An Italian-American Road to Well-Being

bandiere

My life’s work focuses on the crossroads where psychology self-help meets traditional Italian lifestyle habits to enable us to live a more “dolce vita”, on a daily basis. I’d like to share these tips for making life a bit less anxious and lot more enjoyable. The more you practice them, the more you will appreciate what is good about your life.

1.       Reconnect to famiglia. A study from the University of Chicago found that loneliness undermines physical, as well as emotional well-being. An often overlooked path to strengthening relationships lies within your own network of relatives. Trace relatives from your Italian ancestry and drop them an email. Drop a grudge that you feel no longer serves you and make a phone call to a relative that isn’t speaking to you. Pay a visit to the elders in your family that find it hard to get out and about.

2.       Go with the flow of amicizia.   When life’s circumstances change, often your social landscape changes, too. Perhaps you have lost some friends who might have moved away physically or emotionally. Some friendships from the past, on the other hand, might require a bit of effort to bring them back to the forefront. New activities aligned with your evolving interests could also open the door to stimulating new relationships. Take action today to increase or strengthen your circle of friends.

3.       Practice l’arte d’arrangiarsi.  The best way to strengthen your “well-being muscle” is to recall the times you have successfully faced your challenges in the past, and came out smiling despite them.  My Italian ancestors taught me through their example, to summon the courage to face reality and to be victorious in the face of hardship. The Italians who immigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the century had no idea what lay ahead of them in a brand new culture that spoke a foreign tongue. They were confident, however, that no matter what, they would find the strength and develop the “know-how” to bring about a better life. This doesn’t mean there weren’t obstacles, but there was a belief in their own ability to get through those obstacles. You have this ability, too.

4.       Adopt an attitude of accontentarsi. I just returned from a stay among my relatives in a remote, yet self-sustaining village outside of Benevento. Everyone has a role in making their community successful. Each person works hard, knows when to rest, when to celebrate, and always pitches in to help others who need a hand. Their lives are anything but easy; paid jobs are scarce; money is tight, but all in all, you can’t help but be drawn to the bustling happiness of their everyday lives. Contentment comes from small joys and the refusal to dwell what one doesn’t have. At the end of each day, list everything about your day that made you feel good.  Before long you will recognize the richness of your life.

“Well-being” is the capacity to feel healthy, happy, and satisfied with your life. Many experts now believe that well-being is not something that you either have or you are out of luck. Instead, it is a skill that you can learn through daily practice.  Our Italian heritage holds numerous secrets for attaining a dolce vita lifestyle despite life’s hardships.

(adopted from a weekly column I write for The Italian Tribune)

Non-attachment and Finding Joy

Feather

 

“Pain, according to Italian psychoanalyst Roberto Assagioli, forces us to go inward and detach from the illusions of the external world. We have no choice but to look inward for guidance and inner light and eventually become truer to ourselves. Attachment to earthly things and situations can actually keep us from fully enjoying the people and possessions in our present lives. Assagioli made a distinction between enjoyment and attachment. He believed that enjoyment was gratuitous and pure. Attachment is greedy and expectant. ” Attachment is past or future centered. It is about wanting something we had before that we don’t have now, or worrying that we will not have it again”, according to Assagioli

Enjoying your life is about reaping pleasure from the present moment. Assagioli believed that there are endless possibilities for this, but they depend on letting go of attachment. Nonattachment takes practice. Many of us get our security from holding on. When we truly accept the transient nature of life, we will come to celebrate any given moment. We begin to realize that joy is not just a thing of the past”

————expert from Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (HCI Books)

7 Secrets to that Roman Sense of Style

FerragamoCreations-Futurista

Photo Courtesy: Ferragamo

Here are seven rules of thumb I have deciphered  on my recent Roman sojourn, for those who wish to transform their look, all’italiana . I have written a more in-depth article on this subject in my weekly column for The Italian Tribune. Buon Leggere!

1.      1.  Buy Detailed Clothing. When a Roman woman buys a suit, it has to go beyond being just a gray blazer and skirt. The jacket may have a lace panel cutout between the shoulder blades, the waistband of the skirt may end high on the midriff and cinched in by a chic textured belt with gold hardware at the waist. The color of the suit will be anything but drab—grass green, sapphire blue or even bright chartreuse. Italian jeans are not unremarkable denim panels sewn together at the seams with orange thread. You will notice embellishment on the rear pockets, artistic seaming in pearl gray, and a fit that proudly caresses every curve of the body. When you shop for clothing you may have to spend a little extra on  the subtle details that make each piece  work of art, but Romans see well-made clothing as an investment and would prefer to have three unique pieces than twelve cheaply made outfits from a discount outlet.

2.      2.  Get a Good Hair Cut and Consider Highlights. A great head of hair is the crowning glory of Roman men and women. Silver haired men of a certain age in Rome are still irresistibly chic because of a great layered cut. Or , if losing their hair, shaving the entire head is also in style, as it is here. Roman women get regular stylish cuts and highlights, whether copper , bronze, or warm chestnut, to contrast with their natural color. Hair is never sprayed into a still life, but cascades fluidly as its owner moves. Up-dos are neat, yet lose and feminine, with a long side-swept bang or pushed all the way back into a sexy topknot. Shine and body are always apparent.

3.       3. Compliment Your Look with  a Few Exquisite Accessories. A great pair of dangling earrings or hoops, a large designer hand-bag an a unique silk foulard tied at the shoulder are just some of the imaginative accessories Roman women use to polish their total look. Many of us think that a dress and heels are all we need to complete our look.  Italians would beg to differ.

4.       4. Get In Shape. My readers know I don’t hold back and so I will come right out with it: Whatever you wear will look a hundred times better if you are in shape.  Rarely will you see Roman men with potbellies so big they can’t even see their feet, or Roman women with rolls of flab around the tops of their hips. The Mediterranean way of eating is definitely more conducive to good health than most other diets out there, but it is more than that. The tendency for Romans to keep their shape is a matter of caring about it enough to take action each and every day to maintain it. Smaller portion sizes, less pane, and an everyday dedication to walking to where they need to go, are some of the secrets to a great body.

5.     5.   Shoes to Boots.  Forget the jogging sneakers unless you are going for a jog, or the convent-style black pumps that you bought to go with everything.  From here on in think of your shoes as specialty outfits for your feet. Italian shoes and boots are masterful works of art, and Roman women buy different pairs to go with different outfits. There is no “one pair spans all”, nor is there a primary emphasis on the need to have your shoes feel like slippers. Slippers are worn in the bedroom, spiked heels on the cobblestone roads, if you want to make heads turn. While not every Italian (or American) can afford the latest multi-colored patchwork suede pumps I drooled over in the Salvatore Ferragamo shoe store window display in Rome, there are plenty of exquisite designs that are more affordable and still of great quality. It is time to think of shoes in a whole new way.

6.    6.    Visible make-up. Roman women wear eyeliner as if to say “what’s the point if no one can see it?” Yet there is nothing clownish about the Italian approach to make up. Sexy is visible. Sofia cat-eyes; slightly darker lip liner to make the lips seem fuller, and  blush that matches the lip color. I personally sought the advice of a makeup artist at a  local profumeria near the Vatican, where  I was advised to wear a warm coral palate as a compliment to my darker olive skin tone. It has made a dramatic difference in my total look.

7.      7.  Two Additional Tips for Men. Roman men do not buy half sleeved shirts. Long sleeve button-downs are more elegant, especially when the collar is left open and the sleeves are rolled up above the wrist. This kind of shirt  makes for an alluring Italian look when  either tucked in with dress pants or suit; or with tails out over jeans. Finally, especially in warm weather, Roman men go sockless under a well made pair of leather shoes or loafers. Tri colored leather in tan, mahogany and black hombre are especially big these days, as are styles that are just a bit out of the ..well, shoebox, such as  traditional tie dress shoes with a glimmer of red or green metallic at the seams.

And there you have it. Remember that it takes a while to transform yourself along the path to any goal you want to obtain, so pian piano. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it you too will have the confidence and the grace of the everyday Roman fashion icons you have admired in the eternal city.