2017: The Year of Aligning with my True Self

A New Year is here! And with it many inspirations from the past year. 2016 was a whirlwind year for me, and brought significant change for me personally, academically, and experientially. I learned more than I ever thought I could, and I found the directions I want to go in this year*.

At the beginning of 2016 I was still a first year in college, experiencing health problems and struggling emotionally (this was when I wrote many of my posts about rising above struggle, and letting go of expectations). I leaped out of my comfort zone as a result, and my entire life changed before my eyes. I became a more outgoing person with new goals and experiences, a new holistic community, and a focus on wellness. I transitioned to a vegan diet, and entered the summer with a new outlook.

Over the summer I lived on my own, worked forty hours a week, and learned many things about being in the adult world. I returned to college with a greater sense of self, and a comfort with navigating the real world as an adult. I turned 20 in September, and entered a new decade of my life.

In August, before I started my second year, I got a nose piercing to symbolize this new decade. This was a huge leap for me, and I am so glad that I took that step. It has become a large part of my identity this year, and I’ve never looked back.

As I enter this new year, more experiences lie ahead of me. With it comes more change, but change is something I’m no longer afraid of. In fact, I welcome it. Change allows me to grow, and to have experiences that lead to new interests and passions.

As I go into the new year, I have new visions for where my life is leading me. As I mentioned my previous post, I hope to begin a journey in minimalism this year. Now that I have focused on what fuels my body, I have become more aware of what fuels my soul. I have had an interest in minimalism for a while, and the documentary Minimalism (available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it!) reinforced my interest. With this I also hope to start living a zero waste lifestyle. Making my own products (toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc.) will save me a lot of money (which is important for my college student budget) and make using vegan products easier. I have also noticed that my body has become more sensitive to products now that I am vegan, so natural skincare and haircare makes complete sense.

I hope to reduce my coffee cup waste, skincare waste, and other products. I have been doing research about the steps that I can take as a college student to reduce my waste, and have found a number of sustainable options that are worth investing in. For example, dryer sheets are something that add a lot of waste and toxins to the environment. There are alternatives (even vegan ones) such as bamboo dryer balls. These are reusable and contain essential oils! There are also reusable produce bags (to eliminate plastic bag waste), reusable cotton rounds for skincare use, and natural alternatives to sponges for dish washing. I also hope to reduce my plastic use (by using a bamboo toothbrush and metal containers). While this will be a gradual process, it feels like a natural extension of my life journey with plant-based foods and vegan makeup.

Another journey that I am hoping to begin is that of no makeup. I started wearing makeup during my junior year of high school to boost my body confidence. I continued wearing makeup ever since, mostly to make myself look more awake now that I am in college. However, my acne has started to reappear and my makeup use may be contributing. Now that my body is more sensitive to chemicals, I have adverse reactions to products I didn’t used to react to. I have become a lot more confident in how I look without makeup, and thought that it would be a good time to start this journey. Not only would it be better for my skin, it would save me money and time. Instead of makeup, I am going to invest in natural skincare (coconut oil, etc.) to keep my skin healthy and to eliminate chemicals.

This is a lot to tackle in one year, but natural living has been something I have wanted to pursue for years now. Ever since I started watching Raw Alignment on YouTube, living a natural lifestyle has become more realistic for me. I can’t wait to share these new journeys with you, and to keep having life-changing adventures! As always, feel free to message me if you’re also interested in these lifestyle changes! I would love to collaborate and learn from your experiences!

What are you hoping to achieve in 2017?

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

*Instead of resolutions I love to find what has worked for me to continue or expand upon in the upcoming year, and move on from what didn’t work.


Embarking on my Minimalist Journey

When 2016 was beginning, I had no idea that I was going to be transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and starting the process of living a more natural and balanced life. It was quite a journey (in fact, the beginning of 2016 feels like forever ago) and I am yet again ready to begin another journey that will lead me to be more aligned with my true self.

When I went to college, I did what most college students do: look online for lists of what I needed to bring with me. I went out and bought all that I ‘needed,’ and I can vouch for how heavy my boxes and bags were when I was bringing them to my first-year room! I had things that I was going to maybe need, and since I was just about to start living on my own I thought I needed to be prepared for everything. As the year progressed, I used about one third of all that I brought. Realizing this, over the summer I made an effort to significantly reduce what I was bringing, and I learned through experience. I reduced everything to the minimal amount possible, and was able to unpack and decorate in record time. Not only that, my room felt like a sanctuary from the start and I knew where everything was.

As this past semester came to a close, I had a wonderful experience with ThredUp. When I realized the practicality on a multitude of measures of investing in secondhand clothes, I know that I will never go back. I was able to purchase clothes I was interested in, and go through my closet and my dresser to figure out what I no longer needed. I sent a full bag of clothes back to ThredUp, and now have an aspiration to clean out every time I invest in new clothing.

Now that I have had time to think about where I want my life (and my blog) to go in 2017, the concept of minimalism resonated with me and my values. As many of you probably know, I have always tried to live by the mantra: live simply so that others may simply live. I’m in a unique position of being in college and not having many personal possessions, which to me is a wonderful place to start. I made sure to go through my belongings before starting my first year of college, and have generally been pretty aware of my consumption. That being said, I was able to donate quite a bit of items at the end of my first year and at the end of last semester. Every time I cleaned out my items, I felt physically lighter knowing that those items would be put to better use. I also started reading from the local library or on an e-reader to save money and space, because my love for reading often leads to clutter (and I am one of those people who only reads books once, unless they’re amazing which has definitely happened!).

But as I look at what I own, there are a lot of things that I could live without. As I have been doing some research about minimalism, I realize that many people have gone quite a few years out of college and into adult life before considering this path. Since I already went through that process, I feel as though I can start actively living a minimalist lifestyle and focusing on being present in what truly matters.

Yesterday I watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism, and it further confirmed my interest in this lifestyle. It was extremely well produced, and I now follow The Minimalists on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to their podcasts online. I have found several other resources as well that have helped me start this journey, and if you have any suggestions for other resources I would love to hear them! Experiences like this are really about learning together, so I would love to hear what your experiences have been, what interests you about minimalism, and what your journey has been! Let me know in the comments or send an email to thewisewillowblog@gmail.com!

For the New Year I hope to start a series on this blog devoted to minimalist living (especially being a minimalist in college), and share the resources that I have found with you if you are also interested in this lifestyle!

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



Tips for New Bloggers: What I’ve Learned

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, and as I was thinking through my blogging goals for 2017 I realized how much I have learned in my time of blogging that I would have loved to have known when I first started out. Being a new blogger can be quite overwhelming, especially if you start out self-hosted like I did. But I learned so many things along the way and read so many helpful posts from other bloggers (usually that I found on Pinterest), that I wanted to make my own post one day in hopes that it would help new bloggers love the journey they are about to take! This is going to be quite a long post, and none of it is sponsored (it’s simply resources I’ve been using after many months of trial and error). If you find it helpful, I would love it if you would share it so that others can learn about the resources that helped me get to where I am today! 🙂 So without further ado, let’s get into it!

All About Hosting:

I had read from a number of other bloggers about all of the intricacies of hosting, and determined that self-hosting was the best way to start out. There are two main options for hosting: free hosting sites and self-hosting platforms. Free hosting sites (such as Blogger, Weebly, WordPress.com, etc.) allow you to create a website for free and start blogging right away. Self-hosted platforms (of which there are quite a few, Hostgator, FatCow, and SiteGround to name a few) have a monthly hosting fee and usually have sites through WordPress.org (the paid-for service). There are many pros and cons to both, and I thought I would create an infographic outlining these! If you would like to download this infographic, click here: All About Hosting!

I currently use SiteGround for self-hosting, and I couldn’t be happier! They have amazing customer service that is available 24/7, and their servers are always working properly with no website downtime for updates. They currently have a holiday sale going on, and you can click here to learn more and sign up! By clicking that link, they’ll know that an existing customer has recommended you to them and they will be able to get you set up with that in mind!

All About Branding:

The next topic is personal branding for your site and your social media. You’ll want to have a name in mind before you create your site, regardless of what hosting option that you choose, because it will be a large part of everything that you make from there on out. Additionally, if you purchase a domain name (and own that part of the internet, as a result) you cannot change your name without having to buy another domain. As you are thinking about a name, think of one that you’ll be able to use for the foreseeable future regardless of whether you change blogging niches (which happens often!) or not. I thought about my blog name for a few weeks, thinking through everything until one came to me as I was washing dishes in the sink. The Wise Willow, I thought, and immediately knew it was the one. Logos starting appearing in my mind, and I rushed to the computer to check if the domain had already been taken. Once you have a name you love, and have checked that the domain is available (if you are going to purchase and self-host), you’re ready to go!

Branding is one of the most important parts of blogging because it draws readers to your site. Your brand tells them about you and your blog, and should be a visual expression of what your blog represents. I have rebranded a few times (not changing names, but changing logos and color schemes) and my current logo is one I plan to keep for a long time. Now, like me, you might be thinking how do I go about making a logo? When I started blogging I made my logos with Word, which is not an experience I would recommend. The formatting was never consistent, and it took ages. That’s when I stumbled upon Canva.com, a free graphic design website with all of your design needs! I use Canva for everything and cannot express how much I love it! You can sign up for free and keep all of your designs archived to free up space on your computer. There are size dimensions created for you, and you can also create your own based upon what your website banner is supposed to look like (themes vary in terms of what the logo looks like). They have free and paid-for elements but I have yet to pay for something because you can upload your own content to the site and use it in your designs. Now, another question you might have is how can I legally use images I find? It’s important that you only use images and illustrations/elements that you own or have created, or ones that have no rights tied to them. Pixabay.com is my favorite website where all of the images are free for commercial use. I download their images (the small size usually), and upload them to Canva to create personalized designs. I also use some of these images in my posts if I haven’t taken any that suit the subject matter. You don’t have to cite them, and you are legally protected. Once you have established your brand, you’re ready to spread the word about your site and content!

All About Social Media:

Social media is one of the most important aspects of blogging. It helps you find an audience, potential customers, brands to work with, and a community of other bloggers to go to for support and friendship. I have made so many amazing online friendships, and feel as though the blogging community is one of the most supportive out there! There are many social media sites to pick and choose from, and by no means do you have to be on all of them. In fact, I encourage you to only be on ones you know you will use. Quality over quantity! I am on Instagram, Facebook (pages), Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, and Bloglovin’. Admittedly, I don’t use Google+ often, but I have the page created in case I have an audience that prefers that medium. I am expanding my involvement with YouTube, but I am always on the other social media platforms. Twitter is my favorite platform, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Bloglovin’.

Canva will allow you to create banners for all of these social media sites, so that your branding can remain consistent and recognizable over all formats. Create accounts for the social media platforms you are interested in and get started! I could write for ages all of the things I have learned about each of these sites, but I think I will start a series for each platform since this post is already quite long! Let me know in the comments if this is something you would be interested in! 🙂

Skilled.co recently developed an incredibly helpful social media infographic that has lots of information about the pros and cons of sites, who typically uses each platform, the best times to post on each platform, and more! If you would like to take a look, click here!

All About Blogging Niches:

You may have already heard of blogging niches, or areas of expertise that bloggers will associate with. These can include travel, food, cooking, college, parenting, and many more. You most likely have thought about what you would like to write about, and may be thinking of one of these niches. Niches are great for finding online communities of like-minded creators, and for keeping your content organized under one umbrella topic. I personally am a Lifestyle Blogger, and I chose this niche for a few reasons. I am currently in college, and have written many posts about my college experience. However, I also like to write posts about DIY projects, book reviews, thoughts and inspirations, music, my vegan lifestyle, and more. Because of this, I identify under the umbrella of Lifestyle, since my topics all fall under a variety of categories. This niche allows me to expand my content, but also has drawbacks as it is sometimes harder to find online niches that fit my content.

All About Saving Your Content:

A blogger’s worst nightmare is to have their site crash and all of their content to be lost. I tend to have bad luck when it comes to technology, so I back up all of my text and media with a free DropBox account. I simply copy the text of the post when I write it, and then put it in a word document. I then upload that document to DropBox along with a folder of all of the images I used. It’s just another way to make sure your content is safe! You can use other sites as well, such as Google Drive, for the same purpose.

All About Posting Schedules:

When I started my blog, I wasn’t sure how often I had to post. I saw bloggers who posted every day, and some who posted twice a month. All of them had amazing blogs and a large following, which left me in the dark about the best approach. To be honest, it’s completely up to you! I have always had the mindset quality over quantity, and with being a part-time blogger I knew that posting once per week during the semester (and more during breaks if I wanted to) was the best way to go. I was able to stick to this schedule because it accounted for my personal circumstances, and it made me feel accomplished over time. There’s no need to rush into your blog to create content right away, write when you feel inspired and create a posting schedule that you know will be realistic for your own life and writing process. 🙂

All About Monetizing Your Blog:

This is something that I am still relatively new to, and I didn’t start working with brands until August of 2016. I started my blog for my passion of writing, and still keep that in mind every time I receive inquiries from companies. So how does all of this work? Well, for me it all started when I received an email from a brand asking if I was interested in working on a collaboration with them. How did they get my email, etc? The more that you engage in your online social media platforms, join Twitter chats and Facebook groups (something I will write a post about soon!), and comment on other blog posts the more that your name will get exposure across the Blogosphere. It took a full year for me to get my first offer, and I hesitate to get more involved in the world of monetization. I only work with companies that I know support my visions, which means that I don’t take many opportunities. I also don’t currently have ads on my blog, because I want to keep my blog as personal as possible. Because of my limited experience with monetization, I highly recommend searching “blog monetization” on Pinterest or looking at my Side Hustle: Blog! Pinterest board for posts that discuss monetization options more in-depth! 🙂

I hope you found this post helpful! I would love to start a series that includes my tips and advice for bloggers on a variety of subjects, let me know if that is something you would love to see! If you like this post, please share it on your social media or on Pinterest so that others can see these tips! I hope to help as many people as possible, because I know posts like these definitely helped inspire and encourage me when I started blogging! As always, if you have any questions I would love to help in any way I can! Send me an email to thewisewillowblog@gmail.com! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


How I Organize During Winter Break

I am officially on my Winter Break, and am in the process of organizing after my finals week. During finals week and many other busy weeks during the semester I saved many of my files in the wrong folders on accident, and saved lots of blog images to my desktop so that I could find them again. But it’s definitely time to do my yearly clean with my accounts and computer files to get ready for the New Year! I thought I would go through my typical routine for organizing all of my files and accounts, as a lot of it involves blogging as well!

Computer Clean-Up:

Since I use my computer for my college and blog work, it can definitely get a bit cluttered! I always make new folders before each semester for my new classes, but somehow I always end up with files all over the place despite my attempts at being organized. So at the beginning of break I first go through my old files to see if there are some that I can delete from a year or two ago. I then open up a few Finder file windows to do the rest of the clean-up! With this process, I go though and determine the files that need to be moved to a certain class. I also look in folders that I’ve already created, because the default saving function sometimes puts them in the wrong place.

Once I’ve sorted all of my files, I then create a new folder for the new semester and new class folders for all of my upcoming assignments. This saves room on my computer, and also ensures that I start the semester off organized and sure of where everything is. I also go through all of my blog photos and delete them from my desktop or downloads folder, and start fresh for the New Year. I also backup all of my existing content in DropBox just to be on the safe side!

Email Clean-Up:

Between my email accounts, it can be hard to keep on top of deleting messages I don’t need on a regular basis. Because of this, I make sure to go through all of my email accounts over break and delete unnecessary and old email messages. I also go through my spam folders, which actually accumulate quite a few messages! Having a decluttered digital presence makes me feel much more organized and ready to handle what’s ahead!

Photo Clean-Up:

My phone photos (and photos that get uploaded to my computer) also tend to get quite out of sorts, and cleaning them up makes room for new memories! I also like to save photos to my hard drive and to DropBox or Google Drive to make sure that they last through any mishaps (such as when my phone of almost two years decided to stop working properly a little while back). Sometimes I’ll even edit a few and make fun collages for celebrating the end of a year. 🙂 It’s always great to have a fresh start for a new semester!

Subscription Clean-Up: 

I also take the time to look over my subscriptions for YouTube and other social media sites to make sure I am still interested in them, and take the time to find and follow new ones. It’s always interesting to see how much my interests have shifted in a year! I also like to clean up my Pinterest boards, likes, etc. to make sure that I am up-to-date on everything for the New Year. With Spotify, I clean up my playlists and make new ones based upon my current music interests. I’ve been listening to so much music lately (especially during my delayed travel day) and have been meaning to make more playlists!

I hope you enjoyed this post! I’m getting back into the swing of blogging, but am also planning lots of exciting things for next year! Stay tuned! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Blogmas Day 11: My Winter Skincare Essentials and Giveaway!

Winter has officially arrived (the snow is falling as I type this), and with it the woes of winter skin. Many of you probably know that I’m a little bit obsessed with skincare, because when my skin is healthy I feel amazing all around! There are small, everyday things that I do to keep my skin healthy like hydrating and eating nutritious foods, but in the winter my skin definitely needs all the help it can get!

I thought I would show you all of my winter skincare essentials, and what my winter skincare routine is (especially for Finals!). At the end of this post there is an exciting giveaway announcement, so stay tuned! 🙂

Winter Skincare Essentials: Face Masks

Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask

Face masks are one of the most relaxing ways to take care of your skin in the winter. I love to put one on while I am cleaning my room, reading for a class, writing a paper, or relaxing and watching YouTube. They are very versatile and each have their own benefits for your skin! I have been loving three that I recently got, and they have helped to keep my skin clear when it normally flares up from stress.

The first two that I am loving at the moment are both from the Feeling Beautiful line: the Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask and the Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask. Both of these are very cooling for the skin, and each have their own benefits depending on what your skin is in need of. I love to use the Anti-Stress mask to calm irritated skin, or when the wind has been particularly harsh.

Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask

It tones down redness and calms irritations! The Pore Cleansing mask is perfect for when you feel as though your skin needs a little extra detox from the stress and environment of exams and hectic schedules. One of the things that I love most about these masks is that they don’t dry and crumble like most masks I’m used to. I’m not sure why, but I am definitely not a fan of that tight and crumbly feeling, so I love these for that reason. They are also quite cheap, and the bottles are huge! They are perfect for ending the semester on a good note.

Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask

I am also loving the often-raved about Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. I was given this as a holiday gift and tried it out today after coming back from a long paper writing session at the library. Besides the fact that it has an adorable pig wearing a face mask on the front (and we all know how much I love pigs…), this is one of the strangest masks I have ever tried. It has a very odd consistency, and when you put it on your face it tingles and foams up. After about six minutes the mask is completely foamy! As soon as I washed it off (which definitely took some effort because there was a layer of product under the foam) my skin felt very hydrated and healthy! I highly recommend it, especially since it always gets some great laughs and is a fun way to take care of your skin! 🙂

Winter Skincare Essentials: Moisturizer

Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Moisturizer with SPF 15

Over the years I have come to realize the importance of wearing sunscreen on your face every day. This may sound odd to some people, especially during the winter, but the sun’s rays are damaging to skin all year round. I started using sunscreen on a daily basis a few years ago, and the difference is phenomenal. All of my dull skin is gone, and my skin is left a lot softer and hydrated.

I love moisturizers that have SPF in them, as this is a great way to combine the benefits of both. The moisturizer that I have been loving lately is the Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Moisturizer in SPF 15. This moisturizer wakes up your skin with Vitamin C extracts, and also protects it with its sunscreen formula. It wears well under makeup, and isn’t oily on the skin. I wear this under another tinted sunscreen for my skincare routine, as this gives my skin an even tone.

Winter Skincare Essentials: Facial Cleansing Tools

The ULTA Dual Action Cleansing System

I have always gone the route of using my hands to apply facial cleanser, without thinking too much about it. When I was on ULTA the other day, I saw the Dual Action Cleansing System and knew I had to look up reviews and learn more. The reviews were raving, and I thought I might as well try it out (especially since I was approaching one of the most stressful times of the semester).

In all honesty, my skin has never felt cleaner. The brush isn’t too rough, and never leaves any irritation. It cleans away more dirt than I thought possible to have on my face after washing it with a facial wipe and balancing toner. I use it with my Burts Bees Deep Cleansing Cream, which has menthol in it for soothing irritation and cleaning pores.

I use this brush at night to make sure that I thoroughly cleanse my face of all impurities before bed, but don’t use it twice a day just to make sure that no irritation develops. In the morning I use my balancing toner instead to cleanse my face before applying moisturizer and sunscreen. So far my skin has improved, and it feels much cleaner with this new routine!

Exciting Giveaway!

I knew that I had to give one of these cleansing brushes away, because I am such a huge fan! I am running a giveaway through the New Year, which is open to all U.S. residents. I promise I will have a worldwide giveaway at some point! 🙂 Enter below (there are three different ways to enter), and good luck!

Click the link below to enter! 🙂
a Rafflecopter giveaway

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



Blogmas Day 9: Learning from Creativity

When I was younger, creativity was a natural part of my life. I loved to read, write, draw, and imagine. It was a natural extension of my true self, and how I spent much of my time. As I got older, this creativity got replaced with obligations and other interests and started to lose its second nature feeling. At the beginning of high school, I would dread “creative” projects because I felt as though I no longer had the ability to construct something with loose guidelines. This sentiment continued for quite some time, until I stumbled upon Pinterest (and eventually the world of blogging).

I started to remember my interest in creative endeavors (especially related to writing), and it felt as though I was reconnecting with something that I forgot I ever had. It has now been over a year since I started this creative journey, and took on the title of a “creative”. I have learned so much since embracing this title, especially since, for a time, I didn’t think it would apply to me.

Being a part of the creative world has taught me that everyone is creative. Creativity comes in so many forms, and there is something that everyone can contribute to. When I got older, I became more judgmental of my creative forms instead of embracing them as my own. I started comparing them to the endeavors of others, and gave many of them up because I felt as though I was not meant to pursue creative journeys. But comparison really is the thief of joy. What was once fun and relaxing turned into a stressful pursuit of hoping the final product would be something I was proud of, and something I wanted others to see. I lost my own creative touch, and instead focused too much on what I thought were mistakes. I took someone else’s pursuits and made them my ideal, instead of focusing on what I loved about what I was doing.

Blogging has taught me how to embrace and love my creative energy. I no longer strive to be like the ‘ideal,’ I only strive to be happy and to have joy. I will make clay sculptures to release tension and stress, and by embracing my energy I love the end result. Instead of extensively planning the process so that the result turns out like I think I want it to, I allow my creative imagination to take control and make spontaneous decisions. This is how I write as well. I think about what I feel inspired to write about more generally, but let my imagination and creativity take the lead. I tap into my thoughts, dreams, inspirations, and passions to create something that I truly love. This is the beauty of embracing your own creative.

I have become a huge proponent of collaboration over competition, because everyone’s creativity is different. All creativity is valuable, and when you work with others the result can be wonderful. Combining unique creative energies is a wonderful way to add to the creative world, and to learn about the thoughts, passions, and dreams of others.

I encourage you to dive right into the creative world, especially with something you have never tried before. You never know where your passions lie, and you could discover something truly life-changing. I rediscovered my love of writing through blogging, but more importantly, I rediscovered my creative joy. I’ve learned how to apply my interest in art and visuals to my graphic design elements, and I’ve used my blog as a way to explore other interests and step outside of my comfort zone.

Delving back into the world of creativity has led me to rediscover the spark that comes with creative imagination. I see the world in a different light, one full of potential and passion. If something characteristically negative happens, I think about what it has taught me and how I can portray that in writing or visuals. I think about where my true emotional energy stems from, and how I can tap into that to create projects that bring me (and hopefully others!) joy.

Creativity has yet again become second nature for me, and has found a new place in my life. I love sharing my take on the world with others, and hearing about their own pursuits and endeavors.

As I finish off my semester, I have been thinking about how creativity has provided me with a constructive and valuable release for all that I have encountered. It has helped me reframe my state of mind, turning negatives into positive learning experiences and reflections. I have learned and pursued new interests, and changed my mindset. What has creativity taught you? I’d love to hear in the comments! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Blogmas Day 6: Kindness, A Ripple Effect

kindness-2As the year starts to near its close, I’ve been reflecting on what has had a significant impact on me in 2016. As I thought through everything that has impacted me this year, there was an underlying element that connected it all: kindness. Kindness was present in everything that has influenced me this year, and is a value that I have prioritized in my own visions.

As I have grown older, the concept of giving to others has become a large part of the values that I cherish. Giving to others fills my heart and soul with such warmth, happiness, and gratitude that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. Kindness fosters connection, and connection fosters community, and community fosters love. This year, though it has been one of the most challenging years I have experienced, has been full of love. Love from all of the connections and communities that I have made brightens all of my days.

Kindness and compassion has lit the path to my true self
Kindness and compassion have lit the path to my true self

So how did this become such a large part of my life? When I was younger, volunteer work was something that brought me immense joy. I loved to help others, and I gained many relationships from those experiences. In high school I had more difficulty bringing the kindness I cherished into my school life, and that was something that I chose to change once I came to college. I was more reserved in high school, and I didn’t portray positivity and kindness as often as I do now. If there is something that I have learned, it is that the vibes that you embody provide a glimpse into your character. Over the past year I have become more aligned with my true self, and my compassion and kindness shows with little effort in all situations.

My transition to veganism created a new sphere of kindness in my heart and mind, and brought a new community of like-minded individuals into my life. My blog gave me connections with creatives that inspire me every day. My blogging journey has been all about collaboration over competition, and I am beyond grateful for the supportive community that I have become a part of.

Promote what you love
Promote what you love

Though it has given me many benefits, kindness hasn’t always been the easiest path. But the communities that I have become a part of have motivated me to keep my passion for positivity and compassion a priority. As Lilly Singh (AKA Superwoman) and Humble the Poet often emphasize, promote what you love. This resonates with me, because the antithesis to kindness and compassion is negativity and enmity. Instead of reciprocating in those situations with negativity and enmity of my own, I channel gratitude and compassion. I promote what I love, and encourage others to do the same.

The quote “happy mind happy life” resonates with this practice because I have found it to be brimming with truth. As soon as you change your perspective, you change your life. If something goes wrong, my mind now searches for a positive (or a bit of humor to lighten the situation). I celebrate all of my successes and failures, the latter especially after reading an article about how a family would hold rounds of applause for their biggest failures each day. Failure is a way to grow, and when you look at it in that light you start moving in the right direction. Success and failure both lead in the same direction, though at different paces. Being kind to yourself is the first step to being kind with others. The more you love yourself, the more you can spread that love to those around you.

There will be times throughout the day where I catch myself saying “you got this,” “that was pretty impressive,” and other such phrases to myself. I have gotten in the habit of speaking as kindly to myself as I aspire to speak to others, and the results have been amazing. What was once “I can’t believe you couldn’t do that” has now become “you did the best that you could at the moment, and there are always more opportunities”. While it might not seem significant at first, being kind to yourself and celebrating your achievements changes your mindset. Positivity becomes second nature, and life gets that much brighter.

Love all of life, even the struggles, for they all lead to the same path
Love all of life, even the struggles, for they all lead to the same path

It has also helped me to deal with less than favorable circumstances. As you may know, Astrology has been a part of my life for a while now. When the planet Mercury (which is my ruling planet as a Virgo) goes into retrograde, the smallest inconveniences become frequent and magnified. For example, during a retrograde this year I was putting on one of my shoes and one of my shoelaces just managed to become completely undone and frayed in a matter of seconds before breaking to a length that couldn’t be tied. I had no explanation (and was also running late), so I grabbed my scissors, trimmed the lace to a workable shape, and tied it in a makeshift knot that would stay put for the time being. I laughed the entire time, wondering how it was possible for my perfectly functional and relatively new shoelace to seemingly combust in a matter of seconds. Instead of worrying about being more late, I found the humor and still remember it as a positive experience to this day.

Kindness to myself and others, as well as the pursuit of positivity, have made my life one I enjoy living. There are ups and downs, but more often than not I am happy and ready to handle what is thrown my way. As Cinderella states, we must always stay humble and kind, mustn’t we?

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Blogmas Day 4: What I’ve Learned About Stress

top-20-tipsBeing in college has taught me a lot about stress–more specifically, how to handle stress. I was originally going to post about the Winter Waltz that is put on by my college, but as I was at Waltz I kept thinking about how the ways I face stress have changed. With finals coming up, I wanted to address how I tackle day-to-day stress and the more significant stress that comes with the end of the semester.

My Waltz outfit!
My Waltz outfit!

Tonight was the Winter Waltz at my college, where everyone dresses up for the evening–think of it like the Yule Ball from Harry Potter! It is held close to finals at the end of the semester, as a way to help students de-stress. I spent all day catching up on chores and going shopping for groceries, so I was definitely excited to get a break! We went out to dinner and had a getting ready party, and then it was time to dance! I had an amazing time, and it was great to catch up with people that I hadn’t seen for most of the semester! Those of you who knew me in high school know that dances were never really something I enjoyed. I often spent the evening studying, usually not efficiently, instead of taking the night off to go out. In college this changed, and I am glad for it. I have learned the importance of taking time to connect with others away from the stresses of school. My connection to my campus and my peers is much stronger as a result, and I am much happier and am able to get more work done in general.

The academic rigor of my classes this year is at least twice that of last year, which definitely has the potential to spike my stress levels. I was quite stressed last year, and because of that I actively sought ways to avoid those pitfalls this year. Prioritization has helped me focus on what is important, and to move from task to task. A sort of ‘tunnel vision’ of sorts. I will still have a general sense of where I am going, but I no longer write out extensive to-do lists. Instead, I focus on what needs to get done and intentionally tackle those tasks while building in time for self-care and relationships with others.

In terms of my classes, I have learned that asking for help is never a weakness. Especially when you are balancing a large course load of diverse classes, asking for help is essential. In my statistics class, for example, I have done just this. Math has never been my forte (hence why I am a humanities double major), but I have found a few strategies that have led to greater success than I thought possible in this class. First, I take the time to understand the material and its applications instead of rushing through the homework. I take notes on the textbook chapters, and make sure that I understand the concepts being built upon. The homework is graded on accuracy, which has inspired me to become more thorough. In addition, I have asked the professor for help outside of class as soon as something confuses me. I have even visited the data center late at night to make sure I was understanding the ins and outs of the software program. Because of this, I have seen a huge improvement in my math skills and I haven’t had to worry about quiz and exam grades. I am also using this math in one of my politics classes this semester, which has helped me to see real-world applications. In short, seeking help before I feel overwhelmed has significantly reduced my stress and increased my confidence.

Drinking more tea has helped me unwind
Drinking more tea has helped me unwind

I have also adopted a new strategy this year for dealing with stress in general: not allowing myself to stress until absolutely necessary. In essence, I don’t allow myself to dwell on things until they need to rise to the forefront of my agenda. This prevents that overwhelmed feeling that would often lead to me not getting any work done last year.

I have also been a lot kinder to myself, and have redefined success. Since I am tackling so many things at once (18 credit hours, a double major, extracurriculars and committees, blogging, volunteering, working, etc.) I celebrate all of my successes, no matter how ‘small’. I have redefined what success means to me in light of my endeavors, and as such have surprised myself with what I have been able to achieve.

This year I have refused to let stress control me, and as a result have been able to live in the moment and enjoy the now. Time has flown by, and I have enjoyed all of my endeavors. I can count on one hand the number of times I have felt overwhelmed, which is a massive improvement from last year!

How do you control stress? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Blogmas Day 2: My Experience with ThredUp

blogmas-day-twoLast weekend I found myself on Pinterest, as I often do, and came across a pin about ThredUp. I had seen pins about this company before, but had never ventured to the site to see it for myself. So on a chilly winter evening I found myself relaxing and perusing the site with no idea what I would find. What I found was simply amazing.

I started by looking in the Juniors section of the website, which has an extensive selection of tops, jeans, dresses, sweaters, and more. I am always hesitant when buying clothes online (since I never know how they are going to fit or how they are going to look), but I decided to take the plunge.

Recently I have been shifting to a minimalist lifestyle, and one of those aspects is recycling clothes and only owning what I use on a regular basis. As I was looking on the site, I perused the clothes, checked sizes, and browsed their ‘basement’ section for clothes that are a little more worn.

I ended up picking out six items of clothing: a pink dress with a lace pattern (that I am going to wear to my Winter Waltz this Saturday!), two pairs of overall shorts (I have seen these on Pinterest for years and finally took the plunge and bought some! I have been loving them so far!), a t shirt with a quote from The Fault in Our Stars, a grey patterned sweater (which is super warm), and a floral lace skirt.

The adorable packaging!

The box arrived in the mail a few days later, and I brought it back to my dorm room in excited anticipation. As I opened it, I was greeted with colorful tissue paper and the cutest sticker to top it off! I took the clothes out of the tissue paper, and to my surprise there were adorable tags on each item of clothing which would make them perfect gifts! (Or in my case, perfect gifts to myself haha!).

The beautiful lace design

Let’s start with the dress. I am drawn to pink lace dresses (I have a lovely one from Maurices that I wore under my high school graduation gown), and as soon as I saw this one I knew I wanted to give it a try. It’s even more beautiful in person! It is a darker pink color than my other one, making it a good winter dress to pair with leggings, boots, and a cardigan for extra warmth. It fits perfectly and looks brand new! I’m excited to wear it to my Winter Waltz dance this Saturday!

So excited to finally own overalls!
So excited to finally own overalls!

Now to the overalls: I have always wanted at least one pair for the longest time (take a look at my Fashion and Style board on Pinterest and you will see this fact) and found two pairs that I wanted to give a try! The first is a lighter washed out denim, with the full overall style. These fit perfectly, and aren’t hard to take on and off. I tried them on with leggings underneath, black booties, and both a short sleeve shirt and a warmer sweater. I loved all of the combinations!

I love both styles!
I love both styles!

The second pair I got have a darker denim wash with buttons in the front, and just the straps instead of the full front piece. These fit perfectly too, and are great with leggings and a short sleeve shirt! I am very happy that I now have two pairs to call my own, especially since I’ve been pinning countless overall fashion combinations on Pinterest for years!

This is my current favorite sweater!
This is my current favorite sweater!



The sweater I got (which I am currently wearing because it is very soft and great for staying warm!) is a light grey with a woven design. The sleeves are a shorter style, and more loose than most sweaters I own. It is perfect for work attire when paired with black work pants and boots, but can also be made more casual with patterned leggings. It fits perfectly and is my favorite sweater that I own at the moment!

I love the pattern and design!
I love the pattern and design!

I don’t usually wear skirts, but this one managed to catch my eye. It is a floral lace pattern with lots of ruffles, and is perfect for dressier outfits (and it wears quite well with the grey sweater)! This also fits perfectly, and is very comfortable and in great condition.

Finally, the shirt I bought has one of my favorite quotes on it: “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations” (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green). It was in the ‘basement’ section of the site, and was only $2.50!

"My thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations"
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations”

One of the things I haven’t mentioned thus far is how reasonable this purchase was. ThredUp had a 40% off sale for the holidays, and as such I paid $25 for all six items of clothing (including shipping)! I couldn’t be happier with my purchase, and I know that I will never buy clothes anywhere else.

The Clean-Out kit
The Clean-Out kit

In addition, I found that I had some clothes in my closet and drawers that I hadn’t worn all semester. I knew that they would be better in someone else’s hands, so I requested a free Clean-Out kit from ThredUp. I received the kit today, which includes a postage paid bag to put the clothes in. After filling the bag with clothing, you simply seal it, mail it off, and can opt to donate the clothes or receive credit (store credit or PayPal credit)! I feel so much better that I am actually wearing the clothes I own, and I know that someone else might find something they love in the clothes I sent back just like I found clothes I loved from what others sent in!

The tags that came with each piece!
The tags that came with each piece!

I highly recommend ThredUp to anyone looking for new clothes for amazing prices and quality! I hope that you enjoyed hearing about my experience, and let me know if you end up buying clothing items from them! Tag me on Twitter or Instagram with your OOTDs!

If you do want to purchase from the site, you can use the following link and you’ll get $10 off!

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

This post is not sponsored, and all thoughts are my own.


Self-Care in College: An Interview with Endless May


As a college student I have learned the importance of self-care, especially during busy days. I interviewed Shannon of Endless May about her thoughts on self-care in college, and am excited to share this collaboration with you!

What is your go-to self-care routine for your college lifestyle?

Self-care was something I totally struggled with my first year of college. In fact, during my first semester of my freshman year, I had a cold that turned into pneumonia for weeks because I wasn’t taking good enough care of my body. Since, I have discovered the right ways to treat my body in college!

My go-to self-care routine changes depending on what I feel like my body needs. However, usually, my mind and body are begging me for a break! If this is the case and my body is telling me “no” to a night out at a party or event, I listen to it. I make sure to take time to just rest and decompress. My favorite thing to do after a long week is take a hot shower, turn on my fairy lights and watch a romantic comedy in bed.

With studying abroad, have you had to change your self-care routine at all? What have you learned about changing environments and the importance of self-care?

When I first arrived in Europe, I had this idea that I needed to go go go all the time. I worried that if I spent a night in watching Netflix that I wasn’t taking full advantage of being here. I quickly realized that that is a lot to ask of one’s body! Since studying abroad, I have really tried to make time to relax, exercise and take time for myself. Just because you are in a foreign country doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need rest!

What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to self-care and staying healthy?

My biggest challenge when it comes to self-care and staying healthy is making time for exercise. I find that at the end of a long day, the last thing I want to do is workout! However, if I try and stay in an exercise routine, set small goals for myself and make it as easy as possible to get to the gym (for example planning my workout right after my class that is closest to the fitness center), I am way more likely to workout! I also find that if workout with a friend, it is a lot more enjoyable and I look forward to it much more.

What are your tips for reducing stress, avoiding illness, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle while in college?

As college students, we are juggling so much. Between jobs, classes, extracurricular activities and social events, too often we are stretched too thin. My first tip is try to avoid overcommitting yourself. Instead of joining three clubs, pick one. Instead of taking four really challenging classes, try and diversify your schedule. Lastly, remember that if you feel overwhelmed in college, ask for help. You have an entire campus full of people that have your best interest in mind. Whether this means talking to your professor in a course you are struggling in or going to the mental health center if you are feeling depressed, it is important to remember that you are not alone.

What have you learned about creating a balanced lifestyle that contributes positively to your mental and physical well being? Has blogging influenced your self-care routine at all?

The most important thing I have learned about creating a balanced lifestyle that contributes positively to my mental and physical well being is exemplified in the quote “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. For the longest time, I pushed myself beyond my limits which resulted in a lot of anxiety and unhappiness. Since I have realized that I need to invest more time and energy into my mental and physical well being (which is actually my main goal of this year!), I have dramatically decreased my stress and anxiety levels.

Blogging has totally influenced my self-care routine. I talk a lot on my blog about self care and mental health and often give advice on these topics. I have learned to be better about taking my own advice! I also find myself taking up my “relaxation time” with blog work. It is hard because I LOVE blogging and creating content for my followers but I have to remember that it is important to also step away once in awhile.

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-4-37-58-amShannon is an amazing college and lifestyle blogger at www.endlessmay.com, be sure to check out her blog and social media!


Alyssa DeBella

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! I'm a third-year college student passionate about writing, minimalism, vegan living, and coffee. I would love for you to join my online family!
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