Are You Thriving or Merely Surviving?

Are you Surviving or Thriving?

By Dr. Ellen Albertson – Reprinted with permission from Dr. Ellen

Are you thriving or surviving? Be truthful. In the evening are you exhausted and just happy to have made it through another day? Are stress and worry; rather than joy, peace, and passion fueling your life? Then you’re probably surviving and not living in a state of optimal wellbeing.

There’s a huge difference between surviving and thriving. Survive means to “continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.” Thrive means to “prosper, be fortunate or successful, to grow or develop vigorously; flourish.”

Survive mode is characterized by:

  • Choosing the path with the least resistance
  • Experiencing lack rather than abundance
  • Reacting rather than responding
  • Complaining and blaming others for your circumstances
  • Feeling inauthentic and stuck
  • Fearing failure and viewing it as a sign that things are going wrong instead of seeing it as a necessary part of success

Thrive mode is characterized by what psychologist Martin Seligman refers to in his book Flourish as experiencing PERMA:

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement and flow
  • Positive Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

Many women, especially at midlife, want to thrive, and yet the majority of us are simply surviving. We want to feel vital, passionate, energized and excited about life, but the sense of flourishing we felt in our 20s and 30s has vanished.

Why are we surviving rather than thriving? The two main reasons I see with my clients are fear and habit. We’re scared of stepping into our brilliance and facing the unknown. Or we’re comfortably uncomfortable, stuck in a routine that’s kind of working but certainly isn’t making us happy. As I’ve discussed in previous posts there’s a nagging sense that you’re running out of time as if a Divine alarm clock has gone off signaling: “Get your shit together now and make something of this wonderful life before it’s too late.”

So how do you move from survive mode into thrive mode? Fortunately, there are scientifically proven strategies you can use to live a vibrant, happier life. The first step is to admit you’re merely surviving and want to thrive. Like Maya Angelou make thriving your mission in life!

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. –Maya Angelou

After you set an intention to THRIVE start using the 10 strategies below!

  1. Feel

Remember a period in your life when you were thriving. Spend time re-experiencing how thriving felt. Think about what you can do now to get that feeling back.

  1. The Gratitude Visit

This one’s simple, but effective. Think of someone who has had a major impact on your life and tell her how she’s helped you. You can send an e-mail, a letter, call or visit.

  1. Exercise

Engage in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. You’ll improve the health of your brain and body and feel more vital and energized.

  1. What Went Well

Every evening write down three things that when well in your life AND what you did to make them happen. (This is one of my favorite exercises in Seligman’s book.)

  1. Welcome change and challenges

Be optimistic. Rather than avoiding change and challenges welcome them as powerful tools to help you grow and learn. Believe that you have the resources and ability to thrive when faced with change and challenges. Not challenged? Do something that scares you. Click HERE for ideas.

  1. Discover your strengths

Make a list of your strengths. (Ask someone to help you or take Seligman’s FREE VIA Survey of character strengths test by clicking HERE.) Once you identify your strengths find new ways to use them.

  1. Increase positivity

According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson experiencing more positive emotions when we interact with others is key for wellbeing. Be positive when you interact with others and encourage others to do the same for you. Surround yourself with people who are positive, thriving and supportive and limit your exposure to people who are negative

  1. Savor

Take the time to savor all life’s joys and pleasures. When something good happens to you take it all in. Be mindful. Slow down. Pause for a moment to take in the good around you. Congratulate yourself when you do well. Spend time with people you love. Fill your life with pleasure and give yourself permission to enjoy.

  1. Increase flow experiences

Flow, also known as being in the zone, is the mental state where you are fully engaged, focused and involved in an activity. Find at least one activity (such as dancing, painting, singing, bird watching, hiking, playing a game or instrument, writing….) that puts you in this state of enjoyment. Do it several times a week.

  1. Be kind

imgresOne of the most powerful ways to thrive is simply being kind. Being kind is easy. Yet doing a kind act creates a powerful, scientifically proven increase in wellbeing. Don’t take my word for it, experiment with kindness today. Find one completely unexpected kind thing to do and just do it. Notice how your mood shifts. For ideas click HERE. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. It’s a fabulous way to practice self-compassion.

Set an intention TODAY to thrive rather than merely survive. Yes, choosing to thrive will push you out of your comfort zone and may feel harder than surviving especially initially. But is surviving really that comfortable?

Need help thriving? Click HERE to contact Dr. Ellen and schedule a complimentary coaching session.

About the Author

Dr. Ellen Bio

Dr. Ellen is a Psychologist, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Wellcoach® and Reiki Master. The Glow & Grow Coach, Dr. Ellen teaches women at mid-life how to harmonize the dance of their lives with the song in their hearts and flow with grace, beauty and ease. She’s passionate about helping others let go of who they think they’re supposed to be & embrace who they are.
Learn more about Dr. Ellen

Connect with Dr. Ellen on facebook and on twitter.

The Easy Way to Avoid Toxic Nail Polish

Toxic Nail Polish - How to Find Safer Alternatives

Who doesn’t love a manicure or pedicure especially at a nail salon? A salon manicure can be so relaxing. Unfortunately, nail products typically contain harmful substances that are unregulated.

If you’ve spent any time at all in a nail salon, you’ve smelled the fumes of polish removers, polish, and gel nail products. And, I’m sure you’ve wondered about what you are breathing. So, how do you avoid toxic nail polish?

You can enjoy a safe manicure using these tips.

How to Avoid Toxic Nail Polish

First, you must understand the limitations of FDA regulations.

You probably think that the FDA has programs for testing products.

Well, it doesn’t.

The FDA cannot and does not require companies to do product safety tests. And, the FDA does not review or approve the majority of personal care products.

In fact, the FDA has prohibited only a handful of substances in your personal care products. This explains why your products can contain toxins like formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, toluene, and flame retardants.

So, this places the burden on you to find safe products.

Is 3-Free the Answer?

Recently, companies started labeling their nail polishes as 3-Free meaning that their polish did not contain the formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate. This is welcome because you really don’t want these toxins in your nail polish. Here’s why:

Dibutyl Phthalate – Used to make polish last longer and make it more flexible; however, it is increasingly linked to brain, behavioral changes, cancer and reproductive system harm. Dibutyl Phthalate is banned in Europe and listed as a developmental toxin in California.

Formaldehyde – Used as a nail hardener even though it’s a known carcinogen, asthmagen, and neurotoxin

Toluene – Used to make polish smooth; however, it’s linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, irritation

Other nail polishes are labeled 5-Free meaning that the polish doesn’t contain any formaldehyde resin or camphor. Formaldehyde resin shares the same harmful qualities as formaldehyde.

But, is 3-Free or 5-Free good enough? Should you feel good about your manicure if you opt for these 3/5-Free brands?

Probably not. Here’s why.

Safety of Dibutyl Phthalate Substitute Questioned

A lot of these 3-Free and 5-Free polishes substituted Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP) for Dibutyl Phthalate. TPHP makes polish flexible and durable, and it is also used as a chemical flame retardant.

Sometimes substitutes for harmful substances may not really be safe either.

Over the last decade, Dibutyl Phthalate has been replaced with TPHP. Many nail polishes now contain this new substance. A recent study by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group suggests that TPHP is absorbed through the skin and found evidence of exposure in all 26 participants.

Animal studies indicate it is an endocrine disruptor and another study linked exposure to fertility problems. As a further red flag, the EPA added TPHP to its list of chemicals requiring in-depth reviews because of its widespread use.

What’s the bottom line?

Since 3-Free and 5-Free polishes may contain TPHP, you can’t be certain that these polishes are safe.

What is a safe polish?

List of Safe, Water-Based Nail Polishes

Safer nail polish is available. Most nail polishes are solvent-based, but several personal care product companies have developed water-based polishes free of acetate.

These polishes are free from harsh chemical odors. Water-based polishes won’t harden as fast as solvent-based, so there is a drawback. However, most customer reviews were positive.

SOPHi Naturals

Suncoat Nail Polish

Piggy Paint (for children)

Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish

Keeki Pure & Simple

If you are a frequent user of nail polish, it’s probably a good idea to reduce your chronic exposure to these harmful chemicals and try these safer alternatives.

Learn more about how to avoid the worst things in personal care products because it’s important to your health. Making a simple change to a safer less toxic nail polish can make a difference in your toxic exposure.


“Triphenyl phosphate, found in ‘eco-friendly’ nail polish, spurs worries”, Chicago Tribune

“Nail polish as a source of exposure to triphenyl phosphate”, PubMed

Campaign for Safer Cosmetics

“Found Toxic Nail Polish in Women’s Bodies”,

Killer Ice Cream, Genius Food Prep & More Goodness

Killer Ice cream, genius food prep, and more goodness

It’s summer. My favorite season. Life just seems simpler and less rushed. And, even though it’s really hot and the mosquitoes are biting, I still love summer’s freedom.

This probably comes from my childhood when we were free to spend the entire summer day out with friends–all we needed was a bike, swimsuit, and towel. And, even though I no longer get around on a bike and I have a job that requires at least 8 hours of my summer day, I always feel freer in the summer.

So, speaking of freedom, I’ve got five ways that will help you enjoy this summer, and feel freer.

#1 Killer Ice Cream

You’ve got to try this Cinnamon Coconut Ice Cream by Whole Natural Life. It’s simple to make. Only takes 4 ingredients: coconut milk, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Since it’s made without sugar and dairy, it’s a lot healthier than your typical ice cream. Get the recipe for Cinnamon Coconut Ice Cream.

Cinnamon Coconut Ice Cream

You’ll want to make a larger batch than the recipe calls for or risk being disappointed when this disappears before you’ve had seconds! It’s perfect on its own or with baked apple or maybe even apple pie. Always pairs well with pumpkin pie, so you can have a little summer during winter.

#2 Genius Food Prep Trick – Chicken Still Frozen? Try this!

Oops! You forgot to thaw the chicken…again! Instead of running to the grocery store for the Plan B dinner or doing take-out, try this approach to roast a whole frozen chicken.

How to Roast a Frozen Chicken

A Modern Homestead outlines each step (it’s pretty simple) and provides a great recipe for roasted (frozen) chicken with potatoes, carrots, onions, and of course garlic!

And, remember, save some leftovers to enjoy cold on your summer picnic.

#3 Genius Food Prep Tip – How to Meal Prep Like a Boss

To be honest, I had never heard of Meal Prep until I discovered Pinterest a few years ago. I was always one of those people who started planning dinner pretty close to dinner time. Of course, this means a lot of trips to the grocery store at the last minute. It also means more night’s punting by going out to dinner or doing take-out.

6 Tips to Meal Prep like a Boss

But, I found this post with 6 tips about how to meal prep like a boss. It’s smart and will free up a lot of time, so you can enjoy more of your summer. You start by taking an hour or two to plan. Small Bites Wellness lays out the plan and gives you loads of ideas for every type of planner.

Very smart.

#4 How to Make Almond Milk

Since summer time is a bit slower, you’ve got time to make your own almond milk. I promise you that once you’ve made your own milk, you’ll have a hard time going back to your store-bought version. I switched to homemade because I wanted to avoid some of the thickeners like carrageenan that I’ve heard may cause gut inflammation.

At first, I thought it was too time-consuming, but now I can get it made in just five minutes and it’s perfectly spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and turmeric.

Try A Modern Homestead’s recipe for Almond Milk. You’ll be happy you did.

#5 More Goodness to  Share – How to Make Turmeric Capsules

How to Make Turmeric Capsules

You need to keep your healthy summer look as long as possible, right? You might want to try Turmeric. After all, The Not So Perfect Housewife describes it as the coconut oil of supplements.

Turmeric helps reduce pain and boosts the immune system. Learn how to make Turmeric capsules using organic Turmeric and a secret ingredient that releases Turmeric’s goodness.

Please share these tips with your friends to help them make the most of the summer!

Five Easy Ways to Live Healthier without Sacrificing What You Love

Live healthier with these 5 easy ways for the whole family.

By Kim Studdard

A lifestyle change can be hard if you are doing it alone. This includes healthy eating and taking care of your body. Many of our food habits are formed at childhood, and it can be difficult to break bad habits of your significant other and children, even if they see you working toward becoming a better you.

You don’t have to force them into a healthy lifestyle, and you certainly don’t have to make a lot of changes all in one day.

Here are some easy and quick tips that can help you and your family ease into a healthier lifestyle, and enjoy the benefits of becoming healthier people.

Five Easy Ways to Live Healthier, without the Sacrifice

1. Cut Or Add One Thing Every Week

The easiest way to start or break a habit is to do it slowly. So, make a chart of every bad habit that you want to break, or good habit you want to take on, and implement a new one every week.

It could be something simple, such as drinking more water, or cutting out late night snacking. Whatever it is, make a plan as a family to stick to this goal for the week. If you accomplish it, add something else to your list. If not, take another week to try to make it stick.

Not only will this help you focus on a new goal, but it will also give you a sense of accomplishment when you realize you are sticking to it. It’s a great motivational tool, and can help you push forward even on the weeks that you would rather go back to old habits.

2. Make It Fun

Almost everyone loves to play some type of game. When you are trying to live a more wholesome life, turning your habits into a game can be a real lifesaver. Learn to garden and harvest your own fruits and vegetables. Take a bike ride with your family and see who can pedal the fastest. Pretend you are on an episode of chopped, and the best healthy dish wins a small prize (like choosing the next family outing).

Live Healthier

Photo Credit: HazelthePikachu

When you make having a healthier lifestyle fun, you are more likely to pursue it. When your family is having fun, they are more likely to keep up with you. Being healthy doesn’t mean the end of fun, it just opens up more possibilities.

3. Try It At Least Two Ways

Humans are versatile. We can adapt to just about any situation and thrive. The same goes for fruits and vegetables. Just because you don’t like broccoli fixed one way, doesn’t mean you don’t like broccoli. Try roasting it, steaming it with other vegetables, or even eat it raw with a homemade dressing.

There are so many ways to prepare your fruits and vegetables. You just have to find what works for you and your family, and what tastes delicious.

But, don’t say no to a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t tried in two different ways. You never know, something you say you don’t like may become your favorite thing.

4. Make It Homemade

There may be a time where on your healthy journey, you crave something. It could be chocolate cake, or pizza, or maybe even just chips and hummus. While these items aren’t terrible for you in moderation, they can wreak havoc on your lifestyle if constantly consumed.

Instead of going out every time you or a family member has a craving, try making what you want at home. You can find healthier pizza recipes online, and you can certainly add more vegetables to a pizza you make yourself.

Healthy Homemade Pizza

Photo Credit: Katrin Gilger

Craving sweets? Try making homemade apple pie, with more apple filling than crust. Not only will you satisfy your craving, but you will also keep your body happy and healthy. Plus, you could make this a family activity, which in return is much better than pigging out at a buffet.

5. Declutter Your Life

Another way to transition into a healthier lifestyle is to cleanse other areas of your life. Sure, healthy eating and exercising are important. But so is taking care of your mind and home. You can’t expect to live a full happy life if you are constantly putting nasty chemicals in your body. Stop habits like smoking, try to limit drinking and learn to make your own home and beauty products.

Get your kids and spouse on the wagon too. Let them pick a recipe, and learn to make it one weekend. There are quite a few recipes for homemade natural cleaners, body products, and even mocktails (for those who are trying to give up alcohol). Relying on these products over conventional products can help you and your family cut out other bad habits that you didn’t know existed, and in return, your bodies will thank you.

Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. Following these tips can help you implement change in your home, without sacrificing the things you love.

About the Author – Kim Studdard

Kim is a 22-year-old spouse and mother of one. She lives in Kansas City, MO with her family and three pets. She enjoys reading, writing, and mindlessly surfing Pinterest. Her number one priority is her daughter, and when she isn’t working full-time or freelancing, she enjoys going on mother-daughter dates. You can find her at Entrepremomer.

Forget the Grocery Store: The Best 5 Ways to Get Fresh Produce

The grocery store isn't your only option for a variety of fresh produce. Check out these alternatives.

By Jenny Berk, MSEd

Vegetables and fruits need to be a mainstay of your diet. In fact, the guidelines now suggest that you should not only eat at least five 1/2 cup servings of veggies and fruits a day, but also produce with lots of variety and colors are important as well.


There are amazing little phytochemicals and phytonutrients that live in the cell walls of vegetables and fruits, and each one is responsible for your overall health in different ways.

The Best 5 Ways to Get Fresh Produce – Local & Organic

So, while eating lots of green veggies will enhance your health, I don’t recommend just eating broccoli. The human body needs complementary but equally important phytochemicals found in the red, green, orange, light and dark veggies and fruits as well. Many of my clients bemoan the fact that produce tends to be pricey in their local supermarkets and the quality isn’t that great to boot!

Whenever possible, I tell my clients to get local, organic and fresh produce and then help them find beautiful and unique ways to eat them! If you’re looking for suggestions on how to get wonderful produce without compromising quality or breaking the bank, consider the five strategies below.

1. Grow a Garden

While this may seem intimidating at first, it is an excellent way for you to drive the ship in terms of quality and abundance.  You can start small by growing herbs on your counter and then expand your garden by buying raised 4×4 beds at Home Depot.

Some easy veggies to start trying that are great for growing your confidence with gardening are tomatoes, cucumbers and basil.  You’ve got a salad just waiting for you from your own backyard!

Fresh Produce in Raised Bed

2. Join a CSA

Have you head of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

The concept is this:  A local farmer sells “shares” of his farm to individuals.  People who sign up to purchase a share can head to the local farm and usually will be able to pick as much as they want of certain seasonal vegetables and fruits to put in a box to take home for the week.  It’s a brilliant concept and aims to benefit both the farmer and the consumer.

I even joined a CSA that delivered weekly to various gym and yoga facilities. This was amazing because after sweating it up in hot yoga I got to extend the healthy behavior and feeling I was having by taking home my fresh box of goodies for the week.

Here is a website where you can search for a local CSA near you!

3. Head to a Farmer’s Market

The beautiful thing about Farmer’s Markets is that it not only allows you to purchase a huge array of fresh produce from various local farms in the area, but it often has myriad other goodies as well such as cheese, fresh sustainably and ethically raised meats, breads and the like.

There is also often a community feel to Farmers Markets, which makes the whole experience so incredibly pleasant.  There is often music playing, face painting for the kids or other concurrent events that happen in and around the Farmers Market.  I highly recommend them.  Here is a site to help you find a Farmers Market near you.

Fresh Produce at Farmers Market

Photo Liz West

 4. Freeze your Best Fruits & Veggies Grown in your Garden for Next Season

Many of my clients tell me they tend to eat fewer veggies and fruits in the winter simply because the ones they love are not available or in season – they are extremely costly or are traveling great distances just to get to their plate.

One way to have what you want, when you want, is to freeze your fruits and veggies.  I have done this with strawberries, blueberries, corn and even asparagus and summer squash.  The quality stays intact and you can often just add them to smoothies and even soups and stews.

5. Have the Produce Delivered to your Home

Here in the Boston area there is this fabulous produce wonderland called Russo’s.  Much to my delight they started delivering a few months ago.  This was key for me because I can always depend on them for amazing veggies and fruits with lots of variety and at an amazing cost.

The downside?

It’s very out of my way and with a full-time job and 3 kids I rarely made it over there.  Now, it’s within my reach weekly because of delivery.  This system is becoming more and more popular as Americans get busier and busier.  Services like Peapod, Instacart, and Cart fresh are popping up everywhere and can be something that you can take advantage of as well!

The Best 5 Ways to Get Fresh Produce

Photo by Nicole Bratt

Get a Healthy Pantry Checklist!

So, over to you. Which one of these veggie/fruit haven strategies would you like to sample this year? Sound off below in the comments section.

By the way, if you’d like a copy of my FREE Healthy Pantry Essential Checklist, please click here to grab it.

I want my Healthy Pantry Checklist!

Jenny Berk

About the Author – Jenny Berk, MSEd

Jenny is the founder and owner of Jenny Eden Coaching – a coaching practice devoted to help men, women and teens create a more healthy and sustainable relationship with food and their body image. She is an Eating Psychology Coach, a mindful eating instructor and health and wellness blogger.

She specializes in gentle weight loss, unique binge eating cessation techniques and mindful eating practices.

Jenny received her Masters from the University of Pennsylvania in Psychological Services from the School of Education. She earned her certificate from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in 2015 and her MB-Eat certificate in 2016.