Ugh. Life getting in the way of happiness again? Feel better ASAP when you use any of these life hacks to boost your mood and improve your life.

Have you felt kind of … blah … lately?

I know I have.

Spring doesn’t seem to want to make an appearance. I’ve got a lot on my plate. My teenager will soon be driving.

But all this negativity isn’t helping me. It’s not good for my mental state, and it’s not good for my quality of life or health.

So how do I bust out of this negatively?

The good news is it actually doesn’t take much. While a good vacation would be amazing, the reality is that I’m really not in a place where I can just drop everything and spend money on a trip to Hawaii. Instead, I’m going to have to life hack my way out of this one.

I learned a long time ago that feeling better about life can be as simple as an afternoon with a book or a brisk walk in the sunshine. If start to feel blah here are a few life hacks that can help you feel better about life almost immediately.

1. Help someone.

One of the best ways to break out of a funk is to help someone. Volunteer work has happiness benefits. You don’t even have to go so far as to spend an entire afternoon at the food pantry (although that’s not a bad way to spend a few hours). Just buying coffee for the person in line behind you, or helping your neighbor carry groceries can provide you with a bit of a mood boost.

2. Buy flowers.

Studies indicate that just looking at flowers can make you happier. I keep a plant near my desk. And, if someone doesn’t send me flowers, I go out and buy them myself. If you are feeling down, take a break and work in the flower garden or buy a bloom or two. It’s inexpensive, won’t lead to unnecessary clutter at home, and it will brighten your day.

3. Go for a walk.

In addition to flowers, this is one of my favorite go-to life hacks for feeling better almost instantly. Just getting up, stretching and walking up and down the stairs helps. But you get double happiness points if you get outside and walk in the sun.

4. Hug someone.

One of the best life hacks out there is hugging. Physical contact with others can help you feel better about life almost immediately. Cuddle with your kids. Get a massage from your S.O. Give a friend a hug.

But what if bae doesn’t like being touched or what if, like me, you’re single-ish? There’s a solution for that. I get a facial once a month, and manicures twice a month. Sure, I’m being paid to be touched, but it still improves my mood. Plus, I give my son a hug every morning before he leaves for school.

You can get that human interaction and feel better. Even introverts need to feel connected.

5. Listen to music.

Crank up the volume. Upbeat music can help you feel happy. When you listen to music you like, you get a mental break. Singing along can even increase the enjoyment. I love singing along to my favorite tunes — even if I’m not that great at it. If you’re looking for a release and an instant mood boost must is the way to go.

6. Hang out with happy people.

Who’s the happiest person you know? When you feel shitty, go find that person and hang out. Don’t complain at them. Just hang out and have fun. When you surround yourself with happy people, you are more likely to be happy. It’s one of the great life hacks.

7. Eat something healthy.

Full disclosure: I just ate three cookies. My son and I had a baking extravaganza and I sort of went for it. The downside to eat unhealthy food is the way it makes you feel afterward. Tame that sweet tooth.

A handful of nuts, an apple, or some carrot sticks can go a longer way toward helping you feel happy. Do your best to eat better in general. I’ve been slowly adding healthier food to my diet, and eating less junk.

Something healthy can perk you up immediately. And developing healthy eating habits can help you feel happier in general.

8. Smell something delicious.

One of my favorite life hacks for feeling better is to change the smells. Vanilla is one smell that many humans like — and that makes us happy to smell. (In fact, eating vanilla yogurt can help you feel better about life instantly.)

Figure out what smells make you smile, and then keep them on hand. I like citrus smells. They invigorate me. I also like lilacs smells. Plus, when you smell something, you are likely to take a deep breath. Just breathing deep can boost your mood. So take a deep breath and enjoy yourself.

9. Do something creative.

Whatever it is. Paint. Sketch. Get out the guitar. Write a poem. Sew. Creativity sparks something in us. It makes life instantly better. Just strumming aimlessly on the guitar until something different comes out provides me with a great deal of satisfaction.

I also enjoy coloring. I didn’t like coloring when I was a kid, but the advent of the adult coloring trend made me a believer. Just a few minutes with some colored pencils and a flower mandalas book can improve my mood immensely.

Let those creative juices flow and your life will be better immediately.

10. Take a social media break.

A growing body of research indicates that spending a lot of time on Facebook can make us feel bad.

How much time are you on social media?

Because it’s not just Facebook. We compare ourselves to others on Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, and just about anyplace else. Spending a lot of time on social media takes us away from what we have, and gets us focusing on what we don’t have, or what we think we should have.

I deleted the Facebook app from my phone about two months ago. I love it. Now, instead of checking Facebook when I feel the urge to be on my phone, I do a 10-minute language lesson with Duolingo.

Take a social media break and feel instantly better.

Small things make a big difference.

These things seem small. And they are. That’s the beauty of it. These little life hacks can make a big difference. Doing them will help you feel good right now.

But doing them on a regular basis will help you build habits that can improve your life substantially.

What do you think? Do you have any life hacks for feeling better right now? Share in our Facebook community!

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Stress is sucking you dry and ruining your relationships. Reclaim your quality of life.

It’s so easy to get stressed out.

I get stressed sometimes just thinking about raising my son, trying not to lose my job, or making sure I have the freelance clients I need to keep a roof over our heads.

Relationships tend to stress me out as well.

We could be stressed out all the time if we let ourselves feel that way. Stress ruins your life if you aren’t careful.

I’ve tried to reduce the stress in my life as a result of my concerns about what it could be doing to me.

How stress ruins your life.

You might be surprised at how stress ruins your life. Here are some of the ways stress impacts you:

Physical health.

First of all, stress can impact your physical health. According to the American Heart Association, stress can contribute to ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood pressure.

Part of the reason that stress can affect your physical health has to do with the fact that you often engage in in unhealthy behaviors when you’re stressed out.

Think about what you do to alleviate stress. I eat junk food a lot when I’m stressed. You might turn to smoking, drinking, or emotional eating. If you keep up with these behaviors they can have a long-term impact on your health.

Plus, there are indications that stress can even slow your efforts to lose weight and get healthy.

When stress drives you to unhealthy diet habits, diabetes, cancer, and heart attack can all be part of the picture.

Mental health.

Another way stress ruins your life is through mental health issues.

Stress can actually change the way your brain circuitry works, leading to changes in your mental health.

Not only that, but stress can lead to anxiety and depression. It can also contribute to emotional outbursts and difficulty keeping a lid on your anger.

I know that when I’m stressed I’m more likely to be angry or to lose sight of what’s important. Ongoing stress can put pressure on you mentally and affect your mental health in the long run.

Relationships.

While you’re thinking about how stress ruins your life physically and mentally, don’t forget about how all of this can impact your relationships.

I have to try really hard not to let stress interfere with my relationship with my son a lot of the time. When I’m stressed, I’m more likely to have shorter patience for my son’s foibles. I might even be upset and unhappy in a way that has nothing to do with my son — but still impacts him because he’s in the house.

Other relationships can suffer when you feel a lot of stress in your life. How you treat your S.O. or your parents can be impacted by your stress response. If you are constantly

If you are constantly mean to the people in your life because of stress, eventually they will pull away. Your relationships will suffer. You can’t have a good quality of life with your social fabric falling to pieces.

Work performance.

How well do you do at work when you are stressed out? It’s not just about your relationships with your coworkers and boss — although that’s important. It’s also about your actual performance.

If your stress and anxiety keep you up at night, you won’t be effective at work. You’ll make poor decisions, and you probably won’t give your best.

You don’t want this stress weighing you down and ruining things at your job.

Stress and quality of life.

That’s what it comes down to: quality of life.

All of the areas that stress impacts relate to quality of life. Your relationships at work, your home life, your health, and your mental state are all impacted by stress.

In some cases, stress can be good for you. The right kind of stress in limited doses can help you strive for what’s next and get you out of your comfort zone.

However, when you have a lot of stress, and there’s a lot of negativity because of it, it can ruin your life.

Keep stress from ruining your life.

Stress ruins your life when it’s not under control, so the key is to manage it in a way that allows you to stay on top of your relationships and avoid the health problems that can come with chronic stress.

Here are some ideas for reducing stress and keeping it from ruining your life:

  • Practice gratitude: Believe it or not, gratitude can help you reduce your stress levels. Practicing thankfulness in your daily life can help you cope with problems and reduce the chances that these problems will stress you out long-term.
  • Meditate: You don’t even have to meditate for very long. I know meditation helps me reduce my own stress. Take five minutes to sit quietly in the morning and focus on the present. You can also use meditation at night to clear your mind and let go of the day.
  • Take a break: When I’m tackling a tough assignment or feeling writer’s block, I take a break. If you can’t achieve a breakthrough, you strart to become stressed. Then your performance suffers, and you feel even more stressed. It’s a vicious cycle. Break the cycle. Take a break, do something relaxing and enjoyable. You might actually get what you need that way.
  • Exercise: A brisk walk can reduce stress and clear your mind. When I’m especially stressed, I like to go downstairs and work with the punching bag. This helps me get out my aggression and relieves some of my pent up anxiety and anger.
  • Nature: Even pictures of nature can help you calm down. Our brains appreciate nature and respond positively. Keeping plants near your workspace or taking a look out your window into your backyard can lift your spirits and help you relieve stress.

In the end, you can’t completely rid yourself of stress. But stress doesn’t have to ruin your life. Look for ways to relax and rejuvenate. Take the time for yourself. When you do this, you will find yourself happier and healthier.

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Dieting rarely works. In fact, chronic dieting can lead to bigger weight gain. Here’s how to alter your lifestyle to be healthier and happier.

So, you went on another diet. And that diet failed you.

Dieting is no fun and it gets less fun the older we get. The older we get, the smarter we need to be about dieting.

When I was in high school, I didn’t have to diet. When I was in college, eliminating cheese from my diet for a week got me back into shape. Today, that’s not nearly enough.

It’s even worse when you diet and gained weight anyway. How does that happen?

Cursed cortisol.

If you’re on a diet, you’re likely on a cardio routine. That means long bike rides, long walks, long runs, long times in a humid, body-sweat-infused exercise room with dozens of your weight loss peers.

This routine may have worked when we were kids, but during our adulting years, these same exercises increase our stress levels more than they used to do. Stress produces increased levels of cortisol in our bodies, which converts blood sugar into fat.

Ugh! Doesn’t cortisol know fat is the enemy of diets?

This is a bitch for us, but it helped our cavemen ancestors. Our cave brothers and sisters had to run long stretches because something was chasing them.

Today’s solution is to do aerobic exercise in moderation, preferably at lower heart-rate levels incorporated with anaerobic exercise.

If you diet and gained weight, it’s time to re-think your routine.

Stressful stress.

This same hypocritical hormone, cortisol, hypo-produces and goes into hypo-overdrive when we’re stressed about any and everything. Whether it’s work-stress, family-stress, relationship-stress, emotional stress, or stress-stress, we incur the same wrath from cortisol as when we run 10 miles to Ben & Jerry’s.

Anything that you do to reduce your stress levels will reduce the hypo-production of cortisol. Leave bad situations. Meditate. Adopt healthy exercises to relieve stress. Get yourself in nature.

A great way to knock all these out at once is to go for a hike in the woods, by the ocean, or in a park. Being in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and acts as an active meditation.

Suspect sleep.

On the flip-side, lack of sleep produces extra serotonin. When we’re stressed or tired for any reason, we usually want to feel comfortable.

What’s the easiest and most satisfying way to feel comfortable? Eating comfort food!

The reason you want that breakfast donut, a plate of spaghetti, and dessert cake is because high-fat and high-carb food produce serotonin that makes us tired.

This should cause us to sleep more, except that white, processed sugars make it hard to fall asleep and lose pounds.

If you diet and gained weight anyway, take a look at your sleep schedule.

Processed poisons.

Natural sugars in whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, include vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals, and fiber, which are all good for you.

Processed sugars don’t have those benefits and provide no value other than gaining weight and keeping us awake.

The same goes for processed flour and, therefore, we should do our best to avoid both. 

The things we eat matter more than we think. Reduce the processed foods you eat, and turn more toward produce and whole grains. You’ll see better results, even without all the calorie counting.

Low-down, low-fat.

For most dieters, avoiding fat is as important as avoiding carbs. The problem is that fats, proteins, and high-fiber carbohydrates produce satiety hormones, such as corticotrophin and cholecystokinin, which make us feel full.

We eat more than we need to when we don’t feel full when we should. Therefore, include some fats in your diet. Healthy fats include nuts, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish and, yes, even dark chocolate – in moderation.

Pay attention to what kinds of things you’re eating. Not all calories are created equal. Just cutting calories might not be enough, especially if you diet and gained weight in the end.

Horrible hunger.

Likewise, when we feel too hungry too often, our bodies go into protection mode and store what food we do eat as fat. This helped our caveman brothers and sisters when food was scarce during the long, cold winter. Most of us today don’t suffer from a scarcity of food.

Our bodies love it if we eat six smaller meals a day rather than three meals a day. It’s especially important to eat breakfast, rather than starving all day and binge eating at night.

Binge weight watching.

Fits and starts of eating also cause us to binge eat. Because our brains think we’re starving, we’ll dive right into the first bowl or bag of food we see only to eat more than we should. It takes about 20 minutes for those satiety hormones mentioned above to reach our brains and tell us to slow you down or stop eating. Unfortunately for many, this is too little too late.

Again, eat six smaller meals throughout the day and you’ll be golden.

Feeling hungry doesn’t help anyone. If you diet and gained weight, even though you’re hungry all the time, your problem might be the hunger.

Magnificent muscle.

It’s possible that because you’re dieting and doing moderate levels of aerobic exercises that you’re also doing appropriate amounts of anaerobic exercises, like lifting weights, yoga, and pilates.

Muscle weighs more than fat, and bodies that weigh the same look better when their weight is more muscle than fat. So, gain more muscle and don’t worry about having too much. For most of us, that would be hard to do.

Try focusing on inches, rather than weight. If you are losing inches, but still gain weight, it might be muscle.

These are eight reasons WTF you may be gaining weight when you’re dieting. Some are good and some are bad. Now that you know what to look out for, manage your diet and exercise to never be sad.

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Loving your work isn’t reason enough to stick with a job. Sometimes you need to move on.

Do you love your job?

There are plenty of jobs that are rewarding. There’s no shame in your W-2 game.

But what if it’s time to move on, even if you love your job?

There are times when your awesome job just isn’t cutting it anymore. Sometimes you just need to move forward, no matter how much you enjoy what you’re doing.

You’re not learning and growing.

When you first started this job you love, it probably came with challenges.

Now, you know the ropes. You might be running on automatic.

While you can always learn from others, you might reach the point where your job no longer provides you regular opportunities to learn and grow.

Life isn’t just about working. Because our work is so often part of our identities, it makes sense that it should also help us progress. If you love your job, but you aren’t moving forward with it anymore, it might be time to start looking for a new challenge.

If you hope to stretch and grow, you can’t stick with the thing you’re comfortable with. So, no matter how much you like it, you might have outgrown it.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It just means it’s time to move on to the next thing.

You think you can make a big impact elsewhere.

Now that you’ve made a difference in your current job, it’s time to move on to another place where you can make a difference.

Many of us like to feel like our work is meaningful. We want purpose in our work.

You might love your job because it does offer a sense of purpose. But how much more meaning can you add in your current position? Have you made your impact, done good work, and feel good about the situation?

But maybe you think you can offer your skills elsewhere.

If you feel like you can make a difference in a new career or position, it’s time to move on.

There’s nothing wrong with moving from position to position, working to make an impact wherever you go. Once you feel like you’ve given all you can to one job, it might be time to go elsewhere and offer your talents and abilities to a new position.

You want to feel more empowered.

Maybe you love your job, but you feel like you can’t really make suggestions or use your skills to their full ability.

There are plenty of jobs where you can do meaningful work and use some of your skills. You can feel satisfied in these jobs and love what you do, for the most part.

But are you empowered to bring a unique spin to the position? Do you feel like you can use your full range of skills? The reality of the situation is that sometimes, even in good jobs, management isn’t interested in letting you bring your ideas to the table.

If you aren’t comfortable approaching your boss with new ideas, or if you don’t feel like you can take your skills to their full potential, you might need to move on.

Look for a company culture that encourages workers to share their skills and ideas. Look for a company that offers you the chance to take ownership of new projects and initiatives.

Finally, consider looking for a company that welcomes mistakes. Sometimes your ideas won’t pan out. But you need to feel comfortable making mistakes on occasion. We all have mis-hits, and feeling free to explore the possibilities is important.

Leave your job behind — even if you like it — once you realize you don’t feel empowered to try new things and potentially fail.

Better balance in your life.

Maybe you love your job, but it’s taking over your life.

That’s not a huge deal if you don’t have family or friends to clutter up the place. It also doesn’t matter if you have no interests outside your work.

But most of us have family and friends and other interests.

No matter how much you like your job, if it’s causing you to lose sight of everything else that makes life worthwhile, it might be time to find something else.

Look for a way to have better balance in your life. Look for a job that allows you to make a difference, while still incorporating other aspects of your life. You’ll feel much better about the situation, and still have work you love to do.

You’re ready for a new location.

Sometimes it’s not about your job. Sometimes it’s about where you live.

Even though I’m not totally psyched about living in my hometown, I do like that I feel like I can make a difference in local politics. At some point, though, I might feel like I’ve run my course in my current location.

I’ll want to move.

Maybe you are starting to feel the same. Maybe you need a change of pace. Maybe you want to move to a town that fits your style better. Perhaps you’re looking for a new challenge. Or maybe you think moving will mean a lower cost of living. And, of course, you might have a partner with an amazing new opportunity. Sometimes you move for someone else.

Whatever the reason, if you are ready to move to a new location, it doesn’t matter if you love your job. You might need to leave it behind in search of a new living situation.

You need more money.

It’s a hard truth: you need money to survive.

Even if you’re living simply, the job you love might not offer enough for you to live on.

You can work on a side hustle to make up the difference. If you really love your job and don’t want to quit just to make more money, a side gig can help.

However, in some cases, you might need to move on and find a better-paying job. Take the skills and experience you’ve acquired and look for a job that pays you enough to live on.

It’s possible to find good work that pays enough, even if you don’t love it quite as much.

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Not excited about a long-term relationship with your partner? Up your breakup game.

Some people love falling in love and being with just one person.

Then, there are the people who love to “hit it and quit it.”

We don’t think much about another category. This third category of dating is evident when you’re just not as excited about the person you’re with. You’ve been clear about it and they just don’t seem to be getting the message.

You’re just not that into them.

And you certainly don’t want a long-term relationship.

The fun beginning.

In the beginning, it was great to have someone to do something with.

After all, normally you’re at home with the cat or the dog. On the one time you ventured outside of your home, you ended up meeting someone.

They seemed really nice until you went out to eat dinner and you were appalled by their table manners and how they treated the wait staff. At this point, you’re kind of turned off. But, you continue to hang out anyway, even though you’re just not that into them.

Trust me, this is a recipe for disaster.

If you’re not sure about how all of this will play out check out the following movie: He’s Just Not That Into You. It’s basically the Cliff Notes of what to look out for when you’re confused by what your boo is doing.

You’re a pretty nice person (you think) so you decide to cool it off because they aren’t the one for you. But, they just don’t seem to be getting the message.

What to do?

Be honest.

There’s nothing worse than being strung along in a one-sided relationship.

As kindly as possible tell them the truth. It’s not you, it’s me.

List all of the reason why you’re just not the right person for them or why you’re just not in the place to date them. Maybe you’re just not ready for a long-term relationship.

When you have this conversation, don’t leave the door open for confusion. Be clear that there is no possibility for you to be together in the future. Ever.

The real story.

We’re all adults here.

So the next one is all about asserting your awesome sexual self.

Maybe it has been a long time since you had sex. Your temporary partner fits your booty call requirements but not your long-term bae needs. Be clear that you just wanted to “hit it and quit it” and that nothing was going to happen beyond that.

Don’t be cruel, though. You may be the best that they’ve ever had, so understand why your persistent lover may be unwilling to get the hint, especially if they have been hoping for a long-term relationship.

Don’t be mean about saying you’re not the one for them, but do be firm about the fact that you are moving on and that you won’t be moving on with them.

Don’t be stupid.

It’s at this point when the dumper sometimes makes some ill-thought out mistakes.

One of the worst mistakes is taking back the annoying previous lover because you just got tired of them bugging you (which was probably what they were hoping for).

Don’t do this. It just creates an endless cycle of crazy that you are a willing participant in. You said you don’t want a long-term relationship with this person, so don’t encourage them.

Don’t accept any gifts your old bae wants to give you. It’s confusing to them and inconsistent with the message that you’re moving on.

Things to keep in mind as you press forward.

When it’s time to communicate with the persistent person who just doesn’t want to let you go, take a look at the entire situation.

Are they acting crazy? If that’s the case you need to keep your safety in mind and let your friends and family know that you’re becoming concerned about the situation.

Trust your gut. Do you feel like your safety is threatened because they just can’t let you go or they don’t seem to be responding to the message that you’re communicating? Get law enforcement involved if you feel like your safety is at risk.

Finally, if you’re not dealing with someone who is crazy but just not picking up on your message, don’t be mean. Ghosting? Not cool. The slow-fade? Not so cool either.

Just balls it up, meet for coffee, and get it done.

Move on.

Finally, don’t feel guilty about moving on.

We have all been on both sides of the dating coin. It’s a natural part of the dating process. Sometimes the person is just not right for you and that’s ok. Like the Bachelor, there is always another person out there waiting in the wings to find you.

Create that space by letting go of relationships that just aren’t working. That way you will be able to welcome the amazing new person in your life.

That might be the right person for you.

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You either gave your child some genetic material or chose to adopt. That means you’re a parent. Time to act like it.

Parenting is difficult.

It’s rarely fun.

And it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be the “cool” parent or even of wanting your child to think of you as a “best friend.”

However, the reality is that your kid doesn’t need another friend. What s/he needs is a parent. Technically, that’s what you are. After all, you either gave some of your genetic material, or you chose to adopt. When that happened, you agreed to be a parent.

Now you need to act like one.

Stability is important for children.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is provide a stable environment for your child.

Some research indicates that stability is more important than family structure. This is a huge relief to me since my son is now in a single-parent home.

In order to be a parent and provide stability, you need to have a schedule and rules. Children sometimes whine about rules and structure, but the reality is that they need it.

Structure, and a supportive environment that helps maintain that structure, are necessary for children to thrive.

Your child doesn’t understand why bedtime is important, or why you need to limit their screentime. You might feel mean for sending them to bed or making them eat dinner with you at the table, but the reality is that’s what it takes to be a parent.

My son chafes at the idea of going to bed between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. But if he doesn’t get to bed during those times, he turns into a monster when it’s time to get up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The structure and stability in my son’s life means he knows when it’s time to do homework, when he can hang out with his actual friends, and when it’s time to go to bed. He feels safe, and he has a sense of what’s next.

These are important things for children, and the research bears it out. That’s why, when I travel for business, I rely on my parents to keep some amount of structure in my son’s life.

The stability he experiences, whether I’m here or not (I’m mostly here, though), is good for him.

Your child isn’t your confidante.

When I took a court-mandated parenting class as part of the conditions of my divorce, one of the concepts they pressed home was this: your child isn’t your confidante.

We like to think that by telling our children how we really feel, we’re being honest and straightforward.

The reality, though, is that your kid isn’t emotionally prepared for you to hear about your problems with your parents. They aren’t ready to hear your deepest, darkest secrets.

If you’re looking for a buddy, look for an adult.

I have friends my own age that I can talk to about relationships issues, how much I dislike one of my son’s teachers, and the challenges associated living where I live. My son doesn’t need to be burdened with that shit.

The good news is that you can be open and invite your child’s confidence without trying to be their friend.

Establish a pattern early on of listening and engaging with your child. Be open and honest in an age-appropriate manner when they ask tough questions.

When my son complains about our least-favorite teacher, I empathize with him, but I don’t bad-mouth the teacher. “I know it’s hard sometimes. I had teachers that I didn’t get along with, too. But you still need to do your work and do a good job. You’re smart enough to get through this.”

What I’d really like to say is, “I know your teacher is being an asshat and that’s a dumb assignment. Let’s skip it and go do something fun instead.”

My son and I have talked about thorny issues, from politics to his friends to *gulp* sex. He knows I don’t shy away from the tough subjects, and I take him seriously. He knows I’ll be honest and straightforward, even if I won’t give him details I don’t think he’s ready for.

Invite your child’s confidence, but do it from a place of teaching and guidance, not from a place of peer-like friendship.

Your child needs you to be a parent. You can help and guide them in a way that is more likely to result in long-term success for life. But not if you’re more concerned about being your child’s best buddy.

You can still be “cool” and be a parent.

While your goal shouldn’t focus on being cool, you can still be an awesome person, and be a parent.

My son and I love a lot of the same geeky things. His friends know that when they come over here, I’ll make popcorn and play Rock Band with them if they invite. They also know that if they have a Batman question, I’ll have the answer.

While I still make them go to bed when they sleep over, and I won’t let them just roam the mall aimlessly for hours upon hours, they do think I’m cool — at least for now.

If you can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your children and their friends, and you make a little effort to get to know them, you’ll be considered cool, even during times you have to be a parent and say no.

Walking that line can be challenging, and you might have to experiment a bit to find it. But the important thing is that you be a parent by setting expectations for your child, teaching life lessons, and enforcing consequences.

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One of the most important relationships in your life is the one you have with money. Make sure you build a lasting connection to your finances.

Do you feel connected to your money?

One of my biggest fears is that apps will get in the way of my relationship to my money.

While apps like Mint make it easy to see where your money is going and get a handle on your finances, these apps aren’t everything.

In fact, they can get in the way of your relationship to your money. And that’s a problem. If you want to have the best results with your finances, you need to feel connected to your money.

Personal finance is hands-on.

One of the biggest problems I have with apps is the fact that you don’t really have to think about what you’re doing with your money.

Just sync up your account and check every now and again to see if you have the money available to make a purchase.

This approach doesn’t encourage you to think about what you’re spending your money on — or why you’re spending it. One of the biggest mistakes I made with money was spending without know my priorities.

When you’re connected to your money, you pay attention to the reasons behind your spending. If you step away from the app and track your spending manually, you develop a more intimate relationship with your finances.

And you know exactly what’s going on.

Even though I use personal finance software (Moneydance), I refuse to sync up it up with my accounts. Instead, I update everything manually. I go in there, receipts in hand, and log every purchase.

This forces me to confront the reality that sometimes the things I spend on don’t match my priorities or help me reach my goals. I spot problems faster — and can work to solve problems faster as a result.

Money is a tool.

Being connected to your money allows you to see it as a tool, rather than an end itself.

How many times have you lamented your lack of cash? I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to think that money is going to solve your problems.

The fact of the matter is that more money won’t change your habits. If you’re just looking at your app in despair, you’re not going to really get in there and tackle the underlying problems.

Look at money as a tool. It can help you do what you want.

With money, you can save for that vacation, plan for a truly golden retirement, and even provide for the security of your family.

Building that connection takes more than just looking at the cool graphs some app provides you. Instead, it’s about planning. You need to check in with your finances. Is your money plan working? Is it helping you reach your lifestyle goals?

Being connected to your money is about knowing what you have coming in, and being aware of how you direct those resources so that you are building something of value in your life.

What about automation?

Even though I’m not a fan of using apps to sync up my bank accounts, I am a fan of automated finances.

Rather than write check after check, I like setting my accounts up for automatic payments. My insurance, internet, and other bills are automatically taken care of. Hell, I even donate to charity using my credit card to make automatic payments.

When I first started automating everything, I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up becoming disconnected from my money. So I make it a point to manually enter purchases into my personal finance software. I also reconcile my accounts every month.

Many people think that they don’t need to reconcile their accounts each month. After all, thanks to online banking, it’s possible to look at all of your account each day if you want. You can look at what’s cleared and catch fraudulent charges quickly.

However, I like reconciling my accounts. It forces me to review all of my spending again and look at patterns. When I reconcile an account, it means that I have to stay connected — even though I automate my finances for the most part.

You don’t have to give up your apps.

Of course, you don’t have to give up your apps to remain connected to your money.

There are plenty of ways to stay connected to your finances, no matter how you choose to manage your money. Here are some things you should do on a regular basis to ensure that you and your money maintain a strong relationship:

  • Review your spending regularly. Don’t just glance at a graph or get your information from an app. At least once a month really dig in there. Look at some of the individual purchases you make. Do those things match your priorities? Are you starting to drift into “wasting money” territory?
  • Review your investments. From your retirement account to any sort of taxable investment account, you should regularly check in with your returns. Does what you’re setting aside still make sense for your goals? Have you seen an increase in income that means you should be investing more?
  • Create a long-term financial plan. Put together a long-term financial plan that looks at your finances holistically. Pay attention to where you are now, and use your life map to hone in on your priorities. Create a long-term financial plan that takes into account your goals and lifestyle requirements.
  • Make adjustments as needed. It’s not just about making a plan and then forgetting about it. You should revisit your long-term plan at least once a year and make adjustments as needed. Life changes you. Your goals change. You need to change things up.

Remember: your money works for you. However, if you aren’t paying attention and if you aren’t connected to your money, it won’t do you any good. Pretty soon, you’ll find you’re a slave to your finances.

There are plenty of great financial tools that can help you move forward in life. From apps to automatic payments, you can use these tools to streamline your finances.

But you can’t let them come between you and your money.

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