Blog Posts by Sarah McColl, Shine staff

  • Learning to love the chaos

    I just spent a weekend in a house with six cats, four dogs, a phone that rings every seven minutes, and a doorbell that trills twice a day. The cacophony of commotion in this house got me thinking about simplicity and how we try to create it in our lives, inspired by those silent, Zen-like photographs of orchids and a cup of green tea. Instead of fighting against the fact of our loud lives filled with kids, soccer practice, and teeth cleanings, maybe our best bet is to embrace the messiness of life. Here, five ideas how.

    Most of life is out of our control. We can't make people call or not call. We can't change the economy. We can't keep our loved ones from getting sick or keep disaster at bay. What we can control is ourselves: how kind we are, how we adapt to change, how much we smile. Doing our best work, eating food that makes us feel healthy, and how we talk to ourselves and others are all under our own domain. Even if you can only do it for one day,

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  • What happened to TV's gal pals?

    I have a standing, 24-minute lunch date with Kate & Allie, and the reason I keep tuning in isn't because of Allie's awesome style icon-worthy puff-sleeved sweaters or the so-cute-you-want-to-pinch him Chip. It's because the show offers something that feels markedly absent on television today: a friendship between women represented in full form. Why the heck does a 25-year-old show feel so modern in its portrayal of friendship?

    Kate and Allie live together in an apartment in New York's West Village and raise their kids in an age-of-divorce kind of blended family. Did you get that? They're not lesbians, they're divorcées, and the main axis of the show is a friendship between two women who are, predictably, polar opposites but have managed to be friends since high school. At the end of the day, they put their feet up on the coffee table, each have a nip of brandy, and talk about it all: men, money, kids, career, who they are versus who they thought they'd be. And it's funny. They don't

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  • Poll: Do you have trouble making decisions?

    When I saw this story on indecision in the Wall Street Journal, an image instantly sprang to mind of people who waffle. You know the ones: They stand in the grocery store aisle looking back and forth between boxes; they spend days debating whether they should make the call or take the job. They are, sometimes, well, me. See where you fit on the spectrum of black-and-white thinkers versus shades-of-gray seers, then weigh in on our poll. Can't decide? Check out our no-fail suggestion for making decisions fast.

    Shades-of-gray thinkers have more trouble deciding because they have more ambivalence; the choice of which option to take isn't immediately clear to them. Psychologists ignored ambivalence for years as insignificant. But recent studies have shown that there is some upside to indecision. It's a "coming to grips with the complexity of the world," Jeff Larsen, a psychology professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, is quoted as saying. Those

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  • What's wabi sabi got to do with it?

    Thanks to the magazine Whole Living, I have a new favorite life-guiding principle that sounds like something you order at a sushi restaurant. Wabi sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in an imperfect world. And while it's hard to define precisely, a definition by author Leonard Koren has come to take hold: "Wabi sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental." Here's what this means to you and why it matters.

    The magazine article set out some examples on what wabi sabi is, but also what it isn't. Wabi sabi is those cracked, crazy looking heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market, handmade pottery, wrinkles from smiling. It's not "Botox, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, smart phones or the drive for relentless self-improvement." And it's not our sleek, stylized, 21st century idea of modern simplicity either (which is often just code for clinically spare rooms

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  • Poll: Does the buddy system really work?

    One of my friends is deep in a life makeover. Six months ago, she decided to sit down weekly on a therapist's couch. Since then, she's been meditating and journaling up a storm in the name of personal wellness. So none of us were surprised when she showed up at a party over the weekend after seeing a nutritionist, wondering aloud if this was a health helper worth the hefty expense. "You don't need a health coach," another friend suggested, "you need an accountability partner." But is the buddy system really as helpful as an expert?

    A study at Stanford University showed that even small amounts of social support, like a quick phone call or an email from a friend, can help produce lasting change in our health. But would a friend offer the same "I don't want to disappoint her," pressure as someone who wears a shroud of authoritative anonymity? Think of Gladys at the weekly weigh-in of a diet program. She doesn't know that you're the world's best crocheter or play a mean game of horse. Her

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  • How yoga changed my life

    In the spirit of National Yoga Month, we asked three of our favorite yoginis to tell us how yoga has made over their lives. As most of us know: it's so much more than exercise. Be inspired, and then find a free yoga class in your area.

    "Yoga has reminded me to be easy in my body."
    --Tara Stiles, creator of Yoga Anywhere and Slim Calm Sexy Yoga

    "Studies have shown that women who practice yoga regularly have a more positive body image than those who don't," explains Esther Kane, MSW, author of It's Not About the Food. "It's not about how we look on the outside that counts in yoga."

    Abigail Steidley, a Martha Beck certified mind-body coach, adds that connecting to our breath in yoga roots us in our bodies, instead of letting our minds run willy-nilly, "rushing off to think about daily to-dos, concerns, and stressful issues. When we fully inhabit our bodies, we feel confident because we accept and love our bodies and feel at home in them. This is probably the most important thing anyone

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  • Why we shouldn't be bummed to wave summer goodbye and welcome fall

    Here's something new for me: I've been resisting fall. Usually I love September's back-to-school feeling, but this year, letting go of summer has felt like letting go of something vital and fun forever. Just now, I looked out the window of the coffee shop I'm sitting in to see a flutter of leaves falling to the ground. Okay, so something is being lost: leaves and barbecues and flip-flops. But today marks the autumn equinox, and a clarion call to find a new fall rhythm. It's different than summer's chaos, to be sure, but it offers its own set of charms.

    Fall Fun
    Okay, let's wipe the tears from our eyes. Fall isn't winter, after all. We've got apple-picking, pumpkin-carving, Billie Holiday's "Autumn in New York," tights, knee socks, fire pits, football, and changing leaves to look forward. There's a lot of cozy, wistful romance to the season. The trick is accepting it for what it is, instead of trying to make it something it isn't.

    The Rhythm of Routine
    Summer's a flurry of excitement,

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  • 8 healthy snacks that can live in your desk drawer

    If I had every dollar back that I fed into the vending machine when I heard its four o'clock snack siren song, my Roth IRA would be significantly more flush, and I'd likely have a firmer midsection. But from now on, what those cute vending machine stocking guys put in those wire racks is going to stay there. We've got desk drawers filled with the sort of tempting treats that won't do as much damage to our wallet or our waistline.

  • How to feel better about your naked bod (and maybe your whole life) by tonight

    Do you ever wonder if feeling bad about our bodies is a placeholder for all the ways we feel bad about life in general? Maybe you hate your job or had a terrible father or shrink from opportunities at work. It's much easier to just say, "I hate my thighs," than it is to dig into what's really keeping your self-esteem in first gear. But there's a silver lining to this predicament. What if tonight we threw our self-loathing to the floor along with our cardigan? If we're using our bodies as shorthand for our life as a whole, then maybe they're also the quickest way to feel pretty bad ass tonight. It's worth a try, don't you think?

    Luxuriate some kind attention on your body.

    Here's a word we don't use enough in modern life: toilette. It brings to mind an old-fashioned daily ablution with potions, fragrance, and creams. Not a mad dash five-minute teeth-brushing and hair-combing, but a slow, daily ritual that is about attention and care. And it doesn't have to be time-consuming. It could

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  • 6 truths we can learn from Don Draper's Real-Life Makeover

    AMCTV.COMAMCTV.COMY'all know we're crazy Mad Men fans, even if the office politics make us die a little inside. But watching Sunday's episode, you could have knocked me over with a feather: even rapscallion Don Draper wants a Real-Life Makeover! Here, six universal truths evident in his makeover and applicable to yours.

    It's never too late, and you're never too far gone.
    So you've been lying to everyone about everything for your entire adult life. So you took a wrecking ball to your wife and family. Your whole life can be in ruins, but let this be a lesson to all of us: you are never too far gone for a change. Things are never too bad to get better, and it's never too late to make over yourself or your life. If Don can do it, any of us can. Change can happen whenever we have the will.

    Write in a journal.

    How surprised were you when Don sat by the window in his apartment and started writing about his feelings? Dude is sad. But instead of temporarily drinking his troubles away, he's working through his

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