9 Steps to Starting Something New: Making Change Happen

Ready for spring and something new? It’s time to change! Let go of old habits no longer serving you and create new habits to move your life toward the goals you want today.

As spring equinox takes us by storm this week and ushers in the season of new beginnings, I thought it fitting to talk about creating new beginnings for ourselves. In many spiritual traditions, this is the season where rituals focus on creating something new in one’s life. In many practices this is the time of renewal, rebirth, and new growth following a time of reflection and rest. 

As we move toward the culmination of the reflection period we emerge from a period of challenge to slingshot into something new and better. We have faced our demons and recommitted to our journey to become the best version of ourselves. These concepts are observed in religious traditions (lent, fasting, giving up), fairy tales (the quest), philosophy (the hero’s journey), and nature (winter). This week, where will you be challenging yourself and what will you be giving up in effort to spring forward into something new and better for yourself?

Change is hard. If it was not we’d be making a lot more changes in our lives on a more regular basis. However to build new habits we must be conscious that we want to change. We must reflect accurately on our lives and determine what is working and what is not working for us. We must be willing to observe our own patterns and challenge our own beliefs. This is not easy. It is hard to consider what I may be doing that is not helping me and it is hard to change a habit. According to Lally and Gardner (2013) “when designing behaviour change interventions, it is important to focus both on disrupting existing undesirable habits and developing new desirable habits” (p. 16). This means it is important to determine what you want to let go of and then figure out a way to disrupt it in your daily life. Then you must figure out what you do want and figure out a way to anchor it into your routine. 

Disrupting Old Habits

Let’s start with disrupting an old habit. Habits are different than goal directed behaviors. Whereas goal directed behavior happens with consciousness and effort, habits are behaviors that have become somewhat automatic in your life. You often do not think about them, they are just the way you go about doing things. 

For example, you come home from work and have a glass of wine everyday. For some they do not pay much attention to this habit it is just something they have been doing for a long time. The glass of wine is anchored to coming home from work. Another example is overeating. Often the person is not paying attention to how much they are actually eating. They overfill a plate or grab the full bag of chips and eat it while distracted by the TV. They reach for a soda or candy bar to give a quick burst of energy but do not notice that they did not really need the whole thing, they just finish it because it is there sitting on the desk or as a familiar option in the vending machine. Again, examination of the environment in which the behavior is done will reveal anchors and help disrupt the process of habit completion. 

As you disrupt the anchor part of the habit, what you are really doing is disrupting the environment. This is a key factor in changing behaviors. By disrupting the environment you change the way your anchors are engaging you in routine behaviors. This is a very effective way to break a habit. To start, track your habit. Behavior research shows us the power of tracking. Just the act of tracking a behavior can change it. Tracking brings awareness and opportunities to reflect upon what is working and what is not from an objective point of view. 

Ask yourself these questions as you track:

  • What is happening right before you do it? 
  • What happens right after? 
  • How do you feel when you want to do it? 
  • How do you feel when you are in process of doing it? 
  • What does it feel like when you have completed it? 
  • Who were you with? 
  • Who did you want to be with? 
  • Where were you? 

The answer to these questions offer examples of places you can make a change in your internal and external environments. For some, disruptions of the environment may look like taking another way home so you do not pass the liquor store or bar you like to hang with your friends. It could be finding new places to eat so you are not habitually ordering the same thing off the menu. Or it could look like changing communities or homes. 

Creating New Habits

On the other hand once we take away an old habit we need to replace it with something else. We call this a redirection or attention shift. It helps us maneuver change by giving us something else to focus on. As you consider the answers to the questions above you begin to see places you can change your environment, now look at them to see what else would work in those instances. For example, you might find that coming home from work to a glass of wine is about connecting to your partner and slowing down. Can you create a ritual that helps you meet those two needs without the wine involved? Of course you can, it just takes time and repetition. 

Building new habits is about consciously changing our behaviors and then repeating them so we build the neuro-pathways for the new behavior. This can be difficult as we often have habits paired with anchors as noted above. When the anchor behavior happens we automatically do the routine habit. We might forget to do the new habit and feel defeated as a result so we give up easily. However the more we go through the process of deciding to change and working to change, even when we fail, we are shifting our neural structures toward our goals. There are two ways we can help ourselves remember to complete the new habit: 1) create an action plan and 2) create a coping plan. 

In the action plan walk yourself through the new habit, the corresponding behavior anchors, the feelings you will have as a result of successfully implementing the new habit, and visualize yourself completing it. It is as simple as writing out your new habit step by step. This creates a play by play plan to create the new habit in your life and obtain its automatic status in your routine. As part of the action plan create implementation intention. Research points to using if – then implementation intentions (Lally & Gardner, 2013) as a way to help guide you through the steps needed to complete the new habit in your routines. If X happens I will do Y. This gives you planning and options for dealing with real life situations. In the end, by creating an action plan you are helping yourself visualize and mentally walk through necessary steps to make your new habit a success. 

Coping plans offer a little more flexibility. They ask you to create a plan to deal with obstacles that are going to arise on your path to creating a new habit and breaking the old one. They offer the opportunity to think through difficult steps on the journey to creating new habits by reflecting on what could derail you. In the coping plan we often list all the obstacles we can think of and create options to get around them. Say you want to quit drinking but are not sure how to handle social situations. We would review possible scenarios and come up with ideas and ways you can manage your behavior in them with success toward your goal. 

As in disrupting a habit by changing or redirecting the anchor behavior, you can use anchors to help you create new habits. A example is working out. The alarm goes off in the morning and the person gets up, changes into workout clothing, and puts on running shoes. They head out to run. Changing of clothing and putting on running shoes is anchored to the alarm going off and getting out of bed. When creating a new habit it is best to anchor the new habit to follow one that is solid in your routine. You do not want to be crafting 2 new habits. Using something you do everyday – like get out of bed, go to bed, go to the bathroom, eat meals, etc can be very helpful making the new one successful. 

Finally, you have to consider motivation. Motivation comes from inspiration. In the beginning we are all motivated for new habit formation. We get excited and make plans, offer ourselves rewards, and share our success and struggle, but a month in, 2 months in, a year into a long habit change and we often struggle to maintain motivation, which will kill a new habit faster than you can blink. The trick is to manage your inspiration. Everyday, look at your vision board, find interesting photos on Pinterest, youtube videos, or discuss your goals with friends. It is important to socialize your changes for accountability and to find intrinsic motivation to help you stay connected to the reasons you are working so hard to change. External rewards – prizes, new stuff, accolades – work for a bit, but if you do not find the internal pride, pleasure, and strength to stay on the path, your motivation will wane. Once it is gone so is the hard work of getting the change to happen. 

The down and dirty on change:

To disrupt a habit you want to break:

  1. Track and figure out your patterns and anchors
  2. Change your environment
  3. Find new ways to focus and shift your attention
  4. Replace the old habit with something new

To create a new habit:

  1. Create an action plan
  2. Create a coping plan
  3. Determine your why – why is this so important to you now
  4. Find daily inspiration to maintain motivation
  5. Anchor new behavior to an activity you are already doing regularly

References:

Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7:sup1, S137-S158. DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2011.603640

Did You Get Lucky Last Night? 3 ways to make sure you continue to have a healthy sex life.

In my office I counsel many people on the topic of sex. So many of us are unsatisfied with our sex lives and are looking for ways to talk about and communicate our desires, wants, needs effectively and compassionately. Sex is not a dirty word or activity … it is a necessary biological function. Here’s why we need it.

Is it really about getting lucky? Or is a good sex life about showing up with intent. Sticking to the theme this week and honoring this lucky day of St. Patrick’s Day … let’s talk about sex.

I talk a lot about sex. So many people are trying to figure out their sex lives and so many people have questions about what they can do to increase their sexual health. So many are embarrassed, shamed, and scared of speaking directly about and to their sexuality.

I have spent more time in the last 10 years explaining condom use and STDs to people over 60 than I have to my teenage clients or my own kids, and I have spent so much time talking to people about acceptance of their sexual desires. This is because so many were in committed relationships prior to the age of AIDS, open conversations about sexuality, STDs, and wide spread exposure to different sexual preferences.

I also spend a fair amount of time with people who are unhappy in their committed intimate relationship regardless of age. They feel unsatisfied and unable to explain why or ask for what they really want to be different – now that their relationship(s) have evolved. As a result of societal learning they struggle to know just what they can ask for and “what’s ok”. In reality, you can ask for whatever you want and it is all ok as long as you are not hurting someone else. Below are 3 ways you can discuss sex to create the best sex ever. BECAUSE good communication about sex makes it much, much, much better – as a result, talking about your sex life makes it soar.

1) Make Sure You Talk About It

I see so many in my office who do not know how to talk about sex. Our culture leans toward sex being shameful or dirty while exposing everything on reality TV. Reality TV isn’t the bad guy, they just figured out how to give us what we really want, while allowing us to blame them for the demise of humanity. They do not care about your judgment, they just want your peeping Toms, and boy do we give them up easily. We are so captivated by others doing things we are shamed to admit we are curious about, we watch to the tunes of billions of dollars. Maybe it is time to stop giving the TV folks our money and have an honest conversation about how we feel about our own sexuality.

For some they cannot talk openly about sex, but for others we cannot talk openly, honestly, or authentically about sexual preferences but we sure can get raunchy. We might be really good at saying and commenting on the “nasty” but avoid the real intimate and honest conversation about it. It is ok to talk dirty, get raunchy, and make jokes as long as it is not at the expense of another AND you can be open about the intimacy and vulnerability of your own experience.

Having an open honest conversation about sex is one way to combat sexual assault and harassment, stop homosexual discrimination, and decrease teen pregnancy. However, for many of us this would mean, we would have to be vulnerable. We would have to open up about what sex really means to us, how it helps us connect, and the pain of being rejected if that intimacy is not returned. It can be difficult to talk about, and for some easier to just make jokes or put sex down as something ugly and unwanted rather than face the reality that sex is something we all need until the day we die.

Get rid of the shame by talking about your experiences, preferences, and curiosities with a trusted person. Shame cannot survive the exposure. Shame builds and lives in a bubble of secrecy, silence, and judgment. By speaking about it, asking questions, and exploring your thoughts and ideas with a safe person shame goes away. If it is too much to talk about everything you are curious about, just start small and build up your ability to speak about more difficult topics slowly. If you do not have anyone in your inner circle who would be a non-judgmental person, find a therapist. Some specialize in sexuality and sex therapy and can help you identify your intimate goals.

I cannot stress enough how important honest, open communication about sex is for the health of your sexual relationship and making sure everybody has a happy ending.

2) Understand what sex is and what it isn’t

For centuries our culture has been inundated with “rules” about what sex is and is not. Many buy into these cultural definitions without digging deeper into why they came into existence in the first place. Much of the reason behind such rules has to do with blood lines, lots of death, money, and cultural assimilation. Very little has to do with love and personal preference.

As a result of this cultural learning we like to think we have willpower over sexual needs, and in many ways we do. In others we do not. There is a great amount of literature on sexuality and much of it points to how biologically driven our sexual need is. This is not to say we get free reign to use, abuse, or take sex from others, however it can help decrease shame we have around our curiosities and enjoyment of sexual exploration. Once you know what you want and what you like, it is much easier to communicate about it … and have I mentioned how important communicating about sex is to the health of your sexual relationships?

Sex does not equal love … and love does not equal sex. As noted above sex has a biological drive behind it so equating it with love is a losing battle. Sex is just a physical act. However, orgasm does release a shloo of hormones and neurotransmitters that help us feel connected, calm, and content. Orgasm is important in realigning the body for optimal health. Yet, many never get to experience this event, or at least experience it too little because of physical issues, sexual shaming, or being with partners who are not sensitive to each other’s needs.

As partners in a committed relationship it is important to honor the other’s timing. One of you may need more time to climax than the other, one may be more shy, one partner may be more or less aware of the physical anatomy and structures that can be used to bring climax on. Again, it is important to provide opportunities to discuss preferences, desires, and physicality of what brings pleasure and joy. These discussions result in much more gratifying sexual activities for all people involved.

Let go of “whose in charge”. I see so many couples who believe that one partner should be the driver of their sexual relationship. This is not the case. Much of this control has been given to males due to patriarchal societal values and this is a lot of pressure. Men are only half of the sexual relationship, and women are only half of birthing a baby. It takes all partners to engage fully in a sexual relationship. This does not matter if your relationship is female/male, male/male, female/female or any other combination of sex types. All partners need to be fully involved and fully engaged to make your sex life the best possible. Everyone has preferences, a voice, and a body. Just because someone does not like what you like does not mean you are wrong or broken, it just is an opportunity for you to explore something you haven’t thought of before. Speak up, use your body, and enjoy your personal preferences. Talk about it, give it a try, and be ready to compromise. This will make your sexual activity a great adventure.

3) Taking care of yourself and things

So often the problem with the couples sex life is they are overwhelmed and tired. They haven’t taken care of themselves because they are too busy taking care of others in the household, chasing deadlines, and making day to day operations run. Then when it comes time for them to connect, they turn on the TV and connect to the late night TV hosts instead of each other.

I often see one member of the couple over working to make the household run and one clueless about how much work it takes. They ask to help, but in doing so (rather than taking initiative and jumping in to be a partner) they are putting more pressure on the partner to manage everything, leading to more burnout. Don’t get me wrong they want to help and support each other, but they are lacking communication to actually be a team. They haven’t written out the plays they want to see executed and by who, together.

Thus one person remains in charge and often exhausted. And who wants to have sex when you are exhausted and overworked – it just becomes one more thing on your to do list and one more person to take care of while giving away your energy – defiantly not orgasm range. Just another messy 10 minutes out of your life. Without orgasm on a regular basis no one would continue to have sex. So why is it is surprising that half of this duo does not want to have sex on a regular basis. No orgasm, no 10 minute messy activity … no matter how fun it is supposed to be. The answer to this problem – communicate and work as a team not as a manager and employee.

Finally, take care of yourself. When ya’ll hooked up you probably thought each other was pretty hot, at least in some ways. Over time we often let ourselves go, “let it all hang out” literally, and do not practice the same level of hygiene we did back in the day. This change is ok, however if you have let yourself go to the point that your health is impacting your sexual drive, your negative thinking of self is getting in your way, or your stamina is gone, it is time to take back your health.

Healthy eating and sleep cycles cannot be underestimated for a healthy sex life. Nor can regular workouts which help keep energy moving and blood flow happening (everywhere). And you can’t ignore the way you think about yourself and your partner(s). If you are not speaking positive about yourself why should anyone else. Take control of your sex life by taking control of the way you talk and think about yourself.

Most of us feel difference in our sexual appetite and options as we age. This is normal, however there are many ways to work around these changes. The trick … be ready to ask for and seek out these options. Do not be embarrassed about your requests. For men, erection may become more difficult, for women lubrication may be needed. The changes can result in painful sexual experiences, yet there are ways to mitigate them if you are willing to speak up. The bottom line … be ready to experiment and talk. Speaking about what is happening for you, what you would like the try, and being willing to experiment with each other is the key to getting out of the sexual desert. Talk about it and it will get better.

So in the end the key to having a healthy sex life is talking about sex, not being embarrassed to ask for what you want and need, and about taking control of your preferences and desires.

Communicate the above clearly to your partner(s) and watch your sex life blossom.


Make it Strong …

Ready to get your workout on this weekend? This one combines a number of fast exercises for a strong metabolic workout, then adds dumb bells to make you strong. Together they challenge your mind. You up to the challenge???

Workout Basics and Warm Up

To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.

This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.

Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.

Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work portion.

When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.

If you are unclear about a movement, look it up (Check out my YouTube Tutorials Here). There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.

Get Into the Groove

  • Squat to Toes – For this squat keep toes pointed forward, feet hip width apart. You may want a block or towel better your thighs to activate the inner thigh, hip, and low back. With control, bring fingers to the floor as you squat low. As you raise up, keep arms straight and extend overhead and move all the way through the squat to full extension on your toes. Your body should be in a straight line nice and tall.
  • 5-Pointed Jumping Jack – basically, a jumping jack but take an extra stop with arms extended out to the sides, then jump again and bring them above your head. Repeat in the opposite direction, so jack is 3 parts – low arms, mid arms, high overhead arms.

The Work

1 set through, 30 seconds each exercise. 10 second rest. Repeat 2 more times.

  • Compass Jumps
  • Plank Spider Walks
  • Rocket Girls
  • Bear Crawl
  • High Skip Jumps – travel if you have space to move around
  • Plank Rockets

Dumb bell Matrix

DB in each hand moved through each exericse for 8-10 reps, make the weight hard enough, but keep good form. 2x through

  • Rotate and chest press – Standing with knees slightly bent, DB in each hand, press forward and rotate through the torso. Watch the knees, keep the rotation smaller than moving the knees, or if you’d like a bigger rotation, pivot the foot on the toe to follow the knee. Knees, toes, and nose should be going in the same direction to keep the knee protected.
  • Rotating Curling Lunge
  • Upper Cuts
  • Squats with a Y shoulder press
  • Front to Lateral raises
  • T-burpees – want a different burpee options? Check out this article
Want to make it a little more challenging? Add a 30 second plank hold between each of the exercises above.

Finish Strong

YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.

Words of Caution …

Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.

As always have a fun living in your body today!

Crazy … Reclaim It

The word crazy gets thrown around as a derogatory word to put people down. To distinguish the differences between us, to keep people in their place. Reclaim it and let your greatness shine.

In my work the word crazy does not appear in the DSM 5, nor any other versions. It is not a clinical term and it is not about mental illness.

It is a word people have used to keep people from stepping outside the box and challenging the status quo. It is about keeping people down and maintaining power dynamics that hurt many and support a few. It is a word often used to describe women when they do not fit the norms society prefers they stick to.

Today, let your essence speak. Let it guide you to be the greatest version of you. Let yourself slow down enough to listen to your deepest desires and then go get them. Today be authentically and unapologetically you!

Create Your Life

Are you creating the life you want? Some of us use play as a way to avoid doing the hard work of creating the life we really want. Not that all of life has to be hard work, but rather than avoid taking the next step by playing, overusing substances, or skirting responsibliites – get out there, have fun, and take action to get what you want.

Luck vs Intention … which one wins

Some people just seem lucky. They seem to have everything we want and then some. We wonder why they have such ease and what makes them special.  But is is luck or intention? 

A client of mine told me “luck is just opportunity meeting preparation”, which is a statement about luck that I love. I like this one because so many chalk things up to luck and leave themselves completely powerless in the determination of their lives. I see this a lot in addictive patterns as well as those caught in cycles of trauma, abuse, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and bipolar episodes. They feel powerless over their circumstances, unlucky, and therefore stuck. What if it is not luck? What if it is intention and planning that make the difference?

To move into this paradigm one must be willing to take some responsibility for their current situation. This is very difficult to do when you feel someone has “done this to you” or “the world is cruel” or “my body/mind continue to fail me”.  However, even in these circumstances we have choices. We always have choices. The problem many face … they do not like any of their choices. To combat not liking or accepting what they have to chose from, they make no choice or a choice by habit. This results in feeling powerless and unlucky or fortunate and lucky depending on the outcome of today’s choice. When this becomes ritual it begins to feel even more random and uncontrollable leading to less empowerment and belief in one’s ability to manifest the changes they want to see in their lives. 

Intention:

In the business, self development, and leadership worlds intention is a very powerful and necessary thing to get you to the goal you want. It is talked about, developed, and cultivated as a core skill needed to succeed. You must decide, visualize, see, and believe that you will have what you want. Once you have those pieces in place, opportunities and options for how you will get them begin to appear. It is not that they magically arrived in your life. It is that by making the decision to go after a goal, you begin to realize the choices and opportunities in front of you – they were always in front of you, you just couldn’t see them because you were focused on what was missing, what you couldn’t do, what was wrong, etc. You find what you are looking for. Remember the blue car exercise a few months ago? This simple exercise shows us that where we put our attention matters. We begin to notice more of what we are thinking about – aka paying attention to. 

We can use this trick to be deliberate about our lives no matter what our current circumstances. A quick google search reveals that advertisers really understand how to get us to focus our intentions and they make millions watching us behave just how they wanted us to.

Although intention may feel like a whoo whoo concept of abstract nothingness, it is actually physical movement. Your thought becomes an action by activating areas of the brain associated with movement. According to Lau, Rogers, Haggard, and Passingham “intention is central to voluntary action” (p. 1208) and “our results suggest that attention to intention may be one mechanism by which effective conscious control of actions becomes possible” (2004, p. 1210) Knowing that intention is a physical process in the brain we can ground into the knowledge that as we think about things we also create a physical reaction in the body. This physical reaction sets into motion a variety of processes that help us realize and notice the right opportunities to making our thought reality. 

Today try it out. Shift your focus from the idea that life happens to you and begin to set intentions about how you want your day to look. Start with small things and begin to notice how your mind and body react to the focal points you have created. Begin to pay attention to how those around you react to your new focus. Keep a journal or list of the changes you are noticing just by thinking about and visualizing your day differently – the one you want to have, not just the one you were handed. 

eMeals
Be intentional about your food

Take Control of Your Intentions:

Here are some areas to focus on to get you started. Remember change begins with you and happens best in small increments. As you shift your focus today, visualize how you would like to feel by engaging in your day. For example you might want to have a smoother morning routine, get to work on time, complete a work project with ease, want an appointment to go well, to treat another with grace, or enjoy your household chores. In your mind’s eye see yourself successfully complete your goal and allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with being successful. Feel them fully as you do the visualization. 

5 Places you can get started now: 

  1. Find one you find beautiful around you right now
  2. Set the intention to treat others with kindness today
  3. Decide to smile at everyone you meet
  4. Allow yourself to feel love as you cook a meal 
  5. Give gratitude for the things in your home that make you comfortable

Reference:

Lau, H. C., Rogers, R. D., Haggard, P., Passingham. (2004). Attention to Intention. Science 303, DOI: 10.1126/science.1090973


Fresh and Tasty Pico de Gallo

Looking for something fresh, tasty, and easy to serve with all sorts of things. Can be a side dish, appetizer, or a meal in itself. Then try Pico de Gallo

I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.

Ingredients:

This makes a lot and plenty to share with friends and family. Decrease each ingredient if you do not want to share with anyone or save for later.

  • 10-12 Tomatoes
  • 1-2 Jalapeños
  • 1 large or 5-6 small Orange Bell Peppers
  • 1 bunch of Cilantro
  • 1 Lime
  • 3-4 Garlic cloves or garlic powder if you do not want to eat the chunks
  • Salt and Pepper

The Cooking Part …

Dice all of the above ingredients. Mix together in a big bowl. Cut the lime in half and squeeze over the top all other ingredients. Mix well. Salt and Pepper to taste.

What to serve with …

The picture above is what I served mine with today – over the top of my breakfast salad. The salad itself includes: 2 kale leaves, 1 chard leaf, 1 scrambled egg, 1 slice of bacon, and 4 sautéed brussel sprouts. Topped with pico and Newman’s Own oil and vinegar salad dressing. More traditionally, put this stuff on just about anything. I like mine on tacos, over sourdough toast, or with sliced cucumber chips / tortilla chips.

Make Yourself More Happy … Turn the other cheek

Think you have to meet violence with more violence – physical, emotional, or spoken? Think again. By using effective communication skills and the art of grace, you can be happier regardless of how the people around you are acting. Practice finding the light in everyone you meet today.

Turn the other cheek is something many of us have been taught as we grew up in a society that works to have moral rules, laws, and structure.

Today give someone the benefit of the doubt. Offer them grace as you find yourself frustrated, stressed, annoyed, or irritated by another person or situation. Look for the light in the situation and in the other people involved.

If this is hard re-read last week’s conversation on communication here

Five Self-Care Tips for Optimum Mental Health

Here’s a great reminder about why self care is so important, along with some great ideas about how to make sure you are getting enough self care for yourself.

Guest Post By: Brad Krause at selfcaring.info

Having good mental health has never been more challenging in this age of information overload. You’ve got bills to pay, work deadlines to meet, a home to maintain, and a to-do list longer than the list of bus routes in NYC. You’re told that the key to good mental health can be found in self-care, but what does that mean? Life is complicated enough without figuring out a self-care regime, especially if it means signing up for Pilates and making your own kombucha. The good news is that self-care doesn’t have to be stressful. Read on to discover how a few simple practices can be a game changer when it comes to building optimum mental health. 

Focus on Your Sleep and Diet

Without sleep and nutritious food, you can’t function. This is why good self-care practices start with these two basics. Sleep and mental health are closely connected — you’ve got to get enough sleep for your brain. Your sleep can improve by following these 17 evidence-based tips. And while you might think that reaching for a chocolate brownie or a bowl of ice cream will help your mood, research suggests that this habit leads to poor mental health (not to mention a thicker waistline). According to research published in the medical journal the Lancet, “Diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.” Foods shown to improve mental health include fatty fish, whole grains, lean proteins, leafy greens, and fermented foods such as yogurt with active cultures. 

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Track your sleep and movement for the ultimate attention to your health goals

Get Moving

Find a form of exercise you enjoy. Moving your body not only helps your physical health, but it also greatly improves your brain function and well-being. Research shows that it helps you reduce stress, boost happy chemicals such as endorphins, and improve self-confidence.

Find Time to Relax 

Take time to relax every day. Only you know what helps you unwind. For some, it might be indulging in a luxurious candlelit bath, for others, it might be taking a walk in nature. The important thing is to take some time out of each day to do something that gives you that “ahhhhh” feeling. One relaxation technique that benefits everyone is meditation or deep-breathing exercises. It’s as simple as finding a quiet place, clearing your mind, and focusing only on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose so your belly expands. Exhale deeply through your mouth or nose, counting slowly to five as you exhale. Repeat. Do this every day for at least five minutes, and you’ll feel a positive difference. 

Clean Up Around the House

Declutter your life, as living among clutter and having too much stuff can lead to stress. Creating a serene environment in your home goes a long way in reducing your stress levels. Begin to rid yourself of anything that does not serve a necessary function or bring you joy. 

Decluttering not only refers to the out-of-control messes in our homes and cars, but it also refers to all the excess baggage in our lives — from our 1,483 unread emails to our relationships. As inspirational author Patti Digh says, “Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.” Saying “no” to others is saying “yes” to ourselves and to our mental health.

Don’t forget to clean up the air around you, too. Studies have demonstrated that poor air quality can have a negative impact on your cognitive health and happiness. An ideal solution is to buy a quality air purifier. It will reduce the amount of pollutants and allergens that you breathe, and as a result, the cleaner air can make you feel happier and healthier. Shop around for the right one that fits your needs.

Foster Friendships

Build relationships. Overwhelming research suggests that people with supportive relationships are happier and healthier. Make regular plans with friends or family members. Reach out to a friend you’ve lost contact with, or join an organization, club, or sports team that interests you. 

You can neglect self-care for only so long before anxiety, moodiness, anger, and social withdrawal begin to kick in. In time, your sense of feeling overwhelmed can lead to a total sense of hopelessness. By practicing the self-care tips above, however, you’ll be well on your way to taking your life back and building strong mental health. 

Super Slow & Super Speed

Want to increase your physical and mental strength quickly? Try super slow training. It challenges muscle & mind in a big way … while you move at a snails pace.

Workout Basics and Warm Up

To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.

This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.

Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.

Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work portion.

When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.

If you are unclear about a movement, look it up (Check out my YouTube Tutorials Here). There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.

Workout Overview

In today’s workout you are going to complete a set of super slow movements. These should be 10 second concentric (shortening phase of the muscle movement) movement and 10 second eccentric (lengthen phase of the movement) movements. It helps to count out loud.

This takes a lot of concentration and focus. If you lose track just pick up where you thought you left off. Pay close attention to form. Super slow sets are a great way to notice how different areas and systems of the body are connected. This internal awareness and learning help with things like negative self talk, emotional regulation, and perseverance for daily life experiences.

The 2nd portion of today’s workout is speed work. Using the information you learned about your body in the slow sets perform the exercises as fast as you can with good form for time.

The movements can be weighted or not depending on your ability to maintain your form.

Add some medicine balls to your home gym for versatile overloaded movement options. These are the ones I have in my home gym:

Spri medicine ball
Medicine balls are a great way to add weight to your workout and can be used in a variety of exercises.

Lower Body Slow Set

  • Squat with Super Slow Diagonal Arm Lift
  • Squat with Super Slow Toe Lift
  • Lunge with Super Slow Kick Through

Upper Body Slow Set

  • Push Ups
  • Frontal Raise
  • Rear Flys
  • Lateral Raise
  • Triple Threat – Bicep Curl to Over Head Press to Tricep Over Head Press

Speed Work

Pay attention to form. It is easy to hurt yourself when you are going fast. Pay attention to the form you practiced in the super slow sets and apply that learning to speed work here. Do each exercise for 1 minute and work to complete as many repetitions as you can.

Lower Body Speed Set

  • Squat with Diagonal Arm Lift
  • Squat with Toe Lift
  • Lunge with Kick Through – 1 min each leg

Upper Body Speed Set

  • Push Ups
  • Frontal Raise
  • Rear Flys
  • Triple Threat – Lateral Raise Bicep Curl to Over Head Press to Tricep Over Head Press – do not throw your back to make the movement happen. Remember to use good form and recruit the strength from the muscles being worked.
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Finish Strong

YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.

Words of Caution …

Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.

As always have a fun living in your body today!