The 3 Secrets To Feeling Loved

street art in miami

street art in miami

Wonderful thoughts below expressed by Homaira Kabir, a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and a Positive Psychology Practitioner.

Feeling loved is a deeply-rooted need. And as the most social animal on the planet, we require the love and appreciation of others to feel supported, resilient and alive.

No wonder then that we’re extremely sensitive to rejection. The minor slights and snubs of the day stick to us like Velcro and grow and gather momentum in our minds, while positive incidents brush off of us like Teflon and get lost in the noise of negativity.

Think about it! Of all the wonderful things that happen in your day, what do you most think about at night? And what do you do as a result? Think of the time your partner got you a last-minute birthday gift you really didn’t want. Did you fight with them about your friends’ partners who spend time and money on thoughtful gifts or did you simply smile at their innocent ignorance of your wants?

Our reactions to the fear of rejection drive us to create walls around ourselves, which ironically become a self-fulfilling prophecy of not feeling loved. But with self-awareness, we can rise above these primal responses and instead of closing down in shame or blaming others for our misery, we can assume responsibility for our feelings of love and connection.

How? Science shows that by reaching out to others in kindness, we beget the love we seek. This is because as humans, we’re wired to reciprocate. Our kindness prompts others to turn to us with love and warmth. And it inspires them to spread this kindness by up to three degrees of separation.

Shift Your Focus
Relationships are essential for survival. But they are messy and demanding. They require effort, and even so, others don’t always behave as we would like. If we can shift our focus from what we desire of others, to what we can do for them, we can let go of the microcosm of our own inner worlds and find joy in the cheer we spread and the goodness of our actions. Oftentimes, we find that their behavior was simply a result of being too busy or distracted to show feelings of warmth.

Nurture Compassion
When we’re feeling unloved, being big-hearted is easier said than done. We naturally close ourselves in to self-focused bubbles. To step out, we need to cultivate feelings of compassion towards those we feel rejected by. Feeling gratitude for their presence in our lives or trying a compassion meditation where we express goodwill towards ourselves and others, calms our negative emotions and allows us to find greater peace in the moment.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
Nurturing feelings of love is rarely enough in itself. The real challenge lies in expressing these generous feelings because they require us to be vulnerable. Something as simple as saying “I love you” to a partner who’s wrapped up in their own world isn’t easy — after all, we expose our feelings without any guarantee of how they’ll respond in the moment. However, the research of professor Brené Brown shows that vulnerability strengthens relationships through mutual empathy and connection. We’re wired for reciprocity and feel close to those who open up to us because we appreciate our common humanity.

We may not always get the external love we seek, but by acting out of the goodness of our hearts, we tap into something far more fundamental. We cultivate self-love, perhaps the greatest love of all.

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A Cool Mona Recipe: The Smokey Robinson

Tired of the same old, fruity margaritas? Give the Smokey Robinson a try because I promise that it is not yourSmokey Robinson average tequila cocktail. The recipe comes from Odd Duck in Austin, Texas What happens when you blend a mezcal margarita with a DIY apple shrub, then top it with a sweet red wine? Wonderful things and a drink you will not soon forget! The Smokey Robinson is a cocktail for the adventurous and is a true taste experience.

The apple shrub is actually quite easy to make using either a cold or warm technique and which you choose to use will probably depend on how quickly you need it. Shrubs do get better as they sit, so I would suggest prepping it at least a few days ahead, though the drink is still great with a young, quick shrub.

When the drink comes together you get a slight smoke from the mezcal, the vegetal sweetness of the tequila and nectar, accents of bittered apple and a sweetness from the wine.

  1. Begin by rimming a tall glass with a mixture of salt and dehydrated apple powder (or salt alone).
  2. Pour the ingredients (except the wine) into a blender with 2 cups of ice.
  3. Blend until smooth and pour into the prepared glass.
  4. Swirl in a full-bodied, slightly sweet red wine for added complexity.

Call me. I’ll bring my own glass.

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10 Easy Things You Can Do To Improve Your Life By Next Week (Part 2)

A health journalist, Jessica Cassity, shares the best advice learned from doctors, psychologists, yoga instructors and scientists. compiled a treasure trove of research-backed advice on how to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilling and less stressful life. Check out these 10 small changes you can make to start living better now. But check out Part 1 before you read Part 2 below.very well then go ahead

Volunteer for More Vim and Vigor

If you’ve ever done volunteer work—dishing meals at a soup kitchen, walking dogs at a shelter, or reading to residents of a nursing home, for example—you probably noticed that you’re full of good cheer when you leave.

A number of studies back this feeling up, showing that helping others can lift symptoms of depression and improve overall life satisfaction. But the benefits don’t end there: when scientists at a Finnish university analyzed the results of 16 studies, they found that people who performed volunteer work also reported better health and higher levels of physical activity. And, in an unrelated study, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that women who were 65 and older and volunteered—in this case mentoring public school children—were able to delay or even reverse cognitive decline, actually improving brain function.

You’re never too young or old to start volunteering: seek out a particular cause that speaks to you, and find a way to use your time and energy to benefit others.

Alleviate Major Worries by Working Out

If you’re a born worrywart, you may worry that your anxiety gets the best of you at times. But there’s a natural way to relieve some of your fears: Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can ease mild anxiety, and according to recent research by Rodney K. Dishman, PhD, professor of exercise science at the University of Georgia, regular physical activity can temper severe anxiety, too. Exactly how exercise helps to reduce or eliminate major anxiety—such as the onset of panic attacks—remains unclear, says Dishman. People may start to worry less because they’re doing something positive for themselves, because of the distraction exercise provides, or due to a physical reaction, such as the release of endorphins. Whatever the cause, Dishman recommends aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous working out per week to help alleviate anxiety. More is probably better, says Dishman, but less is better than nothing.

Strengthen Your Relationships by Learning to Listen

If your idea of being supportive is listening to a person’s problems, then detailing the right way to solve them, you may actually be building a wall between you and your friend. According to Parker Palmer, PhD, author of A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, the mantra for true friends should be “no fixing, no saving, no advising, and no setting the other person straight.”

When someone has a worried look or comes to you with a problem, you’ll probably invite them to talk about it,” says Palmer. But if you listen for a few minutes, then start telling her what to do about it, your friend may not feel heard or accepted. Instead, sit back and practice what Palmer calls “deep listening“—when you suspend your need to be a helper.

“A lot of us justify our existence by helping other people, but often that advice shuts the other person down,” says Palmer. Let your friends talk, and if they aren’t finding their own answers, ask questions that will help them to explore their own feelings a little deeper. “In creating safe space between yourself and another person, your task is to help them have a deeper and deeper conversation with themselves, not with you. What you think they should do about it is more about your ego than the needs of their soul.”

Create Daily Pauses for Appreciation

If most of your inner dialogue seems to be taken up by to-do lists and worry, find a way to spend more time thinking about the things that bring you joy. To do this, says Linda Lantieri, director of The Inner Resilience Program, an organization focused on building emotional strength in school teachers, create rituals around things you do every day. Choose a few things you do regularly, like turning on your computer or brushing your teeth, and attach meaning to them, using that time to conjure up a thought or feeling you want more of in your life. For example, says Lantieri, each time you put the key in your front door, take a moment to be grateful that you have a place of respite to go each night. When the phone rings, take the opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, and thank your body for your health. Or, each time you pour a cup of coffee, think about someone in need. By making space for these moments, your mind shifts from its usual state of overstimulation into one that’s calm and hopeful. Best of all, these mini-meditations won’t take up any extra time since the prompts they’re attached to—opening the door, pouring coffee—are already a part of your day.




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10 Easy Things You Can Do To Improve Your Life By Next Week

stained glass from church in hoboken, nj

stained glass from church in hoboken, nj

A health journalist shares the best advice learned from doctors, psychologists, yoga instructors and scientists.

While covering health and wellness for magazines and newspapers, Jessica Cassity compiled a treasure trove of research-backed advice on how to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilling and less stressful life. From her new book, Better Each Day, here are ten small changes you can make to start living better now.

Learn Better After a Brain Break
If a thought-provoking movie, lecture, or book leaves your brain ready for a rest, go ahead and tune out for a little bit. Researchers have found that taking a mental break—like zoning out while you wash the dishes, or simply switching your thoughts to an easier topic—can actually help you retain any information you just learned. In a study recently conducted at New York University, people were asked to memorize pairs of images. Scientists measured brain activity while subjects viewed images and committed them to memory, and also a few minutes later, during a wakeful rest period. They found that absorbing information activated a certain spot in the brain, and in some cases, the brain became even more active during the rest period, which resulted in higher rates of retention.

Daydreaming isn’t a guaranteed path to better memory, but it’s worth a try. In the middle of an intense study session, take a short break, then revisit the work and see how well you remember.

Use Your Mind-Body Connection to Strengthen Your Resolve
If you have a hard time flexing your willpower, try flexing your biceps instead. It turns out that clenching your muscles can actually help you to shore up the self-control you need to eat healthfully, commit to unpleasant tasks, and bypass calorie-loaded treats, among other good-for-you behaviors.

In one recent study from the University of Chicago, researchers asked people to clench their muscles while drinking unsavory health drinks, while experiencing a painful situation, or when faced with temptation that was hard to turn down. When participants flexed—whether it was a finger, calf, or bicep that contracted—they all had stronger resolve, drinking more of the healthy beverage, bypassing the bad-for-you foods, and tolerating discomfort for longer. Use this tactic the next time you need a boost in willpower: Simply make a fist and you’ll skate through any situation with ease.

Vent Strategically After an Argument
Everyone’s done it—you argue with a friend, then reach out to another friend for validation. The more people you get on your side, the more correct you are, right? While a vote of support will help you feel justified in continuing to fight, it probably won’t help you solve the problem. Instead, seek the viewpoint of a trusted friend not to win the argument, but to try to see the argument more clearly.

When you reach out for help in a dispute, find a person who you think will be able to shed light on the other person’s perspective, says Robert Gould, PhD, chair of the department of conflict resolution at Portland State University. Rather than asking her to take sides, see if she can help you to see where the other person is coming from. Just don’t let this information cause you to acquiesce too soon, warns Gould. “Some people give in to other people’s perspectives too easily, so use a conversation with a friend to help you discover your own perspective more deeply, too.”

Dine Alfresco For Mealtime Satisfaction
You’ve heard of the benefits of mindful eating, but paying attention to your food is often easier said than done. Luckily, there’s a quick fix: if you have a hard time focusing on your food while you eat, move your meal outdoors, says Sarah Livia Szekely Brightwood, who runs Rancho La Puerta, a popular retreat in Mexico with a renowned garden and cooking school. When you eat outdoors, your senses are nourished by the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, says Brightwood. As a result, you’re fully awake and engaged in the moment, which helps you to slow down, savor the meal, and ultimately eat less to feel satisfied.

Put an End to Waffling Over Decisions
If you’re second-guessing yourself about a choice you just made, head for the sink for a quick regret-rinse-off. Recent research from psychologists at the University of Michigan found that the simple act of washing your hands can help you to stop questioning your judgment. While the decisions being made in the study were trivial—ranking preference of one CD over another—this act of “cleaning the slate” by washing your hands may work to help you gain confidence in the bigger choices you encounter, too, like deciding which car to buy, or when to have a difficult conversation.

Cool Mona Note: Hold on, more tomorrow.







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11 Ways To Boost Your Self-Esteem In Less Than An Hour

color lottsaIf you have… 1 second:
Sit up straight.

Research suggests that people with good posture have more confidence in their thoughts than slouchers.

2 seconds:
Practice Good Scents.

One study found that women felt more confident in social, business and romantic situations when wearing perfume.

3 seconds:
Knock Wood.

Psychologists have shown that embracing superstitions and carrying good luck charms can help you perform tasks better.

5 seconds:
Nod Along.

When you nod your head while listening to someone, research has shown that your belief in what you’re thinking is heightened.

10 seconds:

Social psychologist Laura Kray, PhD, has demonstrated that smiling, laughing and engaging in slight physical contact when negotiating can help you win the day.

12 seconds:
Get pumped.

For a quick shot in the arm, life and business strategist Tony Robbins practices a unique ritual—and, crazy as it sounds, it works. Shake out your body, clench your hands like claws, and rock back and forth, breathing in and out quickly. Stop moving, then shake out your body again. Now clap, shout the word “Yes!” five times—and head out there to face the world.

2 minutes:
Strike a Pose.

Standing for two minutes in a “power pose”—think of Wonder Woman, with her feet flat on the ground, shoulders square, and hands on her hips—can help you feel 40 percent more powerful than sitting with your arms crossed.

10 minutes:
Focus on your breathing.

Those who regularly practice Buddhist mindfulness meditation report increased self-acceptance.

15 minutes:
Grab a cup of joe.

One more reason to love your latte: 100 milligrams of caffeine has been shown to increase alertness, energy and confidence.

20 minutes:
Break a sweat.

Science long ago proved that exercise enhances your mood—but did you know that a 20-minute workout can sharpen your state of mind for a whopping 12 hours?

1 hour:
Assemble a confidence toolbox.

Carol Dweck, PhD—professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success—says that a well-chosen array of objects can give you a major morale boost. (Provided you keep them hidden away “in a drawer or on a bookshelf,” says Dweck, “so that when you come upon them or seek them out, their associations are still potent.”) Here’s what to include in your collection:

Proof that you can be bold.
Did you keep the phone number your now husband gave you—after you asked him out? Or the party hat you wore when you started a conga line at a friend’s birthday bash? “Letting loose makes you feel assertive,” says Dweck, so hang on to evidence that you know how to bust out of your shell.

A photo of those closest to you.
“Feeling loved is a source of strength,” says Dweck—in part because it provides a social safety net: You’re more likely to take a leap when you know there are people who will catch you if you fall.

A symbol of a new endeavor,
like a French-to-English dictionary if you’re learning a language, or a snapshot if you’re taking up photography. “You can derive confidence from the fact that you’re pushing yourself,” Dweck says.

A token of improvement.
Were you once hopeless at finishing crosswords, but now you’re acing the Sunday edition? Or maybe you couldn’t run a block six months ago but you just completed a 5K. If so, don’t pitch that puzzle or your number from the race. Quantifiable achievements provide an instant jolt of self-esteem because they make it easy to measure progress.

A biography or magazine profile of your idol.
Dweck has her students research personal heroes to learn how they became successful. “The students get inspired because they see that everyone has setbacks,” she says.

An invitation to an upcoming social event.
Reminders of future get-togethers bring to mind relationships with loved ones. And, says Dweck, “looking forward to something keeps you focused on good things to come.”

A token from a time you were there for someone—
say, a thank-you note from a friend. “Contributing to another person’s life boosts self-esteem, especially when it helps them make progress toward their own goals,” says Dweck.

Cool Mona Note: So glad you’re part of this vibrant community of seekers and strugglers.



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A Cool Mona Masterpiece: Beautiful & Strange Animal Eyes

red-eyed tree frog

red-eyed tree frog

Looking into the eye of a gorilla, you really see how close they are genetically to human beings. Some of these photographs make you feel almost like you know the animal or as if you can see what it’s thinking. Some of them, however, like the macaw, are downright weird.

western lowland gorilla

western lowland gorilla

These are taken from National Geographic’s February issue, where UK science journalist Ed Yong discusses what animal eyes are made up of and how they have evolved. He explains how it’s the animal’s evolutionary needs that have conditioned the uses and appearance of their eyes and therefore how they see the world in different ways.

mossy leaf-tailed gecko

mossy leaf-tailed gecko

Interestingly, eyes never do the same thing across species. Rather, they have evolved to suit our needs. So the eyes of an animal will not have the same functions as the eyes of a human.

gargoyle gecko

gargoyle gecko

Beautiful and strange, the world of critters and creatures. Protect them all.


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What Mentally Strong People Know

maybe courage looks like lone bloom against a sea of leaves

maybe courage looks like this…one lone bloom against a sea of leaves

The question I ask myself from time to time…How can I bounce back from tough times, criticism and conflict? Mentally strong people have a few core beliefs that bring them peace and resilience, says Amy Morin, LCSW in her new book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

1. Being mentally strong isn’t about acting tough.

You don’t have to become a robot, or appear to have a tough exterior, when you’re mentally strong. Instead, it’s about acting according to your values.

2. Mental strength doesn’t require you to ignore your emotions.

Increasing your mental strength isn’t about suppressing your emotions; instead, it’s about developing a keen awareness of them. It’s about interpreting and understanding how your emotions influence your thoughts and behavior.

3. Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you have to be completely self-reliant.

Mental strength isn’t about proclaiming that you don’t ever need help from anyone, or from any type of higher power. Admitting you don’t have all the answers, asking for help when you need it and acknowledging that you can gain strength from a higher power is a sign of a desire to grow stronger.

4. Being mentally strong is not about positive thinking.

Thinking overly positive thoughts can be just as detrimental as thinking overly negative thoughts. Mental strength is about thinking realistically and rationally.

5. Developing mental strength isn’t about chasing happiness.

Being mentally strong will help you to be more content in life, but it isn’t about waking up every day and trying to force yourself to feel happy. Instead, it’s about making the decisions that will help you reach your full potential.


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A Cool Mona Masterpiece: A Blue Moon Rising

Weekly Masterpiece iconA self-taught photographer, Luke Taylor, painstakingly and beautifully captures an enormous blue moon rising over an Australian lighthouse near Byron Bay. He took over 1,000 frames and then slowed it down as close to real time as possible. A really nice way to begin or end your day.

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A Cool Mona Masterpiece: Human Nature

Weekly Masterpiece iconHuman Nature is an Aussie pop vocal group whose 4-piece vocals take a trip back to the glory days. When the hits of the ’50s and ’60s on the jukebox was THE party starter. Their latest album is Jukebox and it’s a selection of popular culture, of good times embedded into music. Human Nature photosThe track list includes standards like ‘Under the Boardwalk’ and ‘Unchained Melody’, ‘Wonderful World’, ‘Stand By Me’. Jukebox has 1 original song, ‘End Of Days’.

This group just landed a 3-year gig at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Check ’em out.

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5 Ways To Stop Dwelling On Negative Thoughts

When something’s bothering you, getting your mind off of it is easier said than done. In fact, research shows that when people are instructed not to think about a specific topic, it makes it even harder to get that topic out of their minds. But rehashing negative thoughts over and over in your head, also known as rumination, can be unpleasant and counterproductive—and in some cases, it can even lead to chronic depression.

street art I spotted in budapest

street art I spotted in budapest

“It’s like a needle in a groove,” says Guy Winch, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. “As the groove gets deeper and deeper, the needle has a harder time getting out of the groove.” What’s more, rumination can actually make you more angry or upset than you were originally, because the issue becomes magnified in your mind.

Luckily, there are a few techniques that can help you stop dwelling on negative thoughts and refocus your mind on something positive, says Winch; it just takes a bit of distraction and a healthy dose of willpower.


Go Shopping in Your Mind

Visualize yourself in the grocery store. “Try to picture all of the items on one shelf in the store, and the order that you see them in,” Winch says. Don’t do a lot of food shopping? Think about something else that requires concentration: the order of books on your bookshelf, or the order of songs in an album or playlist you like to listen to. You don’t have to do it for long—maybe 30 seconds or a minute, but the key is to be disciplined about it and do it each time that negative thought comes back—even if that means doing it 20 times an hour. “It may seem temporary, but if you reinforce these patterns enough, it can improve your mood and your decision making abilities,” says Winch. “You can actually train your brain to go in a different direction when these thoughts come up.”


Keep Positive Company

If you can’t get troublesome feelings out of your mind, it may have something to do with your social circle. In a 2013 study, Notre Dame researchers found that it’s common for college students to pick up rumination-like behaviors from their roommates. Because rumination often involves worrying and thinking aloud, it’s a habit that can be easily mirrored by other people, the researchers say. Avoid perpetually negative people when you can, or at least be aware of what habits might be rubbing off on you.


Physically Throw Them Away

Clear your head of a nagging thought by writing it down on a piece of paper—and tossing it in the trash, according to a 2012 Ohio State University study. People who wrote down negative things about their bodies and then threw them away had a more positive self image a few minutes later, compared to those who kept the papers with them. “However you tag your thoughts—as trash or as worthy of protection—seems to make a difference in how you use those thoughts,” says study co-author and psychology professor Richard Petty, PhD. Don’t want to waste paper? Doing this exercise on the computer, by dragging a text document into the “trash can,” worked too.


Have a Cup of Tea

Negative thoughts can occur for many different reasons—but if yours are focused on feeling lonely, you may gain some comfort by warming up, literally. Yale researchers discovered in 2012 that people recalled fewer negative feelings about a past lonely experience when they were holding a hot pack. (They also found that lonely people tend to take longer hot showers.) Substituting physical warmth for emotional warmth can be a quick fix, the researchers say—just don’t let it take the place of real human interaction in the long run.


Reframe Your Situation

“If your urge to ruminate is very strong, distracting yourself isn’t going to be easy,” says Winch. “So before you try, it may be necessary to reframe or reappraise the situation in your head. If you get stuck in the airport for hours because of a cancelled flight, for example, don’t think of what you’re missing out on. Instead, see it as a chance to get work done, or to call your parents or an old friend. Once you’ve successfully reframed your situation, it may be easier to distract yourself with a visualization exercise (like Winch’s “shopping list” exercise), a book or crossword puzzle, or a quick stroll.

Cool Mona Note: And while you’re working on staying upright, try to take it easy.


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