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Bye, 2016! : A Look Back at the Year

  Bye 2016

 

2016 was... intense, to say the least. Like most years, there were highs and lows, but something about this year was quite unique. I've seen lots of people online talking about all of the negative aspects of the year (of which, yes, there were many), but it doesn't feel great to join on that bandwagon and reflect on this year's struggles. This year was far from ideal, but a lot of great things did happen. I've spent a bit of time reflecting on the year and, rather than bemoaning the things that didn't work out the way I'd hoped, I've decided to focus on the things that did work out. 

Here are some of the highlights of my year. Hopefully reading through them will inspire you to think about the positive things that happened to you this year. Even if it was a rough one (and I know it was for so many of us), there is always something good to be found if you make a point to look for it. Here's some of the goodness I found in my life...  



POSITIVELY PRESENT PRODUCTS

Products 
For years I've been selling books and e-books, but this year I launched two products for the first time ever: stickers and pins! Launching physical products that I actually had to have made and shipped was a bit of a daunting task for me, but I'm so glad I explored that aspect of business. It's been so wonderful to see people around the world using my stickers to inspire more self-love and wearing my pins to promote more love and less hate. If you want to learn more about the products, check out my Etsy store, Twenty3. (And keep an eye out for new goodies coming in 2017!)

 

YOUTUBE CHANNEL LAUNCH

YouTube


Earlier this year, I launched my YouTube channel! I'd had one for years, but only used it for creating my weekly music playlists. This year, I took the leap and actually started making my own videos. This was not only a new aspect of my business that I had to learn, but it was also a huge step outside of my comfort zone. I'm very comfortable writing about personal things, but talking about them -- putting myself out there in a more physical way -- was scary. As nerve-wracking as it was, I'm so glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone! Watch the videos here

 

SIX YEARS OF SOBRIETY

Sober


In 2016, I celebrated six years of sobriety. Even though it's been six years, I'm still amazed that I've gotten (and stayed!) sober. The old me would never, in a million years, have believed that was possible. Drinking was such a big part of my identity for so long and realizing that I needed to let go of that aspect of myself (and actually letting it go) was life-changing for me. It's still a challenge, but, cliche as it sounds, it does get easier, but every year I'm able to celebrate sober is a huge accomplishment for me. (Also, I hope it's an inspiration for you. If there's something you should let go of, you can do it!)

 

NEW + IMPROVED WEBSITE

  New Site Look

Positively Present turned seven this year, and, in celebration, I gave the brand and the website a little makeover. I spent an incredible amount of time researching, sketching, and brainstorming exactly what I wanted the new brand to represent, and, after countless revisions, I finally launched the new look. I'm so thrilled with how it ended up turning out, and I'm so proud of what the new look represents: Positively Present's goal of promoting positively, awareness, and self-love. If you want to read more about the site's revamp (and the meaning behind it), check this out

 

EVERY DAY MATTERS DIARY

2017 Every Day Matters

For the third year in a row, the Every Day Matters: A Year of Inspiration for the Mind, Body, and Spirit diary launched. Working on this planner is one of my absolute favorite projects because it combines a few things I love doing the most: writing and illustrating and reading lots and lots of quotes. Every year, with the help of my amazing publishing team, the diary gets better and better, and I'm so proud of all the hard work that goes into it. If you haven't picked up your copy, it's not too late to kick off the year with inspiration that'll help you make every day matter. Here's where you can get it in pocket or desk size. 

 

EFFORTLESS INSPIRATION BOOKS

Effortless Inspiration 

One of the best things that happened in 2016 was the launch of my Effortless Inspiration series. The goal of these little books was to provide bite-sized inspiration and on-the-go insights on four topics absolutely essential for living a positively present life: Living in the Moment, Gratitude, Compassion, and Forgiveness. Working on these books was so inspiring, and hearing such positive feedback from people around the world (and seeing the books in different languages!) was straight up amazing. You can read more about the series here

 

6TH ANNUAL GRATITUDE CHALLENGE

Gratitude

For the sixth year in a row, I hosted the Gratitude Photo Challenge, and it was nothing short of inspiring. Dedicating time and attention to focusing on the things I'm grateful for each November is always such a positive experience, but this year I was blown away by the participation and completely thrilled by the opportunity to see people across the globe sharing the things they were thankful for. This year I also collaborated with the amazing Caroline from Made Vibrant, which made this year's challenge even more special! 

 

THIS UNCOMMON LIFE

This Uncommon Life

 

This year's most popular post was, by far, How to Share Your Beliefs (Even With People Who Don't Agree). It was the first time I'd really opened up about politics (a topic I generally try to stay away from, since, quite honestly, it's not often very positive). I was nervous to share the post (along with a new Instagram account, This Uncommon Life), but the post was so well-received, and I received so many messages telling me how my words had helped people cope with the touchy subject of politics. Since positively impacting people's lives really is all I want, the positive feedback I received on this post made my whole year!

 

It's exciting to look forward to the year ahead, but it's also important to reflect on the good things happened over the past twelve months. I hope you enjoyed reflecting on the Positively Present year with me, and I hope it inspired you to think about the things you've accomplished this year. And here's hoping 2017 is the best year yet! 

 

 

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5 Hang-in-There Holiday Tips

 

You Are Not Alone


I love the holiday season (if you couldn't tell, from all of my holiday-themed posts!), but with all of the joy, glitter, and fairy lights also comes a level of stress and pressure that's unprecedented during the rest of the year. Even if you're in a great place emotionally, financially, and mentally, the holiday season is bound to present some challenges that aren't present during the rest of the year. And, if we're honest, most of us aren't in that perfect emotional / financial / mental place so, around the holidays, whatever troubles we're currently facing are compounded by a number of factors:

 

  1. memories of past holidays (both good and bad),
  2. recollections of those no longer in our lives and a kind of re-mourning for them,
  3. increased financial expectations in the form of gifts and holiday-related obligations,
  4. stress related to trying to give (and hoping to receive) the perfect gifts, and
  5. societal pressure to suddenly have the most merry, festive, Instagrammable life ever.

 

Top all of that off with the end-of-the-year thoughts about what we did (or didn't...) do over the past year and the looming expectations to make the coming year the "best year yet!," and it's no wonder most of us have trouble staying positive during the holidays! Even for the most positively present person, these additional stressors can cause a lot of emotional challenges, and they can be even harder to cope with when it seems as if everyone around us is embracing the holiday spirit. 

The holidays can be -- and often are -- a really wonderful time of the year, but it's important to recognize the level of additional stress and pressure they bring to our lives, and make sure we're addressing it (rather than convincing ourselves that we should be enjoying every single moment). Here are some of the best ways to do just that. 

 

  1. Take note of what's working out. When it comes to the holidays, it's tempting to think everything has to be just perfect. For some, there are annual traditions to adhere to. For others, holiday parties to look picture perfect for. And, as you're probably well aware, life doesn't always go according to plan. With so many expectations around the holiday season -- buy the perfect gift! wear the most festive outfit! kiss your partner in the snow! wake up to a Lexus in your driveway! -- some of them are bound to be unmet. And that's okay. Instead of focusing on what didn't go as planned, direct your attention to what is working. Maybe you weren't able to afford a new, sparkly dress for a party, but you were able to get your nephew that hard-to-find gift he really wanted. During the holidays (and in general!), it helps to keep expectations low and to celebrate the things that are going right. 

     
  2. Know you're not alone in how you feel. The holidays -- through advertising, celebrity culture, and social media -- make us feel like we should be happy 24/7 all throughout the month of December, but it's important to remember that what you see online (and even in real life) isn't the whole story. All of us go through bouts of stress or loneliness or sadness or discontent at some point during the holiday season, and that is completely normal. We're being sold picturesque images of the perfect holiday everywhere we look, and it's no wonder that we sometimes feel disappointed that our lives don't look like the ones we see online. Remember: not everyone is falling in love, unwrapping the most fabulous gift, surrounding themselves with laughing, happy friends, or joyfully riding in a horse-drawn sleigh. 


  3. Make the holiday what you want it to be. Think, for a moment, about what a "perfect" holiday would look like. What you're picturing is probably an amalgamation of images you've seen online, watched in films, or read in books sprinkled with a bit of your own unique holiday experiences. It's important to remember that your holiday is yours. It doesn't have to look like what you see everyone else doing. Most of us (myself included!) do what we're expected to do around the holiday season because it's what's socially expected. But don't forget that you don't have to do what everyone else is doing. If you're into the traditions, the events, the decking-of-the-halls, go for it. But don't feel like you have to do all of the expected holiday things just because everyone else is doing them. 


  4. Shift your focus away from consumerism. Gift-giving is one of my favorite things to do, and always has been. There are few things that thrill me more than finding the perfect gift for someone I love. But, in case you missed it, the holidays are extremely consumeristic. From the gifts to decorations to sparkly attire to hostess gifts to festive fare and more, there are so many things to purchase around this time of year, and, even if you're super into it all, it can be a lot. One of the best ways to combat the consumerism is to make time to give back. Whether it's a donation to a charity, time spent at a soup kitchen, or simply helping a neighbor hang lights, there are countless ways you can give back. Doing so will help remind you what the holiday season is supposed to be about: love, giving, kindness, and joy. 


  5. Pay attention to what's real. With the holiday season comes a great deal of fantasy -- images of reindeer flying overhead, two people falling in love beneath the mistletoe, unwrapping an amazing gift, having the most fabulous time at a party are a few that come to mind -- but it's important to remember that, as magical as the season feels sometimes, we're still living in real life. People are going to be imperfect; situations are going to be flawed. The more we focus on the fantasy, the harder it becomes to appreciate the little joys in reality. If you're focusing on what things should be, you're missing out on what they are, and that's almost certain to cause discontentment. (Read more about this in Why You Need Lower Expectations.) When it comes to the holidays, expect less and you'll enjoy so much more. 

 

As wonderful and festive as this time of year is, it can also be such a challenge because most of us expect so much. We want every holiday to be the best ever, which is a lovely goal to have, but that goal can also cause a lot of distress (especially if it's literally impossible, such as when you're facing the first holiday after the loss of a loved one or if you're going through a very difficult time emotionally). If you're struggling, remember that you're not alone. There are many, many people who are going through difficult situations and, while you cannot necessarily remove yourself from pain, here are some things I've written in the past that might help: 

 

 

 

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Making Merry (When Not Making a Lot of Money)

  Things-to-Make

 

A Positively Present reader sent me an email a few weeks ago: her husband had been laid off, and she was worrying about the financial aspect of the holiday season. She asked if I might write about how to enjoy the holidays while struggling financially, and I thought that was a wonderful idea -- especially because I've been struggling financially for years. 

It might seem like things are great -- lots of books being published, new products being launched -- but working for yourself in a creative field is no joke financially. Some people, I know, have the good fortune of doing what they love and being well-off while doing it, but most creatives -- designers, authors, bloggers, freelancers -- struggle financially. And I'm no different. Since starting this business, I've learned how to give up a lot (for more on that, check out my Positive Penny Pinching e-book), and I actually think it's been a great thing for me, learning to live without excess, to focus on what really matters. 

That being said, not having excess funds during the holidays can be especially rough. I love nothing more than giving gifts to those I love, and it's hard when I can't afford the gifts I want to give or I can't attend certain events because they're too expensive or I can't donate to all of the many, many causes I'd like to support because, first and foremost, I have to pay my rent. This isn't meant to sound whiny or like I'm complaining -- I have chosen this path and I truly believe someday I will be financially successful while doing it -- but it is meant to say that, if you're struggling financially, I get it. It, quite frankly, sucks. 

So I decided to spend some time rounding up the best ideas I could think of to make the most of the holiday season without spending a lot of money. Because, no matter what holiday you celebrate, it really isn't about spending money. 

 

CUT BACK ON GIFT-GIVING

One of the best ways to save (or not spend) money during the holidays is to cut back on the gift-giving. If your family is anything like mine (and like a lot of families in America), big piles of gifts under the tree are an essential part of the holiday season. But they don't have to be. This year, my family is doing gift-giving a bit differently. Rather than buying lots of gifts for each person, we're each giving each other one special gift. A friend of mine as cut out gift-giving altogether in her family; instead they are donating the amount they'd spend on gifts to a worthy cause. If giving gifts is essential to your holiday experience, try setting a spending limit or limiting the number of gifts you give. You probably want to give your immediate family members a gift, but do you really need to give gifts to all of your friends? Tell them ahead of time that, instead of gifts this year, you'd rather do something special together instead. 

 

FIND NEW PLACES TO SHOP

One thing I've learned over the past few years of pinching pennies is that you don't have to shop where you've always shopped. When I was younger (and richer), high end brands were my go-to. So much so, that that's what I was remembered for in my high school yearbook (major eye roll!). Brand names were of the utmost importance to me, but since then I've shifted the way I think about shopping and products. There are plenty of places to shop for good deals -- TJ Maxx, Home Goods, etc. -- and there are also surprisingly interesting things at shops like Dollar Tree and Five Below. (It is important, however, to keep in mind how things are made. If something really cool is selling for $1, you've got to wonder how much the person making it was paid...). The key is: keeping an open mind. If you're used to spending a lot on a gift, it might not even occur to you that you could spend a fraction of the cost by simply checking out different stores, searching online for deals, or looking out for coupons.  

 

GIVE TIME, NOT THINGS

I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard this piece of advice, but it's an important one. What the people in your life really want from you is your time, attention, and love. (And, if the people in your life don't just want those things from you, you might want to rethink why those people are in your life!) If possible, getting rid of the gift giving can be a great way to save money and to reconnect with the true meaning of the holiday season: love and togetherness. Instead of spending money on gifts, find a fun, free activity (there are usually lots around this time of year!) and take part with your family or friends. And, if you don't have enough money to give back to charities you'd like to support, you can also give your time to them as well. (I know you might be thinking, "But I don't have any time!" but, honestly, you do. We all spend time on things that aren't adding positive value to our lives, and we can, at least for the holiday season, cut out some of those things in favor of spending time with loved ones or donating your time to a local charity.)

 

MAKE YOUR OWN DECOR

I love decorating my place for the holidays, and each year, the stores fill with beautiful new items that I long to buy and use to decorate my apartment. And most of these beautiful new things are not at all in my budget. However, I've learned over the past few years that you can make a lot of really great decor to brighten your home without spending a lot (or, in some cases, any!) money. Not only is this a great way to save money, but it can also be one of the fun activities you do with friends and family. There are tons of great resources online for creative, inexpensive holiday decor, but you can see a lot of my favorite DIYs on my Christmas Cheer, Creative Crafts, and Perfect Printables Pinterest boards. (An additional tip: try to limit the time you spend in shops trying to sell you holiday decor to reduce temptation to buy things you don't need or could make yourself.)

 

CUT OUT THE COMPARISONS

All year long, we're granted access to friends and family members' lives through social media, and these sneak peeks at peoples' lives gets amped up at the end of the year. It can seem like everyone is getting amazing gifts, decorating their homes in picture perfect decor, and doing fun (and expensive!) festive things. But comparing your life to others' lives never does any good, and will only make you feel like you're not spending, doing, or being enough. And anything that makes you feel that way has no positive purpose in your life. If comparisons are getting you down, try disconnecting from social media for a bit or unfollow people, brands, or celebrities that are making you wish you had more than you currently have. 

 

AMP UP YOUR GRATITUDE

When you're feeling down about not having enough money to spend on the things you'd like to purchase during the holidays, turning your attention to gratitude can be tough. You might feel stressed, anxious, or despondent about your financial situation, and that can make it really hard to focus on what you have. But when you turn your attention to what you have, rather than what you lack, everything changes. Everything. Whenever you feel down about your finances, take out a piece of paper and start listing all the things you do have: friends, family, a place to live, your health, a clear mind, a pet you love, unique talents, etc. It's not always easy to see these things when we're blinded by the festive "buy this!!!" lights of the holidays, but most of us truly have what we need, even if we can't afford what we want. Remembering this is the most important thing you can do for yourself when you're struggling financially. 

 

BONUS: IF YOU DO HAVE EXTRA MONEY . . . 

If you're flush with funds this year, yay! This is a great time of year to give back to causes, brands, and people who have positively impacted your year. Consider shopping at small business, buying from local stores, and giving back to those who provide free content for you year 'round. If you're not running a small business, working as a freelancer, or in a creative field, you might not realize how difficult it is for most of these creators financially. On the surface -- the beautiful Instagram layouts, the uplifting blog posts, the inspiring tweets -- it's not always evident how these creators are doing financially. And, as online consumers, most of us (including me!) have come to expect content for free -- we listen to songs on Spotify, read news articles without paying for a newspaper, visit websites where all of images and words are free for our perusal -- and few of us really think about how that content is made (and paid for). So, if you do have extra money, consider buying things from the creators who produce free content that you enjoy. You have no idea how much that support could mean to one small business owner.  

 

 

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