Friday, August 14, 2015

This Time It’ll be ‘Better Than Before’

Several months back, my bestie Rachel told me about a book that had really resonated with her.  The book, entitled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, accounts the author’s year-long journey “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.”

During that time, Rachel would forward me blog posts, podcasts and “Rubin-isms” that she found inspiring.  I have to be honest, they really did interest me; however, I was hesitant. I’ve never met a self-help book that didn’t initially intrigue me but, inevitably, my interest would usually wane after the first few chapters.  

Point in case, my Nana was inspired by Suze Orman and bought me her book “9 Steps to Financial Freedom.” I started out the gate strong and was super motivated. I even bought Quicken ® and spent hours inputting all our data.  But by the 4th step, I was done and way more interested in the allegations that Orman was a 55-year old virgin.  Now that is an unhappy thought.

But Rachel’s referral stayed with me and, finally, I requested The Happiness Project from my local library.  I read the first chapter and was hooked until the very last page.  Rubin’s easy-going writing style and realistic approach to changing your life for the happier resounded with me as much as it did Rachel and, to the contrary of Orman, this made me very happy so I ran out and bought my very own copy which is very rare for me.

When I was done reading, I wanted more and this is how I stumbled upon Rubin’s most recent book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

According to Rubin’s website, “As observed in the review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, 'The Happiness Project lays out life’s essential goals…Her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, serves as a kind of detailed instruction manual on how to achieve them.’”

Also, the site states, “Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.”

Yeah (fist pump)!  For those of you who have followed my blog, you know it has been sporadic at best over the past few years.  So, among the many habits that I would like to strengthen…you guessed it… I want to be more dedicated to my writing.  My priorities include (once again): posting to my blog on a regular basis; attending my writing group consistently; and continuing to plug away on my big writing project.

However, it's not just about writing one time, it is about being consistent and writing every day...forever!

I know that being creative makes me happy but, my role as a mom who works full-time and my family’s busy social life, has caused my writing to suffer the most.  I had allowed my writing to be pushed to the bottom of my To Do list day after day, so I was desperate to find a manageable way to get myself back on track and Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives has given me the wherewithal to do so. 

On Rubin’s Blog, she posts, “Many experts suggest one-size-fits-all solutions for habit change — and boy, it would be great if there were one magical answer that helped everyone. But we’re all different, so different strategies work for different people.”

Ain’t that the truth?  I think that is why Rubin’s philosophy works so well for me personally because once you gain an understanding of certain Self-Knowledge – Tendencies and Distinctions – you have your own unique treasure map to forming good habits and, ironically, everyone’s map is different.  

According to Rubin, Tendencies fall into four categories: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel.  Not surprisingly, I am an Upholder, a person who meets outer and inner expectations.  Also known as Type A personality perhaps?  If you want to find out your own tendency, please take the quiz.

However, Rubin also writes on her blog, “…it’s not enough to just know your Tendency; you must also recognize your Distinctions. (For instance, are you a Marathoner or Sprinter? Under-buyer or over-buyer? Finisher or Opener? Novelty-lover or Familiarity-lover?)"

Doesn't this just grab you?  Don't you want to know more?

Once you are able to identify your Tendencies and Distinctions, it is possible to start implementing the necessary strategies to modify your habits based on your personal predispositions to make or break practices.
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives  has chapters that provide the framework entitled: Pillars of Habits; The Best Time to Begin; Desire, Ease, and Excuses; and Unique, Just like Everyone Else.

One topic that I really gravitated toward was the section of Foundation which was a carry-over from The Happiness Project.  Rubin substantiates that by getting enough sleep, moving your body every day, eating and drinking healthfully, and un-cluttering your life anybody can build resilient habits with good bones.

Believe it or not, I haven’t actually finished the book yet, but I am so inspired I just had to write about it and share my excitement.  I have been working hard to implement Rubin’s common sensibilities – you are reading this post aren’t you – and find myself so much happier.  I know that I will stumble upon "Loopholes" and "Distractions" (you will just have to read the book) but I’m hoping that Rubin’s survival skills will help me to stick with it and at the very least help to stay on the straight and narrow.

So don’t worry, be happy!

To learn more about Gretchen Rubin and what she is about, visit

Friday, February 27, 2015

Just Breathe...

Photo: D. Jason Mausser

Have you ever felt as though you can’t breathe? I’m not talking about actually losing your source of oxygen but the surreal feeling that you just “can’t” take a deep breath.
During my senior year of college, I had a non-paying college internship but I was also working a few part-time jobs to pay my bills and supplement my college career.  On top of that, I commuted an hour in each direction – to my State University – twice a week for a 12 hour school day.  

I mean, have you ever looked at the calendar and said, “Wow, it is going to be 21 days until my next day off?”

Now, this is not a pity party.  I did what I had to do and actually was having a lot of fun doing it.  However, I reached a point to where being the energizer bunny 24/7 finally caught up with me, but I hadn’t even realized I was being chased until it was too late.

One day, while commuting to my University, I started to feel like my heart was going to beat out of my chest while my clammy hands felt like pins and needles.  Also, I started to hyperventilate and, the more I thought about it, the worse it became.

I pulled off to the side of the road and got a grip, but I was still shaky and having a hard time catching my breath for the rest of the day.  I had a few more episodes like this and decided it was time to see my doctor.

The Doc asked me some general inquiries about my life, diet, exercise and the nature of these episodes; He then diagnosed me with Anxiety or Panic Attacks.  He told me that I should cut back on work (how could I afford it?); get more sleep (when?); and to try and take it easy (impossible!).  So, he sent me on my way with one prescription (no refills) of Xanax to get me through to the end of the year.

I am happy to report that, once I had graduated from college, the Anxiety Attacks pretty much went away.  Over the next two decades, I would get one here and there if things were pretty stressful but, for the most part, they were fleeting…until a year ago.

I was dismayed that I started getting those darn Anxiety Attacks again. Yet, they came at a time when I was under a lot of stress, so it was not surprising; but here I am a year later and I’m still getting them periodically even though I don’t have any “true” stress in my life.

Once again, I set out to consult a doctor but, this time; it was an acupuncturist who also specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

I don’t like to take any drugs if I can help it and that even includes over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil; so there would be no Xanax prescribed here.

Dr. Chung suggested some herbs to help me relax but, most importantly, he told me to meditate and relax.

You would think that would be total common sense right?  Well, I did and that is why it made me feel hopeless.  I had been trying to meditate for years now.  

A few years ago, I had an affair with yoga and would spend the entire class just dying for the instructor to say it was time to get into Shavasana or corpse pose.  This is perhaps the most important part of yoga practice because Shavasana allows the body to regroup and reset itself.

  I know that benefits of deep relaxation are numerous and include:

·         A decrease in heart rate
·         A decrease in blood pressure
·         A decrease in muscle tension
·         A decrease in the metabolic rate and consumption of oxygen (hello!)
·         A reduction in general anxiety (hello!)
·         A reduction in the number and frequency of panic attacks (hello!)
·         An increase in focus

Yet, I am unable to shut my brain down enough to meditate and realize these positive effects.  I’ve tried numerous times and it always ends with me thinking about the most random thoughts such as what we should have for dinner; or even worse I fall asleep.

So, I have yet to find my way to Nirvana, but I haven’t given up trying and, believe it or not, technology has helped me to bliss out.  

A few times a week, I set my timer on my iPhone for 3 minutes and, while sitting at my desk, I focus on breathing in and out for three seconds each, respectively.  My mind still wanders but, if I’m having minor anxiety, it does help to relax me.

Also, I downloaded a free app that offers a creative visualization meditation before going to bed. My son and I have been doing it together and we both find that it does help to wind us down for bedtime.

I am trying my best, but I know that it is not enough if I want to banish anxiety from my life.  I must find the time to meditate and make it a daily occurrence. I wrote this post to get my message out there to the Universe so hopefully, tomorrow, I can just breathe.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Louis Vuitton Fashion Exhibit Electrifies Los Angeles

Photo: Tracy Mausser
Be quick Los Angeles area fashionistas!  There are mere days left to see one of the most Vogue-centric art installations by the decadent French fashion house Louis Vuitton.

The free exhibit called "Louis Vuitton Series 2 - Past, Present, Future" was fashioned by LV creative director Nicolas Ghesquière and is housed in a massive Hollywood warehouse.  However, its doors close on Sunday Feb. 22 so don't miss your chance to see the inspiration behind Ghesquière's latest collection in a marvelous mixed-media revelation.

A sequence of seven idiosyncratic rooms -- which include lots of flashing lights, talking holograms, multiple-mirrors and the secrets behind LV's impeccable craftsmanship -- highlights Ghesquière's influences behind the sumptuous Spring 2015 collection. 

Dont' miss Series 2: Past, Present, Future which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1135 Highland Avenue, Hollywood until Sunday Feb. 22, 2015.  The cost is free.

Photo: Tracy Mausser

Photo: Tracy Mausser

Photo: Tracy Mausser
Photo: Tracy Mausser