Why Every Communications Student Needs a Blog

Hello, beautiful! Today on the blog, I wanted to show a different side of me (I hope!) - which is why I'm writing about my future career goals.

One thing you may not know about me is that I'm determined to pursue a career in communications. That's why today, I'm here to tell you guys why I think it's so important to write a blog as a communications student.

Granted, I didn't start a blog because I wanted to go into com - I didn't even know what I wanted to do yet when I first became a blogger! But being a blogger is one of the things that let me down my career path into com, and once I was in com, I quickly learned how essential it is to have this skillset in the industry.

Blogging will help bolster your career in so many ways. Today, I'm only going to be talking about the five most important reasons why you should start a blog in com - but trust me when I say that the sky is the limit when it comes to blogging in the communications industry! In fact, it's so important that my Writing for Communications professor assigned making a blog as one of our first assignments this semester - thankfully, I already had that assignment covered ;) Easy A or what?

All jokes aside, here are four essential reasons why you NEED to start a blog if you're going to study communications. In my opinion, it's non-negotiable - and you'll soon see why!

You'll learn skills you need for your career.

The most obvious reason why all com students should start a blog is that you're going to be practicing the most important skills you'll be using in your job every day after college. Don't believe me? Here's just a brief list of the skills I've honed since becoming a pro blogger:

  • Writing. Duh! That's what blogging is all about - but it's also the cornerstone of a successful career in communications, which is why it's so important to showcase your best conversational writing skills as a blogger pursuing com.
  • Social media. Not only does blogging teach you how to write captions and posts for social media, but it also gives you experience creating graphics and even building a following from the ground up. Everyone starts from the same place on social media - aka zero - but by proving that you can build an audience of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of viewers proves to a communications agency what you're worth, and shows clients in tangible terms just what your agency can give to them.
  • Content marketing. Did you know blogging is a form of content marketing? Every time you create a blog post and share it with your following, you're marketing your brand's content - aka your blog and its posts - to the world. That's how I figured out I wanted to go into content marketing: once I learned that blogging and content marketing go hand-in-hand, I realized there was a way to take my one true passion and truly make a living off it! 
  • Brand placement, pitching and media kit-creation. As a blogger, I'm constantly writing emails to brands and pitching them my best ideas. One cool skill I've learned that goes hand-in-hand with this is designing, updating and sending out media kits to show brands I want to work with what my numbers are like and why I'm the best blogger for the job. I love that I know how to do this because I'm now prepared to do the same thing for clients down the road - and that gives me an edge that not all college students have! 
  • Graphic design. Last but not least, because of blogging, I'm familiar with so many design terms and skills that I never would have discovered otherwise. For example, I code all of my templates for Blogger from a bare-bones outline, adding all the HTML and CSS myself to give my blog its characteristic flare. I also design my own graphics using programs like Canva, Gimp and the Adobe Suite - and because I do everything on my blog myself, I've built up a pretty impressive portfolio to show employers what I can do for them.

You'll build a personal brand and online presence.

Most big communications agencies these days aren't content to hire people who are just behind-the-scenes - they want someone who's established a brand for themselves and isn't afraid to put themselves out there. And blogging is the perfect way to show employers that you can do that! 

As a blogger, I have multiple social media accounts that are streamlined to include the same formatting, usernames, profile pics and color schemes. I also have a blog with its own unique voice, and carry that voice into my posts. All of those things put together comprise my personal brand - and as soon as an employer Googles my name or types it into Instagram, I'm proud to say that that's one of the first things they'll see about me. 

I highly recommend you start building a personal brand for yourself now rather than later if you want to go into the communications industry. Whether you're interested in PR, advertising or something else entirely, it's so important to show others who you are with your brand and online presence.

Your blog is a tangible example of your work.

If an employer wants to see what I'm capable of - whether it's a writing sample or a portfolio of my graphic design work - the easiest thing for me to do is link them to my blog, where all of those things live full-time. My blog is my social media presence, my personal brand and my following wrapped into one neat, pastel-pink package, which is exactly how I like it! 

Whenever I'm emailing back and forth with a potential internship, client or brand, I like to send them my media kit and blog link to show them all the cool things I can do as a communicator. I also like to keep my blog front-and-center on my LinkedIn page, so people who are looking for communicators like me in their workplace can easily find my profile in their search results.

In short, having a blog is the fastest way to ensure that employers won't write you off due to lack of experience. Your blog might not be a fancy internship, but it's an experience you literally created from scratch - and if that doesn't show employers how hardworking and dedicated you are, then they don't deserve you anyways! 

You'll come into any job experience with contacts.

As a blogger, if there's anything I've become way better at since I started, it's networking! I know, I know: the Internet definitely makes networking easier. But having a blog undoubtedly does, too! 

Because of blogging, I know other college students all around the world - some of whom have recently graduated and now have connections with employers! - and have developed personal and professional relationships with them. Additionally, I have email addresses for all the brands I've worked with in recent times, so I can easily reach out to them if my future employer is looking for a client to work with or a cool new brand placement.

In my experience, being a blogger is the fastest way to connect with someone you've never met before. In a PR internship interview? Mention you have a blog - chances are, your employer will have one, too, and start chatting with you in a much more personal tone! Framing your blog as a way to build professional contacts and network with people you've never met before is the perfect way to show others that you're serious about and dedicated to becoming a professional communicator.

Hey, bloggers: how has blogging helped you inYOUR major? LMK @haleymarieblog or in the comments below! 

The Ultimate Guide to Cruelty-Free Beauty (SPONSORED)

Hello, beautiful! Today I'm here to talk about an issue that's close to my heart, and that is the continued testing of health and beauty products on harmless, innocent animals.

In case you didn't know, many health and beauty products are still tested on laboratory animals (yes, even in the United States!), despite the availability of many suitable, safe alternatives that do not pose a threat to innocent creatures. In fact, for many types of products, animal testing is even required by law, regardless of the progress scientists have made in finding alternatives.

I know this is a bit of a sad topic to talk about, but fear not! Instead of dwelling on the negative, I'm going to focus on highlighting some amazing cruelty-free beauty brands and products, as well as teaching you how to recognize whether a beauty brand is cruelty-free or not.

I'm bringing this post to you for two reasons. Firstly, animal welfare has long been an issue that's close to my heart. Ever since I was a little girl, I found ways to help animals, even making toys and volunteering at a local shelter for my Girl Scout Bronze Award project. Later on, I went vegetarian when I was 13, the summer before I started high school, and remained vegetarian for the next six years. Dayum, girl...

Since then, I have reintroduced fish and poultry back into my diet because I was concerned about my nutrition and overall wellness. I know it's controversial to be bringing a post about cruelty-free beauty to you when I choose to eat chicken, turkey and fish, but my personal view is that all lives are interconnected, and here to support one another through the life cycle and food chain. (In other words, if my cat eats fish, then so can I - that's just life!)

The real problem lies in the poor treatment of animals who are raised for food, the unhealthiness of the antibiotics and other chemicals rampant in our food system and the inability of these animals to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives on this earth. And the same goes for animals who are condemned to live in captivity while being subjected to cruel, painful tests.

Whew, that was a lot, but thanks for sticking with me! Now, the other reason for this post: secondly, two extremely awesome cruelty-free beauty brands reached out to me - Maple Holistics and Remay Shaving - which you'll hear more about later as I talk about some of my favorite cruelty-free brands and beauty products. I wanted to include them in this post to highlight the quality of their products and show you guys that beautiful hair, skin and nails are all possible without harming another living thing!

The Scoop on Animal Testing

But before I can talk about the fun stuff, I want to shed a spotlight on why exactly cruelty-free is a thing, and why it's a thing we should all pay attention to. After all, I'm already anticipating that some of you will wonder why going cruelty-free matters at all - and unfortunately, if I'm going to call this the "ultimate guide" to cruelty-free beauty, we're going to have to talk about some not-so-pretty things going on in our consumer-driven economy. 

In the interest of saving you from a thousand hyperlinks, a quick disclaimer: for this section of the post, I'll be referring to this guide to what animal testing is from Cruelty Free International. I highly recommend you check out the rest of their website if you have questions I didn't answer or simply curious about living cruelty-free! 

So, what is animal testing, exactly? An animal test is when an animal is forced to undergo some kind of scientific experiment that will typically cause them some degree of distress, injury, harm or discomfort. Some experiments that might be conducted on an animal include surgical removal of organs or tissues, exposure to radiation and even frightening them to induce anxiety or depression. Any animal, from dogs to rabbits to amphibian, could be at risk for animal testing in a laboratory.

The scientific community is constantly thinking up new ways to subject animals to torture so they can study their behaviors. However, within the beauty community specifically, there are a couple types of testing that are especially prevalent - here's the lowdown from The Humane Society of the United States: 

  • Skin allergy testing. As many as 32 guinea pigs or 16 mice will have chemicals applied to or injected under the skin to test for an allergic reaction. 
  • Eye irritation. One to three rabbits will have the substance injected into their eyes to test for eye irritation or corrosion (a more severe, irreversible type of damage).
  • Toxicity. As many as 20 rats, rabbits or guinea pigs may be tested on to check if a product is toxic or non-toxic, and how much of a substance can be applied before it becomes toxic. These toxicity screenings may include oral-, dermal- and inhalation-driven tests.
  • Carcinogenicity. You've probably heard of carcinogens as those nasty chemicals that cause cancer - well, many chemicals are tested on 40-400 rats or mice to see how carcinogenic a product is, or if the product may induce harmful changes to an animal's cells.
  • Reproductive tests. As if testing on one animal wasn't already enough, scientists may also perform tests on pregnant mothers or babies to see if a product might induce genetic mutations or changes in the offspring. 

Nasty, right? And fun fact: all this animal testing isn't necessary at all, thanks to many alternative methods (such as in vitro or computerized testing) available today. In fact, Europe banned animal testing altogether in 2013, and their economy seems to be doing just fine without cruelty. So, why do we continue to subject animals to torture for the benefit of a few huge corporations? 

It quite literally all comes down to business. More specifically (and at the risk of sounding a bit like Trump), it all comes down to China: the Chinese government requires that all cosmetics and dermal products be tested on animals. In other words, if a company wants to get into business in China, its products must be tested on animals. Period. End of story. 

Sickening, right? Thankfully, this fucked-up system (sorry, Mom, but you know it's true!) is one you don't have to participate in. Here's how to opt out of animal cruelty in your beauty routine...

"Is this cruelty-free?"

It's actually a tougher question to answer than you might think. After all, the FDA itself admits that "cruelty-free" is an unregulated term that could mean anything when used by beauty and cosmetics brands. 

For example, a finished product might be "cruelty-free," but a corporation could rely on suppliers whose raw materials are tested on animals. Or, a beauty brand's parent company might test on animals, even though this particular line does not. And the list of loopholes goes on, and on, and on...

So, how do you see through all the bullshit and find out if a brand is cruelty-free or not? First thing's first: look for the bunny. 

"The fuck?" you might be thinking - but all three of the certified cruelty-free logos contain bunnies in their imagery! The leaping bunny logo is used by Cruelty-Free International, the caring consumer logo is used by PETA and the CCF rabbit is used by Choose Cruelty-Free - yet all three are regulated organizations with strict standards. They don't go handing out these bunnies to just anybody, ya know! 

On the opposite hand, claims like "This product was not tested on animals" aren't investigated by the FDA, and could quite literally mean anything when they appear on a company's bottle. For example, I love the Neutrogena Naturals line, whose packaging claims not to test on animals - but its parent company does. Additionally, there's no guarantee that the raw materials used to create the product were created without cruelty. So, chances are very likely that I'll be gradually weaning off this line of products in the next couple of months - all the more reason for more big brands to adopt cruelty-free testing standards! 

This can get pretty confusing, I know - but thankfully, there's a couple of reliable sources of information I trust to tell me exactly what brands are on the naughty and nice lists. Here are three sources of information I highly recommend when determining whether a brand is cruelty-free or not. (If you're feeling ambitious, I suggest cross-referencing all three guides for the most accurate, up-to-date information!)

  1. PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies Database. With PETA's database, searching to see if a company is cruelty-free or not is as simple as Googling the answer. Simply type a company into the search bar and PETA will give you the magic verdict as to whether or not it's cruelty-free. (Example: I searched for Shea Moisture, since I'm currently using their facial soap, and happily discovered that they're cruelty-free! Woohoo! L'Oreal, on the other hand, whose mascara I recently purchased, is not. Booooooo....) 
  2. Leaping Bunny Approved Brands. Just like PETA's database, you can also search the Leaping Bunny database to see which brands are certified cruelty-free, and which are not. If a brand doesn't appear in the database, cross-reference PETA's guide or another reliable source to see why they aren't Leaping Bunny-certified. You can also view a complete list of Leaping Bunny-approved brands on the main page, with icons to indicate whether a company uses the Leaping Bunny logo, is a Canadian product or a cruelty-free subsidiary of a non-compliant parent company (a fancy way of saying that one line doesn't test on animals, even though its parent company does). 
  3. Cruelty-Free Kitty's Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide (2017 Edition). Last but not least, the blog Cruelty-Free Kitty is hands-down my favorite beauty-minded source of cruelty-free information. CFK even reaches out to companies whose animal testing policies aren't specified to see whether or not they are cruelty-free. However, what I especially like about CFK's Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide is that they break down their brand list into two sub-lists, Sephora brands and drugstore brands,  so it's much easier to find what you're looking for and see where you can discover and purchase new cruelty-free brands.

Another way to find out if a brand is cruelty-free or not? Just ask! For example, as you probably noticed, I have been talking about Brandless a lot lately, since they're such an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to many store brands. However, their website's statement on animal cruelty seemed a bit vague to me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and email their customer service line. (Stay tuned for the results,) You can always take this approach if you're concerned or can't find information about your favorite brands; as long as you're polite, customer service will usually be happy to help you figure it out! 

Before we move on to some of my favorite cruelty-free beauty brands, I also want to talk about two important topics that come into play when it comes to cruelty-free products:

First of all, let's talk about greenwashing, a practice often employed by cruel companies to trick the consumer into feeling good about where their money is going. You've probably noticed the rise in labels like "all-natural," or the changes in many of your favorite brands' packaging in recent years to look more wholesome and earthy. 

Just like certain statements about animal testing, these terms are not regulated by the FDA, and don't necessarily mean a company is actually "natural" or cruelty-free - so be wary of big beauty brands who put leaves on their packaging and drop buzzwords like "eco-friendly." And, of course, if you're truly confused about whether it's greenwashing or truly legit, try looking them up in a database or emailing-slash-calling the company for more information. If you don't see one of those three certified bunny logos, you should never just take the package's word for it.

Secondly, let's talk about the important distinctions between cruelty-free and vegan. Cruelty-free and vegan are NOT the same thing! 

Here's the difference: a cruelty-free product cannot be tested on animals or contain ingredients tested on animals - but that doesn't mean it can't contain animal derivatives such as milk, egg white proteins or collagen. On the other hand, a vegan product must be cruelty-free and free of all animal byproducts like dairy, eggs, etc. 

In other words, all vegan products are cruelty-free, but not all cruelty-free products are vegan. So, if you're vegan (or shopping for someone who is), never forget to check the label for animal ingredients - or a heart-shaped logo that says "Certified Vegan" on the package.

Cruelty-Free Favorites

Animals shouldn't have to pay a price for our beauty - and they don't with these cruelty-free faves! Believe it or not, you can still get great skin, flawless eyeliner and a bold lip, all without a single casualty. Here are some of the products I'm loyal to and why you should be, too:

Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo

As gross as this is to admit on the Internet, I (along with everyone else in my family) suffer from terrible dandruff - and, if you didn't already know about the powers of tea tree oil, this post is about to change your life! 

Tea tree oil has incredible properties that can promote a healthy scalp and even help your hair grow faster. So, naturally, when Maple Holistics reached out and asked if I would test their tea tree shampoo, I just had to say yes.

I have been SO pleased with the results I've had from this tea tree shampoo. Not only does the tea tree improve my dandruff more than any other commercial product I've tried (read: Head & Shoulders), but it also contains pure ingredients like argan oil and botanical keratin to help make my hair silky and strong. 

The best part? This shampoo costs less than $10 and lasts forever! (I've had it a month and have used maybe half the bottle.) So, if you're at all interested in trying an inexpensive botanical shampoo that doesn't test on animals, I highly recommend Maple Holistics.

REMAY Shave Gel Bar

One weird thing about me is that I really hate normal shaving cream. Why, I have no idea - but I just can't stand that white foam! As a result, I rarely use it, but then I end up with these annoying razor bumps up and down my legs.

Enter the REMAY Shave Gel Bar, and voila: problem solved! This gel-based shave bar smells amazing, glides on paper-thin and creates zero mess as you shave. Plus, because it goes on so thin, one bar will literally last you for months at a time....not to mention that it's both cruelty-free AND vegan (so everyone can enjoy it!).

Me and my friend both tested out the shave gel bar last month, and it's been a staple in our shower routines ever since. I definitely would recommend you test out this shave bar if you're looking for a mess-free way to spice up your shower routine....

No bunnies were harmed in the making of this shave bar :) 

Other Cruelty-Free Faves...

  • Tartelette in Bloom Palette. That's right - Tarte is completely cruelty-free and PETA-approved! Their Tartelette in Bloom Palette is an amazing collection of pink, brown and red neutrals with great pigmentation that are perfect for fall.
  • BareMinerals Gen Nude Matte Liquid Lipstick in Boss. I got this lip color during a free BareMinerals event with my sorority - and having seen this color on nearly all of my sisters, I can attest that this shade looks gorgeous on just about everybody. Bonus: it stays put after eating, kissing...even napping! 
  • NYX High Definition Blush in Rose Gold. This NYX blush was a gift from Her Campus' Boston Fashion Week event this year (in case you didn't already know, I'm a staff writer for Her Campus BU, the most viewed chapter of Her Campus!) and I've literally used it almost every day since. This color looks perfect on my fair skin and adds just enough shimmer that I don't even need a highlight. (And for $6.50, who could resist that?)
  • Aria Starr Dead Sea Mud Mask. I bought this mud mask because I was looking for a new one and, TBH, it was a bestseller on Amazon. (I'm a loyal Amazonian, what can I say?) However, I was so happy with the results I got from this mask! It dried up all my blemishes and purged my pores of blackheads - plus it's vegan, cruelty-free and under $20. I have zero complains :) 

Take the pledge to go cruelty-free! Comment or tweet me @haleymarieblog "I pledge cruelty-free with HMB" to show your commitment for animal rights.

Healthy Habits Inspired By Strong Women | #NewMe2018

Hello, beautiful! Welcome back to my brand-new series for the New Year, #NewMe2018.

One of the biggest challenges I face when trying to start healthy habits is keeping up my motivation. So, what do I do when I feel uninspired? I turn to my fave female role models, of course!

That's why this post is inspired by some of the most badass b*tches (I use this word as a compliment) that Hollywood, Washington and the world have to offer. Today, I'm going to be sharing some of the women who inspire me most and taking habits from their routines to inspire your own journey in 2018.

So, if you're with me on modeling your life after your favorite fierce femmes, read on to see what healthy habits YOU can adopt to feel even more badass than last year!

Daisy Ridley

Uhh...who? Gorgeous, fit actress known for playing Rey in the newest installment of Star Wars.

Why she's inspiring: Not only does she play the most scrappy, badass female heroine to hit the screens in 2018, but she's also bravely fought back against body shamers on social media, who said she wasn't a "real woman" because she doesn't have curves.

Badass quote to prove it: "'Real women' are all shapes and sizes, all ethnicities, all levels of brave. I am a 'real woman' just like every other woman in this world."

How to channel her at home: Steal Daisy's five-minute workout routine! (That's right, you heard me.) Though Daisy had to exercise for four hours a day to train for playing Rey, she isn't a huge fan of cardio - or, more specifically, running. So, what does she do? She sprints for five minutes on the treadmill, of course! Next time you're feeling lazy or just need a quick burst of energy, I dare you to try Daisy's five-minute gym routine for a healthy pick-me-up.

Gal Gadot

Uhh...who? Stunningly strong Israeli actress who graced your screen as Wonder Woman in 2k17.

Why she's inspiring: Before becoming an actress and model, Gal Gadot served in the Israeli army (yes, really). To train for the role of Wonder Woman, she did two hours in the gym, two hours on horseback and two hours of fight choreography every. Single. Day. For six months! Plus, she's an outspoken proponent of better roles for leading ladies in Hollywood. 

Badass quote to prove it: "I feel that I've got the opportunity [as Wonder Woman] to set a great role model for girls to look up to a strong, active, compassionate, loving, positive woman, and I think it's so important."

How to channel her at home: Chug a gallon of water! Gal is known for drinking a gallon of water a day to rev up her metabolism, giving her the energy she needed to do her own stunts (while five months pregnant!) during the filming of Wonder Woman. My best tip for staying on top of your water drinking? Mark a gallon jug of water with times to hold yourself accountable for finishing it. 

Karlie Kloss

Uhh...who? Long, lean Victoria's Secret model, entrepreneur and advocate for girls.

Why she's inspiring: What doesn't Karlie do? In addition to an active modeling career for Victoria's Secret and other high-end fashion brands, Karlie runs her own business, Karlie's Kookies, and works with Girls Who Code to get young girls more interested in pursuing STEM careers. 

Badass quote to prove it: "If you believe in yourself and feel confident in yourself, you can do anything. I really believe that."

How to channel her at home: Submerge your face in ice water for 20 seconds - no, really! Karlie did this before the 2017 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai to tighten her pores and wake herself up before the big show. To recreate her ritual at home, you can fill a bowl with ice water and submerge your face for 20 seconds - or simply try splashing your face with freezing cold water first thing in the morning. 

Kayla Itsines

Uhh...who? Ripped Australian trainer who's known for her core-crushing Bikini Body Guides (and stunning Insta photos!).

Why she's inspiring: Not only can this chick lift more than you and your BFF combined, but she's also a badass girlboss who started her own franchise with her BBG programs. Now, she has her own nutrition guides, product lines and even an app called Sweat with Kayla. You go, girl! 

Badass quote to prove it: "Stop waiting for Monday, January 1st or anything else. Start now."

How to channel her at home: Download the Headspace app and use the SOS meditation anytime you feel stressed or anxious - Kayla told Well + Good that she recently started meditating with this app when she's overwhelmed or carsick and trust me, it's a life-changer! 

Anna Camp

Uhh...who? Aca-mazing actress and singer who's starred in Pitch Perfect, Good Girls Revolt & more.

Why she's inspiring: Anna plays everyone's favorite hardass in Pitch Perfect, proving that, as Tina Fey would say, bitches really do get stuff done. Not to mention, she was a part of the short-lived, hopefully-gonna-be-renewed-because-of-staff-changes-at-Amazon television series Good Girls Revolt, where she helped bring the first-ever sexual harassment lawsuit to life on the big screes, n. 

Badass quote to prove it: "I think that the audience wants to see women being put into real situations, where they can relate to them, rather than seeing some glamorous woman in a Bond film."

How to channel her at home: Start your day with a mindful moment outdoors rather than with a scroll through your Instagram feed. Anna reportedly banned herself from using her phone for the first 30 minutes that she's awake, instead choosing to enjoy her morning coffee on the porch with her husband and dog. (Can I get an "Awwww?") 

Emma Watson

Uhh...who? The brightest young witch of her age and real-life Disney princess. What more can I say?

Why she's inspiring: Oh God, don't even get me started...*takes deep breath* In addition to her decorated career as a young actress, Emma is an ambassador to the U.N., an outspoken advocate for women and their sexuality and a voice for animals and the environment. And that's just scraping the surface.

Badass quote to prove it: "Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong."

How to channel her at home: Take a bath. Emma has at least one bath every day of her life - but if she could, she'd probably spend her whole day in the bathtub. As she puts it, "Nothing terrible is going to happen in the bath." So, turn up the hot water, pour in some of her favorite Epsom salts and give yourself some "me-time," girl! You deserve it :)

Ingrid Nilsen

Uhh...who? Out-and-proud beauty and lifestyle YouTuber (not to mention the actual goddess who inspired my haircut).

Why she's inspiring: A couple years ago, Ingrid made headlines with her real and raw coming out video, which has received millions of views. Since then, she's become a huge advocate for not only the LGBTQ community, but also for women and racial minorities - all while juggling her own thriving career as a YouTube beauty guru and entrepreneur.

Badass quote to prove it: "I am proud of who I am and I am not going to apologize for who I am anymore."

How to channel her at home: Watch the news while eating your breakfast. Ingrid likes to use this time in the morning to catch up on current events - which explains how she always manages to stay #woke despite her busy schedule. Short on time in the morning? To take a note from Ingrid, you can sign up for The Skimm, a brief daily newsletter that sums up the morning's news in quippy soundbites.

Taylor Swift

Uhh...who? Singer, songwriter, fashion icon, squad goals and everything you could possibly aspire to in this crazy world.

Why she's inspiring: In addition to writing real, raw songs that any girl can relate to, Taylor was named one of 2018's Silence Breakers by TIME Magazine. After being sued by a radio host who was fired for sexually harassing her, Taylor countersued for a symbolic $1.00 and won her case. YASSS, girl!

Badass quote to prove it: "No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."

How to channel her at home: Stow away your scale, delete your calorie counter and treat yourself to the things you love! While Taylor tries to eat healthfully during the week, she hates feeling deprived, and she would never be caught dead on a crazy-regimented diet. So, hop in the Starbucks line for a Taylor-approved pumpkin spice latte and savor it mindfully, appreciating all the wonderful tastes this world has to offer. You've earned it, babe!

Karena Dawn

Uhh...who? One-half of the inspiring health and fitness duo K&K, whose Tone It Up brand has gone viral among health-conscious women.

Why she's inspiring: With her BFF and business partner Katrina Scott, Karena built the Tone It Up brand into a franchise complete with fitness tours, DVDs, books, merchandise (now stocked in Target!) and even the Studio Tone It Up app. That's not to mention her personal story of triumph over addiction and mental illness through running and fitness! 

Badass quote to prove it: "I wanted to use my life experiences to inspire other women to go after what they want and show them that - just like I learned - they're capable of anything and everything."

How to channel her at home: Read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of Karena's favorite books. It talks about self-destructive beliefs that prevent us from being happy, and how keeping four distinct principles in check is the key to everlasting joy. To even further channel Karena, read it in the morning just after waking up for a few moments of self-care to kickstart your day! 

Who's your number one role model when it comes to starting healthy habits? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media!

How to Rock Kayla Itsines' BBG | #NewMe2018

Hello, beautiful! If you follow me on Twitter, you know I recently announced that I would be starting Kayla Itsines' BBG program to get fit for the New Year.

If you haven't heard of Kayla yet, she's a killer Australian trainer with an equally killer set of abs. I mean, just look at this girl's bod:

Total girl crush, am I right or amirite? Anyways, Kayla started the BBG program (BBG stands for "Bikini Body Guides") to help women build a beautiful, strong body that they feel confident in. To Kayla, a bikini body isn't about having the perfect body type, but rather a body that makes you want to wear that sexy string bikini. Don't you just love that?

Personally, I'm joining the BBG program to get fitter and get back into a healthy routine. For me, it's not just about a "bikini body," but also about a healthy mind, since exercise is the #1 treatment for depression and anxiety. Because happy people just don't shoot their husbands, as my fave girl Elle Woods once said...okay, you're right, that wasn't funny.

Regardless of my reasoning (or bad jokes), I'm starting the BBG program this January - and I want you to join me! Kayla's positive attitude and tough workouts will totally rock you and your hot bod, so I'm here to tell you how YOU can rock it right back. Let's get started!

Tip #1: Take Consistent Progress Pics

Since Kayla is adamant that BBG is NOT just about the number on the scale, it's important to measure your progress in other ways. How you feel, how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror are all more important indications of your progress than how much you weigh! You can, of course, weigh in regularly for a guiding number - but keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, and weight is no indication of health. 

Though you have many choices, Kayla says the best way to track your progress is with before and after pictures - check out her Instagram account to see some killer transformation pics from BBG! Every week or so, take a photo of yourself in a sports bra and leggings/shorts from the front and to the side. Store these in a secret folder on your phone so you're not self-conscious about what anyone thinks of them - and at the end of the 28-day program, consider posting a before and after pic with #HMBdoesBBG for the chance to be featured on my Insta! 

Tip #2: Read Kayla's BBG Books

Kayla currently has two books out: The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide and The Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide. Personally, I have bought both of them; I've finished reading the habits guide but haven't gotten around to reading her 28-day lifestyle guide. 

In the motivation & habits guide, Kayla talks a lot about why women don't get the results they want or expect with BBG - and the number one reason? They skip workouts due to a lack of motivation. One of Kayla's top tips for motivating yourself to work out in this book is to educate yourself as much as you can about the "how" and "why" of nutrition and fitness, so you understand exactly why it's important to exercise and eat healthy for your body, mind and soul. 

Thankfully, Kayla's books are designed to be the perfect source of info for anyone doing BBG! They include comprehensive nutrition guides, recipes and tons of inspirational quotes and tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle. Plus, the motivation & habits guide even came with a pull-out poster showing the four weeks of exercises, so I definitely recommend buying a print version (rather than the ebook). 

Tip #3: Get Used to Lifting Heavy

The BBG program is NOT for the faint of heart when it comes to using the gym and/or equipment in your workouts! It depends which version of BBG you're doing (i.e. following the workout programs in Kayla's books or following the 1.0 and 2.0 guides), but at the very least, you need to be comfortable lifting moderate hand weights (or willing to try and become comfortable as you go along). For either program, I would suggest starting with 5-8 lbs in each hand and gradually increasing as you find yourself getting stronger!

Regardless of which edition of BBG you're following, it quickly becomes clear that BBG is intended to be performed in the gym. So, bring your pull-out poster or BBG printouts with you and head on over to your campus fitness center - and don't try to do BBG in your dorm room or apartment, because it just won't work out well for you. After all, you need tons of space for BBG, as well as equipment ranging from benches and jump ropes to Bosu balls and weights...which is why it's time to get used to lifting heavy!

Tip #4: Don't Be Afraid to Substitute

This goes for both meals and workouts: don't be afraid to change things up! So many times, when following a regimented workout and meal plan like BBG, you become terrified to break from the plan and not see the results you want. But try to remember that as long as you're doing something, you're working toward a healthier, happier version of yourself - so, feel free to skip your LISS or HIIT for the day and go to a yoga or boxing class with a girlfriend, or a long hike with your family. 

I'm also a firm believer that it's important to still live your life when doing a program like BBG. You can still go to that party or go out to dinner with your S.O. even when you're on BBG! The occasional treat isn't a bad thing, and one "bad" meal won't make you "fat." And besides, it's important not to get too caught up in self-regulation and restriction, which can lead to disordered eating or uncontrollable binges. 

In other words, if you want ice cream, have a kiddie cup, and go back to your regular routine tomorrow. As long as it's not every day, then follow the wise words of Tom Haverford and treat yo' self, girl! ;)

Tip #5: Set Yourself Up for Success

...ahead of time, that is! You can and will succeed in completing the full BBG program (I believe in you!), but I will admit that it takes plenty of planning to fit this workout plan into an already-busy schedule. Luckily, there are a few small purchases you can make in addition to BBG (psst...click here for a free PDF download of the first BBG!) to help set yourself up for success. Here's some of my fave fitness and workout equipment to stock up on before you start BBG:
  • Wall calendar. I use a huge 2018 wall calendar I got from the Target Dollar Spot for $3 to write down all my workouts and meals, as well as my assignments and other school commitments. This is a great way to visualize your schedule and plan to squeeze in your 28-minute workout ahead of time!
  • Filtered water bottle. If you want to trick yourself into drinking more water, then get this Brita water bottle. I've been using it for weeks now and I've drank more water than I ever have before! Not only does the straw make it so easy to absentmindedly sip at your desk, but the filter helps you feel clean and actually enjoy the taste of boring old tap water. YASS, girl!
  • Yoga mat. Maybe this is a personal preference, but there's something I just love about having my own yoga mat when I go to the gym. Not only is it more hygienic than sharing with the sweaty guy who never wipes his mat, but the personalization aspect motivates me. This is the exact yoga mat I bought from Amazon - the bright colors get me excited to exercise every time I see them!
  • Basic hand weights. Some days, you won't feel like making the trek across campus to the gym - which is why I suggest keeping a basic pair of 5-8 lb hand weights in your dorm room. You can easily improvise some of the BBG equipment with things you have around the house (i.e. using a chair as a bench), but hand weights are pretty tricky to duplicate. Thankfully, Amazon sells this colorful set for super cheap - and with Prime student, you can have 'em in two days flat!
  • Optional: ClassPass membership. I recently sprung for a ClassPass membership, and I've got to say that it's one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself. With ClassPass, you can pop into any studio you want 3-10 times (depending on your membership option) over the course of a month. I happen to think it's the perfect way to supplement BBG because it provides just enough variety to keep me from getting bored! 

What are your thoughts on Kayla's BBG program? Will you be joining me? LMK in the comments below!

How to Deal with Negativity in the New Year | #NewMe2018

Hello, beautiful! If your 2017 was anything like mine, it was probably full of the three things I hate most in this world: stress, drama and bullshit. In case you haven't been keeping up with my crazy life via blog or social media, here's a quick summary of everything that went down in 2018:
  1. Stress. I wound up dropping an academic class and getting an incomplete grade in my yoga class because of stress and overwhelm this year. I switched therapists and had to basically start from zero on my mental health recovery. And let's not even talk about what I read on the news.
  2. Drama. I lost friends in 2017, and I learned who my true friends really are. It's a valuable lesson I wouldn't trade for the world - I just wish it didn't have to make my life so complicated in the process.
  3. Bullshit. People suck - what can I say? I got stuck in bad Ubers. I drank bad beer in gross basements. I cried in public more times than I like to admit. And our president made some shitty laws that jeopardized some of the things I find most important and most American, such as reproductive choice and cultural diversity. Bullshit upon bullshit upon bullshit....
Well, now that it's 2018, I say that it's time for an attitude adjustment. More specifically, I want to go from this (Katherine Pierce levels of fed up)....

....to this:

Best GIF of the year already - am I right or amirite?

So, if you're with me on having a stress-free, drama-free, bullshit-free 2018, then you're in the right place! This post is all about ways you can minimize the negativity in your life so you can give out nothing but heart and kissy-face emojis to the people you love most. Today, let's talk about how you can get rid of all the bullshit and make 2018 YOUR YEAR - once and for all! Because you deserve it, girlfriend :) (You really do!)

But before we get into this post, I just want to say a few words about the hashtag #NewMe2018, which you'll be seeing a lot on Haley Marie Blog throughout the month of January:

#NewMe2018 is a brand-new series I'm starting to help you live life to the fullest in the New Year! Between setting goals, banishing bullshit and feeling yourself more than ever before, these posts will give you the boost you need to make 2018 the best year of your life so far. 

Now that that's been said, let's get right into the first post of #NewMe2018 and talk about ways to make 2018 your most positive year yet - no stress, no drama, no bullshit allowed! 

Inhale Love, Exhale Bullshit

Have you checked out this honest "Fuck That" meditation yet? Buzzfeed ran an article on it awhile ago - but I still think it's a classic! It also rings incredibly true when I think about the kind of energy I want to channel in 2018.

On a more serious note, meditation can really help when it comes to banishing negative energy from your life. Specifically, there's a practice called loving-kindness that can help you extend compassion to your loved ones, your enemies and even yourself. Lots of my favorite apps, from Calm to Meditation Studio, have these kinds of meditations - you can even run a quick search on YouTube or Google and you're guaranteed to find plenty of 'em! 

Not only does meditating regularly help to clear your head and center yourself, but it's also a great healthy coping mechanism for dealing with all that stress, drama and bullshit. Don't believe me? Next time you find yourself reading a news article or text message in a rage, I challenge you to slip into the other room for a couple deep breaths. At first it might feel difficult or forced, even silly, but soon you'll find that you've forgotten what you were upset about in the first place, leaving you with nothing but love, love, love to give with the world....YASSSS, girl! 

Set Healthy Boundaries

I can think of about a hundred times I wish I'd been more vocal about my needs and set better boundaries for myself in 2017 (and even earlier!). Specifically, when dealing with toxic friendships and family members, I wish I'd known how to give myself the space that I needed from these draining relationships.

In middle school, I used to idealize the idea of "friends for life," assuming that the friendships I had then would last me the next thirty years of my life. Now that I'm a little bit older, I've gone through friendship breakups and felt myself drift apart from people I used to know in high school. In some cases, I've even felt weights lift off my shoulders as I parted from so-called "friends," who were never really such great friends to me in the first place.

I'm a big proponent of letting go of toxic relationships - or, at the very least, setting healthy boundaries for yourself. As humans, we're a reflection of our closest inner circle, so one of the best things you can do for yourself is be selective about who you allow into this coveted place in your life. I like to drama-proof my inner circle, choosing only the friends who are as good to me as I am to them, and letting go of those who cause me nothing but distress. It's taken a long time for me to become comfortable with this (and comfortable telling the difference), but with the help of a good therapist and a couple years of experience, I promise: setting boundaries gets a hell of a lot easier in time!

It's important to set boundaries not just with toxic people but with the good eggs, too! Even in my relationship with Ryan, which is as happy as happy gets (well, most of the time), we both still need a bit of space from each other every so often. As tempting as it can be to spend every waking minute together when I'm home (since we can't see each other so often the rest of the time), we both know that this kind of proximity is unhealthy, stifling and a recipe for conflict. You might worry about hurting a friend, boyfriend or parent's feelings by creating this space for yourself - but think of it this way: because of that propensity to cause conflict, healthy boundaries are not just good for you, but good for the other person too! 

Have an Exit Strategy

But what about those times when you simply can't avoid the negative forces in your life? Maybe it's an emotionally abusive parent that you're stuck with for the holidays, or maybe it's a toxic friend who runs in the same circle as many of your other wonderful, supportive friendships. In those cases, I recommend always having an exit strategy - a Plan B that lets you tap out and wind down as soon as you feel your bullshit meter climbing high.

Below, I've outlined a couple of situations where I might use an exit strategy, so you can see exactly what I mean and (hopefully) apply this theory to your own life:

Situation A: You're eating lunch with a group of your (healthy, happy, supportive) friends when your toxic friend - we'll call her Lisa - suddenly pulls up a chair. You expect the worst, but she's actually funny and charming today, reminding you of the reason why you two became friends in the first place...and then, just when you thought things might get better between you, she pulls out a snide comment about your new haircut. (You know, one of those ones that seems like a compliment but is actually a cutdown.) Yikes.

Exit Strategy: DO. NOT. ENGAGE. People like Lisa are looking for a reaction! If you feel capable of brushing it off, do - but if you need to GTFO before you strangle someone, then tell a white lie like "Hey guys, this has been great, but I just remembered I have a paper due by midnight that I haven't even started" and mosey on back to your dorm room in peace. Hopefully, you have at least one or two friends at the table who you can text privately and let them know why you really left. Just be sure that "venting" doesn't turn into petty gossiping - or before you know it, your friends will be calling you the new Lisa.

Situation B: You and your boyfriend are home for Christmas and he wants to come over to exchange gifts and snuggle up in front of the fireplace. The only problem? Dad's overprotective of his little girl, and things tend to get tense when the two are together. Now, you've got that awkward "...." on your phone screen while you figure out what to say to your boyfriend in a panic.

Exit Strategy: As an adult, it can be hard to get used to the idea that your parents won't approve of everything you do...so, I find the best way to avoid this is to keep your parents and your love life as separate as you can without being dishonest or rude. In other words, now's the perfect time to practice setting boundaries with Dad: instead of inviting your boyfriend over to your place (where things might get awkward or negative), offer to meet at a neutral location instead, like his house or a local cafe. Meanwhile, if Dad asks why the BF isn't around, avoid getting angry and instead deflect the comment with something nonchalant - "Oh, he's with his family for the holidays; I didn't want to bother them." Most importantly, be delicate with both of their feelings, and avoid taking out your frustrations on either party. It isn't Dad's fault he still sees you as a nine-year-old in pigtails, nor is it your boyfriend's fault for not knowing every detail of your family drama! 

At first, it might feel bitchy or mean to remove yourself from toxic situations when things get tense - but it's important to remember that protecting your heart is never selfish. As they say on airplanes, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, girlfriend! When you put it that way, it doesn't feel selfish so much as second-nature :)

Pour Your Heart Out

The biggest bullshit I saw, read and experienced in 2017 by far was that undying quest for the coveted feeling of "happiness." To me, happiness isn't exactly a state of joy, contentment or even elation, but this unattainable ideal where everything is sunshine and rainbows all the time. And as crazy as this sounds on paper, humans have convinced themselves that this state is the ultimate end goal of life - and that if you're living anything less than that, you're not living a happy, healthy, full life.

Well, pull out the big red bullshit button, folks, and give it a big ol' press for me - because as you and I both know, a healthy range of human emotion runs the entire gamut, all the way from depressed and infuriated to overjoyed and excited. So, why not make 2018 the year we stop forcing ourselves to meditate, smile more, drink more water and make gratitude lists with the sole goal of making ourselves "happier people?" Because as great as these healthy habits are on their own, they're pretty much meaningless if you're only doing them because some researcher told you it would improve your life. 

More importantly, they stifle our propensity to feel. Rather than let ourselves be swept away by sadness, bittersweetness, heartbreak, anger or joy, we tell ourselves that we have to "think positive" and "look on the bright side"-  because that's what we're told: that there's no time or place for bad feelings. 

In my opinion, that's one of the reasons why we have so much trouble feeling joy in the smallest moments of life: because we don't allow ourselves to feel the bad parts, either! So, if you're going to set just one New Year's resolution in 2018, make it this one: FEEL YOUR FEELS TO THE FULLEST. 

If you want to laugh, laugh; if you want to cry, cry; and if you want to punch things, punch things, damnit! (Note: things, NOT people!) No more bottling up emotions and saving them for a rainy day - it's time to feel your feelings to the fullest, complete the stress cycle and let 'em go with an appreciative wave and a sigh. 

Want more ideas for ways you can express your emotions healthfully? Here's a quick rundown of some of my favorite ways to let it all out:
  • Cry. Nothing helps me purge myself of bad feelings like a good crying jag - preferably in the shower, while playing Harry Styles' Sign of the Times. 
  • Get physical. This is especially effective for anger, or those times when stress manifests as anger. The more aggressive, the better - I'm a fan of boxing, running and lifting heavy weights when I'm P.O.ed. 
  • Scream. A good primal scream might feel weird at first, but totally helps. When it comes to minimizing the embarrassment factor, a locked door and a thick pillow go a long way. In public? Try clenching your fists as hard as you can for 10 seconds and then letting go - not as satisfying as screaming, but still just as effective!
  • Bake. Yup, I'm a stress baker! As terrible as it is to use food as a crutch for stress, it's not as much about eating the food as it is about making it - I think there's something relieving about the physical act of making something with your bare hands and getting to taste the rewards of your hard work....especially when you're stressed or sad!
  • Color. When I'm sad, anxious or overwhelmed, I like to sit-down with an adult coloring book, especially one with lots of intricate little details. Losing myself in the colors and patterns helps me ground myself and gives me a sense of childlike creativity.
  • Therapy. If all else fails, or if you're dealing with heavy shit (think: anxiety/depression, rough childhood, addiction, sexual assault), a therapist can help you manage your emotions by reframing thoughts, developing coping strategies and even prescribing certain medications. Just remember: a therapist can be your guide and your support through the process of recovery, but it's ultimately up to YOU to put in the emotional handiwork!

How do you handle negativity? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media!