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It’s easy for people in the new love/newlywed stage to express their love during Valentine’s Day but what if you’re stuck in a rut? People get stuck in all types of ruts, such as a demanding work schedule, having children or being in a transitional stage, and showing love to your significant other can be tough.

This holiday can bring up a lot of emotion in people. For all of you in a relationship that is connected, then Valentine’s Day can be simple. Flowers, card and dinner lead to a great night with your significant other. If you are single, then maybe a night out with your friends or taking some alone time to engage in self-love. Then there’s that group of people, very often ending up in my office for couple’s counseling, who are having difficulty in their relationship and are unsure of how to celebrate the upcoming day of love. Here are some steps for you to follow to move out of the rut.

Making the first step
If you are unsure of how to create intimacy in your disconnected relationship, you might have to begin by taking the first step. Make a suggestion to your partner that you want to do something for V-Day or mention a restaurant you would like to make reservations at. If you wait for your partner to say something, you may be setting yourself up not to have your needs met or of having expectations which won’t lead to anything. This step requires you to be vulnerable. Check in with yourself and ask “What would it look like for me to be vulnerable with my partner?” and “What’s keeping me from being vulnerable with them?”.

Taking baby steps
Taking baby steps to reconnect with your partner this week. If you have fallen out of a regular routine you used to have, make it happen for the two of you to connect that way one night. If you used to eat dinner together every night, ask your significant other to be home in time for the two of you to share a meal. During the meal, it’s a great opportunity for you to broach the subject of Valentine’s Day. Gauge their reaction and response when moving forward with the discussion. Again, take small steps toward connection and it will help to create safety where there has been a gap in intimacy.

Enjoying the day for what it is
Remember that love can be expressed in many different ways, on many different days. If your partner’s love language is not gifts, he may not realize that gifts are a “requirement” of Valentine’s Day and especially if your love language is gifts. Take the day to express love to your significant other and other people in your life. Fill up your need to celebrate Valentine’s Day through several avenues. Bring in candy to work. Wear red throughout the week. Watch a sappy romcom on Friday. Post fun pictures of Facebook that remind you of love. How can you best express love to yourself, your significant other and friends/family?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

On this Meatless Monday, I have decided to dedicate a blog post to the mental health benefits of going/being vegan. I was inspired yesterday after meeting with the No-Meat Athlete group here in Fort Lauderdale for a 5k run and breakfast outing. Personally, I have been a vegan for over five years, after reading the infamous book, Skinny Bitch. Since then, I have dedicated one of my life’s purposes to being vegan. After giving some thought to the people I spent yesterday morning with, as well as examining the people in my life that are currently vegan, I decided to share about the ways I believe being vegan (and vegetarian) is good for your mental health. So my question for you after reading the following is how will you commit to your mental health through giving up meat on Mondays, going vegetarian or through the Full Monty of veganism?

Vegans practice compassion everyday
Vegans choose to eat plant-based foods every day over putting meat into their body. They choose to pick life over pleasure. They choose to make conscious decisions about what they put in their bodies. And the decision is to spare animals in their quest for nourishment. We live in a society where at one level animals are a part of our families. We spent millions each year on animal food, vet bills, costumes for animals, etc to ensure they are happy and healthy. We have dogs, cats, hamsters, snakes, guinea pigs, ferrets, etc as pets. And on the other hand, I went to a restaurant the other night that was serving antelope on the menu. Americans consume pigs, cows, ducks, fish and any plethora of other animals every day, several times a day. There is definitely an incongruence when a person keeps fish as a pet, gives them a name, feeds them every night and puts cute toys in their tank and that person sits down to a salmon dinner at night.

Vegans learn to be creative, in many aspects of their life
When you become vegan you get exposed to a multitude of foods that you would not have otherwise been exposed to. You learn to cook with a variety of spices, especially if you like tofu because tofu takes on the taste of whatever it is marinated or cooked in. You learn how to bake without the usage of eggs or dairy products. You learn how to make simple meals into extravagant vegan meals. It goes a step further than that for people who do not wear or use any animal products. Women who love purses learn how to get creative in their search for the best Big Buddha or Stella McCartney bags.

Vegans know how to engage people in conversation
The first rule of vegan club? Tell everyone about vegan club. Vegans have the best conversation starters. “How long have you been vegan”, “Have you ever considered going vegan”, “Let me tell you about my journey of becoming a vegan” and the list goes on and on. Vegans have the best jokes around: “Why did the tofu cross the road? To prove he wasn’t chicken”. Vegans have the best pick-up likes, too. “Can I take your picture for the sexiest vegan contest?”. “What’s your favorite thing to do with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos?”.

Vegans embrace their passion all the time
Being vegan means making choices every day about what to eat, what to wear and how to interact with the world. It takes commitment and dedication and vegans live that every day. For me, being vegan goes beyond what I eat. It is a lifestyle choice I decided to make. It has become a part of who I am and that part of me is expressed every day. Being passionate about something gives you the energy to wake up in the morning after a late night. Following your dreams requires being a passionate person. Opening up and being passionate in life are essentials for good mental health.

Vegans know how to have a good time
My favorite thing to tell non-vegans are being vegan is that Oreos are vegan. Oreos are my favorite dessert to cheat with. When everyone else is eating that generic birthday cake, I am usually found in the corner at parties, eating Oreos, one bite at a time. I always make sure there are Oreos at every party I throw. And why? Because vegans know how to have a good time. Vegans know how to let loose and let go in ways that make them feel comfortable. Vegans know how to laugh when people ask them where they get their protein from. Vegans know how to bring their own food to parties and still end up being the life of the party as they share the above mentioned vegan jokes.

I encourage each of you, whether you are already vegan/vegetarian, veg-curious, a Meatless Monday enthusiast or a fan of my blogs, to take a look at your relationship with meat and how it is impacting you in your life. Are you interested in learning more about going vegan? Here’s a link for more information.

Happy Meatless Mondays!

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Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

There is such a dichotomy of feelings when it comes to the holiday season. On one hand, you have all of the holiday spirit and joy. The feelings you get when you give and relieve presents or find the perfect gift for someone. Personally, I can’t help but sing along whenever Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer comes on and it brings me straight back to my childhood and singing Christmas carols with Girl Scouts at the mall. But, there are the other feelings that can come up. Dread about seeing long lost family members or worry about where to get the money for those perfect Christmas presents. What feelings are coming up for you this year?

A recommendation for dealing with your emotions is to manage expectations. You simple cannot doing everything. There tend to be a lot of demands on people’s time, money and energy during this time. Make a realistic plan for your resources. You might not be able to do everything you want and that’s okay. Trying to meet your expectations and everyone else’s can lead to burn out and depression. Setting boundaries and establishing realistic expectations will be helpful. What unrealistic expectations are you placing on yourself?

Another way to deal with holiday blues is to immerse yourself in the holidays, such as going to your work Christmas party and the Ugly Sweater party (as long as you mind the suggestion above). If you feel like isolating, you have to push yourself to do the opposite. Meet up a friend at a local Starbucks for a holiday themed drink. Just get out there and have some fun. Increasing pleasurable activities is a way to improve depression. Isolating, withdrawing and ignoring isn’t going to make your feelings go away. What holiday activity do you want to do before the season is up?

If your depression is worsening, making a last minute appointment with your therapist might be the type of support you need at this time. If your therapist’s office is closed, ask about the possibility for a phone session so you have the opportunity to check in, if needed.

Happy Holidays to everyone and I look forward to connected with my readers through the upcoming year with new and exciting blog posts.

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Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

The Do’s

1. Do put your best foot forward

– This is your first impression with your potential new mate. Wear something nice. Think of it like an interview. Dress to impress without overdoing it

2. Do monitor your thinking

– If you catch yourself in your head, employ thought stopping techniques. Be in the moment during your date and enjoy your time together

3. Do go in with a positive outlook

– The point of dating is to find your other half. Let go of the worry that will come with a new date. Look forward to what this date could be, as opposed to worrying about every and anything

4. Do share about yourself

– Again, this is like a job interview. Open up to that person on things you feel comfortable sharing. Having open communication is one of the foundations of a relationship

5. Do order whatever food you would normally get

– I’ve heard time and time again that many women order salads on the first date. This sets up a false impression. Go into the date as yourself and let the person appreciate that you might love quesadillas, not just lettuce and tomatoes!

6. Do have a good time

– Dating can be a lot of fun. It’s like opening up presents; you never know what surprise you might receive

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The Dont’s

1. Don’t place a lot of expectations on the other person

– It’s the first date. Don’t start dreaming up the next ten years of your life. Live in the moment

2. Don’t mislead the person on what you are looking for

– If you are looking for marriage, be upfront about it to manage the other person’s expectations

3. Don’t overshare

– I know #4 under “Do’s” says share, but there are some things you shouldn’t share on a first date, like exes or family drama

4. Don’t discuss politics, religion or other sensitive topics

– This goes along with the above but it needs to be reiterated. Telling a person your religion is appropriate but going into detail or trying to convert someone is not the best approach

5. Don’t worry too much

– Just breathe and be! It’s a first date, not a marriage proposal. Just use positive thoughts and affirmations to stay in the moment

6. Don’t be afraid to be the first one to reach out after the date

– There are a ton of “rules” regarding communication. Throw them out and do what feels right. If you want to text them the next day, then do it. If you want to call and plan the next date, then do it. If you are worried about this, read #5 again

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

1. Take what you learned

In every relationship, you learn something. It can be a hard lesson; it can be a valuable lesson. In the end, you would do best to look at what this relationship taught you. Each sacred encounter can provide you with an opportunity for growth and evaluation. The growth can come in the form of what to do and what not to do in future relationships. It might show you how to be more vulnerable and emotionally available. It might teach you to pick someone on the same emotional and spiritual plane as you are. Take time to journal or meditate on what you learned in the relationship and what you plan to do in the future.

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2. Celebrate

Celebrate your relationship. It was a sacred encounter, no matter how it ended. Look at all you gained from the relationship. Think about the good times. Look at an old picture and bring back the positive memories, while at the same time letting it go in celebration. The purpose of this exercise is not to reminisce about the past; it’s to look at it as a cause for celebration. You opened yourself up in a relationship and there were probably parts that were amazing. You can also celebrate yourself. Do something good for yourself that you have wanted to do for a while. Take time to nurture yourself. It’s cause for a celebration for what the relationship was to you, as well as a reward for how you showed up in the relationship. Break-ups are a hard thing to do through; why not make the best of it and pamper you? You’ll definitely feel better.

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3. Show gratitude

Gratitude is the way out of revenge, sadness and powerlessness from a past relationship. Gratitude is being thankful for what was and what is. Gratitude is about looking at the positive the relationship was and allowing yourself to be truly and deeply grateful for what the person meant to you. Say thank you every day until the pain is gone for that person. It can be about something specific they did or it can just be a general “thank you” for everything. Light a candle in gratitude. Make a list of things you are grateful today. The deeper the gratitude, the deeper the healing.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

Building a relationship or keeping one takes a balance of having a person maintain their identity and creating a life as a couple. It is easy to fall into a relationship and lose yourself in the moment. When you start to put 100% of your energy into your relationship, you risk the chance of losing your identity and independence in the process. Here are some tips for you to continue to do throughout your relationship as a way to maintain your “I”.

1. Keep your own hobbies

It’s always fun to date someone who has similar interests as you. This way on Saturday afternoon you can both go paddle boarding. But what about Sunday? Chances are he might be watching football. She might be reading the latest Chick Lit book. What are you going to do with your time? Find or maintain your own hobbies. Find a new local coffee shop, go to the gym or meet up with some friends at a 5k. Having your own hobbies is important for your sense of self and efficacy.

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2. Make time for family without your significant other

Again, this is an easy routine to fall into. Of course your significant other will be at every holiday and major event. However, sometimes it’s important to take time with your family, for you. There is a different level of comfort and openness between family members. Take the time to go to lunch with your sibling and share about your relationship, work or whatever else is on your mind.

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3. Enjoy time with your friends

When we get into relationships, it’s natural for your friendships to fall to the wayside. This is a normal process that happens; however it is also important to recognize that it is happening and recommit to incorporating a balance. Just like with your family, take the afternoon to go out with your best friends. The time you spend apart will make you appreciate your other person just a little bit more when you get home.

When you find yourself losing yourself in your relationship, just take a deep breath, recommit to your other relationships (including the one to yourself) and enjoy the time you spend both with and without your partner.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

We’ve all been in a position where we really wanted to say no, but we found ourselves saying yes. Yes to a project at work when the old project is still in your desk. Yes to meet up with a friend for dinner when you’re exhausted from work. Yes to a child wanting a toy when your budget is tight this month. Logically, you know that you “should” say no but there is an emotional component that leads to the “Sure I can do that”.

Looking for approval from others
When you look outside of yourself for approval, you will find that you won’t be able to say no because you want that person to approve of you. What better way to get someone to approve of you then to say yes to their wishes. Where does your need for approval come from? That’s an important question to explore because without resolving your need to people please, you will not be able to do what is right for you.

Putting others first
Saying yes when we mean no also comes from a place where we deny our needs and think of the needs of others first. This is a very common pattern with parents. They deny themselves things and give 100% to those children. The downfall to that is when you give 100% the first time to someone else, you won’t have any to give to yourself. Then you aren’t recharging and becoming more available to those you care about. Why do you put yourself last? The answer will help you to deal with underlying feelings, such as shame, that lead you to deny your self.

Not sticking to your values and priorities
This is a common theme when it comes to saying yes to things related to money. If you value saving money and living within your means, then there might be many times when you have to say no to things so you can stick to your priorities of saving money. If you value your personal time, then saying no when you are asked to stay late at work. What are your values and when have there been times when you said yes to something that was in direct conflict with your values?

There are questions under each section. They are a good start to journaling on this subject if you are struggling with being a “Yes Man” when you really want to
be a “Thank you but no” person.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

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I love exercise. I love it for myself. I love it for my clients. I love it to treat depression and anxiety. What makes it so valuable for me as a person and a clinician is how it makes me and other people feel.

I will always remember the movie “Legally Blonde” when Elle Woods discussed her view on exercise and mental health: “I just don’t think that Brooke could’ve done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t”.

This is an important lesson because endorphins do make you happy. Endorphins are a chemical that is released into the body to specifically make you feel better. This article talks about how it is your personal narcotic in your body.

Whenever people come in for therapy, especially for my specialty of anxiety and depression, one of the first things I ask is if they are exercising. If they aren’t, it’s often my first suggestion. I know it’s not exactly a mental health technique but I believe in the value of making yourself feel better both in the session and outside.

Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes, just like people do. I personally love to walk my dog and go to yoga. I tried Crossfit but I didn’t enjoy it so why do something I don’t enjoy?

Make your exercise routine work for you. In the beginning it’s all about getting motivated. The next goal can be to lose weight or bulk up or whatever goal you have in mind.

So start from your beginning and make a commitment to exercise. If you aren’t exercising at all, then plan to walk three times this week. If you already exercise on a regular basis, try a new class like yoga or Zumba. Pinterest also has many suggestions for workout routines you can do. Try something new and see how it works for you.

If you come in to see me as a client, be prepared that I will ask you for a commitment to an exercise plan. I believe in a holistic approach to mental health treatment which includes your physical body, as well as your emotional one.

Good luck with your new exercise routine and feel free to comment about your favorite exercises.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

Here’s a list of things to do today to improve your mood:

1. Exercise

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2. Read a book

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3. Watch your favorite funny movie

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4. Make a list of five things you are grateful for

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5. Pay it forward

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6. Call a friend

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7. Treat yourself to a spa day at your house

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8. Sing in the car

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9. Reframe your experience

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10. Use positive affirmations

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.

In long-term relationships, sometimes we forget how to keep it new and fresh. Couples stop wearing their sexy pajamas to bed and start wearing their old college t-shirt with a hole in it. Women lessen up on their make-up and primping. Men start watching football every Sunday and stop making Sunday Funday about the relationship. So when you find yourself in a rut, where you realize you still love your significant other but you’ve lost that proverbial “loving feeling”, how can you bring sexy back into your relationship?

Take care of yourself together
After all, you both still want to be together, so bring the sexy back together. One way to do this is through mutual hobbies. Make time for your relationship and do the things you enjoy together. This is another place where both partners need to be willing to step outside of their comfort zone. If a wife wants to take salsa classes, then men need to say yes! Women, if men want you to watch football with them on Sundays, then buy yourself a shirt supporting his team and wear it that day.

Take care of yourself separately
In order to be a successful two, you have to become a successful one. This is a major theme in my blogs. A whole person will attract another whole person and when two becomes one, the outcome will be complete. Women need to continue to nurture and pamper themselves. Women run the risk of putting others first, especially when children are involved. It is important to always take time for yourself, even if it is just ten minutes to read your favorite book or five minutes of eating that forbidden piece of dark chocolate.

Here are some tips for women to take care of yourself:
Make your personal appearance a priority for YOU! Get your hair done or get a massage. Do whatever fits for you and makes you feel beautiful. When you feel beautiful, other people will be attracted to that positive energy, as it will radiate off of you.

Dress, age appropriately, in a way that accentuates your body type and lets you embrace your femininity. Again, your powerful and loving energy will transform whatever space you are in and people will start noticing.

Exercise, exercise, exercise! This is the first thing that goes when life gets hectic but it may be the very thing that will keep you motivated and feeling good about yourself.

Do the unexpected
Is there something you have always wanted to do in your relationship but were too afraid to ask or worried what the other person would say? Why not get dressed up in your most fancy outfits and go to your favorite restaurant? Why not spend the whole day apart and meet up at a bar at the end of the night? Claire and Phil from Modern Family have hilarious tips on how to do this thing, which involves role-play. If you’ve been talking about going kayaking for months, then make it a priority and schedule the time in. It takes time and effort on both parties to bring the spark back into a relationship. Men- send her flowers. Women- make his favorite dinner. Think outside the box and see how the sexy comes back.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at amanda@amandapattersonlmhc.com.