Life and Living

Why It’s Okay to Change Up Family Traditions

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This article was first published in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper

Holiday traditions have always made my heart beat a little faster—not with excitement, but with stress. Growing up as the seventh of eight children, I spent every December struggling to find gifts and make treats for everyone in the family. Things got easier when I started my own small, nuclear family. But our numbers are growing, and in recent years I’d begun to feel a touch of the old anxiety. Still, I was a bit shocked when someone suggested that we switch up our traditions by assigning each [...]

When Life Wallops You, Turn It Into a Personal Revolution

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A friend of mine recently experienced something I call a “life wallop.” You’ve probably had a few wallops in your own life: a relative you funded through rehab calls, high as a kite, asking you for bail money; an elderly parent, lost in dementia, snaps something brutally cruel; you see your ex on a date with your next door neighbor.

“I feel like a truck hit me,” said my friend. “It’s so stupid—I know I should just shrug it off, but I can barely get out of bed. I’ve been working so hard to evolve into a stronger person, and [...]

Giving Thanks

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I want to begin by thanking you for reading this post. In a world blitzed with information, you’re giving your precious time and attention to my words, and I am deeply, genuinely grateful.

Lest you think I’m having a selfless moment, let me confess that I wrote the previous paragraph to see if it would make me feel good. I’ve just been reading studies that say expressing gratitude is one of the quickest, most powerful ways to increase feelings of well-being. 

It’s totally working, y’all.

By stopping to give thanks, I redirected my attention from my small, drudging self to you, wherever [...]

When You Trust Yourself, You Live Your Best Life

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I’ll tell you this for free: Not all resolutions are created equal. As a new year begins, many of us write lists of noble promises—and break them before the ink dries. Why do most resolutions have so little sticking power? Because they’re what I call “outside-in” goals. They aren’t based on our real, intrinsic desires. We set them because we’ve learned from the culture around us—family culture, religious culture, media culture—that they are Good Things To Do.

By contrast, the kind of new year’s resolution that genuinely improve our lives come from the inside: our hearts, our guts, our cores. [...]

Celebrating the Ebb Tide

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You are an ocean. You’re about 60 percent plain water, with an admixture of chemicals that approximate the sea in which your most ancient ancestors evolved. Also like the sea, you are tidal. You ebb and flow. Your heart and lungs continuously contract and expand.

Your circadian rhythms alternate between alertness and sleepiness. You also have ultradian rhythms, multiple physical systems that ebb and flow within each day. Ultradian rhythms control things like your hormonal levels, heat regulation, appetite, and nostril dilation. (Yes! Nostril dilation!)

Unfortunately, you’ve had your natural rhythms disrupted by a culture that praises you for working continuously, [...]

May all our scores be very low

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Doggie Do-Good Camp was supposed to last two weeks. That’s a long time to be separated from a dog you’ve just adopted, but when we got Claire, our emergency backup Golden Retriever, it seemed necessary. She was anxious, jittery, and unresponsive to even simple commands. After two weeks, a Doggie Do-Good trainer called to report that Claire needed more time. “Claire is one of the cutest dogs we’ve ever worked with,” said the trainer. There followed a charged silence. The trainer took a deep breath and added, “Her scores are, er, very low.”

It was hard to contradict, but still, harsh, [...]

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