Sober for 6 Months!

The Journey

Six months ago today, I decided to quit drinking for a while. I wanted to see what it felt like sober for a couple of weeks. It was mid-July 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic. That may not seem like the best time to make major life changes, but as it turns out, it was perfect timing. When I went into a 9-week lock-down with my 4 children, I will admit that I turned to alcohol to help me cope with the stress. Michael continued to go into our bankruptcy Law Firm, but he didn’t have clients come in; everything changed to virtual. Until that point, I did have a drink or two most evenings. I still don’t consider myself an “alcoholic” but I did turn to alcohol more and more to numb my emotional pain and stress as the global pandemic went on. 

The pandemic added more stress because I was worried about people I love getting sick and dying. I wasn’t sure how we would cash flow at our office and how the kids would do in school since they were all switched to virtual classes. Plus, three teenagers telling me that their friends were all hanging out, and I am the “mean mom” for trying to protect them, was no fun. All while trying to keep my 3-year-old son entertained, and it was all very overwhelming!

My oldest daughter graduated from High School in May 2020 and had lots of emotions about it being different than she expected. No formal prom (they were able to get dressed up and take pictures), she attended a drive-thru graduation, summer senior trips were canceled, and she was so sad and disappointed. We spent as much time outside as possible. I Face-Timed more than ever before and met up with friends at the park to social distance as often as possible. I also participated in a book study called 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry with friends via Zoom. This is Christian based, but I highly recommend it to every human on this planet. It helped change my perspective on many things and molded me into a more joyful and positive person. I’m actually reading it again now. It is on my list to read every new year.

As summer came, we were so happy to sleep in, get outside more, and spend more time with friends at a distance. Michael and I bought an elliptical machine and began working out at home to avoid the gym germs. We went camping and floated the Buffalo River, got the kids a trampoline, and we spent as much time at our friend’s pool as possible. We made the best of a tough situation.

I began waking up and looking forward to my first drink. That drink came earlier and earlier as the summer days (daze) were upon us. At one point I convinced myself that drinking at noon was okay because of the pandemic stress. In June I journaled about sobriety and wrote down information about being sober. I was telling my brain what I already knew in my heart and soul. Change is difficult, and it takes work to alter habits. It was easier to stay the same; I was in a routine of drinking daily and feeling buzzed.


On July 14th, 2020 I Googled sobriety apps and decided to download one called I Am Sober. I wanted to quit drinking for a week or two and see how I felt. I loved that it was a community of like-minded people who are all working to stop addiction (there are groups for quitting prescription drugs, carbohydrates/sugar, caffeine, illegal drugs, social media, and more). This app is great because it not only tracks your days sober and has an awesome anonymous community, but it also tracks time spent drinking and money saved. As of today, I am on Day 184 (6 months), I’ve saved $1,840 and 552 hours. Wow! That’s eye-opening and rather sobering (LOL). I bought a new Dell laptop I adore for Christmas, so I guess I paid for it with my sobriety.

Being in a like-minded community, anonymously, is empowering. Feeling alone in a battle is the worst feeling in the world. You are not alone, others are suffering in a similar way. Connecting with people who are also working to stay sober and who are understanding and compassionate, is extremely empowering. There is no judgment, just love, and kindness from people who know what you are going through. When someone drank and reset back to Day 0, it was motivating for me to keep going. Not one person logged on and said, “I’m so happy I drank last night, I feel amazing! Resetting is so fun!” Nope. Not one person. They were disappointed in themselves but each was met with kindness and grace. They may be resetting back to Day 0 for the 10th time but it didn’t matter. Often we beat ourselves up more than anyone who cares about us ever would.

When I stopped drinking, it was because I grew tired of unhealthily drowning myself in alcohol. Being exhausted, sad, dehydrated, hungover, groggy, and foggy was no fun. I wasn’t my best self for me, my kids, my husband, or my friends, so I gave my body time for recovery. I practiced self-love and self-care, so I could be a better version of myself.

Benefits of Being Sober

Some of the benefits I experienced are as follows: more energy, weight loss, deep sleep, more compassion, more free time to write, increased self-awareness, setting better boundaries, more productivity, and stronger relationships. Most importantly it has given me power over my own story. Overall, I feel healthier and more clear-headed. I don’t feel sluggish and exhausted from my body fighting off the alcohol’s toxins daily.

My friend Ashley Chism’s blog titled, Welcome to my Revolution: 1 Year Sober is spot on. She says, “it’s a challenge to put into words the ways sobriety has affected my life. Everything feels different, but also native, like this was always inside of me, wanting to thrive. My anxiety has improved tenfold. I now know that my drinking was creating the anxiety that I would often drink to subdue. I still experience anxiety (hello 2020!) but I have the awareness and the tools to deal with it in a healthy way.”

Anxiety is something I too battle and once I quit drinking, I realized my alcohol use was only making it worse. Ashley said her sleep quality is better, and she feels more rested and restored upon waking. I agree 100% with this. I pass out after my 15-20 minute nightly meditation on the Ten Percent Happier app and wake up refreshed.

Ashley shared how her self-confidence has grown and she prioritizes her intuition over external factors. Again, I am right there with her on this. I feel more self-confident than I have in years. I don’t feel ashamed of my choices or like people are looking at me and judging me. If they are, I don’t mind because that’s not about me. I am constantly learning through personal development – reading/listening to books, being a part of my ShiftHer group, reading my First 5 app upon waking, and working with my Wellness Coach, Tharwat Lovett, all play a role. I practice more self-love and truly feel like my own best friend. As Tharwat told me recently, “this is what it feels like to be friends with your mind.” What an amazing feeling it is! 

Ashley wrote about how she feels safe to lean into her vulnerability. It is terrifying for me to be vulnerable, especially in my writing, but I’m learning that the fear is from our natural tendency to stay “safe”. Change can bring about anxiety that we must push through. We must Do It Scared; another must-read. Ashley says, “I know in my soul that I can make the most impact in this world with my vulnerability. Combined with my self-confidence, I believe I can do anything.” I totally agree with her!! We are unstoppable when we set goals and take baby steps daily toward them. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for!

She also talks about “enjoying being present in all the moments, big and small. Experiencing joy in the little things (especially the little things) has been a tremendous and unexpected surprise of sobriety.” It is my toddler’s giggles, a long hug from my husband, a phone conversation with my mom, listening to the girls tell me about their day, and time spent with sunshine on my face that matters most. I am more intentional, fully aware, and better able to enjoy them when I’m clear-headed.

I set big 2021 goals. I’m working to finish and publish my first fiction novel with my friend, George Jared. I am creating an online self-care course for teens with Tharwat Lovett. And I am starting a second fiction novel with my mom, Sheila Collins. All while momming hard, being a wife, taking care of the house, blogging, sharing Juice Plus, and working part-time at our bankruptcy law firm, Crawley Law Firm, PA

Yes, they are HUGE goals, but I feel empowered and capable for multiple reasons, but the main one is that I’m sober. I know I can accomplish more when I’m not adding a toxic depressant into my system regularly. The first 30 days were the hardest, but with determination, the right support, and the willingness to literally take one day at a time, you can do anything. I highly recommend giving your body a break if you find yourself over-indulging in any substance. I’m not saying that I’ll never drink again, but I do know that I’m not drinking today! That’s all we have, anyway – this present moment. I choose to live this moment sober!

In closing, I share the same sentiment that Ashley posted on her blog. I do not intend to bring shame or judgment to anyone who drinks. I’m sharing this, hoping to be helpful and inspirational to anyone who is questioning their own relationship with alcohol. If you are sober curious, there are resources for you if you are struggling and want a change. Alcohol, like nicotine, is an addictive and legal drug. Sending you each LOVE and LIGHT!

Ditch Toxic Positivity: It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

Ditch toxic positivity because as it turns out, it is not helping anyone. Cynthia sat at her desk staring at the numbers. They just aren’t adding up. There is a lot more going out of the business account than is coming in. The global pandemic which started 6 months ago is taking a toll on her finances at work and at home. She’s put on a brave face for months now, but the reality of the financial struggle is real. Everyone says it’s all going to be okay, and she need not worry. But they aren’t the ones looking at the books! She thinks, “it’s not okay!!” We’re in the middle of a crisis! There is a lot of stress and a lot of unknown. There’s more unpredictability than ever before in her life. Cynthia prays somehow it will all work out. But, for now, she just needs people to stop telling her “everything will be fine and it could be worse.” That isn’t helping. 

Rebecca is a second-grade teacher. Her room is not big enough for all 20 children to be six feet apart. The rules do not require first through third graders to wear masks when seated at their desks. She must wear a mask all day and love on her students from afar because COVID-19 is on the loose. It is hard not to worry about all the kids spreading germs. She worries about her health, her family’s health, and her parent’s health. It’s all very overwhelming and scary. She’s tired of hearing “it’s all going to be okay” because it is not okay. There’s so much unpredictability right now. Rebecca thinks, why is everyone being so positive? 

Ditch Toxic Positivity 

Toxic Positivity Definition

Life stresses many people around the world more than usual because of much unrest, specifically in America. I read an article titled, Time to ditch ‘Toxic Positivity’, Experts Say: ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ and I immediately texted my friend and wellness coach, Tharwat Lovett. She texted me back and said, “I love that! I have had several clients tell me they get sick of all the positivity sometimes. It’s so true!!!” I told her I was going to write about it and I wanted to discuss some ways she suggests coping with the stressful times we are facing. There is so much uncertainty in the world, and it’s okay not to be okay. 

This article says experts caution “against going overboard with the ‘good vibes only’ trend. Too much forced positivity is not just unhelpful, they say – it’s toxic (positivity)”. Stephanie Preston, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, says, “By far the most common [phrase] is ‘It’s fine,’ ‘It will be fine,’. You’re stating that there really isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed, period. You are kind of shutting out the possibility for further contemplation.” 

Preston says, “It’s a problem when people are forced to seem or be positive in situations where it’s not natural or when there’s a problem that legitimately needs to be addressed that can’t be addressed if you don’t deal with the fact that there is distress or need.” 

Natalie Dattilo, a clinical psychologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says, “‘Looking on the bright side’ in the face of tragedy or dire situations like illness, homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment or racial injustice is a privilege that not all of us have. So promulgating messages of positivity deny a very real sense of despair and hopelessness, and they only serve to alienate and isolate those who are already struggling.” 

Internalizing such messages can also be damaging. Dattilo said, “We judge ourselves for feeling pain, sadness, fear, which then produces feelings of things like shame and guilt. We end up just feeling bad about feeling bad. It actually stalls out any healing or progress or problem-solving.” 

Research shows that accepting negative emotions, and not avoiding them, maybe better for our mental health in the long run. Dattilo said, “Recognize that how you feel is valid, no matter what. It’s okay not to be okay.” 

Crawley and Lovett Discussion 

I called Tharwat Lovett, and we discussed the article mentioned above. 


Crawley: If we are doing our best to take care of our body’s health by getting 8 hours of sleep, eating healthy foods, limiting our sugar intake, drinking 1⁄2 our body weight in water, and exercising daily, and taking our Juice Plus, then what else can we do to care for our mental health during this difficult time? 

Lovett: One thing we can do is practice mindfulness. Mark Williams and Danny Penman define mindfulness in their book, Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. They say, “mindfulness is the awareness that emerges when we learn to pay attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment to things as they are. In mindfulness meditation, we cultivate the ability to stay awake and aware of what is happening in our mind and body and in the world around us so we can see clearly and discern wisely what is true and what is wholesome.” defines mindfulness as, “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing in the present, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. There’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.” 

By using mindfulness tools, we can activate and deactivate things within our body chemically, and even in a muscular way, when we practice self-care and treat our bodies with respect. As far as our autonomic nervous system is concerned, when we engage in these simple mindful activities (spending time in the sun, time with family, time exercising outdoors, meditation), we engage the calming parasympathetic responses more often, giving the body more time to rest and replenish. 

Breathing Techniques 

Crawley: Most of us know that it is essential to focus on what matters, but sometimes we get overwhelmed. What are some examples of how you recommend we do this?

Lovett: Breathing techniques are probably the easiest way to engage in mindfulness. When we are mindful of our breathing, we are paying attention to our breath in the present moment. This takes our attention away from thoughts about the past or the future, which tend to cause anxiety. Typically, when we are stressed out, the last thing we’re thinking about is breathing. We often hold our breath or our breathing becomes irregular, then our body follows suit. If we are breathing irregularly and holding our breath, our heart is going to race, our muscles will tense and our digestion will slow down. So, if we are feeling anxious and don’t know what to do, we can respond with breathwork. One example of breathwork is the box breathing technique. 

Box Breathing 

Box breathing is a powerful, yet simple, relaxation technique that aims to return your breath to its natural rhythm. This exercise can help clear the mind, relax the body and improve focus. It is so simple that a person can do it anywhere, including at a work desk or in a restaurant. Before starting, people should sit with their back supported in a comfortable chair and their feet on the floor. 

First, you close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs. Second, hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds. Third, begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds. Last, repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until calm returns to your body. 

Lovett: There’s another breathing technique that I recently learned about where you break up your exhale into three parts. You begin by inhaling deeply for 4 seconds. Then you exhale a third of the breath, hold it for a second, then exhale the second part. Finally, release the rest of the breath after the second pause. Engaging in exercises like these are going to pull us back into the present moment, fostering the mindfulness that helps us control the racing thoughts about the past and the future. 

Crawley: Those are great! Many of us feel like we are spiraling out of control at the moment because of many outside factors we have zero control over. 

Lovett: The toxic positivity article suggests that being overly positive is in a way causing us to feel as if we are sticking our head in the sand or failing when we have a negative thought. In essence, it can create more harm than good if we try to avoid all negative thought or negative emotion. It is important to understand what an emotion is. Emotions are energetic packets of information. If we’re only reading half of our emotional messages (positive ones) and completely ignoring the other half (negative ones) then we’re not really serving ourselves or anyone else. 

The real growth and learning in life comes from those little negative packets of information that we receive from the negative emotions. 


Lovett: Emotions are also something we can learn to regulate, influence, or even generate. An emotion is a biochemical response to a thought we’re thinking. This is where it can go toxic. If we’re trying to control our emotions by only validating the positive ones, then we’re ignoring the action signals that are being prompted by the negative emotions. We are invalidating our experiences. Tony Robbins refers to emotion as an action signal. 

When we experience an emotion, especially negative emotions, it is prompting us to either adjust our perspective on the issue or change a behavior. Robbins refers to emotions as action signals. We are being asked to update the perspective or behavior. When we are experiencing a positive emotion, our body is telling us ‘right on’. When we are experiencing a negative emotion, our body is telling us one of two things. One is that I’m looking at this in a way that’s not serving me. Second, it’s telling me it’s time to change my routine, my reaction, or my narrative. 

Crawley: So, if we ignore those negative emotions and invalidate them, then we’re missing the point. We are slowing down our own progress and growth, aren’t we? 

Find Your Tribe

Lovett: Yes! Another important action we can take to combat toxic positivity is by putting forth effort into finding our people aka our support group aka our tribe. It doesn’t have to be many people. It can be just one or two people, but we need those people to be non-judgmental and able to hold a space for unconditional positive regard. 

These are the people who will celebrate our wins and love us through our losses. They will not judge us, but listen and offer support even when they don’t have the answers. Some people don’t enjoy sharing that kind of personal information with those they know, so another helpful alternative is to hire a professional. We all need someone to talk to or decompress with. Trained professionals can offer insight and alternative perspectives. They can validate our emotions or give us tools we can use to validate our own. 

So, ultimately, negative emotions are opportunities. If we are not accepting of them, then nobody else will be either. If we completely ignore the message, it has nowhere to go. Emotion is energy in motion. Ignoring emotion stops motion. That energy gets stuck inside the body and all that information, there to simply deliver a message, stagnates. The negative energy can’t move through us, so it remains stuck inside of us, primarily in our nervous system. If left unresolved for long periods of time, it can lead to chronic disease or disorder. It can interfere with our body’s ability to function properly. 

Feel Your Feelings

Crawley: This is so interesting and true. So, what I hear you saying is that we should feel our feelings (good, bad, and ugly), sit in it for a bit, process it for a while, but then move on. It’s unhealthy to stay in the negative emotion like being sad, mad, disgusted, full of rage, or annoyance. The negative emotions are there to teach you something and tell you something, but dwelling on it can be harmful, right? 

Lovett: Yes, people can grow severely depressed if they dwell on the negative for long periods of time. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay, so you can give yourself permission to be sad, but give it a time limit (i.e. a day or a few days, an hour or a few hours). During that time we are allowed to cry, lay in bed, feel sorry for ourselves or mope around. Life is full of challenges and nobody’s happy ALL the time – we are human. After the time is up, we accept that there are things we can not change in life, but we can take the next step or do the next right thing to move past the change or loss that has upset us—remember action signal. Dwelling in it for weeks or months can not only become detrimental to our physical and mental health, but it can also alter our personality. 

Crawley: So, if I have a friend move and I feel sad about it for a while. Then I decide it’s ok. I didn’t lose contact with my friend. Yes, things are different now because she is not physically here. But I can still text, call, and FaceTime whenever I want. So, I feel the sadness, then accept the change, and finally be grateful for the time we had together and continue to enjoy the friendship even though it’s different now. 

Shift In Perspective

Lovett: Yeah. That’s the shift in perspective; an outstanding example of the action signal we were discussing earlier. So, absolutely. If something creates negative emotion, allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is, whether it’s grief, sadness, or rejection, makes it easier for us to eventually accept it and then move on. We are validating the emotion by giving ourselves permission to feel the feelings. It’s kind of like a storm cloud that’s rolling through. You just have to hunker down for a bit, allow it to roll over then past you. Healthy, authentic positivity becomes easier to grasp when we give ourselves permission to feel ALL the feelings. When the timer has gone off, it is then our responsibility to look for the alternative perspective; the brighter side of things, and that will help us heal and move forward. It’s our responsibility to pick up a better story. 

This is where the narrative comes into play. Negative emotion comes and goes physiologically. It’s not meant to stick around or last forever. What causes it to stagnate and perpetuate is when we pick up the stories, the narratives that are reinforcing or justifying the negative emotion. A better choice is to consider the positives that can come from the situation or the healthy change it can signal. 

We can’t have an emotional reaction to something we don’t have a corresponding belief about. We need to step back and objectively look at why this has upset me? What is it I believe that has been triggered by the event? Beginning the process of addressing that, figuring out what the root program is inside of me causing me to feel triggered, is the beginning of a self-awareness journey. We can do this on our own through self-exploration and introspection. The subconscious mind loves questions. We can also talk to friends or maybe hire someone who is trained in this area, like a life coach or a therapist. The goal is to uncover the beliefs and programs that are no longer serving us. Once they’re identified, we can begin the process of breaking those physiological connections warehoused in our nervous system, so we are no longer being held hostage by the habit. 

Write It Out

Crawley: Then it becomes less like toxic positivity by saying to ourselves and others, “Everything is fine or it’s all going to be okay.” But more like, “Yeah, this totally sucks! I dislike not knowing what’s going to happen next and how this pandemic is going to play out in my life 100% sucks!” I have to allow myself to spend time feeling the emotional pain, go for a walk and scream, take a shower and cry, beat my pillows, etc. 

Another thing that helps me is to write it all out. When I feel 20 things weighing heavy on my mind and I feel overwhelmed by it all, the act of getting it out of my head helps tremendously. Looking at it on paper makes it all seem more manageable for me than when I have it all swirling around inside my mind. 

Lovett: Exactly, it’s easier to gain perspective when we get it outside of us by writing it down or speaking it aloud. We become the observer of what we’re experiencing, which creates a healthy, manageable space. When we are identifying with or attaching to the experience rather than observing it, it triggers our survival mechanisms, which make gaining the perspective we need more challenging. 

Crawley: Thank you so much Tharwat for your time today. I have thoroughly enjoyed it! I look forward to implementing some of what we discussed in my daily life and I look forward to our next talk.

If any of you would like to work with a professional, I highly recommend Tharwat Lovett.


He is like an amazing lover who looks deep into your eyes, into your soul, and tells you that you are special. He draws you close for a slow, soft, sensual, and passionate kiss. He tells you that you are his one and only and without him, you will suffer. 

He is handsome, charming, and seductive with his promises and tempts you with his lies. When you’re with him nothing else matters. Selfishly you want to constantly feel his warm embrace. You want to hold him close and never let go. You want the temporary numbness that comes when you’re alone with him. He is yours and you are his. 

With him, you feel no pain, only pleasure. As time goes on, you want more – crave more. He implies you are nothing without him. His empty promises lure you in for one more dance. The more time spent, the more you lust after his attention. He tricks you into letting your guard down. You let him in. You open your heart to him and you become vulnerable.
Time passes, and as the night draws to a close, you feel loose. You feel free and you say and do things you wouldn’t normally. You are weak and although you stumble some; he catches you because he wants you to feel safe. He wants you to feel loved. 

Then it happens. Every single time. The night ends, and he leaves you. You look up and he’s gone. He disappeared. You struggle to get home and as you pass out in your bed; you wonder if it was all a dream. You try to sleep, but you are restless and longing for a little more time with him. You are alone and you feel sick now. It’s 1 am and you make it to the bathroom just in time. You puke in the toilet. Where is he now? You feel abandoned and have a terrible headache coming on. 

It is now that you see him for what he really is. He is an illusion of something you desire. He numbs the pain, but only for a short time. The next day you are still facing the same realities of the day before. The same stressors and the same sadness. There is joy too, but you are too blinded by the agony of the night before to see it. 

You knew deep down all this time, but you didn’t want to admit it to yourself. You knew it wouldn’t last. You didn’t want to face the reality that you were played. How could this happen to me? I am smart. I am worthy. I am wonderfully made. How could I have been so blind? Next, the self-loathing and self-berating begin. You feel nauseated, confused, and exhausted from this relationship. 

You wake up one day and say today I choose me. I choose the happiness you cannot bring me. I choose joy and self-care. One day at a time starting today, I see him for who he really is. He is an addiction (nicotine, food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.) He is a liar, a fake, and he is no longer controlling your days and nights. For today, you choose sobriety. 

I’ve known addiction since childhood. An alcoholic step-dad who was verbally abusive raised me with my mom from 14 to 17 years old. Mom and I moved out when I was 17, and he sobered up then. He’s been sober for over 20 years now, but I’ll never forget the painful memories of his drunkenness. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who have all struggled with addiction.

It doesn’t make anyone less than because of the struggle. We all struggle. Some just struggle more than others. Some seek treatment from professional counselors. Others choose AA groups, Facebook groups, an app like I Am Sober, or any other group for accountability with like-minded people who struggle the same. Sharing your story with honesty about how difficult it is to overcome these addictions is a form of therapy. 

I too have found myself in ruts where I had too much…regularly. Today I choose to take better care of myself for not only me but for the people I love; for my family, my friends, and my readers. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of changing habits that do not serve you well. I wrote more on this in my Our Habits Are Powerful blogs. The good news is that we can choose to be sober! It is not an easy path and sometimes feels like losing a close friend. But, these relationships are dysfunctional and need to come to an end.

I’m more clear-minded, energetic, and sleep better. I have been more focused on self-care and pampering, goal setting, and finding joy in the little things again.  It’s nice to focus on what really matters most in life. This moment. Right now. Sober and grateful. There are always difficulties in life, but hiding behind addiction to numb any pain or distress is not the healthiest way to live. 

If you are struggling with any addiction. I encourage you to reach out for help. You are not alone. Many are silent about it. You are among friends who just want what’s best for you. Ask for help if you need it. Today is a great day to be sober!

Our Habits Are Powerful (Continued)

We have already discussed how habits work, now we will learn how to create new habits and how to change existing habits. Following is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg summarized and based on information from Faster to Master.  

“It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it.”

Nathan Azrin

How to Create a Habit

Old Habits – New Habits drawn with yellow arrows on chalkboard

Duhigg says to first identify the desired response and remember it is important to work on one new change at a time. These new habits need willpower, and as we learned willpower is limited. Start so small that it hardly requires any willpower. It is difficult to go from no workouts a week to working out in the gym 4 days a week. But if you start with just 5 minutes a day, EVERY DAY, then you will establish the habit of exercise and you can increase it.

Don’t increase the effort before it has become a natural part of what you do daily. You must make the habit easy to follow through by planning, preparing, and doing what you can in advance to make the new response easy to complete (e.g. put gym clothes on as soon as you awake for your exercise routine and/or lay things out the night before).

Next, select a cue. You can choose one or more of the following to establish as a cue for your response: 

  • Location – somewhere unique that supports this habit (e.g., a library for studying)
  • Timing – a regular time each day/week works best
  • Emotional state – is the trigger for this new habit excitement? anger? anxiety?
  • Other people – who will trigger the new habit? a spouse? a colleague? a friend?
  • Directly preceding sensation, thought, or action – what series of steps will trigger this response? Is it another habit?

Visualize the cue and plan out/rehearse the exact response to it in your head. Then design some rewards and treat yourself. Use something that makes you feel good, like a small piece of chocolate, a new outfit, or chatting with friends. Be thoughtful about what new habits this reward itself might create. Establish support networks by finding people to tackle the habit and/or check-in with to keep you motivated. Visualize your desired outcome and remind yourself of it often. Write a clear visualization of your end goal, print a photo, save a video, etc. Track progress and celebrate small wins. Small wins reinforce the behavior and create a positive cycle of belief in change.

Commit yourself to your new resolution on paper. Those who write resolutions are ten times more likely to complete them. Track streaks of completed responses because the threat of breaking a long streak is a simple yet powerful motivator. Make a public commitment, especially to your weak-ties (acquaintances and communities). Choose people whose opinion you care about but who are not so close they won’t judge you if you fail. Finally, practice your new habit cycle every day for 30 days.

Creating a New Habit Myself 

Duhigg says to start with one habit at a time and I have wanted to create the habit of writing daily – in my journal for fun or working on my next blog post. I took his advice and start small. I’m still home with my four kids, including my 3yo son, who does not let me out of his sight for long. I can have the girls help me for at least two hours a day, so I started there. 

The cue I chose was timing. I had the girls watch Trey from 11 am to 1 pm during the weekdays so I can write, work on my Juice Plus business, work from home on my Crawley Law Firm duties, and do chores around the house without a toddler distracting me. I visualize the cue (11 am) and I don’t allow any distractions until I have finished writing for at least 30 minutes. 

The reward I treat myself with is a brand new journal after I have completed writing in my current one. I enjoy buying cute journals for myself. My support network comprises my friends, family, and other readers of my blog posts. Next, he suggests that I visualize the desired outcome and remind myself of it often. I have a reminder on my phone and I have the time blocked on my calendar. I’ve heard that if it isn’t on your calendar going to be accomplished. 

Clear visualization of my end goal is to publish a blog post bi-weekly or for sure monthly. I have been tracking my progress and so far I have done well and made positive strides toward achieving this new goal. I have committed this new goal on paper (in my journal). Duhigg says to track the streaks because they motivate us to NOT break the streak (anyone on Snapchat knows this is true. Right now I have a 706-day streak. LOL). I am making a public commitment to you (my readers) to continue this habit of writing. I have read in other places that it takes around 21 days to establish a new habit and Duhigg recommends 30 days. 

How to Change a Habit (caveat: There is no single formula to change a specific habit).

Every person has different cravings and drivers for the same routines/behaviors. Some habits are simple to break down, while others are complex and require prolonged study. Also, some habits change quickly, but others are much harder. 

Start by choosing the existing response that you want to change (e.g., snacking, web browsing, smoking, waking up late, or nail-biting).

You can experiment with rewards. Some rewards are often obvious in retrospect, but hard to uncover (e.g. snacking mid-afternoon may be more about taking a break than the need for sugar). Give yourself a few days, a week, or even longer, and don’t put yourself under pressure to change in this period, you’re just collecting data. Adjust your responses to test different rewards and determine the craving driving your routine. (e.g., eat an apple instead of a cookie, take a break and socialize instead of snacking).

After the response, jot down the first three sensations, emotions, or thoughts on your mind. This creates momentary awareness and helps with recall later. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Give the response and reward time to take effect. Review your notes and ask yourself if you still feel the same urge. If not, then you have found the reward that satisfies your craving. If yes, the reward is something else, try again.

It’s important to isolate the cue. Like rewards, cues are often obvious in retrospect but hard to uncover. Each time you feel the cravings arise, make a quick note of where you are, what time it is, how you feel, who else is around, what you’ve just been doing or thinking about. Review your notes for patterns to identify the cues for your craving.

Many cues are directly within our control and the quickest way to stop a response is to eliminate the cue (e.g. block websites, delete apps, disable notifications, end relationships). Eliminating cues is powerful because it requires no willpower. If you can not eliminate the cue, then you can design an alternative response that delivers the same reward because some cues are not possible or practical to eliminate (e.g., times of day, location of work, and colleagues).

Changing One of My Bad Habits

I started by choosing the response I wanted to change – reducing my time on social media (to less than 1 hour a day). The reward I chose was spending “phone-free” time with my toddler. I realized that when he wanted me to play “trains” with him, I had my phone in my hand looking at Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. This was not bringing either of us JOY. When my 3yo said, “Mommy, put your phone down and play with me”  I realized there was a colossal problem.

I started by not looking at social media when I first awake. I read 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life with some friends at the beginning of quarantine, and I realized my morning routine was not ideal. The first 15 minutes of your day are precious because the stressors of the day have not set in and your mind is open for learning. So, instead of hopping on Facebook, I now read a bible study on my phone (First 5 App), pray, and thank God for my blessings. I have also added time writing in a gratitude journal (list of 3-5) to remind myself of all the amazing things going right in my life. 

The cue for me to pick up my phone to look at social media was the phone being so close and available for me to access. Even throughout the day, my phone is usually within reach, so it’s easy to look at it ALL THE TIME! But, this act of spending multiple hours of my day looking at social media wasn’t making me happy or feel good about myself or my life. I eliminated the cue (remove the Facebook app from the phone). If I wanted to see what was happening on social media, then I had to go to my desktop or laptop to login. 

After a month of not having the app on my phone, I added it back, but I turned off notifications and the app is not on my home screen. I have enjoyed this time OFF my phone so much that now I leave it in the other room and don’t even miss it! I feel more connected with my close friends and family. 

As you can see, the act of creating a new habit and changing an unwanted habit is definitely possible. Change is not always easy, but once we know about cues, rewards, and how much better we feel once the new habit is established or an old habit is changed, then it’s all worth the effort! Message me and let me know what habits you are working to create or change! 

Our Habits Are Powerful

During the last 9 weeks in quarantine, I have had a lot more time to think about life. I examined what I took for granted pre-COVID-19, and what I want out of the next 43 or so years. I’ve spent time examining my routines and some of the habits that aren’t serving me during this time home. Taking the time to examine my existing thoughts and behaviors helped me to identify new habits that will help me to reach my goals. It turns out that our habits are powerful!

The biggest challenge we all face when analyzing our habits is the fact that many of them happen when we are on “autopilot”. We have to intentionally bring into focus our thoughts and actions – even the ones we do without thinking about them. A habit defined is an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary. It is a regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

“All our life so far as it has definite form is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal (what is best) or woe (great sorrow or distress), and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny.”

William James

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses habits from the perspective of how the brain is wired to function. He shares how habits work (we go into more detail in this blog along with how willpower plays a role), how to create new habits and how to change our existing habits (I go into more detail in my next blog post). 

How Do Habits Work?

He starts by defining the anatomy of a habit as a Cue + Response = Reward. Cues are combinations of stimuli (our senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, sound, and thought). Responses are chains of thoughts and/or actions. Rewards are increases and decreases in pleasant and unpleasant sensations, emotions or thoughts. We practice the response until it becomes an automatic and reliable habit. The repetition triggers some long-term changes to the brain’s structure (learning). This becomes independent of conscious decision making. It literally becomes automatic without conscious thought! It is WILD to me that we do so much on “autopilot”. 

According to Duhigg, over time the brain starts to expect and now crave a reward as soon as the cue comes into play. The cravings show up even before the habitual response happens. These cravings begin to drive responses that deliver the reward. Our cravings are strong enough to override basic survival instincts. The physical cravings are short-lived but the mental cravings are much more powerful. Our habits are powerful and some examples of bad habits are smoking, sleeping late, and nail-biting. Good habits set clear goals and rules for reward and punishment. Examples are brushing your teeth, showering, drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily, exercising, getting at least 8 hours of sleep, and taking your Juice Plus daily. 

Duhigg says the role of habits is to free up our limited conscious attention and working memory. Because there are thousands of stimuli each day, we manage them by delegating responses to the subconscious mind. Habits can not be erased but instead must be replaced. They result from structural changes in the brain, but the good news is that they can be overridden with conscious willpower or a deeper new habit. We were designed with the ability to CHOOSE how we will respond! This is fantastic news! We can break bad habits and create new ones! If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted.


Unfortunately, willpower is limited in capacity and endurance but it is like a muscle and can be strengthened through practice. We can train our brains to get better at controlling our behavior. Kelly McGonigal wrote in The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, that willpower comes in three shapes and sizes. First is the “I won’t” power, this is when you resist something like fast food on the way home. Then there is the “I will” power. This is the force that helps you do what’s comfortable but important to reach your goals. This willpower allows you to delay gratification now in order to reap the rewards later. Finally is the “I want” power. This is the force that allows you to remember your long-term goals. The “I want” power is the most powerful because it is not so much about the goal itself, but more about having a strong and clear why for delaying gratification now to succeed in the long term. 

Pause-and-Plan Response

We already learned about our fight-or-flight response in my blog titled, Why Is It Easier to Think Negative Thoughts? and how it is triggered by stress. McGonigal says this response destroys willpower because it triggers impulsive reactions to everyday conditions. On the other hand, the “pause-and-plan response” method teaches us to notice our habitual reactions and consciously choose a more empowered one.

McGonigal recommends we take a deep breath. She says, “Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s 10 to 15 seconds per breath — slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart-rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode. A few minutes of this technique will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges.” You can set a timer on your phone and measure how many breaths you are taking per minute. Focus on slowing it down and remember not to hold your breath because this just increases the stress. For example, take a 5 second inhale and a 6 second exhale. 

McGonigal writes, “Your brain needs to bring the body on board with your goals and put the brakes on your impulses. To do this, your prefrontal cortex will communicate the need for self-control to lower brain regions that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and other automatic functions. The “pause-and-plan’ response drives you in the opposite direction of the fight-or-flight response. Instead of speeding up, your heart slows down, and your blood pressure stays normal. Instead of hyperventilating like a madman, you take a deep breath. Instead of tensing muscles to prime them for action, your body relaxes a little.”

She also recommends mediation to improve willpower. “One study found that just three hours of meditation practice led to improved attention and self-control,” McGonigal notes. “After 11 hours, researchers could see those changes in the brain. The new meditators had increased neural connections between regions of the brain important for staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses. Another study found that eight weeks of daily meditation practice led to increased self-awareness in everyday life, as well as increased gray matter in corresponding areas of the brain. It may seem incredible that our brains can reshape themselves so quickly, but meditation increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, in much the same way that lifting weights increases blood flow to your muscles. The brain appears to adapt to exercise in the same way that muscles do, getting both bigger and faster in order to get better at what you ask of it.”

The final suggestion she makes is to get your body moving. It turns out that exercise is another powerful way to amplify your willpower. “When neuroscientists have peered inside the brains of new exercisers, they have seen increases in both gray matter — brain cells — and white matter, the insulation on brain cells that helps them communicate quickly and efficiently with each other,” McGonigal writes.

Charles Duhigg says, “Willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.” He defines keystone habits as foundational behaviors that you can build on to create a cluster of good habits. When you change a keystone habit it can have a cascading effect on other habits down the line and cause changes across many different areas. Not all habits are keystone habits. An example of keystone habits is exercise. When you exercise it creates a desire to make other positive changes like eating better, smoking less, and feeling less stressed. When we feel good, we want to make decisions that keep us feeling good. 

I know this can seem like a lot to take in and it definitely is work to be aware of our thoughts and actions. Don’t all things worthwhile take effort? Who better to take care of yourself than you? I think it’s exciting and fun to think about all the wonderful changes we can CHOOSE to make to our current habits! Once we examine our goals, then it makes the most sense to be sure our actions are leading us toward reaching them instead of pushing us away from them. As stated earlier, in the next blog we will discuss how to create new habits and how to change our existing habits.r, smoking less, and feeling less stressed. When we feel good, we want to make decisions that keep us feeling good. 

Why Is It Easier to Think Negative Thoughts?

Man drawing a seesaw showing an imbalance between Positive – Negative – Thinking with the word positive being weighted more than the word negative on opposites ends with Thinking as the fulcrum.

Over the last five years, I have listened to and read a lot of personal development books. I LOVE to learn and with a Master’s in Psychology, learning about how the mind and behaviors have always intrigued me and I find people fascinating! I was reading Marisa Peer’s I Am Enough: Mark Your Mirror and Change Your Life and there are so many wonderful lessons taught in those 109 pages. It’s an easy read that I highly recommend! It is one I continue to read repeatedly because I learn something new every time. On page one she explains why it is easier to think negative thoughts.

Evolution Plays a Role

On the very first page, she talks about why it is easier to think negative thoughts. She says, “The truth is that the human mind has one simple job: to keep you alive as long as possible. To do that, our mind is an expert at helping us avoid and flee what causes us pain or danger.” When we were primitive cavemen, this was necessary! We had to flee from predators, hunt and gather food, find water, and hide from extreme weather to stay alive. Back then there were physical threats and our bodies developed “fight or flight” responses. We were in legitimate danger from large animals, angry tribesmen, and natural disasters. Those who were more attuned to danger around them were more likely to survive.

A lot has changed since then, but our brains are hard-wired to protect us from physical danger. Peer says, “Most people in the modern world don’t have a direct threat to their physical well-being. But there’s a fundamental design flaw here: our brain has changed very little to reflect our new, safer, and more tame reality. We are still primed for our fight-or-flight responses to the stress and adversity life throws our way.”

The difference now is that the stressors we have are more mental than physical. Our brains still have one job: KEEP US ALIVE. It does this by listening to the information we give about what causes us pain. It is important to specifically instruct our brains on how to respond to the world. Our mind thinks everything we tell it is TRUTH. So, if we say, “this traffic is killing me!”, then our brains think we are actually in physical danger from the thing that is “killing us”. 


Our heart rate goes up, our cortisol levels rise, our body surges with hormones and you feel physical reactions to the stress. We are telling our brain that we are under a direct threat and our brain BELIEVES us. It wants to get us out of direct danger from what is causing us great pain. This only leaves us feeling stressed and miserable. Remember that our words are powerful, and our mind is always listening!

I have also studied the hormone – cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical in your brain that flows more freely and spurs negative thoughts. It is kind of like an alarm system and your brain releases the chemical cortisol to warn you about imminent physical danger. For example, if a co-worker says something that irritates you, and we say to ourselves, “that guy is stressing me out”. Then our brain’s immediate physical reaction is to protect ourselves from the intense “stress”. Our natural and innate reaction is once again to protect us, and our mind triggers the fight-or-flight response.

Negativity Bias

The problem is that we develop a pattern of weighing negative information to a greater extent than the positive, known as the negativity bias. It is primed that way. Therefore, it is easier to think negative thoughts rather than positive ones. The co-worker may have been annoying, but there was not actually any physical danger.

According to Very Well Mind, “In almost any interaction, we are more likely to notice negative things and later remember them more vividly. As humans, we remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones, recall insults better than praise, react more strongly to negative stimuli, think about negative things more frequently than positive ones and respond more strongly to negative events than equally positive ones.”

Our bias toward the negative leads us to focus more on the bad things and make them seem more important than they are, actually. There is neuroscientific evidence that shows there is greater neural processing in the brain in response to negative stimuli compared to the positive stimuli. Because negative information causes a surge of activity in the critical information processing area of the brain, our behaviors and attitudes are shaped more by bad news, experiences, and information. This causes a wide variety of effects on how people think, respond, and feel.

We Can Overcome the Bias

The good news is that we can overcome this negativity bias! As humans, we can make choices about how we respond to stimuli. First, we need to pay attention to the thoughts that go through our minds. It is best to stop those thoughts when they begin. Instead of beating yourself up for past mistakes that you can’t change, CHOOSE to be kind to yourself (like you would a friend. No beating yourself up allowed). Be grateful for the chance to learn through error and make better choices next time.

What we have to learn to do is flip the negatives into positives with a lot of practice and repetition. We have to CHOOSE wisely what we tell ourselves in our 50,000 thoughts a day. Positive thoughts are not a natural response. It takes some work to develop new patterns and be aware of when we are making a choice to focus on the negative.

We have to reframe the situation and take a long look at how we talk to ourselves. When you interpret a situation as something negative, then learn to automatically shift your view of it into a more positive one. This doesn’t mean to ignore the danger, but refocusing your thoughts to give equal weight to include the good and not just the bad.

If you ruminate on the bad things, look for a way to shift your focus and pull yourself out of this negative mindset. For example, if you are reviewing an unpleasant event or outcome long after the situation has passed, consciously try to turn your attention to activities that bring you joy. Listen to your favorite music, read a book, take a shower, or go for a walk to get your mind off of the negative thoughts.

Give Positive Experiences Extra Attention

Since it takes more to remember the positive experiences, it is important to give them extra attention. According to a Very Well Mind, “Where negative things might be quickly transferred and stored in your long-term memory, you need to make more of an effort to get the same effect from happy moments. So when something great happens, take a moment to really focus on it. Replay the moment several times in your memory and focus on the wonderful feelings the memory evokes.”

Since the negativity bias can have a powerful impact on your behavior, it is life-changing to learn to be aware of it. By being aware of why it is easier to think negative thoughts than positive ones, then you can take the necessary steps to adopt a more positive outlook on life! Taking a mindful approach requires being aware of your tens of thousands of thoughts a day and consciously push the positive ones to the forefront of your mind. Continuing to dwell on the negative can take a serious toll on your mental and physical well-being.

Choose a Joy-Filled Life

I’m reading a book called 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry with some friends on a zoom call at 12:30 pm daily, but not on weekends. It has been perfect timing for me! We are in our 7th week of self-quarantine and we are on Day 26 in the book. This was perfectly timed and just what I needed! I have had this blog post topic at the top of my list for a month. I sat down today and started it before I read the current day’s few pages. Then BAM! Today was right in line with the blog, so I had to include it.

Newberry says, “At any given moment, we are either on an upward or a downward emotional spiral. When we get drawn into a negative spiral, we have a key decision to make. We can overreact and kick off a self-defeating reaction cycle, or we can simply drop the negative thought.”

Wow! That is so amazing. Once again, we can CHOOSE how we respond. We are conditioned to respond negatively, so that’s the habit we have created. But we can refuse to indulge in negative thoughts! Can I get an AMEN!? This means we don’t have to let the brain’s primitive responses control our thoughts and actions anymore! We are free to choose! Newberry says, “When you neglect to drop the negative thought, you are choosing to drink the poison. Instead of enabling negative thoughts to affect you, you can starve them by letting them go.”

This is so empowering to me! I sometimes get in a rut of only focusing on lack and not the abundance all around me! You can not be negative and positive at the same time. Sadly, like myself, not everyone learned this information as children. I wasn’t taught to really take hold of each thought and look for the good in EVERY situation. I found myself becoming a worrier, having anxiety attacks, and overall just feeling icky. With lots of focus and practice, ANYONE can become more positive. I talked about choosing gratitude back in December. It is something that I’m constantly working on and I’m proud to say that I’m getting better each day I practice. You can do it too! Simply decide!

Anxiety and COVID-19

Anxiety Disorder

Full transparency – I have a mild anxiety disorder and have battled depression since college. I have had both minor and major panic attacks on and off since then. I don’t think you can fully understand this kind of anxiety unless you experience it for yourself, and I wish it on NO ONE. The first time I heard about this new coronavirus (COVID-19), in the kitchen of our rental house in Belize. I was on an amazing girls’ trip and one of my friends said that there was a new coronavirus in China. A man at an open market apparently ate a raw bat and the virus it had jumped from animal to human.

Fast forward to March 2020 and the entire world is now literally in their homes, hiding from an invisible killer virus – COVID-19. At first, we were told that it was mostly affecting the elderly but now I’m hearing stories about a 12yo that died and a healthy 25yo is on a vent. It’s just all so overwhelming and scary! About a week ago, I started waking up at 3 am with a panic attack. The first one I woke up my husband and made him sit on the couch with me because I was sure I was about to die. He is wonderful and came to help me get through the moment. After some time my heart rate went back to normal and I could go back to sleep. I rolled over around 3 am-4 am and needed to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I’m in a REM dream state, I wake up with my heart pounding out of my chest.

Since I have an anxiety disorder when I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s pitch black, my heart is racing, and so I panic. When I panic, I am telling myself that I’m about to die because there is no other reason that my heart would race at 3 am. Then, I spin out of control and extra cortisol and adrenaline releases because of the stress and my heart beats even faster than before! I sweat, my vision blurs, my stomach aches and my mind races with confusion. It’s horrible!!

After over 20 years of battling these episodes, I know how to stop them when they start. It just takes a few days to remember that. Ha! I’m human and imperfect and wonderfully made, just like each of you. It’s not as easy for me to function “normally” so I have to work at it – every single day. Some days are better than others. I haven’t had an attack in over a week now. I started taking a Benadryl before bed and it helps me to sleep through the 3 am time frame. If I wake up and my heart is beating fast, then I tell myself that it is only happening because of my stage of sleep and it will calm down with some deep breaths.

Choose Your Thoughts

After doing that for a few nights, now I can recognize it and ignore the anxiety creeping in and let it pass! Currently, I am listening to a book called: Loving What Is by Bryon Katie. Basically, she explains how it is your own thoughts that are making you miserable. I highly recommend it! I have known about doing daily positive affirmations and goal setting from Bob Samara and using words that are positive instead of negative. Instead of thinking, “I’m stuck at home because of COVID-19”, say, “I am safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Our mind is ours to control. Lots of times we get in the habit of doing the same things over and over so many times that our brains go kind of on autopilot. If we are not intentional about our daily, repetitive actions, then we may get stuck in a rut that is not serving our needs the best.

Right now we are all under a tremendous amount of stress. There is so much unknown with the virus, and our economy and many livelihoods are being negatively affected. Stress triggers a combination of signals from both hormones and nerves. These signals cause your adrenal glands to release hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Then there is an increase in heart rate and energy as part of the fight-or-flight response. It’s your body’s way of preparing itself for potentially dangerous or harmful situations. 

Cortisol – Stress Hormone

Cortisol also helps to limit any functions that aren’t essential in a fight-or-flight situation. Once the threat passes, your hormones return to their usual levels. This whole process is designed to save our lives. But when you’re under constant stress, this response doesn’t always turn off. Sadly, long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can wreak havoc on almost all of your body’s processes, increasing your risk of many health issues, from heart disease and obesity to anxiety and depression.

The good news is that we can control our thoughts! You are in charge of how you handle the stress of each event in your life. After years and years of studying personal development by reading and listening to books (Brene Brown, Rachel Hollis, Jen Sincero, Mel Robbins are all great authors), I work diligently to stop and think before I react to negativity. It is all a choice. Sometimes we are not paying attention to our reactions and when we are not intentional, then we act on autopilot. Choose to be intentional. It has taken years of training my brain, and with the help of medication, therapy and the support of my family and friends, I can say that I process change and adapt more easily than ever before. It takes lots of practice and intention, but anyone can become friends with their mind and always remember you are in charge of your thoughts! 

I was texting some friends a week ago, and I told them, “the good news is that we won’t go hungry. There are enough friends to figure out how to feed each other! Worst case, we all file bankruptcy (Crawley Law Firm, PA)  and move on with our lives! We will be ok!! I woke up today and was like – I’m done being scared. It only hurts me, and it doesn’t help things change. I read once that worry is like praying for the worst to happen. When I put all my energy into the negative what-ifs. What if I can’t pay my rent? What if this virus kills me, my husband, kids, my mom or my in-laws? What if, what if, what if? That’s a terrible way to live! I want to thrive. I want to be positive! I want to look for the good and look for the helpers. I want to be a helper. I can’t control any of it! Today I refuse to let my fear and anxiety take control of my reality and cripple me into a pile of sadness and self-pity! I choose love! I choose hope! I choose JOY!”

Choose Gratitude

It all goes back to choice. As I worked through an hour and a half warm yoga class at Griffin Power Yoga, I listened to each new member of the 2019 Griffin Power Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training program’s graduating class share a little as they taught. Each one spent time leading the other 28 people sweating on their mats. It was an intense class that has my hamstrings sore now, a couple days later. I pushed myself a little harder as it got warmer. I enjoyed it! 

Griffin Power Yoga

Maddie, my 12-year-old came with me to support, my oldest, Alex. She was one of the graduates on Sunday and has spent the last 4 months and 6 really packed weekends, finishing this 200-hour training! Alex said she’s grateful for this life-changing experience and the life long friends she made. The first three weekends were more physically intensive, while the last 3 weekends were more mentally challenging. Many have told me that Alex was extremely wise and mature for a 17-year-old senior in high school. Their leader, Courtney Griffin, told me on multiple occasions that she was impressed by my Alex.

Maddie, Juliana, Alex

While teaching, one graduate talked about how life doesn’t always turn out how we expect. That she was always looking for some person, situation, accomplishment, or place to make her happy and content with herself. She found what she was looking for all along in her yoga practice. She found a love for herself and her community there at Griffin Power Yoga. 

I was talking to Alex today about how proud I am of her. She is such a wonderful young woman. She is intelligent, gorgeous, athletic, dedicated, focused, and happy! She’s the full package! I know I sound like a bragging mom, but other people say how easy she is to work with. They tell me she is compassionate and kind and how she is level headed. She really is mature beyond her years.

Choose Happiness

Today Alex asked me how my life is going and I said, “I’m happy!” Like the instructor, I spent many years looking for something outside of myself to make me happy. I made horrible mistakes and hurt people I love and who love me, by being selfish. It has been hard work but I forgive myself for past mistakes and today I feel happy! I choose gratitude.

Yes, it would be fun to have more money to buy a lake house or a beach house. For now, we can rent those things. One day I’d like to have an RV that we can drive around the United States. But, today, at this moment, I’m happy. I choose gratitude. I have a roof over my head, clothes, food, we are all healthy, a 2.5-year-old climbing on my back as I type. I’m grateful for all of it! Every single thing that has transpired in my life has been useful in getting me to this point in my journey. Some of it was wonderful and amazing! Some were emotionally and physically painful, other experiences were life-changing and memorable and the rest of it is a blur.

It all comes down to choice. Do I choose at this moment to be grateful for all that I have or long for what I don’t have? Of course goal setting is critical but at this very moment, I choose to be happy and content. I have people in my life who love me unconditionally and I love to work hard for my family at the office and at home. The choice is yours! Choose gratitude!

Focus on What Matters

Time seems to be passing more quickly with each given year. It is already mid-November of my oldest child’s senior year. How did that happen so fast? There are so many exciting things going on and I want to be sure I’m choosing to focus on enjoying life at this moment to the best of my ability. My mom is aging and has recently started peritoneal dialysis (at home). Alex will graduate in May of 2020, Lilly was talking to me yesterday on our way home from the State Dance Competition in Hot Springs about how she only has 2 1/2 years of high school left, Maddie is a 7th grader already and Trey is 2 1/2 and recently potty trained.

focus on what matters

Seriously, how does it all go by in a flash? I remember when I was the 30-something mom with three daughters who were 7, 5, and 2. Now I’m the 40-something mom with a 17-year old, a 15-year-old, and a 12-year-old and a 2-year-old. Wowzers! That was fast. It was a decade full of laughter, tears, pain, surprise pregnancy, prayers, trips, memories, and love.

The other day I was talking to my dear friend and wellness coach, Tharwat Lovett. I said, “I hope I’m enjoying it all enough. Am I truly taking the time to soak in all the awesome that is today…right now? I want to consistently choose to focus on what matters. I know it will all change again, probably quicker than I’m ready for.”

We discussed how all we can do is wake up each morning and choose to focus on the good. Be deliberate and choose to see the positive in every situation. Choose to embrace each moment as it comes, even the difficult ones because these are the ones we learn the most from. Don’t squander precious time, but choose to show the ones we love how much we love them. Call or go visit your parents and loved ones. Reach out and take a friend to lunch. Send a sweet note to someone on your heart. We have to do all we can at this moment to show the ones we love how much we care. Tomorrow is not promised. All we have is right now.

In the last few years, I have friends who have been diagnosed with cancer, who have lost a parent suddenly and those who have stayed in relationships that hurt them on the inside for years. Friends, we have the ability to make choices to build one another up, to love each other, and to forgive ourselves and others for the pain they have caused us. But, we must also choose to let go of those who harm us. Wish them well, then move on because taking care of our mental and emotional health is just as important as our physical health.

I made excuses for not writing for too many years. I’ve had this blog for over 5 years and every time I sat down to write I would feel overcome with fear of rejection. I’d ask myself, what if no one likes what I have to say? Why would anyone read what I write because I’m not important or significant? Who cares about me or my life and thoughts? What if people judge my truth. Well, all of the above is simply self-doubt and insecurity talking. I have a gut feeling that I’m meant to write and I’m ready to be brave and vulnerable and do just that.

As long as I speak my truth and I write with these four things in mind, is what I’m saying pure, positive, powerful and productive? Coach Bob Samara teaches, that if we are in this frame of mind then it doesn’t really matter what other people think. If we are sharing our truth then all that matters are the people who we could impact in a positive way. I have so many wonderful things going on and so much love for my life and the people in it. I’m ready to share my thoughts, observations, and stories that may help just one reader. Even if they simply feel less alone. We all struggle. I feel I’m here to help others, to learn how to be the best version of myself, and to love and be loved. We are all human after-all and we can learn from one another.

Kristie Stokes of Jonesboro, AR

Since I heard the news of Kristie’s passing yesterday morning, I haven’t stopped thinking about her and her precious family. Kristie left to go home to the arms of Jesus around 1:45am on December 30th. Her husband Russell and sons, Jackson and Wyatt, were her greatest loves. 

Kristie battled breast cancer this year and the chemotherapy (chemo) severely damaged her lungs. Last week she was transferred to Memphis for additional lung therapy. She was put on a ventilator during the treatment to allow her body to rest and heal. During this time God decided to bring this angel home. 

I have known Kristie for over a decade now. We were not close friends but we parented alongside one another at International Studies (IS). Her boys are around my girls’ ages. There is nothing anyone can say bad about Kristie. She always had a smile on her face and was eager to serve others. We volunteered together at IS for years and she had a servant’s heart. She worked at First Baptist Church (FBC) in downtown Jonesboro for over a decade where she was the Children’s Minister first but most recently she was the Missions and Community Outreach Pastor. She also volunteered for neighbors in need at the FBC Care Center and led numerous mission trips and Bible Schools at the church. 

The last few times I saw Kristie she had lost her hair and either had on a wig or a wrap or a hat. She ALWAYS had that gorgeous smile, even through the most difficult and painful parts of the chemo treatments. The chemo left her weak and tired but she always showed up anyway. 

She told me she felt poorly but yet there she was, at school walk up to get Wyatt, at PTA meetings, at the JHS Homecoming parade, just to name a few of the last times I had the privilege to interact with her. Women like Kristie inspire me to be a better person. I pray that if faced with a difficult battle as she was, I would also fight as honorably as she did. I want to emulate her faith and perseverance. She rarely complained and I never saw her feeling sorry for herself. I only saw her out and about and being there for her boys, her husband, her friends, her church and her loved ones.

I don’t understand tragedy like this. It makes no sense why God would take her precious soul this early. But, I’m not supposed to understand why God does what he does. I’m here to trust Him and His unwavering love for all of his children. I am shaken to the core by this unimaginable loss. 

Many will never be the same because Kristie has left her earthy body and is now in the presence of our Savior. I believe good comes from bad things and I trust good is happening right now as I type because her passing has affected so many in our community. 

I know that I will choose to be more like Kristie. I want to smile more and be a better servant of God. I want to help others by being more loving and giving to those less fortunate. 

I want to be more selfless and not worry so much about what is going wrong in my life and focus more on the positive, the joy all around me and be grateful for everything, even this pain. We are all here for a reason friends. I want to spread love like Kristie did. I want to be strong like her and stand tall even in the face of adversity. 

This was Kristie’s last Facebook post on November 27th. Her words are soothing, powerful and reflect her love for our Lord and Savior.“So this is our 2018 family ornament. When we added it to the tree we talked about how breast cancer has changed our lives this year- in tough ways but always with blessings surrounding us. I’ve needed the reminder of that morning, after a really tough few days. What I thought was fatigue from the end of the end of chemo actually turned out to be some serious damage to my lungs. It’s good to be home from the hospital now, but I’m also facing a new reality of being on oxygen, a recovery that will be weeks, not days, and a delay in my other surgery until my lungs completely heal. Was this my plan? No. Have I seen blessing? An overwhelming Yes. The tribe of family and friends who have carried our family in love, support, and prayer just don’t quit. And I’ve seen that Christy Amaden Johnson,  Beth Williams Murff, and Laura Halford Wood rock in a medical emergency and sure know how to help a friend in need. But above all, I know without a doubt that the God who gave me this promise continues to carry us… ‘Even before I speak a word, you know all about it. You are all around me, behind me and in front of me. You hold me in your power.’ His promises sustain, and that is always enough.”

God, thank you for allowing us the time you did with this precious woman. Thank you for giving her a heart of gold and a smile that brightened any gloomy day. Thank you for allowing me to have known her even a little. She was such a blessing to me by being a wonderful and faithful servant to you. Her passion and strength and her fierce love of her family was such a blessed example of an angel right here on earth. Lord this loss is too great for me to wrap my mind around. I don’t understand why you took such a gift away from us. But, I do trust you and your perfect plan for all of our lives. May her sweet family and friends have the peace that surpasses understanding of this significant loss. May we all strive to be a little better each day and honor her memory by striving to be more like Kristie Stokes until you decide to call us home as well. Always faithful, even on days like today when I just can’t stop wondering, why. Amen. 

Everyone wants to do something for the family in times like these. I’m sure they would never ask but I know there is a PayPal account set up. I donated for Russell to use the money in any way he deems fit. If you feel to the desire to help, please send to :