By: Maura Sweeney

If you’re looking to find happiness and peace, consider gifting forgiveness!

I’ve never been a gift-giving conformist. The first and last time my husband and I exchanged traditional Christmas gifts was 1981. We purchased them in October, opened them in November and paid off credit card bills till the following April. I barely remembered what we’d exchanged.

For the record, I’ve received a few noteworthy gifts: surprise trips with my husband; chocolate truffles made by our daughter; and special invitations from friends.

I’ve happily happily gifted concert tickets to girlfriends and given engagement and baby showers to young women. Adding to my giving excitement, I’ve outfitted a few women in attire they wouldn’t think to purchase for themselves.

For me, gifts that prove precious often transcend material purchases. My favorite gift of all is the gifting of forgiveness. It works like magic, bringing peace to the giver as well as the recipient!

Here are a few examples from my life.

Childhood: When I was growing up, I despised early bedtimes. By my 9th birthday, I announced that I wanted no presents and asked for a later bedtime instead. Angry and hurt by my mother’s negative response, I decided to freeze her out. In silent retribution, I decided to limit my conversation to yes and no answers while still maintaining my home-grown manners.

My silent treatment went completely unnoticed. Within a day and a half, I felt ugly, miserable and weary.

Being angry required too much strength and ran contrary to my nature. Realizing the only one suffering was me, I gave up my offense. I chose to give my forgiveness to the situation and I returned me harmony, even with the same early bedtime.

Career: A noteworthy experience with forgiveness occurred decades later at work. I accepted a start-up position with a new company and, in deference to my previous employer, took neither staff nor clients in my transition. An uphill challenge, the assignment required enormous efforts to set a firm foundation for this new company in an already established market.

Meanwhile, challenges mounted at home. My husband and I recently moved to a new house and took on a jumbo mortgage. We were soon surprised to find that normally stable tenants from both our income properties were defaulting on their rent. Now we were covering three monthly mortgages instead of one. Next, my husband’s income dropped when his largest client took its growing business direct.

The moment when things really hit the fan soon arrived at my office. While still struggling to build our operation, I learned that a large contract I’d negotiated turned sour. The client had completely misrepresented his business: his account produced a trickle instead of its anticipated roar.

Phoning the client for an explanation, I was informed he’d be out of town for a week.

I saw red. My fears reached a crescendo and focused on a single individual: the blond haired, 30-something client who coaxed me into special pricing he didn’t deserve.

Already stressed, I allowed his misrepresentation to turn me to panic. I imagined the business reputation I’d worked years to achieve vanishing into thin air. How dare this guy take away my good name?

By Saturday morning, I stood alone in my shower as water pelted over my exhausted frame. Drowning in a blackened world and completely unable to see light, I uttered a quiet prayer of desperation.

Words arose from a deep abyss in response: This will kill you. He’s not even aware.

Shocking my senses, the words brought welcome enlightenment. My unforgiving state of mind was metaphorically killing my soul. I could see that my client didn’t know this and likely didn’t care.

Immediately, I dropped my offense, forgiving my client and myself.

Stepping from the shower, the heaviness began to lift. A small smile returned to my face.

My outer circumstances hadn’t changed but the gift of forgiveness was allowing me to emerge from insanity. I could return to work a less fearful manager, administrator and wife.

Friendship: I’m reminded of a final story from years ago involving a precious female friend.

Struggling with unresolved anger against her mother and deep embarrassment over her husband’s errant behavior, this otherwise beautiful woman found herself confronting hidden fears that were long denied. In the midst of her conflict, I became an unintended – if not safe – target for her anger. Unable to see through her own pain, she remained blindly bound to her fears and equally chained to this offense.

One night, I had an extraordinary dream. In it, I saw the woman whose fear kept her from remembering who she was. Emblazoned across a piece of gold, three striking words appeared that would remind her of a lost identity.

Months later, this burdened woman received an anonymous gift. Inside a velvet jeweler’s box was a special 14-carat gold wedding band. It was inscribed with the same words I’d seen in the dream: beautiful, perfect *and pure.*

This magical opportunity to gift forgiveness produced pure joy for me. My sense is that it would bring similar joy and peace for the recipient of the gift.

Who is really gifting the forgiveness?

Whether we’re doing the forgiving – or gifting forgiveness to others – is sometimes hard to tell. But in either case, gifting forgiveness is quite the miracle. Gifting forgiveness with no strings attached prepares a path for peace, happiness and rest for our souls.

If you’re experiencing an offense or merely observing one, here’s hoping you won’t wait for a holiday.

Extend the marvelous gift of forgiveness any day of the year!

Maura Sweeney is an Author, Podcaster, Blogger and Speaker.

Her mantra is “Living Happy – Inside Out” and she can be found at

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5 Traits Every Empathic Person Possesses

Empaths are often recognized as individuals who possess highly sensitive skills and traits. These people are capable of absorbing the energies, emotions and feelings of other people around them, which is often why they are viewed as being so sensitive. In fact, empaths are so sensitive that if they do not learn how to protect themselves, they can easily end up suffering from depression and exhaustion, which in turn leads to unhealthy habits such as binging on drugs or food.

While there is nothing “special” about being an empath, it definitely makes life easier knowing whether or not you are an empath.

Here are five traits that describe most empaths. How many can you relate to?

Empaths tend to be introverted

Because empaths are so sensitive to the multitudes of stimuli that surround them every day, they tend to be introverted rather than extroverted. Crowds and large groups of people can easily overwhelm and exhaust an empath, so they prefer to socialize in small gatherings or alone with one or two others.

Empaths need time alone to rejuvenate and recharge

Part of being so sensitive to the myriad of energies floating around in the world is that it takes its toll on an empath much quicker than it would on a normal person. Empaths seek out solitude quite often in order to recharge their energy levels and prevent any situations where their emotions might get the best of them.

They rely heavily on their intuition

While everyone has a sense of intuition, empaths tend to rely on theirs with much more conviction. It’s one of their sharpest skills and they choose to listen to it more often than not. If their gut is saying “no,” the brain follows suit, trusting that intuition will not steer them in the wrong direction. This helps them avoid toxic people and toxic situations.

Empaths like to give too much sometimes

When a person or creature is going through hardship, empaths have the strange ability to literally feel exactly what the other person is feeling. This is why they tend to give much more than they receive. Empaths want to help soothe and protect creatures that are suffering, meaning they’re more likely to help homeless folks, or help a friend with a broken heart, or help a lost child find its parents.

Empaths thrive when they are in a natural environment

The hustle and bustle of urban environments can leave an empath feeling drained and exhausted. On the other hand, being in nature provides energy, clarity, and nourishment. Being outside in the presence of the natural world revitalizes their senses and makes it easier for them to release negative energies.

h/t Psychology Today

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10 Years Is All the Time We Have to Save Earth, Scientists Say

Climate change has been at the forefront of politics in countries all over the world as we continue to see the devastating effects it is having on planet Earth, and now scientists claim we have just 10 years to save the planet before disaster strikes.

Fortunately, they’ve also developed a model they hope will be used to balance the increasing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon sinks (such as forests) in order to keep temperatures from rising over 1.5 degrees Celsius, something that many believe will have catastrophic consequences for life on our planet.

Even though President Donald Trump has showed disdain for climate change efforts and has even sought to increase dirty energy production in the United States, scientists believe that the next decade will be a crucial period of time for those who have pledged to the Paris agreement.

Detailed online in Nature Communications, their study focuses on two major ways that world powers can help reverse the effects of climate change: by reducing emissions and restoring carbon sinks.

World Bank consultant Brian Walsh led the study, which concludes that fossil fuel use must be reduced to less than 25 percent of the global energy supply by the year 2100. For perspective, it is currently sitting at 95 percent. Secondly, deforestation needs to be halted or slowed down so as to achieve a 42 percent decrease in emissions by the year 2100.

The study looks at a large number of factors, including emissions from fossil fuels, agriculture, food production, bioenergy, and land use, as well as where carbon emissions originate from, where they go, and how our natural ecosystems work to absorb them.

“Earlier work on mitigation strategies by IIASA has shown the importance of demand-side measures, including efficiency, conservation, and behavioral change. Success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius,” said Keywan Riahi, Energy Program Director for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and co-author of the study.

Renewable energies are also featured in the study, with one favorable scenario seeing a five percent increase in wind, solar, and bioenergy each year until emissions peak in 2022. This scenario, even though it features renewable energy, would still lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase should the world not also incorporate “negative emissions” technologies.

What do you think about these warnings from researchers and scientists? Do you think the world will be thrust into chaos in 10 years?

h/t Inhabitat

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3 Big Reasons Why Narcissists Can Cause Lasting Damage

When a person takes on a narcissist as their romantic partner things can get ugly, fast. Eventually, you start to realize just how toxic the relationship truly is and begin to realize that your relationship isn’t really a relationship anymore--it’s a war. A war between saving yourself and letting this person destroy your very identity.

Recovering from this type of relationship isn’t the same as recovering from a normal one. Typically when you break up with someone you go through a period of grief where your brain forces you to think only about all of the bad stuff in the relationship. This helps you to heal and understand why it was not meant to be so that you can move on. Eventually, this leads to being able to remember the happy times. You can accept that there was some good in the relationship, and you’re happy to have had those moments, but things are different now and it’s okay.

After being with a narcissist, this process never kicks in like it should. Because there ultimately were no good moments, and you’re not actually recovering from a relationship turned sour or stale, but rather from a battle that you’ve been waging.

Here are three big reasons why relationships with narcissists can leave you feeling like you’ll never recover.

It’s easy to feel foolish and short-sighted

After it becomes obvious that the person you thought loved you is actually a sociopathic narcissist who was only interested in controlling every detail of your life, it can be difficult to not be hard on yourself for letting such a toxic person take hold of you. After all, it was your fault that you didn’t recognize this person as terrible in the first place, right?

It’s incredibly hard to recover when you feel as though your intuition and judgment are flawed.

Looking back, you start to realize that things weren’t as good as you thought they were

Oftentimes it is only when we are out of a relationship that we start to recognize just how toxic it actually was. With a narcissist, it’s the realization that the entire relationship was centered around just one person’s needs, desires and emotions. This is when you start to notice all of the little red flags that you missed the first time around.

This is hard to recover from because, again, you begin to question your own judgment and ability to correctly perceive reality--especially if your partner liked to gaslight you. It’s hard to heal when thinking about every little thing you did that played into their manipulative hands.

You suffer from feeling powerless

Because the narcissist’s whole goal of the relationship is to assert dominance and control, they often choose people they feel they can demean and belittle. After having your spirit broken, it becomes incredibly hard to function normally in other areas of life. How could you, after being forced to live in a constant state of defense and protection? Being proactive with a positive mindset is difficult after living in such a way. So, you might be doing life stuff, like paying bills and going to work, but you’re not actually healing.

h/t Psychology

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5 Ways to Tell If You're In Love or Just Attached to Someone

Have you ever met someone who seemed to be in a different relationship every other week? Or maybe it wasn’t so much that they had a new partner often, but that they never really took the time to be single? As someone who used to be this way in the past, I can tell you that it’s difficult to distinguish between actually being in love and having an unhealthy habit of simply getting attached to someone.

People get into relationships for a multitude of different reasons and sometimes these reasons are shallow and fleeting. So, if you’re just starting out in a relationship or are thinking about pursuing one, it’s always good to know the differences between someone you’re truly falling for and someone you’re with for other reasons.

Here are five differences between love and attachment.

Selfless vs. self-absorbed

When you truly love someone else, you start to put their best interests before your own. Your actions, behaviors and words all start to reflect the affection, passion and devotion you have for him or her.

When you’re attached to someone, the other person’s presence is necessary simply to fulfill your needs and desires. You’re not worried so much about their well-being, only your own.

Love is timeless, attachment has an expiration

True love never wonders about time and whether or not things will come to an end. It may cross your mind as a simple curiosity, but your love for the other person never allows this curiosity become a reality. When you’ve come to love someone, that love is almost always something that lasts forever.

Attachment has an expiration date from the start. It’s not a real connection, but rather a dependency for one person or both. Trying to grow through attachment is a disaster waiting to happen.

Passion vs. apathy

A relationship full of love is one that is full of passion and chemistry. You can’t really describe the feeling that’s inside of you, because that feeling is so intense and powerful that it’s hard to put into words. Yet, it’s always there, driving you, motivating you to be the best partner you can be.

Attachment is chock-full of apathy. You don’t really ever feel too strongly towards your partner, and you might have moments where emotions run high and things feel good, but it will never compare to the fiery dynamics of love.

Me vs. Us

Being truly in love with your partner means that the two of you have started planning your lives together. You have a new perspective on the world, one that is concerned with the best path for both of you. You are both respectful to each other’s life goals and wishes, and listen to and support one another concerning ambitions and dreams. You compromise to find the best plan of action for the couple.

Attachment is more of a power dynamic. One person has one plan in mind and the other person has another plan in mind, and each person is fighting to control the direction of the relationship. The paths are not converging, they’re separating.

Freedom vs. possession

True love means not needing to be attached to your partner at the hip at all times. True love creates freedom because worry and concern about who they’re with or what they’re doing when you’re not around is replaced with trust, loyalty and a strong bond. You both trust one another to do right by the other, even when they’re not around.

When you’re attached to someone, you’re never 100 percent okay without them around. You hate being apart from one another, not because of love, but because you’re worried about what they might do. If the only time you feel at ease or fully okay is when you’re with your partner, it’s an unhealthy attachment.

h/t Unified Soul Theory

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