The Most Important Work of the Day

 

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When do you think your most important work of the day takes place? Maybe it’s in the middle of the day when you are in the thick of creative projects at work? Maybe it’s the volunteer work that you do after your “real” job? Maybe it’s in the evening when you are spending time bonding with your family? Maybe it’s right before bed as you spend time reflecting on the day? This is all important work.

For me the most important work of the day happens right up front, first thing in the morning. I wake up early – always have – a blessing and a curse passed down from my Dad’s side of the family (mostly a blessing, I only say a curse because I’m usually toast by 9:30 pm). I’m on autopilot a little first thing. I put the tea water on, do some yoga while waiting for it to boil, and then fortified with my steaming mug I sit down and get to work.

And by getting to work I mean I sit down and meditate. How can I consider sitting and doing “nothing” as my most important work of the day? Here’s what happens for me when I meditate. I give myself permission to relax with purpose. I can physically feel the calm wash over me as I start. When my mind starts to chatter (which it will inevitably do) I give myself permission to let it go. Have you ever had the experience when you can’t stop thinking about something, or someone, or a certain situation and you go over and over it again in your mind? Meditation is like taking a deep breath and saying “time out”.

Meditation helps me let go of the chatter and opens up space for calm, for creativity, for peace, for gratitude. It helps me to recognize that I already have everything I need in this moment. It makes me feel more positive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished meditating and when I’ve looked up I’ve been struck by just how beautiful the world around me is. And those feelings often stay with me through the whole day. They help me to be a more patient parent, to be a more creative soul, to approach stressful situations in a calmer way, to focus on the positive, to want to connect with the people around me.

I’m certainly not trying to suggest that meditation makes me perfect – just that personally it helps me realize who I want to be and how I want to move through the world. And that for me is the most important work of the day – to set an intention of how I want to see and interact with the world around me.

So how will you set your positive intention for the day? Some people pick a daily mantra, or give themselves a pep talk in the mirror. Some people pray. Some people break a sweat. Some people snuggle with their children. The way we start the day matters. It is important work. It sets the tone for the entire day and that spills over into the rest of our lives. Find whatever it is that makes you feel love, connection, happiness first thing in the morning and do it every day.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.


Here is a little more food for thought for the importance of starting our day in an intentional way:


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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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Scenes From A Health Coach’s Kitchen: Getting The Kids On Board

kidscookingToday I thought I would try something a little different. You know me, I love talking about food. I love reading food blogs and articles. I follow countless healthy foodies and food stylists and I drool over the glorious pictures of fresh beautiful food that looks so gorgeous. I do often get inspired to try new things because of it, BUT I’m also a mom and a business owner and I know how busy life can be. Realistically I am not going to spend hours perfectly placing each goji berry in my smoothie bowls.

One of my favorite food resources for inspiration is Lisa Leake who founded 100 Days Of Real Food. The reason I originally found her was because she has a photo gallery on her website where she snaps a quick picture of the lunches she had packs for her girls each day. As inspiring as the beautiful food stylist photos are I’ve found Lisa’s school lunch pictures to be a million times more helpful and practical in my regular day to day.

So occasionally I want to start sharing with you some things that are actually happening in my kitchen as a real life snapshot of possibility. And to start it off I thought I’d share a little bit about how I’ve involved my kids in the cooking over the last couple of weeks. There are a lot of ways to encourage kids to grow a love for healthy food, but one of the best ways I know is to get them involved with the cooking. Here are a few recent scenes from our kitchen:

Top Left: The boys making black bean brownies. There are a million black bean brownie recipes out there. I’ve had some pretty epic fails in this department, but the one we’ve been using and loving lately is this Flour less Black Bean Brownie by Chocolate Covered Katie. My kids get excited by even being in charge of the smallest job. This recipe is so easy that all there is to do is dump the ingredients into the food processor and push the button. But even that is exciting for them, and the pride they have when they eat something that they helped cook is really fun to see.

Top Right: I know it sometimes seems like more work to involve the kids with the cooking but how many times have you been trying to get dinner on the table with the kids clamoring in the background with a million requests? Trust me it is much easier to give them a knife and some vegetables to chop. Ha! Okay maybe that sounds strange but check out these salad knives made for kids you can find on Amazon. They are still a little sharp and require some supervision, but if you are selective about what things you give them to chop (think start with banana) and talk about knife safety as you go, it’s a great skill for them to develop early on. There are also some good you tube videos for kids on how to use knives safely that you might think about watching together before jumping in. Kids will take forever carefully chopping peas or peppers leaving your hands free to finish up the rest of the dinner prep. And as a bonus I’ve noticed in our house it’s common for vegetables to get nibbled on along the way – so maybe a good way to encourage those kiddos who aren’t so sure about veggies?

Bottom Left: Making your own tortillas is a really fun project and so easy. We picked up our tortilla press years ago at a local Hispanic food store. I think it might have been $10, but you can also find them on Amazon. Look for masa in the Hispanic food section of your grocery store. It’s magical for the kids to put the balls of masa on the press and lift it up to find perfect tortillas. They are delicious (way better than store bought in my humble opinion) and an added health benefit is you know exactly what is in them – a surprising number of tortillas in the grocery store are loaded up with preservatives to help keep them shelf stable. Here is a link for an easy tutorial if you are looking for more directions.

Bottom Right: On Valentines Day the kids wanted to make heart shaped pizzas. What kid doesn’t love pizza? And by making your own at home you can make it so much healthier! You can of course make a delicious crust from scratch if you have the time. But if you are looking for something quicker for a mid-week meal one that I’ve found and like is Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Crust. It just has 6 ingredients – all recognizable – and the same ingredients that I would use if I were making it from scratch. The other great thing about making pizza at home is that kids LOVE to put the toppings on so put bowls of chopped vegetables in front of them and you might be surprised just how many veggies end up on your pizzas. On this day our pizzas had grated carrots, chopped red pepper, pineapple, and artichokes. Delicious!

I’m determined that when my boys go off to college they will love to cook and will know how to do it well. This is a gift that my mom gave me and it’s important to me to pass that on to my own kids. It is a skill they will be able to use every day for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even the simplest cooking projects done on a regular basis is really exciting for them. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to do it myself but when I see how much they love to be a part of it, how it encourages them to try new foods, and how proud they are of what they’ve done it’s worth it. “Mom! I think this tastes better because I helped!” Is something I hear a lot in my house.

What are your family’s favorite projects in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about them!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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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!

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Practicing Radical Self Care During Tumultuous Times

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Casteneda

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I don’t know about you but I’ve had a bit of a bumpy week. Normally I am that admittedly somewhat annoying person who loves getting up in the morning. I have crafted the most beautiful morning routine that I love so much that I feel a little bit of Christmas morning giddiness every morning (I know, I know, normally I try not to talk about it too much so people don’t throw up). I run through my routine and finish by sitting down to write and I really don’t worry too much about if I’ll feel inspired to do it or not because I inevitably do.

But this week has been hard! I have been struggling with everything going on in the world and not sleeping well. I have been staying up too late searching for some kind of answers and spending far too much time on social media reading articles of speculation and distress. I have had a hard time getting up in the morning and have found ways to justify staying in bed later and later. As so easily can happen when our mind, body and spirit need it the most I have been letting my self care routine slip.

Sometimes just going through the motions you can trick yourself back into an inspired state. As I laid in bed this morning I said to myself “Enough! Just get up and put the tea kettle on.” So I did and that started off a series of well worn morning practices that ultimately led me to you with a huge sense of the comfort of coming home.

I’d like to advocate for intentionally creating a morning routine just for this reason. Sometimes when you are feeling emotionally drained you need a self care plan in place that you can run on autopilot. Whatever it is that you need to do to feel cared for, rejuvenated or inspired make sure you do it regularly during the good times so that you know how to fall back on it in the hard times. Trying to create healthy habits when you are not feeling great – physically or mentally – is exponentially harder.

Although I have been letting my morning routine slip there are two things that I have made more time for this week that have been a huge help in processing these big emotions I’ve been having. One is spending time with good friends – talking about everything going on, and also remembering to take time to talk about other things going on in our lives!

The other is making time to get outside – I call it our mountain therapy. This weekend it felt like we needed a good dose so we packed up the family and headed up into the Cascades to spend a couple of days with a good friend who lives there. There have been all kinds of studies done on the benefit of spending time in nature, more on that in a future blog post, but I can say from personal experience that breathing that pine soaked air and exploring the trails with the kiddos was just what this aching heart needed this weekend.

Please be sure to take care of yourself in times of tumult. The world needs you healthy and well now more than ever.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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