New Blog Launch – A Huge Thank You to Everyone!

gutsygirlnewI’ve never been so focused and inspired to move towards a single life path as I am right now. Right now being the past 5 months that I’ve created Gutsy Girl Wellness. And everyone who knows me well understands that this is a crazy, impossible feat- after all, I was the girl who changed life dreams every few months for several years straight. I went through 5 majors in college!

But now I have a strange sense of calm. Even though most people around me don’t understand exactly what I’m trying to do with my life, I still know that I have to keep doing it. This path that I’m walking along feels right to my heart and intuition, so I can’t stop now.

But the day has finally come for this specific blog to end. It’s not a sad ending like it sounds, but a fresh, bright beginning. As of today, I’ve officially launched my new website with a slightly new name & focus- Gutsy Girl Living. I’ve found enough courage and inspiration to slowly take this to the next level, from hobby to business.

I want to thank all of you who’ve started reading Gutsy Girl Wellness since it was formed this summer. You’ve given me the support and confidence to keep writing and creating, week after week. It’s often hard to keep going in the beginning stages of a project. You get sad if you don’t receive any comments on a post, or if nobody is engaging the way you’d hope for them to. It’s easy to say that I’ve already learned a bazillion lessons in vulnerability and motivation.

But it’s truly been a great experience so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store. I hope you’ll join me again over on my new & improved blog from now on! I have an awesome (and free!) digital workbook available for subscribers to the new website. Head on over! 🙂

So, cheers to new beginnings and opportunities! To celebrate, I’ll be posting over on Gutsy Girl Living for the next five days straight, including a giveaway post starting tomorrow. Now get your butt over there to learn more about my new blog and to win yourself a gift!

Check out my first official post on my new website: Blog Launch – Gutsy Girl Living is Now Here!

Sending you happiness,

xo Caylee

Why I’m Not a Social Wellness Expert

social wellness

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by to read Part Five of my series, How to Create a Wellness Lifestyle. I could talk to you about how to form a thriving circle of friends and explain how to maintain these friendships throughout the years. I could even gush about what it’s like to be part of a tight-knit community who goes on retreats together and has monthly slumber parties with bottomless sangria fountains. I could, but I won’t- because I don’t want to be a lying hypocrite.

Honestly, building friendships is my weak spot and my open wound. It’s gone back and forth between being a dull pain and a sharp stab in my heart for many years. I’ve realized that I try to conceal my hurt by acting like I don’t need or want anyone in my life, because they’ll just prove to be another huge disappointment to me. But I actually crave deep, meaningful friendships- not just random acquaintances. I want a close group of girl friends who I can meet up with every week over drinks. I want to discuss our wildest dreams together and laugh about the ridiculous things happening in our lives. Okay, I think I’m describing the plot of Sex and the City, but you get my point! In all reality, I’m pretty jaded in the friendship department and don’t know how to get over years of that negativity.

I’m not going to go into major details about all of the friends in college who let me down or all the people who made me feel unloved and unworthy in my life, but let’s just say it’s enough to make me never want to be vulnerable in making a new friend ever again. So that you can get a quick picture, here are three more recent experiences off the top of my head:

  • I went to the University of Georgia where I didn’t know a single soul and was befriended by a group of three girls at the beginning of my first school year. We hung out all the time, ate every meal together, and had a complete blast. But when I didn’t get into the same sorority that they all got into, they dropped me completely. Not even another text message. When I passed them on the way to classes, they acted like they’d never met me. I felt so alone.
  • Almost all of my college “friends” stood me up (11 people!) for my 21st birthday dinner that I invited them to. They just never showed up and had no excusable reason even though I’d reserved an entire space in a restaurant for the celebration. The waitress kept coming over every few minutes to ask if more people would be joining me. It was hurtful and very humiliating.
  • I’ve lived in Miami for over a year now and the people I often hangout with through my boyfriend still don’t remember my name, They haven’t asked a single question to try and get to know me, and it makes me feel like I’m completely invisible.

I could literally come up with 5,000 other stories from my past similar to these, but you get the gist. I don’t even know if I just pick bad friends who hurt me or if I somehow deserve this treatment. In fact, now, I think I’ve turned into a bad friend myself because I push people away and stop contacting them. I don’t want to get close and be disappointed again. As you can see, it’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy- the social wellness part of my life is what I’d like to call a giant shit show.

Okay, I’m done with being emo! Sometimes we just gotta be vulnerable and get it all out there in the world so that healing can start to happen. So, what does one do when their social life is a crumbling mess? I have no freaking clue! I’m not the expert on this. Though I’m experienced and happy with the other areas of wellness in my life, having healthy friendships is not my forte. The only idea I have is to challenge myself to get out there and try to make a friend. It’s the only way to avoid permanent hermit-hood, right? If you’re feeling lonely or frustrated with your current friendships, give these things a try along with me. In the next month (by December 1st), I will:

1. Go to a Meetup. I think I could find some like-minded people in the following Miami groups: Borderlink (for travelers & curious, culture lovers), Pageturners (a book club), Girls in their 20’s, and the South Florida WordPress Group. I’ve always made friends through work or school though, so this will definitely be a nerve-wracking experience!

2. Ask the girl that I *click* with most at the Meetup to get coffee or brunch sometime soon. This is the hardest part for me. It feels like asking someone out on a date! What if I get rejected? GAH! Sorry for turning you down in the past, boys… I now know how it must feel!

3. Keep in weekly contact with my internet friends. Through blogging and using social media, I’ve started to build connections with some awesome ladies online. I just wish they all lived closer so that we could have beach days together! I’m pretty bad about staying in touch as much as I should to keep relationships alive, so this personality trait needs to change. Contacting each other on a regular basis is half the battle right there.

4. Hangout with an old friend. I desperately need new friends, but continuing to be there for old friends is just as important. Case in point, and my one bit of happy friendship news, is that I’m going to be the Maid of Honor at the wedding of my best friend since middle school! I’m so excited to experience these special life moments with her! Keep cultivating those old friendships- we all need wonderful witnesses to share in the memories of our lives. 🙂

5. Keep being open and vulnerable. Writing such a personal post and talking about my failings in friendship is hard for me. I would much rather keep going on with my life like everything is perfect and like I have a billion friends. But true friendships require each person to be vulnerable and invested. This will be the hardest, but most important, step that we all need to focus on in improving our relationships.

So are you feeling lonely in your social connections? Perhaps you have a lot of protective blockages, just like I do, that keep you from making new friends. If so, I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts, and let me know what you’re doing to cope. On the other hand, if you’re awesome at community building and consider yourself a friendship guru, then I’d LOVE to hear your strategies. In fact, it’d be great for you to guest post about it here! Email me at caypugh@gmail.com if you’re interested. 🙂

Have a wonderful rest of the week!

xo Caylee

The Basics of Emotional Wellness

emotionalwellness

Hi everyone! So happy that you’re here reading part two of my series, How to Create a Wellness Lifestyle. This week’s post will be an introduction to emotional well-being and the traits that we exude when we’re healthy in this realm of life. Out of the six dimensions of wellness that I outlined last week, I believe that emotional wellness is the most crucial area needed in order to lead a contended lifestyle. You might have all of the other aspects of life balanced, but without emotional stability, you’re probably finding that things are feeling a bit chaotic or under-the-weather.

The two most important characteristics of emotional wellness are the ability to acknowledge your emotions and to express them in appropriate ways. Most people that I’ve met seem to be very out of touch with how they’re feeling on a day-to-day basis. We often don’t take the time to listen to our subconscious, inner thoughts enough in order to read what we need more or less of in our lives.

But acknowledging and accepting your emotions, no matter how ashamed having them might make you feel, is such an important step for getting to know yourself better and understanding how to work with your emotions.

I’ve found that how we view others and treat them is usually a mirror to how we’re feeling deep inside. Challenge yourself to be hyper-aware of your negative thoughts for a week, and try to critique all of them to find out what they really mean. Don’t take your emotions at face value!

For example: My boyfriend has been feeling unlike himself in the past few days. He’s been stressed, and his normally joyful, funny personality just isn’t shining through as brightly. But before Stefan acknowledged his emotions and told me all about how he was feeling last night, I was starting to feel panicked. I put it all on myself and wondered if I’d done something wrong. But when I think about it- was he treating me any differently? Nope, still as loving as ever. Was he being mean to me? Definitely not! So I was projecting my insecure feelings onto him, like it was his fault they were bubbling up from my past, when really those emotions were just about my own baggage.

We project our emotions onto other people all the time, even when they have nothing to do with how we’re feeling. You know what I’m talking about… The mother who is scared about not being able to pay next month’s rent but takes that fear and lashes out at her kids. The colleague who always makes your dreams seem insignificant when really he’s upset because he hasn’t pursued any of his goals. If we try to see these emotional mirrors in ourselves and other people, we become so much better at expressing ourselves in a healthy way.

There are too many ways to express emotions for me to go through them all here, but to simplify things a bit, we can assume that any emotional reaction on an extreme side of the spectrum probably doesn’t count as “appropriate.” Here are a few examples:

  • Yelling or getting enraged about insignificant issues
  • Criticizing others when you’re feeling down about yourself
  • Bottling up all of your thoughts and feelings so that you won’t upset others

The above three examples are emotional extremes that will get you all wound up with poisonous, angry feelings without them actually helping your life one bit. They will only serve to push the people in your life away from you. I know from experience! When I was younger, I had tons of anger and bitterness trapped inside of me, and I had no clue how to properly express it. Instead, I got into verbal fights with anyone and everyone around me- especially authority figures! The funny thing is, I was so angry because I craved more love and quality time from those important to me, but my behavior only pushed people away more.

So what can you do to better acknowledge and express your true feelings? Here are some ideas:

Reflect

Like I said above, take a week to be extra aware of any time you feel a negative emotion- anger, sadness, jealousy, insecurity, judgment, etc. In the moments when you’re feeling that way, explore the “why” part of the problem. Why are you feeling this way? Deep down, is it really about the situation/ person at hand, or is it something in you? Perhaps it’s an issue from your past, or an insecurity that this person has absolutely nothing to do with. Dig around in those feelings to understand yourself more.

Move On

Once you’ve done that, don’t beat yourself up about it! If you’ve found that you’re directing your negative emotions at the wrong person/ issue, don’t make yourself feel guilty and sad. Just accept that it happened, apologize sincerely, and move on to change your emotional well-being for the better!

Be Positive

Learn from your mistakes in a positive way. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but the people with emotional wellness are the ones who act to change their behaviors. Acknowledging emotions is the first step, but then we have to work to use them in a healthy way. Take it day by day! Be nice to yourself.

Love

It might sound cheesy or hippy-ish, but just choose love. When you feel the urge to say something judgmental or to react angrily, think: Do they deserve this? Will this make their life or my life any better? The answer is probably “no.” So instead, choose to love. Be kind. Why are we so harsh with our words anyway? The more often you choose the loving reaction, the more it will become a behavioral habit. Before you know it, your life will feel so much more positive and emotionally stable. That’s what happened to me when I was younger and lashing out all the time. I decided that I was sick of feeling constantly angry and mean, and I allowed the softer, sweet side of my personality to shine though. Now, that nice person is who I view myself as completely (but with some sass left over for fun, of course!).

Make Happiness a Priority

Straighten out your priorities and align your emotions with them. Make your emotional wellness important to your life. Are there certain people or activities that are depleting you of happiness? If you aren’t being treated the way you deserve to be treated, with kindness and respect, then let them go. People and activities that selfishly bring you down don’t deserve your time. You have the right to be happy just as much as anyone else.

Meditate

Practice meditating to gain more clarity in your mind and calm in your life. If you have a hyperactive brain, try activities like yoga, dancing, surfing, or doodling. They’ll provide a similar effect by keeping your mind focused on one task instead of worrying about a million life issues.

Ask for Help

Don’t try to go about hard times alone. Find people that you can open up to so that you can keep emotions from building up inside. And if you’re having serious emotional problems that are dramatically altering your life, please visit a therapist or doctor!


I could literally create an entire blog about the importance of emotional wellness and tips for stabilizing this area of life, so I hope this post can work as a basic introduction to the overwhelming amount of information I could give! If you have any specific questions for me regarding this topic, please leave it in the comments below! The next post in the series will cover spiritual wellness- one of the areas that I’d like to improve more in myself.

So what do you need to improve upon emotionally? Do you need to be more communicative about how you’re feeling with your significant other? Or maybe you need to filter yourself better, because you say things that *sting* too much? Let me know below, and please share with your friends! 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend,

xo Caylee

Simple Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Health Routine

serenbe vegetables
Establishing a consistent health routine that you enjoy can be a major challenge. There are so many temptations in life that make choosing to exercise or cook a nutritional meal seem like the least desirable options. (I’m looking at you bacon and macaroons.) So to give yourself the best chance for success, make sure you aren’t sabotaging your health through these behaviors:

 

You view making healthy dinners at home as a terrible chore.
One of the best ways to transform your health for the better is to start cooking your own meals. I see so much resistance to this in the United States where most of us choose to either go out to eat at restaurants or just heat up a processed, frozen meal at home. I get it- I love going out to eat! After a long day, the thought of working in the kitchen once you get home is a nightmare. But cooking really is key to knowing what’s in your food and having the power over your own health. Compared to restaurant food and frozen dinners, your own healthy meals will have far less sodium and fat, and far more nutrients. So decide to flip cooking on its head! Turn on some Cuban salsa music in the kitchen or have a conversation with your love as you cut vegetables. Take pride in learning how to satisfy both your hunger and nutritional needs with your own two hands. View cooking as an exciting, new challenge- your health will thank you.

 

You choose ways of exercising that are far away from your home or generally just a lot of effort to participate in.
Here’s an example. I see a fun opportunity to go kayaking every Wednesday with a South Florida fitness group but notice that I’d always have to drive an hour north of my house to meet them where they all live. Not to mention that I’d, of course, then have to rent the kayak and carry it over to the water (and back again later). I just stop things right there. It’s too much time and effort, and I know myself. Sure, if it was a one time kayaking trip I could convince myself to do it as a great, new experience. But to commit to participating in an activity that’s far away on a weekly, or multi-weekly, basis is just setting myself up for failure. For most of us, it goes like this: some days we’ll feel tired and not be in the mood to drive a long distance, then we’ll feel guilty and disappointed in missing the session, and then we’ll eventually stop going. Save yourself from that experience by choosing workout activities that are within a comfortable distance zone for you and that don’t take a ton of extra effort for you to participate in. Remember- you want to feel compelled to exercise on a regular basis, so make the whole process as easy as possible on yourself!

 

You don’t plan out your meals by the week.
Before I started on my summer travels, I was creating weekly meal plans for my boyfriend and I that detailed what we’d need everyday for breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks, and dinner. I scheduled in two possibilities for meals out, preferably a nice dinner and a weekend brunch. Everything for my weekly shopping list was planned down to the ingredient. Eating in this way definitely goes against my personality type- I enjoy going out to dinner on a whim and picking the restaurant based on my current mood. But the truth is, if you want to eat healthily, you have to plan it out ruthlessly. If not, you’ll buy a whole bunch of random, expensive food from the store and not know what kind of dishes to make with all of it. A disgusting amount of food will likely end up unused and thrown away, and you’ll spiral into a pit of self-loathing every time you spot a grocery store. It’s happened to me a million times before, and the only thing that’s helped is planning meals, dish-by-dish, for the whole week. Boring, but true!

 

You sit down to unwind – watching TV, surfing the internet, looking at Facebook on your phone – right after coming home from work.
I know that all you probably want to do when you get home from work is sit down on the couch and relax for a bit. I understand. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea! To keep your momentum going, walk right through your front door and into your closet to put on your workout clothes and your sneakers. It will be a million times harder to get up in order to workout or cook a healthy dinner if you’ve already gotten more tired and comfortable in front of the TV. If you only remember three words I say, just remember: Don’t sit down!

 

You don’t make social time happen with exercise time.
We only have so many hours in a day, and the best way to maximize your time when it comes to exercise is to simultaneously make it friend time. Not only will you be bonding positively by getting in shape together, but you’ll also be making workouts fun and exciting by having a friend there. What could be better? By doing this, a positive correlation between exercise and happiness will be created, and you’ll also be building your sense of community. When I was living back in my hometown of Naples for 5 months last year, I joined an amazing, all ladies workout group called Blaze Fitness Fusion with a friend of mine. The workouts were always challenging, but what made me fall in love and keep coming back multiple times per week were all of the great women I was getting to know at the same time. So do yourself a favor- make a health commitment with a friend to keep exercising together and challenging each other.

 

You always talk the talk but never walk the walk.
A study discussed in Newsweek found that simply talking about a goal that we’d like to achieve gives us the same mental satisfaction as actually completing the goal. Keep that in mind as you scroll through pictures of yoga poses and healthy dishes on Instagram. Do you see all of these inspirational images and vow to your friends, “From now on, I’m going to juice every morning and practice yoga for 30 minutes before work”? For most of us, we get pumped and make big promises to the special people in our lives, saying that we’re going to work towards a new health goal. Honestly though, how many times does the goal achieving process stop there? We talk about the goal for a bit, feel happy, and then forget about it. Let’s catch ourselves and make sure that that we don’t get too satisfied with only talking about goal achievement- actually working towards our goals is what we should really be proud of!

 

So are you guilty of any of these forms of self-sabotage? I know I’ve certainly struggled with some of these issues, both in the past and present. The key is to remember that nobody can ever be perfect, so forgive yourself for past sabotage and decide that today is a fresh new day to begin again. Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and let us know if you have any extra tips for avoiding these behaviors. 🙂

Hope you’re having a wonderful week,

xo Caylee

 

The Gutsy Girl Road Trip Awards

Another startlingly fast year has passed, and another wonderful road trip is almost over. It’s been great seeing old friends and getting to connect with family from all over the East Coast again. I was lucky to be joined by my boyfriend during one leg of the trip from Washington, DC to Long Island, NY and by my Dad from Long Island to Upstate New York. Blog post about that coming soon!

Over my weeks on the road, I’ve loved experiencing beautiful mountain vistas, driving through crumbling ghost towns, feeling the sand between my toes, and exploring some of the coolest towns in America. Now deemed my Gutsy Girl Road Trip Awards, here are several moments and places that stood out most to me during my adventure.

Favorite Atmosphere to Grab a Drink with Girl Friends:
Ambar Washington, DC [Eastern Market]

Two DC friends and I stumbled across this charming bar & restaurant as we walked through the neighborhood of Eastern Market. If you’re into adorable row homes and visiting a quieter side of Washington DC, check out this area that boasts a bustling market and tasty restaurants, like Ambar, which serves Balkan cuisine with a modern twist. It’s like any trendy restaurant when you first walk in, but go up the stairs and you’ll find a cute, rooftop oasis to enjoy appetizers and drinks with the girls. My friends and I shared a few tasty small plates, and I had a delicious margarita- you can pick from original or spicy mango. How about both? Try Ambar at Happy Hour like we did for some unheard of specials in the DC area. I promise you- $4 cocktails and appetizers. How is that even possible?!

ambardc1

Most Exciting Purchase:
Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square – New York, NY [Manhattan]

When my boyfriend, Stefan, and I decided to stay in Manhattan for the night, I was expecting our hotel room to be the most expensive purchase of my entire road trip. I was so wrong about that! Through Hotwire, we ended up scoring a room for $146, all inclusive. Amazing! Though that still may seem pricey to some, you won’t find a decent hotel for much less than that in the city. But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. I was under the impression that $146 would get us a dingy room facing rooftop air-conditioning units. So wrong. Stefan and I were placed on the 33rd floor with a corner room facing the Chrysler building on one window-wall and Times Square on the other. One block from all the action! It was stunning, and we had a blast that evening.

timessquare

Best Area to Find Funky Treasures:
The beaches of Great Peconic Bay – North Fork, Long Island, NY

If you’re a lover of the beach and finding interesting treasures, visit the areas around Great Peconic Bay where there’s a smattering of quaint towns around the bay and its smaller inlets on the North Fork of Long Island. Take to the beaches and you’ll find everything from sea creatures to beautiful rounded stones to antique sea glass that’s finally floated up onto the beach after several decades. The picture below documents some of the goodies that Stefan and I came across after just one hour of walking around searching the sand. I can’t wait to turn the sea glass and little stones into a pretty display back home!

aquebogue

Prettiest Secret Place:
Conservatory Garden in Central Park – New York, NY [Manhattan]

Okay, I’ll admit that the Conservatory Garden isn’t actually a secret. It’s right in Central Park! But you’d never know it. There’s only one entrance to it through a gate on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so the garden is pretty easy to miss. If you’re a flower-loving visitor to NYC, or a resident who needs some quiet time, this is the place to go. I was there at 10:30 AM on a Wednesday, and there was only a tiny handful of people in all the acres of botanical beauty. You’ll find a giant Wisteria pergola with views of the fountain, tree-covered walkways out of a fairy tale, and my favorite space- an expansive flower garden. I loved relaxing around all of the bursting wildflowers and the waterlilies in the pond. It was such a stunning, peaceful place that you’d never know you’re in the middle of New York City.

conservatorygarden

Most Picturesque Town:
The streets of Old Town – Alexandria, VA

Old Town Alexandria feels so American that it’s actually hard to describe. The hilly, cobblestone streets, history-drenched row homes, and flags flapping proudly in the river breeze just oozes pure Americana. Check out the waterfront area and King Street of Old Town next time you’re in the Washington DC area, and you’ll find plenty of restaurants and boutiques to keep you going as you admire all of the charming, colonial buildings.

oldtownalexandria

Tastiest Food & Greatest Value:
Sake Bar Hagi in the Times Square area – New York, NY [Manhattan]

This place might be my new favorite restaurant in the entire world. I know that’s a bold statement to make, but everything about the experience was fantastic. It took Stefan and I a while to find the entrance, which was part of the adventure, because there’s no sign for Saki Bar Hagi- just a random stairwell leading you down off the street. Imagine a restaurant with no sign in the Times Square area! It’s pretty clear that they don’t want loads of tourist crowds in their restaurant. And they don’t need them- the place was packed with people eating authentic Japanese food, shoulder to shoulder with strangers. I loved the bustling intimacy of the restaurant, but I enjoyed the food even more. Stefan and I shared five small plates, the best being Tofu Dengaku. Now, Stefan and I aren’t vegetarian or huge tofu lovers, but we both couldn’t stop eating this dish! So delicious. The best part is that the meal was crazy inexpensive. Stefan got a huge 30 oz. beer for just $8. I don’t even know how that’s possible in New York City.

sakebarhagi

Most Amazing Lifestyle:
Basking in the outdoors and enjoying local food – Aquebogue, NY

If you follow a similar road trip route that I took, you will have eaten your way up the East Coast and walked your butt off around New York City and the Washington DC area. Now what do you need to finish off the trip right? A beautiful and relaxing stop in nature. You might be surprised that I’m recommending a town on Long Island, which most people falsely assume is overcrowded and ugly. The North Fork, where you’ll find Aquebogue, is actually filled with wineries, rolling farmland, and stunning views of the water. You’ll get to eat loads of fresh seafood and vegetables from local stands, but the best part really is the pace of living. At my family reunion here, the huge group of us gathered outside on picnic tables to enjoy all of our meals in the dappled sunlight. Stefan and I got to walk along the empty beach and explore tiny coastal towns. The peaceful setting was very rejuvenating after a fun, but exhausting road trip up North. I would recommend traveling to the North Fork of Long Island to everyone!

aquebogue1

So there you have it! I took hundreds of pictures and visited dozens of amazing places that I, unfortunately, don’t have the space to write about. What a shame that I have to leave so much out! I hope that my Gutsy Girl Road Trip Awards has inspired you to visit even a few of these locations and restaurants. I truly had an amazing trip and can’t wait for my next one!

Have you been to any of these destinations? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Have a great week,

xo Caylee

Two Books to Read This Summer for Self-Improvement

Calm Blue Sea Water Close-Up

If you didn’t know this about me yet, I’ve been obsessed with books since the day I started learning how to read. I always joke and say that, since I’m an only child, reading was the only thing I could do to make time pass by while growing up – but the truth is, I loved all of the different worlds, eras, and cultures I could meld myself into just through looking at some letters on a page. How amazing is that?!

Now that I’m a bit older, I still enjoy an engrossing fiction novel every now and then, but I’ve moved predominantly into the world of nonfiction. Interesting research books, memoirs, and self-help guides are all the rage in my mind. I’m always searching for more insight into human emotions and living more abundantly. More vibrantly. If you’re looking for two beautifully written books to read this summer in the area of self-improvement, look no further:

daringgreatlybookimage

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

Making an impact from the first page, Brene Brown uses Teddy Roosevelt’s powerful quote above as an inspiring call to action – basically, find no shame in failing if you’re brave enough to fight for your cause in the first place. What Brown does in her social science research book, Daring Greatly, is crack open all of the painful, vulnerable feelings that we all have but don’t like to talk about – or even think about. Just contemplating these experiences bubbles up awkward feelings of shame in us.

What makes you feel like your inner soul has been stripped naked for everybody to witness?

Think of this: posting your illustrations (or writing!) online for the world to see and, therefore, exposing yourself to potential criticism, and perhaps even worse – public silence. Or, for instance, getting fired from a glamorous job and being too embarrassed to tell your parents. Or getting cheated on, but feeling so ashamed by it that you lie to your friends about the break-up. All of these situations, and more, make us feel completely bare, so we avoid talking about them. Additionally, many people reject doing the courageous things that the soul craves, because they believe doing them might reveal weaknesses. To diminish this pain, people choose to numb themselves through activities like overeating, drinking alcohol, shopping, or getting lost in video games.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown encourages readers to step out of their emotional comfort zones in order to own their life stories and connect with people on a raw level. She wants us to tell the truth about our lives. What scares us and makes us feel insignificant? Why are we so afraid to let our true selves be known? It’s because being vulnerable to people is incredibly difficult, and allowing it is something that we all have to work on consciously, everyday.

So put your values and passions out there for the world to see even if you’re afraid that people might think differently of you. Trust me – posting up my writing to this blog gives me shivers most days, but I still make myself do it. Just remember: if anyone doesn’t like you anymore after revealing your true self, they’re not “your people.” Be courageous – dare greatly.

 

the-blue-zones

The Blue Zones – Dan Buettner

I’ll admit it. Nonfiction books can be kind of dry or too academic at times. The Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner, completely shatters that stereotype – it’s so interesting and fun to read that I never wanted to put it down!

The first time I was introduced to the concept of “Blue Zones,” was when I visited Costa Rica on a study abroad trip three years ago. It’s one of a small handful of countries that boast a zone with a statistically high proportion of active centenarians – people who live to be at least 100 years-old. Buettner and other world-renowned researches were fascinated by these zones of wellness and wanted to learn how so many people could live to be a century old.

In The Blue Zones, Buettner profiles several areas around the world with this high percentage of healthy, happy centenarians. Places include Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California), Sardinia (Italy), and the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica). The book dives into research findings for why these seniors are living so long and how we can live our lives that way too. The reasons for their long lives are both cultural and nutritional, but The Blue Zones will definitely inspire you to implement their strategies. After reading about several 103 year-old men and women still tending to their own gardens and laughing over a glass of wine with their other ancient friends, how could you not want to do the same? As you’ll learn in the book, genetics are only about 25% of how well we age – the rest is the lifestyle we choose to live. It’s in your hands!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews and decide to take these inspiring and informative books with you on your remaining summer vacations. Just so that you know – I’ll be writing more specifically about “Blue Zone” lifestyle strategies in the future. So, if you’ve read these two books already, what were your thoughts on them? Do you have any other recommendations for great summer reads? Thank you, and please share below! 🙂

Have a fun weekend,

xo Caylee

Living Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida” Lifestyle


If you’ve ever traveled to Costa Rica before, I’m willing to bet that someone said the phrase “Pura Vida” to you at least five times daily. These words were coined during the 1950’s through a movie but weren’t common in the country until the 1970’s. Now, it’s a way of life for Ticos and surfers alike, and the quickest way to describe their amazing lifestyle in the tropics. Translation into English literally means “pure life” – it’s an expression that I’ve had the urge to live by ever since I visited the little gem of a country.

To many foreigners, “Pura Vida” is symbolic of a leisurely lifestyle full of friendliness and a disregard for time. For Costa Ricans, the phrase can mean a whole lot more – or a whole lot less. Some rattle it off as a casual greeting like how we might say, “Have a good day” or “Goodbye” in the United States. When “Pura Vida” is used to its depth of meaning, Costa Ricas have described it to me as:

 

Appreciating what you have. Enjoying life slowly. Building a strong sense of community. Being good spirited.

 

I believe to my core that all of those things are important for embodying my idea of the good life. For me, it is all about quality over quantity. I want deeper friendships rather than more friendships and greater spiritual wealth versus material wealth. I crave meaningful experiences that enliven my heart – maybe that’s why I like to travel so much. Just loving the simple moments in life is what I want to focus on.

 

Both times that I’ve been to Costa Rica, I found it very easy to live in the present and enjoy every little thing that came my way – or at least feel it to its depth of emotion. When my boyfriend, Stefan, and I arrived at our first stop on the trip, I pulled open the doors to our cabina and sitting majestically, right in front of us, was Arenal Volcano. Tropical birds were chirping all around in the lush, green trees, and the setting sun was hitting Arenal dramatically. Everything was so fresh and quiet and beautiful. I cried. I’m not a crier, guys – this place just buries itself into my core, every time.

 

Since we can’t all go and live in Costa Rica right now (a shame, I know), figuring out how to live the “Pura Vida” lifestyle back home is key. So have you ever been to Costa Rica? What are your thoughts on the “Pura Vida” lifestyle? What does a “good life” consist of for you? Please share, and let me know your experiences in the comments below! This is a topic I love, so I’m sure we’ll talk more about it soon. 🙂

 

Have a beautiful day,

 

xo Caylee

 

The Importance of Following Your Intuition

Most people I’ve ever met seem to struggle with indecision while making major life choices. This is common in the human experience – we all feel scared that we’ll make the wrong decision and be led down a path that we never intended to go in life. We then resort to making a pros and cons list or talking endlessly with our best friends and parents to try and debate the correct answer to our problems right out of each other. But how many times have you settled on a life decision and then changed your mind again less than a day later, because you somehow talked yourself out of it?

The truth is – nobody in the entire world knows the correct answer to your dilemmas and life choices better than you. The problem is that you need to follow your inner intuition first.

I’ve had a great deal of experience in this method of inner decision-making. Usually, I’m really good at following my intuition, and I’ve found it has never steered me wrong. But there’s been a couple of big instances, in recent rears, where I desperately didn’t want to hear what my intuition was screaming to me.

The most major time was in relation to an ex-boyfriend who I’d hoped more than anything was “the one.” He had everything going for him and was such a fun, thoughtful guy, but when he invited me to permanently move up to the Northeast with him to start his shiny new career, my insides froze. Not just froze, but shut down. Every time he would mention our future plans together up North, I would get sick to my stomach and feel trapped in despair. He was being just as sweet as ever, but I became depressed and developed major anxiety issues. Now, if I’d just listed to my intuition that was yelling to be heard, I would have ended it then and saved us both a lot of drawn out hurt. Instead, because I didn’t want to believe my intuition to be my truth, I ignored it and played our emotions back and forth for many months. “I want to be with you” changed to “I can’t be with you” in a matter of days – it was emotionally exhausting and devastating for both of us. In the end, we obviously broke up for good, but it left us with more emotional baggage and dark memories of each other than if I hadn’t avoided my blaring intuition about the situation.

So how do we become better at listening to our intuition? Since everybody has varying physical and emotional reactions when intuition is trying to steer you, I believe the most important thing you can do is to be in-tuned with your body – listen to it. Recognize how it feels when everything is normal and then the difference in feeling when something is wrong. Here is an example:

A completely non-threatening looking guy comes and sits down next to you at a bar. You know from your experience of listening to your body that usually when a nice-looking man approaches, you might feel a little shy and have a slightly higher heart-rate due to that. But as this man starts talking, your chest clenches up tightly, your hands feel disconnected to your body, and you feel an unexplainable sense of fear in the pit of your stomach.

PLEASE LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. You don’t want to find out why your body was having a terrified reaction to that man. It is so important to hear what your body is telling you in any situation or decision. Intuition is your deep, subconscious way of telling the social version of yourself exactly what you want. The subconscious will usually win in the long wrong, because it’s trying to lead you towards happiness. You might as well listen to it in the first place!

Next time you’re needing to make a big decision, go over all the choices in your head using vibrant imagery like it’s actually happening. Imagine what the outcome of the various choices would be, and listen to how your body feels with each one. Does one make your stomach clench? Do you suddenly feel a tinge of sadness? How about a feeling of joy or relief? Don’t ignore these emotions – I guarantee that if you follow this intuition regularly, you will always make the best decision. Just like I should have made the hard decision with my ex-boyfriend and broken up with him sooner – sometimes, the hard answer is still the right answer.

Don’t let your future be dictated by a pro and con list or what your loved ones think is best for you – only you can feel the right choices for your life. So what are your experiences with listening to your intuition? Have you ever had an experience like me and ignored your intuition? Please share your stories in the comments below! 🙂

Wishing you a happy Monday,

xo Caylee