Shaking Hands With Fear: Lessons From A Grandma At The Women’s March

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Yesterday I marched. Yesterday I joined with thousands of other women and men in my city and millions across our nation and the world to stand up in solidarity for love, compassion, equality, human decency.

I have never considered myself particularly political. I always vote. I’ve been to a few caucuses over the years. I follow the highlights of politics. Occasionally I’ve written an email. I’ve never marched in a rally before. But then again I’ve never known a time when I’ve felt so scared by the direction that our nation seems to be moving in. Now with two small children that I love more than I knew was possible it feels impossible and almost irresponsible to stop at just filling in a circle, dropping a ballot in the mail and hoping for the best. I was grateful for the march yesterday in part because it began to fill this aching in my heart that there must be more we can do!

In the morning getting ready I was nervous and excited and I will admit that I was scared. I was scared of being in such a large group of people. I was scared that people with different views might resort to violence. I kept dropping things as I was making breakfast. I didn’t really know what to expect. After much deliberation my husband and I decided to leave the kids at home with him and I made plans to meet up with a few girlfriends. My five year old helped me color my sign. It felt like I was getting ready for some kind of strange festival with a serious and important message.

I met up with my friend Amanda and we carpooled to her church. Her congregation was walking together from there downtown to the start of the march. Her minister started us off with a blessing and a prayer that included a few moments of levity (“may the lines at the outhouses be short.”) which was just what I needed. I started to breathe again. Older women were handing out pink pussy cat hats. Camaraderie was building.

As we walked to the start of the march my spirits began to lift. I saw friends in the crowd that I knew and hundreds of people that I knew were friends I hadn’t met yet. We waited for the march to begin. All around us a sea of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, fathers and sons began to build. Thousands upon thousands of people – standing in the heart of it all we had no idea how many. There was laughter and stories and signs. Oh the signs! Some serious, some hilarious but so creative and personal. I wanted to read every one!

And then I felt a little shift in the joyous energy around me. I turned to look around. A young man was inching his way through the crowd. In a sea of pink he stood out not only because of his red and black clothes but because he was wearing a full black face mask that covered his entire face. All of a sudden I felt afraid. All of the fears from early in the morning came flooding back. He stood just a few inches in front of me and I studied him in case I had to tell authorities about him later. I noticed another woman taking a picture of him. He had a backpack on (you can only imagine what went through my head about what might be in it) with the name ROE written on it in black sharpie. The hair at the base of his neck where a little showed under his hat was dyed green. All of my fear heightened senses took these details in. We were packed so close in the middle of thousands. There would be no where to go.

I was scared. I was scared and paralyzed. I was hyper aware of him and I could feel everyone else around me was too.  And then a short, beautiful, open-faced grandma stepped out in front of him. She said in a firm but also somehow kind voice “What ya got under the mask son?” He didn’t say anything but he pulled the mask down and looked her square in the eye. She looked back.  “Glad to have you here with us today.” She said and reached out and shook his hand. He moved off through the crowd.

And that for me was the greatest moment of an incredible day. A grandma brave and kind. Unafraid to look at what we all feared straight in the eye. To really look and not just in a way that was critical and judgmental but curious and kind. To reach out and shake his hand. And I as a witness was changed in that moment. It was a simple gesture, over in a moment but a powerful example to me of why it was that we all came together that day.

After that we marched! We sang. We chanted. We gave high fives and hugs. That night we uploaded and shared our pictures and our stories. We read articles of other marches across the nation. We stood in awe of what we had done and what it looks like when we come together. We stood in awe of how it feels when we look our fears straight in the eye.

You know what blows me away? My story is just one of millions. I would love to hear yours.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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Making Peace With Missing Out

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I think one of the most common struggles when it comes to taking care of our health and well-being is the feeling that there is not enough time in the day. It’s so true that we all have the same 24 hours. How is it that we are are supposed to do our work, spend time with our family and friends, take care of household chores, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, manage our stress, AND find time to do things that fuel our souls and make us feel alive and inspired. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and like we’re being charged with an impossible task!

We want to be good parents, good children, good employees, good friends, good people. We want to make sure we are meeting everyone’s needs. We want to say yes when people ask us to do things.  How do we do it all and still meet our own needs? Have you ever noticed that taking care of ourselves is often the first thing that falls to the wayside when we are stressed and busy?

Here is the thing. There will always be more. There will always be more things vying for your attention, wanting your help, asking for your time, your money, your energy. It’s a big world out there!  As incredible as it would be to be an inexhaustible resource to every person, every cause, every job opportunity it’s just not possible. We need time to rest, recharge, replenish, reflect. It’s critical. The other choice is to become run down, exhausted, broke, stressed, burnt out.

If you are looking for another way here is what I would suggest.

Make peace with missing out.

Here’s how. Take some time to sit down and think about what things in your life that are really important to you. Don’t make that list too long – maybe just 3 or 4 things. Write them down. Read them every day. Think about them. Talk to people you love about them. Then ask yourself every time you are faced with an opportunity or asked to do something, “how does this serve my list?” Get really really clear on how your decisions are serving your top priorities in life.

In a recent blog post I wrote that we make about 35,000 choices every day. Imagine what our lives would feel like if the majority of those decisions moved us in a direction closer to being in alignment with those 3 or 4 things that are most important to us.

When I was a newish mom I used to subscribe to an email list that would send me a weekly email with all of the events going on around town for kids. I wanted to make sure that I was being a super mom so I’d write everything down on our calendar and try to take the kids to as many as possible. I’d feel a little stressed if we were running late or if the kids were dragging their feet to get somewhere. If we missed an event that I had on the calendar I’d feel downright disappointed and frustrated. Like I failed that day.

Right at the top of my list of things that are important to me is Family – so I did some thinking about what that really means for me. For me that means connection, that means time together, that means laughter and mealtime conversations. It does not mean me using my scary mom voice to force all of us to get into the car and rush to some event around town that the kids really don’t care about anyway.

I’ve unsubscribed to that email list. I know where the website is when I need it. These days I’m getting better at making peace with missing out.

So how exactly do you say no?

When I was younger I was a serial people pleaser. I thought that was the best way to get people to like me. I thought saying yes to everything that came my way was the best way of saying yes to the universe. I tried to be open to every opportunity, every exciting new thing, every request for my time and energy. Being open is good right? So why was I feeling so frazzled and overwhelmed?

Then one weekend I was at a weekend-long meditation retreat. The teacher was an older woman. She was so peaceful and calm. Something about just being close to her made you feel more relaxed. One meditation was particularly emotional for me. Afterwards she came and sat next to me. She asked me what was going on and I told her I just felt totally stretched thin and like I was letting people down around me because I couldn’t do it all and do it well. She just rested her hand on my back and said, “You know Brooke, it’s okay to say no to people.”

I don’t think anyone up to that point had ever really told me that.

I want to share a little trick with you that I recently heard on a podcast that for me as a recovering people pleaser has been great. It’s these six little words.

“Let me get back to you.”

When you are face to face with someone who is asking you to do something it can be really hard to say no.  In that moment you might not know if it resonates with your most important things or not. You may need some time to process the request. When that happens you just use these six magic words! They give you time to think about it without closing the door but also without committing. They buy you time to figure it out and make a thoughtful decision. Ultimately if it’s not the right fit for you, it might not feel like it but you will be doing everyone a favor by saying no.

I still sometimes struggle with saying no to people, but I do it a lot more frequently these days because even though I worried for a long time that by saying no I would be restricting my life and missing out on things what I’ve found has been just the opposite. Instead I’ve opened up space and time and resources for the things that really matter to me most. I have more quality time with my family. I find I have more time for taking care of my health and well-being.   If anything my life feels more expansive.

I’d love to hear if there have been times in your life when you’ve been really happy you’ve said no to something. Are there times you wish you would have said yes?

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

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Are The Best Things in Life Really Free?

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We were at Costco. In December. On a Sunday. Needless to say it was a zoo. People were honking at each other in the parking lot and inside the store the isles were so crowded that all you could do was shuffle along like a Christmas zombie at the same pace as all of the other shoppers through the entire store even though all our family really needed was dog food. Let’s be honest those free sample counters are hardly free – somehow while I was innocently trying a taste of Tillamook cheese the rest of my cart was inexplicably filling up with items that would add up to hundreds of dollars at the checkout.

I shuffled past the women’s clothing section and being stuck in a zombie pile up I HAD to look at what they were selling. Two of my weaknesses are hoodies and the color purple. Lo and behold there was the cutest purple hoodie  sweater I’d ever seen! It was like it was made for me (well, and probably thousands of other women across the country).

I checked out the price. Definitely not in the budget – especially this time of year with so much other spending going on. And so I, the girl with a cart load of yummy healthy food for my beautiful family, sank into a serious case of the holiday grumps. Did I stop at just being grumpy about not being able to afford a purple hoodie? Oh no! That would not be enough of course. I then had to get down on myself for being materialistic. Didn’t I recognize all of the blessings I did have?! What was wrong with me! But berating myself just made me feel worse and didn’t fix it so I sunk deeper. At the check out I looked at all of the other holiday shoppers with their carts full of gifts and came head to head with the super ugly and uneasy feeling of jealousy. Ugh!

Now to my own credit this is not a normal feeling for me. I’m generally a pretty positive practical person and so I was kind of shocked to meet up with these yucky feelings there in the Costco check out line. My husband and I over the years have chosen jobs that we felt made a difference and that we liked doing over other potentially higher paying occupations. Things are sometimes tight but we are a long ways off from being poor. Things were a little extra tight this year with both boys in preschool and myself working only part time, but those were choices we made to have the life that we wanted.

I reminded myself of all of this and the queasy feeling eased a tiny bit but still lingered. I didn’t really feel like partaking as the family sang boisterous holiday songs along with the radio on the drive home.

I got home and took a nap. Okay. A little better. I asked myself what I would tell someone I was coaching in this situation. Gratitude. Focus on all of the good things in your life. I keep a gratitude journal next to my bed and every night I jot down three or four things in that journal that make me happy and I’m grateful for each day. I started to wonder how many of those things cost money. So I did a little study of myself and looked back over the last week to take a tally of what things that I was grateful for cost money and which things didn’t…

Here is a snippet from 11/21 through 11/23:

  • I’m grateful that my workshop is full (free!)
  • That we had a super awesome healthy dinner AND the kids liked it (mixed bag)
  • That all of the laundry including the socks is sorted and put away (free!)
  • I had a good run at Fit School and am starting to make friends with Meg and Aly (mixed bag – paid for the running program, but new friends are free…)
  • My warm comfy bed (not free)
  • Our sweet kitty (mixed bag – she costs some, but her sweetness is free)
  • That the kids spent an hour today happily playing together without needing me (free!)
  • Sam’s creativity and Orion’s funny sense of humor (free)
  • The beautiful color of light this morning at sunrise (free)
  • Delicious smoothies for breakfast (not free)
  • Hot showers for water and tea (not free)
  • That blogging is so much fun (free)
  • That I have a family that loves me (free)
  • That there is a turkey in the fridge waiting to be cooked (not free)
  • For all of the sweet things people have written on the thankful tree (free)
  • That snow is in the forecast (free)

I kept reading through my gratitude journal tallying as I went. Total tally for the previous week; Free: 23, Cost Money: 5, Mixed Bag: 4

Somewhat to my surprise this little exercise was making me feel a whole lot better!  Not only was I steeping in the happy memories of all of the things that I love in my life I was seeing a pattern that was not as materialistic as I had feared. Whew!

I called my sister and she made me laugh like she usually does and life was looking up a little more. I took a deep breath and headed downstairs. There, my sweet and incredibly intuitive husband who had not only refrained from asking where I had disappeared to but had also made dinner and was now playing legos with the boys walked over and gave me a big hug. All of a sudden the ridiculousness of all of this brought on for want of a purple hoodie shifted into perspective and the sweetness of my life came back into focus. Thank goodness!

Why do I bother telling you my purple hoodie sob story? Well the night of my gratitude tally I did a little research on happiness. According to the Association for Psychological Science studies have shown people who are happy, “have more stable marriages, stronger immune systems, higher incomes and more creative ideas than their less happy peers.” Well who wouldn’t want all of those benefits! But the other exciting thing their research has show is that, “people can increase their happiness through simple intentional positive activities such as expressing gratitude or practicing kindness.” (Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013).  Awesome! Science backs up that not only did my gratitude experiment help to make me happier (which I knew of course but always nice to be scientifically backed up), but it also probably had a positive effect on my health and well-being.

Some people say money can’t buy happiness. Other studies have shown that to be true but only with an annual income over a certain amount. Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs suggests people can’t focus on things that make them happy until they have their basic physiological and safety needs met first.  I’m curious what you think? Are the best things in life free? Or do you need a certain amount of money to lead a happy and fulfilling life? Leave a comment below and let me know what your opinion is.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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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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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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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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Book Review: The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

The life changing magic of tidying upRecently my dishwasher broke down and at the same time we had an above average amount of out-of-town company staying with us. Trying my best to keep everyone fed and also have time to actually connect and catch up with them I found myself using what seemed like every dish in the house. At the end of the day after the kids were down I was faced with a mountain of dirty dishes that took at least an hour to wash by hand. On top of that because I was spending so much time washing dishes all of the laundry, toys, paperwork and everything else started to pile up. I noticed I was feeling resentful-not towards my company because I really was happy to have them there – but towards these mountains of “stuff” that sat waiting for me as if they were trying to ruin the end of my day!

I’m a big believer in the idea that things come into your life when you need them. During the week of the broken dishwasher and above average amount of company a friend of mine mentioned this book. It sounded interesting so I added it to my library holds list. Sometimes holds take weeks or even months to come in so I often put books on my list and then forget about them. This book came in the very next day – it was as if it knew how much I needed it!

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up is as much about decluttering the mind as it is about decluttering your house. Marie Kondo helps us to realize that all the possessions that we surround ourselves with take up our time and energy even if we are not conscious of them. Think of all of those things you have tucked away that you haven’t used in years and never will (come on, I know you haven’t looked in the back of the bathroom cabinet for a while)! Getting rid of them and keeping only what is truly useful and brings you joy creates more space in your life. In this book Kondo walks you through a very specific order in which to tackle decluttering your home and helps you grant yourself permission to let go of things that are no longer serving you.

One of the things that I loved best about this book was that it encourages mindfulness in our everyday tasks. Kondo talks about the importance of thanking our possessions for a job well done, and putting them away respectfully in a way that they can rest until we need them again. While this might sound a little woo woo, what I love is that it raises your level of consciousness and gratitude for those everyday things that surround you. I am certainly appreciating my dishwasher this week! But I’ve also been trying to be grateful for those things around me that I don’t always take the time to think about. I’ve been folding the blankets I usually leave in a heap on the couch and at the same time appreciating the warmth and comfort they gave me while reading. Or putting my shoes away with respect and appreciating how hard they worked to carry me through my day. Yes, my house is staying tidier, but even more than that my heart and soul feel in a better place.

This book is not for everyone. One friend thought the author was a bit over the top and took things to too much of an extreme (however, she did also admit it inspired her to take eight bags of clutter to the thrift store). Another dear friend felt like this kind of process was written from a somewhat privileged perspective – that many of us can’t just get rid of stuff that doesn’t bring us joy because we can’t afford to replace that needed item with a version that does bring you joy. A woman in my running group had the funny response that her toilet bowl brush certainly doesn’t give her joy but there’s not way she can get rid of that! Of course if your warm winter jacket isn’t in your favorite color you shouldn’t just toss it out, and please don’t get rid of your toilet bowl brushes (I think a dirty toilet might just bring you less joy than a toilet bowl brush after awhile).

What I do know is that since reading this book two weeks ago I am closing in on having taken twenty bags of unnecessary items to Goodwill or the dump. While I will admit to not being the tidiest person I know, I am also not a hoarder! The problem isn’t that I haven’t been able to let go of things, it’s that after awhile it’s easy to just stop noticing them. This book helps you mindfully take charge of your surroundings so that when you walk into your home instead of feeling bombarded by dirty dishes and piles of clothes and toys it feels like a haven where you have space to breathe.

Try giving this inspiring book a read. And just like when you tidy your house take what serves you, and let go of what doesn’t.

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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