Quick 5-Minute Meditation for Dispelling Depression, Anxiety, and Fear

In our modern day world where high stress is the norm, our brains have not yet learned to differentiate a real threat from a perceived threat, so any stress kicks the brain into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode. The results? Symptoms that mirror or include anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. This can be devastating and debilitating to deal with, but there are a lot of coping skills that can help us retrain our brains and bodies to react differently.

Meditation is a great tool to use that can be done anywhere by anyone. Studies have shown many benefits, including: decreased blood pressure; increased oxygen to the cells; slowed activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear; and a shift in brain waves from the stress prone right frontal cortex into the calmer left frontal cortex. This literal shift in brain wave activity accounts for the shift in mood that meditators experience.

One of the easiest meditations to do is a Kundalini yoga meditation I call “555”, which usespranayama, or controlled breathing. This meditation can be done in as little as a minute, but anywhere from five to ten minutes is ideal.

  1. Find a comfortable position for you. Straighten your spine.
  2. Place your palms upward.
  3. Gently release your tongue from the roof of your mouth.
  4. Inhale for a 5 count.
  5. Hold your breath for a 5 count.
  6. Exhale for a 5 count.
  7. Repeat.
  8. As you are doing this, you are also invited to do a body scan from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Notice any areas that are holding tension and breathe into these areas.

As we practice our meditation and breathing, our mind may wander. We may lose focus or lose count. That’s okay. Just bring it back to the breath.

April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW is a writer, speaker, and integrative practitioner who brings a unique voice to the field of health and wellness by combining traditional evidence-based techniques with ancient practices such as yoga and newer findings in contemplative sciences. She has been recognized as a part of “Generation Inspiration” and is also named as one of 20 Young Champions for Women by the White Ribbon Alliance and WIE Symposium, presented by Donna Karan and Arianna Huffington. You can follow April on Facebook or Twitter. Visit http://www.beingandwellness.com to learn about services she offers, including Reiki & coaching, or http://www.verbalvandalism.com to check out her latest written works.

Sit, Stay, Heal!

sit-stay-healNegative emotions are not fun to feel. They hurt. Oftentimes, to avoid feeling the pain, we will numb ourselves and stop feeling all together- or we will mask our pain by engaging in unhealthy habits like excessive eating, spending, drinking, or drugs. We may feel hopeless or that these feelings will never go away. Darkness, doubt, and fear may have become our constant companions. We may even come to identify with them and hold on to them because it’s all we know.

These feelings can “go away”. We are not victims to circumstance and feelings- we are creators and we can be choose to be victors instead of victims. We can choose to continue to allow our negative experiences to create our reality or we can work through these feelings and invite in experiences that feel better energetically.

Instead of rejecting our negative feelings or energy, we should explore these aspects of ourselves. It’s time to get comfortable with our discomfort and make friends with it. These moments are teachable moments and they are an incredible growth opportunity.

We need to learn to sit with our discomfort and we need to learn to stay with our discomfort so that we can work through it. Think of a puppy whom you teach to sit, stay, and heel. This is your invitation to sit, stay, and heal.

Think of the warm feelings of loving kindness that you would feel towards a puppy and extend those feelings to yourself. (You deserve this!) Think of the patience you would have for a new puppy as you are teaching him new tricks. You wouldn’t get angry because he can’t sit on his first try or because he can’t stay for more than two minutes right away. Not at all! Instead you would praise him for the 30 seconds he managed to do. You would delight in the fact that in a few days from now he manages a whole minute. You would enjoy the work of teaching your new pupil as well.

Treat yourself like that puppy. You know he’s a baby and you treat him accordingly. As a species, we humans are babies in our evolution as well. Have patience with yourself. Enjoy working with yourself. Learn to sit with your discomfort; learn to stay sitting, and you will teach yourself to heal. You will teach yourself how to transmute these feelings into opportunities for growth and positivity.

Happy healing journey to you!

April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW is a writer, speaker, and integrative practitioner who brings a unique voice to the field of health and wellness by combining traditional evidence-based techniques with ancient practices such as yoga and newer findings in contemplative sciences. She has been recognized as a part of “Generation Inspiration” and is also named as one of 20 Young Champions for Women by the White Ribbon Alliance and WIE Symposium, presented by Donna Karan and Arianna Huffington. You can follow April on Facebook or Twitter. Visit http://www.beingandwellness.com to learn about services she offers, including Reiki & coaching, or Verbal Vandalism to check out her latest written works. She is now taking on new Reiki clients.

By April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW

How To Create Your Own Signature Style

how-create-your-own-signature-styleEvery woman wants to wear clothes that make her feel amazing, but in my job as a celebrity stylist, I know that creating that perfect look requires much more than just clothes. It takes deliberate choices about who my client is, and who she wants to be. I don’t just choose clothes that flatter her figure, either. While that is incredibly important, a stylist knows that to truly flatter a woman, clothes must capture something of the woman’s essence. Style is all about spirit: who you are, who you aspire to become, and what inspires you each and every day.

So while I can’t go shopping with you (though I’d love to!) I want to share a few of my favorite style strategies from my best-selling book, THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT. I want you to learn what your own signature style is, and then embrace it!

Find Images That Appeal to You

First, go collect all the old magazines in your house. You can also grab some clothing catalogs or even go to online stores or designers’ websites. (I love the Chico’s website, for example.) Your first assignment is to look for hairstyles, accessories, and outfits you love, and then cut (or print) them out. Whenever you see an image or photo that immediately “pops”—one that appeals to you in a real and powerful way—grab it!

“But what if I’d never wear that?” some of my clients ask when we do this exercise together. “I love the look in this picture, but I couldn’t pull it off.”

Cut it out anyway! That’s all you have to do. This is an exercise—not a commitment to buy. I just want you to collect whatever inspires you regardless of whether or not you’d ever wear a certain outfit or copy a hairstyle. Fashion isn’t always meant to go straight from the photo to the street. Fashion is an art form, with each designer expressing a unique idea.

I’ve been backstage at the world-famous Fashion Week in New York City. I’ve stood next to the teeny-tiny models and the absolutely outrageous designs they wear. And you know what? I loved every minute of it, even though I would never wear many of the fashions myself. I understand the mission of those wild, over-the-top ensembles: all that creativity, the total fearlessness of the designer, inspires the rest of us. The excitement of innovative ideas and cutting-edge styles flood the market, and it enables everyone to interpret their own style in fresh new ways.

Fashion and design is all about experimenting with textures, colors, fabrics, patterns, and styles. Good designers find new ways to express what makes women like us feel beautiful. That’s what you’re doing in this exercise. You’ve become your own designer! You have identified images that moved you or piqued your interest, evoking powerful, pleasant emotions. In fact, that’s how I want you to feel every morning when you get dressed.

I want you to collect these images so you can see very clearly what most inspires you. I am helping you, through this exercise, to understand that style is about more than just the clothes. So many times, we confuse the excitement of a sale with inspiration!

Embrace What You Love About Your Body

I want you to embrace your body just as it is today. What is it about your figure that you really like? Your hourglass shape? Your strong legs? Your toned arms? Your graceful neck? Write down your best features. Can you come up with at least three? I hope so, because I know you have them. You need to know that, too. When you begin picking clothes, it will be important to know what physical features you want to accentuate.

My number one rule with all my clients is to accentuate the positive. Even celebrities struggle with this concept. We live in a world that harps on our figure “flaws” instead of celebrating what makes each woman unique. Creating your own special signature style will keep the emphasis on what makes you unique, and uniquely beautiful.

Identify Your Style Key Words

Next, what is in your heart and spirit that you’d really love to express to the world? I call those your “style key words.” To better understand this idea, let me share a story. . . .

I once had a client who would only wear black clothes and red lipstick. She interpreted this look as “dramatic creativity,” and those words made her feel beautiful. (Did I mention she was an artist?) This woman judged all fashion and style choices by this standard, until she realized that it was actually restricting her creativity instead of enhancing it.

Together, she and I hunted for photos of clothing styles and makeup looks that appealed to her, and she chose some wild stuff—including, to her surprise, ensembles that weren’t all black. Doing this exercise gave her the freedom to fully discover her sense of style. She still loved the notion of “dramatic creativity,” but now it could be expressed in many different ways. In the past, she would have skipped aisles of clothes that didn’t prominently feature black tops and bottoms. Now, she had a clear idea on how to incorporate new pieces into her wardrobe to freshen up her look without losing her identity.

Knowing what images appeal to you, and matching them to your style key words, will give you a beauty breakthrough. So what are your style key words? Read through the following list, and in your journal, jot down the names of those that appeal to you. When you’re finished, narrow your list down to your top five.

Style Key Words

  • Accessorized
  • African
  • All-American
  • Animal prints
  • Artistic
  • Asian
  • Bold primary colors
  • Casual elegance
  • Classic, timeless
  • Clean lines
  • Comfortable
  • Contemporary
  • Delicate
  • Detailed
  • Dramatic
  • Earthy
  • Edgy
  • Effortless
  • Embellished
  • European
  • Exotic
  • Feminine
  • Flirty and fun
  • Functional
  • Jewel-toned
  • Lace and ruffles
  • Latin
  • Lean
  • Leisure wear
  • Lightweight
  • Luxurious
  • Minimalist
  • Modern
  • Neutrals
  • Outdoor adventure
  • Romantic
  • Sexy
  • Sleek and chic
  • Soft
  • Sophisticated
  • Sporty
  • Statement pieces
  • Structured
  • Tribal
  • Versatile
  • Vintage

Not only have you identified your style key words, but you can also see fresh ways these looks are interpreted in fashion, hairstyles, and cosmetics. This can have an immediate payoff. As a former salon owner, for instance, I can’t tell you how many women thought they were describing what they wanted when they said, “I like Jennifer Aniston’s hair,” or “I like the layered look.” In reality, I had very little idea why those looks appealed to a client. My stylists and I would have to make an educated guess. But if a woman came in and said, “I like a sophisticated look with a modern edge. Here are a few photos I cut out from magazines that really appealed to me.” Wow! That information gives me so much more insight—and the ability to create a hairstyle that my client absolutely loves. As a stylist, I needed both the key words and the pictures—and so do you.

You’ve just created your very own Signature Style, just like all my clients who use my techniques from THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT. Keep a copy of your choices, words and images in your purse. You can get put this information right to work, and it will save you hundreds of dollars. You can shop with the confidence of a stylist, knowing what features you want to emphasize, and what colors and designs reflect your spirit.

Don’t go shopping without this information! Without it, it’s easy to fall back into old habits and choose items that don’t reflect your style key words and images, or your best features. You might pick up something to please your spouse or peers, or because you found it on the clearance rack. Now you have an easy way to stay grounded and check whether something is aligned with your personal style before you hit the cash register and potentially waste money.

Always remember that the more you honor your true beauty, the less prone you will be to caving in to old insecurities and making the same old mistakes in life or at the cash register. You have a signature style to come back to, which allows you to rediscover (and celebrate) the real, beautiful you every day.

Celebrity stylist and life coach Michelle Phillips (www.MichellePhillips.com) shares secrets from her new book, THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT, to help you save money and look fabulous.

My Vision For A Spring Party!

my-vision-spring-partyA very important process that I share in my book “The Beauty Blueprint” and my coaching circles is to create a vision board. Over the past few months I have had a couple vision board parties that were a huge success!

If you are asking, what is a vision board…let me back up for a minute. A vision board is a corkboard or poster board or anything to post your dreams to, to help the manifesting process of making them come true. What better way could there be to concentrate the power of making something come to be is there than actually seeing it?

So how do we get our vision board party started? That’s the fun part. Invite some friends over, put out some snacks…and drinks to help the dreaming come easier… have each person bring or you can provide poster boards, scissors, tape..and lots of magazines to find the images or words that appeal to you—

Be sure to have your guests bring pictures of people, quotes, or personal letters that inspire them.

I like to cut out positive words from advertisements, such as powerful, truth, and beautiful. If you like uplifting quotes, O Magazine is a great resource.

While you do this, try not to concentrate on material things. Rather, focus on your dreams and on living your best life; your job, family, relationships, hobbies, whatever it is, be specific about how you would want your life to look like the people or places that inspire you.

In the center of my board is my personal mission statement you might choose a picture, quote, or a verse that really resonates with you. The important thing to remember is that there is no wrong or right way to create a board…or two! I have three in my home and feel that it is a fun thing to do every few months. You will also find that all your dreams and aspirations will come true after posting them on your board…so updating is crucial.

Doing this by yourself can be a blast, but doing it with your friends can be even more fun and a great way to support each other in making your best lives a reality. It’s really fun to see what your friends are dreaming about…

Here are some thoughts on how to do that with some fun pics and video from my last vision blowout.

Hay House Radio – Jan. 24, 2011 show

This Monday we’ll discuss the meaning of true beauty. I’ll be speaking with guests Carnie Wilson and Asia Voight.

Join us at 12 PM EST/9 AM PST for The Beauty Blueprint on Hay House Radio.

Click here to listen live – http://www.hayhouseradio.com

Carnie Wilson is the daughter of Beach Boys co-founder and mastermind Brian Wilson and a member of the Grammy Award-nominated group Wilson Phillips. She has been very public about her battle with Obesity. Carnie, in her own words, is simply “a go-getter.” “I like to work,” she explains. “I don’t like to stop moving — like a shark! But at the same time, I never do something unless my heart’s in it. I can’t be fake. I really go by instinct, and it seems like everything I do has to have some kind of message behind it.”

Carnie  is raising awareness for Autism.  She has seen first hand the challenges that children with Autism and their families go through.  To help Carnie in her mission  log onto http://www.theangelsmall.com/cwilson/

Find her online at www.carniewilson.com.

Asia Voight is an internationally known Animal Communicator, teacher and speaker, who has worked with over 40,000 animals in the last 13 years. Asia’s work has been featured on ABC, NBC, and Fox TV. She has graced the covers, of many publications such as Brava and Women Magazine, the front pages of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Fitchburg Star with her amazing personal story and words of animal wisdom. Asia has published a chapter in Crossing the Rubicon: Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond in Life and Death, an inspirational and uplifting story of the healing aspects of her Animal Communication work. Find her online at www.AsiaVoight.comClick here to read her guest contribution to this week’s blog.

6 months to live – try 4 years and counting!

One of the greatest inspirations you could ever have to be a better person and give back is my friend Lori Zudell. She has been one of the guiding lights in my life and I hope her story will be for you as well. Upon coming up with the idea for the show, “Courage and Grace”, I could think of no one better to highlight than her!

Diagnosed with colon cancer and given 6 months to live, today she not only is she alive… she THRIVES!. And that was 4 years ago. Since the taping of this interview she has gone on to do amazing things in the area of Healing Arts. Check out her website http://www.helpingyouthrive.com . This is one of my stories from the Courage & Grace Series. If you have a story of Courage & Grace to share. Please make a post or contact me.