5 Ways Spring Cleaning Can Actually Make You Healthier!

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Hello spring! It’s that amazing time of year when the plants start to grow, the birds return and the sun starts to come out. Here in the Pacific Northwest even the shortest stretches of sunshine are enough to make everyone feel a little loopy and start walking around in shorts.

It makes me want to throw open all of the windows, get rid of all the extra clutter that has accumulated through winter nesting and scrub things clean! You know that satisfaction when the house is picked up and you walk around just feeling great? (I admit it’s a rare occasion in my house, but when it happens I thoroughly enjoy it!). Well it turns out there are some actual physiological health benefits to doing your spring cleaning.

Here are a few ways spring cleaning can actually make you healthier:

  1. Research has shown that when people feel their homes are relaxing and restorative there is an actual link to lower cortisol levels (the hormone our body produces when we’re stressed out) and decreased depression!
  2. According to a Cornell University study when your kitchen counters are free of clutter you are likely to eat significantly fewer calories!
  3. Opening your windows wide helps to combat indoor air pollution and lessen allergies and asthma.
  4. Cleaning – especially the bigger chores like scrubbing the tub and mopping -can be a great way to burn calories. Crank the music and work it!
  5. Exposure to sunshine helps the brain release seratonin – a hormone that helps us feel happier and sleep better. So scrub those windows and let the sun shine in!

Want a little reading inspiration to help you get motivated to start your spring cleaning? Check out my book review of The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Embrace your spring cleaning itch not only for your happiness, but also for your health. (And while you’re at why not toss some of those toxic cleaners lurking at the back of the cleaning closet and try out some of these ideas for natural DIY cleaners?)!

Happy spring! Be happy, be healthy, be well!

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Joyfully Well

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Have you ever noticed what a “heavy” topic health and wellness can often be? It seems like articles and studies are published daily demonstrating links between serious diseases and conditions and our lifestyle choices. Terrible things that will happen to us if we don’t exercise and eat the right things, if we don’t get enough of certain vitamins. If we allow too much stress in our lives. If we are exposed to too many toxins. On and on! It can feel like a war that we have to wage just to desperately cling to our health! Or like a hopeless battle that we’ll never win no matter how hard we try. The implication can be the more unpleasant something is the better it is for us. It’s the “no pain, no gain” or “you have to suffer to be beautiful” attitude.

Maybe last week you heard me tell the story of the women in my friend’s office who brought in a green smoothie to work every morning and then cringed in misery the entire time she was drinking it? When my friend asked her if she enjoyed them she said, “No! I hate them, but they are supposed to make me healthy!” The sad thing about this story is that this women is trying so hard to be healthy but she’s doing it in a way that brings her unhappiness every single day. I’m here to tell you there is another way! So here is my challenge to you to think about today:

What can you do to be joyfully well?

What foods do you love AND are healthy for you. What hobbies can you take up that get you moving AND make you happy? What kind of self care can you do that makes you feel relaxed and pampered instead of tortured and miserable?

Because here is the thing. To truly be well we have to shoot for our relationship with health and wellness to be a life long love affair. You may be able to force yourself to drink a horrible green concoction that you hate for 30 days but unless you find the joy in it what is going to happen after that? Most likely no matter how stubborn you are you will not keep it up your whole life long and thirty days does not a lifetime of wellness make.

That is not to say that joy and easy are synonymous. For me personally it might be easier to sit and veg out to a movie but I know going for a beautiful trail run with a friend, although “harder”, is going to feed my soul, bring me a greater amount of joy AND contribute to my well-being.

For some people it’s dance. For some hiking in the woods. For my sister anything to do with boats. For my husband skiing and mountain biking. Sometimes remembering how we loved to play when we were children and finding ways to do more of that in our adult lives can do the trick.

Wellness is not a quick fix. It’s like any kind of relationship. You can suffer through a bad one for awhile but over the long haul it will make you miserable and it won’t last. The challenge is to create a relationship with wellness that makes you want to be with it for the rest of your life! So that you can see yourself growing joyfully old together.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

starting-4_1_17Registration is now open for my  Crafting A Wellness Vision Workshop starting 4/1/17. Join the next cohort of women creating personalized thoughtful approaches to health and wellness through a series of daily coach guided journaling prompts and activities.

Life in Flow Motion

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Life is busy. Does it ever feel like your to-do list is endless and ever expansive? Like you cross three things off, but add five more? Our days and attentions are fragmented – pulled this way and that between running errands, taking care of children, working, picking up at home, trying desperately to keep up with friends. Monotasking seems like an antiquated, slow moving idea. All the while our monkey minds work overtime in the background giving us a running commentary on how we are doing, what we should be doing, how that last conversation should have gone, what next thing on our to do list needs to be crossed off.

You need a break. Your brain needs a break. You are not a robot. You cannot keep up this pace indefinitely until the kids move out! You will break down at some point.

But how? Well you probably know me by now. I’d recommend starting out by trying meditation. But what if meditation isn’t your thing? I have a dear friend for who the just thought of sitting still for 20 minutes and not doing anything stresses her out even more. But your brain like any other part of your body needs a chance to rest and recharge in order to be able to do it’s best work with positivity and creativity.

Herein enters the idea of flow. Flow is not a new concept. It was coined in the early 1980’s by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihályi. You may of heard of people referring to flow as “being in the zone.”  Flow usually happens when you are doing an activity for which you  have the skills and knowledge but also is slightly challenging for you. Flow is an active process (rather than something like meditation or relaxing in the hot tub). Your brain is engaged and challenged and you seem to know exactly what to without hesitation. People who experience flow often report loosing track of time because they are so immersed in what they are doing. It is also sometimes called “The Deep Now”.

Here’s the part I think is really cool. The idea of flow has been around for awhile now, but more recently they have been able to study brains of people who are in a state of flow. The original hypothesis was that much of the brain would be active while in flow in order to create such a state of optimum engagement. What they found was actually the opposite. When a person is in a state of flow much of their brain actually shuts down leaving just the part that is focused on the activity engaged. The prefrontal cortex – which is the part of our brain that houses our ego, our inner critic, our constant commentary – shuts down. Leaving us with the ability to be more confident, more creative, braver and focused.

At the same time our brainwaves also slow down – going from the fast moving waves we have while moving through our normal busy days to a much slower speed found between daydreaming and REM sleep. We also get a flood of wonderful neurochemicals. A heady mix of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin. And this optimum state of being lasts past just the time we’re doing the activity. Studies have shown that not only are people more creative when they are in a state of flow, they are actually more creative the following day!

What are the times in your life when you have experienced flow? I’ve been in a flow state while running, writing, drumming, reading. I know my husband finds it when he goes mountain biking or skiing. Often people report finding themselves in flow when making art or dancing. Usually flow is great not only for our brains but we enjoy it, it builds our self confidence because we are excelling at something that is slightly challenging. We feel happier. There are so many reasons to find and make time for flow in your life!

It might be possible to take flow to an unhealthy extreme – to get so immersed in what you are doing you loose track of time and forget to take care of your body or pick up the kids from school. If you find you have that tendency I’ve heard the suggestion of setting a timer so you know when to stop. But when used in a productive healthy way flow might be just the thing to helps part of your brain put the endless chatter on hold and finally take a well deserved rest.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

For more tips, tricks and inspiration for living a happy, healthy life sign up for my monthly newsletter.

The World Needs You

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Friends I urge you now more than ever to attend to your health and well-being! There is a lot going on in our world right now, but feelings of anger, frustration, overwhelm or depression experienced over extended periods of time is incredibly damaging to our health.

I have loved this quote from Bansky for a long time. But I used to look at it in a different light. I used to think that his words of encouragement were solely for the people out there who were ready to throw in the towel and give up. I see it in a slightly different light these days. The sort of change we are looking for in this world is not going to happen overnight. We need to be in it for the long haul and in order to do that it’s vital that we are taking care of our bodies, our minds, our souls. These days when I think of Bansky’s words I see them as a reminder that rest is a nonnegotiable part of pushing forward. Rest is just as important to learn for the people who don’t ever want to quit.

Please. Don’t give up! Don’t stop taking action! Don’t quit! But I want you here for the long haul. The world needs you here for the long haul. If we let the stress of the world break us down then essentially it wins.

Learn to rest. Take time to turn off the television, stop scrolling through your news feed, have conversations about something else going on, walk away for a little while. Don’t forget your body when your mind is constantly clamoring for your attention. Eat well, move, sleep, breathe deeply, go outside. All of these things don’t mean that you are being neglectful or lazy or shortsighted. It’s the opposite! Because you and I know that by taking breaks and learning to rest you will be here to show up for a long, long time. And that’s exactly what this world needs.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

5 Free Apps For Better Health And Wellness That I Love

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Maybe you’ve heard that sitting is the new smoking? I have had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with technology over the years. For a long time I resisted it as much as possible. I was the last one in my office to get on Facebook back in the day.  It’s hard to ignore the fact that as a society technology has played a major role in moving us indoors more and making us more sedentary – contributing significantly to the obesity epidemic and all kinds of other health problems our nation is now facing.

But as with most things in life the issue of our society becoming technologically driven is not clear cut good or evil. There are of course many great things that technology provides us with. I get pretty excited when it contributes to helping us live healthier, happier lives. I keep an ongoing list of health and wellness apps that I use myself or have been recommended to me by clients. Here are 5 of my favorites that are free:

  1. 1 Giant Mind – If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and like you don’t have enough time a daily meditation practice can help. Here’s the thing though, you can’t use meditation like a band-aid. It would probably help a little  to sit down just on those days that you are feeling particularly under the gun and meditate but much more effective is a daily practice. 1 Giant Mind makes it very accessible, it walks you through the basics of meditation and runs a 30 day challenge  where you unlock more great teaching along the way. I can’t recommend this app highly enough. I honestly can’t believe it’s free.
  2. Fooducate – Fooducate is touted as an app that helps you with weight loss, but that’s not why I like it (you know me, I like to focus on your health not your weight). You can certainly use it to track calories if that’s your gig, but what I like to use it for is as a way to learn about products and get ideas for healthier alternatives. The Food Finder feature allows you to scan barcodes on any products you are considering and then it will give it a “grade” and more information about it. But what I especially love is that it will provide you with alternative ideas for healthier items. Other fooducate users can post about ways that they have used that food. Fooducate does a great job of making you feel like part of a community of people who want to eat healthier. There are paid features to this app, but you can do a lot with it for free. It’s definitely worth checking out.
  3. Runtastic – If you are ready to get moving and are looking for an app that will track your workouts Runtastic Pro is a great option. I used this fitness tracker for years and found it to be really user friendly and accurate. It used to be that this tracker was just for running and walking, but now you can track all kinds of activities from rock climbing to cross-country skiing to wakeboarding. Seriously if you can think of it they can probably track it. One part I love about Runtastic is that they will give you a map of a course you’ve been on with the mileage and time, making it easy to challenge yourself to work on improving your time. Again their are some fun paid features (i.e. you can pay for stories while you are running), but the free version is pretty powerful and all you need to get started.
  4. Water Time – Drinking more water is a goal that a lot of women I work with have and it’s a good one! Drinking plenty of water flushes out toxins, it transports nutrients to your cells and helps your body to work more efficiently. But sometimes it’s hard to remember to stop and take the time to do it! There are lots of water apps out there but I found this one to be simple and easy to set up. It gives you reminders throughout the day to stop and drink (you just have to remember to have your water bottle with you!). With the free version there are some ads, but if they bother you an upgrade to the ad-free version is just $0.99.
  5. Lotus Bud – This sweet app is surprisingly simple and often exactly what I need. Throughout the day at random times the lotus bud app will “ring” a meditation bell reminding you to take a deep breath and be mindful of the present moment. It’s funny because my kids love it too. If they hear the bell go off they stop whatever they are doing and say, “time for a deep breath Mom!” A great app for all of us!

I’ve come around to embracing technology, especially when it can help us with our health and happiness. I’d love to hear what apps you use and would recommend. Leave me a comment below if you have one that you love.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

 

Searching For Your Inner Gold Star

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I was out for a morning run on a glorious trail that follows the coastline and then turns and heads into the woods past giant evergreens and Big Leaf Maples and it felt great! There were a lot of things that had to happen for me to be able to go running at this time of day in this incredible place- sometimes it felt as if I was trying to single-handedly make the stars align just to have an hour to myself (kids fed, dressed and off to school, clean running clothes on hand, letting go of the guilt that I “should” be grocery shopping or doing laundry instead). But today everything had turned out perfectly and I had one beautiful hour to myself to just run.

I breathed in deeply. There was that pungent fall smell of composting leaves. There was just a hint of that wonderfully invigorating chill in the air. People I passed along the trail seemed happy and beautiful and vibrant. Colors seemed brighter.  I felt light and fast and like I could run forever. I was coming up on mile three and my familiar friend the runner’s high had just joined me.

I was about halfway into my run when it happened. I gave my Fitbit a happy little tap to see how many thousands of steps I certainly had already accumulated but the screen stayed dark…I tapped again (surly I just wasn’t tapping hard enough). Nothing. Nooooooooooooooooooo! My Fitbit was dead – and I knew it was really dead because it had been acting a little wonky the whole week and I had left it in the charger all night the night before just to make sure it was charged for this run.

I stopped running. How could this be? Everything that went into making it possible to even be able to go for a run and I wasn’t getting “credit” for it!

Now I know to some of you it seems crazy to stop in the middle of a perfect run and give into internal wailing on a beautiful day just because my tracker had stopped working. But I also know there are some of you out there who have tracked steps or miles or earned credit towards a goal and can commiserate with the feeling of wanting to earn those gold stars!

When I was studying to become a coach we talked a lot about intrinsic (or internal) vs. extrinsic (or external) motivation. How when people are intrinsically motivated to create healthy habits it is much more effective and lasts longer than if the motivation is purely to earn some kind of reward. I had learned this and of course theoretically agreed, but since finishing school had not until this moment so personally experienced how that really felt.

After a minute I realized how ridiculous it was that I had stopped running and started laughing. To anyone passing by I probably would have looked like a lunatic stopped in the middle of the trail laughing by myself (luckily there was no one around at that moment).

As always life and personal experience are the best teachers. I took a minute to reset. Why was I out here anyway? Not to earn a gold star or another light on my step tracker! I was out here because it felt damn good to be using my body. Because I crave that runners high. Because the light coming through the trees was gorgeous and uplifting and good for my soul. Because I don’t want to just be around when my grandchildren are born, I want to be healthy and strong enough to play with them.

The rest of the run was great – made even better by the fact that my Fitbit had died and caused me to take a few minutes to reset my mind and heart and remember why it is that I was really out here in the first place.

So did I throw my Fitbit out when I got home? Well yes, but I also immediately ordered a new one. Because the truth is although I wish I was constantly tapped into my intrinsic motivation to move, tracking my steps helps me stay conscious of how much I am moving. There are certainly days I will walk or run a little further to just reach the goals I’ve set up for myself without thinking too much about the bigger why. There is nothing wrong with that! As long as there is a bigger why and I know what it is so I can remember it when I need to.

What’s your bigger why? What is it that inspires you to get moving on those days when you might not exactly feel like it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

For more tips, tricks and inspiration for leading a healthy, happy life sign up for my monthly newsletter!

 

Intentional Friendships – Your Secret Weapon to Personal Growth

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I just spent the most incredible weekend with 8 other women running in a race that required us to run at night, through dust and cow pies, and up and down enormous hills. It was very physically challenging, there was very little sleep for 24 hours and I loved every single second of it.

I’m not writing this blog post to brag about how awesome I am. I’m writing it to talk about the power of friendship and how the people you surround yourself with can lift you up and influence how you feel about yourself and what you think it is you are able to accomplish.

You may have heard this idea floating around the internet the past few years that, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” coined by business philosopher Jim Rohn. When you spend time with people that you admire, that are working hard to reach their goals, that are positive and supportive of you in reaching yours, that believe in themselves and believe in you it lifts you up too. Sometimes without even being completely conscious of it you start to believe that more is possible because they do.

Think about it. Do you want to improve your health and wellness? Who are the people in your life that encourage you to do that? Who invites you to go for coffee and walk instead of out for burger and fries? Who gets excited when you tell them about your latest idea? Who is supportive and listens when you are going through a rough spot? Who exudes positivity and possibility? Who is working hard on their own life goals and regularly expresses gratitude?

Seek those people out! I mean right now, today. Whoever it was that popped into your head when you read that last paragraph I want you to immediately call and set up a time to do something with them. And not just any old something, ask them if they will do something with you that helps you to grow in whatever way it is that you are aching to grow right now. If you want to be more physically active ask them to take a walk with you or sign up for a race to train for. If you want to be more creative see if they will come over for a crafts night. Do you want to be more food savvy? See if they might sign up for a cooking class with you or spend an evening doing healthy meal prep together.

Now I’m not saying that you need to go and ditch all of those friends of yours that maybe are not pushing you to grow, or showing by example that it can be done. Of course you should keep those people in your life if you love them! It’s just that honestly we have such very little time – it’s the number one thing people tell me that is keeping them from reaching their health goals – so it’s worth consciously choosing who it is we want to spend the most time with because it really does have a big impact on our lives.

It certainly impacted mine last weekend. There is no way that alone I would have driven 4 hours into the mountains to run in a race through the night and day. And even if I did it would not have been the same finishing the race without having them screaming me in at the finish line, proud of me and believing in me 100%, and getting to do the same for them. These women never doubted that I could do it and so it helped me to believe that I could.Even more than that they were out there putting the work in too, going for training runs in the dark and in the rain and up gigantic hills. Setting an example of possibility.

So go now and make that phone call or send that text! It’s time to make the people in your life who make you better a priority.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

 

 

Why wait until January? Make Your New Years Resolutions Now!

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Think back to last January. Were you feeling inspired to tackle your health goals head on? Maybe you signed up for a gym membership, committed to eating healthier or were determined to do more active things with your family? Are you one of the 8% of people who made new years resolutions and kept them? If so I applaud you!

For many of us the New Year marks a time when we stop and think about what it is that we really want to change in our lives. What a great tradition! I am a big fan. However as the year goes on and our lives get busy it is so easy to push those resolutions aside as the craziness of everyday life catches up with us. It’s too bad our culture doesn’t have a tradition of making resolutions quarterly (or weekly…or daily).

This year think about how amazing would it be to tell your January self that you know you can stick to your health goals because you’ve already been doing it. You have already made it through the start of the school year and the busy holiday season and you’ve come through feeling strong and healthy!

I propose starting now. Today. Take a few minutes out of your day to think about what your resolutions might be in January – or remembering back to what they were last January – and figure out a way to make them start happening right now. Then (note: this is important) write them down and post them in a place you will see them every day like the bathroom mirror or front of the fridge. Particularly strong resolutions will have measurable goals, focus on the positive, and will not include just the what but also the why. For example:

  • I will hit the gym 3 times/week because I want to have more energy to play with my kids after work
  • I will cook healthy foods for my family at least 4 nights a week because I know healthy fuel means stronger bodies and brighter brains
  • I will make building close friendships AND exercise a priority by setting up a weekly walking date with friends because both are important to me

I know from experience a lot of us start off the new year full of hope for our healthy resolutions, but also a little exasperated with where we are starting. We’ve indulged in a few too many piece of pumpkin pie or snuggled up indoors through the rainy season. So feeling a little grumpy we drag ourselves to the gym – (you’ve probably heard the news. Gym memberships see a spike in January and then level off to normal levels by March).

It’s much harder to be excited about and stick with resolutions when we are approaching them from a place of post holiday frustration than when we come at them strong and confident in our ability to succeed. If your New Years resolutions are something you want to carry throughout your whole year and really incorporate into your life than there is no better time to start than now!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.