Improve This *One* Thing To Make Your Relationships Better

Improve This *One* Thing To Make Your Relationships Better

We’ve all been there – pouring our heart out to a pal only to realize she’s distracted by her own thoughts… or cell phone, television show, the server passing your table with her kryptonite (a piece of unbelievably delicious cheesecake, of course). The “uh-huh”, and, “yeah,” of the conversation and the stray glances around the room are a dead giveaway.

We’ve also been guilty of passive listening ourselves, right? While our friend is in the throes of a breakdown or when she’s needing advice, we’re distracted by the same phone notifications or television blaring in the background.

Passive listening (AKA not really listening) hurts our friendships. There is good news though – we can fix this now and be better friends by using a communication technique called active listening.

Active listening requires the listener to do four core things: concentrate, understand, respond, and remember. Think of it as a cycle – when we concentrate, we understand. When we understand, we can respond appropriately. As a result, we can more easily remember the conversation.

Easy peasy, right? Be a better listener, be a better vina! Here are a few tips to help you become a better active listener, and in turn, a better bestie.

Make eye contact. Put your phone down and look at your friend’s gorgeous face while she talks! This shows you’re fully invested in what she’s saying.

Re-state, but don’t be a parrot. By paraphrasing what you just heard (in your own words), you can ensure you’re on the same page with the speaker. You can use a leading statement like, “Let me get this straight…” before you reiterate what you just heard.

Learn how to effectively question. Sticking to open-ended questions always keeps the conversation going. You can also use leading or reflective questions, like, “What happened next?” or, “What worries you about that?” to make sure your gal knows you’re engaged in the conversation.

Allow for silence or pauses within the conversation. Don’t get in a hurry during your chat. By taking some pauses or letting comfortable silences happen, it slows down the conversation and allows more time for you both to process what is being said.

Avoid blocking the conversation. Interrupting, preaching, or acting judgy toward your friend is probably the quickest way to make sure she doesn’t come back to you with her dilemmas (or her successes!). Keeping your mind open and mouth closed while your bestie tells you what’s on her mind will help you better process what she’s saying while your bond becomes even stronger.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. Active listening is a skill we hone over time that helps us build trust and understanding between us and our friends. Being fully engaged in the conversation takes some work, but we have in us. Be a better friend by being a better listener, babe – our friendships are worth it!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

Your Mind and Body Off Sleep

Your Mind and Body Off Sleep

Did you know one in three adult Americans don’t sleep as much as they should? Insane, right? Sleep deprivation is a pretty serious thing, and when you don’t get enough sleep it can affect your mental health. Sure, there’s coffee and other ways to energize us when we didn’t catch enough Z’s the night before, but nothing compares to a great night of sleep.

Psychology Today contributors Richard Taite (CEO and founder of Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center) and Constance Scharff, Ph.D. recently published an article which includes a few great reasons why getting good sleep can keep you not only sane, but mentally healthy.

One big reason is your brain needs time to cleanse itself. When you go to sleep at night, you’re giving not just your body time to rest, but also your brain. You know that groggy feeling you get after not getting enough sleep? That’s because your brain didn’t have enough time to get rid of all the neural waste (the environmental data your brain collects throughout the day). Let your brain take some time to rejuvenate tonight by getting at least seven hours, so you don’t feel so cloudy tomorrow.

Another reason, as if that wasn’t enough, was that your brain needs to have some time to process “powerful events.” When we go through something traumatic, it may be hard to shut your mind off and go to sleep, but it’s very important you do because it can reduce the risk of having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Taite and Scharff write that,“sleeping within a few hours of a traumatic event acts as a preventative treatment against developing PTSD, helping the brain get things in order so the survivor can effectively process and move on from the trauma.”

The third reason Taite and Scharff present has to do with peace of mind, or mindfulness. They share that the Schools of Medicine at UCLA and the University of Southern California found that subjects who reported difficulty sleeping had better sleep when they engaged in a “mindful awareness practice” (or MAP). Taking some time to meditate during the day or right before you go to sleep can help you become more mindful. Bonus: it will definitely help you sleep better at night, but it has loads of benefits for your overall mental health.

Now, let’s put this all to use. Today, take a few minutes to be mindful and tonight, why don’t you try getting at least seven hours of sleep – your mind, body, and soul will thank you!

What Is Gaslighting & How Can We Spot It?

What Is Gaslighting & How Can We Spot It?

Gaslighting is a term that has gained traction in recent months (read: Teen Vogue’s poignant article on the subject). But the tactic has been around, plaguing its victims, for much, much longer.

Psychology Today says, “Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used to gain power” by making the victim question their reality. It’s a form of slow brainwashing done by narcissists, as well as dictators or cult leaders, who often fall into this category themselves. Yikes!

As scary as the thought of someone brainwashing an entire nation is, gaslighting on a personal scale is also very real and can be just as scary for the victim. Gaslighting has even been dubbed a form of emotional abuse. There are several techniques a person can use when gaslighting someone. Some red flags:

The person is telling obvious lies. The reason? To make you unsure of yourself, what you know to be true, and question who you really trust. By lying to you, the person creates confusion and uncertainty in order to more easily manipulate you.

Denial. The perpetrator may try to convince you they never said or did something they blatantly said or did. This is just another way the person can get you to buy into a false, carefully calculated idea of what is going on around you.

Projection. If you are being told you are the one who possesses their flaws, this is called projection. For example, they’ve been known to cheat, but they then accuse you of cheating. They’re projecting their faults onto you to distract you from their own bad behavior.

They tell you you’re the crazy one. They might as well be trying to convince you the sky is green. If they are dismissive and say things like, “No one will believe you” when they act abusive or controlling, that’s a sure warning sign.

Now that we know how to spot it, how do we protect ourselves and our vinas from falling victim to gaslighting?

Trust your gut. Has your intuition ever failed you? Don’t let go of that strength – listen to it, and believe it.

Maintain your perception of reality. The sky isn’t green; you know it’s blue, so don’t back down. If you know something to be true, hold onto it.

Cultivate a strong support system. Don’t let the gaslighter isolate you from your friends and family. Surround yourself with people who are honest with you, who build you up, and who support you through life.

If you think you’re being victimized through this tactic of manipulation, don’t doubt yourself or what you know to be real. If you have any tips to share with our readers on how to stay strong and identify gaslighting before it can affect you or someone you love, please share in the comments!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

Why the Bodily Act of Marching Matters

Why the Bodily Act of Marching Matters

On January 21, 2017 people around the globe came together to march in solidarity for women’s–and human, rights. It may have been initially organized to happen in Washington, D.C., but it soon became a collective phenomenon of cities around the world. Millions marched to make sure our collective voices were heard. And let me tell you- they most certainly were!

Why does the physical act of marching matter? Can it actually create change and awareness? Why yes, my darling vina, it absolutely can. Not only history, but psychology tells us so.

Kimerer LaMothe, Ph.D. recently shared an analysis on why the bodily action of marching matters, claiming, “To march is to move together in time.” LaMothe says that while we may not be moving at the same pace, a group of people moving together is “impossible to underestimate.”

LaMothe talks about moving with others in the sense that it creates an awareness and embodies democracy in its truest working form. She states that collective movement,“is about creating the conditions for generating ideas — a rich motley mix within which new visions may form. It is about generating networks of thought, feeling, and shared experience across which actions can travel.”

So why physically march with others? Simply put: to get us together – bodies, voices, and perspectives. To show support for each other align our goals: to keep moving forward. To realize we are not alone.

Moving together with others lights a fire and sparks motivation. Getting large groups of people together for a common purpose helps create a strong presence that can be seen and felt through passion and proximity. We are creating a community that builds us up, makes us strong, shows we’re loud and proud, and it’s undeniably engaging.

Coming together in large numbers like we saw during the Women’s March on Washington is motivating and inspiring. I mean, we’re still talking about it nearly two months later. That fact alone should help us realize that we can actually create change in our country and around the world, just by getting together to support each other and make our voices heard.

(Featured image courtesy

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

Why Making Friends Online is Totally Normal

Why Making Friends Online is Totally Normal

Before the internet, a girl from Indiana couldn’t fathom making friends with someone from California. Or Australia. Or even someone in her city, without leaving the comfort of her home. My goodness, how things have changed.

Over the last decade, we have witnessed technology evolve right before our eyes – it’s bringing us together, from all corners of the globe. And it’s freaking awesome.

I grew up in a very rural area of the Midwest – back then, we relied on making friends in our hometowns or from neighboring schools through sporting events and after school activities. Until we could drive and get jobs outside our small town, our friend circles revolved around who was in our classes or extra curriculars. But when I was thirteen, the internet finally arrived in my area.

I remember chatting online with people in my area then making plans to meet them when our schools played each other in basketball or football. I was able to make friends outside the small circle of people I knew my whole life, and I loved it. It’s true – I was hooked on making friends with strangers through the computer. Some I’d meet in person, and who are important people in my life still. Some I still talk with online, still having never met them in person.

When I was a kid though, I was teased for chatting online with strangers. People in my class thought I was lame for chatting on ICQ or AIM, but I didn’t care. I loved meeting new people, in person or over a computer. Fast-forward (more than) a few years later… it’s now considered normal to find relationships and meet new friends off the internet based on your common interests. YAAS, FINALLY!

Over the years, I’ve formed wonderful relationships with folks I’ve met online. I’ve had deep conversations with people I’ve never seen before in person through forums and social networking websites. I’ve forged lifelong bonds with some amazing women who I see regularly. When Twitter took off, I joined solely to follow my favorite rockstar… but soon found a community of fans that were just like me. We started talking to each other online through 140 characters at a time, then ended up meeting each other at concerts all over the country. During the times we waited for (an insane amount of) hours together to snag a front row spot to see our favorite band perform, we created meaningful friendships with each other. Some of the ladies I met during that time I speak with almost daily, and they are coming to my bridal shower this spring!

With websites like Twitter to find people who are into the same things you are, it’s so easy to make new friends online. And again, it’s freaking awesome – most women know it’s harder to make friends once they have finished their college years, begin professional careers, or start having children.

Our circles naturally shrink when we grow older, but ladies, I’m here to tell you they don’t have to. The internet makes it SO much easier for us to form friendships with people we wouldn’t meet under what we used to consider normal circumstances. Luckily for all of us, the new normal is making friends online. The thirteen year old me is rejoicing and shouting “see, I told you this would take off!”

This post was originally published on the VINAzine. <3

Oh Ya Know, I’ve Just Been Busy Making It Happen!

Oh Ya Know, I’ve Just Been Busy Making It Happen!

Oh em gee. It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? Summer has come and gone – it’s hard to believe it’s nearly Halloween! I’ve been quite busy over the last six months… here are the highlights:

The Geeky Press is becoming quite a thing. We’re doing things. That’s kind of our thing. Ha – but seriously, this is something we (the Partners) always say. It’s really growing and we have a lot of great stuff cooking!

  • We’re building a solid community, between our monthly #WritersHack Meetups and our one-day retreats. We have our annual weekend retreat at Bradford Woods coming up (still one spot open, so hey Indianapolis area writers, if you’re interested, drop me a line!), plus monthly events. Check us out on Meetup or visit our website for more!
  • We published our first book, Bad Jobs and Bullshitthis past September. BUY IT. It’s awesome.
  • We’re planning our next book, which will become a series titled Dear America. We will be putting out a call for submissions at the end of October, so stay tuned for that project!
  • Another project is currently in the works, so to find out what that is, you’ll have to stay tuned… but if you’re an Indiana writer (or a writer from Indiana), I can give you a hint: you’ll get to submit your work. That’s all I can say for now!

Let’s see… what else has been going on in my world? Oh yeah – I became an Assistant Producer of a couple of new podcasts while The Bevs have been on hiatus! I act as the lady behind the scenes of each of these podcasts, handling social media and web content. Both are hosted by Molly McAleer of Plz Advise and co-founder of HelloGiggles.

Now, for some other quick highlights:

  • We’re planning our wedding, whooo! We’re eloping and not having an actual wedding or reception, and I cannot tell you how thrilled we are about that. Low stress and exactly what we want. That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?
  • I finally visited NYC. It was a blast – I joined my love for a few days in the City and we did all the great touristy things. My faves: we visited Top of the Rock at sunset, traveled to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and took a cruise around Manhattan with some friends who joined us from home.
  • Said “see ya later” to my favorite band, who (much to my dismay) is taking a year off from the road. Dave Matthews Band, you gave me some killer shows this year – from Blossom to Alpine to Deer Creek, many memories were made and I will miss you so much in 2017! (Plus side, I can plan my wedding without worrying about missing a show. Ha. I’m only sort of kidding. lol)
  • I learned how to ride a motorcycle! I can’t believe it. I was once terrified to ride with my love on his, but he *gently* urged me to take a course. Last weekend, I took a ladies only course though Harley Davidson and learned how to ride the right, safe way. Not gonna lie – I want a Harley of my own now. Maybe one day – I should probably get a house first.
  • I’m studying for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. I figure since I’ve been officially a Project Manager for the last couple of years, I might as well make it official. I love learning new things and everything I’ve covered so far is making me a more knowledgeable PM. Anything to advance my career!

I’ve also learned a lot about myself over the past six months and grew as a person. How it’s okay to stay in my own lane and focus on myself instead of the lives of others. It’s been quite difficult to close some doors, but it was necessary to help myself move on and not be hurt (as much) anymore. I have to keep reminding myself that I cannot change others. I strengthened some friendships and let one lie. I realized I can be there for those who appreciate me, but some chapters must come to an end – but they can always be reopened if necessary.

Wow, could I have been anymore vague in that last paragraph?! I think a lot of people can relate to the things I’ve gone through this past year or so, but I’m just not quite ready to put it out there for the world to read. Or to deal with the backlash. Someday though, so please be patient. I will share when the time is right, and perhaps we can start a conversation. Either way, I have solid notes for my memoir…

That’s all for now, folks. I promise, I won’t stay away so long this time around. As always, thanks for listening! xoxo <3