards of doing things and wants to share my own story and advice to help others who share a similar experience.

Growing up as an Old Soul

I’ve always been an old soul ever since I could remember and before I even knew what being an “old soul” meant.

As I was growing up, Nancy was like a second grandma to me. She’s my grandmother’s best friend of many years and she was always around whenever the family got together for holidays or reunions. I was very close to her growing up, and she would always tell me that I was an old soul. That there was something in my eyes that told her I was “well beyond my years.”

Teachers, neighbors and my parent’s friends would describe me as being “mature for my age.” Friends and peers would describe me as being “a mom.” And my family would make jokes about how old I was and call me the names of my great-grandma or my grandmothers: Virginia, Penny, and Joanne. 

I didn’t understand what all of that meant as I was growing up. All I knew was that I would have rather spent my time talking with the adults in my life or playing cards with my grandpa than playing with other kids at a children’s birthday party. As a child and even a teenager, I really enjoyed the company of adults and the conversations I would have with them. That’s when I felt comfortable. That’s where I felt like I fit in and I was myself.

I didn’t like sports, or large groups, or birthday parties. I followed the rules, listened to adults, and didn’t rebel. I was also very introverted and very much a homebody (maybe because I’m a textbook Cancer). I liked being at home doing my own thing and I would tend to ask myself big questions like, “Why are we here? What do I want to do when I grow up? What kind of life do I want? What do I believe in spiritually?” I was a very introspective person which made having small talk about the weather or what classes I was taking seem excruciating. 

As a teenager, I spent almost every moment that I was at home drinking tea, wearing cardigans, reading. Whenever I was invited to do something where I knew everyone would be making bad decisions, I made up excuses to get myself out of it and told people that I was grounded. Lol. And now when I share that fun fact with friends today, I get a lot of laughs and end up being called a nerd for the rest of the night.

My point is, I’ve always been an old soul since before I could even spell my own name. This was my childhood, my young adulthood, and now my twenties. 

The Plus Side 

Part of me really loved being an old soul, especially when I was very young. I felt like I understood the world in a different way than my peers. I already felt like a bit of a grown up even before I matured. For that reason, adults liked me very much. I could hold a meaningful conversation with teachers and neighbors without being short or uncomfortable like most of my friends told me they felt. And I also kept to myself, didn’t talk back, and followed the rules. I wasn’t one to give the babysitters or a substitute teacher a hard time. 

As I got older I wasn’t a trouble maker. I had no desire to party or experiment with drugs or sneak out of the house. I had no desire to smoke cigarettes as a minor or steal alcohol or become one of the “popular” aka slutty girls. There was no pent up feeling in me that would only be happy by rebelling and making bad decisions. 

For that reason, I felt like being an old soul was a blessing. I’m sure it saved me from many arguments, and fights, and groundings. It kept me out of trouble and it kept me safe because I was content with the simple things. I wasn’t trying to tell my parents that I was going to a sleepover at some girl’s house when really I was going to a party. I felt fulfilled just having a conversation with my mom, spending the weekend with my grandparents, watching a documentary, or writing a paper. I was happy just relaxing at home and I enjoyed my own company.

The Pressure to Fit In

However, being an old soul as a child and teenager made growing up very challenging. I felt like I was the only old soul and introvert around. I wasn’t “cool” by any means and I’m pretty sure the “popular” kids didn’t even know my name. I was also called boring A LOT. Because I didn’t fit in, and I wasn’t rebellious, or outgoing, or immature I naturally had fewer friends. My demeanor in school and in groups of people my age was described to me by everyone that I eventually became friends with as “intimidating.”

For most of my life, I absolutely hated the way that I was. Growing up, all you want is to be accepted, to be liked, to fit in at school, and to have close friends. But for most of my life, I was the odd one out and never really felt like I belonged. I got called lame, boring, mom, nerd – all of the things. I could give countless examples from when I was 4 years old to 24 of times when people put me down and made me feel bad about myself because I was acting too mature or reserved for their liking.

I seemed to be so different than everyone else and all I wanted to be like them. Even when I did meet people who I really wanted to spend time with, a lot of times they wouldn’t invite me to hang out because something about me was just different. I also noticed that I missed out on bonding with certain people because I didn’t have those memories of making bad decisions that bring people together. I just wasn’t interested in “blowing off steam” and “getting it out of my system,” whatever IT is.

I wasn’t interested in the same things as everyone my age or behaved the same way as them. It seemed like I either had to say or do things to fit in and impress my peers or get ridiculed. It was a double edged sword – no matter what choice I made I was unhappy. Connecting with people my age never came natural or easy. 

A few times growing up I would end up being liked by one of the “popular” girls, and when that happened I learned to not get close to them or accept their invitation. It wouldn’t take long before they realized that I didn’t fit in. That I wasn’t cool enough, or slutty enough, or spontaneous enough, or fun enough or whatever it was about me that made me a misfit. 

My nature also impacted my first romantic relationship and caused so many fights. Neither one of us could understand the other person. We fought because I apparently never wanted to have fun and because all he wanted to do was party. I couldn’t understand the desire to spend every moment of your life getting high and drinking Miller Lite, and he couldn’t understand the desire to stay home, watch movies, and talk about life. 

The other big challenge was that even though I felt more like a grown-up, I wasn’t actually viewed as one. I was still just a kid or “a stupid teenager” as my mom loved to say. I was still lumped into the category of immature young people who “just don’t get it.” There were times when I fit right in the adults, but there were times when I was viewed as too immature and I would be left out of conversations because things were too grown up for me to hear or understand. This created another big challenge for me as an old soul trapped in a young body, because I was never fully accepted by any age group growing up and for that reason, I’ve always believed that there was something really wrong with me.

After 24 years now, I’ve also learned from experience that being an old soul and by being myself, I can also have a very strange effect on others – particularly the people who are the opposite of me. I’ve learned that by being an old soul it tends to make the.. shall we say “younger” souls uncomfortable, which has made me a target and further made me unhappy with who I was. 

When I was in a group or at a party, for instance, people would become bothered by the fact that my personality wasn’t mirroring everyone else. In their minds it means there’s something wrong with me, that I’m not having fun, that I’m uptight, or that I need someone to swoop in and help me enjoy the party. They would try to get to me “relax” by trying to pressure me into taking shots, or doing drugs, or dancing no matter how much I said, “No thanks.” It seems that my maturity tended to make some people become self-conscious and as a result, they would single me out until I got fed up and decided to go home.

Think about it, whenever everyone is standing in a circle doing shots, and you’re the one person who doesn’t feel like drinking, there’s always that one a**hole who’s really bothered by it. That one person who’s uncomfortable by someone who’s not drinking and decides to make it their personal mission to get you to “loosen up,” get drunk, and “have some fun.” Meanwhile, they’re completely unaware that you were having a perfectly good time before they tried to step in and force feed you tequila. And it’s always that same person who keeps asking, “Why aren’t you having fun?” I’ve had more moments like this in my life than I can count.

I could go on and on with examples of how being an old soul in a young body has made my experience growing up a weird one. As much as I wanted to change though, it just wasn’t possible. You can’t make yourself become something that you’re not. There are some things about yourself that you just cannot change. You can’t make yourself an extrovert or an introvert, or taller or shorter, or gay or straight. There comes a point in time when you realize that no matter how much the world wants you to change and how different you might be from the majority, that you just have to accept yourself the way that you are.

Self Acceptance 

Even as a 24-year-old, I still have moments that are strikingly similar to those childhood memories where I was surrounded by people my age and all I can think about is how out of place I am. That one particular weekend was the most recent and the most eye opening.

For the first time in a long time I was so uncomfortable and felt so out of place for such an extended period of time that it occurred to me that I’ve felt this way my entire life. When I’m not being made fun of and ridiculed for being the way that I am, I’m punishing myself for it. If other people aren’t making me feel bad, then I’m putting myself down for not trying hard enough, or fitting in better, or for being so different than everyone else. In that moment, I realized that I simply didn’t want to do it anymore. Being an old soul is just my nature. 

I love small groups, and books, and deep, meaningful conversations. I’m the type of person who prefers red wine and conversation over going to a club. It doesn’t matter how many pushy people try to get me to dance or how many people call me grandma, I can’t change myself to fit in with what the people my age consider to be acceptable.

I decided for the first time in my 24 years of life to embrace my nature and fully accept myself for who I am. I decided to surrender and stop fighting my personality and be okay “fitting out” in the crowd. From that moment on I was putting an end to the idea that there’s something wrong with me and that I need to change my personality and everything about myself for acceptance. Because if changing who I am and being fake is the only way to be accepted by the people my age, I don’t even want their acceptance or their social media likes and stamps of approval. I don’t care how many rude comments I get about how “old” or serious I am.

The week after I had three straight days of feeling out of place and hating myself for being different, I came back to St. Petersburg and joined a book club. I ended up spending an hour one day surrounded by women twice my age discussing a very thought-provoking book about managing life’s challenges and I LOVED it. I’m done trying to be something that I’m not to make someone else happy. I’m letting go of the people who make me feel bad about who I am and I’m letting go of the comparison. The comparison game that I always do in my head when I see other people who fit in so effortlessly. I’m letting go of all of that and learning to love, accept, and embrace who I am.

Even though being an old soul often makes me stand out and not fit in as well with the people my age, I know I’ll be happier just by being myself. Because you can’t flourish completely and reach your potential if you’re constantly at war with yourself. You spend too much mental energy trying to change that could be spent working on something to help you grow as a person or meeting the right kinds of people who align with you. That energy could be put towards something constructive like your side hustle, a new hobby, a project, or new relationships. And in the end you’ll be so much happier because you’re allowing yourself to be authentic.

Although this post is much more personal and introspective than most, I’m sharing this with you because self-help and wellness are major themes throughout my writing. I preach about the benefits of self-discovery and why I believe that self-reflection, journaling, and self-love is so important. Even though I write about self-help and wellbeing, just like you I’m also a work in progress. I’m still discovering different parts of myself each year and still learning to love and accept my so-called “flaws.” 

I usually always end my posts with pieces of advice for my readers, but for this one, I have no special advice. Instead, I wanted to leave you with a few takeaways.

Takeaways

1. My experience

The main takeaway that I want people to get from this post if nothing else is the experience of growing up as an old soul. Because it’s not very common, being mature as a child and teenager can be viewed as a bad thing. When children are very young, it could be viewed as being shy, or closed off, or considered that they’re a problem child – as if their maturity is somehow going to make them fall behind in school. Then as these kids mature as teenagers, being an old soul becomes an even bigger problem as it’s not as easy to fit in. I could name dozens of instances in my life where I’ve received subtle (and not so subtle) messages that there was something wrong with me, that me being reserved or mature wasn’t socially acceptable. I know I’m not the only person who grew up with this experience. What I want people to understand more than anything is that it’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing that needs to be changed about these children, and that their maturity should be seen as a blessing and should be nurtured not suppressed. 

2. Be kind to old souls 

Being an old soul has impacted me in the majority of my relationships and social activities throughout my life. It’s caused arguments with people who wanted me to be different and I’ve been put down by countless peers, many of whom I didn’t even know personally. I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences it will teach people to have compassion for old souls. Subtle messages and jokes that children hear throughout their lives DO impact their mental and emotional health and make them believe that they’re unlikeable just because they might not be exactly like the majority. Even though some children may be unusually mature for their age, they shouldn’t be put down for it. And remember there are much worse personality traits to have then being mature!

3. Embrace who you are

If you are an old soul yourself, there’s no point in trying to make yourself something that you’re not. It’s takes too much time, energy, and work and in the end all it does is make you unhappy. You can’t change your personality no matter how much fight who you are. Instead, embrace who are. Once you stop fighting your inherent nature and learn to embrace it, you realize that it’s not as big of a deal as you once thought. I used to constantly fight who I was and do or say things in an effort to fit in, but the moment I accepted my personality and spent my time doing what fulfilled me in the moment I started to feel happier and less like an outsider. I signed up for courses and classes, I read more, I learned about spirituality, and I started to feed that side of me that I tried to suppress for so long because it wasn’t cool. I stopped putting myself in situations where I wasn’t comfortable and did what felt right for me. And if that meant passing up a party and staying in on the weekends to watch documentaries then I would do that. If that meant joining a book club then I would do that. Interestingly, what I’ve learned from embracing who I am and staying true to me is that the more confident you are about yourself, the less people give you a hard time. 

4. Self-ассерtаnсе is a process

My fourth takeaway if you’re an old soul yourself is to accept who you are and to love and respect yourself. As you grow up, you start to realize that there’s parts of you that don’t match the majority or that people don’t think are cool, and there comes a time when you have to let it go and learn to accept that although you might be different there’s nothing wrong with you. This self-acceptance lеаdѕ tо соntеntmеnt bесаuѕе уоu’rе nо lоngеr fighting with уоurѕеlf and playing this internal tug of war but instead finding peace with who you are.

Now trust me, I understand how hard self-acceptance can be. When you’ve had messages throughout your entire life that there’s something wrong with you it can be really difficult to make the switch towards self-love and acceptance. It’s also much easier said than done. I understand that you can’t tell someone else to accept themselves and then it magically happens, it’s something that people have to learn on their own. And even then, it’s a process. There are the days when you slip up and start feeling upset with yourself again and have to remember to be compassionate. But remember, everyone has things that they don’t adore about themselves and we all have our own things that we have to make peace with, you’re not the only one. At the very least, start the process of self-love and acceptance in any way that it feels comfortable to you. Maybe it’s therapy, or yoga, or journaling, or affirmations. It is a process, but it’s worth it. 

5. It gets better 

My last takeaway that I want to leave my fellow old souls with, is that it gets better. The good thing about being an old soul is that you slowly start growing into your age and your peers start to grow up as well. Once you get out of school there are fewer moments where you feel like a misfit and you’re free to live your life however you want without the pressure of trying to find social acceptance among hundreds of teenagers. Year by year it gets better. Truthfully, growing up can be slightly awkward as an old soul, but when you think about it growing up is awkward for everyone! Each person has their own unique challenges and issues that they have to work through, this one was just mine. But if you’re an old soul just like me, know that you’re not alone, you’re not weird, and you’re not lame. And also, I’m down to get tea any day.

As always, thank you for coming to Lost Online and let me know what you think in the comments! Are you an old soul or do you know someone who is? If you are an old soul, what was your experience growing up? Did you find social acceptance or did you find yourself being put down? How do you suggest we nurture children and teenagers who are old souls to help them thrive? If you are an old soul have you learned to love and accept that aspect of your personality? Is there many another personality trait that you’re working on loving and embracing about yourself? I would LOVE to hear from you. 

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 Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

The Start of a New Chapter: Why I’m Studying to Become a Certified Health Coach

Health & Wellness

Hello friends, followers, readers, and subscribers! Today I wanted to come to Lost Online to make an announcement. I’m officially a student with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) studying and training to receive my health coaching certification!

It was over a year ago that I first learned of IIN from someone I had met at a coffee shop in St. Augustine. He told me all about this program he had been a part of for months and how it had completely transformed his life. The program caused improvements in each and every area of his life from his relationships to nutrition. Since then, IIN has been popping up in conversations, podcasts, and social media posts since I spoke with him.

The thought of potentially starting the program continued to keep me up at night and distracted me during the day. With my message about full body health and wellness on Lost Online, I felt called to learn more and finally receive proper education and training on how we can live well during the modern age, and how I can coach people through their own wellness journey.

I’m so excited to embark on this new chapter and learn more from the most accomplished people in the health and wellness industry. You’ll be getting tons more content from me as I explore health-related topics at IIN. Before you start hearing more about the institute in future posts, I first wanted to explain what IIN is, how it relates to my message on Lost Online, and why I decided to pursue health coaching for those of you who are curious.

Thank you for your support on this new endeavor and I can’t wait to take you along with me!

So, What is The Institute for Integrative Nutrition?

IIN is the world’s largest nutrition school that teaches its students unique education theories. While the rest of the health care system in America continues to keep us sick and unhealthy by treating symptoms rather than the cause of dis-ease in the body, IIN is way ahead of its time. Rather the school teaches the importance of getting to the root of “dis-ease” — some misalignment in the body that manifests as sickness and improving our health through the mind, body, and spirit.

The school was created by Joshua Rosenthal, a pioneer and visionary in holistic health and wellness. He built IIN after he realized that people’s health is determined not by how many supplements and wheatgrass shots they take, but by their quality of life. Our mind, body, and spirits are fed mainly by what Joshua refers to as “Primary Food,” which is broken down into relationships, spirituality, career, and physical activity. “Secondary Food,” is the actual food on your plate. If you’re not convinced just think: when all those other areas of Primary Food are thriving in our lives, we are far less likely to rely on the food we eat. When those areas are struggling we binge, we look to food for comfort, and cravings manifest. Primary Food actually overrides Secondary Foods in many ways.

The program is also built around the idea that the body knows how to heal itself (given half a chance) – but we don’t allow it to. We overwork ourselves, feed the body the wrong foods, abandon our dreams, stay in bad relationships, take prescription drugs, stop our spiritual practice, etc…and then wonder why we’re so sick, bloated, stressed out, and unhealthy. The body is the most intelligent computer in the world. If we just take care of it, the body knows how to heal itself. If we just stop treating symptoms and start treating the real cause of “dis-ease” in the body, and it may surprise you how often the diseases are mental and emotional.

The one other central theme of IIN is that it teaches another way to look at “biodiversity.” At IIN, biodiversity is the idea that each and every one of us has a unique body with a unique diet and lifestyle needs. One man’s food or medicine is another man’s poison. Yet there’s a brand new diet coming out each year or a brand new exercise program that promises that it’s perfect for each and every one of us. However, health doesn’t work like that. No two people are the same and therefore their nutrition and lifestyle can’t be identical either.

IIN teaches that in order to have full body vitality, people have to make small changes to improve each of those aspects of their lives in a way that works for them. Otherwise, stress and inflammation linger in the body, and symptoms and diseases develop.

Why is this important?

The reason why this is so important is because we currently have a disease management system in America, NOT a health system. What’s worse is that most of the diseases we try to manage are 100% preventable – they could have completely been avoided with lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, prevention doesn’t make money – sickness, pills, and hospital bills do.

We live in a country where the food system pays NO attention to health, the health systems pay NO attention to food, and the education system pays NO attention to wellness. We’re turning a blind eye to the fact that the health of our bodies and our minds are connected AND that disease can be preventable through living a holistic lifestyle.

Consequently, we’re going through a global health crisis. Access to healthy, organic foods is limited to the small percentage of people who can afford them, while fast food and products filled with sugar (specifically to make us addicted) fill up grocery store aisles, our home, and our bodies. More people are obese and sick than ever.

Now we can point fingers at our government, the health care system, the food industry, and the pharmaceutical companies all day, but that’s not going to get us anywhere. Those entities have enormous amounts of money and power to make sure that their interests won’t be compromised. The only way to change this is through a grassroots movement. Through regular people like you and me going out and learning about full body health and wellness and incorporating it into our lives. Through learning about things like meditation, spiritual practices, biodiversity, healthy eating, stress management, supportive relationships, and more. Eventually, if enough people start taking this approach to full body wellness and making changes, everything else will come behind it. But that won’t happen unless the majority gets on board and starts taking integrative nutrition seriously.

How does it relate to Lost Online?

When people ask me what my blog is about, I always tell that it’s about self-help, health, and wellness. I always say self-help first because I believe that our mental health and mindset are just as important, if not more important than how often you go to the gym or how wonderful you are at getting enough greens.

The most impactful moments of my life came when there was a shift in my mentality, when I felt better about myself, my situation, and the world around me. Once I was feeling better mentally and emotionally and in my work, spirituality, and relationships, my food and nutrition seemed to follow without much effort.

Self-help (no matter how you choose to practice it) is just as important as your diet and lifestyle, in my opinion. That’s why my content revolves highly around self-help with health and wellness sprinkled in. I’ve always felt this way, but until starting at IIN, I didn’t have the language to relay my message accurately. I didn’t know vocabulary like primary foods, secondary food, the circle of life, and grassroots movements to help explain it.

Why I’m becoming a health coach?

I’ve wanted to go into health and wellness since I worked on a smoke- and tobacco-free policy at my college, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. I knew that I was passionate about inspiring others to live a healthy and happy life, but until now I thought the only way I could do it was through sharing content or getting a very traditional job in health care.

Through this program, I’ll be learning how to coach others who wish to feel better every day. I’ll have the tools and the training to help my future clients – and readers – so they reach their potential and not be held back by a foggy mind, anxiety, toxic relationships, or uncomfortable symptoms.

Why? Because I believe that we all are here today walking around in human form because we have a purpose. We were put on this planet to do more than pay bills and make babies. We came here because we all have work to do. We all have special gifts and something spectacular to offer the world. Maybe you want to design clothes made from recycled water bottles, maybe you want to end human trafficking, or create music, or discover the cure to cancer – you can’t do that or function at your best if your primary and secondary foods are lacking.

I realized the power of meditation, self-help, spiritual practices, and lifestyle changes in my own life, and it’s been my passion to help others see those changes for themselves so they can flourish into the best versions of themselves that they can be.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I hope you enjoyed this post and my special announcement! I’m so looking forward to finally receiving an education in health and wellness beyond those uncomfortable health classes I used to take in school (which, let’s be honest, mainly focused on STD and teen pregnancy). I’m excited to finally learn more about how the health of the mind and body are intimately linked and how I can better help others who would like to feel healthy, happy, fulfilled, and vibrant. Stayed tuned for tons of fresh self-help, nutrition, and wellness content!

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you heard of IIN? Do you believe in Joshua’s theory that we are fed more by Primary Foods than Secondary Foods? Have you seen this in your own life? How do you think we can change the health care system and food industry together?

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!

Photo by Whitnie Williams @whitawill.

Sweet Sweat Waist Trimmer Product Review

Health & Wellness, Product Reviews

If you’re a follower of mine on Instagram then you’re probably not at all surprised by this new blog post and Sweet Sweat product review. I’ve been using the Sweet Sweat Waist Trimmer and Workout Enhancer for several weeks, and have been posting some very satisfying (and sometimes gross) videos of me peeling off the Waist Trimmer after an intense workout. Each video looks the same, I stand in front of the mirror and peel off the velcro strap and open up the Waist Trimmer to reveal sweat pouring off of my stomach and hips.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Sweet Sweat in the past year or so. The company has become very well known for videos that have blown up the internet and nearly everyone’s Instagram feed. Influencers everywhere have posted stories and photos of them peeling off the product after a workout to show off their sweat, hard work, and sculpted abs. For this reason, thousands of eyes have been on the company and there’s been tons of speculation about whether or not the product “works” and helps you get a flatter stomach.

Sure it looks like it makes you nice and sweaty, but does it actually do anything? I was among the many people that stared at the videos on social media with interest, and a lot of confusion. I must have thought about the product for two years and how much I wanted to try it. Eventually, the day came when I finally did! I received Sweet Sweat for Christmas this year from my boyfriend Matt and just started using it in February.

So here is my honest review after using Sweat Sweet for over a month. I share how I use Sweet Sweat, clean it, how it works, and the pros and cons that I discovered. This post is not sponsored in any way, I’m not making any money, and these are all my personal opinions and experiences using this product. Here are my opinion and takeaways if you’re thinking about trying Sweet Sweat yourself!

How Sweet Sweat Works + My Disclaimer

Before I get started, I want all my readers to be aware of the fact that I do not believe a product such as this one can make you look like Jillian Michaels. I do not believe that getting in shape is as simple as a $45 online purchase. And this is why I, and many other people, have been a bit hesitant when Sweet Sweat showed up in social media feeds. I believe that working out is what gets you into shape, and unless you actually commit to your fitness journey you’re not going to see your body miraculously tone up.

What Sweet Sweat has posted on their website is that their products improve circulation, accelerate the body’s warm up, improve sweating, increase motivation, and prevent injury.

The company is not making any crazy statements… however, the average person scrolling through social media and watching dozens of people with six packs peeling off the waist trimmer might get confused. It may appear as if the company wants people to think that if you buy this product you will look like these fitness models and influencers. That somehow by a simple purchase and use of a Waist Trimmer will give you rock hard abs. However, the company doesn’t actually say that, and people who think this way may want to go back to high school and re-take health class.

People look like Greek gods NOT because they buy one product, but because they work out for an hour or more every day, count calories, and are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about health and fitness.

I will say that it is true that the warmer your muscles are the less likely you are to injure yourself or pull something. At this point, that is common knowledge. It’s the same idea people have when they wear sweatshirts to workout. Sweet Sweat definitely makes you warm, makes you sweat, prevents injury, and motivates you. And I would be willing to bet that it could improve circulation as well because of how warm I feel when I use it.

The Sweet Sweat company often shows thermal images on social media of people who use the product compared to those who didn’t. The people who use the two products together always have a very warm core revealed on thermal imaging. So yes, it does work in that sense.

However, a common myth is that a product like this will make you burn more fat. This is false. You could lose more weight because you’re making yourself warmer which will make you lose water weight, but it won’t make you burn extra calories or wake up looking like Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike.” If you want results like that you’re going to have to do some serious work through exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle changes. I just don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea about this product.

How to Use Sweet Sweat

Sweet Sweat works when the Waist Trimmer and the Workout Enhancer are used together. You apply an ample amount of the gel to your stomach and the areas you want to target. I apply it all over my stomach, lower abdomen, hips, and back. You can also apply it to problem areas like your triceps or inner thighs. Then you put on the Waist Trimmer over your stomach and make it pretty snug. I like mine to feel pretty tight on my body. I’ve seen that people also put on the Waist Trimmer over their arms or thighs if they really want to focus on those areas more than their stomach.

Side Note: You should not use Sweet Sweat it you have lotion or other gels or product on your body. This could clog your pores and prevent sweating.

Then, I go and workout. I always start with cardio which is either stair stepping or jogging and then go into weights. I use the product the entire time I’m at the gym and I don’t take it off until I’m completely done exercising. At the end of my workout, I undo the Velcro strap and slowly remove the Waist Trimmer. That’s when you see how much you’ve sweated during the workout.

PROS of Sweet Sweat

It’s highly satisfying to peel off

At the very end of your workout that’s when you get that satisfying moment of watching the Waist Trimmer come off while sweat drips from your stomach showing you what a f*cking badass you are and feeling like you’ve just been given a shiny gold star from the Fitness Gods. It’s a pretty great feeling. Sometimes I’ll take videos or boomerangs of it for all of you to see on my Instagram Stories! And that’s why it’s probably no surprise that I’m writing this post now. I may have become a bit obsessed with that final moment in the gym when I get finally see my hard work staring back at me in the mirror. If there’s one thing that I will say about this product above everything else is that it’s incredibly rewarding and inspires you to work out more.

Maybe I’m unique and just a very visual person when it comes to things like that, so someone else’s experience may be different than mine. I wrote another post, “My Apple Watch Turned Me Into a Workout Junkie,” about how the only time I’ve ever been inspired to workout regularly was when I got my Apple Watch and had those three little rings on my wrist that I had to close each day. Something about seeing the rings progress and feeling like I had a goal that I was working toward with a little reward at the end, made me actually exercise. Not occasionally, but every single day for 47 days straight! I live for that moment when I can see my hard work, and Sweet Sweat does that for me too.

I like that reward at the end of the workout. I like to see my rings close and swirl, and I like to see the sweat drip off me at the end of the workout. I feel slightly stupid that I need these rewards to exercise! But whatever, at least I exercise. Most Americans don’t.

I have a feeling that other people have this exact same mentality that I do, otherwise I wouldn’t see so many videos on social media of people closing their rings and taking off Sweet Sweat Waist Trainers. It’s a satisfying and rewarding feeling, and it makes you feel like you’re working towards a goal each day, rather than the goal of a body that you might not see until you’ve put in weeks, months, or even years of hard work. It’s a reminder that lets you know you did well today and you’re one day closer to accomplishing those larger health and fitness goals.

It helps with bloating and water retention for a flatter stomach

Now, I know I’ve told you that a product like this will not make you suddenly look ripped or have an entirely different stomach–and that is true. However, after using this product for a while, I can say confidently that it made me look a bit slimmer. Not because the product will make you burn off more fat and calories, but because it makes your core sweat so much that I’ve noticed that I’m having less bloating and water retention. So yes, I do look like I have a flatter stomach!

I’m someone that gets a lot of bloating and sometimes looks like I have a little “pouch” on my belly. Since using Sweet Sweat regularly, I notice that my stomach always looks flatter now than it did before AND it also looks flatter immediately after I use it. So if you’re one of those people who keeps wondering if Sweet Sweat “works”–meaning will it make you look skinnier–I would (hesitantly) say yes. If you have a problem with bloating as I do, I think you’ll also be able to notice that you look slimmer, especially if you use it regularly. Just so we’re on the same page, it won’t make you look Alexis Ren skinny. It will make you look slightly slimmer. You’ll be able to feel more confident in that tight dress if you know what I mean. (And please someone give Alexis a burger… or 100 burgers. That girl needs it!).

Your core feels warmer during exercise

I also like that when I use Sweet Sweat, my core feels warmer during exercise. As I mentioned before, this does prevent injury and makes you sweat, but I also just like the way it feels while I’m working out. My core feels much warmer even if I’m not focusing on that area and doing a plank or sit up. I notice that the warmer I am the more my heartbeat increases, my body is sweating, and I feel like I’m having an intense workout. In the middle of exercising and even after my exercise I feel like I was more productive and had a more challenging workout than I do if I wasn’t wearing it that day.

It creates support and better posture during exercise

The other big plus that I like about the Waist Trimmer is that my posture is just naturally better when I have it on. I don’t get as sloppy or loose no matter what exercise I’m doing. Nice posture is not only good for our health, but it also looks better and helps me maintain better form. I don’t have to work hard to have correct form when there’s something wrapped around me keeping my core and my spine straight. It feels similar to people who use a weightlifting belt for support so that they maintain good posture and are less likely to injure themselves.

I also will say that waist trainers, in general, are known to weaken your core because your core does not have to work as hard and relies on the trainer. So for this reason, I wouldn’t use an actual waist trainer that the Kardashians have been pushing. Sweet Sweat is meant to be used for exercising to help you stay warm and sweat more, it’s not designed to create that hourglass shape. So that’s a good thing! I would never recommend using a waist trainer that could squish organs and break bones. If you’re at all worried about Sweet Sweat, I would only use Sweet Sweat when exercising, and I would also make sure to not neglect the core! You’ll still have to do your planks!

CONS of Using Sweet Sweat

SO MUCH SWEAT

One thing that I don’t particularly like is that this product really does make you sweat a lot more than you’re used to. When I use Sweet Sweat the perspiration actually drips out from under the Waist Trimmer and makes my pants wet. Not damp, wet. It’s pretty nasty. I think it could be because I’m someone who just naturally sweats a lot anyway, so using a product that’s designed to make you sweat gets pretty gross for me. I already drip sweat when I workout, but now when I use Sweet Sweat, it’s a crazy amount! Like, I need to use a towel and wipe sweat off me every minute kind of sweat.

It also doesn’t just make me sweat in the areas where I put it on. I’ve noticed that when I use Sweet Sweat I sweat more over my entire body. So if you’re someone that hardly sweats you’ll probably really like this product, but if you’re like me and you sweat like an animal, it might not be your cup of tea. So there are some days when I decide to not wear it because I’m just not in the mood to feel that sweaty, that gross, and that warm. Some days I just want to take it easy. Other days I love that part about Sweet Sweat, and how intense and sweaty my workouts are because it makes me feel like I’m working harder.

I can’t use Sweet Sweat with light colored clothing

This is because of how much I sweat when I use the product. I have to be conscious of not wearing light-colored clothing like light pink, grey, or blue. I have to wear it with dark or neon colors or else the sweat is very obvious. It wouldn’t really bother me if I wore it in a home gym, but when I exercise in a gym with other people or in a workout class, it would just be embarrassing or awkward to have wet clothing or have to wipe off sweat that much. Again this could be a problem that is unique to me and my body, but if you know you’re someone who sweats a lot like me, you probably will want to be conscious of that while wearing it in a public gym or with light-colored clothes. Unless you’re a badass that just doesn’t care what other people think at all. Keep doing you, make sure to comment on your secret!

Cleaning the product takes a minute

When I first started using the Waist Trimmer, Sweet Sweat put in the directions to wipe off the Waist Trimmer with a towel after use. However, once you actually get the product and notice the material and all of the holes in the product where sweat can hide, you’ll realize that cleaning the product like that would not only take forever but is also NOT sanitary. My Waist Trimmer now has a permanent home hanging in the shower.

After each workout I hop in the shower and rinse it off and then I use my body soap or body wash to soap up the product and scrub it before I rinse it off and hang it to dry. That gets the sweat out of all the little areas, cleans it well so it’s not smelly and growing bacteria, and then it helps it dry quickly. You can’t just wipe the product off and throw it on your closet floor and pick it up the next day. If you do that, it’ll smell, collect germs, and still be dripping in sweat the next day as if you just finished your workout. It really only takes me a minute to clean and it’s not a big deal to me, but I could see how it would annoy people have to do an extra step after they get back from the gym.

Warning: Contains Fragrance!

The full list of ingredients in the Sweet Sweat Workout Enhancer is white snow petrolatum, Brazilian carnauba wax, acai pulp oil, organic coconut oil, pomegranate seed oil, organic jojoba oil, squalene oil (olive), aloe vera extract, d-Alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), fragrance.

Ugghhhhh yes, it contains fragrance! I actually got Sweet Sweat as a Christmas present and I picked it out in early November last year. That was before I was fragrance-free. And we all know that fragrance just means hidden, irregulated chemicals that cause cancer. If you’re interested in learning more about the fragrance issue, you can read my blog post, “The Stinky Scary Secret Behind Consumer Products,” or “How I Limited my Exposure to Chemicals and Found Safe Alternatives to Consumer Products.” In the last few months I’ve gotten rid of 95% of my body products and completely changed every body product that I bring into my home, but sadly this product contains fragrance! I was super disappointed to see the word fragrance after ingredients that say “organic.” It’s just another fine example of greenwashing.

However, I decided to try Sweet Sweat anyways because I was so curious about the product and I also didn’t want my boyfriend to be upset that I never used his present (he gets very worked up about gifts lol). What I would like to do is start using a different oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil since it’s already listened as an ingredient and that way I don’t have to worry about what I’m putting on my body. I’ll probably be sharing updates on oils that I’m using on Instagram Stories as I’m searching for a safer alternative. More info to come later! If you have any suggestions for an oil that would work well with this product let me know in the comments!

Sweet Sweat Takeaway

So aside from the fragrance which I consider to be a bigger issue, I think that if you switch out the Workout Enhancer for an organic oil, it’s definitely worth the purchase. Sweet Sweat is not perfect. Yes there are pros and there are cons, but I think it’s definitely worth a try. At the very least Sweet Sweat is motivating and extremely satisfying while taking it off after exercise. I love the feeling of peeling it off after a workout, I have noticed my stomach looks flatter, it warms me up, and creates a more intense workout. Plus, you kind of feel like a badass walking around the gym with a Waist Trimmer on. I guess I would say that it makes you look like you know what you’re doing.

I would recommend this product if you’re interested in trying it. From what I’ve seen on social media, it seems like once people start using Sweet Sweat they become obsessed with it and use it every time they exercise. It’s worth a try and it’s only about $45 to buy the Sweet Sweat Waist Trimmer and Workout Enhancer, and the company often puts some items on sale.

As always, thank you for coming to Lost Online, and let me know what you think in the comments! Have you used Sweet Sweat before? What were your thoughts on the product? Did you find it extra motivating to workout? Did you notice any of these pros and cons or discover any others that I hadn’t mentioned?

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Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.