It’s not about you: how to stop taking it personally.

What other people do to you is their karma. How you react is yours.

Much to my own chagrin, I take things personally. When someone says something hurtful or acts aggressively, I take it to heart. I mull it over. I internalize it. I put my own value into question based on their sideways behavior.

This is not who I want to be.

Let me tell you a little story. My uncle shaves his head and, to my knowledge, always has. Years ago, we were standing in line at the supermarket and I asked him, with teenage curiosity, if he shaved his head because he liked the style or because he couldn’t grow hair. Overhearing the conversation, my aunt quickly shot me dagger eyes and scolded me on how inappropriate it was to question a man on the balding state of his scalp. She informed my 17-year-old self that this was a highly sensitive subject for men. Suddenly, at the realization that I might’ve hurt my uncles feelings, and in the middle of the grocery store no less, I burst into tears. Sobbing, I apologized profusely for having maybe, possibly hurt his feelings. Snot running down my face, vision compromised by the waterfall of tears, I hyperventilated “I….am…soooooo….sorrrrr…yyyy.” I didn’t want to be the insensitive person that made him feel bad. He burst into laughter. He didn’t give a shit about his balding head. But he thought it was funny that I cared so much.

I’d like to be more like him.

The fact is, unless you’re my uncle, we often rely on the opinions of others to create our opinions of ourselves. We define our beauty, our intelligence and our happiness based on what someone thinks about us. When someone compliments you, your mood goes up. When you feel judged, your mood goes down. But here’s the deal:

People speak out of turn, they are clumsy with their words, and sometimes they hurt your feelings without even realizing it. There are also people that do it on purpose. They feed on making others feel small, building their own securities on the insecurities of others. Those people exist, too. Regardless of which camp your wrong-doer falls into, there’s a really important thing to keep in mind: It’s. Not. About. You.

Everyone has their own shit and their shit is not your shit. You have enough of your own already. Don’t mix up the two. These are a few steps I am practicing to stop taking things so personally:

1. Take a deep breathe. The natural reaction to an attack is to, well, react. But don’t. You will find yourself on a path of most resistance. Take a moment to pause, breathe and prepare yourself to react…differently.

2. Listen between the lines. Sometimes you’re on fire for a reason. Maybe you did actually do something wrong and that’s why the heat is on you. Try to understand what is being communicated to you, not necessarily the words being said. Not sure? Ask.

3. Remember who you want to be. We are not always what we aspire to be. This is a moment to practice being our future self. How would the best version of you act in this moment?

4. Be kind. To them. To yourself. Everyone has their own shit, remember? Maybe you were the recipient of someone’s spazz attack because they’re going through something. Be kind. They needed to dump the energy somewhere…but also be kind to yourself. Understand why you might be feeling triggered, why you’re taking their words to heart. Understand why you’re inclined to take it personally without actually taking it personally. You have your own shit, too, remember?

You can’t control the shade that other people throw your way, but you can control how you react…and how you react is what defines you

Continue Reading

On food: you can learn to like anything.

American Pie told us that men think about sex every seven seconds. Well, I think about food at about the same frequency. It’s not only a need, but a genuine pleasure. I. Love. Food. I love eating it, I love reading about it, I love cooking it, I love talking about it.

So what if I told you that I used to like…next to nothing? Okay, that’s not true. I just didn’t like anything that was good for me. I come from a family of amazing cooks who managed to hide nutrition under a veil of deliciousness. “Don’t let her know that those are mushrooms, not beef” they would whisper in the kitchenHere’s the thing: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be healthy or that I preferred junk food, I just simply didn’t like the way things tasted. Walking through a farmers market, my mouth drooled at the juicy, ripe heirloom tomatoes, the colorful cauliflower, the deep, dark bunches of kale…but when I tasted them, I (literally) spat them out. What con artists these veggies were! Using their beauty to distract from their absolutely disgusting taste!

At 21, being the only one of my friends eating a plain hamburger at Barney’s – hold the tomato, lettuce, onion and bun – I realized that maybe it was time for a change. I wanted to play for the other team. I wanted to know why on earth people paid extra for avocado. So, I gave up meat. For 40 days.

In my still developing little brain, I assumed that if you don’t eat meat, the only thing left on the planet to eat is vegetables, and I would therefore be forced to like them or I would in fact starve.

Let’s just take a moment to pause here and be very grateful for no longer being 21. Amen.  

And for three days, that’s basically what happened. I was living on rice and fruit. So much fruit. But then my senses kicked in and I walked my hungry ass to the market. I piled up on all the things I thought looked good and was determined to make them taste good. I grabbed a couple of cookbooks, tied my apron and put my game face on. It was time to cook.

For the next 37 days all I did was cook…and eat. At first, I still hated most things. I’ve never been much into salt, so the veggies had to stand all on their own. I learned to mix spices, the difference between eating a carrot raw, steamed, roasted and fried…what I preferred and what I didn’t. (Raw and roasted. Never steamed. That’s why I hated grandma’s carrots…) I slowly learned that I could in fact learn to like anything…I just had to find out how. 

Fast forward to the end of my forty days and I was a bonafide vegetable eater. My family couldn’t even believe that I was the one to prep a spinach salad and green beans for Easter brunch. Me! Gina! Girl transformed!

Fast forward nine years later and I am now mostly a plant-based eater. I say mostly because I simply don’t  want to give up steak tartare or crispy slices bacon. That is not to say that I now love everything, it’s just that I have had a shift in perspective. As with so many other things in life, we build a box and then we sit in it, sometimes wondering what life could be like on the outside (but not often ready to admit it). Stepping out of the box can be scary – like ordering something you’ve never heard of from the menu – and maybe when you do, you won’t like what you find. Or maybe you will. You just have to keep trying. Over and over and over again.

My current battle is with beets. Round, colorful, beautiful looking beets. I hate them. The smell. The texture. The aftertaste. But I will like them, damnit. So I order them every chance I get. One of these days, I’ll stumble on something outside of the box that makes me so glad I took the first step. 

Continue Reading

Funkbusters: 5 ways to get out of a bad mood

This morning I woke up with a huge cloud over my head. One of those bright-white, reflective, migraine-inducing clouds. I was in a funk. A real funky funk. The kind that like to stick around as if they have no one else to go and bother. You know the kind of mood I’m talking about?

I took to Instagram to get some new ideas on how to break free from this prison of blah and these are a few takeaways.

5 funkbusters to get you out of a bad mood:

1. Dig in. I do not mean dig into a bag of TJs sweet potato chips. Food hangovers suck. I mean dig into what you’re feeling. Grab a pen and paper and write down all the thoughts that come to mind. Don’t think before you write. Just write. Let the word vomit flow. When you’re all out of thoughts, read what you’ve jotted down and connect the dots. Get to the bottom of what is actually bothering you.

2. Sweat it out. On the other hand, give yourself the gift of not thinking. That’s what happens when I exercise. There simply isn’t time to think about anything else other than what I’m doing…or I’ll get hurt. Seriously. I mean, have you ever tried reformer pilates and dared thinking about anything else? Hell no. You’ll fly right off that carriage. Besides avoiding injury, having some time to not think gives your big bad brain a moment to chill out and take in the endorphins that are pumping through your system. In the wise words of Elle Woods, “Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands.”

3. Give a hug, get a hug. In a time where we spend more time in front of screens than real people, we lose out on the big wins of physical touch. Physical touch (and that doesn’t mean getting frisky) reduces cortisol (stress hormones) levels in the body. Real talk. Fight the funk with a hug. Don’t be afraid to ask for one if you need it. Everyone likes a good hug 🙂

4. Clean up. A cluttered life is a cluttered mind. I find serious stress relief in organizing, decluttering and a good old fashion clean up. In my house, I call them Power 20’s. Pick a spot in your room or home that you’re going to dedicate 20 minutes to and get after it. Pull out a few things you don’t need, rearrange the spices, dust under the TV. Whatever it might be, give your physical environment a visual boost. By the time you’re done, you’ll not only have cleaned house, you’ll have given your mood a boost, too.

5. Let it be. Sometimes the best way to funkbust is to just let it be. We don’t always need to fight the funk and there’s nothing wrong with sitting with whatever it is we’re feeling. Just remember that everything is temporary and even the worst of moods won’t stick around forever.

Do you have any funkbusting tips to add to the list? I’d love to know! Comment below!

Continue Reading

What would you do if you could do anything?

This question often solicits more eye rolls than answers. It sucks, really. It’s got that huge two letter word that seems to be the barrier between day dreams and reality. IF.

To give my own eyeballs a break, I prefer to reframe the question like this: with the cards in my hands, what can I do that will elicit the most happiness? Happiness, of course, is up for interpretation. Define as you will!

Reframing the question and removing the big IF in the room makes the gap between dreams and reality much, much smaller. You’re working, instead, with what you already have and opening yourself up to achievements within your reach.

After writing my last post, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my own ability to accomplish goals and dreams. Reassessing where I’m at, where I want to be and what it’s going to take me to get there. 2017 has been a year of immense growth and I’m pretty convinced the momentum is stopping anytime soon. With the remaining six months of the year, I’ve got a hodgepodge list of things I want to accomplish that I’m confident will contribute to my feel good life:

  • Be my own boss. More on that soon…
  • Learn to surf well enough that I can catch all my own waves…
  • Cut loose some of the excess baggage of my emotional life (it’s okay to admit it, we’ve all got it!)…
  • Master a headstand!

However big or small, there’s nothing quite like the confidence we build when we accomplish something we’ve set out to do. I’m motivated to play the cards I have in hand, see what works, what doesn’t, and close the gap between my dreams and my realities.

What’s on your list for 2017?

Continue Reading

6 things I learned traveling solo.

After one year and 10,000 nautical miles, I decided to leave the sailboat behind for a solo adventure. Though I had acquired quite a few stamps in my passport, I never created the opportunity to explore a foreign country on my own. I enjoy sharing experiences with someone special and, hey, there is safety in numbers. Yet, as my sailing adventure hit the year mark, a desire arose to strike out on my own and test my limits in a new way. So, after trembling through my nerves and conducting next to no research on my destination, I took off for Indonesia.

Little did I know, I was embarking on the biggest growth spurt of my life. 

The six most important things I learned while traveling solo:

1. I am capable. Don’t get me wrong, I am a tough cookie. Life has thrown me lots of lemons and with them, I have made a shitload of lemonade. But when it came to taking off into a world unknown, alone, I was nervous that maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t do it. Turns out, I can. I can carry my own bag, I can find my way around town, I can barter, I can achieve my goals.

2. My wants are important, too. Traveling with others requires obvious compromises. Usually, it’s a plus. You get to experience things you might not otherwise have sought out on your own. I’ve come to realize, however, that I am a people pleaser and I tend to let my own wants get pushed way down the list. Alone, I was empowered to make my own choices. One month, I spent every single day practicing yoga and meditation, fasting or eating “weird” health foods. The next month, I drove jungle roads to surf at sunrise and drank homemade rice wine with locals at sunset. I finally got to dictate how and where I spent my day…and in the end, I spent them smiling.

3. Alone and lonely aren’t the same thing. I genuinely enjoy the company of others and can talk to just about anyone (or anything), but during this trip, I chose to pass on finding “fillers” for all my extra hours. I needed to learn to enjoy my own company, to sit with my own thoughts and just be in my own skin.

4. The weight of the world is about 50 pounds. I was so proud when I left the boat that I had downsized my life into one 40L backpack and one small daypack. Two days later I was the crazy girl talking to herself, “You really had to bring 5 shirts didn’t you?!” Okay, so really, I didn’t pack all that much, but it was still more than I needed. Every travel list will tell you that you need less than you think, but really, you. need. less. than. you. think.

5. Change is something that happens on the inside. Every single day during this solo adventure I felt myself evolve. I allowed myself to explore thoughts and ideas I hadn’t give time to before. As if I was on the outside looking in, I could see myself grow. That is a radical feeling. However, in coming home, I realized that this “new me” was wearing an invisibility cloak to everyone else around me. No one seemed to notice the profound changes I had experienced. But that’s the thing about change. It’s got to come from you…for you

6. No one can be your everything. When it comes to companionship, I feel like we’re often misguided in believing that there is someone who can be our everything. No single person can check off all of your boxes, and honestly, we can’t expect them to. That’s a huge responsibility. That job is up to you. You have to be enough for yourself and traveling alone taught me that. I needed to learn to be my own shoulder to cry on, my own cheerleader. I needed to learn that I was enough for me.

 

Continue Reading

The big gain in loss.

“C’est un mal pour un bien.”

One of the most optimistic French phrases I’ve learned. It’s a blessing in disguise. When facing loss, any kind of loss, it feels nearly impossible to find the positive. How on earth could losing something or someone you love be a good thing? Your entire world feels like it’s been turned upside down. But the truth is, there is always a blessing in disguise…and once you find it, it’s incredible how quickly your empty glass becomes half full.

On Mother’s Day, I said goodbye to my grandmother, Ligaya. She was more than just a grandmother in the traditional sense. She raised me alongside my mother, drank champagne with me at bars, knew how to dougie and had the biggest heart you’ve ever encountered. In fact, the doctors said her heart was twice the size of the average heart. But if you knew her, you already knew that. Ligaya means joy in Tagalog, and joy is exactly what she gave everyone around her. Compassion was her guiding principle. She taught me that true strength came from the heart and that compassion didn’t make a person weak, it made a community stronger. Given that her heart was twice the size of what it should be, it seems clear to me that she practiced what she preached.

In losing her, I’ve gained a valuable lesson: it is immeasurably important to walk the walk. Or at least to do your damn best. Often times, if we take a second to reflect, we can see that our actions do not always match our principles. I’ve always thought of myself as a compassionate person, but in her passing, I constantly wonder if I am actually walking the walk. If I could do more. Give more. Listen more. The answer is always yes. We can’t go back in time to right past wrongs, but we can right them by moving forward with bigger, more understanding hearts. We can learn from the times we didn’t put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and the times we could’ve been a little gentler.

Compassion does not mean self-sacrifice and it does not mean putting your own needs on the back burner. Compassion is understanding that everyone is fighting their own fight and that a little empathy goes a long way. My grandmother once invited a homeless man to live in our kitchen while he found work, helped an elderly couple get back on their feet after life had been hard on them, and always took the sides of my boyfriends when I was PMSing. That woman walked the fucking walk.

Losing my grandmother, physically, has made me more conscientious about how I can help her live on. As the sadness of loss fades, the excitement of awareness and opportunity fills my cup. Compassion is the secret ingredient to a happy life. I strive to use it liberally.

Continue Reading

How traveling made me want to become a morning person.

Gina and morning person do not often find each other in the same sentence. Unless that sentence reads: Gina is not a morning person.

There is not a single early riser in my family. Minus my grandmother. She used to get up before the sun came out, silently sipping her black coffee in the dark kitchen. We all thought she was nuts. Like, who actually wants to be awake that early? It turns out she was onto something…

On a boat, the two best parts of the day are directly connected to the sun: when it rises and when it sets. Twice a day, if you’re lucky enough to see both, the sun commands your attention. Hey you, yeah you, pause. Enjoy. (Insert a sort of diva face here).

On the road, I realized that there are a multitude of reasons as to why cultures have always governed themselves around the sun and I, an avowed night owl, have started sipping the Kool-aid. Many of the places I visited in the past year were extremely remote. When there were inhabitants on these islands, many of them did not have electricity. Work needs to get done and life needs to be lived during the hours of daylight. Makes sense. One point for practicality! My grandmother, however, had electricity and I think her allure to the morning hours was more inline with mine…

Allow me to digress.

Unlike other kinds of travel, sailing requires that someone always be awake during the night. We organize our “watches” in three hour shifts starting after sunset, ending after sunrise. Watching the sun come up after 10 hours of blanketed darkness is like seeing the finish line at the end of a marathon. It couldn’t come sooner. Yet, in that transition to the “end” there is a new beginning. A new notch in your belt, another day accomplished, the intrigue of what you can accomplish next. What lies in store for me now? It happens quickly, that transition, but to an active mind, it can also feel really slow. It’s a time to pause, to set the tone for what’s about to come. When you get to the finish line, are you going to complain about your achy muscles? Or are you going to ride a runners high? What tone are you going to set? The rest of the day is indeed governed by the intentions you make at sunrise.

 

 

On and off the boat, I started making new morning routines to get me excited about being Gina the Day Chaser. I began to enjoy the calm silence of the early morning left to me by the other night owls of the world. Alone, I drank my tea, jotted down my intention for the day – who did I want to be, what energy did I want to give off -, had a look at the to-do list I made the night before and usually took off for a bit of exercise. There is really nothing like kayaking around a blue lagoon at sunrise, doing yoga to the sound of chirping tropical birds or running the streets of Paris as the smell of butter seeps from bakeries opening their doors. Cliche? Yes. Seriously f’ing awesome? Double yes.

I am still a work in progress and have yet to permanently cancel my membership to the Night Owl’s Association, but I am making the transition. For a type-A, tornado-like thinker such as myself, there is immeasurable value in having time to stop…pause…and just be. The good news is, sunrises and early mornings aren’t just for when you’re away. They’re for when you’re awake. Learning to love the mornings has given me an edge on finding joy, finding adventure and finding that feel good, travel happy high right here at home. 

 

Continue Reading

Life changing magic of not driving.

Turning 16 was supposed to be the ultimate. The key to freedom was just on the other side of 16. My 16th birthday was the day I would have the right to go where I wanted, when I wanted, without having to ask. I envisioned long, lazy drives with my girlfriends, singing Britney Spears with the wind in our hair…I dreamt of stretches of land without a car in sight…I imagined Disneyland, always within my reach! Hey, I was a kid after all 😉

What I didn’t conjure up in my mind was the day to day of getting from place to place, the traffic, the chores, the responsibilities and the stress. Now, this is not a plea against driving, because truth be told, I absolutely love driving. It can be relaxing, therapeutic almost. But something big happened when I decided to use my own two legs instead.

After that fateful 16th birthday, I got a car and along with it the freedom I had imagined. I could go anywhere (sort of) and do anything (sort of). What happened? I tried. I over-committed, I said yes to everything, no to nothing, and I tried to fit in all my errands in impractical amounts of time. Because why? Because I could get around faster!

Fast forward a few years later, I got a scooter to zip around San Francisco. No more wasting time looking for parking, no traffic…now I could really do everything! Plus, what isn’t awesome about a cute little scoot?! What happened? I over-committed even more, I made several plans within an hour, thinking I could do it all because, hey, I thought I could! I was late all the time. That’s the irony, right? I knew it would only take me 5 minutes to drive to spin class so I left 6 minutes before it started. This might sound dramatic, but I sucked as a friend because of my desire to fit it all in. I was late for this party, then late for that dinner, then a no-show at that concert because I was too late to the dinner to leave right away! Even though I genuinely wanted to make everyone happy by being a YES friend, I made no one happy by being a flaky friend.

Then, I went sailing. For a year, I traveled at a max speed of 5 miles an hour. I moved slow and there was nothing I could do to go any faster. I had to learn to appreciate slowing down. Seeing as how most places I visited were the definition of remote, my own two legs were the only method of transportation…and I loved it. I explored, I experienced, I felt like I was part of my environment. Now that, my friends, was the ultimate.

Readjusting to life in San Francisco, I have decided to take a slower approach to the fast pace of city living. I walk. Everywhere. With the hills of San Francisco being as steep as they are famous, the temptation of hopping in a $4 Lyft can be pretty strong, but I have realized that in forcing myself to slow down, I am actually a lot happier…and my friends are, too.

When I commit to less, I can really give and get the most out of what I do decide to do. I can be present. My mind isn’t stressed about the next thing or feeling guilty about the last. I take new routes to familiar places, I see the details in the streets that used to be a blur as I zipped by. I get to soak in this city as if I were a visitor. And if you know anything about San Francisco, you know that there is always a sight to see.

So sure, maybe it takes me an hour to walk to a Sunday picnic, maybe I have to leave the house earlier or just wait to go to the post office tomorrow. So what? I do less but I experience more. That, my friends, is what travel happy is all about.

I dare you to give it a go! Even for a week. Enjoy your own two legs, take your time and explore a place you think you already know.

Continue Reading

Send someone your good vibes.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt a real Monday morning. The dreaded, please don’t make me leave my bed, Monday morning. But here we are…and I’m running late.

While I must admit that I never had a case of the Monday’s during my two months in Indonesia, there were some days that demanded a lot more of my mental (and physical) energy than others. On these very days, as if reading my mind, my meditation teacher would ask us to dedicate our practice to someone else. If you’ve ever done yoga or taken a meditation class, you are familiar with setting your intentions for your practice. Why are you there? What motivates you to get in the zone today? Typically, intention setting is about YOU. Or in my case, me. But something awesome happened when I dedicated my effort to someone else: I worked a lot…happier.

I smiled more, I had more positive thoughts and I worked harder to send that person my good vibes. Of course, your recipient doesn’t know they’re on your mind, and quite frankly, that might be the best part about it. Giving is about the act of giving, not the validation of your gift. It feels good to devote your energy to someone or something else, even if you get nothing in return. But in case you’re worried, don’t. Karma is real 😉

To pull me out of bed and through the front door, I’m channeling my intentions outward instead of inward. Look out, good vibes might just be on your way!

 

 

Continue Reading

The pursuit of happiness.

This morning, during my typical routine of drinking tea, opening emails and listening to NPR’s 5 minute news update, I came across an article that caught my eye. Written by Berkeley professor, Tania Lombrozo (haaay), the author asks the question: Is Happiness a Universal Right?

Today is International Happiness Day – a day that the United Nations created in order to practice support for the belief that happiness is a birthright. But is it? Lombrozo provides numerous studies that challenge us to ask ourselves some important questions. Should we all have the right to happiness? To pursue happiness? She asks if the act of finding happiness is actually making us less happy. Considering my recent blog post on finding happiness, this really got me thinking.

Is the pursuit of happiness creating the illusion that we have less of it than we think? Perhaps, in chasing this feeling, we’re not able to give attention to the happiness we already have? Hmm. It begs me to ask myself, and you since you’re here: how do you define happiness?

In the article she provides a study that argues that Americans define happiness in more individualistic ways but that in cultures that define it as something tied to social wellbeing and connectedness, the pursuit of happiness indeed does make us happier.

I can’t even count how many times I have gone down a rabbit hole of angst even in the midst of doing something I’m proud of. College is a great example of this. If I do say so myself, I crushed it in college. I maintained good grades, I enjoyed my classes, I was proud of what I was accomplishing…but the second I paused to compare my success to others, I felt worse. There will always be somebody doing “better”. Work is the same way. Should I even bring up the gym? If I can honestly admit it, I sometimes felt this while traveling! Ooh that boat is sooo much more awesome. Oh wow, they got to go to that island?! I don’t even want to admit that I was thinking this while drying off from snorkeling tropical waters. Uh, hello?! Perspective, Gina!

As the saying goes, you’re happiest when you want what you already have. So, to bring it full circle, that travel happy I talked about yesterday? Yeah, you already have it. You already possess loads of experiences that you lived and that you loved. Not to say you shouldn’t continue seeking them out, (because of course you should!) but perhaps finding a way to relive that collection of moments will create a deeper gratitude for… you guessed it, the happiness you already have.

Check out the article on NPR and let me know what you think!

What questions does it make you ask yourself and how do you define happiness?

Continue Reading