You Are More Than The Sum Of Your To-Do List

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I am a great lover of to-do lists. The satisfaction of crossing something off for me is a high, so much so that (don’t tell anyone) from time to time I may have written a few things on the list that I had already completed just for the pleasure of crossing them off. I keep my to-do list on my counter where I can jot down anything that comes to mind and not forget that I want to do it. Occasionally this has meant that my to-do list is longer at the end of the day than at the beginning, as I’ve kept adding things all day but only been able to get a few of them done.

The problem with this of course is that with a mile-long list we have so many options for things to do that when we go to choose what’s next we might not be choosing the most important thing. Maybe we tackle the little stuff first because it feels easier to get motivated to do those. Maybe we only take on tasks that take a few minutes so that we can cross more things off – the whole quantity over quality game. Even though we feel really busy it can also feel like we’re treading water. As if we’re crossing things off but not really making any substantial progress towards anything.

Here to help is the idea that less is more. We’ve all heard that phrase before and it applies to your to-do list too. Instead of haphazardly jotting down everything on your list that comes to mind (as I so often have in the past!) you write down only the three most important things to get done each day. This helps you to focus on the really important stuff and not feel pulled in so many directions. If you don’t want to loose all of those other great ideas you might keep a separate place for writing them down and you might even get to some of them. But each morning when you are planning your day try to think about what three things will move you in the direction you want to go the most and focus on getting those done first.

To take this even one step further, I think it’s helpful to spend some time identifying not only what’s really important to us in our lives as far as what we want to get done – but also how it is that we really want to feel.  You can cross every last thing off of your list but if you are completely stressed out and unhappy the whole time than what is the point! The majority of this whole life experiment takes place inside our heads. I know that might sound a little silly as we physically move through the day but our mind is always filtering, always analyzing, labeling, interpreting, seeking. It’s also extremely creative. If we give it a task instead of letting it run loose wherever it feels like it will often come up with the solution.

So if at the beginning of each day we can set an intention not just for what we want to get done, but also for how we want to feel – energetic, positive, friendly, loving, confident, calm, present, creative – your mind now has a job to do alongside your physical body. Each time you feel yourself drifting off to another place, maybe feeling frustrated or overwhelmed or upset about something the trick is not to beat yourself up about it but instead to acknowledge it, allow it, and then remind yourself of the intentional feeling that you set for the day. Take a deep breath and reset.

If you can do these two things; 1) Limit your to-do list to only the most important 3 things and 2) Set an intentional feeling for the day, you will be a powerhouse! Getting the most important things done and also feeling the way you want to feel.

On a final note I’d just like to put a plug in for having days that are to-do list free. This is something that does not come naturally to me but my husband has helped me embrace over the years. Make room for things you love, for creativity and wonder. Let there be days that take you on an unexpected adventure without planning it all ahead. Some days are just made for that! It’s like that Greg Brown song, “Love calls like the wild birds — it’s another day. A Spring wind blew my list of things to do away.”

A Day of Wellness CoverIf you would like a little help in setting your day up in an intentional way that will help serve your health and wellness you are welcome to use my free Day of Wellness Worksheet for inspiration – just click on the image to download it. It’s intended to take just a few minutes each morning to help you focus on what’s important.

I hope you have a beautiful intentional day!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

Is It Time to Take a Mental Health Day? (Hint…Yes!)

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Often when we talk about taking care of our health and wellness the first things to pop into our mind is food and exercise. Of course taking care of those things are essential to being healthy, but just as important (and possibly more) and less talked about is making the time to take care of our mental health.

Sometimes talking about mental health can almost hold a stigma – like if we are taking the time to focus on improving our mental health there is something wrong with us or we’re broken in some way. Think about this. You are talking to a friend and ask them what they will be doing today. If they say, “going to the gym” you think, “good for you!” If they say “meeting with my therapist,” you think, “uh oh. Something must be wrong…”

It’s because of this stigma that I believe a lot of us don’t even really pay attention to our mental state until it does feel like we’ve reached some kind of a breaking point. But taking care of our mental well being should be part of our regular health routine just like eating healthy foods and getting moving.

Recently I did a series of interviews with women about their greatest challenges when it comes to their health and wellness. While some challenges relating to food and exercise certainly came up what was fascinating to me was that almost across the board challenges relating to mental health took center stage in our conversations.

Things like wanting to feel more positive and more confident, worries about a lack of focus and direction, wanting to spend less time comparing themselves to others, struggling to feel like they are enough they way they are, feeling overwhelmed and scattered, feeling like they are worth spending time, money, energy on…

Let me just say that all of these women are amazing, whole, intelligent, beautiful, inspiring women and are in no way broken. I think if we are really honest these are real struggles most of us face.

So what are a few simple things that we can do to take care of our mental well being?

  • Meditation – You probably know by now that I will always suggest meditation as an truly effective way to take care of our mental well being. There are lots of resources out there to get started. Look in your community for in person classes or try this great free app that I love.
  • Yoga – Yoga is great because most classes are a blend of exercise and paying attention to our mental state and will incorporate meditation and relaxation techniques. If you are looking for a way to try yoga for free at home check out the YouTube channel for my favorite online Yogi Adriene.
  • Gratitude Journal – I love gratitude journaling because it is such an easy accessible way to shift us into the positive mindset. At the end of each day jot down three things that you are grateful for and make you happy. As you fall asleep your mind will focus on these positive things rather than all of the worries and stresses of the day.
  • Digital Detox – This is one that I personally struggle with at times. But taking time away from our screens to look up and pay attention to the world around us and take a break from being bombarded with all of the information on our news feeds can do wonders for helping us to feel less stressed and more relaxed. It can help us reconnect with what’s important in our lives including the people around us.
  • Write Down Dreams and Goals – Feeling swept up in life or unsure about decisions is very common. The antidote to that is to take time to carefully create a vision of what you want your life to look like. Once you have a vision your creative brain will start coming up with ideas for how to get there – your goals.
  • Creativity for the Sake of Creativity – This one I love because I think it’s one we don’t talk a lot about and can be so wonderful for out mental health and happiness – especially if we can let go of our expectations for the final result. I love watching my preschoolers immerse themselves in their art projects. They aren’t trying to make something to impress the world. They are just truly in the moment enjoying the experience of creating.
  • Exercise and Eat Healthy – Ha! The irony is that it’s all tied in together right? I know for me personally sometimes exactly what I need to get into a good mental state is to break a sweat and eat better.

These are just a few ideas. There might be others that work better for you. I like taking informal surveys when I talk to people to see how they attend to their mental well being. For some it’s making time for a quiet cup of tea. For others listening to their favorite music at full blast in the car with their eyes closed. Try picking just one thing to do a day for your mental health (just like you would for your physical body) and experimenting with it. Tune into your thoughts and notice if you feel happier, more focused, confident, settled afterwards. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to take care of your mental health.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

starting-4_1_17Would you like some help creating a beautiful vision for your life and goals to get you there? My next Crafting A Wellness Vision workshop starts in just a few weeks. Register now to be one of 20 women in this supportive, coach-guided workshop. Each day you will spend 10-15 minutes completing exercises and journaling prompts that will guide you in the creation of an intentional vision for your health and happiness. Check out my workshop page to hear from past participants about the program.

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!

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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.