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Are you tired of feeling constant worry, overwhelm and living life like a race? For over 10 years, I tried every diet on the market, felt hopelessly inferior to everyone around me, and chronically worried about everything from work to how I was parenting my daughter. So, when I had arrived in Paris for the first time as a hot mess.
I wish I could tell you that after those 7 days in the City of Light, I magically transformed into a calm, cool and collected lady, but that is not my story. I came home with more questions than answers.
However, I was asking better questions such as:
How can I create more joie de vivre?
What do I need to let go of?
What do I deeply want?
Where are my standards too low?
How can I combine ambition with ease?
How can I not get caught up in the overwhelm and comparison?
How can I take exquisite care of my body and drop the dieting insanity?
As I began living out the answers, the quality of my life began to change slowly. More importantly, I began to change as a woman.
My life looks and, even better, feels completely different from that girl who landed in Paris a decade ago.
This all happened because I figured out how to make Paris my state of mind.
Paris ignited a spark, and that spark has now grown into a flame where I deeply believe that women can live lives with more ease, elegance and style, and drop the constant striving and overwhelm that has too many women feeling frustrated, stuck and hopeless.
Since that trip, I have a passport full of Charles du Gaulle stamps, and a deep love for a city that changed me deeply and has spilled into my relationship with others, myself and my precious life.
Some people go to India for a spiritual experience; I make an annual pilgrimage to Paris.
I know it's cliché, but Paris is like my therapist. She's taught me so many things that I somehow failed to learn growing up -- the importance of life's simple pleasures, why style is important, how to add more beauty to an ordinary day, the beauty of being a woman, how to be confident, an appreciation of intellectual pursuits, how to truly enjoy food and wine, plus so much more.
You may be thinking, "Well, that's nice, but I don't live in Paris." Maybe you've never even been.
It doesn't matter. I live in a small ski town in Colorado.
Here's the good news:
Whether you're on a ranch in Montana, on a farm in Georgia or in the heart of Manhattan, you can learn to live with more style, elegance and joie de vivre.
If you're exhausted from your current way of life. If you're ready to indulge in the beauty of your life as it is right now, if you're ready to cultivate a Paris state of mind....
Here are 27 ways to do it:
1. Practice being a flaneur
To flaneur is a Parisian art. It means to stroll, saunter or loaf. When was the last time you strolled down a street? Unfortunately, speeding and grinding our way through life has become the new norm. Not only is it killing us mentally, physically and emotionally, but we're missing out on all the beauty and wonder that's right under our nose. Slow it down. Take it in. Flâneur. The world will not fall apart. If it would, the French would be an extinct species.
2. Don't apologize for your presence or needs
When a French woman cancels an appointment, accidentally bumps into you or decides to leave the party early, she does not feel the need to apologize. She's not afraid of taking up too much space or fulfilling her own needs. She simply does what she needs to do, without apology. Sometimes, an apology is called for, but 99% of the time, it just screams "I don't deserve it."
3. Simplify your wardrobe
With beautiful Instagram photos of incredible outfits, it's tempting to believe that more is better. But, do you really need 25 pairs of heels or 10 designer handbags? Do you need to buy 10 of those classic white shirts because they are on sale? I am a huge advocate in women investing in what they love, and if a closet full of Louboutins is it, then go for it. However, I have discovered that most women are buying things for the wrong reasons -- to fill a void or feel better. All the shoes in the world won't give you that. I have found that more space in my closet creates more space in my life.
4. Invest in simple pleasures
You don't need a fresh bouquet of flowers or an intoxicating candle, but it's the things in life we don't need but deeply want that makes life enchanting. A Paris state of mind is not about being practical; it's about being delighted. There's no delight in denial of life's simple pleasures.
5. Show up as the best version of yourself
Don't wait for a special occasion to get dressed up and put your best foot forward. Bring an element of romance into your life by waking up each day and choosing to wear something that makes you feel fabulous. Dress up to stroll the supermarket aisles. Wear your cutest Lululemon for your hike. Throw on a skirt and cute wedges to bike to the farmer's market. Believe what you want, but I deeply believe that what you wear matters. When you run into your ex or your possible future, you'll thank me.
6. Ease into your day
Waking up checking emails, Facebook and other shenanigans is a recipe for disaster if you want a Paris state of mind. That screams, "My day is going to run me," instead of you running your day. Each morning, you'll find Parisians sitting at a cafe, sipping their espresso or cafe creme, reading the paper or simply watching the world wake up. Their way of being confirms a belief I choose to have, which is "There is no hurry." You may not live in a cafe culture, but you can create your own. Spend a few moments enjoying a simple beverage and appreciating a new day. Everything will be waiting for you when you're done.
7. Shop at your local farmer's market
Get to know the people who grow your food, invest in fresh, local ingredients and get some sunshine. There's nothing quite like going to a local market, having a coffee, meeting your neighbors and coming home with food grown with love.
8. Get your exercise, in style
People joke about the French not exercising. The joke is on us, because they are indeed an active culture. They simply prefer to make it look effortless by dressing up, jumping on their bike and cycling through the streets (with a dog or baguette in their basket). Added benefits include saving on your gas bill plus a fun form of exercise. In addition, you'll find them walking through the streets instead of jumping in their car, finding a sport they love or lots of sex (yes, that counts too!).
9. Learn how to be a hostess
Every time I've been invited into a French person's home, I am fascinated with how elegantly she is able to pull of something that seems so complicated with ease and confidence. She has most likely observed her aunts, grandmother and mother for decades be the lady of the house. While it's not a skill we're born with, being a gracious hostess is a learned artistry that each of us can gain with practice. The secret is two-fold: 1) knowing that simple is usually better and 2) developing your own unique hostessing style.
10. Create a bookshelf you love
When traveling to Paris (or anywhere, for that matter), I often rent apartments. With one glance at the bookshelf, I discover so much about the owner -- her likes, loves and interests. What would I think if I looked at yours? I know I would have been horrified for someone to see my book collection years ago. It screamed, "My life is a mess, and I'm determined to fix it." Now, it says, "Life is beautiful and I'm going to enjoy it." When you look at your bookshelf, ask yourself, "Do these books excite or discourage me?" I think you know which ones need to go.
11. Invest in beautiful lingerie
You've probably heard the saying, "What you do behind closed doors is telling." I'd like to add that what you wear underneath your clothes is too. A Parisian style expert once told me, "Lingerie is important because it's the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off at night. It sets the tone for your entire day." While most people won't see what's underneath your clothing, unless you're a stripper (and in that case, I'm sure you have a great collection), you know. Everything is energy, including your underpinnings. So, it's impacting you whether you realize it or not. My days of overwhelm and struggle were also marked with tattered bras and baggy panties. Coincidence? I think not.
12. Cultivate an air of mystery
The French say, "Pour vivre contente, vivons caches." (Translated: To live happily, live hidden.) Instead of spilling your emotions to the man at the coffee shop, sharing the details of your personal life and business disputes all over Facebook, confessing your most sacred dreams to the neighbor who may not want to hear them, or telling everyone about your stomach bug, keep some of your sacredness to yourself instead of throwing them into the wind of life. Being authentic does not mean sharing every detail of your life.
13. Have a signature dish
A French woman usually has at least one signature dish (usually passed down from her mother) that she can pull out at a moment's notice for a last minute dinner party or to impress her future mother-in-law. She's cooked it many times, so it's been tested and proven, leaving her to feel confident when it's called upon. Find and perfect your dish. Make it so good that people will be begging for the recipe, but of course, it's tucked away in your secret garden.
14. Learn the basics of wine
I believe a French bébé is born with wine being a second language. Maybe it's because the mother had a few glasses when she was in utero or that she's born into a culture where wine is a part of everyday life. However, for most of us, this is not the case. It wasn't even allowed in my home. This led to moments of panic attacks as an adult when the wine list was passed my way. Because my deep desire was to be a worldly woman, I knew this was one skill I needed to possess, so I enrolled in sommelier school. However, you don't have to know the best vintage of Bordeaux or about malolactic fermentation. Simply understanding what wines pair well with a dish, the appropriate glassware and a bit about wine regions, will guarantee that you are confident in your dining skills. Plus, I'd hate for you to make the mistake that I once did, pronouncing rosé like the flower. Or, you can do as I did for years and 'fake it til you make it,' but expect a few slipups.
15. Eat by the seasons
Have you ever tasted a juicy tomato in November? No, because tomatoes in November lack flavor. Living by the seasons is a way of life for the French. A Parisian will not be eating strawberries at Christmas or pumpkin in July. To enjoy the highest quality of food with the freshest flavors, it's imperative that you eat by the seasons, preferably from local farms. Not only will you be supporting your community, you'll be adding quality and delicious nutrition to your health. If you don't know what foods are in season, here is a great guide.
16. Gather around the table (and stay there)
My first meal with a French family lasted over four hours. It took place outdoors under a grapevine and kicked off with Campari. Slowly, the food was revealed in 8 courses spaced out for maximum enjoyment. The wine flowed with each dish. There were conversations filled with spirited debate, dry humour and philosophy on life, love and anything controversial. Not only was my appetite full, my complete love for life was overflowing. While four hour daily dinners aren't possible for most of us (unless you live in Downton Abbey), it can be a reality more often than not.
17. Learn different ways to wear a scarf
If you know France, you know that the scarf is the Parisian woman's signature accessory. But, did you know there are over 25 ways to wear one? Not only cahey, Tontan you get creative with ways to tie it around your neck, you can also tie it around your head, wear it as a bracelet, decorate your handbag or wear as a shirt. Who knew a square piece of cloth could do so much for a lady's wardrobe? The Parisian, obviously.
18. Be a little messy
When a French woman walks out of her home, she is the embodiment of effortless style. She never wants to look too coiffed, as that would signify that she must try hard at it. So, she always leaves something appearing undone. She may wear a beautiful ball gown skirt and leave her hair a bit tousled. Or, she leaves her face bare with a red, bold lipstick. Whatever she does, we admire the ease in which she pulls it off. We don't see the hours and practice she's put into doing it. These days, I'm all about the messy hair. Not only does it save me time, it reminds me how much I've let go from those days of meltdown when my hair refused to cooperate. Allowing myself to be a little messy in my appearance has spilled over into granting the same permission in my life. I've learned to let go of the perfectionism and let life be a little messy. Sweet freedom!
19. Create a special ritual
Rituals add meaning to our lives. If your life feels out of control, I challenge you to do what a Parisian does, even though it most likely will trigger your mind's greatest fear -- running out of time: make space for a daily ritual. It offers a time-out in a hectic day, gives us space to reflect upon and celebrate our lives and provides moments to just be. Whether it's morning journaling or afternoon tea, as little as fifteen minutes a day can add beauty and depth to your life.
20. Visit a local exhibit or museum
The French love the arts like Americans love football. Both are great (I happen to be a huge football fan). However, in our society that's mostly dominated by our rational, logical mind, indulging in the arts helps us tap into our creative, emotional and adventurous right brain. Not to mention, it also makes us more diverse human beings. Plus, it's embarrassing when the name Dali is mentioned, and you assume they must be talking about food from India (true story). Let's just say I've come a long way.
21. Create or keep traditions
Oh, how the French adore their traditions. Love them or hate them, we respect them, because I deeply believe it's something we desire in our own lives. I don't advocate keeping traditions you don't love. What I do propose is that you find your own traditions that support living a beautiful life. Whether it's cooking a certain meal on Christmas day or a monthly game night, it's imperative that we have touchstones to our past. With so much hurrying and pressure, more than ever, we need to feel a sense meaning in our lives, and traditions are a great way to do it.
22. Eat less but better (butter)
The French do not deny themselves pleasure from food; they embrace it. As a result, they don't have these crazy relationships with food, filled with deprivation, restriction or insane rules. Food is so much more than fuel. It carries great pleasure, stories and tradition. Reducing it down to a scientific formula is very American (and have you noticed that we're becoming more obsessed and sick?). When you cultivate a Paris state of mind, food becomes something to be enjoyed, not denied. The result is that you stop this crazy yo-yo effect of being good or bad. You are simply a woman who eats delicious foods made with high quality ingredients until elegantly satisfied, including real butter. (The fact that I am writing this is a miracle, as I didn't believe it to be possible, and yet here I am telling you that it is.)
23. Stop trying to be happy all the time
Edith Wharton said, "If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time." It's true, the French are an melancholic bunch. It's part of their joie de vivre. Sounds like a paradox, but consider this: if you don't resist negative emotion and label it as bad, you realize it's just a normal part of life. It's okay to be sad, angry or whatever you're feeling. And, when you want to feel differently, you get to do that too. True joie de vivre is not about being happy all the time; it's about embracing all of life.
24. Enjoy the outdoors with a picnic
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is stop by the boulangerie, fromagerie and any other -ie store that has fabulous foods, grab a bottle of good wine and head to a park to enjoy a good book, great company and beautiful day at a picnic. It's a super easy way to get your Vitamin D and gather friends. Like rituals, it's a simple way to slow life down and savor simple luxuries. If you can find macarons, even better.
25. Treat service professionals as equals, not as your servant
In France, waiters are trained professionals and take great pride in their occupation. They are not looked down upon but seen as an essential part of a beautiful dining experience, and are treated with respect and admiration. Practice your French manners by treating not only waiters, but all people who offer you services to make your life better or easier with the utmost respect. Thank your cashier at the supermarket, show your UPS man delivering your Amazon purchases how much you appreciate him and never think of yourself above or below anyone. We are all in this thing together.
26. Embrace your age
Une femme d'un certain age is a celebrated in France (which is why I may retire there). Like fine wines, the French believe women get better with age (I certainly have). Yet, in many other cultures, we resist the inevitable process of aging. Stress, worry, bitterness and anger about your age shows in your attitude, scowl lines and results in your life. On the other hand, the Parisian woman knows it's not about a number; it's about her allure, confidence, intellect and joie de vivre. Age is simply a number. What do you want to make it mean?
27. Drop perfectionism like a patate chaude
Parisian women aren't perfect, regardless of what the bloggers, articles and books say. They are women like us, with jobs, kids, husbands and dirty laundry. While I love being inspired by the Parisian lifestyle, I don't use it as a ruler to judge how good or bad I am at it. The truth is that I will never be Parisian, no matter how hard I try. Guess what? Being okay with that is very Parisian. Oh, the irony. Cultivating a Paris state of mind isn't about being perfect; it's about living with joie de vivre. It's impossible to be both a perfectionist and a lady in love with her life.
Paris truly is a state of mind. Whether you try all 27 ways or just one, you'll notice that your quality of life will be impacted in the most fabulous way.
It's time to say no to the fast-paced, hustling culture and learn to tend to the details of our daily lives.
Desiring a Deep Dive into cultivating your Paris State of Mind?
Which of the above will you commit to practicing this week?
Share in the comments below.
You're the best. Thank you.
P.S. If you liked this article and know of some ladies that could use a Paris state of mind, I'd be tickled pink if you'd share it with them.
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