6 Tiny Ways to Upgrade Your Life Instantly
Q: I am a morning person who cannot wake up in time to enjoy the morning! I crave the sense of peace and hope I feel just after the sun rises. But when my alarm rings, I turn it off—then spend the rest of the day playing catch-up. How can I break this cycle?
—Lauren Sybert, Chicago
Dear Lauren, For the next week, ask yourself once every few hours, "On the day I die, will I be glad I did the thing I'm doing now?" You're probably spending large chunks of time shopping for things you don't need, talking to people you don't like or worrying about things over which you have no control. Cut these things out, go to sleep earlier and arise refreshed to greet the dawn. Later you can tell me about it.
—Martha Beck, life coach extraordinaire
Q: I just graduated from college and am moving to Boston for an internship. But I've realized that what I really want to do is start my own business working with artists in Africa—which is not remotely related to my degree in public health. How can I believe in my passions instead of feeling like I'm setting myself up for disaster?
—Philistar Bonyo, Kisumu, Kenya
Dear Philistar, I live by the saying "Nothing is wasted." Your studies and that internship—combined with your passion—will serve you if you squeeze every ounce of learning from them. I may be a researcher, but I attribute a lot of my success to my years of bartending, waiting tables, and working the night shift in customer service, and to stints as a social worker and a teacher. These jobs taught me about empathy and human behavior.
All this is to say that your internship may not be a detour. Keep growing and stretching, and while you're interning, start reaching out and talking to people who are doing what you love. Make connections and plan. Then go for it: Pursue your passion. If it's what you're called to do, it's worth risking failure. And when you hit roadblocks, think about how you can use your unique skills and experiences—your research chops, for example—to better set yourself up for success.
Theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman wrote: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Go come alive!
—Brené Brown, PhD, author of Daring Greatly
Q: How can I make over my sloppy weekend outfits? I'd love to get myself out of yoga pants and T-shirts but still feel comfortable!
—Eleanna Anagnos, Brooklyn
Dear Eleanna, Not all T-shirts are created equal: Sleep in your schlumpy XXLs, but invest in a few slimmer versions in luscious cotton for when you must actually leave the house. On chilly days, layer on an unstructured jacket. Then add fun flats or riding boots, a cross-body bag to keep your hands free for errands, and a chic little scarf. Do all these things, and you can keep the yoga pants.
—Adam Glassman, O creative director
Q: I live alone. When I get home from work, I just want to eat chips or order takeout—even though I know cooking is the healthier (and cheaper) option. Help!
—Channing Hargrove, New York City
Dear Channing, When I first moved to the United States from Australia, I also lived alone, so I get it. Here's my advice: Make things that can morph into multiple meals over the next few days. If you start with pork, you can shred it, mix in cilantro, and top with avocado for tacos; toss it with marinara and serve it with spaghetti; or sauté it until crispy and throw it in a salad with apples, goat cheese, and walnuts.
—Curtis Stone, chef and O food columnist
Simple Braised Pork
Salt & black pepper
Preheat oven to 300°. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a wide ovenproof pot over high heat. Season 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 8 chunks, with salt and black pepper. Sear 2 minutes per side. Add 1 cup dry white wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up brown bits. Add 3 cups chicken broth, 4 sliced shallots, 8 chopped garlic cloves, and 10 sprigs fresh thyme and bring to a simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, covered, 3 hours, flipping pieces halfway through. Continue cooking, uncovered, until pork is tender enough to pull apart with a spoon and liquid is reduced by ⅓, 1 hour more. Discard thyme and serve. Can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: 4 hours 20 minutes.
Q: I love wearing makeup, but I'm afraid of color. This leaves me with a pretty bland look. How can I experiment with brighter shades without resembling a drag queen?
—Jessica Dawson, Queens, New York
Dear Jessica, I know there are many things one might rightfully be afraid of (and I am), but color shouldn't be one of them. The solution to your problem is easy: Choose your favorite makeup shades and use them minimally. For example, if you love turquoise but are too timid to wear bright eyeshadow, dip a wet eyeliner brush in the shadow and draw a fine line very close to your upper lashes. A bright lipstick in a sheer formula, meanwhile, is a discreet, but very pretty, way to emphasize your mouth.
—Val Monroe, O beauty director
Q: I am an unemployed nurse. I have an 8-year-old child and a wonderful husband who loves me. But I'm 100 pounds overweight; I eat poorly, and I don't exercise. I also don't know how to say no and end up volunteering so much that I'm exhausted and have barely any time for myself. I know I need to make some changes, but how? Where do I start?
—Cyd Keser, San Rafael, California
Beloved, You have taken the first step toward healing: acknowledging the problem. When people are in a caregiving profession, they often don't put themselves first or even second. As a result, they tend to fall victim to an "I don't matter" syndrome. Here is a simple journaling exercise to uproot that unproductive belief and help you learn to honor yourself.
1. For nine consecutive days, complete the following statement nine times, in nine different ways: I don't matter because ___________________________________________.
The goal is to keep writing until you run out of reasons.
2. Now we'll build the foundation for some new, better ideas. Complete this statement 21 times a day in 21 different ways for nine consecutive days: I do matter because _____________________________________________.
3. Finally, let's create some positive habits. Every morning for nine more days, write nine different statements about what you will do that day because you matter. Here are some examples: I will eat healthy, nutritious foods today because I do matter. I will exercise for 20 minutes today because I do matter. I will say no to all requests made of me today because I do matter. Choose three statements per day and use them to implement your new behaviors. I will ______________________________________ today because I do matter.
I believe in you!
—Iyanla Vanzant, host of OWN's Iyanla: Fix My Life