5 Easy Things To Do When You’re Feeling Down

If you’re feeling down on yourself, overwhelmed, or lost, here are five easy things you can do to help put you in a better mindset.

1. Look at Cute Videos of Baby Animals

Unless you somehow hate all animals, baby animals make the world seem like a better place. The smile response is pretty instantaneous. For one of my favorite baby animal videos, check out Nayembi, a baby Gorilla at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Spoiler Alert: The girl likes her broccoli!

2. Do a 5 Minute Meditation

I like to use the app, Calm (available on Android and iOS). If you prefer not to use an app, you can simply focus on your breath. There are many variations on breath work meditation. My favorite to do to calm myself down is to breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 8 counts. This helps you to breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly.

3. Remember to HALT

HALT is a technique that asks you to examine whether you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Sometimes you may be feeling down, but are not sure why. Remembering to HALT will help you pinpoint what you are feeling, so that you can do something about it. If you’re hungry, eat a healthy snack. If you’re angry, you could vent your feelings by writing in your journal. If you’re lonely, reach out to a friend by phone or text. Or better, yet, schedule some time to hang out face to face. Finally, if you’re tired, make sure to get enough sleep.

4. Put Away Your Screen

Right now, we live in a world where screens are everywhere. They are at home, at work, and in your pocket. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, even looking away from your screen for 5 minutes can be helpful. It also has the added benefit of resting your eyes.

If you’re not sure what to do with yourself without your screen, that’s a sign that you may need to limit your screen time. It’s okay to start out slowly! Try mindfully brewing yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Or refill your water bottle and sip it slowly for five minutes.

5. Plan Something Fun to Look Forward To

When you’re feeling sad, a great trick to feeling better quickly is to make plans to do something incredibly fun or enjoyable. When it comes time to do the thing you planned, you’ll make yourself feel much better. However, the anticipation of the fun event will make you feel better even sooner.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Check the upcoming showtimes at your local movie theater. Pick a showing and put that on your calendar. If it’s a particularly popular movie, you can buy your ticket in advance.
  • Plan a board game night with your friends
  • Check out a local event website and pick any event that appeals to you and fits your schedule.
  • Text a long-distance friend that you haven’t heard from lately and plan a Skype date.

I’d love to hear your suggestions as well. Please let me know in the comments what helps you when you’re feeling down. Take care!


Reflections on Politics, Gratitude, and Thanksgiving

This seems like a good time to write a post about gratitude. Sometimes I think that when we hear the word gratitude, we immediately groan and prepare ourselves to be told how we ought to be thankful. Or maybe that’s just me? I think the issue that I have with gratitude is that we’re often told we should be grateful for something in response to a negative emotion we’re having. If I’m having a bad day and I’m sad or anxious, the last thing I want is for someone to tell me that I should be more grateful.

I think it’s the way that gratitude is often held up as an obligation that really rubs me the wrong way. After all, it’s not a choice between being sad or being grateful. Gratitude does not and ought not to overrule your feelings. For example, while I am grateful for things like my Fiance, my dog, my family, and my friends, I am at the same time also fearful and sad about the state of politics in the United States at this moment. My reaction to Trump being the President-elect is not to think that at least I don’t live in Syria. So yes, I am grateful for my relative safety compared to those in Syria, but that does not negate my fears of living under a President Trump.

Gratitude has its place, certainly. However, I think that gratitude should come out of a sense of love for one’s blessings, rather than a sense of obligation. Gratitude should not be something that will negate righteous anger, or understandable sadness and anxiety. Even if you’re feeling sad for no reason at all, it’s very hurtful for someone to tell you that you ought to disregard that feeling and be grateful, when that’s the last thing you could imagine feeling.

I think what I’ve discovered this Thanksgiving is that gratitude can coexist with a range of feelings, and that we should be wary of those who tell us to accept unfair circumstances just because someone out there has it worse than us. Gratitude should not give way to complacency. I will remember my gratitude for my country, but this gratitude will not make me stand idle in the face of hatred.


How to Learn a New Hobby for Free

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I don’t have enough time to do all of the things I want to do. I wonder sometimes if I want too much. I’m the kind of person who always has two or three hobbies at a time. When I’m pursuing a new hobby, I read blog posts, borrow books, and watch online videos, all in the hopes of mastering the knowledge that I need to be successful. However, I often move on to the next thing when I meet the first obstacle or challenge in my way. Knowing this, my goal is to approach hobbies in a way that I’m not wasting my money, but making good use of free resources.

There are many ways to educate yourself about your new hobby for free. Here are a few ideas:

Check out your library’s resources
  • Even if you don’t go to the library very often, many libraries have electronic resources. For example, with a library card from the Cambridge Public Library and Boston Public Library, I have access to Lynda.com for free. I can borrow 10 eBooks, audiobooks, or TV/Movie selections per month from Hoopla and download them directly to my iPad. If your hobby involves science, history, or the arts, there are even more free resources available. Many libraries have extensive online academic journals that give you access to all kinds of research and studies.

Ask your friends/ acquaintances
  • Perhaps you have a close friend who is more knowledgeable than you about something you’d like to learn about. Or maybe they’re interested in learning more and want a buddy to help them be accountable. (This works really well for hobbies that involve activities, such as rock climbing, yoga, or some other new workout)

  • Chances are you probably have way more Facebook friends than friends you see on the regular. So why not post a status about your new hobby and ask for resources or advice? If you see some of your Facebook friends posting about a hobby you would like to learn more about, post a comment and give a compliment or ask a question. People love talking about their hobbies and would likely point you in the right direction for free or low cost resources.
The Internet
  • One of the wonders about the internet is being able to find information quickly and easily about pretty much any niche topic. Depending on your interest, those who pursue your desired hobby may be on different mediums. For example, photographers love posting things on Instagram as it’s a medium for photos. However, if your interest is in computer programming, you’re more likely to find them on a programming subreddit or on Stack Exchange.

One more tip. If you’re anything like me, remember that you don’t need to be perfect. It’s fine to enjoy singing even if you’re no Adele or Lady Gaga. Just because you want to take up soccer doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of pro. Do what you enjoy. When learning a new skill or hobby, the journey is half the fun.

At the end of the day, just go forth and learn and try new things.

Sunday Mornings

Do you ever feel like Sundays get a bad rap unnecessarily? People love Saturdays, and yet Sundays (at least for those who typically work Monday through Friday) seem to get the short stick.

This Sunday morning, I’m writing from  my laptop at the Harvard Square Starbucks. I’m sitting on the second floor, looking out and watching people walk by. Sometimes, I’m struck by the Sunday blues, worrying about what I should have gotten done before the end of the weekend, or wishing that I had just one more day left of free time. However, today I’m feeling pretty good. I find that it helps to do a few productive things on a Sunday, but spend Sunday morning doing something relaxing. For me, that’s hanging out with a nice cup of coffee.

Maybe you have a few chores you absolutely need to get done today. If so, then plan on when you can do them, but also make sure to fit in some time doing a fun activity that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to show up to work tomorrow and be productive.

Here are just a few ideas of how to spend a Sunday

  • Go for a walk
    • Walking is free! If you live near a park or a hiking trail, that’s ideal, but even if you live in the city, there are plenty of places you can go for a walk and see the sights.
  • Play with a pet
    • I think this is especially fun when you have a cuddly, furry animal, but if you have some other kind of pet, that can be fun too. If you can’t pet your fish or your tarantula, maybe take some new photos of them!
  • Catch up on reading
    • Whether you’re reading blogs, magazines, novels, or non-fiction books, reading is a great way to spend a Sunday morning. If you read a lot of books, you can also keep track of them on GoodReads. You can rate what books you like and it will even give you suggestions for what to read next

Hope you enjoy your Sunday!

Enjoying the Weekend

It’s the long weekend (Labor Day on Monday). I know it’s a while since I’ve posted, so I wanted to give a quick update.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying going to Spinning classes. I like to go to Turnstyle Cycle in Kendall Square. I’m debating about trying SoulCycle one day, but to be honest, I’m a bit intimidated by its cult following. Maybe that’s something I’ll have to wait to do until I’m more experienced at spinning. I also enjoy riding my bike outdoors, but I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to taking my bike off the trails and onto the city streets. My boyfriend suggested a phone mount so that I can put my phone up to use it as a GPS while biking, which I think is a pretty good idea. He got one for me on Amazon, and it should be coming in a few days or so.

Anyway, this is the long weekend, as you probably already know, and I’m enjoying every bit of it. This morning Tom and I went to a BBQ at our friend’s apartment in Porter Square. One of our friends made the most amazing Pork Butt roast. He used a sous-vide to cook it and then finished it on the grill. It was absolutely delicious.

We have another BBQ tomorrow at another friend’s family’s Labor Day weekend party. Her family lives on the coast, and since there’s a hurricane warning, I’m really hoping we don’t get hit too hard.

How are you spending Labor Day weekend? If you have a moment, leave me a comment! If you have a blog, be sure to let me know what it is so I can check it out as well!



Go Ahead… Take a Bath



While some will argue for showers over baths, due to the amount of water saved, I think there’s something quite amazing about treating yourself to a nice warm bath. After I’ve taken a bath, I feel relaxed and safe. I highly recommend taking a bath right before you’re about to go to bed for the night, rather than in the morning, when you may be rushing to go to work or school.

If you haven’t created a bathing routine, here are some tips to get started:

Candles, and lots of ’em

Being able to bathe by candlelight helps get you into an almost meditative state. If you enjoy meditation, you can even do your favorite meditation while in the tub. Candles are a fun thing to get as a treat to yourself, because they’re relatively inexpensive, and there are so many different kinds. A lot of them have great aromas. Though if you’re using a bunch, make sure you don’t mix the scents too much.

If you’re not scent-sensitive, light some incense

I love lighting an incense stick. I like seeing the smoke rise above the water and swirl in the air around me. It also just smells amazing to me. However, my boyfriend abhors the smell, so I guess it’s not for everyone. If you’re not into strong smells, you should probably skip this.

Bath Salts

Salts are great for your skin and also for easing muscle aches. There are always cute containers of bath salts on sale at places like TJMaxx and JCPenney. If you want to support artisans/ small businesses, you can also purchase bath salts on Etsy.com. Or, if you want to save money or enjoy customizing the salts to your liking, you can DIY.

I recently made my own bath salts using ingredients I bought on Amazon.

Here’s my Recipe:

  • 1 cup Dead Sea Salts
  • 1 tbs. Sweet Almond Oil
  • 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil (I like Lavender)

You mix it all up and you can store it in a plastic container. (I bought a set of like 12 small containers with lids for under 10 bucks).

Setting an Intention

Once you’ve set up your candles, incense, and put in the bath salts, step into the bathtub and close your eyes for a minute. Ask what your body/ mind/ spirit needs in this moment. From there, I will set an intention and focus on cultivating that intention while I soak in the tub.

Some examples of intentions could be:

  • I am calm and centered
  • I am beautiful and sexy
  • I’m focused on the present

Find What Works for You

At the end of the day, try some different things when it comes to your bathing ritual and make it your own. For example, if one day you don’t have the supplies I mentioned, you can always just take a simple bath with hot water. If setting intentions are not your thing, just focusing on breathing and relaxing can do the trick as well.




A Quick Meditation Guide


From scientific studies to women’s health magazines, it seems like everyone these days is talking about the benefits of meditation. However, when our lives are feeling insanely busy, it’s easy to say “I don’t have time for meditation.” But meditating for even 5 minutes can be hugely helpful. I’m not an expert in meditation, but here are some tips on what have helped me personally.

Quick Tips for Meditating on the Regular

  • Set a timer on your phone for 5 or 10 minutes, so you don’t need to worry about missing the next thing on your schedule.
    • Make sure the alarm has a nice sound and won’t bring you back to regular life with a jolt of panic
  • Don’t worry about having racing thoughts!
    • Just notice them, acknowledge them, and wave them goodbye
  • Sit or lay somewhere comfortable
    • It can be very frustrating to try to meditate if you’re uncomfortable
  • Try different ways of meditating
    • For example, you could focus on a mantra, focus on your breath, or even visualize a calming glowing light emanating from your body. (This last one sounds a bit woo woo, but it calms me down every time)

Are you a fan of meditation? What has your experience been like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 


Aspirational Spending

Last night I decided to upgrade my WordPress plan to WordPress Premium. I got my own domain name (www.envisionjoy.com) and started customizing my template. In many ways, I think that paying for something helps to motivate me. It’s something that I like to call Aspirational Spending. Aspirational Spending can be a positive motivator, but done incorrectly, it can be a detriment to your wallet and your psyche.

Aspirational Spending is what you do when you buy something because you desire to improve your life. So you buy a bike because you envision yourself as a super fit bicyclist, or a new kitchen appliance because you want to become a gourmet chef. The purchase is exhilarating precisely because it helps you to picture what you want your life to be.

However, you need to plan your budget wisely. I’ve learned this the hard way, when I was spending way too much on an unlimited yoga membership that I only occasionally used. In the tech world we have this idea of the Minimally Viable Product. Recently I’ve been thinking, what if we applied that idea to our personal lives as well?

For example, before spending a lot of money on a paint set, easel, brushes etc… if you’ve never been much of an artist, why not start out with sketching with pen/ pencil and paper?

Or if you’re looking to start reading books more frequently, rather than buying several expensive hardcovers, just go to the library and pick out a good book there.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, knowing how to spend money when it comes to Aspirational Purchases is a consistent battle.

Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are!

Forming New Habits for the New Year

Yoga on cliffside

Alright everyone, how are you doing so far on those New Year’s Resolutions?

I’m actually still going strong on most of mine.  I’ve been working out regularly, writing in my journal, and eating pretty healthy meals. However, a lot of advice I’ve heard from others and read online goes contrary to my own experience.

For one thing, most people will recommend that you form habits slowly and only focus on one thing at a time. I’m not saying that this doesn’t work, but I don’t think it’s the only way to form a habit.

What I’ve found really helpful is to focus on how each of your habits supports your other habits and goals. When approaching my goal of losing weight and getting healthy, I recognized that I could reach that goal by forming habits of regular exercise, healthy eating, and stress management. I’m working on these habits by using ClassPass, doing WeightWatchers, and writing daily in my journal.

By working on any one of these habits, I’m able to motivate myself to work hard on the others. For example, completing a fitness class makes me feel really good about myself. When I’m feeling good about myself, it makes it easier for me to choose healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. In turn, the exercise and healthy diet help me to manage my stress.

These three habits combined are allowing me to start to see results, which, in turn, helps motivate me to continue working hard at my new habits. As you can see, good habits beget more good habits. So in my opinion, why limit yourself to focusing on only one small thing at a time?

Admittedly, this strategy doesn’t work for everyone. But, if you’ve tried changing one small habit at a time and are starting to feel unmotivated, I think that grouping several good habits together can give you the boost you need.

I think that this strategy works well for people who tend to think in all or nothing terms and struggle with moderation. I actually find it harder to have a small piece of chocolate than to just avoid chocolate entirely. Also, if I aim to work out every day, I work out much more often than if I tell myself I’m only going to work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example.

So tell me, how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? And what is your style of creating and sticking to good habits?

Let me know in the comments!


The New Year is Coming

Are you ready for 2016?

For me, the ending of the old year and the beginning of a new one signals a time for reflection and goal-making. Some treat the New Year like any other day, but why not use the New Year as an opportunity to remember that you have the power to start anew.

2015 was a pretty good year for me. I developed new relationships and strengthened old ones. This past June marked the first full year of my relationship with my boyfriend, Tom. I also was happily surprised when so many of my friends were able to make it to my birthday party. I remember thinking about how lucky I was to be surrounded by people who cared about me. The truth is, though, while I am grateful for my friends and loved ones, building and maintaining relationships is a skill that I focused on developing this year.

To develop new relationships, I challenged myself to go to social events, even if I was nervous about attending or didn’t know anybody. I went to many Reddit events, and that’s even where I met my boyfriend last year. We recently joined the Boston Athenaeum and I’ve enjoyed attending events there as well, and getting to know other members.

In addition to forming better relationships, I also formed a better relationship with myself. Cheesy as it is, it’s absolutely true. This year marked a big shift for me in the way that I think about myself. I realized that being harshly critical of myself or feeling negatively about my life doesn’t help me to change it for the better. Instead, it just makes me feel worse and lowers my motivation. If you want to make changes in your life, I encourage you to talk to yourself as you would a friend.

Ever heard of a “Compliment Sandwich”? Try telling yourself something like “You’re a very kind person,” (Compliment) “but you tend to be overly-critical of yourself.” (Constructive Criticism) “I know that you are a determined person and will be able to make changes in your life if you learn to be as loving as you are to others to yourself as well.” (Compliment).

What’s hard about being loving to yourself is that there are so many people out there who believe that ridiculing someone will get them to change. But if you’ve been critical of yourself over and over and wondering why you still can’t find the will power to change, perhaps it’s because you need to shift your way of “encouraging” yourself.

Aiming to improve your life is an amazing thing. However, I think we ought to treat ourselves with respect and dignity and acknowledge not only our shortcomings, but the strengths we have that will help us to overcome them.

Have a wonderful New Year!