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positively present picks: may 31, 2013


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"Be in love with your life.
Every minute of it."

Jack Kerouac


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9 Things Happy People Do to Stress Less : #3 is so, so important!

The Little Book of Contentment : a fabulous, free ebook from Zen Habits

Origami Fox : how adorable is this little guy? origami's impressive!

How to Deal with Difficult Transitions : a wonderful read on a tough topic

38 Foreign Words We Could Use in English : some of these are brilliant!

Pigment : a new favorite store for style + home

Google Poetics : poems created from Google searches. so fun!

The ABC's of Contemporary Creatives : so clever + pretty too

Dog Body Language : a must-watch video for dog owners (or dog lovers!)

6 Ways to See the Glass Half-Full : it's not always easy to do, is it? 

The Proust Questionnaire : a great get-to-know-yourself exercise

Go Love Yourself : this stellar package on sale June 3 for only 72 hours!



Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube


"Don't Swallow the Cap" — The National
"Take a Walk" — Passion Pit
"Line of Fire" — Junip
"Impossible"  — Shout Out Louds
"Golden State" — Joywave
"Permenant Hesitation" — Born Ruffians
"What in the World" — Hungry Kids of Hungary
"Pompeii" — Bastille
"Called Out in the Dark" — Snow Patrol
"Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better" — Joshua Radin
"Get Lucky" — Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams


Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life  
Steve Martin

6 steps for conquering an irrational fear



Most us probably fear things that we shouldn't really fear—like a routine dentist appointment or that teeny tiny crawling spider—and even though we realize, rationally, that we shouldn't fear something so silly, we just can't seem to help it. Most of the time these little fears don't hinder us too much, but there are times when they can prevent us from making positive choices—like when you going to the dentist every six months—and there are times when they can prevent us from living in the present—like when you spend time outside searching for potential bug encounters. 

That last line pretty much sums up where this whole irrational fear topic is coming from. For the past few weeks, every time I take Barkley for a walk, I search the ground relentlessly, I carefully scan the bark of trees, and I cock my head listening for that all-too-familiar screeching sound. Rather than enjoy my little outdoor breaks with Barkley, I'm constantly embarking on a fear-based hunt. And the dreaded creature I'm searching for isn't some crazed monkey or ravenous lion. It's a small, two-inch-long insect that doesn't bite or sting known as a cicada

cicadaFor those of you who don't live on the US East Coast, you might not be familiar with these winged beasts that crawl out from the ground by the millions every 13- to 17-years to mate. During this oddly-timed ritual (I mean, how do they know it's been exactly 13 or 17 years?!), they shed their exoskeletons, make a preposterous amount of noise, and fly around wildly and erratically in search of a mate. Other than some damage to certain types of trees, they don't really hurt anything, especially not people. But, if I'm completely honest, they make me more than a little nervous. I am not excited to see them return—particularly now that I'm out and about with my puppy every few hours. 

Scientists say the cicadas will arrive when the ground reaches 64°, but, not having a thermometer handily plunged in the earth, I have to rely on my eyes and ears to spot these harmless-yet-terrifying creatures. As the temperature continues to increase into the high 70s and 80s, so too do my efforts to spot the first cicada. Even though I know they're harmless—and inevitable—I find myself constantly searching, as if by spotting one I can somehow quell the dread I experience when I think of their impending arrival.

Of course, my rational mind realizes that, whether I spot one or not, they're coming—and there's not a thing I can do about it. And yet I find myself absorbed by this fear—or perhaps more accurately, dread, since I'm not really afraid of them—and it's taking me away from the present, putting my mind into an imagined future where cicadas are flying spastically all around me and I'm terrified of even the shortest venture outside. I know better than anyone that living in an imagined future (especially a fear-based one!) does nothing but soil the present, which is exactly why I've resolved to (attempt to) conquer this irrational fear of cicadas—at least until they arrive. 



1. Address your emotional responses.
The first key to dealing with any fear is admitting to it (not always easy if, say, the fear is a bug and you are an adult!). And the next key thing is to recognize your emotional (and physical—heart beating fast, muscles tensing up, palms sweating) responses to the fear. Sometimes fear—especially the irrational kind—can take over and we don't even realize how afraid we are of something until we start paying attention to our own signals. When we pay attention to how we are feeling and when we are feeling that way, we are able to work with those emotional responses rather than simply react to them. 

2. Question your negative thoughts.
The best way to deal with an emotional fear response is to question the negative thoughts. For example, I think to myself, "Cicadas are going to come and swarm around me and get in my hair and Barkley is going to eat them and I am going to freak out if they land on me..." etc., etc. When I think things like this, it's time to start questioning those thoughts. Are they definitely going to land on me? No. If they do, will it be the end of the world? No. If Barkley eats one is the worst thing that could happen? No (people even eat them!). The more I question these negative thoughts, the more I'm able to see my fear more rationally. 

3. Use your senses to stay present.
While I'm anticipating the cicadas, I'm missing out on what's actually happening in the present—what I can see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. Instead of directing my attention to what I'm going to be afraid of it in the future, it's best for me to focus on what's happening now, which includes all of the beautiful things about springtime. Rather than worry about what's coming, we need to redirect our attention to what's here. And even when the cicadas do arrive and I'm fearful of them, I can focus my attention on other aspects of my daily walks, like Barkley proudly carrying a little stick or a whole azalea bush in full bloom. 

4. Get (gradual) exposure to what you fear.
It can be hard to actually expose yourself to what you're afraid of (just looking at photos of cicadas online sends shivers of disgust down my spine!), but when the fear must be conquered (after all, I can't stay indoors for the six weeks these little guys are out and about!), it's key to start gradually coming to terms with the fear. I've started doing this by looking at them online, and, while I won't say it's really helped that much yet, I have a feeling I'll be less surprised when I encounter one of these guys in real life. Plus, once they arrive, I'm going to give myself a chance to check them out up close so I'm not so scared if I do come in close contact with one. 

5. Recall what you've conquered. I've been through these cicada cycles three times already in my life and each and every time I've made it through; I've conquered this same scenario three times. Even when I recall the unpleasant experiences I've had with them, I realize that, in the big picture, these little bugs don't really impact my life that much. (Though, to be fair, one of my earliest memories is riding my pink Big Wheel bike and watching the dead cicadas attached to the wheel spin around and around.) The irrational fear is just that—irrational—and by revisiting the situations you've already been through, you will feel stronger and more ready to take on your fear. 

6. Take it one day at a time.
This might seem like a cliched AA saying, but it has a lot of merit, especially when it comes to coping with fear. Instead of worrying about the cicadas coming, I need to focus on today. They have not yet arrived. And when they do arrive, I need to focus on that day and that moment instead of worrying about whether or not I'm going to have an encounter with one. To cope with any irrational fear, it can be so helpful to take it one day, hour, minute at a time. Instead of worrying about the future—six weeks of cicadas! ahhh!—the trick is to focus on getting through little bits of time. It's much easier to master a fear when you tell yourself you only have to do it for a short period of time. And all those short periods of time add up! 

Fear is a funny thing. It can take over our minds and make us believe danger is imminent even when we are perfectly safe. It can supercharge our emotions until we're almost blinded by what we believe to be a very valid state of mind. It can hold a lot of power—but only if you allow it to. Difficult as it might be to see sometimes, we have more control over our fears than we let on. It's often easier to give into them, to let them take over, but we have the power to take back our own minds, directing our attention back to what's rational and true. Obviously the fear I've discussed here isn't a major one (or a rational one), but it shows how a small thing can gradually manifest itself into a big thing if you don't make an effort to conquer the fear.  

positively present picks: may 24, 2013


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"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves
growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies,
I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning
over again with the summer."

F. Scott Fitzgerald


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Pinterest Update! : refreshed my page a bit + added a new board

How to Be More Childlike : a must-read for enjoying this long weekend

70 Cute Baby Animals : cute things improve your mood so click away!

Pooch Posse Cardigan : I just adore this Anthropologie sweater

Beauty in Ordinary Things Desktop : such a great reminder for your screen

5 Steps to Detoxify Your Inner Self : use these tips to rejunvinate yourself

Brain Games : I've become obsessed with this NatGeo show

Redefining Success : Arianna Huffington's got some wise words

Excel Spreadsheet Art : the first time I've ever liked a spreadsheet!

7 Limiting Beliefs of Unhappy People : don't let yourself be limited

Huset : a new modern home shop to fall in love with 

Sunshine + Summertime : perfect place to get a summer fix

I Can't Live Without Books : a free notecard download




Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube


"Shy Sun" — Dresses
"Full Circle" — Half Moon Run
"Daylight Colours" — Gold & Youth
"Pretend It's Love"  — The Postelles
"Shake It Off" — Teddy Geiger
"People Like Us" — Kelly Clarkson
"Fantasy" — MR MS
"Keep Moving" — The Boxer Rebellion
"A Little Party" — Fergie
"When They Fight, They Fight" — Generationals
"Clouds" — Zach Sobiech
"Riptide" — Vance Joy
"Give Up" — Monophona
"Lifetime" — Jack Savoretti
"Close to Home" — Eilidh Hadden


The Wakefield Legacy (Sweet Valley High)  
Francine Pascal

Thinking with Type  
Ellen Lupton

anticipation: how to make the most of expectation


“An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality;
our desires often being but precursors of the things
which we are capable of performing.” 

Samuel Smiles


Did you know that anticipating something can be a way to boost your happiness level? Yep, it's true! Apparently the act of anticipating a pleasant event can make you feel happier. Studies, such as this one referenced in The New York TImes, have shown that simply anticipating a good event—such as a vacation—can boost happiness for weeks. This is likely because, as Tali Sharot writes in her book The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain, "anticipation of a pleasurable event seems to activate neural systems that are also engaged while actually experiencing the enjoyable event." While what we feel might not be exactly the same, Sharot's own studies have shown that the pleasure of anticipation can come pretty darn close to the actual experience. 

This information, of course, raises the questions: How do you anticipate an event and still stay in the present? Is it even possible to do so? While I truly believe staying in the present is an essential aspect of living a positive life, it's hard to deny that anticipating a future happy has it's benefits. There's a hopefulness, an excitement, to imagining something wonderful in the future that can, in fact, make the present even more joyful. 

Personally, I'm experiencing this anticipation right now. For my upcoming 30th birthday, my boyfriend just booked us a trip to check out Oheka Castle, one of the grand Long Island estates that inspired The Great Gatsby (my recent obsession, for those who have been following the site and Instagram these past few weeks!). I couldn't be more excited to take in the luxury and beauty that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous character's home. An entire summer must pass, however, before I'll set foot on the Oheka grounds—which means months of anticipation, something I'm to which I'm actually looking forward. 

I'm not much for waiting—patience is not my greatest virtue—but after reading up on anticipation and giving it some thought, I've started to realize how valuable it really is in terms of creating more happiness. Yes, I could easily drive up to Oheka Castle next week and check it out, but what fun would that be? Would it be less enjoyable without the weeks of waiting? Odd as it is to say, I think it's the anticipation of it that makes it all the more exciting.  

Even though focusing on the future goes against the idea of being present, there's some merit in allowing yourself to daydream about future (pleasant!) events, to look forward to something wonderful coming your way. The trick is to know how to make the most of anticipation, to use it in a way that enhances the present. Here are some tips: 




1. Picture the event in vivid detail. In Sharot's book, she argues that one way to get the most out of anticipating an event is to picture it in vivid detail. The more details about the event you can imagine, the more joy you'll experience from your anticipation. I couldn't agree more. The more you imagine the event, the more you'll look forward to it—and the more your brain will get those cues that you're actually taking part in it before it starts. 


2. Expect good things to happen. It can be hard not to anticipate what could go wrong when you're looking forward to something (what if the concert gets canceled? what if it rains on my wedding day? what if I get sick on vacation?), but if you want to make the most of anticipation, you have to focus on all of the things that could go right. When you imagine in vivid detail what's coming up, imagine the good things. Picture everything going just the way you want it to. 


3. Save the best for (almost) last. If an event is really, really far away, don't start focusing on it so much. Wait until it gets closer to imagine all of the amazingness that's coming your way. Sometimes when it's too far away, it can be disheartening to imagine what's to come. It's alright to think about it, but save the really good anticipation—like all of those vivid details—for when the even is just around the corner. This way it won't take over too much of the present. 


4. Don't detract from the now. It's a tricky balance—looking forward to the future while staying present—but the key is to make sure that your anticipation isn't detracting from the present. If you find yourself not doing certain things or holding back in certain ways because you're focused on what's to come, it's time to redirect your attention to the now. While it's great to have excited expectations, they won't truly increase your happiness if they stand in the way of the present moment. 



"Sometimes expecting a good thing is more pleasurable than actually experiencing it," Sharot writes in The Optimism Bias, and I actually can't argue with that. (Just think of the times you've imagined some amazing event only to have the real event leave you feeling a little let down.) Perhaps its expecting too much from something (I'm talking to you, New Year's Eve!) that takes away from it. Or perhaps it's just that anticipation can be so fulfilling that an actual experience isn't as good as expecting that experience. Either way, I think Sharot's words serve as a good reminder that: (1) anticipation can be pretty awesome and (2) anticipation, if overdone, can take away from the event itself. As with most things, moderation in expectation is key. While it's fun to look forward to the future, don't let it spoil the present. 

positively present picks: may 17, 2013


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"It takes a great deal of courage to
see the world in all its tainted glory
and still to love it."

Oscar Wilde


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How Well Do You Know Yourself? : this quiz really made me think. take it!

Be More, Do Less : five excellent tips here for staying present

Flashbulb Memories : just learned about these + find them fascinating

Smile in Each Moment : a simple, yet necessary reminder

Good Hood Store : seriously loving everything in this online shop

A Guide to Practical Compassion : ZenHabits never fails to inspire!

Colorful Masking Tape Installation : I want this done to my apartment

Self Improvement v. Self Acceptance : an interesting read on Owning Pink

On Startups : a funny/sad quote that I could totally relate to

Gatsby-Inspired Pet Accessories : perfect for the Gatsby and dog obsessed

Making Friends with You : learn to be friends with yourself!

Wildlife Wednesday : very few things are cuter than this little duckling

Creative Exercises : a free download to get your creativity flowing

Saying Yes to the Unknown : it's scary, but it's good for you

3 Reasons Not to Be So Hard on Yourself : it's time to cut yourself some slack!



Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube


"Chasing the Sinking Sun" — Shout Out Louds
"Make It to Me" — Manchester Orchestra
"Over the Love" — Florence + the Machine
"The Lightning Strike" — Snow Patrol
"Fever" — Night Panther
"Say Something" — Sucre
"All We Have" — Ok Sweetheart
"Get Gone" — White Arrows
"Fading Listening" — Shiny Toy Guns
"Why Don't You Whisper" — Catnaps
"Drift" — Daughter
"Soldier" — Ingrid Michaelson
"Warrior" — Demi Lovato
"Your Life Your Call" — Junip
"Oh Sailor" — Mr. Little Jeans


Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald  
Therese Fowler