What is Unattachment and Why Is it Important for our Health and Well-being?

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“Don’t hold on to someone who’s leaving, otherwise you won’t meet the one who’s coming”-Carl Jung

When we were young my husband and I fell deeply, madly, passionately in love with each other and simultaneously with a beautiful twenty acre piece of land nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It was (and is) a magical place with a creek and open pasture, edged by huge big leaf maples and towering cedar trees. The views of the surrounding mountains were incredible. It felt wild and expansive and we rose to the challenge of filling every inch of it with beautiful dreams of a home and gardens and a family. We were visionaries of the most incredible life and this was the place we were going to sink our roots in and live our whole lives long.

The property wasn’t quite legally subdivided and so couldn’t officially be sold yet, but we were confident that things would be taken care of. The owner was open to us using it until all of the permitting was completed. We happily got to work planting trees, putting in a garden, building a tree house and garden shed. After a year or so things were still not finalized, but seemed to be moving in the right direction. We built an arbor and on a sunny August day got married there and celebrated with the entire community.

We waited five years for permits to be filed and subdivisions to be completed. We waited five years before the whole thing crumbled. The owners went through a bad divorce, there was a family misunderstanding…we never really understood fully what happened (isn’t that sometimes the way with things that break our hearts). We were told the land was no longer for sale and wouldn’t be.

We were lost. I mean to say we were completely wrecked. Done for. Brokenhearted. Shocked. Angry. Confused. We practiced the opposite of unattachment. We were so angry! And we held onto our anger and simmered in it and with no productive way forward we stumbled through life for awhile. As a couple we suffered and our marriage suffered too.  We felt victimized. Someone had taken all of our dreams and crushed them. Someone had broken years of promises with no apologies and no alternatives. Who were we even now? What were our dreams?

Slowly we found our way through. Slowly we built new dreams and a beautiful life that we never could have imagined at the time – but not before a lot of lost time and more heartache than was necessary.

When you spend an extended amount of time in a negative state (such as holding onto anger) there are very real physical repercussions. It is it’s own kind of chronic stress. Under stress your body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which in small doses can be helpful in certain situations, but when they course through our system on a regular basis they can have a very real negative effect on our hearts and brains. Research has shown that chronic stress can cause you to actually become hardwired to react to new situations in a negative way and can inhibit growth of brain cells that make connections to the prefrontal cortex-the part of our brain responsible for learning new things and creating memories.

My husband and I were talking about it the other day and he asked me what I would do differently now. At that point in our lives we did the best we could with the experiences and tools that we had. But if I could go back now and talk to myself I would tell myself to cultivate gratitude. To focus more on the good things that happened there and less on the the things that were “taken from us”. I would work on reframing the situation to realize that we weren’t victims, that we chose to hold on for as long as we did. I would journal and meditate and breathe and look ahead to new adventures and I would try to let go more gracefully. Those feelings of anger and bitterness didn’t serve me and they didn’t change the outcome of the situation at all.

So I’m writing to you today about the power of unattachment because I wish it was something that I had known about and cultivated back then. That piece of property was never ours. Despite paperwork sometimes saying otherwise we don’t ever truly own a place. Another person no matter how much we love them does not belong to us. And as much as you might want something and work towards a dream you can never be absolutely certain of the outcome.

Please don’t take this post the wrong way. Dreaming big is not a bad thing! Loving deeply is the only way! Taking time to mourn something you’ve loved and lost is a necessary part of moving on. Do those things with your life! And then when it’s time to move on from a dream or a person or an expectation take a deep breath and let go.

Practicing unattachment can help on any scale – from letting go of someone who has broken our heart to letting go of our expectations that we won’t get stuck in traffic or that another person is going to feel the same way about something that we do. When we are able to set aside our expectations we are able to find peace. When we practice unattachment we are able to meet the challenges this sometimes tumultuous life puts forward gracefully and calmly.

Unattachment does not mean you need to live in a cave somewhere in the Olympic rain forest with only a hand-carved wooden bowl and spoon as possessions. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love deeply and passionately and madly. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to feel that little surge of giddiness when you put on that new pair of jeans that fit you just perfectly. It simply means being able to let go gracefully when it’s time to so that you can move forward towards the rest of your life with an open heart and no regrets.

Be happy, be health, be well.

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Hygge for Health and Happiness!

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I am fascinated by wellness practices around the world and how environments help shape what we do to take care of our physical and mental well-being. Things like shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) in Japan, the culture of sauna in Finland, siestas of Latin America…but one practice I just recently learned of is the practice of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) in Denmark.

Did you know that Denmark rates #1 on the list of happiest places in the world? Why is that when their winter days are extremely cold and short? How do they keep their happy disposition despite what some might think of as a challenging environment? I live in the Pacific Northwest where it is undeniably beautiful but winters are dark and rainy and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real thing for a lot of people. I was hoping the Danes might have a trick or two to help us through the darkest part of our year.

Denmark is doing a lot of very cool things that probably contribute to it being the happiest country on earth. Things like the fact that 50% of commuters in the largest city of Copenhagen commute by bike. There is extensive parental support when it comes to paid leave after having a child. They have universal health care. They provide free (or very low cost) high quality early childhood education and consequently many more women return to the workforce post-baby.  Gender equality is rated as very high.

In one interview a Danish woman said she believed that they were such a happy people because they felt safe. They don’t have to stress out about whether or not to have children because they know they will have lots of support. They don’t have to worry about the cost of health issues if someone gets sick. They have a strong sense of community and social support.

There is one other thing they do that I think we should embrace here in the Great Northwest -the practice of Hygge. Hygge doesn’t translate perfectly into English but it means something like “the feeling of coziness” They make a point – especially in the winter – of making their surroundings inviting, comfortable and festive. The winter season is dominated by festivals and gathering of family and friends.

5 Easy Ways to Practice Hygge at Home

  • Light candles – The Danes love candles! You can bring a little Hygge into your home by lighting candles on your mantle or at the table.
  • Snuggle under blankets with a hot drink and a good book – Even better if someone else is snuggling under that blanket with you!
  • Warm foot bath- If you aren’t sure you want to go to the trouble of a full blown bubble bath (although I’d say that would be very Hygge) try a decadent foot soak with epsom salt and a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
  • Enjoy a treat- One component of Hygge is enjoying delicious holiday treats in a mindful way without feeling guilty about it afterwards – just making a point to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate them.
  • Turn on some relaxing music during dinner time. Make the mealtime environment warm and inviting.

Really what I think Hygge boils down to is taking care of ourselves and appreciating the important things in our lives – our family and friends, our warm cozy homes, good food. It’s understanding that our bodies need a change of pace as the seasons change and embracing it rather than fighting it. We could all use a little more Hygge in our lives. Hygge for health and happiness!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

 

 

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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How to Navigate Being a Nation Divided on Election Day

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I had another blog post planned for today but after my morning meditation I realized I had to talk about what’s going on in our country. It is a big day today for our nation. I mean a really big day. When I start thinking about it I get that squeezy feeling in my heart and a become a little bit sick to my stomach. Do you know what I’m talking about?

This month I’ve been talking about letting go of things that no longer serve us. I hope you will join with me today in trying to let go of expectations of how things will turn out. I’m not saying that everything in our lives is planned out and we should just leave our destiny in the hands of fate. Not at all. I deeply believe that we have the power to vision and create our lives into what we want them to be. But at this point in the game we’ve participated in the process to whatever degree we’ve chosen to. We’ve cast our ballots. Now it’s time to let go.

Oh! But the waiting! The what if’s! They are almost uncontrollable!

Well here is what I’m going to be thinking about today:

I have a dear aunt and uncle who I really love. I am 99.9% sure that they have a different political view than I do. I say 99.9% because it’s kind of an unspoken thing at our family gatherings that we don’t talk about politics. Whether or not you think that’s good or bad or families should talk politics, that is how it works in my family.

Instead what we do is talk about things like canning and gardening and sewing. We work on projects together. My aunt has lived an amazing adventurous life and we love to hear her tell stories about her experiences rescuing people from the wilderness. My uncle is one of the most incredible nature photographers I’ve ever met and one of the best cooks. They are good people who I love very much.

I know living here in our very beautiful mostly like-minded corner of the country its easy to get caught up in the us vs. them mentality. To feel like anyone who has a different political view is completely crazy. I fully admit over the last months thinking things like, “how could anyone ever think that!” and “what are people thinking!”(I’m certain people with a different political stance are thinking the exact same things about me).

But today as we go forward I’m going to try to shift my focus. I’m going to be thinking about my aunt and uncle and all of the things we have in common and reasons why I love them. I’m going to try to remember that there are very real people out there who have a different political view but also have families that they love. I’m going to have faith that somehow we are going to muddle through this confusing time together.

So if you are tired of the drama on your news feed or are just making yourself sick with worry over how things will turn out join me today in letting go of it. You don’t need it. You’ve done what you can. Breathe. Try to focus on love and the things that we have in common. Rest assured we will make it through to tomorrow somehow.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

 

Mindful Eating 101

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I was first introduced to the idea of mindful eating about 10 years ago. A friend of mine had just returned from a week long yoga retreat where they had been taught and practiced mindful eating at every meal. She raved about the way she was able to slow down, how much faster she felt full and how eating had become a transforming experience.  It sounded totally awesome – and like something you just did when attending a week long yoga retreat. But as it turns out mindful eating is something that when practiced as part of our daily lives can have a huge impact on our health.

So what exactly is mindful eating?

Let’s start with the opposite of mindful eating. Have you ever caught yourself watching a movie and munching away on chips when you reach for another and realize all of the sudden that you’ve eaten the entire bag? Or, maybe after a long day at work you come home tired, get the kids fed and down for bed and then dive into a bowl of ice cream, because you’ve had a long day and you feel like you’ve earned it?  Have you ever bolted your lunch in the car while driving between meetings or bought the same food every time you go to the grocery store even though you know it’s not the best for you but because it is what you always get and is familiar? I have to admit to having done all of these things at one time or another.

Unless you are a mindfulness master (I’m a mindful master, I can mindful faster…okay, okay, sorry!) these are examples of very real scenarios that many of us go through. Mindful eating is about raising our level of consciousness when it comes to the way we think about food.  It is important not only to pick healthy whole foods that will sustain and nourish us, but also to adjust our mindset when it comes to the act of eating. It is about the gratitude that we express for our food and recognizing what it took for it to reach our plate. It’s about slowing down and really appreciating what the food is doing for our bodies and tuning in to how it makes us feel. It’s about becoming more aware of ourselves to understand whether or not we’re even hungry in that moment. It’s about taking the time to look at our patterns and habits and critically asking ourselves if they are serving us.

What are 3 simple ways we can start practicing mindful eating in our daily lives?

  • Think of the end at the beginning – before you put something in your shopping cart or your mouth take a minute to pause and think about how you are going to feel after you eat that food or have that second helping. Is this a food that you are going to feel guilty about after you are done, or one that will make you feel more energized and vibrant and maybe proud that you are making a healthy choice? Fill your cart up with the latter and there won’t be room in your fridge or life for the former.
  • Express gratitude at every meal – You don’t have to belong to any kind of formal religion to take a moment before each meal to express gratitude out loud for the food you are about to eat. Somewhere someone grew the food you are about to eat. Without the sun, the rain, the soil, the farmers, you and the food would not be here. Meal times are a great break in our day when we can take a moment to remember that and be grateful for it. It can be as simple as just saying out loud, “I’m grateful for this food.”
  • Slow down-Do you remember when we were kids an our well-meaning parents or grandparents told us to chew our food at least 32 times.  I remember mechanically chewing my food and counting and swallowing kind of like it was a game. That is not what I’m talking about here. Next time you are eating try this. Pay attention to when you are chewing and swallowing and don’t scoop up the next bite with your fork or spoon until you’ve completely swallowed the last one. It sounds simple right? But if you are like most people it’s easy to put food in your mouth bite after bite without really even realizing if you’ve finished the last bite.

What are a few positive impacts mindful eating can have?

If you are new to the idea of mindful eating it may sound a little unconventional but while I’m not going to make any guarantees that you will lose 30 pounds in the next 30 days, there are real physical positive impacts that mindful eating can have on your health.

Did you know that studies have shown if you take two people – lets say a person who is regularly taking the time to slow down and practice mindful eating and another person who leads a highly stressful rushed lifestyle – and feed them the same foods their bodies are going to process them in totally different ways. When we’re chronically stressed out our body is in constant fight or flight mode causing our hormones to think we need to hang onto every bit of extra energy that we can (you never know when the next famine might hit and we’ll need it right?). So even if a person is making an effort to really eat healthy whole foods, but at the same time are under a lot of chronic stress they can find themselves gaining weight and becoming frustrated because they don’t know why.

Don’t wait until you sign up for that week-long yoga retreat. You can start practicing mindful eating now. It’s something you can do every day that doesn’t have to take too much extra time, but that can have huge positive impacts on your health and wellness. Happy mindful eating!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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It Starts With Food.

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Here is one thing I know. You simply cannot live your healthiest life without getting what you eat dialed in. You might love running or working out or meditating and journaling every day but if you aren’t putting the best fuel in your body possible you are doing yourself a disservice. I learned this first-hand after developing gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy. I lived with the mentality for years that I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I was active enough. This way of thinking came back to seriously bite me in the butt. In the long run it also was a blessing because it ultimately led me back to school to study nutrition but if I could have know all this before and avoided diabetes I would definitely have taken that route.

Food and nutrition are a personal passion of mine but up to this point I’ve kind of avoided writing too much about it in my blog posts. Why, when it’s something I care about so deeply? Well because food is so darn personal and whether or not you even realize it most people have very strong feelings about food going way back to the kinds of things they ate growing up, to being scared that they are going to be told they should never have their favorite comfort food again, to feeling absolutely positive that certain foods should never be eaten by anyone ever, or thinking that changing the way they eat is too inconvenient or hard to the point of being borderline impossible.

People sometimes also discover and can identify with a way of eating so passionately that it is almost a like choosing a religion (I hope that’s not a sacrilegious analogy!). But what I mean is it’s like you find something and it works for you and there is another great big tribe of people out there that agrees and you start to feel like it is “the way”. And it’s possible that’s not a bad thing! – you’ve found something that makes you feel great and resonates with the way you want to live. You “become” Paleo or Vegan or Vegetarian or Gluten-free or whatever it is and if it’s working for you (and your doctor agrees) and you remember that a different way might work better for other people I say that’s great!

But just in case you have not found that perfect food lifestyle that is working for you and would like a little guidance I want to share with you some of what I’ve learned through my studies over the past few years. It’s a place to start and it’s backed up by science and just like many religions share some overarching principals many nutrition scholars would agree that these are the foundation of a healthy diet:

  • Cut out the processed food – This is the number one thing on my list, if you do nothing else that I suggest do this. Become a label reader. If you don’t know what an ingredient is there is a very big chance you don’t need it in your life. A great rule of thumb when looking at labels is to look for items with less than 5 ingredients and all things that you recognize. Here is a great list of ways to cut out processed food by one of my favorite real food bloggers.
  • Steer Clear of Added Sugar – This another biggie. Sugar is pervasive. You may have heard the increase in sugar consumption in the American diet has been tied in studies to the increase in the obesity epidemic (and many other health issues) that our country now faces. When I first started learning about this stuff I was shocked by how many things sugar is in that you wouldn’t expect – I mean stewed tomatoes! Really?! Consumers are getting smarter about this but so are marketers. Did you know there are over 50 different names for sugar? They are just different names for something your body doesn’t need. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 25 grams of sugar/day (or 6 tsp). It adds up quickly! To put that in perspective a Starbucks mocha contains 35 grams of sugar putting you over your daily recommended value right there.
  • Add in More Fruits and Veggies – I love this because instead of being about things you shouldn’t eat it’s all about things you should eat and fruits and vegetables are beautiful and delicious and just so good for you! Crowd out those foods that aren’t serving you with more fruit and vegetables. Try planning your meals around whatever fresh fruits and vegetables you have available. Most people do not eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and veggies. Here is a great visual to give you an idea of just how much you should be aiming for each day.
  • Include Healthy Fats-Fat has gotten a bad rap over the years but the latest nutrition studies are showing that healthy fats actually play a really important role in contributing to good health. This is such a great shift in the way people are thinking about food not only because it leads to better health but because there are so many healthy fats that are really delicious! Avocados, olives, nuts and seeds, coconut, dark chocolate, whole eggs, full-fat yogurt are all great sources of healthy fats. Yum!
  • Stick to Complex Carbs-In a nut shell ditch your refined and simple carbs (white flour, white rice, sugar) and replace them with complex carbs.  Carbs have also been demonized over the years and here is part of what I think about it. The gluten-free movement has exploded and for people with a true gluten allergy or intolerance that may be a great thing. For most people though when they cut out gluten they start feeling better because along with the gluten they are cutting out simple carbs (refined flour and sugar) that are often found in the same foods. Complex carbs on the other hand – and there are so many great ones – are an important fuel for our bodies and should make up about 50% of our diet!
  • Eat Lean Protein (Mostly Plant-Based) – Last year the World Health Organization published it’s findings that processed meat is carcinogenic and that red meat is most probably carcinogenic. It was a pretty big deal. People often ask me what big changes I’ve made to my diet over the past couple of years of really diving into this stuff. This has been the most challenging change for me. Growing up steak was my favorite dinner. Still occasionally if my parents are BBQing steak or if a friend gives us some great elk burger I will still partake but now we almost never purchase red meat – we stick to getting our protein mainly from plants, fish, and poultry.
  • Bonus! Amp Up Your Superfood Intake – Although it sounds kind of trendy and maybe a bit mystical the term superfoods is just a word for foods that are rich in nutrients. They are often high in antioxidants and micronutrients. There is no definitive list of superfoods out there – it seems a new superfood is always being “discovered” but here is a list of common ones that are easy to incorporate more of in your meals.

Does that seem like a lot? Hopefully it’s not too overwhelming! I know this was a longer post than usual but it’s a really big important topic that we’ll be visiting together often. Really most of it can be boiled down to one of my all time favorite quotes by one of my all time favorite authors.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. -Michael Pollan

In school they liked to use the analogy of our bodies being like cars. We wouldn’t put anything in a car other than the right kind of fuel because it wouldn’t run well and eventually it would break down completely. While I appreciate the straightforwardness of this analogy I don’t particularly love it – mostly because I think it lacks poetic intrigue. The way I like to look at it is:

Feeding ourselves nourishing healthy whole foods is a form of gratitude and self-respect.

On a final note I just want to say it’s not about being perfect. It’s not about never having another piece of chocolate cake in your life (oh! just writing that down makes me sad). I truly am not one to judge someone for eating a burger. Honestly despite considering myself fairly healthy I did not give most of this a second thought just a few years ago but I wish I’d had a friend or coach or someone spell it out clearly for me back then.  Hopefully, if is something you want to learn more about, I can help be that person for you.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

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Why Health and Wellness Coaching?

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I’m a podcast junkie – I can’t even tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people that started out with, “I was listening to this podcast…” Well here I go again! I was listening to this podcast that I really love and the woman who creates it is also a blogger and initiated a challenge to her listeners to sit down and write why it is they feel inspired to do what they do. So here goes!

This health and wellness coaching thing has been a long time in coming for me. I was not a person who felt like they had a “calling” from a very early age and even when my friends seemed like they were getting it all figured out and finding careers they loved or starting families I was still a little unclear about what was the right way forward for me. Yes, I had interests and jobs I liked and people I loved and in general I would say I’ve always been a pretty happy person but I still felt like there was something a little bit beyond my peripheral vision. Something I was supposed to be noticing but couldn’t quite get a focus on.

Maybe sometimes our dreams are so big that we aren’t at a point in our lives where we are able to step back far enough to have the perspective to see them? Or maybe we just need the right amount of time to let them simmer and grow and develop. For some people that can take longer than others. I was a late bloomer so to speak and it was scary for me. I was starting to feel a little swept along by life and that the whole idea of finding purpose was just not going to happen for me – but I wanted it so badly!

In a way that feeling – that struggle of wanting so badly to be inspired or called or certain about my purpose or however you want to think about it – is exactly what led me to health and wellness coaching. Because I realized what I really want is to live in a world surrounded by inspired people. I want to feel that way myself and I want to help others feel that way too. I want people to experience more moments of awe in their lives. I want to be a force that helps spread positive ripples out into the world. I want to inspire mindfulness in our every day experiences. I want to help people to look up from their daily lives and realize what a miracle it is that we are here.

I’ve chosen to start by helping people learn how to take care of their bodies because it is such a gift that we have them. I personally believe when our bodies feel good, when we are at home and confident in our skin, it’s not as hard for us to address the other really important stuff. When we are at peace with the physical it is easier to be aware of our surroundings, and appreciate our lives and the people in them. It allows us to have the energy and creativity to start working on growing the rest of us – to become our inspired self. We take care of the physical first but it’s just a step towards taking care of everything else about us. Our emotional state, our relationships, our spiritual growth, our purpose.

When I’m long gone I want people to remember me as someone they were glad to have known. I want to help people to have the confidence to take a step back and gaze unabashedly at their big dreams.  I want to leave this place feeling like I’ve made a difference, like the world is in an upward spiral and somehow I was able to be a part of that.

Maybe that sounds a bit grandiose or idealistic? But I think ultimately leaving the planet a better place is probably something a lot of us want. I’ve chosen health and wellness coaching as a means to a big end but it’s just my way of hoping to inspire people. In fact I think there are probably as many different ways to inspire as there are people on the planet – my friend Christian inspires people by mixing up awesome beats, my friend Jenny makes the world brighter with her ridiculously funny sense of humor, my friend Amanda blows me away with her ability to listen and express compassion. Really each person out there has their own thumbprint for helping create an amazing, beautiful, kind, happy, peaceful, inspiring planet to live on. And damn it, that’s a place I want to live!

So there you go. Podcast blogger challenge accepted.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

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Less is the New More: Creating Space in our Hectic Lives

dock-1365387_1280I come from a great line of planners. My whole family likes nothing better than getting our calendars out and planning family dinners and celebrations and adventures and vacations months in advance. On family vacations as a collective we want to seize the day and visit every place we can. My Dad builds us spreadsheets and emails them out in advance so we all have the breakdown of what is going on when. I admit it, I love it! I get a little thrill researching and planning and writing it down.

My husband does not get the same jolt of dopamine as I do when he sees a full calendar and a spreadsheet of planned activities. For him it kind of has the opposite effect. His dream weekend is one that is completely empty of obligations where he can work on projects at our house and take the kids on whatever little adventure strikes him in the moment as sounding fun. He loves getting together with the family, but would prefer that the planning took place about an hour before dinnertime with very little fuss or advanced thought.

Having never really approached life that way I admit I didn’t think about how it might effect him when he comes home from a hectic day of work and I start rattling off all of the things I have in store for us in the upcoming weeks. But it all came to a head at the beginning of last summer- In the midst of one of my planning frenzies – when he finally politely but firmly let me know that he’d like a little more non-planned time in our lives (yes, still learning things after 13 years of marriage!).

So being the planner that I am in order to have non-planned time two weekends a month through the summer I literally wrote on the calendar (with a slightly sinking heart) “do not plan anything this weekend.” But you know what, it turned out to be a beautiful thing! I never once felt like I was missing out on what everyone else was doing. I don’t think I lost any friends because I had to say no to a few social engagements and it really ended up just making the summer feel a whole lot more relaxed, like there was more space to just breathe. Somehow magically it made the warm summer days stretch on and on. Remember when you were a kid and it felt like summer days just lasted forever? It was that kind of magic.

Sometimes I feel like nowadays as a culture we really pride ourselves on how busy we are. As if busyness is synonymous with productivity or importance.  It’s not that we want to be stressed and crazy exactly, it’s just that it’s almost expected. Think about it. Instead of the standard response to, “how are you doing” being “good” I would say in my experience these days it’s as common to hear a response of “super busy” or “things are crazy!” When is the last time your friend answered you with, “I’m feeling really relaxed and centered and rested!” It would be awesome, but also a little abnormal right?

Of course there are going to be times in our lives when things feel busier than at other times. We are real people with real obligations! But I think it’s worth examining which of those obligations are self-imposed. If we know there is going to be a particularly busy time coming up (a move, or baby, or work deadline) are there things that can be said no to in order to be able to say yes to making a little more space to just breathe and rest? It can feel strange to schedule time to do “nothing” but in reality we are doing something really important.  Maybe by scheduling less we are really scheduling time to be able to participate in our other obligations better. We can be more present when we are  with people and give them more of our attention instead of thinking ahead about the next 5 things we have to do that day.

Am I going to stop planning things all together? No way, I love it. And I don’t promise to never tell a friend, “I’m super busy and overwhelmed right now!” What I am going to try to do is to continue planning unplanned time because I want more of that feeling of endless summer days through the whole year, because I want to feel relaxed and centered and rested. Because I want to participate in the activities I do choose more fully.

If you want that too I challenge you today to find a day on your calendar to create a little more space for doing less better.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

P.S. If you want more tips, tricks and inspiration from Wellspring Health and Wellness Coaching sign up here for my monthly newsletter!

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.

Grow it Like You Mean It: A Gardener’s Take on Health and Wellness

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I love gardening. I love planning and ordering seeds. I love seeing how it changes every day – discovering each new sprout. I love finding unexpected things growing that I don’t remember planting.  I get huge satisfaction from harvesting and eating food that we’ve grown ourselves.

Once, when my husband and I were about to start our very first garden we had a friend studying landscape design give us some really great advice. He told us if we wanted to grow a really incredible garden that we should put it in a place that we walk through every day. Preferably a place where we would have to pass through to get to and from the house. In this way it would be almost impossible to neglect it. We would notice more of what was growing and would therefore fall in love with it more and want to spend more time working in it and enjoying it. It would be easier to pull a weed here or there on our regular walks through so it wouldn’t become this overwhelming weekend project that we dreaded rather than looked forward to.

Lately it has struck me what solid advice this is if we also take it in terms of our health and wellness. If we can find ways to “walk through it” every day it becomes something enjoyable that we look forward and that we take better care of in a more sustainable way. If we can make a plan and then celebrate each tiny new development – we wouldn’t expect a sunflower to just up and bloom overnight! – it becomes a source of joy rather than one of dread.

Here are some things from this health coach/gardener’s perspective to try:

  • Make a design –Make a plan of what you would like your life to look like a year from now. Write it down and read it every day.
  • Celebrate new growth – Don’t beat yourself up if your dream is to run a half marathon but you are tired after walking up your neighborhood hill. Have patience with yourself and celebrate the fact that you did just walk up that hill! And then do it again tomorrow.
  • Be open to the unexpected – Be open to trying new things (or old things that you haven’t done in awhile). Did you used to love riding bikes when you were a kid? It might still be fun! Have you always thought paddle boarding looked kind of cool? Find a friend and sign up for a class. You never know when a new passion might arise that you didn’t even know you had.
  • Take pride in the harvest – When you reach a goal celebrate it! Don’t compare yourself to others around you. Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished and use that feeling to help keep you moving forward.
  • Make it a place you walk through every day-Find ways to care for your health and wellness every day so you keep it in the forefront of your mind.  Put your yoga mat or running shoes in a place where you see them when you get out of bed.  Write a list of veggies that you love and post it on the fridge.

When you tend to your health and wellness every day watch how it becomes something that you look forward to rather than something you feel like you “should do”. Have a vision, be patient with yourself, start small and celebrate your successes.  You are a thing of beauty.  You are a miracle.

Be happy. Be healthy. Be well.