The Most Important Work of the Day

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be happy, be healthy, be well.


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


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Book Review: Big Magic-Creative Living Beyond Fear

bigmagicDo you have a creative idea simmering inside you that seems to keep getting pushed aside for whatever reason. Maybe it feels too much like play and not productive enough alongside all of the other things you need to get done. Maybe you feel like there was once a place for creativity in your life when you were younger but now that isn’t really practical – even though you used to love it. Maybe you feel like you aren’t quite good enough to pursue your chosen creative endeavor, like you should just leave it up to people who have decided to make a career out of it.

I’m telling you. Go pick up a copy of this book. Now.

In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert clearly explains all of the reasons we self-sabotage and then beautifully but also in a no nonsense kind of way helps us to see why we should forget about all of that and pursue our creative dreams.

A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

(Coach’s side note – Did you know getting lost in creative endeavors is also incredibly good for our health and wellness? It promotes the production of new neuron growth in our brain. It reduces stress. It can help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Often when we’re fully immersed in a creative project we can enter a state called flow which is not only really fun but so great for our brain.)

In her book Gilbert addresses the fact that art and anguish have often been seen as compatriots but argues that it doesn’t have to be that way. That it is possible and ideal to find joy in the creative process. That it is in fact the process and not necessarily the result that is the point. She also has some great ideas for those times when you’re feeling less than inspired and need a little help finding that spark.

This is a beautifully written, very inspiring, fun read.

So next time you can’t quite muster the motivation to go into the gym but you still want to do something good for yourself try pulling out your sketch pad or your guitar and lose yourself in a little creativity.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!


starting-4_1_17Interested in some inspiration and guidance in creating a beautiful vision for your life and goals to get you there? My next Crafting A Wellness Vision workshop starts in just a two weeks. Register now to be one of 20 women in this supportive, coach-led workshop. Each day you will spend 10-15 minutes completing exercises and journaling prompts that will guide you in the creation of an intentional vision for your health and happiness. Check out my workshop page to hear from past participants about the program.


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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

One Foot In Front Of The Other – How To Know When You’re On The Right Path

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I’m going to tell you right from the get go that the title of this post is a little bit misleading because here’s the thing. I don’t believe there is a right path. There is a right direction, there is a grand and inspiring and enlightened and vibrant place that you are moving towards but there is no one “right” way to get there. We make about 35,000 choices EVERY DAY! How would it be possible to get every single one of those “right”?

I like to think of it like this. Whatever it is that you are looking for in order to be happy, in order to be fulfilled, in order to be the best version of yourself in this lifetime – it is out there. It is out there like one amazing awe inspiring view. For me that would be the mountains filled with alpenglow but for you that might be the ocean or big sky country or a sparkling city vista at night. We’re not born seeing the view – we may have a sense that it’s out there and a general idea of the direction but there is never a straight direct path with blinking neon lights saying “GO THIS WAY”.

Instead there are subtle signs. Gentle nudges. We can’t always see them, we FEEL them.  We start out in the trees and have to find our way through. It’s easy to get turned around, or distracted and even completely lost at times. Like any good life wanderer the more we pay attention, the more signs we come across pointing us in the right direction.

Every “wrong” choice can be a gift too if we are paying attention. It becomes one of those things that nudges us back to moving in the right direction.

In my early 20’s I moved to a magical little mountain town where I ended up meeting my husband Mike. It was one of my first “real life” experiences after college. This little town is full of amazing, self-reliant people. People who grow glorious gardens. People who know how to cook and bake and can their own food. Potlucks – which happen frequently – are an amazing site to behold. These are people who know how to knit and fix things. They are people who have spent extensive time hiking in really remote parts of the mountains. Strong, kind, community focused kind of people.

When I first started meeting people in the community I felt a little like they were beautiful, magical creatures. Amazing and fascinating but not quite real.

Every other week Mike and I would make the hour long drive to the nearest town with a big grocery store and we’d load up our shopping cart with Rice-A-Roni and boxed mac and cheese (sometimes we’d throw in a can of tuna or some frozen veggies to make it “healthy”). We thought that was pretty normal but after living in this town for awhile it became apparent pretty quickly that the locals had a very different way of approaching food.

I remember distinctly one pivotal night for me. We went to have dinner with some new friends on their organic farm. Walking through bamboo groves and into the house they had built themselves 30 years ago felt somehow like coming home. On top of the burning wood stove was a cast iron pot of something that smelled delicious. Exposed wooden beams and comfy couches made up the living room.

When we sat down to dinner there were candles on the table. The beef stew that Anne had made was made up of only things that she had grown on the farm and beef from a neighbor that raises cattle. It was very clear that this was not a special occasion type meal – that this was a way of life (I doubt very seriously that there is Rice-A-Roni lurking in any of their pantry cabinets).

When we left their house that night my heart felt filled up to overflowing while simultaneously desperately aching for more. Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? That my friends is a sign you are moving in the right direction!

But you have to act on it! Otherwise it becomes one of those happy/sad memories. The kind that make you feel nostalgic and like you may have missed out on something more.

For awhile Mike and I continued on with our regular shopping habits because they were familiar and easy and normal to us – but now on the drive home I would feel disgruntled and grumpy. That unsettled feeling was a clear a sign that I was supposed to be moving in a different direction.  It took me awhile to tune into what was going on, but finally I decided to stop wanting to be like those magical people and try to start living like them.

Maybe it will sound silly to you, but the first time I walked into the local food coop I was completely nervous. I felt like there was billboard above my head walking around with me that said, “This is the girl who mostly eats ramen noodles!” I didn’t know what all of the vegetables were, I didn’t know what half of the things in the bulk section were. The people who worked there were friendly, but I was shy to ask questions. After I bought our groceries that week I felt a little out of my element, but also exhilarated. It was a start. I could catch a glimpse of the mountain view through the trees.

The key is to pay attention. To look up from time to time and ask yourself what’s really important. To take the time to catch a glimpse of the view through the trees so you know generally which way to go. You are already on the right path. Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing more than you do right now. You are right where you are supposed to be. And although it might be a little scary, if you take the time to notice what makes you feel unsettled or unhappy you can change your path and walk towards something bigger and more beautiful. Towards the life that’s right for you.

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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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.

If this article is something that resonates with you stay tuned for my upcoming 10 Days of Mindful Eating Challenge. Sign up for my newsletter for updates on the next course being offered.

Healthy eating starts with creating a solid plan. Find my FREE meal planning guide here to help you get started.