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happy, happy, happy halloween!

Halloween pumpkin()

 

"Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat..."

Nicholas Gordon



Halloween, in my book, is the happiest day of all and even though I won't be celebrating it in the traditional way this year (since I'm preoccupied sunning myself on a Jamaican beach...), that doesn't mean I can't still be super excited about my favorite day of the year! Recently my coworker asked me, "What do you think it means that you love Halloween so much?" and it really got me thinking about the holiday. What is it that I love so much about it? Of course, all of the orange... and the candy... and the dressing up... There are so many great things about it that popped into my head when she asked the question, but none of them really addressed what it means to be so into Halloween.



My Halloween History

Princessbella Of course, as soon as my coworker left my desk, I attempted to look up what it meant to be so infatuated with Halloween. I was hoping to find a concrete reason for my love of the holiday. After all, there had to be some explanation for this odd obsession... right? Apparently not. After neglecting work for a bit on a hunt to understand a love of Halloween, I didn't come up with much. I decided it would be up to me to figure this one out. No relying on good ol' Google this time! Instead, I'd actually have to give it this some thought all on my own. In an attempt to make some sense of my love of Halloween (before it dawned on me that, really, I didn't have to make sense of it...), I searched my brain for Halloween memories, looking for a link to my love of the holiday.

My mind swirled around a mess of Halloween memories -- the year I dressed up as a giant gift and couldn't sit down in class, the year I learned about bones from a Hallmark-made skeleton, the year my teacher had a stuffed bear dressed up as a devil that I desperately wanted to take home with me, the year I visited a house in which you had to reach into a giant spider's belly filled with "eggs" to get candy out, the year my sister and I dressed up as the opposites we are (devil and angel), the year I decorated my braces with orange and black rubber bands, the year I got the Halloween blanket that I still pull out every fall (see Bella wrapped in it at the bottom of the post), the year my best friend decided she was too old for trick-or-treating, the year I fitfully tossed and turned knowing my boyfriend was up to no good (he was), the year I attended an exclusive Hollywood Halloween party, the year I went to not one but three Halloween parties with different costumes for each, the year I fought with a good friend, the years of dressing up Bella in Halloween costumes (see Princess Bella's 2009 getup above). So many memories, both good and bad, of the very last day of October.

I rifled through them all -- all of those good and bad recollections -- and still couldn't figure out what it was I loved so much about the day, or why. I decided to look up the psychology of Halloween. Maybe if I understood the psychology of the holiday, I rationalized, I couldn't understand the reasoning behind my love for the day...



The Psychology of Halloween

After much searching that was pretty unsuccessful (clearly there aren't many people writing about the importance of Halloween to a twenty-something with a mild obsession!), I realized that it pretty much was going to have to come down to the fact that, at it's core, I just liked it. I couldn't necessarily explain why and, after years of being asked why I liked Halloween so much, I'm not sure why I thought this would be the year that I'd somehow come up with a definitive answer.

Orangecouch Though I didn't come across a clear reason behind my love for October 31st, in the article "The Modern   Psychology of Halloween," I read: "There’s something so timelessly magical in the golden colors of fallthat’s annually reflected in the glowing flames of our Jack O’Lantern smiles. Rather than feeling a creepy chill in the air, instead, many of us today associate a sense of warmth and togetherness with the date October 31st.  The past associations with all things evil have today been replaced by the amusing notion of a good scare, meaning that it’s time once again to party." Finally, something I could relate to! It wasn't the fear factor that enticed me into loving the holiday or even the dressing up that was so appealing. This article hit the nail on the head when it addressed one of the key components to my love for Halloween: the warmth and magic of it. It is the tantalizing mix of comfort and mystery that I love so much about Halloween. The warmth and comfort of the day couple with the potential for tricks and treats really does leave me feeling happy and inspired.  

To me, there's something warm in the thought of Halloween, and especially in the color orange. As you may have guessed from the design of the blog, I'm a pretty big fan of orange. I don't know if I loved orange first or Halloween first, but to me the two go hand-in-hand. While some people find orange to bright or overwhelming, it's by far my favorite color and when I look at it I feel cozy inside. Apparently orange makes Bella (sleeping on my new orange couch above) feel cozy as well!



The Meaning of Halloween

In my mind, Halloween -- the word alone! -- evokes so many things, and so many of them are positive. When I think of Halloween, I think of all of the following things (and more!):


  • Community: Most of the people I know dress up for Halloween. Little kids, teenagers, college kids, and adults -- most of them love to get into the spirit of Halloween. Additionally, because it's become such a commercialized holiday in America, most people -- regardless of the their backgrounds -- join in on the fun. For that reason, Halloween is one of the greatest holidays because every can participate and get joy out of it.  


  • Generosity: Halloween is the one day of the year you can (if you are a kid) knock on all of your neighbors' doors and they will greet you with a smile and a delicious treat. Can you imagine if every day were like that? If you could just walk up to your neighbors door and s/he would open it with a smile and treat? I'm sure some neighborhoods are like that, but, where I come from, Halloween is pretty much the only day you go knocking on neighboring doors. 

     
  • Acceptance: Though this one probably doesn't apply to everyone, Halloween, for me, is a great symbol of accepting someone for who they are. I love Halloween -- really love it! -- and it's something that people in my life have to accept (even though people often think it's odd that I like the holiday so much). Because of raised eyebrows I've received and the confused looks I've been given, I know that not everyone really gets my love of Halloween, but the people I'm really close with accept it and that's what really matters.

     
  • Imagination: Halloween is a great time to use your imagination. Every year -- probably around the middle of summer -- I start thinking about Halloween and wondering what I'm going to be. Though I do have a few go-to costumes that I for some reason cannot get enough of (Alice in Wonderland and a 1920's flapper being two of them), I love the idea that, for one night a year, I can dress up as anything I want to and (most) people won't judge me. Being able to use my imagination this way is truly liberating! 

      
  • Change: Traditionally Halloween symbolized the end of summer and the beginning of winter and, in a way, that's what it still does for me. Where I live, it usually isn't until after Halloween that it starts to get really cold and it's at this cusp between the lingering warmth of summer and the crisp onset of winter that I find myself face-to-face with the idea of change. In addition, because I am usually changing myself into someone else by donning a costume, the holiday really makes me think about the concept of transformation.

     
  • Celebration:In my world, Halloween has -- and will always be -- a time for celebration. In my mind, Halloween is New Year's Eve and Independence Day rolled into one. It's better than fireworks, more exciting than champagne. Whether it was tame classroom parties at school or wild ragers in college, Halloween has always been a time for celebrating, for dressing up, for getting too excited due to a heavy sugar rush. When I think about the celebration aspect, a big smile spreads across my face and already I can't wait until the celebration begins again next year.



Halloweenblanket Since I love Halloween so much, it often comes up in conversations I have with others. It seems to me that Halloween is one of those holidays that people either really love or don't care much for once they've reached the age of ten. Most adults either feel passionately about it or can take it or leave it. I, of course, am the former. I really do love Halloween and all that the word brings to mind. It's a day filled with a lot excitement, mystery, and warmth. It's day we get the opportunity to be really generous to our neighbors and explore our creative sides by dressing up as anything we want to be. It's clearly my favorite holiday, but I'd love to hear about whether or not you love it too. And if you are a Halloween fan, why do you love it? The reasons I've listed above are only some of the many exciting, positive things about the holiday, but I'm sure you've come up with some of your own ideas while reading this. If you have ideas and would like to share them, send me a tweet @positivepresent!



Treats for the Halloween Lover 

After being asked about my Halloween obsession, I attempted to learn more about the psychology and history behind the holiday. I found some pretty interesting stuff out there and those of you who love Halloween like I do may find these links interesting. To learn more about Halloween, check out these links:


The History of Halloween

The Modern Psychology of Halloween

What Your Costume Says About You

The Joy of Fear -- Why Halloween?

How Sweet It Is!: Halloween Candy

Psychology of Halloween Costumes



As a reminder, I'm lying happily on a beach in Jamaica right now, and, in order to maintain that vacation state of mind, comments for this post will be closed. However, if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share the link on social media sites such as Twitter (you can follow me
@positivepresent) or  StumbleUpon.


take a vacation (or a staycation!) from your life

positive vaction ()


"A vacation is like love --
 anticipated with pleasure,
experienced with discomfort,
and remembered with nostalgia."

Unknown

 

Life can be pretty hectic, and it's so important to remind yourself to take a break from time to time. We often (or at least I often) get so caught up in, get so excited by, what I'm doing that I don't remember to take a break. For example, I often spend hours at my computer without getting up to stretch or give my eyes a rest. This, as we all know, is not good. And, in so many other ways, I don't give myself the breaks I probably need to be healthy. I don't usually take a break from doing things (unless I'm asleep) and I certainly don't take a break from thinking (I know, I know I need to start meditating), and, after a while, the lack of a break can take its toll. When it comes to me and taking breaks, I often have to be forced into it. I usually don't think to do it on my own and so it's wonderful when someone else gives me an opportunity to take a break and fit some relaxation into my life.

This week I'm going to (hopefully!) be spending a lot of time relaxing in beautiful, sun-kissed Jamaica. Because I'm sure I wouldn't have arranged such a vacation for myself, I'm very grateful to one of my best friends for getting married in a sunny, distant locale so I have the opportunity to pack my bags and take a mini-break from my always-on-the-go life. Normally I would prepare a nice long To Do list for the trip, crafting a schedule without even realizing it -- but not this time. This time I'm going to relax, to take in the sunshine and just be. Will this hard? Sure! I don't like to just sit calmly. I don't do well with the activity known as "relaxing." But I'm sure going to give it a try on this vacation.

While I'm gone, I'd encourage you to find a way to take a break (even if it's the stay-at-home kind) from your life. It really is important to take a step back from your life and whatever project/job you're absorbed in and just relax. I'm probably the worst at this so I understand that it's difficult. Because of that I'd like to emphasize the benefits of taking a break (to remind myself mostly!) and provide some suggestions for how you can take a break without having to fly to a tropical island (oh, I know, you feel so bad for me, don't you?)...



The Benefits of Taking a Vacation

  • Gain a new perspective. There's nothing like being in a new place (even if it's outside vs. inside at your desk) to help you have an new outlook. Staying in the same place doing the same thing gets stale and it's important to take a vacation, even if that "vacation" is just getting up from your desk and going for a walk outside. When you expose yourself to new things, you'll open up your mind to seeing the world differently and this is a really great way to live in the moment.

  • Rest and refresh your mind. Taking a vacation gives you an opportunity to rest your mind, to take a break from your daily routines and allow your body and mind to refresh themselves. It's important to take breaks every now and then in order to allow your mind to have a break. Meditation is a great way to vacate your mind, though I can't say I've actually done it (yet!).

  • Find exciting inspiration. Yes, you can find inspiration anywhere, but sometimes a break from your routine and a new environment can really help to inspire you. No matter what you do for a living, it's pretty likely that when you take a vacation you'll come back with new ideas and insights. One of my favorite things about vacationing is having the opportunity to be inspired by new things.  

  • Experience health benefits. I'm no doctor, but apparently those who vacation reap healthy rewards, such as less stress and fewer heart problems. I don't know if there's scientific proof for this, but I do know that I usually feel great after I've allowed myself to have a nice, relaxing vacation (Note: The relaxing part is key. I don't always do this when I'm on vacation and I end up more stressed than I was when I left. Going to work on that this weekend...).

  • Free yourself from stress. Stress, whether you like it or not, is part of most people's lives. It's hard to avoid some sort of stress (work, school, relationships, etc...), but you can take a break from whatever it is that's stressing you out. For most people, a nice vacation is just the thing to put whatever is stressful in their lives into perspective or, better yet, a break from the stress may inspire you to find a new way to deal with it when you return!

  • Celebrate the moment. There's something about being on vacation that allows you to live in the moment. When you're in your routine life, there are many, many distractions that can take you away from the moment, but often vacations have fewer distracting elements and allow us to really take in the now and embrace every moment. I'm not always the best as being present and vacationing really helps me work on that.



Unfortunately not all of us are lucky enough to have fabulous friends who decide to get married in Jamaica and therefore encourage them to break out of their humdrum routines, but that doesn't mean we can't all reap the rewards of vacationing. During the sagging economic climate, the term "staycation" gained its popularity. People want to do something different -- want to experience all of the great benefits of taking a vacation -- but it's not always affordable (or convenient). If that's the case for you, take a look at my suggestions below for how you can enjoy your very own stay-at-home vacation...



How To Staycation (a.k.a. Vacation without Traveling)

  • Pretend you're a tourist. This is one of the easiest ways to take a vacation right in your own town. Pretend you're on vacation there and do all of the tourist-y things that other people do when they come to visit. (If you live in a small town, take a trip to your closest city and try this out.)

  • Spend time doing what you love. More often than not we get so caught up in work and family and friends that we forget to spend time doing what we really love to do. If you can't hop on a plane and vacate your life, at least take some time to do what you love to do.

  • Eliminate work-related distractions. Hard as it might be, turn off your phone and email. There's no way you can operate on vacation-mode if you're constantly checking your BlackBerry (yes, I know, I know, this is so hard for some of us!). Eliminating work distractions can be a vacation in and of itself!

  • Read about far-away lands. As you may or may not know, I'm a HUGE fan of reading. It really is one of my favorite things to do and it can be a great way to take a break from your life. Think about where you'd really like to visit and then pick up a book (novel or nonfiction!) about it and dive it. Yes, it's not the same as going there, but it's still fun!

  • Engage others to staycation too.It's pretty hard to take a staycation when everyone around you is in super-busy, work mode. Try to find a friend or a family member to take part in your staycation with you. Not only will be more fun, but it'll be a lot easier to know that someone else is also vacating their world for a little while too.

  • Stay (of course!) in the moment. This can be hard when you're still in your own home or town, but it's important to act as if you're on vacation. Live in the moment, take things slow, don't rush around like you normally would. Pretend (hard as it might be!) that you are somewhere else and ignore all of the routines and regular tasks you normally fret about.



Because I'm truly trying to separate myself from my life for a few days (not because it's a bad life, mind you, but because it's healthy to do so every once and awhile), comments for this post will be closed. Additionally, comments for Friday's post will also be closed. However, if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share the link on social media sites such as Twitter (you can follow me @positivepresent) or  StumbleUpon. I hope you all have a chance to take at least a small break over the next few days. Though I know it's hard (trust me, it's like tearing a tantrum-throwing two-year-old from a toy store for me to pull me away from my computer or Blackberry), but it's so worth it to take a break every now and then.


how to let go of what you don't need

 

Letting go  ()


 "All the art of living lies in the fine mingling of letting go and holding on."

Henry Ellis

 

For a lot of people, it's hard to let go. It's hard to let go of people, of things, of emotions. It's hard to let go when you know you have to. It's hard to let go when you don't want to. I find that some people are better at letting go of some things than others. I, for example, have a terrificly terrible time letting go of people, but when it comes to letting go of actual things, I have absolutely no trouble saying goodbye. Other people don't seem to cling to people the way that I do, but ask them to get rid of a dress they wore in high school and they act like you're asking them to sell their soul. We're all different when it comes to letting go, but I bet that no matter who you are, you have a hard time letting go of something.

And, you know what? That's okay. It's okay to have a hard time letting go. Whether it's things, people, or thoughts, it's difficult to give up something that you once thought of (or still think of) as yours. But that's no excuse to keep hanging onto it. When you keep things you don't need (and, yes, this includes people) in your life, you're causing yourself to have to deal with things you don't need to. Extra things create clutter in your home, just the same way extra people create clutter in your heart. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have clutter of any kind in my life. I like things neat, I like things organized, and, above all else, I like things clutter-free.

Of course, getting rid of clutter -- emotional or physical -- is usually easier said than done. It's quite easy to say you want to get rid of something, but quite another to actually take action and get rid of it. It takes a lot of courage to get rid of something when, for whatever reason, you don't really want to get rid of it. You might be thinking yourself, "Okay, why would I get rid of something if I don't want to get rid of it?" It does seem a little backwards but there plenty of things we hang on to that we don't need. For example, there are plenty of people in this world who are hoarders (hello, Clean House!) and, though they know they should get rid of some of their stuff, they don't want to. Likewise, there are people out there who spend time with those that drain them emotionally. Though they know they should get rid of these people, they don't necessarily want to. In both of these examples, you can see that sometimes we hang on to things we don't need. And it's up to us to make a change.

Just like happiness, getting rid of things you don't need in your life is a choice. You don't usually get forced into it (though sometimes this can happen) and usually no one is going to do it for you (how often to people really come into your house and start de-cluttering your living space?). Therefore, it's all up to you. You have to make the choice to get rid of what you don't need in your life. Ready? Okay, let's go let go! 
 

Letting Go of What You Do Not Need

  • Decide what's really important. When you take a step back and think about what's really, truly important to you, you'll begin to realize that many of the things you're holding on to aren't as important as you once thought. What's important is being healthy, happy, and living your life to the fullest. If you are clinging to things or people, you're not really living happily and at peace with yourself. Step back and assess what really matters to you and letting go will become a lot easier.

  • Assess what benefits you're getting. One of the reasons we hang on to things or people is because we believe we need them, we believe we're really getting something of value from having them around. But is that true? Think about it -- and I mean really think about it. Are you benefiting from the clutter in your life? Is your life richer because you are surrounded by negative people? Probably not. If you take a moment and list the benefits you're getting from something you should let go of, you'll probably have a short list. Use this to motivate yourself to let go.

  • Recognize that you're overvaluing it. Typically it's you that's placing all of the value on a person or thing that you're holding on to unnecessarily. More often than not, you're idealizing that person or thing and telling yourself that, for whatever reason, you need to have it in your life. However, that's not true. If you believe you should be letting go than you should let go. What you need in your life is you. You also need things that are bringing you up, not down. If something isn't bringing you up, if it isn't absolutely necessary, stop overvaluing it and let it go.

  • Let it go -- no matter how hard it is. It really does come down to the old Nike slogan, "Just do it." No matter how hard it is, no matter what obstacles stand in your way, sometimes you have to just suck it up and let it go. I know, firsthand, that this is much easier said (or written!) than done, but, honestly, it really is the only way. Whether it's a person or a thing (or even a feeling), the best advice is just to let go (and don't go chasing after it either!). When you actually take action, you'll see that you're just fine without it. 
     

As much as you might think you need something, keep in mind that "need" is a very strong word. What you really "need" in your life is very different from what you might think you need. Remember that, deep down, you really do know what's best for yourself. If there's something telling you that you need to let go, listen to that instinct. Your gut feelings will let you know what's right and what's wrong. You just need to open your mind and listen to them. And then, when you hear that voice telling you that you need to let something go, have the courage to really listen and to take action. Letting something go isn't ever easy, but you can make your whole world better and more positive just by loosening your grip and letting go.


Do you find it hard to let go of people or things?
If so, how do you deal with situations when you really need to let go?

 


words to live by: awake is the new sleep

wake up to life ()

  

Are you changing, are you changing, are you changing?

Do you know it, do you feel it, do you know it?

But you're waiting; why're you waiting, why're you waiting?

Just do it, whatever it is.



There are secrets, there are secrets, there are secrets.

There are places, there are places you can go to

They might tell you, yeah, they'll tell you, that you shouldn't



Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Go do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,


Just do it, whatever it is.

 

And you're dancing and you're looking kinda crazy

And your arms are making little circles

There are reasons, there are reasons, you can find out

So do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Go do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Whatever it is, whatever it is.

 

It's so quiet, it's so quiet, it's so quiet

And you're dreaming, and you're dreaming, and you're dreaming

I turn to you and say, "Awake is the new sleep."

Awake is the new sleep so wake up.

And do it, whatever it is.

Just do it, whatever it is.



'Cause awake is the new sleep,

Awake is the new sleep.

So wake up.

Wake up and do it

Whatever it is, whatever it is,

Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Go do it, whatever it is, whatever it is,

Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is.


 

Ben Lee

"Whatever It Is"



To watch a video of this song on YouTube, click here. "Words To Live By" is a segment on Positively Present that features my favorite quote or lyrics from the week. Every Sunday I post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me with the hope that they'll inspire you too. Comments will be closed on these posts, but feel free to tweet the post if you enjoy it or contact me via Twitter.


working hard, playing hard

 

Work and play positive ()

 

[The following post was written by the very insightful Diggy, creator of Upgrade Reality, one of my favorite sites to visit for great information on self improvement. If you have a chance, definitely check out Diggy's site. There's a lot to gain from his words of wisdom! And if you enjoy this post, please support Diggy by subscribing to his RSS feed. Thank you, Diggy, for taking the time to give us all a bit of advice today on how to work hard and play hard.]

 

This is for those times when you start something with incredible enthusiasm, work hard at it, but only get it done for 80% or 50% or 30% and then get distracted or start something else, thinking you will complete the project you started sometime soon. I can't tell you how many times I've done this. I've bought so many domains and started so many sites and ideas and projects, only to not see them through and start a new one when the previous one was only half way done. I've read so many books 3/4 of the way through and then put them down thinking I will finish them soon and I never have. I have learnt my lessons from this though, and I want to share those lessons with you today. 

  

Lessons for Working Hard, Playing Hard


Don't work on more than 3 projects at a time.

Preferably two projects, but depending on the projects you can do up to three efficiently. There is also a difference if the project has been established and requires minimal maintenance to run efficiently versus a new project that needs all your hands on attention to build it up and promote it. For example, what I do now is I have:

  1. A blog, Upgrade Reality, which I write two posts a week for but I am putting a lot of time in promoting it, writing guest posts and connecting with bloggers and readers to build relationships.

  2. A new site which I'm starting with a friend that seems like a lot of fun and has a lot of potential.

  3. A program I'm having developed with a friend that we are going to promote and hopefully make popular.


This is all, and my hands are full if I want to do this properly and focus on getting something done. All other projects I have either turned into minimal maintenance or abandoned and put up for sale. I highly recommend choosing one or two projects that you are passionate about and see potential in, and work on those two only.

Drop everything else that is taking from your focus and creativity and do not start anything new unless you can clearly see it has much more potential than your current project and then you will have to replace your current project with the higher potential one. Work on those two projects with your full attention until they are either requiring minimal maintenance to bring in good money, or until they are big enough that you can sell them and move on to the next project.

 

Work first; money and play come later.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. To be successful it requires hard work, effort, dedication and a little luck always helps. You cannot expect something to grow massive or make millions if you do not spend hours, days and weeks if not years working hard at it. That is not to say it cannot happen, because there are always exceptions, but don't count on it. What makes the hard work worth it? Well...the reward at the end does.

A small period of hard work and focused effort can often lead to a multiple of that period in freedom, being both time and money. You can do something half, and have fun while doing it, go out partying and play around, and maybe build up something mediocre over time, but chances are that it will never get really big. Then on the other hand, you have the choice to work hard first, of course allowing yourself a little playtime and relaxation time, but very limited, for the sole purpose of building something up to a level where the reward will be great and allow you to do whatever you like for a long period of time. (For example building up a website that will bring in a few thousand dollars a month pretty passively and thus allow you to travel the world and follow your passions.)

 

Just do it.

This is the best mind-set to adopt when you are going to work hard first and play later. Don't think about it too much, there is no easy way, and no way around it. Just do it. Plug in your iPod with your favourite songs and sit down and work on your project. Wake up earlier and sleep later, work on weekends, go the extra mile and do the things others are not willing to do. Yes it is a sacrifice, and can be unpleasant at times, but it is also fun to work hard, to build something up, to get ahead of others, and to reap the rewards from your hard work at the end.



Don't give up.

While working hard, often it will initially seem like you are putting in way more than you are getting out, and this is indeed the case. This is the crucial period that you need to get through. Many people give up just before they make it through and before they can reap the rewards from their hard work. This is the momentum building stage and is often the first 6-12 months. You will see results, do not give up, keep working hard!

To sum it up... Resist the temptation to start a new project when you are already working on more than one. Limit your projects to three and, if possible, two. Work first, play later. How do you do this? Just do it. Sit down and work. No excuses. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish. Do not give up and keep working hard even if there are little results for your effort! After work comes play, and the benefits of your hard work should be well worth it with the time and resources you will have to play just as hard as you worked.