everything you f*cking need to know to be happy (but were afraid to ask)

Dear Internet,
If you are into self-help, woo-woo, DBT, or are a curious individual, you’ll notice the core of all of these practices contain two main components to help you along the way to being happier and thus having a more fulfilling life.
I’m going to give them to you for free. No more self-help books, sketchy websites, or paying for gurus1.
Mindfulness and gratitude.
That’s it.
Every website and self-help book will bury these ledes in the opening pages of their annals and yet build their entire systems around these two concepts. Yet once you get into the meat of their woo-wooease, you’ll find them all tucked in and ready to work.
How does mindfulness and gratitude work?
To achieve mindfulness, you meditate and if you meditate, you’ll be more in the present. If you’re more in the present, you’ll begin to feel less anxiety and stress, more compassion for yourself and others and a fuck ton of other awesome benefits. Being mindful helps with the awareness of what’s happening in and around you — a thought is just a thought, a feeling is just a feeling; you do not have to react to either one. Being aware of those things helps you make better, and more informed, decisions about what is happening around you. You don’t act on impulses or steer from difficult decisions. You accept that a zillion decisions brought you to this point, you can accept that you can make choices on going forward. It is not “things happen for a reason.” That’s bullshit. You know it and I know it. Stop believing in it.
Gratitude is the complement to mindfulness. Gratitude allows you to be thankful for what you have rather than what you want. It concentrates on the being rather than the material. You are thankful for your parents (yes, even if you are divorced from them) because without them, you wouldn’t be here. You are thankful for your killer hair. You are thankful for the experiences you’ve had to help shape you. You’re grateful for the friends who believe and support in you.
(A good one, for me, is to be grateful for TheBassist breaking up with me (shut it). If he had not broken it off and put clear boundaries on his needs, the cycle would have continued. I would have gotten worse. Crashing that fateful October day is probably the best thing that’s happened to me in years. The cyclical of my relationships wasn’t just with TheBassist but with other aspects of my life. I’ve accepted, and said a zillion times, I may never hear from him again but if there is one thing I want him to know is this.)
You can make it as large (I am grateful for my family for loving me) to small (I am grateful for my friend who rubbed my feet after a long day). The idea is to find one thing to be grateful for, every day, which will keep you anchored in the present and then follow the mindfulness train of thought above to continue on with your enlightenment.
(I know it’s going to take me awhile to get beyond “I have killer hair” and I’m okay with that knowledge.)
At this point you are asking yourself (more than likely) the following question(s),”Lisa, why should we believe you? Sometimes when you write, things sound cray. Seriously. Cray.” or something along those lines. Hey, I get it. I’d have a hard time listening to me too.
I’ve been meditating for 211 days in a row and in the beginning, I thought it was a crock of shit. But allowing myself to be open to the idea, and practicing the tenants, has really helped in the long game. There are a lot of potentially stupid actions I mulled over, thanks to meditation, before realizing they were not in my best interest, so I didn’t act on them. I am less likely to be impulsive then I was six months ago. This is important to note.2
(There is one decision I mulled over for months before finally acting on it. I know others would see it as detrimental to my well being but in the end, making that decision made me feel better and knowing its consequences may not ever be realized also help.3)
I asked my therapist what makes someone who has a mental illness different than someone who has healthy4 reactions to stressful things such as having low self-esteem or social anxiety. She said that’s a good question and after thinking about it for a few moments, her response was along the lines of someone who has a healthy relationship with stress is more prepared and better able to handle that stress where as someone who is mentally ill, the stress is heightened and we’re less likely to handle it in a healthy way.
The goal is not to get stable (because no one is really stable) or normal (no one is really normal) but to handle and prepare healthy responses to stressful things.
Which is where the meditation and gratitude come in. It’s all full circle.
P.S. I highly recommend reading Zen Habits to get you started. You can also mediate using my favorite (and often my pushy instance of) app, Headspace.

1. I am not a doctor. I am not trained to dispense advice or consultation. If you’re mentally ill, think you’re mentally ill, or have additional questions about your mental health, please seek professional help.
2. TheExHusband often comments how I relate and respond to things is much better in the last 6 -9 months and a lot of that has to do with meditation.
3. Yes, I am being completely vague. No, I’m not going to tell you. No, it’s probably not what you think it is.
4. We kept saying “normal” instead of healthy and we air quoted “normal” every time we did so we decided that “healthy” (sans air quotes) was a better description.

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 20141999, 1999


Dear Internet,
One of the things I’ve been thinking about for the last few years is the probability of woo – that is, magic and the divine. This is not a topic I speak openly on because, like politics, it comes with its own set of derision and trolling. There is also the idea, to me, woo is a very private thing. Part of my world holds many secrets, not all of which are shared.  (Yes, I do understand apparent conflict of interest here.)
So what, exactly, is woo? The best definition I can give is the search for the divine or spirituality, in that it enhances your everyday life rather than constrict it. So whether you worship a deity, plants, or yourself, it’s all woo. But what really makes woo “woo” is all of these incarnations contain, at their core, magic. Whether it is rituals, prayers, practice, or straight up spell making, it’s all about the magic.
Some example of woo-ers are friends who are Druids who believe in faerie folk but not ghosts; die hard atheists who are ghost hunters; honest to goodness God believers who love their church; witches of all varieties; purveyors of reiki and yoga, and everything in between.
The big reason I started researching what makes me “woo” is how we tend to live our lives on a daily basis. Below is a quote cobbled together from various sources by Allie over at Wardrobe Oxygen and is attributed to Brené Brown that encapsulates my thoughts perfectly.

We all get so many emails in our inbox on ‘how to…’ However ‘how to’ does not work – if it did, none of us would be struggling, we would not be the most obese, in debt, addicted society in human history. We frequently look for ‘quick fixes,’ ‘instant solutions,’ and helpful tips in the areas we struggle most in our attempt to ‘fix’ the areas that cause us pain. If ‘how to’ worked, none of us would struggle with feelings we’re ‘enough.’ We live in a culture where if we are not doing huge, extraordinary things, we are ‘not enough.’ All of the social media are based on the shame-based fear of being ordinary. We are hyper-aware of lack. The first thing we do in the morning is to say to ourselves, ‘I didn’t sleep enough’ and the last thing before bed is, ‘I didn’t get enough done.’Brené Brown

The other big thing I’ve learned in the last year is I don’t need much to make me happy. I’ve culled down my physical goods to at least a third of what I left with back in the late fall; getting rid of everything I not only didn’t want but also didn’t miss. Living out of suitcases will force some perspective on you, especially when you have no idea where you’re going to be next (and yeah, it sounds way sexier than it actually is).
The last year also taught me about personal growth. Even at my most manic, I wanted to strip myself down to the rawest person I could be and build myself up again. That, I reasoned (and still believe) was the best way to begin anew. We change with time, but change is often gradual and here I have brute force change happening from all directions. I have to roll with it NOW or deal with the fall out later. The former seemed like a much better idea than the later.
Angry Lisa has got to go, petty Lisa has got to move on, and any other toxic versions of me also needs to move the fuck away.
I’ve been taking small steps for months on making these changes, such as extending an olive branch to those in need, removing toxic people from my life, not allowing myself to get in situations that could be mainly mentally or emotionally damaging. And attempting, really hard, to create some kind of practice of everyday woo that would include meditation, yoga, and long walks everywhere to start. Woo, and magic, is about the practice, the ritual, the particular prayer or worship which allows me to center myself, self-care myself, be a better person.
I’m still trying, I will forever always be trying, and it will forever always be hard work. Life is complicated and it’s messy, but that is what makes us human. We try, we fail spectacularly, we try again. This journal is anything, it’s an attempt to record my efforts and my failures, even if it means it is over and over again.
Thus, I’ll be writing more about woo, which I’ve started a bit ages ago, what works and doesn’t work for me. If you have some suggestions on woo-ing (books, sites, etc), let me know via social media *points to the upper right hand corner of the website*.
Lastly, be kind, be good, and love you.
P.S. A few weeks back  I got my usual manicure, with gel polish, and instead of my usual blacks/greys/darks, I went with hot pink. Hot, gorgeous, neon, brilliant pink. This small shake up in one of my rituals, and one that I ended up adoring, I knew then that miracles and change are possible in every way.

This week in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2003, 2000