ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

How to change any habit



Our lives are comprised of a series of habits. These habits are daily patterns that can positively or negatively influence how we think, act, and feel. We are often unaware of our habits; they have become second-nature to us because we have been doing them for so long. We have taught ourselves how to function on auto pilot and we often forget that we can change any habit that we have started—even if we have been doing it for years. To change a habit, though, it’s important to understand how they work. Habits are composed of three main parts: cue, routine, and reward.

The formation of every habit starts with a cue. A cue is something that triggers the habit. This could be feeling uncomfortable that triggers wanting a drink or feeling lethargic and wanting to exercise. A cue could also be the smell of a specific scent or walking into a building that triggers certain memories. The cue triggers a craving. The cue makes your brain thing you’re missing something and need to find it.

After the cue comes the routine. The routine is the actions to get to your reward after you notice the cue. The routine could be walking to the fridge to get out ice cream or putting on your running shoes to get ready to exercise. It could be playing a specific song you like or eating a certain food. The routine gets you your reward.

Finally, we have the reward. The reward is what makes you feel satisfied and happy. This can be the feeling of accomplishment after a long run or relief after turning in your last term paper.

Altering the routine while keeping the cue and reward the same is the key to changing any habit. Once you can change that routine you will find an even greater reward in your new and healthier habits. Think of it this way— if you want to quit drinking, you go to AA meetings instead of buying alcohol. The cue is the same: you wanted the drink because you felt anxious, but the routine is different; you went to an AA meeting and felt appreciated and a part of a community The reward winds up being the same—you feel happy and not anxious anymore in your own skin.

Alternatively, let’s say you want to have more energy during the day without relying on stimulants like caffeine. The cue (getting sleepy during the day) and the reward (feeling more awake) are the same, but your routine needs to change. Right now, you reach for coffee or chocolate Instead, try taking a short 5 minute walk or doing 50 jumping jacks. It will provide the same reward. You will feel more awake and have more energy.

You gain more awareness about why you do the things you do by noticing what your habits are. It’s also not always easy to change a habit when there are many factors that contribute to you doing what you do. If you are really struggling with taking that first step, remember to reach out for help from a therapist or someone you trust. Sometimes the first step is the hardest step to take and often the one we need the most help with but it gets easier to alter habits in general after that.





The biggest fear that we have is that we are afraid to feel our own feelings



Have you ever said yes instead of no because saying no could provoke a reaction from the other person that you did not want to see?  Have you ever avoided dealing with people or tricky situations in your life because they could make you uncomfortable? We all have felt this way at some point in our lives. But, by avoiding our negative feelings, we are actually avoiding half of our life. What I mean by this, is that by avoiding the feelings we don’t want to feel, we allow our fear to dictate the choices we make, the people we surround ourselves with, and the jobs we take.

Whether we realize it or not, we end up spending a large amount of our energy avoiding the parts of our life that don’t feel good to us. If we are afraid of feeling anxious, any circumstance that evokes anxiety will make us say, “I don’t want to do this. I want to avoid it.” Then, that whole part of life gets shut down. You can no longer engage it because anxiety is running the show. Anxiety is running you—whatever the social situation is.

What if it didn’t have to be like this? What if we could be okay with the good and bad feelings? What if we could say, “You know what I’m going to make friends with my anxiety. I’m not going to suppress it, I’m just going to notice when it’s there and I am going to welcome it because it’s like a learning experience.”? If we can learn to do this, then we can engage the situations that we would normally avoid.

I find it helpful to think of the world and the “whole” of ourselves as the sky and our thoughts and experiences as clouds.  The sky is never affected by what clouds come through. The sky is always fine. All our thoughts, feelings, and experiences are like the clouds: they can come and pass- and we can just witness them. This lets us say, “I am okay with whatever feeling shows up. I’m not going to worry about the next feeling that arises.”

The goal isn’t to feel a certain positive feeling all the time. If we are comfortable with all our feelings-there is a deep peace that can come from being comfortable with oneself completely even if you are feeling angry, sad, or fearful. If you are just running after temporary things that will give you an emotional high/feel good, then you are still avoiding part of your life.

So what should happiness look like?

If we simply respect feelings and allow ourselves to feel them- we can feel that peace. We can be with the deep part of us is OK no matter what we are feeling. These ideas are the key principals in meditation—noticing the emotions that come up, listening to them, and then letting them go. With these skills you can be in a situation that’s triggering your anxiety or fear and feel okay. For instance, if I am getting angry or anxious, I can ask myself to just be with that emotion, instead of leaving the situation. I can just allow myself to be with it and maybe it will shift on its own.

Instead of practicing meditation to confront our fears, we say, “I'm not going to do this because I don't want to tell this person no. I won’t do this because I don't want to feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. I don't want anyone to get angry with me because I might feel like no one likes me. I might feel ashamed or not good enough.”

Real happiness and contentment in life is not just keeping the feeling of happiness around all the time, it is being okay with all the feelings. This isn’t always easy. Hard things come and they will knock us over and sometimes we will not be able to handle it. Those moments just give us an opportunity to be honest with ourselves about where we are in the process. We don’t have to pretend to hold it all together when we can’t.

The best part is we get to just keep practicing this whole lives. If anxiety shows up- we can acknowledge that it is there (maybe showing in a twitch or our sweaty palms) and use that as a sign to take a deeper look into our feelings. Are there situations that we are avoiding because we don’t want to feel the anxiety? What choices am I making to avoid feeling the anxiety? Am I letting my anxiety limit me? The ancient poet, Rumi, once said, “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice—meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Rumi is talking about our emotions and our experiences. Allow every emotion in and engage them. If we can do this- we will be deeply contented while still maintaining our range of emotion. We will naturally feel sad and happy and angry and content but each of those feelings will find a place of their own. We will not resist them or fight them. We won’t let them take us away. We will just be the awareness and the space in which they are happening, the space in which they are arising and passing. It can be our life-long work to keep this perspective.  That way we have the best shot at feeling content no matter what problem comes our way.

For seniors: A piece of encouragement upon your graduation from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


“Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.


“There are four obstacles.

“First: we are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.

“If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.

“Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path. We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh, well, I didn’t really want it anyway.” We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey.

“Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.

“I ask myself: are defeats necessary?

“Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times.

“So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?

“Because, once we have overcome the defeats—and we always do—we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight. We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.

“Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us, perhaps the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.

“Oscar Wilde said- Each man kills the thing he loves-

“And it’s true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal—when it was only a step away.

“This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.”


Here is how to get to know our empathy through understanding our shame

love Shame is the most human emotion we can experience. In the words of Brene Brown, it can be defined as, “The intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” There are vivid memories throughout our life that can bring up shame and there are also quiet and subtle moments of shame that we replay over and over again in our heads.

Discussing shame is hard to do. It feels too raw, too vulnerable. Unfortunately, the less you talk about it, the more have got it. Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, wrote a bestselling book called, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”. In that book, she says that shame needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you judge yourself for your experiences, keep them secretive, and stay silent about how you feel, shame can shape the way you think about yourself, the way you think and interact with other people, the choices you make, who you date, where you work--everything.

Unfortunately, in many schools in America, shame is still a prominent classroom tool. When we do something bad- we may experience guilt (e.g. “Sorry, I made an awful decision”) but we may also experience shame (e.g. “Sorry, I am an awful person”). We deeply hurt ourselves when we believe we are inherently not good enough. We may tell ourselves that we are worthless, which can be just as harmful as if you were saying it to someone else. Because of this, shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, and eating disorders.

If you can combat shame with empathy, you can kill the growth of shame. It cannot survive when it is spoken out loud. Brene Brown says, “Shame depends on someone buying into the belief that they are alone. When I call my best friend and tell her about my shame and she shows me empathy, there is no way shame can survive.”

Don’t be afraid of vocalizing your shame. They key is to share it with someone you trust- at the right time- and in the right place. If you have the courage to speak your truth- you will find that you are much braver than you thought. Asking for encouragement and help can make you very vulnerable but it also strengthens courage, determination, and self-love. If it feels like too much to initially share with another person, write down how you feel. Vocalize it in a way that feels good to you. Shame says we are never good enough but the truth is that there is always an inherent worth present. If you can remember that, you can more easily take responsibility for your actions and mistakes without letting it affect the core goodness of who you are.

Say “No” to Neknominate—It Could Kill You

drinking So far, there have been 5 deaths from this game in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Neknominate began in Australia and has now moved into Europe, Africa, and the United States. In the game, one participant films him or herself drinking a large alcoholic beverage and uploads it onto a social media platform. He or she then nominates a couple people, by calling them out in the video, to do the same. Participants have also been doing dangerous stunts before, during, and after drinking. These dangerous stunts have included drinking a dead rat in an alcoholic beverage, drinking beer upside down out of a toilet, jumping off a bridge immediately after consuming hard liquor, or drinking hot sauce and 89% absinthe.

Through games like Neknominate, we see that online peer pressure still very prevalent around the world, especially in relation to drinking. What this shows us is that people are willing to risk their lives and go completely out of their comfort zone to feel accepted by their peers. But are those people truly good friends? Why is it that risking your life is still somehow equated with being cool and fitting in?

In an effort to reverse the trend, a new Facebook page was created to change Neknominate to something positive. The group started when Brent Lindeque, a brand activation specialist, was Neknominated by a friend. Instead of getting drunk, he used the nomination to feed a homeless person. Across the world, participants have filmed themselves performing a random act of kindness, and then asked a friend to do the same. So far, the Facebook page has gotten over 45,000 likes.

Want to help change the perception of the Neknominate game? Join in performing random acts of kindness and telling us about it on our Facebook or Twitter with hashtags #changeonething and #ifiknew.