Category Archives: Fun
Posted on September 21, 2016 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
brain health books
In the past few decades there has been an explosion of interest in physical fitness. We know that cardio workouts lift our moods and weight-training fends off bone loss. We’ve tried yoga and dedicated ourselves to the elliptical machine.
But what about mental fitness? Now that Americans are living longer than ever, researchers, psychiatrists and other doctors are turning their attention to how we can maintain sharp and lucid minds, and also optimize happiness and creativity. Not surprisingly, many of the same practices used for physical fitness are also good for your brain.
Each book below provides a slew of science-based tips to keep your brain sharp and your body healthier as you grow older.
Posted on July 20, 2016 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
life fulfillment, Summer
When summer arrives, the mercury rises and it’s time to slow down the hectic pace of life. But before sinking permanently into your hammock, we have a project for you: Tick off some boxes on your bucket list! What, you say—productivity during the summer? But a bucket list is different from a to-do list. It’s a bucket full of all the fun things you’ve always wanted to do. So while you are whiling away your time this summer—or trying to keep the kids entertained during those dog days—try some suggestions from our list below.
Take windsurfing lessons.
With a few quick lessons, you will be up and surfing on your bare feet in no time.
Go for a hot air balloon ride.
Do something fun and exhilarating that doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion. You’ll feel like you’re floating on air (because you are), with gorgeous vistas all around.
Try out a Zen retreat.
Imagine several days of meditation, with no phones, no computers…and no talking!
Posted on May 10, 2016 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
Happiness, life fulfillment, moms of multiples, twins
On June 27, 2012, my doctor uttered this life-changing sentence: “Don’t be surprised if it’s twins.” My HCG level (the pregnancy hormone) was through the roof. As a 40-something mommy-to-be, I was thrilled just to be pregnant. Twins? I had a smile glued to my face as my brain raced with questions. Twins!? What do we need? Two of everything? How big will I get? My husband and I are both planners: We like to be prepared; he’s an Eagle Scout! But how do you prepare yourself for two infants at once?
You can’t prepare
We enrolled in a Parents of Multiples class. It was great to meet other parents of multiples and be reassured from the Mary Poppins-like teacher, but I laugh when I think back on the class now. Valuable lesson of parenthood: There are some things you cannot plan for. The teacher advised us to pack a bag for labor and delivery and fill it with a tennis ball for lower back massages, lollipops as a distraction tool, lavender oil for relaxation and a favorite pillow from home. We dutifully packed our bag and thought we were ready.
Posted on February 2, 2016 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
We all know it’s good for you, but here are eight more compelling reasons to move your body.
Even if you’ve never experienced the elusive runner’s high, you probably know exercise can make you happier. Scientific research has shown there are countless connections between mind and body; to simplify a complicated process: exercise boosts dopamine and other chemicals in the brain that make us feel happier. What’s more, many kinds of exercise can put us in a wonderful “flow” state, which is one of the hallmarks of well-being, according to positive psychology.Beyond happy chemicals, though, here are eight more surprising ways exercise makes us happier.
1. Leads to achievements
When we have a goal, we become more engaged with life and excited about the future. Whether it’s jogging your first mile without stopping or exercising three times a week, having a goal initially sparks enthusiasm, and then making progress toward that goal really fuels our commitment and makes us feel good. It may even motivate us to plan and accomplish other goals!
2. Creates “me” time
Picture your exercise time as a mini-retreat for some healthy “me” time. We often think of “me” time as sitting by a fire with a cup of tea or reading a book, but a good sweat session can help you let go of stress, increase your energy and think with clarity. Even on those days when you aren’t in the mood to move, you will always feel better after you exercise, because when you feel fully charged, it’s much easier to be happy.
Sandra Bienkowski is a nationally-published writer, a social media content expert and the owner of The Media Concierge, a company dedicated to creating professional content for thought leaders, authors, and business executives. Sandra worked as the columns editor for SUCCESS magazine, and is a contributing editor to the national newsstand magazine, Live Happy.
family, Happiness, holidays, Thanksgiving
If you love Thanksgiving but your traditions are getting a little tired, we’ve got you covered. With a little creative planning, you can make this year’s Thanksgiving the most festive and fun-filled yet.
1. Plan ahead for the day you want
It sounds simple, but your ideal holiday won’t materialize unless you make it happen. Maybe you envision a formal Thanksgiving dinner complete with centerpieces, nameplates and an elegant menu. If that’s your plan, spell it out ahead of time. If you want potluck, paper plates, jeans and football, plan that and let people know. Share your desires openly with family, i.e. “I hope you will stay all day so we can have lots of time together”—to create the day you want.
Related: 8 Easy Practices To Enhance Gratitude
2. Think about timing
It may sound like a no-brainer, but the timing of your dinner can impact the entire day. If you call your mealtime too early, you might get stressed with the-time crunch of meal prep (unless you’ve done most of it in the days before). Some like to eat later in order to enjoy appetizers and the anticipation of the holiday meal all day. Or maybe you have guests who are going to be glued to a particular football game during the day. Consider all of these variables and plan accordingly.
3. Relax your expectations
Without dwelling on it, acknowledge something will likely go wrong with your day, but that’s OK. A quirky uncle might say something, well, quirky. Someone might not show up who said they would. If you want to have the best possible holiday, roll with the punches. (Rest assured: No one’s Thanksgiving is perfect.)
Read the rest of this article on Live Happy:
Posted on November 16, 2015 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
gratitude, Live Happy magazine, thankfulness
These simple exercises will improve your sense of wellbeing all year.
We have read it over and over again in positive psychology research, from Martin Seligman to Shawn Achor: If there is a one-word answer to the secret of happiness, it is gratitude. Gratitude may just be the strongest tool in the kit when it comes to pulling ourselves and others out of a funk, or rebooting a terrible blue mood. Here are some simple exercises that can enhance your sense of gratitude year round.
Slow down! Stop, breathe, take notice, and delight in the present moment. Let yourself get excited about little things. Cultivate tiny moments of joy, and notice those times when they spontaneously happen.
2. Plan experiences
What can you plan this season that will make your holidays more memorable? Be purposeful about planning and creating special experiences, and you will reap the rewards.
Is there a tradition you can renew? An activity you can plan with your family in town that will create a cherished memory? It could be as simple as taking a photo of extended family or tossing a football together in the backyard.
Read the rest of this article on Live Happy:
Posted on December 9, 2014 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
fulfillment, mindfulness, mindfulness practices
Truth be told, I am a little tired of the words mindfulness and gluten. What do those words have in common? They are both overused. Forgive my grumpiness, but when you wake up with twin toddlers (or any child, a job, a business or all of those) how are you supposed to start your day with mindfulness practices? Isn’t it time we start telling the truth about our mornings? We don’t wake up in a yoga position, burning a lavender aromatherapy candle, while peacefully reciting an empowering mantra or setting our intention for the day. Let’s get real. My husband and I divide and conquer this list when we wake up:
Greet the girls with lots of cheerful good mornings and love
Double diaper duty
Let the dog out
Feed the dog
Feed our old cat and give him his medicine
Make the girls breakfast
Feed the girls breakfast
Get the newspaper
Open the shutters
Clean the cat litter
Watch the news and read the paper in interrupted snippets
Make breakfast smoothies
Start a load of laundry
And this is all before 8:30 a.m. Now, would I like to have 30 minutes of total solitude before my day begins? God, yes. But when I wake up, life happens.
Yes, I am a productivity junkie. I’m obsessed with crossing things off my To Do list. I like the feeling of making clients (and me) happy by successfully tackling and wrestling a jam-packed day of professional and personal To Dos to the ground. I get a lot of self-worth from how much I accomplish.
And then one Saturday I felt uneasy playing with my toddlers. I asked myself what was wrong. My husband was doing yard work. We were inside playing chase and having tickle time … but I felt my To Do list calling.
Looming work projects.
A couple of Thank You notes to write.
A meal plan for the week.
A workout I wanted to do.
Some phone calls I needed to make.
I felt uneasy because I was playing with my kids and not plowing through my To Do list. How crazy is that? And that’s when it hit me—the real lesson of mindfulness.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be meditating, doing yoga, sipping Chai tea or watching Super Soul Sunday. Those are all cool things, but the best way to practice mindfulness is to be present for what matters most to you—like your children. Sometimes that means learning how to be okay with not getting things done. Mindfulness means letting go of all of those “should dos” (and any guilt that comes with them) and using the open space to welcome in the fulfillment of the present moment.
Mindfulness is a way of living that reminds us not to live for the future and not to ignore the present. What I realized on that Saturday is this: the most valuable way we spend our time probably doesn’t even make our To Do list.
Posted on December 4, 2014 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
hope, power, powerlessness
The most difficult thing is when you know exactly how to help someone you love, but it’s as if that person can’t hear you. Not really.
She wants my advice. She listens to my words. She even agrees with the things I say.
And then nothing changes.
She is in pain. I know she is strong enough to get unstuck, but she has to find her voice again. Depression feeds inaction.
I feel like she’s on the other side of a thick wall of glass that I keep throwing my body against. How do I break through?
And then I stumbled upon this quote: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alice Walker
I can’t make her change or fix her life. I can remind her that she has power and give her hope. I can tell her over and over that she has the power to change (everything), until the day she can hear me.
Posted on October 28, 2012 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
“The challenge of life is to be awake in your life and constantly participate in your life.” Susan Sarandon
Most mornings my husband reads Dear Abby as he goes through the morning newspaper. He often says, “Babe, you have to read this one; it’s good.” Usually that means one of two things. 1. Someone has written in with a problem we can’t wrap our heads around. Or 2. Dear Abby doled out a big dish of reality check. (Sometimes both)
There was the letter from a woman who said her husband had an affair with the woman who lives next door. Her husband claimed the affair was over but was insistent that the three of them continue their friendship like nothing happened. The wife had a sneaking suspicion the affair might not be over, and it was making her crazy to play nice and all socialize together.
There was another letter from a wife who was devastated to find out her husband doesn’t want to reverse his vasectomy as promised when they were dating. Desperately wanting kids, she doesn’t know what to do now that her husband has no interest in having a baby post-marriage.
Easily there’s at least one letter a week that makes me cringe. It’s like the answers are screaming at them, but they are oblivious. It bugs me because I can relate.
We all have moments in our lives we look back on and wonder what in the heck we were thinking. I could write my own top 10 cringe list, complete with embarrassing decisions I made in the past from jobs that were a waste of my time and talent, to boyfriends no parent would want you to bring home. But I don’t regret my less than stellar moments, because my missteps shook me awake, and now I am wiser and more decisive as a result.
The goal, as I see it, is to only have cringe worthy moments, not a cringe-filled life. It requires taking a hard look at your mistakes and repeated patterns. It’s about accepting responsibility for the role you play in your own messes, so you can make better decisions going forward.
Unfortunately, it seems like many people live lives half awake, refusing to take a look at their own behavior, or staying stuck on a Merry-go-Round of the same problem. Denial is a tricky thing and it consumes some people in moments, other people entirely. Only when you realize you are the common denominator of your problems, and it’s your job to fix them, does life improve.
If you are writing Dear Abby a letter wondering if you should continue the friendship with the woman who had an affair with your husband, it’s time to get reality back in your line of vision because you aren’t even asking the right questions. Long before asking if you should stay friends with a woman who cheated with your husband, you should ask yourself if you should stay with your husband. Ask what it says about your husband’s character that he cheats, AND wants you to take a front row seat for a painful and demoralizing friendship trio. While you are at it, you might want to ask yourself what it says about you to let people treat you this way. When there’s no respect, a relationship is over.
As for the woman who suddenly finds herself married to a man who doesn’t want kids, I immediately wonder how long they dated prior to marriage. Your partner’s character shouldn’t surprise you post-nuptials. I find marriage works best when you know what you’re getting. If you are in a healthy, committed relationship, the intimacy should be such that you can ask or talk about anything, and not be surprised about an issue as big as having kids once the walking down the aisle part is over.
Before people type these letters to Dear Abby, I think they should first ask themselves one question: Do I already have the answer? Sometimes asking for advice is just a stall tactic to avoid making painful decisions and taking action that isn’t easy. When you are brave enough to say to yourself: “Okay, I already have the answers here, now what should I do?” It’s empowering.
No one knows you better than you know yourself. No offense to Dear Abby, but most people probably don’t need to write that letter. You don’t need anyone to tell you what to do; you just need someone to tell you that you already have the answer … because you do.
Posted on October 2, 2012 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
“Learn to value yourself, which means to fight for your happiness.” Ayn Rand
I think there’s an aspect to happiness that doesn’t get enough of our focus. It’s being in the state of happy anticipation of an activity, event, moment or day that’s around the corner. Looking forward to something is a huge contributor to our overall happiness and outlook. Even if today has some type of drudgery slated for a particular hour, if you have something that excites you planned for tomorrow, you can sail through today’s drudgery with a smile on your face.
We live in a culture that bemoans Mondays and cheers Fridays, and accepts that you are supposed to hate the days in between. Welcome to adulthood some people say. That’s just part of making a living and being able to pay your bills other people say. I think it’s a bunch of crap.
No matter what your situation, you have a choice.
If you dislike your job, if you are tired of work politics, the unnecessary drama, the yucky feeling in your gut, or how you feel like it’s just a job and not something you are passionate about—you can make a choice to remove yourself from that situation. As the saying goes, the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. (Or be an entrepreneur and create one!) Regardless of your take on the economy, change is possible. It’s simply a choice.
I think too many people put up with 40 plus hours a week of drudgery because they think that’s how life is supposed to be, or they are afraid to change. Change is an invisible unknown. Change means you don’t know what’s in store for you and some people would rather choose the uncomfortable familiar, than what they don’t know. Since a job can be a huge chunk of every week of your existence, and this is your one and only life, you ought to love it. Really.
You will never hear me say I can’t wait for Friday or I hate Monday because I don’t want to live that way. I love to look forward to things, so I try to create a life where I look forward to most of it. I try to live daily in a state of gratitude. My philosophy of creating a life I love applies across the board—from the big things, like my husband and my self-employment, to the little things, like how my day unfolds.
I passionately believe you can create a life filled with happiness if you …
1. Plan it.
2. Luxuriate in it. (Revel in all of your happy moments, today’s highlights and those on your calendar.)
It’s a philosophy I live with daily practice. Right now I am looking forward to …
a day at the spa this weekend with friends
a long visit from my mom
hosting a celebrate fall party in a week
the day-to-day changes in my pregnancy
a baby shower with my family in my home state of New York
seeing Madonna in concert finally
working on lots of writing projects for clients and for me
I don’t waste days sitting around looking forward to an upcoming event, instead I look forward to upcoming moments while I craft today with something else to get excited about. Little things count. Happiness may be a walk with my husband, an hour with a great book, a conversation with a friend, journaling, or watching a favorite program.
If you want to be happier, plan it. Put something on your calendar you will look forward to three months from now, next month, this week and today.
Try to consistently remove things from your calendar you dread. Even if it’s a person or a job, remove yourself from the negative association no matter how much work or time it takes.
Always be reading a book you don’t want to put down.
Don’t let a day pass by without spending some time doing what you love most.
Notice what makes you happy and plan more of it.
Stay in tune with gratitude. Take time to think about all the people, experiences and gifts in your life you are grateful for each day. Be grateful for the tiniest sparks of happiness in your days and those bigger happy moments on your calendar.
If you were sold a myth that life has to be difficult and endured, reject it. Plan happy moments. Notice spontaneous happy moments. Absorb the anticipation of all the happiness coming up and schedule more happiness on your calendar. Then watch happiness flow into your life.