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

The Surprising Side of Shame

surprising-side-shameAn excerpt from “The Beauty Blueprint 8 Steps to Building the Life and Look of Your Dreams” written by Michelle Phillips (Hay House Publishing 2011)

Dealing with your shaming voices from the past will lead to happier, healthier relationships in the present. Researchers have shown a link between shame and negative relationship behaviors such as anger, irritability, indirect hostility, resentment, and a tendency to blame your partner for various things. Dealing with your shame won’t just set you free to love yourself—you can freely and fully love others as well.1

“The Beauty Blueprint”

Exercise: Silencing the Voices

Take out your journal and try to recall all the inner dialogue that ran through your mind as you were creating the parts of your Beauty Blueprint. For each bit of inner dialogue, answer this question: What was the true intent behind the statement? Here’s a story to help you get the gist of what I want you to do. . . .

I was working with a client shortly after her husband left her. After completing her Beauty Blueprint, we went shopping to create a new look to match her new life. After trying on several flattering outfits, however, she looked dejected and stared at the dressing-room floor.

“I have to tell you something,” she said. I braced myself because, by now, I’ve learned that clients who are making bold changes also confront even bigger fears. “I think my stomach looks terrible in all these clothes.”

“What?” I gasped. “You look incredible! You have a great body. Where is this coming from? What is the voice in your head saying exactly?”

“It’s my ex’s voice,” she confessed. “He told me that I was getting fat, and he didn’t want to have sex with me anymore.”

“What was his genuine intention behind that statement?” I asked.

“To hurt me, I guess.”

“So, it wasn’t true, right? He only said it to upset you. Do you see the difference?”

She nodded, and relief washed over her face. The inner voice that had damaged her so deeply wasn’t true, and now she saw it for what is was: a lie.

She stood up straighter and smiled, and I knew she was on her way to becoming a free woman.

Now it’s your turn to do this exercise so that you can finally be free of any shaming voices that hold you back. And even if the original intention was positive—as a way to protect you, for instance—the result may still be the same. This exercise enables you to observe this dialogue for what it truly is and no longer allow it to control you.

Learning to Forgive

Once you start identifying and disarming your shaming voices, you need to go one step further. If you’ve been hurt or have suffered, you need to forgive the people who planted those voices in your mind. Freedom comes with forgiveness. However, this doesn’t require you to speak to certain individuals or open the door to old relationships. Forgiveness is simply a decision you make to let go of the past. This is for you, not anyone else.

Exercise: Write Your Letter

Any lingering negative feelings from the past are often signs that you need to forgive someone or something. If you’re always replaying hurtful words or painful situations in your mind, you need to identify someone or something to forgive.

You can do so by writing a letter that will never actually be mailed. (You can write as many as you need to!) So grab a pen and paper, and pour your heart out. Tell the person exactly what he or she did and how it hurt you. Was it a hurtful word, deed, or a cruel tone that you remember most? Don’t try to justify or minimize it. How did that person’s words or actions impact you then, and how do they impact you now?

One of the letters I wrote went something like this:

I forgive you for being so cruel and degrading in your words, and hateful in your tone. I felt abused and unloved, and sometimes I still hear those words in my head today. But I am ready to be free.

Next, write down your decision to forgive and let go. For example: “I release the pain I once felt, I release you, and I send you a blessing of love and light.” It’s not enough to simply forgive. I believe you must also make an offering of love. Forgiveness releases, but love heals.

Now you’re going to burn your letter. (Some people prefer to tie their letters to balloons and release them into the sky.) The reason you don’t mail your letter is because going back to the offender can sometimes stir up more chaos and hurt. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t require a confrontation or conversation; you’re not condoning what happened. Forgiveness is something that happens inside you.

So, over the stove, on the backyard grill, or in your fireplace . . . just let it burn. As the smoke rises, ask that this person be blessed and find peace. Visualize your forgiveness extending into the sky and beyond. What is forgiven is finished. Those voices, once dealt with and forgiven, can no longer hurt you or hold you back.

“The Beauty Blueprint”

Woman, You are a Goddess!

woman-you-are-goddessBy April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW

When I was a little girl, I loved school. I loved learning and reading and was fond of history, art, & humanities. It was only natural that I loved mythology- a beautiful blend of history, art, and storytelling. I knew all of the gods and goddesses by name and I knew their stories inside and out. They were friends that lived in the magical lands between the pages of books and I visited them often.

As I grew older and subsequently more serious, I had less time for fantasy and make believe. More time was devoted to scholarly studies and secular pursuits like finding a job once I finished grad school. Then the focus became working a 9 to 5 to pay the bills so I could keep going to work. My friends- the gods & goddesses- and I grew apart. But like any good friendship, when I found them again, time was of no consequence.

In our society, we have a neurotic need to categorize and label everything. We also have a tendency to think of everything as “separate” or think of ourselves as unique and “different”. The stories of the gods and goddesses are then dismissed as fantasy and make believe. We may find ourselves hard pressed to find any value in silly stories about make-believe people from our childhood- but that doesn’t mean the value isn’t there. It just means that we might not immediately recognize or understand the intrinsic value of make-believe.

We also tend to label anything before our highly technological time as “primitive”; certainly we associate the word “ancient” with being primitive. When we hear the stories of ancient civilizations, who no longer exist today, it’s all too tempting to dismiss them, thinking there’s absolutely nothing we can learn from an ancient culture with primitive ways- but we are far from accurate in this assessment. Although the times and technology have changed, the human psyche- our souls- have not. We love, we laugh, we cry; the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians did these same things. They were just like us. In fact, we are them.

While we may find their beliefs to be incomprehensible in today’s times, we should realize that the ancient civilizations understood their gods and goddesses to be archetypes- energies to be embodied; traits to be cultivated.

The world of mythology provides us an opportunity to actively explore the human psyche- indeed, some of the dramas would put even our raunchiest modern day reality TV shows to shame. In our masculine culture, the feminine energies are often overlooked and underappreciated. We learn about very few “strong women” in our Western history books. The accomplishments of most strong women come second to their sexual histories- it is the latter which is most often discussed. Marilyn Monroe, Queen Cleopatra, & Mary Magdalen are three great examples- society may not know a lot about all the great things they did, but it is common knowledge “who” they did!

The goddesses are more than just stories. They are chances for us to stand in our sacred feminine energy and embody the divinity that we are. They are not supermodels that bear no resemblance to the “average real woman”; they are role models. They are strong, powerful women who are mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends who live, laugh, love and cry- and just like our flesh & blood girlfriends, we can learn from them. We are them. Woman, you are a goddess!

The Law of Attractive Positive Impact

law-attractive-positive-impactYour Significant…Self?  How to be the best you for any relationship

That famous country song said we were looking for love in “all the wrong places” but maybe we were actually looking in all the wrong ways.  You might have a “list” of what you are looking for in your ideal mate or you might be looking for that special someone who “completes you”.  In the process you might be bringing in that same person who we may think is our type yet the reality to finding love successfully may be asking the question, “What type are we?”

Before you put on your Friday night best or log back on to your favorite hook-up website again let’s take a minute to look and feel your best about the most important person in the next relationship, YOU!  It is absolutely true that we attract what and who we are in to our lives.  When it comes to bringing in our friendships and romantic relations what we radiate is something I call, “The Law of Attractive”.  It is the true beauty that can’t be painted on or pumped up in the gym, instead it is the kind of amazing that, when you have the confidence to let it shine, will bring in the perfect person who compliments you not completes you.

I recently had a client I was coaching and after we conquered her work fears she said that her next goal was to get back into a relationship. Of course, no one who wants a relationship truly wants just anyone, they want Mr. or Ms. Right! And most of us know in our hearts exactly what that means, when someone asks we unfurl that dreaded “List”!  It is the magic, 10-foot long scroll with every physical, emotional, and spiritual quality that we think we need in a mate to be happy.  I asked her what was on her list and she rattled off things like; patient, extroverted, and easy-going.  I have to back up by saying I had already been working with her for a few months, and, while she was working on herself currently, she was none of those things.  So when I asked how her manhunt was going she said sadly that the people she was dating were none of those things.  Shocker!

So where do you start? Think about the phrase, “He” or “She” is a good match for me.  You don’t match socks by finding some that go nicely with each other, you match them by finding two that are as close to each other as possible.

  • Check it twice.  Before you start on your scavenger hunt for love, check the list once for yourself first.  If there are areas that you find important in someone else think about if you have them.  If you don’t, there is nothing wrong with taking some time to work on you.
  • Make your list.  Make a note of all the attributes you would find important in a long-term or forever type relationship.  Be sure to list more than just physical qualities like dark hair and full lips, the values that you find important such as; honesty, integrity, loyalty, and compassion, will play a much bigger role in the long-term success of your partnership.
  • Pay close attention to who is naughty and who is nice.  All too often when don’t stick to our list out of fear of rejection, (something), or maybe just a physical connection that we mistake for love but the whole time the alarms are going off inside us to run.  Trust your gut here and know that when the time is right for you and that special someone it will work out.

While there may not be a club, church, or online dating site to find true love there is one place that holds the magic of cupid’s arrow, your heart. Find that and honor it and you will be fully capable of loving someone else.  Love and be loved, it starts with you!

Michelle Phillips is the author of the bestselling beauty and self-esteem book, “The Beauty Blueprint- 8 Steps to Building the Life and Look of your Dreams” (Hay House) is now available on major book sites. You can listen to her live onMondays at 12pm est on www.HayHouseRadio.com .  She is also a regular guest on the national TV shows, The Daily Buzz, GalTime, and Daytime. www.michellephillips.com

Am I Pretty?

am-i-prettyIn a disturbing new trend thousands of girls as young as 11 and 12-years old are posting videos on YouTube asking the question, “Am I pretty?” This public call for validation shows a dangerous lack of self-worth and an unhealthy focus on outer beauty at an early age.

Am I pretty? The answer is YES!

As a Celebrity Makeup Artist and Life Coach I have been working with people for years to build their ‘beauty’ from the inside out. Usually though the questions of; “Am I pretty?” “Am I good enough?” or “Am I worthy?” don’t really start to weigh on us until life as taken its toll a little bit more. Seeing such a display of low self-esteem at such a young age though really troubles me so I feel strongly that this is a topic that needs addressing.

Whether it is the images in the media, social networking, or increased peer pressure, people, especially teen girls, are feeling pushed to look and act a certain way. One of the things they don’t understand is that in trying to find acceptance online they are opening themselves up to even more negative influence. The relative anonymity of the internet creates a breeding ground for hostility and hate resulting in wave of hurtful responses to their videos. Not to mention the fact that online predators are constantly lurking, typically preying on girls in this exact age range.”

To remedy this I suggest a variety of solutions.

– Monitor your child’s internet usage! The web is just that, a dangerous place for those that get caught up in it. There are just as many physical and emotional hazards to be found in the virtual world as there is in the real world.

– Talk to your kids about their ‘beauty’. Have your child create a list of their most beautiful qualities; their values, dreams, and maybe even throw in some physical attributes they love as well. By working to build a foundation for what makes them uniquely beautiful you create a source for real and lasting self-worth.

– Model strong self-esteem yourself. Even with all of the other sources of information your kids have access to you are still their biggest influence. By relating to them your self-worth you are instilling that same value in your kids.

Most important is have as open a line of communication with your kids as possible. And when the question “Am I pretty” is ever asked by you or them, the answer is always “Yes!”

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.

February 28th Radio Show-Raising Beautiful Children

On today’s show we are talking about raising beautiful children.

If you have been a frequent listener to the show you know when I say beauty I’m not talking about making sure your kids are in the latest fashions or have perfect haircuts….I’m talking about raising them to be positive people with a strong and balanced sense of self-esteem.  The kind of people that will help us create and foster true beauty in our world.

As a mom, a step-mom, and at one time was a single mom and  know that while we may need work to put a roof over our heads or provide food, our most important job in life is parenting our kids.

Join me and my guests, Dr. Wendy Walsh, Jan Horn, and Sandi Schartz.  Together we will share some valuable tools parents can use to help balance and reduce stress in their own lives and in turn empower their children to create their own beautiful lives.

Tune in live by logging onto www.hayhouseradio.com on Monday February 28th at 9am Pacific Time/12noon Eastern Standard Time.  If you missed the show, you can listen to the show in the archive section.

Some info on my guests:

Dr. Wendy Walsh is a journalist, a psychologist, and a mother.  You may have seen her on TV as she is a contributor to CNN, The CBS Early Show, The Today Show, Lifetime, and many more. www.drwendywalsh.com

Jan Horn is the Executive Director/Founder of Blooming Place for Kids.  Jan and her staff are deeply committed to improving the lives of neglected and abused children by giving them hope for their own future through programs developed to build leadership skills, self-confidence, good moral character and values.

Blooming Place for Kids’ residential camp promotes positive values and encourages teamwork, sharing and individual growth.

A PLACE TO DREAM . . . to GROW . . . . . and just be a KID!!!  www.bloomingplaceforkids.org

Sandi Schwartz is an educator, author, radio show host, and inspirational speaker with over 40 years of experience in the field of child development, Sandi combines the best of traditional wisdom with a depth of spiritual awareness, delivering a powerful message for parents. Her most distinguished honor was from the Governor of New York State for leadership and courage in her work with children and families in the aftermath of 9/11.

Sandi’s Leading Edge programs for parents and educators have received international acclaim.  She consults with parents in many countries and her weekly radio show, Leading Edge Parenting, is heard around the world.

For More Information About Leading Edge Parenting or to contact Sandi for consulting, speaking, or to receive her free daily love nuggets, go to www.sanditeaches.com

After working in the beauty industry as a make up artist and stylist for celebrities, I can tell you- first hand- that the women who sat in my chair did not look nearly the same as they did once they had an army of stylists, lighting experts, photographers, and then computer experts create their on camera look.

With so many girls comparing their looks to those of the models and actresses they see on TV, in the movies, or magazines, it is important that they understand that what they see is not reality. What we do need to see is the beauty inside of us all. While working to help my own daughters develop a positive outlook on their beauty inside and out, I encourage them to focus on all of their unique qualities. They are uniquely beautiful and it is important for them to take pride in their kind nature, compassion for others, their gifts, and talents. These are just of a few of the things that make them truly beautiful.

I am posting this video to show our girls what goes on behind the scenes to make models and on camera personalities achieve the looks that for 99% of us is unobtainable.

Hats off to the Dove campaign for their continued effort to help real women and young girls love who they are for their own unique beauty!

February 7th 9a.m PT/ 12pm EST- Turning Heads by Turning Hearts

Have you forgotten what you have to offer? You are a divine gift to the world. By being true to your sense of purpose and embracing the authentic nature of you, you give yourself permission to live a life where it is okay to bloom, soak in the sun, and be the wild color you were created to be. This is in turn empowers those around you to follow your lead. The results of overcoming obstacles through determination and belief in yourself can create a ripple effect for generations to come. Join Michelle to learn how you can look and feel more beautiful by being true to your purpose.

Listen live or from the archives online by logging on to www.hayhouseradio.com.