5 Ways To Survive Your Next Family Gathering (Part 2)

just pretend you're asleep

just pretend you’re asleep

That wonderful Martha Beck has some sanity-saving strategies to pull you through not-so-silent nights and days with the family.

Martha compares the Uncle Remus story of tar baby, when Brer Rabbit picks a fight with a lifelike doll made out of tar and turpentine. The tar baby is so gluey that when the rabbit punches it, his fists get hopelessly stuck. He tries to kick his way free, trapping his feet, then finishes off with an infuriated head butt that renders him utterly helpless.

Martha’s wisdom on this? She can’t think of a more fitting metaphor for family life in the 21st century. There’s nothing in the world as sticky as a dysfunctional family.

Read the first part by clicking the link and then you can move on down to Stragety #3. You’ll LOVE dysfunctional family bingo!  http://www.coolmona.com/5-ways-to-survive-your-next-family-gathering/

Strategy #3: Lose control.

You’re in the middle of a holiday feast, your favorite pie and eggnog, when your mother leans over and whispers, “Honey, have you tried Weight Watchers?”

Those 6 words may wither your very soul, challenging every ounce of self-acceptance you’ve gleaned from  myriad self-help books, support groups and several enlightened friends. You might feel desperate to make Mom recognize all the hard-won truths you’ve learned about the intrinsic value and beauty of your body. You’ll want to argue, to explain, to get right in there and force your mother to approve of your appearance. You are coming perilously close to whacking the tar baby.

Remember this: Any attempt you make to control other people actually puts you under their control.

If you decide you can’t be happy until your mother finally understands you, her dysfunction will rule your life. You could spend the next 20 years trying to please her so much that she’d just have to accept you – and she still might not. Or you could hold her at gunpoint and threaten her into saying the words you want to hear but you’ll never control her real thoughts and feelings. Never.

The only way you can avoid getting stuck in other people’s craziness is to follow codependency author Melody Beatty’s counterintuitive advice: “Unhook from their systems by refusing to try to control them.”

Don’t violate your own code of ethics and values but don’t waste energy trying to make other people violate theirs. If soul searching has shown you that your mother’s opinions are wrong for you – as are your grandfather’s bigotry, your sister’s new religion and your cousin’s alcoholism – hold that truth in your heart, whether or not your family members validate it. Feel what you feel, know what you know and set your relatives free to do the same. 

If you’ve been deeply wounded by your family, you can stop trying to control them by accepting full responsibility for your healing. I’m not suggesting you shoulder all the blame, but rather that you acknowledge that you and only you have the ability to respond to injury by seeking cures instead of furthering pain. Whatever the situation, accepting that you can control only your own thoughts and actions will help you mend more quickly and thoroughly.

Strategy #4: Become A Participant Observer

Some social scientists use a technique called participant observation, meaning that they join groups of people in order to watch and report on whatever those people do. People I might have normally avoided – criminals, fundamentalists, PTA presidents – became absolutely fascinating when I was participant observing them. Almost any group activity is interesting when you plan to describe it later to someone who’s on your wavelength. Here are some approaches to help you become a participant observer of your own family.

Queen For A Day

This little game is based on the old tv show where four women competed to see who had the most miserable life. The contestant judged most pathetic got, among other things, a washing machine to clean her tear-stained clothing. My version goes like this: Prior to a family function, plan to meet with at least 2 friends after the holidays. You’ll each tell the stories of your respective family get-togethers, then vote to see whose experience was most horrendous. That person will then be crowned queen and the others will buy her lunch.

Comedy Club

n this exercise, you look to your family not for love and understanding but for comedy material. Look closely. The more atrocious your family’s behavior is, the funnier it can be in the retelling. Watch stand-up comics to see the enormous fun they can have describing appalling marriages, ghastly parenting or poisonous family secrets. When you’re back among friends, telling your own wild stories, you may find that you no  longer suffer from your family’s brand of insanity; you’ve actually started to enjoy it.

Dysfunctional Family Bingo

One of my fave games but it takes some prep. A few weeks before the holidays, gather with some friends and provide blank bingo cards. Each player fills in her bingo squares with  dysfunctional phrases, words or actions that are likely to surface at her particular family party. Example: For the inevitable “When are you going to get married?” that question goes in square one of your bingo card. If your bro shows up crocked to the gills, “drunk Al” in the next square and so on.

Take your cards to your respected family gatherings. When you observe something on your bingo card, mark off that square. The first person to get bingo must sneak off and text the other players and announce her victory. If no one has a full bingo, the one with the card of the most filled-in squares wins the game. The winner is determined at the post-holiday meeting where she will be granted the ever-gratifying free lunch.

Strategy #5: Debrief

It’s crucial to follow up with someone you love. If your bro really gets you, then call him after a family dinner you’ve both survived. If you don’t trust anyone you share a shred of DNA with, report to a friend or therapist. You can schedule a debriefing several weeks after the holidays but even better is to connect via email or text immediately after the event.

All of these strategies, from relinquishing hope of transformation to mimicking your relatives in riotous conversations with your friends are designed to help you love your family unconditionally, in whatever way works best for you. They help you greet the tar baby with genuine affection then walk away clear and happy. And that, in the end, may be the best holiday present you’ll ever give to the people you cherish most.

Cool Mona Note: We can do this, baby!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrv9slgO7Ic








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5 Ways To Survive Your Next Family Gathering

it's hush talk but yes, we're related

it’s hush talk but yes, we’re related

That wonderful Martha Beck has some sanity-saving strategies to pull you through not-so-silent nights and days with the family.

In the Uncle Remus story of the tar baby, Brer Rabbit picks a fight with a lifelike doll made out of tar and turpentine. The tar baby is so gluey that when the rabbit punches it, his fists get hopelessly stuck. He tries to kick his way free, trapping his feet, then finishes off with an infuriated head butt that renders him utterly helpless.

I can’t think of a more fitting metaphor in the 21st century. There’s nothing in the world as sticky as a dysfunctional family.

You can put half your life’s savings into therapy—good therapy, effective therapy—and, 15 minutes into a holiday reunion, you still become hopelessly enmeshed in the same old crazy dynamics. Your assertiveness training goes out the window the minute your brother begins his traditional temper tantrum. A mere sigh from your grandmother triggers an attack of codependency so severe you end up giving her your house.

For many people, family get-togethers require strategies for staying out of such sticky situations. Before you head over the river and through the woods, give some thought to the following suggestions.

Strategy #1: Give Up Hope

Most of us go home for the holidays thinking (along with comedienne Abby Sher), God, grant me the ability to change the things I cannot accept. Even if we don’t consciously realize it, we want our families to cease and desist from all the things that affect us like fingernails on a chalkboard.

We don’t ask much—just socially appropriate behavior, dammit, and minimal reparations for the more damaging incidents in our past. Although come to think of it, things would certainly go better if our relatives would listen openly, communicate honestly, and agree with us on all significant issues. And possibly offer money.

The hope that our families will act perfectly—or even reasonably well—sets us up to whack the tar baby, to be incapacitated by the dysfunctions we’ll almost certainly encounter.

Before you meet your relatives this season, take a few moments to sit quietly and acknowledge what you wish they were like. Then prepare to accept them even if they behave as they have always done in the past.

At best you may be surprised to find that they actually are changing, that some of your wishes have come true. At worst you’ll feel regrettably detached from your kinfolk as you watch them play out their usual psychoses.

Strategy #2: Set Secure Boundaries

Given that your family members will probably go on being their same old selves, you need to decide how much contact with them you really want. Are there certain relatives you simply can’t tolerate? Are there others you can handle in group settings but not one-on-one? How much time and intimacy with your family is enough? How much is too much?

It’s crucial to answer these questions before, not during, a family gathering. Prior to the event, think through various boundary options until you come up with a scenario that makes you feel comfortable. Would you be more enthusiastic about a get-together if you planned to leave after no more than four hours? Or three? Two? One? Would you breathe easier if you rented a car so that you could get away without relying on relatives for transportation? Would it help to have a friend call you on your cell phone halfway through the evening, providing an excuse for a graceful exit?

Cool Mona Note: Strategies 3-5 tomorrow. I hope you’re surviving.

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Rules For Life That Happy People Know

so what if they're happy but they don't look happy?

so what if they’re happy but they don’t look happy?

The author of Better Than Before: Mastering The  Habits Of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin shares her wit, wisdom and research on how to feel happier, even when we’ve hit a low pitch.

1. When things get tough: Treat yourself like a toddler. A cranky toddler. A toddler who shouldn’t get too hungry, too cold, too hot, too sleepy or be dressed in uncomfortable clothes.

2. Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

3. One of the worst ways to spend your time is to do something well that need  not be done at all. For instance, you spend time filing—but maybe you don’t need to hang onto those papers at all.

4. Everything looks better arranged on a tray. You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.

5. Pay very special attention to anything you try to hide. The desire to hide something, from family or co-workers—to keep them from seeing what’s on the computer screen or from knowing how much time or money is spent on a habit—shows that, in some way, your actions don’t reflect your values.

6. It’s easier to prevent pain than to squelch pain. Literally and figuratively.

7. Someplace, keep an empty shelf; someplace, keep a junk drawer.

8. Ask yourself: Whom do you envy? Envy is uncomfortable, but it’s instructive. If you envy your co-worker, due to her exotic travels, that’s a clue that it’s time to plan a trip yourself. If you envy your sister, due to her ease in the kitchen, maybe you’d like to take a cooking class.

9. The things that go wrong often make the best memories. When you think back on a camping trip, or a new puppy or a long, family car trip, what do you remember best?

10. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. If you need to finish the annual report, time spent cleaning your desk, answering emails or doing “research” is just an unhelpful distraction.

11. Every room should contain something purple. A flash of unexpected color never disappoints.

12. There’s always time to enjoy a beautiful scent, be it a clean towel from the dryer, or something new from the hardware store.

13. Go ahead, change that burned-out lightbulb.

14. Go outside. Research shows that being in the sunlight and being in a natural environment both lift your spirits.

15. Burn energy to create energy. Research shows that we tend to feel because of the way that we act. If you act energetically—stand instead of sit, walk faster,  run down the stairs—you’ll give yourself a jolt of energy.

16. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. (Zen Proverb)

17. No one regrets having stocked up on toilet paper.

18. Be gentle with yourself. People sometimes assume that if they beat up on themselves for mistakes, they won’t make them as much. To the contrary. Research shows that people who show self-compassion, by saying things like, “Well, we’ve all done it,” or “I learned my lesson, and I’ll do better next time,” are better at trying to stick to healthy habits.

19. Fill in the blank: “_____ is a good servant but a bad master.” Ambition, technology, caffeine, productivity. What’s your answer? There’s an important difference between things that are useless and things that are unused. The clock you inherited from your grandfather might not be able to tell the time, but it can be a beloved memento.

20. Schedule time to be unscheduled.

21. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. For the better (a run) and for the worse (a cupcake).

22. One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make others happy.

23. One of the best ways to make others happy is to be happy yourself.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
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A Cool Mona Recipe: Add Some Tequila To Your Thanksgiving Table

tequilaIf you really (and I mean really!) want to add a very unique cocktail to the holidays, then DeLeon Tequila’s Salud is the cocktail for you. Check this mix out: platinum tequila, sherry, pineapple and lime juice, passion fruit, absinthe and bitters garnished with an orange peel. Now that is a flavor explosion just waiting to happen.

Salud! is the Spanish equivalent to Cheers!

The Salud drink begins with DeLeón’s Platinum tequila and uses pineapple, passion fruit, and lime for a fruity base. After that, the drink begins to take a turn from the tequila and fruit standard into the exceptional. This is primarily due to the Palo Cortado Sherry, a very rare style that is some of the best you will find among this wine. The absinthe also does its small part in making it a very fine cocktail and here it is used a bit more like bitters, just a dash to accent and finish the drink to perfection.

If you cannot find this particular sherry, Stacy Slinkard’s Sherry Wine 101 article is a great place to find substitutes.



  1. Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
  3. Garnish with an orange peel.

Prep Time:3 minutes

Yield: 1 Cocktail

About DeLeón Tequila:  It was launched in 2009 and is made from 100% Blue Weber agave. The tequila hails from Los Altos in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico and uses traditional clay and brick ovens to bake the agave before a double distillation.

*(DeLeón produces Platinum (blanco), Reposado, Añejo, Diamante (joven), Extra Añejo (36 months, bottled at 108 proof), and Leona expressions. The Platinum has a MSRP of $60/750ml bottle, so it is a reasonably priced premium brand. The aged tequilas are rested in a combination of American oak and French wine casks.)


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4 Ways To Defend Yourself Against Emotional Pirates (Part 2)

at one time, all art was contemporary

at one time, all art was contemporary

Love that Martha Beck, psychologist, grounded friend, author of The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One and writer of great articles such as this one.

You need to catch up on the first part of this article so click, read and then come on back .


Now add up all the numbers you circled to determine Person X’s pirate score. (You can repeat the test as many times as you want, evaluating anyone you know.)

Once you’ve done that, consider these recommendations:


Score 5–10: This person is a “crewmate,” someone you definitely want in your life. If you haven’t connected recently, reach out to him or her soon and often.
Score 11–15: Person X is a “friendly vessel” who’s sometimes absorbed in personal problems but is often available to pay attention to your needs. A good casual friend at home or work.
Score 16–20: You’re dealing with a “merchant ship”—a person who will give you attention if she knows she’ll get something out of it. Do business with such people, but don’t depend on them for emotional support.
Score 21–25: Avast! Ye have allowed a pirate aboard.

Step 3: Mount antipiracy defense measures.

Some pirates make themselves obvious. Their arrogance or neediness is like a skull and crossbones flag. Others are very subtle. They can lie so effectively that your first signal of something amiss is your own anger, frustration or lack of energy. But as soon as you recognize an emotional pirate, try these maneuvers:

Quietly sail away. Once Cecily knew that Gwen was a pirate, she paced their coffee dates farther and farther apart and finally stopped calling or answering her messages. If you can end a relationships with a pirate this easily, do it. You may be met with anything to disinterest to a flurry of calls to a tantrum. If the pirate throws a fit, proceed to the next tactic.

Batten down the hatches. To perform this maneuver, be civil but don’t offer the attention the pirate craves. Limit yourself to bland, noncommittal comments like “yeah, that’s life” instead of “you poor thing”. When pirates truly realize your attention hatches are battened, they drift away.

Hide your treasure. This powerful approach will baffle and onfuse emotional pirates. Remember, attention is your treasure so instead of pouring in onto the topics pirates bring up, focus on something that interests you…cooking, cat burglary, you name it. For example:

Pirate: Hey, you won’t believe what my ex said to me.

You: Hey, how do chickens sleep? Do they lie down or what?

The more random your comment, and the more unrelated to the pirate’s topic, the better. Persistence is key! Continue to focus on your real interests, no matter what. Share no treasure and the scurvy knaves will be gone.

Step 4: Head for calmer seas.

You may be one of those warm hearted, co-dependent people who attract many pirates or who have let them pillage you for years. (This usually means you were raised by parents with piratical tendencies or fell into a romantic relationship  with a pirate before you realized what was happening.) If so, the tactics above will feel awkward at first. Hang in there! For motivation, recall that while you’ve given many hours of intense emotional energy to your pirate, he would not notice that you were on fire.

The moment Cecily noticed that Gwen was a pirate, she began implementing the maneuvers above gradually. And that’s okay. If you know you’ve allowed a pirate into your life and you continue to allow yourself to be plundered for a while, don’t beat yourself up. Go at your own speed but take notes. Later, back among crewmates who pay as much attention to you as you do to them, you can entertain each other with tales of the lawless looters who pillaged your energy long ago, before you really learned how to sail.




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4 Ways To Defend Yourself Against Emotional Pirates

keep talking while i hit record

keep talking while i hit record

Love that Martha Beck, psychologist, grounded friend, author of The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One and writer of great articles such as this one.

Some people can be a little self-absorbed. Others are reliably narcissistic. And then there are emotional pirates who plunder every last ounce of energy you’ve got.

Cecily and Gwen hit it off on a Caribbean cruise so back home, they began meeting for coffee. Gwen told Cecily about her troubled marriage, her sciatica, her intrusive mother. Cecily told Gwen…almost nothing. Somehow, Cecily’s life just never seemed to come up. But one morning, Cecily decided to share. “My dad’s got cancer,” she told Gwen. “I’m really scared for him.” “Oh,” said Gwen. “That reminds me of the time my boyfriend—well, ex-boyfriend—thought he had skin cancer.”

She went on to tell the tale, in tragic terms, with herself as the dramatic heroine. Later Cecily told me, “That’s when I realized that Gwen is kind of self-absorbed.” (Kind of?) The friend Cecily made is an emotional pirate.

You’ve probably encountered similar brigands on the high seas of life. Some are charming or charismatic, others whiny. But they all have one thing in common: They want others to pay them attention and they never, ever pay it back. They demand your pity, admiration and agreement even when you’re in need. And they leave you feeling emotionally looted.

You may think that pirates are simply wounded souls in need of TLC. Listen: Some people like being pirates. They don’t want to generate their own emotional well-being. They want yours. Yo-ho-ho, a pirate’s life for them! If you don’t learn to recognize and defend against these scourges, you’re waiting to be victimized. So here’s a Pirate Protection Program to keep you safe:
Step 1: Always stay shipshape.

Emotional pirates prey on weakness, on ships with tattered sails. To avoid being attacked, give yourself the attention you’ve been giving the pirates. Notice: Are you physically at ease? Wearing comfortable clothes? If there’s any discomfort in your life, take one action to make yourself feel better. Now take another. This is called meeting your own needs, and it’s a primo pirate-proofing practice. Some people balk at the thought of putting self-care over a pirate’s demands, but ignoring your needs to pour energy into a self-absorbed person’s self-absorption isn’t virtuous. It only sets you up to get hurt.

Step 2: Evaluate every vessel.

If Cecily had been shipshape, she would have registered that Gwen made her feel hollow and tired. Though she had noticed Gwen’s “kind of self-absorbed” energy, she never let it rise into consciousness. She didn’t want to judge Gwen. But noticing that a pirate is a pirate is like noticing that a shark is a shark; it’s not a moral position, just fact. Pirates—whether because of emotional wounds or inborn narcissism—steer their victims’ attention away from the feeling that they’re being emotionally looted. I want you to turn toward it.

Here’s a quiz to help clarify what you really feel about people in your life. Below are five reactions you might have to any given situation, from positive (1) to negative (5).

1. You feel joy, delight; you’re loose, energized. 2. Your emotions are pleasant, your body relaxed. 3. You feel weariness. Your body may feel tense. 4. You feel resentful. Your body is very tense. 5. You’re angry, even if you think you shouldn’t be. Your muscles are contracted, maybe enough to create pain in your neck, head, back, shoulders, and/or jaw.

Now, to test for pirate potential in any individual, keep that person in mind—let’s call him or her Person X—when you read through the scenarios below. As you imagine each scenario, notice your reactions without resisting, judging, or suppressing them. Using the rankings above, circle the reaction that best describes how you feel.

Situation A: You’re having a meal when Person X comes in and sits down to eat with you. Reaction: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Situation B: You and Person X, stranded in an airport, have to share the last hotel room left. Reaction: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Situation C: You’re having a medical procedure and need a ride. Only Person X is available. Reaction: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Situation D: While you’re trying to deal with a snafu at work, Person X shows up. Reaction: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Situation E: Person X sends you a long e-mail. Reaction: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Now add up all the numbers you circled to determine Person X’s pirate score. (You can repeat the test as many times as you want, evaluating anyone you know.)

Cool Mona Note: More tomorrow on what the scores tell you and the last 2 steps on protecting yourself against piracy. This is good stuff, right? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8rv0s2zwfQ

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A Cool Mona Book Review: Fates And Furies (Short Listed For The National Book Award)

Marg_5 iconFates And Furies by Lauren Groff, published 2015. National Book Award finalist and NPR’s Book Club Pick. A story about 2 perspectives of the same marriage – Lotto (loving husband, actor, playwright) and Mathilde (grateful wife, good-looking, survivor), an electric partnership of 24 years taking place in contemporary New York and Connecticut. 2 sides to each story. Marriage is made of lies. Kind ones, mostly. Omissions.

Lancelot Satterwhite (Lotto) is a youthful 6’3 tower of sadness, being rejected from his family of bottled spring – water wealth. He discovers the theater and captures his audience with his radience, his sincerity of performance. It’s hard to tell which is his first love – acting or Mathilde. As an actor, he gets work when he can and leaves audiences on their feet. He soars as a playwright, his preference being Shakespeare so the book is scattered with quotes and celebrated lines.

The character of Lotto is further defined through his brilliant attempt at an opera – ancient Greece, the apocalypse happening, a woman (trapped in a cave) and man singing love songs back and forth through the walls. The woman sings to him, tell me about the sun, you’re my eyes, my skin, my tongue. He sings back I am old, I am sick, I am sorry and dies. I am alone she sings out. Deathless in a dead world. There is no fate worse than this. Alive, alone.

Most operas, it is true, are about marriage. Few marriages can be called operatic.

Nothing and no one smiles on Mathilde Yoder – at the age of 4 labeled a killer – but survivor skills tell her to grab Lotto’s brass Solo cup as they meet at a college party, Amherst. Mathilde soon has a husband and an only friend and a dog named God. Great swaths of her life are white space to her husband. She’s clever enough to edit and rewrite his plays, turning them into 24-karat pieces and kind enough not to complain during the slow times. She’s happy and grateful, which has nothing to do with marriage’s expected love and respect, but because the secrets are buried deeply enough. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you’d crush them to paste. She never lied. Just never said. And with the gift of love and marriage comes the bitter seed of regret, the unbridgable gap between the Mathilde she was and the Mathilde he had seen her to be. A question, in the end, of vision.

Groff is called one of the best writers of her generation. Facts And Furies is an exceptional read and you see her talent, line after line, passage after passage. Her description of Mathilde as a new widow is so raw and moving that I could barely read it. She rode at the head of a shining line of black limos like the head raven in a convocation of blackbirds. Grief is an old wolf that comes sniffing around her house.

She is also the author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, as well as the story collection Delicate Edible Birds. She’s written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In the Cool Mona rating system, I give Fates And Furies 5 margaritas and now if you’ll excuse me, I need a fresh one before I start to reread it.

Cool Mona Note: Have you read Just The Facts or Only The Animals? Excellent choices to add to your list.

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A Cool Mona Recipe: A Milky Way Vodka (Made In The Dishwasher!)

Milky WayIf you still have Halloween candy sitting around, this recipe will put it to good use. If not, here’s a reason to buy more. And the best part about a Milky Way Vodka? You make it in the DISHWASHER! Thanks to my friend, Caroline, who found this in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.



1 (750 ml) bottle of vodka

1/2 (11 ounce) bag of fun-size Milky Way bars – about 10 or 5 regular size bars



Pour out about 25% of the vodka from the bottle and save for future use.

Cut up the candy bars until they can fit into the neck of the bottle.

Add the candy to the bottle of vodka. Seal tightly.

Run the bottle through the dishwasher cycle. When done, shake the bottle to combine. If necessary, run the bottle through the cycle again.

Store in the freezer. (Vodka will not freeze.) Yields about 13 2-ounce servings for a fun dessert drink.


Cool Mona Note: If you’re an unfun person, you can make this in a double boiler. Just add the candy to the DB and stir. As candy melts, stir in a little of the vodka at a time. Keep mixing until everything becomes a smooth blend. Pour the mixture back into the bottle and store in the freezer.



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Why Is Happiness So Hard? 10 Reasons, 10 Solutions (Part 2)

keep smiling and they'll start to feel nervous

keep smiling and they’ll start to feel nervous

Catch up on the first 5 reasons and solutions: http://www.coolmona.com/why-is-happiness-so-hard-10-reasons-10-solutions/

6. Comparison

Do you ever troll Instagram  and think, Wow, if only my life was like Rita’s, then I’d really be happy?

We are bombarded with reminders that our better self is waiting in the wings. The thing is, we’re viewing edited reality. Case in point: While writing this article I was struggling with motivation. So I went outside and started taking pictures to post on social media. When I checked my self-awareness I had to admit I was more concerned with reaching the number of followers my peers have, rather than bringing value to my audience. Instead of feeling grateful that I’m able to write for cool sites like the Huffington Post and Psychology Today, I was chasing more readers, more likes, more hearts and more shares. Comparison really is the thief of joy.

7. Living in the past

Few things are sadder than seeing someone stuck in an endless cycle of replaying their glory days. As the saying goes, ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ The thing about the past is we would all go back and change the unsavory parts if we could. Regretting what you did or didn’t do is futile because you were a different person back then. Plus, we are constantly evolving.

Except John from high school who will happily offer you a beer in exchange for listening to that time he made the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Or how his life is all screwed up on account of that wretched wife who turned his kids against him and took him to the cleaners during the divorce.

Don’t be that guy.

8. Loose boundaries

Healthy boundaries are the key to happiness. Without a blueprint for who we are, who we are not, and who and what we want in our life, we simply cannot manage time and emotional energy.

For example, let’s say you and your family traveled across town to visit your folks for Sunday dinner. And after dessert Mom doesn’t want you to leave, even though your kids are cranky. When Mom pushes boundaries that negatively affect your family, remain firm, but loving: “I appreciate the time we had today, but as I mentioned before, bedtime is at 8:00 p.m. and we have to get going.”

Mom may see boundaries as a challenge, and an invitation to push your buttons. Hold your ground and impose “second level” boundaries, if necessary. For example, leave without engaging in any further conversation, turn off your mobile phone, and don’t allow yourself to be guilted into repeated pleas to make an exception because “it’s a special occasion.”

9. Neglecting gratitude

There’s a whole host of reasons why we should make gratitude a daily practice — research has shown that being thankful has many positive effects such as improved health, better immune systems, feelings of connection, and higher levels of collaboration.

When we wallow in what we don’t have, we squander our emotional energies. Focusing on our shortcomings, rather than our blessings means losing sight of the fact that most things in our lives are pretty good.

Try thinking of three things each day that you’re grateful for or keep a gratitude diary. These small acts of kindness take just minutes, yet the difference in outlook and positive emotions can make a big difference.

10. Forgetting about the process

Sometimes we make life harder than necessary. Happiness is not a means to an end, for there is no Destination Happy. Sure we experience joyful moments and blissful memories, but life is about the journey and enjoying the steps along the way. When we let go of our limited view of happiness, we accept that life is full of ebbs and flows where some days are great, others are good, and some are bad. And that’s okay. Cultivating happiness is as much about handling adversity as it is about embracing the beauty in everyday moments.

Linda Esposito writes for Wired For Happy and this is her fabulous article.


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Why Is Happiness So Hard? 10 Reasons, 10 Solutions

black and white catLinda Esposito writes for Wired For Happy and this is her fabulous article.

Most of us get happy all wrong. This is because we were raised to think that life is supposed to make us feel good. We were taught to avoid pain like the plague because negative events cause negative emotions and negative feelings are not meant to be felt. The result is we grow up pain-averse and we crumble at the first signs of stress because our emotional training wheels never came off.

While roadblocks to happiness do exist, the good news is they are all within our control. Here is a look at the common thieves of happiness and how to change them to work in your favor.

1. Fear

Fearing change is normal. Staying mired in misery is not. Common reasons include fear of the unknown, of failure, of what people may say, of risking our security blanket in the name of safety and predictability.

Fear cripples many a therapy client: Staying in a soul-sucking career because “that’s what my parents did to provide for the family,” or sticking with an unhappy relationships because “it’s better than being alone,” and stalling on a creative venture because “what will the naysayers say if l fail?”

It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone but your comfort zone is also your danger zone. One of the biggest regrets of the dying is reliving all the what ifs. Topping the list is fear about being criticized by others. Take a tip from the wife of an ex-president:

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

2. Chasing self-esteem

“It has almost become a truism in our culture that we need to have high self-esteem in order to be happy and healthy. But as research is now starting to demonstrate, the need to continually evaluate ourselves positively comes at a high price. The main problem is that having high self-esteem requires feeling special and above average. To be called  average is considered an insult in our culture. This need to feel superior results in a process of social comparison in which we continually try to puff ourselves up and put others down. Bullies generally have high self-esteem, for instance, since picking on people weaker than themselves is an easy way to boost self-image.” ~Dr. Kristin Neff

The problem is once our self-esteem slips, as it inevitably will, we start to internalize the negative feelings and we are primed to feel anxious, depressed and unworthy.

What’s the antidote?

Develop self-compassion.

Self-compassion means we see ourselves realistically and just as fallible as the next guy or gal. The feel-good emotions of self-compassion are highly-stable because they are based on our intrinsic self-worth.

Research has shown that self-compassion offers the same benefits as high self-esteem, such as less anxiety and depression and greater happiness. However, it is not associated with the downsides of self-esteem such as narcissism, social comparison or ego-defensiveness.” ~Dr. Kristin Neff

3. External rewards

Happiness is an inside job. Sure a shiny new car, sleek digs and a European vacation can make life better, but they are temporary fixes. Sometimes we veer so far outside of our minds in search of happiness that these external pursuits block our path. The best things in life are created and cultivated  — good, solid relationships, and experiences and memories. Material goods will not shower us with positive emotions and meaning.

4.  “When I reach this goal…”

Life doesn’t honor the perfect time. Waiting for the future is to sit in anxiety while the world passes by. We postpone our happiness until a time in the future when everything is just right. Only that time never comes.

Some believe that happiness must be earned, and suffering now means we can cash in our karmic sunshine tomorrow. The truth is happiness is not mystic or fated. Anxious therapy clients will often self-sabotage when things start to look up because they believe if they take emotional wellness for granted, the Happiness Gods will strike. This preemptive worrying is a waste of time if ever there was one. Not that I know.

When I was a kid I constantly looked forward to milestones: high school graduation, independent living, marriage, travel, parenthood, etc. Then one day in my 20s I woke up and realized I was living “the future.” And despite the milestones, there were always barriers. Once one challenge was overcome, the next was knocking on my front door. And that realization forced me into imperfect reality, otherwise known as the here-and-now. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tomorrow game. And all the while today’s precious moments are passing us by.

5. Negative thoughts

A crucial psychological lesson is that our thoughts form our emotions and not the other way around. It’s common to believe that we can’t help our feelings, but this is simply untrue. Negative thoughts can seem automatic because they’ve become ingrained in our thought process. Complicating matters is many of our thoughts are unconscious.

One of the best ways to combat chronic negative thinking is to visit a therapist. A skilled therapist will help you uncover your unconscious thought process so that these thoughts are brought into consciousness, examined and dealt with.

For example, you may have experienced multiple thoughts upon reading, ‘visit a therapist.’ Perhaps you had a negative counseling experience in the past, or your immediate thought was, ‘here we go again, someone telling me I’m crazy, and I need to get fixed,’ or other thoughts along those lines. If you find yourself reacting to the same people and situations over and over again, it’s likely you have unconscious thoughts blocking your way.

The sister to uncovering unconscious thoughts is a therapy technique called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). For an in-depth article explaining how to reframe unhealthy thoughts so you can substitute them with more realistic, healthy thoughts, click here.

The quality of our thoughts means everything to happiness.

Cool Mona Note: This stuff is good so don’t miss tomorrow’s post with the next 5 from Linda Esposito. https://www.youtube.com/user/KatyPerryVEVO







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