Positive Activewear Brands

For many people, exercise can seem intimidating–an activity that promotes low self-esteem, comparison, and an unhealthy sense of competition. Indeed, for a seemingly small population, this is what exercise is all about. This negative ethos surrounding exercise has permeated throughout several gyms, studios, and the like, but there nevertheless seems to be a movement towards body positivity, inclusivity, and community when it comes to physical activity. In fact, a strong sense of community can be regarded as one of the primary reasons people exercise. Various exercise brands have decided to refreshingly embrace a positive culture, one that lifts others up and seeks to promote self love. Exercise, rather than being regarded as a punishment or a path towards a “perfect” body, is viewed as a form of self care. It is a crucial component of taking care of one’s body, yes, but also one’s mind and spirit. Listed below are a few brands that promote a positive view of exercise and work towards empowering people through movement.

Outdoor Voices

If you head to the OV website, you’ll see models of all shapes and sizes, including ones with disabilities. OV’s inclusivity makes them all the more lovable, not to mention their extremely high quality, comfortable, fun, and fashionable workout clothes.

Sweaty Betty

This British activewear company is rooted in female empowerment. Their mission is to celebrate all women through movement because it is nourishing, not because it is a way to “win” or “look better.” They promote self-love, as well as love of others, encouraging women to lift other women up.

Barre3

Barre3 offers mindful workouts that challenge, strengthen, and tone the body and mind. They, too, stress how exercise is NOT a competition and really take the time to encourage us to focus inward, placing our attention on one’s own body and how it feels in the present moment. Their workouts feel like a breath of fresh air, and their clothing and collaborations with brands such as Beyond Yoga and It Is Well L.A. offer fun outfits to move in.

Winter Self-Care Products*

Self-care is an essential aspect to one’s overall health and wellbeing. With the upcoming Holiday Season and chilly weather, personal wellness could not be more important. Listed below are products that will inspire both an internal and external glow, as well as soothe the body during these wintry months.

Kopari Coconut Melt: This organic coconut oil is meant to be used as a moisturizer. It is perfect for hands and legs–commonly dry areas during this time of year. Kopari is 100% natural and smells divine, making it the perfect addition to one’s self-care repertoire.

Saje’s Sleep Well Oil: This oil is perfect for facilitating a sense of calm prior to bed. It is best to roll it on the inner wrists, the bottom of the feet, the temples, and behind the earlobes. After doing so, breathing in the oil’s lovely lavender-chamomile-valerian scent will help promote an even more restful sleep.

Hemp Garden’s Elevate CBD Lotion: This quaint shop on Cornelia Street sells products containing hemp or CBD, including lotion, candies, and bars. The Elevate lotions contain CBD and are perfect for soothing fatigued muscles. The lotion physically relaxes the body and can facilitate a deeper, more restorative sleep.

The Base Collective’s Magnesium Oil Spray: This spray works similarly to the CBD lotion in that it, too, provides relief for sore or fatigued muscles. The calming effect of magnesium can also help with sleep.

Live-Live & Organic’s Bee Yummy Skincare Line: Live-Live & Organic is a lovely health food/skin care store in the East Village. Its Bee Yummy products contain natural ingredients such as wildflower honey and royal jelly to promote healthy skin. The Bee Yummy Skinfood and Honey Mask are particularly divine.

Marie Veronique’s Gentle Gel Cleanser: This cleanser is perfect for sensitive skin. After using it, one’s face feels soft, clean, and moisturized. It also smells lovely and lasts for a considerably long time, as a single pump will suffice for a thorough and indulgent clean.

*Please note that these product recommendations are based upon my personal experiences. Everyone’s bodies and skin types are different and may react differently. Please know, however, that I have personally tested every one of these products and love all of them. If you decide to try some of these products for yourself, please do enjoy.

Natural Skincare

Our skin, the body’s largest organ, is constantly bombarded with myriad chemicals and pollutants, especially when living in a large city like New York. Because of the seemingly constant daily exposure to harmful substances, it is best to avoid skin products that would only cause further damage. The modern skincare industry produces countless products that are rife with harmful chemicals. Our skin is able to absorb topical products, so it is crucial that one takes into account the body as a whole when pondering various skincare avenues. Luckily, there are many natural ingredients that greatly benefit the skin. Listed below are some key ingredients that can be uses to care for the skin in the healthiest, most wholesome manner possible. Each ingredient is a nutrient powerhouse and will flood your skin with nutritional benefits. Self-care is essential, and the skin is indeed a major part of it.

Raw Honey

-honey contains antibacterial properties and aids in the skin’s pH regulation. It also helps regulate the production of the skin’s natural oils, which, when disrupted, can cause acne, oiliness, and dryness

Matcha

-matcha is rich in chlorophyll, which helps slow the growth of anaerobic bacteria. Its caffeine content also aids in the tightening of the skin and shrinking of pores

Apple Cider Vinegar

-apple cider vinegar’s pH is very similar to that of the skin’s, thus helping to keep it in check

Cucumber & Mint

-both cucumber and mint aid in reducing redness and inflammation. As an added bonus, cucumber seeds contain Vitamin E and potassium, therefore delivering essential nutrients to the skin

Blackberries

-blackberries are an extremely good source of antioxidants which protect the cells from free radicals. Free radicals are produced as a result of radiation exposure, pollutants such as smoke, and the breaking down of food and pose a great threat to the health of the skin

Incorporating these ingredients into one’s skincare routine will undoubtedly benefit the skin in myriad ways. They are a welcome alternative to the many chemical-laden commercial products on the market. All of these ingredients are edible, and simply eating them is a powerful first step towards taking better care of your skin. However, to further reap their benefits, topical application is highly effective. For ingredients that are slightly more difficult to apply manually, there are several vehicles that aid in facilitating the process, such as natural Greek yogurt. One can mix any of these ingredients into the yogurt to create a more economical way to apply them to the skin. Raw honey is another useful vehicle as are smashed banana or avocado. Hopefully these ingredients will bring you much joy. Please always remember the importance of self care and how our bodies always welcome a respite from the noise and pollution of modern life.

For further information and inspiration regarding all-natural skincare, the blogs Kale & Caramel, The Beauty Chef, and Hello Glow are all lovely resources. Much of the information in this article was inspired by their wisdom and provided an abundance of knowledge to aid in natural skin care.

La Monde Nostalgique

(Above: Roots and Tree Trunks by Vincent Van Gogh)

What is it about weather that evokes such a powerful emotional response when reflecting on the past?

The view out of the window of crispy leaves dancing in a sudden gust of warm, early-autumn wind. The late afternoon sun rays illuminating such a spectacle.

Falling asleep to the soft whisper of raindrops knocking on the roof and walls. Sometimes the rain would shout rather than whisper, but regardless of the tone, a feeling of total serenity ensued.

Playing with the dollhouse in the soft evening light of the Fall, the lamp providing just enough visual clarity so as not to disrupt the cozy and incredibly secure atmosphere of the room.

Waking to the crisp chill of the Winter air. An extra blanket is needed, yes, but the characteristic precursor to a new season is a welcome one–only increasing one’s sense of intimate security.

The soft blue evening light of autumn combined with the cozy glow of the living room lamps.

The gentle breeze tickling one’s face during the final days of summer.

The vast blanket of snow enveloping the surrounding environment.

The lush vegetation and its beautiful cycle of renewal through unique transitory phases.

The sound of birds chirping early in the morning, or of owls calling to each other in the night.

What is it about the natural world that evokes such strong feelings of nostalgia, producing and even stronger and more intimate connection to the memories which we hold so dear?

Love Letter to a Friend

As you embark on your journey, I hope for nothing but the best for you. This is where you are meant to be, where you are meant to go, for the future will present you with an infinite number of new and exciting possibilities.

Now you will not have to engage in mundane things that provide no mental stimulation. You will not have to spend time with people who drain your energy and exhaust your emotional and energetic reserves. Instead, you will finally be able to feed your soul with the profound adventure it has always craved.

This wanderlust has been waiting for you since the day you were born. You were born an explorer, a writer, a poet, and free spirit. You were born to wander and wonder–to ponder the many mysteries of life that many people are simply too afraid to consider.

Yours in an impeccable mind–the perfect combination of passion, spontaneity, creativity, work ethic, and drive. You, my dear, are a beautifully unique soul. Never in my life have I met someone like you.

I cannot articulate in writing, or words for that matter, the profound extent to which you have influenced my life. The way you have spoken to me in difficult times, the way in which you made me laugh or cry tears of joy, the way you have inspired me, and the way in which you facilitated a better relationship with myself have left me in a state of awe at your infinite beauty and goodness.

You, dear friend, have aided me in letting down my suffocating guard which prohibited me from enjoying life. You have burst open the steel door which had remained locked for too long, revealing a world of beauty that I could have never imagined.

You are my ultimate role model. I can only hope that one day, I will have the privilege of being half as free, confident, beautiful, strong, creative, artistic, brave, intelligent, and curious as you. I love everything about you, and anyone who doesn’t is not worth your precious time.

I cannot conceal my excitement when I ponder where you will go in life. Deep within, I sense how special you are and that whatever you accomplish will be deeply incredible and unparalleled.

Thank you for absolutely everything, dear friend. My love for you cannot be described, for it is simply too strong to even attempt to explain it. Nor can I accurately express my gratitude for you and everything you have taught me. I will miss you dearly, but I know that this is not a goodbye.

You are one of the few people in my life with whom I feel a deep connection. No distance can sever this unique bond. In fact, I believe that our journeys will only strengthen it.

So, please don’t forget to share your story with me over some Earl Grey some day….

I love you.

-M

On Cognitive Dissonance

(Above: Untitled by Jean Michel Basquiat)

Routine is comfortable. Developing a consistent routine allows one to seemingly minimize unexpected events and safeguard against discomfort or problematic situations. This approach seems efficient, economical, and safe. The risks are mitigated as one is able to remain within one’s now well-established comfort zone.

The problem with this seemingly innocuous approach, however, is that is prohibits growth. By taking careful steps to minimize the potential for risk, one is minimizing the potential for the unexpected. The unexpected and risk are synonymous, where the only thing that distinguishes the two is one’s mindset. Risk possesses a negative connotation. It is associated with substantial loss–whether monetary, time-oriented, or otherwise–and is seen as a step backwards from one’s goal. The unexpected, while it can still be perceived as negative, should be regarded as quite the opposite. Unexpected events are spontaneous. Most of these events are nonfatal and can actually provide a wonderful opportunity to grow. It is important to remain open to such events rather than trying to mitigate the probability of them occurring, for this will most likely only lead to stagnation.

Routine can certainly be a positive thing. It becomes dangerous when one is unable to deviate from his or her routine when needed. There is certainly an important distinction to be highlighted here. Person A may develop a rather rigid routine but is able to stay consistent and significantly control the probability of any potentially unforeseen setbacks. This rigidity allows Person A to remain comfortable yet stagnant. Person B also has a consistent routine, but when he feels stagnation creeping in, he readily alters his routine, or briefly abandons it altogether, in order to keep life exciting and to preserve a healthy sense of spontaneity. When an unexpected event occurs, Person B celebrates it as an opportunity to learn and grow, whereas Person A is left feeling flustered and hopeless, as he is unable to deviate from his routine in the slightest. In this instance, as in regard to life as a whole, balance is key.

Perhaps it is rather confusing that I have not yet mentioned cognitive dissonance, but I promise that this is all connected.

I believe that a rigid routine is a breeding ground for the limitations of cognitive dissonance. This mental state of mind occurs when one wants to do something that another part of herself feels is abnormal or not okay. There is an internal battle that results. Usually, such a feeling occurs when an urge or behavior contradicts one’s previous beliefs or actions. This is where routine becomes dangerous. When one possesses a strict routine, any unexpected event or other occurrence that may require a deviation from this routine is a major stressor. One will likely lack the necessary mental strength to deal with such events because of the extreme discomfort felt as a result of novelty.

I have certainly struggled with this concept. Routine need not be work or action-related. One can just as easily develop a mental routine. This is arguably more common. Humans are social creatures. We possess an evolutionary urge to find a tribe and thus tend to compartmentalize ourselves in order to fit in these certain specific tribes. In high school, for instance, there tends to be those enjoy band and theatre, those who enjoy sports, those who enjoy drugs on the weekends, and those who are primarily focused on their studies. This is certainly an over-generalization, and now more than ever before, it is increasingly acceptable to straddle different groups, not having to define oneself according to a single stereotype. Nevertheless, high school provides an easy example of the modern tribalistic mentality.

I always wanted to identify with the group of school-oriented students. Thus, I experienced strong cognitive dissonance whenever I was presented with an opportunity that contradicted this rather rigid self-identity. Any party or kickback or social event was off-limits because I considered these as unexpected events–ones which did not align with my self-designated compartment. I had developed a strict mental routine that prohibited me from growing and learning in ways that did involve grades and assignments. Cognitive dissonance prevented me from exploring the other parts of myself. It was simply too uncomfortable and even guilt-provoking to do something that deviated from the “bookworm mentality.” Such a deviation would threaten my very comfortable routine and force me to step outside of my well-established comfort zone.

Well, after maturing a little and after lots and lots of therapy, it became easier to accept the multiple facets of my personality and to appreciates the diversity in other individuals as well. It is important to remember the phrase: both can be true. One can appreciate Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and J. Cole. One can admire the beauty in the art of Caravaggio and Basquiat. One can smoke the occasional joint while also maintaining impeccable grades. One can be the valedictorian but still allow himself to enjoy South Park whenever he feels like it. You can be a good student and attend parties. Both can be true. 

Things are often not mutually exclusive. It took me quite a while to realize this. While I still certainly experience cognitive dissonance on occasion, it is not nearly as crippling nor prohibitive as it once was. A rigid routine enables cognitive dissonance to prevent learning opportunities. It can certainly be a good thing indeed (both can be true)! But more often than not, this universal fear of challenging the traditional perception of oneself is really what is holding back any potential advancements.

So, while routine can be beneficial, please don’t hesitate to deviate from it every now and then. Please don’t fear novelty or the unfamiliar, for this is where growth occurs. And most importantly, please don’t limit yourself to a single rigid perception. Instead, embrace the multifaceted being that you are. No matter how bizarre your conglomeration of beliefs, interests, and values may seem, I assure you that it is the primary source of your impeccable beauty.

Boredom: the Ultimate Enemy

In Tim Ferriss’s book, The Four Hour Workweekhe states that sadness is not the opposite of happiness. Instead, the opposite of happiness is something that plagues too many people: boredom.

Tim’s argument is truly compelling and indeed true. Sadness is a necessary and helpful human emotion and thus benefits one’s life. Humans need sadness as a form of catharsis, a means of connection, a powerful method of reflection, a way to ground oneself, and as a vessel by which to express other emotions such as love. Happiness cannot occur without sadness. It makes sense, then, when Tim states how happiness and sadness are not opposites.

Boredom, in contrast, is utterly unhelpful. There are no benefits one can reasonably obtain as a result of boredom. Sam Harris defines boredom as a lack of attention. This definition may seem rather simplistic, but it is incredibly profound. Boredom, the ultimate source of discontent, results from one’s inability to pay attention. The human mind craves constant stimulation. Humans need this stimulation to escape the dreaded fear of becoming “unhappy”. In reality, however, we are subconsciously escaping boredom.

This is why society praises being “busy” all of the time. When one is busy, one does not have a reason to be bored. How toxic a trend! The fact that humans are afraid to be still due to the fear of a potential bout of boredom is saddening. I have been there, and still experience such feelings today. I have recently developed the belief, however, that boredom is an unacceptable emotion. When it hits, I know that I am not being present enough nor am I taking advantage of all the opportunities available.

This epiphany, of boredom being unacceptable, occurred after listening to Joe Rogan on his amazing podcast. On one particular episode, he had Sam Harris and Dan Harris on. They talked about several different topics, but one statement that really grabbed my attention was the fact that a recent survey asked various people if they would rather be alone with their thoughts or receive an electric shock. An alarming percentage of the participants chose the latter! I believe that this relates back to the fear of boredom. Sam went on to describe that when one feels bored, if one were to simply observe this emotion and grow curious about it, the boredom is instantly eliminated. Because this dangerous feeling results from a lack of attention, directing all of one’s attention to the feeling itself strips it of its power. Sam explained this so effortlessly, resulting in my drastic change in attitude.

I believe that the practice of meditation has been shown to be so effective because of the above reasoning. Meditation is simply the act of noticing. One can focus their attention on the breath, on the sounds of nature, on the body, or even on discomfort or pain. What the mind focuses on does not matter. What is truly important is the fact that the mind is focusing its attention at all. Thus it is impossible to be bored when practicing mediation because focused attention is imperative to the exercise. Perhaps this is why mediation helps alleviate depression, as it disables the quickest pathway to discontent: inattention (ie: boredom).

In realizing just how powerful boredom is, I have grown more aware of when it begins to creep up. This is certainly still a work in progress, as I sometimes find myself at the mercy of its firm grasp. It helps to look at this phenomenon from an evolutionary perspective. When humans existed as hunters and gatherers, their primary motive for the majority of their actions was the need to survive. Their minds were thus always occupied with thoughts intended to optimize survival. Food availability and reproduction were the most important things one could think about. However, as humans have evolved over time, survival has become incredibly easier. We no longer have to worry about the availability of food, and reproduction has now gone in the opposite direction as there are too many people on Earth. The human mind no longer needs to constantly think about what our ancestors thought about. This created more space, but instead of taking advantage of such space, boredom evolved with us.

The good news is that by simply noticing the fact that we are bored, we take away its power and eliminate it altogether. It is time that humans occupy this relatively new abundance of mental space with things that bring us joy. This will be different for everyone and can include things such as art, music, movies, books, science, math, nature, physical activity, meditation, language, travel, community service, and more. There is so much in this world with which we can occupy the space in our minds. How blessed we are to have such an abundance of options! In simply realizing this fact, we have taken the first step towards defeating boredom, and as a result unhappiness, once and for all.

How do you determine your self-worth?

There seems to be a modern obsession with numbers.

Numbers are often utilized as the currency by which one’s “worth” is determined. The number on a scale, the percentage received on a test, the number of AP classes one signs up for, an SAT/ACT score, the number of calories consumed in a day, clothing size, yearly income, the number of social media followers, the number of likes on a photo, and college acceptance rates are but a few examples of how numbers are used to establish esteemed social standing and acceptance.

The problem is that, in total alignment with the laws of mathematics, numbers constantly fluctuate. This phenomenon is absolutely guaranteed. If numbers are our only source of self and social acceptance, we are destined to be disappointed due to the natural lack of continuity.  This involves depending solely on external forces over which we have no control.

It is quite evident that such a way of living is a recipe for disaster. We cannot control the ever-fluctuating world of numbers, but we can control our inner feelings–our inner sense of worth. This can remain constant. Rather than searching for love through numbers and social acceptance, it is more rational (and fulfilling) to begin searching within oneself. As cliché as this may sound, I have found that all of the qualms of life are far more easier to deal with when one possesses a strong and loving personal foundation. I definitely have lacked such a foundation, but reason has been a life saver in that it has aided me in realizing the destructive nature of some of my personal habits. Rather than finding gratification in external sources (grades, weight, calories, size), one must turn to internal sources.

Please think about your character traits, your interests, your positive habits, your beautiful talents, your curiosity or passion for learning. Recognize the beauty in simply being alive. Your body allows you to move, feel, taste, and love. Your brain is capable of storing memories–both happy and sad–while also allowing you to learn in a world of infinite learning opportunities. Think of how complex your endocrine system is, or how your muscular-skeletal system collaborates to gift you with a dynamic life. Please don’t forget how miraculous you are. Your complexity is truly astounding, but your unique personality and character are far more flabbergasting (in the best way possible of course).

Things such as the above should be our primary source of self-worth. When we pause to really consider the miracle that is human life, we can realize that the numbers everyone cares so much about are actually rather trivial. While numbers themselves are truly beautiful (being the nerd that I am, I LOVE math), they are NOT beautiful when used to develop inconsistent and irrational factors for determining a human’s intrinsic value.

Recognize the beauty in simply being YOU. That is a far more accurate indicator of value–true, meaningful value–than any number society has arbitrarily deemed as “ideal”.

You are a Masterpiece

Hello!

As the first blog post of this site, I thought it would be appropriate to first indicate that this is a safe place–somewhere that welcomes all people. The primary intent of this site is to let all of you know that you are beautiful human beings. Oftentimes people are belittled or made to feel worthless. I want this blog to do exactly the opposite. If you constantly find your triumphs being hastily breezed over, your every setback magnified, I hope this blog will help you find recognition and validation. If you are struggling with a crippling eating disorder and wish to discover a community who understands what you are enduring, I pray that this blog will provide that. If you are intellectually curious but lack a place to discuss and share your ideas, this is the site for you. I mean it when I say that everyone is welcome here. It would be such an honor to have you join me as we explore restaurants and hotels, breathtaking travel destinations, books and movies, art and fashion, recipes, science and math, and everything in between! Here is a place that seeks to celebrate all that makes life worth living–to delve into la beauté d’être, that is, the beauty of living. I want to ignite within you an insatiable curiosity that compels you to learn from each and every experience no matter how seemingly trivial it may be. Learning is the zest of life–it is what adds excitement and adventure. Through this blog, we will learn together, laugh together, cry together, and constantly rediscover our self-worth together. Thank you for being here and please enjoy the journey.