How To Improve Your Morning Routine: Steps To Set The Mood For A Happy Day

A lot of us have an attitude of get up and go and while it’s important to get where we need to be on time, we don’t always give ourselves the time that we need to ensure that we’re heading out the door with a positive mindset. Yes, so many scenarios can throw of our morning or our day, but when we make the time for a healthy morning routine, we’re setting a foundation for a good day. Keep reading to see my morning routine and a few tips!

 Prep The Night Before

While we live in a busy time, a lot of us tend to have that I’ll do it later mindset. Hate to say it, but I’m very guilty of this. Luckily, it’s never too late to make a change. One step you can take to get a jump start on the next day is to take a look at your to-do list the night before. If you have any appointments coming up or just need to double-check your work schedule to ensure your week go as planned, I 100% recommend this. It takes less than 5 minutes and you won’t have to think about it in the morning. I also recommend doing most of your cleaning before you head to bed. If you need to put away clean laundry, do it. If you need to do a little dusting, do it. That way you won’t wake up the next morning feeling like your room is a mess.

In order to have a productive day, getting your best sleep the night before is key. One of my favorite steps of prep for the next day is to spray my sheets and pillows with a sleep or pillow mist. My favorite is this Bath & Body Works Stress Relief Eucalyptus and Spearmint Pillow Mist. Silly as it sounds, this pillow mist makes heading to bed much more exciting. I’m all about small steps that will help me get the best sleep possible.

 Make Your Bed ASAP

I know, I know, making your bed seems like just another task to do when you’re getting your day started. Too many people I know don’t make their beds and in all honesty, I think we need to start a bed-making movement. For me, making my bed is a small but important (!!!) step of my morning routine. For one, I find that it sets the tone for a productive day and even leads to good habits throughout the day (like wiping down the counter quickly after lunch, etc). And of course, making your bed and tidying up your space makes for a better living environment. If you find yourself heading out for the day without making your bed, try it tomorrow morning. Sometimes the little things have the most positive effect on our day. 

Let The Light In + Create A Happy Space 

After making my bed, the next step is to open my blinds all the way (the more sunlight, the better!), light my favorite candle, and turn on a playlist. Most of the time I wake up with a ready-to-go and refreshed attitude, but on the days when I’m feeling a bit off or just need a pick-me-up, this step is crucial. When we create a space that is calming and happy, our moods will often turn from negative to positive quite quickly. This step will help to get you to a better mindset and will keep you happy throughout the day.

My favorite candle for the winter months is this Bath and Body Works Fresh Balsam Candle. If you’re looking for some music suggestions, my favorite playlist on Spotify at the moment is Jazz Vibes.


Next step is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Did I say hydrate enough? When you drink a good amount of water in the morning, you’ll flush out any harmful toxins and rehydrate after your 8 hours (I’m all about 8+ hours of sleep) of beauty rest. Plus, it’ll give you some energy to get your day going. I find that when I start drinking water early in the day, I’m better about continuing to hydrate throughout the day. In between my glasses of water, I’ve been loving drinking peppermint tea and Matcha. If you’re like me and like a bit of sweetness in your tea, try adding honey or agave.

Self-Care Time

Of course, it wouldn’t be a perfect morning routine without a little self-care and time for myself. I don’t care what you have going on — making the time (even if it’s just 5 minutes!) for yourself is so important. Whether that means spending some time doing your makeup while listening to a podcast, filling out a crossword puzzle, or just making a healthy breakfast you’ve been craving —  self-care is important and key to a happy mind. Building a morning routine is a form of self-care in itself!

I’m not sure what your mornings look like, but I encourage you to build a morning routine that works for you! If you think you don’t have enough time, make the time by getting up a bit earlier each day. If you’re not sure where to start, start here. 🙂

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Light Is All Around Us: Letting It In and Letting It Out

If you know a thing or two about cameras, you’ll know that light is the most important part of a photograph. What one chooses to do with light can be the defining factor of what makes an image successful or not so successful.  This got me thinking about something much more than the light required for a good photo — the light around us. What light are you talking about, J? Let me explain.

But first… Ever since my beginning photography days, I’ve always paid attention to light. My favorite kind of light is during golden hour or magic hour — I prefer to call it magic hour and I think you’ll understand why. Magic hour is the small amount of time after sunrise and before sunset when the sun is lower in the sky. During magic hour, our world is transformed into something remarkable. Beautiful, golden light starts to frame the trees, giving everything around us a warm glow. It’s like the whole world is being wrapped in this angelic light. If you don’t pay attention to the way the world looks around 4 PM when the trees are covered with snow or at 7 PM in the summer when driving past cornfields, I hope you’ll start chasing after magic hour. This is what got me to start noticing the light that’s all around us and within us. 

I’ve always been lucky to have a life filled with light. And no, I’m not just writing about the actual light that has helped me create beautiful photos. I’m writing about the people I’ve been blessed with, my love for music, my creative spirit, my young heart, my memories of the trips to Hilton Head, and everything else in between. This is the kind of light that we need to pay attention to, because it is what helps us to appreciate our lives, to better our lives, and to invite more light in.

For me, being open to letting light in has done all kinds of things for me.

From inviting light, I have allowed God into my life and trust that He will guide me when I’m feeling lost, alone, or unsure. From inviting light, I have learned to accept myself, love myself, and follow a path of building an authentic life. From inviting light, I have learned to be thankful for every part of my life, even the smallest details — like the way the lamplight in my room framed my mother’s face the other night as she smiled while talking about my baby cousin. 

While it has been important for me to let light and positive things into my life, it’s also just as important that I’m bringing light out into the world and to others. It helps us step outside of ourselves for a moment — something that we all need to do. Sometimes this means spending some time writing a poem or sharing my photography with others. Sometimes it means leaving little notes for my loved ones to stumble upon and giving them a reason to smile. Letting light in goes hand in hand with letting light out — I don’t think one can truly be done authentically without the other. 

When you use light correctly in photography, you have every opportunity to create a beautiful image.

The same goes for our lives. 💡

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How A Cheesy Netflix Movie Changed My Perspective On My Breakup

It wasn’t until I sat in bed on a Sunday night and watched a cheesy Spanish Netflix movie, that I started seeing the light in my first breakup.

How To Get Over a Breakup focuses on María Fé, a twenty-something, coping with the — you guessed it! — breakup of her first real-deal boyfriend. Like all of us, she goes through each excruciating phase of the breakup, but that’s not what matters here. When she comes to terms with the situation at hand and accepts it, Maria starts to blossom in ways she never expected. A girl who once was a self-proclaimed slacker and gave all of her time to her relationship blooms into an independent woman who believes in herself, commits to her goals, and learns to be happy by herself. Her happiness and goals become the most important thing to her and no one, not even her ex-boyfriend who returns when he realizes how much he misses her, can take her off her new found path.

I started to realize that I’m a lot like María — in both good and bad ways. I never wanted to admit it, so I’ll admit it now. I let my relationship slowly take over my life in more ways than one. The college nights filled with silly conversations and homemade mac and cheese with my 3 closest friends were replaced with eating ice cream and watching shows with someone else. My creative, motivated, and inspired spirit faded away as I started caring for someone else. And finally, the love I had for myself was replaced by the love I had for someone else. I became that girl who let everything fall apart. I didn’t feel confident, I didn’t feel inspired, I didn’t feel motivated and in all honesty, the enthusiasm I always had towards life disappeared. Like María, I felt like I was slacking in almost every area of my life and while I knew I could probably fix it, I just didn’t. To me, my friendships and mental health were too far gone. While I still remained happy in my relationship, I wasn’t happy outside of that. That should have been a warning sign that I needed to take some time to myself to get back on track, but I didn’t. María didn’t either.

Before I get any further into this, I want to make one thing clear. My first relationship was exciting, beautiful, and brought me an immense amount of happiness, love, and connection that I never knew I’d experience. I’m not writing this for any reason other than some much-needed self-reflection that I think we all could learn from. No relationship is perfect and I can promise you that. Much like María, I think I’ll be forever grateful for my first love. I’ve learned how to love someone authentically and I’ve also learned what I simply don’t want and won’t deal with again — two things that are both equally important.

When the breakup came along, María from the cheesy Netflix film was a mess and so was I. I felt like my world was crashing down even though I knew this was inevitable and what was meant to be for the moment. I would get angry all over again when I thought about the things that hurt me. I got upset when I remembered the difficult times. I got upset when I remembered the good times. I tried to be grateful for my first love, but I just mentally couldn’t feel that way so soon. Instead of forcing myself to brush it off and get over it (which you should NEVER do!), I gave myself a little gift called patience. I allowed myself to feel without judging myself for being sad, angry, and everything in between. After all, I had every right to feel. 

I don’t want to say anything else about that part of the breakup, because the real part that matters the most is the part when good things started to blossom and point me (and María – we can’t forget about her!) in the right direction. I started to have more time for myself. I started to get inspired. I started to get motivated. I started to see my confidence and self-esteem reach a healthy level. And even though I’m not always quite sure what it is, I feel like I have a purpose. When I was staring at my fresh breakup in the eye, I wondered how I would get over this loss. But time has shown me that there’s no need to treat a breakup as if you’re losing something, because most of the time you’ll find something more valuable from it — yourself. Hell, María found her voice, started a successful blog, quit her dead-end job, and wrote a book because of her breakup. If that’s not inspiring, then I don’t know what is. I know my life isn’t a fast-paced movie and my YouTube channel won’t hit 1 million subscribers in 5 minutes (I wish), but I’m positive that this new chapter is a beautiful new beginning and I’m thankful to navigate through it with my best friend — myself.

As silly as it sounds, today I’m thankful for a character from a cheesy Netflix movie. Sometimes we need a reminder that we aren’t alone in our problems. Sometimes we need to let go of the things and habits that don’t make us truly and authentically happy, that don’t bring out the best version of ourselves. Sometimes a breakup and having time to focus on ourselves is exactly what we need and I’m no longer afraid to say it. In my heartache, I have found myself. Thank you, María. Thank you, First Love. 

Change Doesn’t Have To Be Sad

If you’ve been keeping up with my life, you’ll know that I’m leaving the city and heading back home at the end of August. You’ll know that life in New York City hasn’t been so easy for me — and that’s ok. I’ve really come to accept that heading home is truly the best decision for myself. Moving back home means a fresh start. It means being surrounded by my support team – my family. It means getting out of the city and working on myself.

But I have to be honest. I have been terrified of what is to come in the very near future. The past week has been tough. I’ve been looking at the calendar too often and feeling a rush of anxiety as the days flash by. I’ve been finding myself too focused on what it’ll be like to miss E that I haven’t been able to truly appreciate our time together. I’ve been feeling stressed about the job I’ve been hoping to land at home. I’ve even felt angry with myself. Maybe if I had played my cards differently, I would be in a different position. To put it simply, I’ve been feeling like every aspect of my life is completely uncertain.

While I feel like everything is falling apart, I do know that I’ll remember this time in my life and look back with a grateful heart. While the road ahead in unknown, there is one thing that I know for certain:

I am thankful. For the highs and the lows. For the beautiful memories I’ve made in NYC.  For my family — who always want the best for me. For E — who understands my heart and loves me as I am. For the kind and encouraging words from friends — who support me through it all. And as much as I hate to admit it, I am thankful for change — an opportunity to start fresh and see myself blossom.

Change doesn’t have to be sad. “See you soon” doesn’t mean closing a book. From today until my last week in NYC, I’m choosing to focus on the positive and take in all the moments that make my heart happy. I’ll be back soon. This story doesn’t end here.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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You Owe Yourself Honesty

The dictionary will tell you that being honest means being sincere, well-intentioned, or virtuous. I, like any other person, can sometimes find myself dancing around the truth. On a scale of completely honest to serial liar (SOS), I consider myself to be honest at most times. When I do find myself in lies, it’s typically due to the little things that I’m stressed about or struggles that I’m afraid to handle. Though it’s normal to lie every once in a while, I’ve noticed that we’re not always honest with the most important person in our lives: ourselves.

It’s easy to push off those real-deal thoughts of I know that I’m x, y, or, z but I’ll ignore it and worry about it later.  The truth is that it’s difficult to face our struggles head on and be honest with ourselves when we really need it. Sometimes we’re so far in denial that we don’t always know when it’s time to step back and have a heart to heart with our reflection. We value honesty as something we’d look for in a friend, but we fail to be a friend to ourselves. Honesty is a significant part of self-care. Loving yourself means being able to be real, vulnerable, and kind to your heart. You owe yourself honesty – true, authentic honesty.

So what does it mean to be honest with ourselves?

It means putting all of our draw-twos (uno anyone?) on the table, seeing what we’re dealt with, and understanding how we’ll play them wisely.

It means confronting our damaged self-esteem or confidence and welcoming our imperfect selves with open arms.

It means being vulnerable, letting ourselves feel, and accepting help.

It could be as simple as admitting that we’re unhappy and in need of a change.

I don’t know the struggles you’re facing or pushing off, but I do know that taking a moment to be honest with yourself will lead to beautiful, new, and authentic beginnings.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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Leaving New York City Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

When I left my hometown in September to move to New York City, I thought I would be heading to my new home. Almost a year later and I don’t know if the city will ever be my home. As I look ahead toward re-signing my lease, I’m finding myself feeling unsure of where I’ll be in a few months. I’m doing all I can to be calm about this, but truthfully, I’m completely scared and nervous.

Will I continue living in a place that doesn’t feel like home? Or do I simply try to make the city my home? I’ve asked myself these questions for the last long 6 months. In certain ways, I want to hang up my apartment keys and head back home. But does that mean I’m giving up? I used to think so. The first few times I questioned this, I’d shut down my confusion and negative thoughts before I could let myself stop and face them. I didn’t want to see myself as someone who would give up, but I ultimately thought that by leaving, I was throwing the towel and letting go of the things I’ve dreamed about. It was already awful to begin with that I felt that leaving would mean I was giving up. But then I started to think of my friends and my boyfriend. Leaving NYC, taking a step back, and saying goodbye is not ideal and certainly not something I’ve wanted to deal with.

But then I started facing my thoughts. Coming home doesn’t mean that you’re giving up, Joelle. In many ways, it means that I’m able to recognize when I’m just unable to go through this any more. I’m frustrated with digging for inspiration and creativity and not getting anywhere. I’m warn out of picking myself up from what I think is a true form of depression. When it comes down to it, I’m exhausted of being unhappy. In the past 10 months, I’ve found myself at my absolute worst.

When I truly took the moment to think about my life and mental health in New York City, heading back to my hometown started to seem like a better option. At home, I could continue to be creative in every way I’ve wanted to for so long. I’d be able to book photo shoots on a weekly basis and expand my portfolio. I’d be able to truly get my YouTube channel started. At home, I could live more comfortably. I wouldn’t struggle to pay my rent every month. I wouldn’t have to deal with the constant cat-calling on my street (it’s 10 times worse in NYC). I’d have my family and my best friend by my side. Home started looking better to me in more ways than one. It wasn’t the city, the food wasn’t as good (SOS), and there wasn’t as much to do on the weekends, but I could see myself being happy. I’ve started to picture what it would be like to say goodbye to the city for a bit and I can see myself taking a big sigh of relief.

Maybe it’s not worth it to be somewhere that doesn’t make my heart happy and doesn’t help me stay inspired. Maybe New York City isn’t for me — at least not right now. And that’s ok.

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6 Things I’ve Learned From Living In New York City

Living in New York City sounds like a dream. News Flash: It is not always a dream. Especially if you’re a 23 year old recent college graduate who couldn’t find a job for 5 months and is wondering where your life is going. This 23 year old is me. Before I get into this, I have some good news for you. We all need to start somewhere. At 23, you do not have to have everything figured out, but if you’re planning to live in New York City, I think this will help you out. Continue reading to see the 6 things I’ve learned from living in New York City:

  1. Managing Your Life + Money Is SO Hard

    “I need to figure out my life” is a sentence you’ll always have on your mind. But really, you’ll think it and you’ll say it at least 4 times a day. If you’re like me, that sentence will sum up every part of your life, including your money situation. Every paycheck will immediately be put aside for your over-priced rent. Once you submit your rent every month, you’ll feel accomplished, but then will realize that you already have to start saving for next month. TIP: Separate your rent money from everything else. I always transfer my checks that go towards rent immediately to my savings and I only keep $100 or so in my checking account at all times!

  2. Rent Is Cheaper In Harlem 

    If you’re looking for your first New York City apartment, don’t even bother looking at places below Harlem. You might love the view from that gorgeous loft, but what you’ll love even more is being able to save money and live a little (I mean a little) more comfortably. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. I found a renovated 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. I took the smaller room, so I was lucky enough to have my own bathroom (!!!). The best part is that I know I’m getting a new place for much less than you’d pay anywhere else. TIP: When looking for a place, check on Facebook or any social media to see if any friends are looking for a roommate. Living with someone you know IRL will make your life much easier. Do not agree to move in without meeting your potential roommate first. I did this in the summer and ended up with a roommate who ate my food and puked on my bed (gross). Now I live happily with a childhood friend who is totally on the same page as me.

  3. “I Never Heard Back”

    Moving to New York City is difficult to begin with, but being a college grad makes your life a little more annoying (and frustrating and confusing..the list goes on). If you’re a recent college grad and you plan to move to the big city, do yourself a favor and begin looking for a job in January before you graduate. I did the complete opposite and wasn’t able to land a job until October after graduation. Don’t plan on hearing back from your first interviews — you likely won’t. As frustrating as it is, I promise you’ll eventually find something. TIP: Start looking early, try not to get overwhelmed, and keep looking. After looking for months, I ended up finding a job with a great beauty company with amazing people.

  4. Loneliness 101 

    I’ve never been a lonely person, but when I moved to New York City, the loneliness started to hit me and it hit me hard. It is 100% true that you can be surrounded by thousands of people, but still feel very much alone. As someone who is a bit more reserved (and honestly is just not a people person), it’s intimidating to even attempt to make friends in New York. TIP: Try to keep yourself busy and spend time doing things you love and getting inspired. It’s easy to let yourself sulk and stay in bed all day, but you’ll start to realize it’s better to pick yourself up.

  5. Take A Mini-Vacay

    If you ever feel like the city is getting to be too much for you (SENSORY OVERLOAD SOS), head to your nearest Metro North Train Station and take it to anywhere in Westchester. When my friends and I would get tired of the loud New York City streets, we’d wake up on a Sunday and head to our favorite bagel place in Bronxville. Sometimes getting away can really help to restore your attitude and overall well-being. TIP: If you can’t afford or take time off from work to go visit your family, hop on the train ASAP and spend the day hanging out in a new (and quiet) town.

  6. DO NOT (emphasis on DO NOT) Shop At Whole Foods

    The first week that I lived in New York City, I went straight to the nearby Whole Foods thinking it was going to change my life in one way or another (people rave about Whole Foods), but it ultimately just drained my bank account even more. You’ll be tempted to buy everything, but save your money for another store. TIP: Make Trader Joe’s your best friend. A, it’s much cheaper and B, you’ll find some surprisingly good products. I LIVE for Trader Joe’s.

So there you have it — 6 things you absolutely need to know if you plan to live in New York City. I wish someone could have given me this advice before moving, so take my advice. I promise you’ll thank me later.

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