Bridging The Political Divide One Blueberry Salsa Recipe At A Time

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I know that this is a health and wellness blog and my posts have been trending more towards the political lately. These days as I see so many people I love experiencing extreme amounts of stress and anger and frustration and fear that I have to believe the two are inextricably tied together.  It has been hard to think about much else lately. When I’m scrolling through my social media feed it almost seems a bit jarring to come across a post that doesn’t have to do with politics. Like, “Wait! Don’t you know what’s going on right now? Crazy cat videos are no longer important!”

We are all trying to navigate this new political climate in our own way. For me I’m trying to take at least one positive action a day for the world and also for my sanity and well-being.  I’ve also been trying hard to replace anger with curiosity. The question I’ve been mulling over a lot lately is how did we get to this place? How can we create a culture that invites conversation over argument when there seems to be such a huge gap between our beliefs?

I came across this Ted Talk last night that I thought was fascinating. If we really want to move forward as a nation I think it’s important that we take a closer look at our mindset. That we try to shift from the feelings of “we’ve got to beat them,” to “we’ve got to reach them.” Being angry can certainly fuel action, but it seldom convinces someone to see things from your point of view.

Now I fully admit to having lived my whole life on the left coast. I’m positive my way of looking at the world has been shaped by that. Most of the people I’m surrounded with have a similar world view as I do. But still I have a few aunts and uncles that I’m pretty sure have a very different take on things. I’m pretty sure their environment has shaped their views as well.  I know them to be good people who love their children. I have hobbies in common with them. We’ve known each other our whole lives. We’ve celebrated lots of holidays together over the years.

The idea of calling up these relatives and engaging in a political conversation is overwhelming. It makes my stomach clench. Just the thought of it makes my shoulders tense and my heart beat faster (Wow! Instant physical reaction even without the actual interaction). There are issues I feel so passionately about that I’m not sure at this moment in time I could rationally and calmly have a political conversation with them.  I can however imagine calling up my uncle and asking for that awesome blueberry salsa recipe that he made last time he was visiting. Maybe it’s not a conversation that will be world altering, but at least for me personally it’s a start. A reminder to both of us that there are real people that we know and love behind the political labels and party lines.

I’m not saying I think people should just get over it so that everyone will get along. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel passionately about world issues or that we shouldn’t turn those feelings into phone calls and letters and emails and action. But there is a big difference between action and anger especially when it comes to our health and well-being. One empowers you and the other breaks you down. One reaches out and the other pushes away.

I have another aunt I love on the left side. She is very politically involved. She puts in long hours volunteering for her party. She is up to date on the issues. She reaches out to people to make sure their voices are heard. When we lost the election I was worried she would be hit hard. She had poured so much time and energy into the effort. I tentatively asked my cousin how her mom was doing. “Better than the rest of us!” I was so surprised by the answer. But now thinking about it I wonder if it’s because she is used to having these conversations. She is more aware that there are people out there with different ideas. I need to ask her about it, but I wonder if she like me is excited that even though we may not have the president we hoped for we now have a huge uprising of people who are getting involved, speaking out, learning about the issues.

Yes we can view it as a stressful, scary time. We can focus on the things that might happen (but haven’t yet). But when we do that we cause ourselves to essentially live in a reality we don’t like prematurely – think of me getting stressed out just by the thought of having a conversation with relatives that hasn’t even happened. When I imagine it happening the stress to my physical and mental health is the same whether or not that conversation takes place. I’m the only one who is negatively effected, not my uncle and aunt who don’t even know this is going on in my imagination!

So for my part I’m going to try my hardest to focus on the incredible and exciting positive response we’ve been seeing from people getting involved in the political process in a way that I’ve never known in my lifetime (thank you Mr. Trump!). I’m going to reach out to my friends and relatives on the other side and remember that they are good humans who have been shaped by their environment just like I have. Eventually I’m going to try to have some conversations with them through the lens of curiosity. I’m going to remember that one person doesn’t define a nation, that it’s all of us and our voices that do. I’m going to use mine!

Be happy, be health, be well.

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

The World Needs You

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Friends I urge you now more than ever to attend to your health and well-being! There is a lot going on in our world right now, but feelings of anger, frustration, overwhelm or depression experienced over extended periods of time is incredibly damaging to our health.

I have loved this quote from Bansky for a long time. But I used to look at it in a different light. I used to think that his words of encouragement were solely for the people out there who were ready to throw in the towel and give up. I see it in a slightly different light these days. The sort of change we are looking for in this world is not going to happen overnight. We need to be in it for the long haul and in order to do that it’s vital that we are taking care of our bodies, our minds, our souls. These days when I think of Bansky’s words I see them as a reminder that rest is a nonnegotiable part of pushing forward. Rest is just as important to learn for the people who don’t ever want to quit.

Please. Don’t give up! Don’t stop taking action! Don’t quit! But I want you here for the long haul. The world needs you here for the long haul. If we let the stress of the world break us down then essentially it wins.

Learn to rest. Take time to turn off the television, stop scrolling through your news feed, have conversations about something else going on, walk away for a little while. Don’t forget your body when your mind is constantly clamoring for your attention. Eat well, move, sleep, breathe deeply, go outside. All of these things don’t mean that you are being neglectful or lazy or shortsighted. It’s the opposite! Because you and I know that by taking breaks and learning to rest you will be here to show up for a long, long time. And that’s exactly what this world needs.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

Book Review: The Happiness Project

thehappinessprojectHow is it possible that I have not stumbled across Gretchen Rubin before? I feel like now after reading her book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent A Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun that I want to read everything she’s ever written. The title of the book is a nice summary of what her year-long experiment entails but what you can’t know unless you read this gem is just how utterly charming and relate able the author is.

One of the main points of the book is that everyone will have their own path to happiness – an idea that I personally hold near and dear. I was curious before beginning this lovely read what it would be like to dive into the details of a happiness project that belonged to someone else. Someone with different interest from me (she admits readily to not being such a fan of the great outdoors, and yoga – at least laughing yoga – also did not make the cut). It was great! The author is humble and honest and funny (sometimes without meaning to be). She admits to her faults and admirably tries to improve upon them without being preachy about it. She talks about a lot of feelings that I think many of us can relate to — one example being the idea of wanting to become a better listener without just waiting impatiently for a break in the conversation to jump in with her own story or experience.

I love how she gives an honest account of what it’s like to juggle home and work life. She talks in detail about how she came round to figuring out what it is that is really important in her life. So often we get caught up in our daily grind that it’s easy to forget to stop and take a minute to ask ourselves the big questions like, “What is it that really makes me happy?” And, “How am I making space for that in my life?” Conducting your own happiness project might be just the ticket!

I know I’m gushing here but one last thing that I love about this book is the incredible recommended reading list at the end. Gretchen Rubin is clearly a reader – she makes a lot of references to her favorite books and the impact they’ve had on her life. I don’t know if you are like me but sometimes when I’m reading a book that I really love I feel a little sad when it’s over. The silver lining for me on this one is that now I have a huge list of book recommends to add to my reading list from an author that I really love.

Check out Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project for an uplifting, enlightening, very personal journey towards finding greater happiness and be on the lookout for more great stuff to come from this author.

Be happy, be healthy, 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.