(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life

Now I’ve had the time of my life
No, I never felt like this before
Yes I swear, it’s the truth
And I owe it all to you
‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life
And I owe it all to you
romance
I’ve been waiting for so long
Now I’ve finally found someone
To stand by me
We saw the writing on the wall
As we felt this magical fantasy
Now with passion in our eyes
There’s no way we could disguise it secretly
So we take each other’s hand
‘Cause we seem to understand
The urgency
Just remember
You’re the one thing
I can’t get enough of
So I’ll tell you something
This could be love because
I’ve had the time of my life
No, I never felt this way before
Yes, I swear, it’s the truth
And I owe it all to you
Hey, baby
With my body and soul
I want you more than you’ll ever know
So we’ll just let it go
Don’t be afraid to lose control, no
Yes, I know what’s on your mind
When you say, “Stay with me tonight” (stay with me)
Just remember
You’re the one thing
I can’t get enough of
So I’ll tell you something
This could be love because
I’ve had the time of my life
No, I never felt this way before
Yes, I swear, it’s the truth
And I owe it all to you
‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life
And I’ve searched though every open door
‘Til I found the truth
And I owe it all to you
Now I’ve had the time of my life
No, I never felt this way before
Yes, I swear, it’s the truth
And I owe it all to you
I’ve had the time of my life
No, I never felt this way before
Yes, I swear, it’s the truth
And I owe it all to you
.
‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life (the time of my life)
And I’ve searched though every open door
‘Til I found the truth
And I owe it all to yo

8 Health Benefits From Having More of Them

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” – Benjamin Franklin

“One key to success is to have lunch at the time of day most people have breakfast.” – Robert Brault

There are many famous quotes by famous and influential people about rising early in the morning.  But is there any strength to these quotes? This article talks about 8 benefits of being an early riser.

Early mornings for some can be a drag, and let’s be honest here, there will always be morning’s especially when it’s dark outside that all you will want to do is pull the covers over your head for an extra 5 minutes.

With so many benefits to waking up early, from enhancing your productivity in school or work, to being better able to stick to a diet plan to having more energy levels and better mood, it’s easy to see why many famous people swear by it attributing to their success, Richard Branson for example says he wakes at 5 am each morning.

Knowing this it is hard not to adopt this way of life to your daily routine. So let’s talk about some of these benefits and how to become an early riser.

1. Positive Outlook

According to studies early risers often tend to go to bed early as well, which means they are more likely to get the 7-9 hours recommended sleep for adults.

Sleeping the full amount regularly is said to help lead towards a healthier body and mind,  which in turn has its own benefits, so it is easy to see why early risers may be less stressed and have more positivity in their lives.

2. More Energy

More rest equals more energy, plain and simple . If you get into the routine of rising early and retiring to bed early you are more likely to have a better sleeping pattern which leads to being more energetic throughout the day, helping you accomplish your goals and tasks in a faster and more productive manner.

3. Body System Reboot

Regular sleep is important for your general health.  Not only does a full night sleep help to drop your blood pressure, helps your muscles to relax and repair, your breathing to slow and your body temperature to drop, but studies show that T-cells, which are the white blood cells that help to fight infection, tend to drop when you get a full night’s sleep. This is your immune system rebooting itself while you rest.

4. More Time to Exercise

After a busy day’s work, you can be both mentally and physically exhausted and the last thing you want to do is head to the gym or go out for a run. You make promises to yourself you’ll go tomorrow, only to have the same thing happen.  Early risers have the benefit of being able to fit their workout in, before the madness of the day takes over. This also helps to kickstart the body and mind which will energize you for the day.

5. Become more Organized

Sometimes the saying “Not enough hours in the day” springs to mind.

We fall asleep thinking about all the things we are going to get done the following day, whether that be at work or at home, or both. Then something throws us off, we sleep in, forgot something on the way to work, or get delayed in traffic and our day seems to spiral after that.

Being an early riser means you can get a head start on the day and helps to kickstart your day off to a good start.

By planning and laying out some goals and tasks to accomplish the previous day can help you be more organized and make use of that early start.

6. Healthier Eating

No time for breakfast? Grabbing something quick and easy on the go while you

run out the door? Sound familiar? Rising later doesn’t give you the much needed time to break the fast from the night before and prepare a sustainable breakfast that will set you up for the day.

Recent research has found that late sleepers generally consume approximately 248 more calories than those who rise early. They tend to only eat half as much fruit and vegetables and twice as much fast food as their early riser counterparts.

7. More Productive

Your brain tends to be the most alert in the morning, so why not use that time wisely to focus on important tasks un-interrupted while the rest of your house and world sleep.

You tend to make better decisions and think more clearly in the morning, then at any other time of day.

Starting the day early also improves your concentration which means you can accomplish those goals and tasks that you set out the night before. It also means that by the time you get to work, you are fully awake and properly acclimatized to the day meaning you will be more alert during those peak hours.

8. Helps your Skin Look Healthy

Our skin tends to look its best in the morning after a full night’s restful sleep. And being an early riser means you can take advantage and take your time to make sure your skin looks its best.

People who wake up early also tend to have regular sleeping habits which help to ensure that your skin gets the proper time to rejuvenate itself.

Getting into the Routine

Ok, so we’ve outlined some tips on how to be an early riser, but how do we start getting into the routine, while also getting enough sleep. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Start slowly.
  • Try waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual at the start. Get used to this for a few days, then cut back another 15 minutes. Keep doing this gradually until you get to your goal time.
  • Allow yourself to go to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, but if you continue to do this while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start all over again. Try going to bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep and read while in bed or mediate for a few minutes to help relax your mind. If you’re really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
  • Don’t have your alarm clock next to your bed
  • This is an important one, if it is within arms reach, the temptation is there to just reach out and hit the snooze button or worse still you could end up just turning it off.
  • By having your alarm clock far from your bed, you will have to get up out of bed to shut it off. Then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
  • Open the blinds or curtains and get out of the room as soon as you turn off the alarm
  • By doing this you are less likely to talk yourself into getting back into bed, even if it is just for a few minutes.
  • Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.
  • Have a good reason for setting that alarm:
  • Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This will help motivate you to get up and do it. Once it is done, you’ll be awake and ready to take on the day.

Take advantage of all that extra time

Have a nice hot cup of coffee or tea. Read a book, Watch the sunrise or meditate. Don’t wake up early, to wander around and not make the most of your time. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.

Getting up early has many benefits for both your body and your mind. The hardest part is convincing yourself to do it, and then getting into a routine of getting up early every morning. If you start implementing these tips you will soon see that it gets easier and eventually you will find that your body starts to get used to it, and you end up waking even before your alarm goes off.

 

 

14 Best Things To Do In Jerusalem

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Depending on who you speak to, you’ll get lots of different explanations as to why Jerusalem is so important, who the city belongs to and even what the most important place in the city is. One thing everyone can agree on though is that Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most important religious cities in the world.

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Jerusalem has a history that spans across millennia, a lot of which is there to explore and experience in the city, making it not just an important spot if you’re religious but also if you have even the slightest interest in history.

One of the biggest surprises of visiting though was definitely seeing how the city’s varied history brought together three distinctly different religions and how the city is important to each one. Typically religious sites in most other places across the world tend to be more important to just one religion, not several all at once and especially so not with how important and highly revered the city is to each religion.

 

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Then there’s how beautiful it is too! In some ways, it feels like walking back in time with buildings here that are thousands of years old – except, of course, updated and preserved for modern times.

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Suffice to say, a visit to the city is one that you absolutely have to add to your travel plans. Oh, and while you’re here, I’d recommend getting a guide.  You can easily explore without one but there’s so much detail to the city (for instance, the Via Dolorosa below) that you might perhaps otherwise miss if you just wanted around for the first time without know where you’re going to.

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Rather than carrying on about how amazing the Jerusalem is, let me show you exactly what I mean, as well as the very best things to do in Jerusalem when you visit.

1.) Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the holiest site in the world for Christians and is reported to be built on the place that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the holiest site in the world for Christians and is reported to be built on the place that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The building as it stands was built and destroyed several times over thousands of years with what exists now being a rather huge and impressive church.

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Given its huge significance, be prepared to queue here if you want to see most of the main sights in the church with some queues lasting hours – especially so the queue to see Jesus’s tomb where he resurrected from.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also the most important and final spot on from the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage (which I’ll explain further below).

2.) The Western Wall or The Wailing Wall

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The Western Wall is actually what’s left of an ancient temple of Jerusalem and is a hugely hallowed site for people of the Jewish faith, Christians and Muslims. The wall was first constructed around 19BCE and is easily one of the oldest places to visit in Jerusalem.

When you visit, there are separate sections for men and women – with men having to cover their heads; women don’t have the same requirement though they need to cover their shoulders and legs.

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There’s a whole etiquette to visiting which, while not enforced (e.g. taking a few steps away from the wall, walking backwards so you don’t turn your back to it) is greatly appreciated as this is an important and much-revered site in Jerusalem (having a guide here was invaluable because the knowledge and details provided here really helps you understand why the Western Wall is so important to so many people).

3.) The Temple Mount or Haram esh-Sharif

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Haram esh-Sharif is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem – revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims for multiple reasons. I’d attempt to go into each one but I feel like Wikipedia might best serve this purpose as it’s far too long and too detailed to get into here.

It is worth noting that this is one of the harder places to visit in Jerusalem due to its huge importance, making it reserved more for prayer than anything else.

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In modern times (i.e. these days), the stunning Dome of the Rock stands proudly on this site and is the most iconic landmark in the city. The central dome of this church glitters with gold and the colorful tiled exterior walls are absolutely beautiful. 

4.) Dome of the Rock

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As mentioned before, the Dome of the Rock is actually on the Temple Mount and is an intricately designed Islamic shrine, which – in addition to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If you want to visit, be prepared to queue as admission is only allowed in at certain times (it’s used otherwise for religious purposes) and as such, be prepared to set aside a fair bit of time to explore it properly.

5.) Armenian Quarter

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Jerusalem has played host to a large Armenian community for many years and this quarter is packed full of charming ancient architecture and historical buildings.

Armenians also know quite a thing or two about pottery and ceramic works so this is a great spot to visit to grab yourself a souvenir. (By the way, there are 4 quarters in total in Jerusalem – the Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter, The Jewish quarter and the Muslim quarter).

The center of the Armenian Quarter is located on the Armenian Patriarchate Road and spreads outwards to include the churches of St. James and St. Mark. This is a fantastic part of the city that is often explored less than the more well-known sites.

6.) Via Dolorosa

 

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Another hugely important site for those of the Christians the world over, the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Sorrow is reported to follow the route that Jesus Christ took when carrying the cross to Golgotha. It follows all the 14 stations of the Cross and when you’re here, you can follow this same route, ergo why this is a hugely important site for Christian pilgrims.

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On Fridays, you can actually follow a procession that is led by Franciscan monks through the Via Dolorosa. If you’re there on any other day (or to make the most of this route), it is worth having a guide who can point out each station as you go along.

7.) Christian Quarter

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Situated north of the Jaffa Gate and centered around the impressive Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Christian Quarter is an absolute must.

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Within the confines of this quarter is a swath of beautiful architecture from various ages, and a myriad of bustling Souks, markets, and pleasant cafes. Notable sites include the Ethiopian Monastery, the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Protestant Christ Church.

8.) The Tower of David

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This complex actually has no connection to King David and is also known as the Citadel. Built in 24 BC, this ancient structure has stood proudly for thousands of years and was erected by the notorious King Herod.

Within this structure is the interesting Tower of David Museum that displays the history of the city and its evolution.

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It is also possible to climb to the rooftop of the citadel for fantastic views of Jerusalem across to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Highly recommend it, it’s one of the best views of the city and really helps you get a sense of where everything is.)

9.) Muslim Quarter

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If you are looking for a place to shop and experience local life, the Muslim quarter is one of the best places to visit. It’s perhaps the busiest of all the quarters with its bustling markets, busy restaurants and refreshing juice spots to cool off in the heat (it was sooooooo hot when we visited).

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Starting at Damascus gate, the Muslim quarter is bursting with activity and is a fantastic place to find a bargain, haggle with the locals or visit the historic Pool of Bethesda.

10.) The Cardo

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I was so fascinated and excited about this one as I’d just a few months before, seen the oldest mosaic map in the world (in Jordan) which referred to this spot.

The Cardo essentially was like this long as grand walkway with Roman columns adorning the path and a market bustling all around. The map in Jordan (the Madaba map) even showed the Cardo with the columns it would have had back then.

While you’re there, to get a sense of what this once bustling part of the city looked like, keep an eye out for the mural depicting the old city of Jerusalem.

11.) Jewish Quarter

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The Jewish quarter is where you’ll find some of the most important spots to visit in the city e.g. Western Wall and the Cardo, amongst others.

Now while you might not necessarily notice when you switch from one quarter to another here, you do notice a big difference in how the quarters are organized. The Jewish quarter being, perhaps with the exception of the Armenian quarter (and the main sight in it – the Western Wall) being fairly quiet compared to say the busier Muslim and Christian quarters.

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If you’re looking for a break from the crowds, this is easily one of the best parts of the city to explore.

12.) Mount Zion

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Another hugely significant religious site, Mount Zion is the place where Christ held the Last Supper and where the Virgin Mary lived during the later years of her life. For the Jewish community, this is also the place of King David’s Tomb.

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Located on this hill today is a variety of stunning shrines and churches; furthermore, you can also see the expanse of the city on a clear day.

13.) Kidron Valley

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Located between Mount Zion and Mount of Olives; this is one of the most ancient parts of Jerusalem. This is the area that both Muslims and Jews believe that the Last Judgment will take place.

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Archaeological excavations have found structures dating back as far as 4000 years old and various tunnels and temples are open to exploring such as Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Pool of Siloam.

14.) Jaffa Gate

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This ancient gate used to be one of the 7 gates into Jerusalem and is quite the architectural masterpiece to behold. It was built in the 1500s and was done in an L-shape as a defensive measure to help slow down attackers.

It’s easily one of the best things to do in Jerusalem you want to get a sense of what it looked like centuries ago and can be done either as you enter Jerusalem or indeed, as you leave.

19 Beautiful Islands In Greece You Have To Visit

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Greece is one of those countries that you’ll never get bored of visiting. With thousands of little islands and the gorgeous mainland, it’s a place that just gets better with every trip. That’s what makes a trip to some of the most beautiful islands in Greece a necessity.

With stunning islands like Kefalonia, to the big (and gorgeous) islands like Crete – each one has its own particular charm, mountains of yummy Greek food to devour, and plenty of stunning beaches to take a dip.

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Oh yeah, and if you’re looking for someone to carry your luggage whilst you’re there, just pop me a message! I’m already itching to go back. Ha! 🤣

Take a look of 19 of the very best and beautiful islands in Greece you should visit this year. You’ll love it!

1.) Santorini

 

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Yeah, I know… I’m probably starting with the most obvious of Greek islands, but with good reason. I’m pretty sure Santorini is the most famous and possibly the most beautiful islands in Greece.

With its clifftop villages and amazing views, it’s one of the unique Greek Islands that has been massively shaped by a volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago. Legend has it that the island is actually the home of Atlantis which was devoured by the sea quite a few millennia ago.

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Whatever the case, you’re going to love it. Make sure to try some of the tasty dishes on the island and explore some of the prettiest sites to see once you’ve arrived.

2.) Mykonos

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Mykonos is a stunner of a place, especially with all the little coves and quaint towns (that are soooo picturesque).

Make sure to wander around the cobbled streets of Mykonos Town, head over to Delos Island on a Kaiki (small boat) and visit the monastery of Panagia Tourliani. Oh yeah, don’t forget to see the island’s famous windmills too! They’re gorgeous at sunset.

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For a tasty bite, head over to M-eating for some of their freshly caught sea bass. It really is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should explore.

3.) Corfu

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Perched on the west side of Greece, Corfu is one of the larger northerly islands you should definitely visit.

Now, there’s a common misconception that Corfu is all about package holidays and boozy lads nights out. This couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of the island. Yes, there are a few areas that cater to the party crowd but the vast majority of the island is so gorgeous and the ideal spot for us travellers to explore.

Make sure to visit the dramatic Cape Drastis, visit the Vlacherna Monastery and see the stunning canal d’Amour.

4.) Crete

Crete is, without a doubt, the largest of the beautiful islands in Greece you should visit.

The best thing about Crete is that there’s so much to see, meaning you can easily justify a week or two just on the island itself. Heck, go for a month if you want!

Whilst you’re exploring the island, head over to Spinalonga Island to see the historic fort, take a boat to the isolated Greek village of Loutro and ramble around Balos Lagoon. You’ll get some epic views.

 

5.) Rhodes

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Rhodes was the first ever Greek island I’d ever visited… and what an introduction it was. whilst you’re there, hop over to the village of Lindos, see the Acropolis and the medieval sites within the old town itself.

For some of the tastiest dishes, pop into Ta Kardasia if you’re hankering for some authentic Greek food. They make the best moussaka in all of Rhodes.

6.) Amorgos

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Part of the Cyclades island group, Amorgos is one of those islands that’s a little off-the-beaten-track, especially compared to places like Santorini.

The best thing about Amorgos is that you can literally spend your trip on ‘island time’, chilling out, gorging on the fresh seafood that arrives every morning and seeing the stunning sites like; Hozoviotissa, the monastery on the cliffs.

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For the best appaki chicken, head over to Chora and the restaurant of TranzisToRaki. Just make sure to arrive early, or be prepared to wait for a table. This place does get busy with locals and visitors alike.

7.) Zakynthos

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Perched within the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is one stunning island to visit. With places like Navagio Beach, the Blue Caves and Porto Limnionas, you’ll be spoilt for choice in places to explore.

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Of course, most of us travellers to the island will definitely want to see Navagio Beach, meaning there’ll be lots of boat tours to get to the beach itself.

The waters really are stunningly blue and you’ll get some of the best views you could wish for. As a popular spot, expect it to get a little crowded but it’s a must-see spot whilst you’re on the island.

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Don’t forget to visit the nearby Marathonisi Island, too.

8.) Kefalonia

Another gorgeous spot in the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should definitely visit.

Make sure to visit the historic hilly capital of Argostoli, explore the stunning Melissani Cave and visit Myrtos Beach too.

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Although you’re not allowed to swim in Melissani Cave, you can still take a boat tour of this stunning place.

It has to be seen to be believed.

9.) Lefkada

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Lefkada is one of only a handful of beautiful islands in Greece that is reachable from the mainland by road. Nestled just off the coast and connected by a bridge and causeway, it’s a really special island to visit especially after exploring the gorgeous spots in mainland Greece. You’ll find it’s quite a bit quieter (with visitors) than lots of the other Greek islands, too.

Spend your days taking a well-earned dip at Porto Katsiki and gorge on all the food at Basilico Restaurant (in Nidri) who cook the best-grilled calamari.

10.) Paros

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Nestled in the Aegean Sea, Paros Island is about 80 km north of Santorini. Spend some time in the Old Port of Naoussa, take a dip at Kolymbithres Beach and gorge at the Markakis Restaurant (in Piso Livadi).

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You really won’t find a more authentic Greek taverna.

11.) Andros

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Andros is quite a mountainous and dramatic island you will want to visit. With a whole heap of mountain ranges and rugged coastal villages, you’ll definitely find Andros a throwback to times gone by. For a gorgeous, sandy beach, head to Agios Petros. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to explore some historical sites make sure to visit the Monastery of Panachrantos.

Also, if you want to feed your inner explorer spirit – pop down to the dramatic Cave Foros. It really is a stunner.

12.) Milos

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Pretty close to Crete, Milos is a stunning little volcanic island that really reminds me of Santorini – especially with the dramatic covers and cliffs.

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One of my favourite spots, especially for a little chill time is Firopotamos. It’s a great place for a dip. For dinner with a view, pop into Ergina Restuarant. You won’t be disappointed.

13.) Antipaxos

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Antipaxos is a tiny little island with only around 20 people living on it, so expect a warm welcome! One of the easiest ways to get to Antipaxos is from Paxos Island itself (which is about 2km away) which is a pretty easy ride as long as you can rent a boat.

Now, the island really is tiny, so you might want to consider a visit for a day trip, especially in the summer months when the beaches and scenery are just too good to miss.

14.) Syros

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Syros is a popular little island for city dwellers in Athens to head to for a little break and it’s easy to know why. This is a gorgeous island to explore. Wander around the narrow streets of Hermoupolis, see the pretty Apollon Theatre and head to Allou Yialou for some typical island food.

15.) Inouses

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Inouses island is only about 3 km from mainland Turkey and is tiny in comparison to islands like Crete but that shouldn’t stop you visiting. The island is totally beautiful! You can even rent a boat and skipper and visit Pasas for a day trip too.

Just make sure to take lots of supplies like water and grub. It’s great for a little getaway.

16.) Lesbos

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Lesbos is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you have to make time for. I mean, where else can you explore Molivos Castle, see a petrified forest and visit an Ouzo distillery (in Plomari).

For a pretty place to eat (with tasty food), head to Tropicana (in Molyvos) where they serve the best-roasted lamb and plums.  You’ll love it.

17.) Skiathos

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Skiathos is one of the smaller Greek islands that’s great to visit for a relaxing break. After spending your days relaxing on Lalaria Beach, pop over to Il Kastro to watch the sunset and gorge on all the delicious Greek food in one of the hundreds of little tavernas.

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The Windmill Restaurant (in Skiathos Town) is stunning if you’re looking for a special dining experience.

18.) Kea

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Often forgotten by many visitors to Greece, Kea is a charming little island that’ll whisk you away to a more down-to-earth and local experience.

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Lion of Kea. Don’t worry though, he’s made of stone! 🦁

19.) Symi

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The colourful house of Symi is as picturesque as they come and easily up there as one of the beautiful islands in Greece to visit.

Quite a bit away from the white-washed houses of Santorini, Symi is a colourful affair filled with oodles of charm that I know you’ll love.

20 Very Best Greek Islands To Visit (6)

Make sure to visit Panormitis Monastery, enjoy Toli Bay and eat all the seafood at Odyssia Restaurant.

Mihran & Hasmik signing Duet Nostalgia Melody

You all enjoy the melody of Nostalgia and Natalie song…Singing duet with Hasmik from Boston was a wonderful surprise. Hope you all will enjoy the remix and duet. I miss the good old days, here are no words to express this song!!

 

Nostalgia, we’re just like one another

You’re gentle and so am I

Nostalgia, I think about her

I call to her in the night

 

She lived over there

In the land of the cold

Where the untamed wind

Gives me a look

 

It snowed in the winter

It rained in the blue

She was lovely, nostalgia

Nostalgia, we’re just like one another

 

It’s December on your lands

Nostalgia, you play the gypsy

On the range of forgetting

She wanted to…

 

To burn her life up

Under a real spring

She was twenty years old

She went out to the sea

 

Towards a clearer sky

Leaving me in the grey, nostalgia

 

A winter love

The backwards sky

It was madness, nostalgia

Sometimes on the sea

When the night is clear

Her name comes back to me

Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia…

 

Taking In The Sunrise On The Top of Masada & Dead Sea

The Sunrise On The Top of Masada & Dead Sea

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF MASADA

 

I love a historical destination with a great story, and that’s exactly what Masada provides. Masada’s legacy is shared primarily through details  provided by Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, the commander of the Jewish forces during the First Jewish-Roman War from 66-73 AD who made it his mission to share Masada’s tragic ending.

Visiting Masada, the ancient fortress built atop a mountain plateau in modern day Israel, is a life-changing experience. No caveats necessary.

There’s simply nothing like visiting an ancient mountaintop fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea. It doesn’t feel real. But because of its isolation and the arid desert climate, the fortress once occupied by King Herod is a remarkably well-preserved relic of humanity’s ancient past, one you can climb to on the same paths used by visiting dignitaries and invading Roman troops.

Masada was most likely built between 37 and 31 BC by Herod the Great. While Josephus’ writings claim Hasmonean king Alexander Janeus built the site decades earlier, there is no architectural evidence that any type of construction was built earlier than Herod’s fortress. Herod ordered the development of the fortress because its geographical position made it a terrific strategic location for him. Masada sits on a plateau that is part of a cliff jetting more than 1,300 feet into the air. Around Masada are smaller but difficult to navigate cliffs with only three narrow paths leading to its gates. From the fortress Herod would be able to see enemies approaching from long distances, and the limited access served as an additional level of protection.

 

Two events defined Masada between 66 and 74 AD: the Great Revolt and the Siege of Masada. Prior to 66 AD Masada was controlled by the Romans, as it had been since Herod the Great ruled there. The Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans was led by Eleazar Ben Yair and the Sicarii. The Sicarii were a group of Jewish extremists who fled from Jerusalem and ultimately settled at Masada after taking possession of it following the Great Revolt. More and more of the Sicarii relocated to Masada in the years after the revolt as they were run out of Jerusalem due to ongoing conflicts with other Jewish groups.

 

By 72 AD, Masada had become the last Sicarii stronghold in the region and home to almost 1,000 people. With plans to take the fortress back, the Romans constructed a wall and built camps around Masada; they also built a ramp and a tower with a battering ram to breach the walls. As it became clear that the Romans siege would succeed and the Sicarii would be either enslaved or killed, Eleazar Ben Yair delivered speeches to his people and convinced them it would be better to die in honor than it would be to surrender and live in shame and humiliation. Judaism prohibits suicide, and so a small number of people were selected to murder almost the entire community, ensuring only one final volunteer would have to commit suicide. When the Romans arrived, they found the Sicarii destroyed everything except for food, which presumably they intentionally saved to prove they died not of starvation but because they chose to sacrifice themselves. According to Josephus in The War of the Jews, VII:

“[The Romans] were at a loss to conjecture what had happened here, encountering the mass of slain. Instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve and the contempt of death display by so many carrying it, unwavering, into execution.”

Not all stories have a happy ending.

Masada’s history since the Siege has been far quieter with significantly less bloodshed. The Romans stayed there only through the 2nd century AD, after which time a Byzantine monastery was founded in the 5th century and abandoned just two centuries later. Masada was rediscovered in the 19th century, with explorations and excavations marking much of the last 100 years. Today, Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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THE DEAD SEA

The Dead Sea, known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melakh (the Sea of Salt) is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the saline water of the lake give lead to the name because no fish can survive in the salty waters. The other result of the salty water is their renowned health and healing properties and the unique feature that one can float naturally in them.

The Dead Sea represents the lowest elevation  on Earth; it stands more than 1,400 feet below sea level. Herod the Great once used it as a health destination, as the salt and minerals from the water carry some solid health benefits. To this day many people flock to its shores to float, cover themselves in mud, or simply admire it. Those shores are a little harder to reach each year; they have been receding for decades, which is causing an environmental impact on the surrounding region. This is in part due to large sinkholes that have formed in its vicinity, which impacts the rate at which groundwater is replaced by freshwater—freshwater is a primary factor in the receding shorelines. While plans are in place to restore the balance, success is not guaranteed. Not far from the Dead Sea are the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; although you likely won’t stop and won’t have the chance to visit them, most tours will point them out as you drive past them.

Experiencing the Dead Sea is pretty straightforward. In some ways it’s a lot like visiting a beach; you can pick a spot with a chair or two, unload your belongings, and head into the water. From there, it’s a swim unlike any other you may have taken before. As soon as I waded into the water I could feel the salt water pushing my body up, and it took some effort to keep my feet on the sea floor. Once Adam and I were waist-deep, we submerged a bit and really felt the water’s efforts to force us into a floating position. I love to swim; I have dived into the warm waters off the coast of Bermuda and Florida’s Tarpon Springs, and I have cannonballed into the icy Southern Ocean in Antarctica. Floating in the Dead Sea was nothing like those experiences. The water was exceptionally hot—almost uncomfortable as we stood ankle-deep and started our walk out to deeper sections—and it’s not really designed for swimming. Given how it pushes you up to the surface, it’s best to just let the water do what it does best and force you into a relaxing floating position. We were happy to enjoy the sensation for a little while, smiling as we heard similar exclamations and observations from fellow travelers around us. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is a great way to end a day trip in Israel!

 

Memories from Old City of Jerusalem – Israel

The Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most intense places on Earth! At the heart of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions, this one-kilometer, walled-in area in the center of Jerusalem is beyond words and cannot be missed. The Old City is home to the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall and in Hebrew Kotel). This is the last remaining wall of what was once the Jewish Temple and is today the holiest site in the world for Jews.

Above the Western Wall lies the Dome of the Rock, which is important for Muslims as the site where the prophet Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven.

 

people gathering near brick wall

Just a few minutes’ walk away lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where some believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter. The walled city is entered by one of seven entry gates, although the busiest for tourists is the Jaffa Gate next to which is the Tower of David Museum, providing the history of Jerusalem within the Old City Walls. Each quarter has its own unique atmosphere and observations, sites and smells, and experiences.

 

 

In the Jewish Quarter, for instance, the narrow alleyways are lined by the homes of Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish families and Yeshivas (schools for Torah study). Walking around, you can observe the residents of the Jewish quarter go about their daily lives. There are teenage students in the Yeshivas who are often here from around the world, children playing outside schools between lessons, men rushing around between places of worship – and of course, many people praying at the Western Wall. The houses of the Old City – and the Jewish quarter, in particular – are hotly contested real estate, and for good reason. They command spectacular prices on the rare occasion that they trade hands.

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The Jewish Quarter’s narrow alleyways open up as you reach the Western Wall Plaza and the wall itself. At times of Jewish festivals, the wall can be crowded, and observing the tourists brushing alongside daily prayers here is an interesting site. Anybody can go up to the wall, although men and women have separate areas. Men should cover their heads (there are paper kippahs available), and women should wear modest clothing. It is customary to place a small prayer on a piece of paper within a crack on the wall. Amazingly, the vast Western Wall represents just a tiny percentage of this elevation of the Temple, and the Western Wall Tunnels, accessed via the plaza, allow visitors to see even more of the wall underground. Also interestingly, within the Muslim Quarter is whats known as the Little Western Wall where the wall is once again exposed and visible. This is argued to be holier than the iconic section of the wall because it is closer to the ‘Holy of Holies’ – the holiest part of the Temple.

The Muslim Quarter is a huge contrast to the Jewish Quarter. Its streets are busier and more crowded, with vendors – especially within the famous Shuk – selling all varieties of products. In contrast to the other quarters where shops are generally selling religious or tourist-appealing products, here the Shuk is literally an ancient shopping mall in the 21st century where one can practice their bartering skills and buy almost anything imaginable. As in the Jewish Quarter, and the rest of the Old City, tourists wandering the streets of the Muslim Quarter find it hard to imagine how the locals go about their everyday business so normally in what is such an intense place. Kids play in the street, and men sit out in cafes smoking nargila (hookah or shisha).

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The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

 

The Dome of the Rock sits above the Western Wall Plaza, and while non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the building itself, tourists are able to tour the compound and nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Moving into the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is yet another change. Home to about 40 holy sites to Christians, in the streets here you will see priests and pilgrims from around the world. This quarter was constructed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. Within this hot patch of real estate, even the Church is divided, with different parts controlled by different Christian sects, meaning that there are often disputes over maintenance and some parts are in poor condition.

The Armenian Quarter is one of the four sections within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The other Quarters are the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Quarters. The Armenians have the smallest section in the Old City and take up 14% of the total area of the Old City. The Quarter is home to approximately 2,000 people many of whom are connected to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenians have their own distinct language and culture and are ethnically neither Arab nor Jewish.

The Armenians originated from Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains and Iran. Soon after Jesus’ death the Armenians were converted to Christianity and ever since then have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  Armenian monks arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD. Jerusalem’s Armenian community is considered the oldest living Armenian Diaspora community in the world.

Armenians have had a strong presence in the city since at least the fourth century, when Armenia became Christian. Their quarter is said to be the oldest living Armenia diaspora community. Thousands of displaced survivors of the Armenian Genocide relocated to this part of Jerusalem in the 20th century.

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Narrow Alley in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem

Armenians displaced from the former Ottoman Empire because of the genocide brought with them a special type of Turkish-style ceramic, which has since become synonymous with Jerusalem and Armenians. It’s now used for all the street signs in the Old City and is also sold in many stores. Explore the walled Old City of Jerusalem, and you’ll soon spot beautifully crafted ceramic street signs spread through the area.

The Armenian compound is enclosed by an inner wall within the Armenian Quarter and includes St. James, a convent, school, churches and residences. Along the walk from the Jaffa Gate past the Zion Gate and to the Jewish Quarter are many small shops displaying the beautiful hand-painted Armenian pottery which is made locally. Armenian ceramics can be seen adorning many parts of the Old City including the Dome of the Rock and neighborhood street signs.

 

8 painfully obvious signs you hate Mondays (and feel unfulfilled)

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If you aren’t jumping out of bed Monday morning, there is a problem.

“Living for the weekend” is not a long-term strategy

You cannot go through life accepting that 5 out of every 7 days are going to be spent doing some undesirable to you.

If you are reading this right now in an environment that is not stimulating you, why are you even there to begin with? Because it’s easy? Because it’s comfortable? Because it pays well? If your answer is Yes, then you aren’t just doing a disservice to the company you’re working for (simply along for the ride), but you are doing a disservice to yourself.

And there is no clearer answer to that than how you feel first thing Monday morning.

If you feel any of the following, you need to question whether you’re in the right place or not.

1. You got a full night’s sleep and yet you still feel tired

This is a very clear indicator that sleep is not the problem.

The problem is you’re not emotionally invested in what you’re doing. Have you ever gone on a vacation or a trip where you’re doing stuff all day, going to bed late, and still waking up early with tons of energy because you’re excited to do more exploring?

That’s how you should feel every day, in some way, shape, or form.

2. You did not prepare yesterday for today

People despise feeling overwhelmed, and yet so many fail to realize they do it to themselves.

Failing to prepare means you are preparing to fail.

Mondays are only overwhelming if you did not take Sunday to get all your ducks in a row. And the reason why most people choose not to do this is because whatever it is they’re doing isn’t enjoyable to them.

3. Everyone else hates Mondays too

It’s easy to hate things other people hate too.

“Misery loves company.”

It’s impossible (or very, very difficult) to stay positive when your company culture is, “Hey Bob, how was your weekend?” / “Too short. Can’t believe it’s Monday. I hate Mondays.”

4. You aren’t doing something you love

Obviously.

You are not going to wake up feeling excited to go to a job you don’t genuinely enjoy.

It’s astounding how many people choose things out of comfort, or fear of the unknown, and bite the bullet on years upon years of dissatisfaction.

5. Social media either hates Mondays or crushes Mondays

Browse through Instagram on a Monday morning and you’ll see half a dozen coffee cup quote graphics either sharing the pains of waking up on a Monday, or the relentless ambition one must possess in order to crush Mondays goals.

What’s more important is, what do YOU want?

How do YOU want to be spending your Monday?

And then what can you do in order to bring that to fruition?

6. You don’t enjoy the people you work with

Most of the time, it’s the people around you that define how long you stay in any given situation.

Regardless of how you feel about the work, it can be very difficult to take satisfaction in doing something with people who don’t bring you positive energy — and vice versa.

7. Mondays mark the end of one life and the beginning of the next

When you “live for the weekend,” a Monday is the door shutting on your 48 hours of freedom — and that’s a pretty strong indicator you are living double lives.

One life is how you “pay the bills,” and the other life is what you do for personal enjoyment. In some capacity, you want to find a way to merge the two.

Otherwise, you will never find your work all that fulfilling.

8. Because Monday means doing it “all over again”

This speaks directly to our culture of chasing rewards as “means to an end.”

If you see every week as a sprint, and you endure it with the hopes that one day you’ll be “done” and you can finally “enjoy it and relax,” you’re doing it wrong. You’re missing the entire journey. You are aiming for something that doesn’t actually exist.

Fulfillment is found along the way, not in a treasure chest at the end of the rainbow.

 

12 Things Your Partner Needs To Hear More Often

The daily maintenance of a relationship is so much easier when you employ even a few of these twelve phrases.

 

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1. That You Want To Make Their Life Easier

2. That You Want To Keep Dating Them

3. That You Like Having Them Around

4. That You Want To Know About Their Day

5. What They Bring To Your Life

6. That You Support Them And Their Decisions

7. That You Find Them Attractive

8. That You Find Their Choices Attractive

9. That They Are A Priority

10. That You Still Appreciate Them

11. “I’m Sorry”

12. “I Love You”

Say It Loud, Say It Proud

How to Let Go of the Stress and Pressure That Weigh You Down

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.” ~Maureen Killoran

 

I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.

Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.

Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.

Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.

I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.

That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.

And it might look like this:

  • Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
  • Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
  • Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
  • Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
  • Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
  • Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
  • Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
  • Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
  • Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)

If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.

That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…

And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.

How to Relieve the Mental Pressure

There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.

1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.

All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.

I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:

Shame/guilt:

About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.

Fear:

Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.

When I feel it:

When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.

Anger:

Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.

Emptiness:

Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.

When I feel it:

When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.

When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!

I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.

And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:

Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.

Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.

Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.

Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.

The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.

So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?

2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).

It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.

On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.

Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.

That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).

It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!

How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?

Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:

Yoga

As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.

You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!

Tai Chi

I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.

Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!

Mindful hiking or walking

Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!

Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.

Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):

Through social triggers

We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.

I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.

Through creative triggers

Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.

Through environmental triggers

Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.

Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.

The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.

Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.

But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.

So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.