Endings and Beginnings

Here we are at another year end. How was your’s? Did you meet some goals? Re-evaluate others? Did you reach what seemed to be an impossible challenge? Did you fall short of an important task? 

Spend some time reflecting on your year. For many we are very good at coming up with what needs to change, creating the goal, and then moving through it or beyond it without a way to measure our progress. All movement, even the ones that feel backwards, is progress. Here’s a worksheet to help you reflect on your year and get ready for the next year of your growing wisdom.

What do you want more of? 

 

What do you want less of?

 

What needs a small change? 

 

A big one?

 

Who do you want to be in the next year? 

 

How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?

 

What rewards you for your efforts?

 

How will you re-evaluate your progress throughout the process? (daily, weekly, monthly, project based, etc).

 

What does success look like for you?

 

Glancing back at the above – what else needs your attention?

 

And are these goals truly yours?

 

Repeat this process as needed. Remember it’s precision not perfection and the journey is what matters most.

10 Healthy Things I’m Thankful For

We have arrived at the start of the holiday season. Regardless of spiritual beliefs this is a time of introspection and reflection. A time to assess what you have, where you are, and dream about what comes next in your life. Research shows when we are thankful we invite more of those blessings into our lives. Here’s a short list of things I’m thankful for. Maybe you’ll resonate with some and quite possibly add your own. 

Comment on our Facebook Page to add your gratitude items. Community is a great place to share our gratitude and we all reap the benefits of reading others’ thankful prayers.

  1. My body & its health
  2. My mind’s ability to challenge me (in a variety of ways – at least I stay on my toes)
  3. Family (including my dog)
  4. Friends
  5. Meaningful Work
  6. Yoga
  7. The smell of snow in the air – means I’ll be hitting the slopes soon!
  8. Good (healthy) and tasty food that nourishes my body as well as my soul
  9. Tea – I love it anytime of the day!
  10.  A good book to snuggle with on these longer winter days

And your gratitude list …. ?

Taking the Risk, Facing Your Fear

I was talking with my supervisor yesterday and we discussed how some people are afraid to try new things. This is not my nature and I am amazed when I am reminded how many people pass up opportunities because they are afraid. When do you hold back because you are afraid to leap or even step? Have you missed out on awesome opportunities in your life because you held back? How will you face your fear next time and not lose out?

Being able to discern valid opportunities that will move your life forward is important. Often many of us are afraid because there is so much out there. We become overwhelmed trying to wade through it all. So it is very important that you are able to pick and choose which things you want to reach for.

First, get really clear on what you want. Do you want more health? Wealth? A more fulfilling relationship? A brighter garden? How can you know what opportunities are out there if you don’t even know what you are looking for? It is very important to get clear about what you want. Research shows us that what we are conditioned for we will see more of. This means if I am conditioned to think I can’t do something, I will find all the ways in which I cannot get it done. On the other hand, if I think I can I will look for solutions to getting it done when I get stuck because I believe I can.

Second, know your own limits. We all have them. And this means we all have strengths, too. It is important to know both. Once you have a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses it will be important to find others who are strong where you are weak. This allows you to fill in the gaps in your own abilities. If your task is beyond the help of a friend, hire a professional to fill in your gaps.

Third, don’t be paralyzed by fear. We all get that last minute feeling of fear when we jump from the cliff into the unknown. Don’t let it stop you. Again, it is important to determine if the fear is telling you something you need to listen to, like don’t give all your savings to a Bernie Madoff type, or if it is a natural result of pushing your own limits.

Finally, enjoy the ride. Life is a journey and no matter what you journey you are set to embark on enjoy it.

The Art of Giving Freely

Usually at this time of year I write about New Year’s Resolutions. This year I thought I’d do something else. I was reading a translation of the yoga sutras and this morning’s discussion centered on giving without obligation. Giving freely.

As I finished my practice I began thinking about how one might give freely to themselves. How can I give to me without obligations? As this idea continued to grow in my brain I began thinking of how this concept could be applied to my fitness, my exercise, my free time, my family, my friends, and so on.

What if I gave myself freely to my exercise? This means no “I worked out today so I get to eat anything I want” no push – pull with my body and its shape, no deals made with myself regarding what I will get for “making” myself workout.

What if I just exercised because it feels better when I do? What if instead of bargaining the time so I can “make myself do it” I just enjoyed moving? What if I let go of all the numbers – my weight, how much I lift, how many minutes “I should” continue and just did what felt good for that day at that time? I know some of you are wondering how in the hell would I reach my goals or get clients to workout if there wasn’t some carrot at the end of a stick. I wonder, too and I am open to the possibilities it presents. We’ll have to see how it unfolds.

In the Sutra the focus was on giving for the sake of giving. Not for greed or expectation of something in return. It was giving for the goodness of it. Were you able to practice this over the holiday season with friends and family or were your gifts tied to invisible strings you’ll pull in someday? Interesting idea to give and not expect. Be honest with yourself and notice who you gave freely to and who you didn’t. Then take the next step and let go of your expectation of return and favors tied to your invisible strings.

The art of giving is really a selfish act. We feel better when we give freely and aren’t all tangled in those invisible strings – both those we have given and those we’ve received. Isn’t it time to be free?

Exercise Doesn’t Have To Be So Serious

Many of us work the grind. Over and over we do what we are “supposed to” only to feel a little bored and uninspired in our workouts. Kinda reminds me of the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercials. What if you exercise was more like play? Here’s how big kids (aka adults) can play!First, find activities that you like to do. Usually, these are challenging, stimulating on multiple levels, have a sense of focus and one pointedness. They allow us to do nothing but focus on the task at hand.

Second, don’t worry about numbers and goals, and “have tos”. I was watching my children play the other day and they have no sense of how much they are learning as they play – only that they are having fun. Try to create this element in your own play. Of course you are doing great things for your body and it feels like activity, maybe even like exercise, but you want to create a sense of fun, excitement, and frivolousness. Adding in goals, heart-rate numbers, sets, reps, time lines, and body weight can dampen spirits and drudgery creeps in. You are no longer doing the activity just because you enjoy it. You are no longer being mindful in the moment focusing on the activity at hand, instead your mind has gone off to charts and graphs of future goals.

Third, try something new, take your game to the next level, introduce a new skill, or attempt to focus on one element of your activity. For example: downhill skiing – when I attempt to focus only on my breathing the rest of my body follows and I become much more mindful of my body in space. This allows me to focus on one element of the technique with a sense of wonder and curiosity rather than goals and future benefits.

Finally, the sense of wonder and joy are key to keeping playfulness alive. If you have forgotten how to do this spend some time watching children play. They bring a sense of curiosity and wonder to their games. Some questions to ask might be:

What if we try it this way next time?

I wonder if I can make this jump again?

What if I move my foot that way?

What happens when I run this fast or in zig zags or stop and start?

How is it different when ________?

Playing is just as important for adults as it is for kids. So get your game on and take yourself to the park. Get moving, stop worrying, and reap the benefits of activity and mindfulness all in one fun, exciting, and inspiring movement session.

5 Ways to Beat Fear of New Challenges

I was thinking today about a new challenge coming up in my life. I am beginning a PhD program and for all my excitement I began to feel a bit scared. First it started with small, subtle, and simple doubts. Then it grew into a bigger voice telling me I would never be able to finish this program & I was crazy for thinking I could. I did what I usually do when doubts creep in – I kicked them out. I realized not everyone (including me) can do this all the time and sometimes we need reminders that we are stronger than our doubts. Here are 5 things you can do to let go of fear and move forward in your life today.

1) Make a list of all the ways you can accomplish this goal and the strengths you bring to the table already. Then find ways to learn the ones you still need.

2) Find quality support people – look outside your family and close friends if needed or to a professional if necessary.

3) Tackle it one step at a time. We often make challenges “larger than life” and therefore never tackle them at all. Break it down into bite sized pieces.

4) Understand life gives us what we can handle and no more. Even when it seems so overwhelming remind yourself if you follow number 3 – YOU CAN DO IT.

and

5) Have faith, understanding, and compassion for yourself and in yourself as you attempt challenges in your life.

Believe you can and you will – Believe you won’t and guess what … you won’t. Tackle any life challenge with confidence by following the above simple guidelines, maybe add some of your own, and don’t shy away from your big goals anymore! One foot in front of the other finishes the race 

Stay Motivated

When people hear what I do for a living they tend to grab a part of their body – one they are not particularly fond of – and say, “what do I do about this?” which is then followed by, “ I know I should, but…”, which can then be followed by_________ (you fill in the blank) – excuses.

We know what to do, our bodies tell us they like to move. We watch it, read it, hear it, but we choose not to, why? We know we will feel better, we know we will look better, and we know we will build confidence, which will lead to many positives about ourselves, so why don’t we move?

What it really comes down to is: change is hard. It is very hard. The truth is, changing is harder than staying the same, regardless of how I might beat myself up for failing to change. It is easier to continue smoking, eating poorly, or being sedentary even when I know these things are bad for me. Our food choices are based on their ability to fuel our bodies, release “feel good” hormones, and satisfy us, and we seek out activities that provide us pleasure. Pleasure is a personal choice which may not have anything to do with what is best for us.

If you are going to make a change in your life. You have to be ready for discomfort. At least for a short while. In the beginning it will seem easier to go with your old routine rather than try a different activity. It will also feel better (comfortable) to stick to the old. Starting something new usually requires a little risk, a little uncertainty, and a little discomfort. The key is to be ready for this discomfort and accept it. Deal with it and use it to your advantage.

Once you have convinced yourself you are ready for change you must determine who you are changing for. The obvious answer may not be the real answer. Deeply look at your motivation, are you the reason for the change, or is a parent, spouse, doctor, sibling, friend, etc. Is it someone else’s idea or voice you hear? If it is not you; commitment is likely to wane. Next determine why you want to change. As with the question of who, why is a critical factor in realizing a goal. Determine your why. Get passionate about it. Taste it, feel it, begin to live it. Immersion into an idea is supported by research and will lead to change. In other words, find as many ways to support your new lifestyle, new activities, new thoughts, rewards, support, new ideas about how you could change your habits to support your new direction. The more pathways you create in your brain to support this change the more likely you are to succeed. As Mary Kay Ash was famous for saying, “What the mind can believe, it can conceive.” Believe with every cell in your body and it will manifest.

Motivation is a tricky component to reaching a goal. It can be so strong one day and absent the next. This means you must constantly find ways to motive yourself. You must be creative here… no pressure right? It can be very simple. Decide that today I am going to walk for 20 minutes, and then look for ways to fit it into your day. Can you wake up a bit earlier, walk over lunch, after work, with your children or partner, is time critical today – do you need to break it down into increments? Look at the number of possibilities you have to reach the goal of walking 20 minutes. Enlist a friend or a supportive person to help make sure you reach your daily goal. (We will be discussing goal setting next week).

If you can step outside your comfort zone, make sure you are driving the change, and determine why you really want to change. Once you have done these two activities you have created a solid start to reaching your goal. Add passion and attention to your daily habits mixed with a lot of positive feedback and you’ll be on your way. Motivation will come and go, but you’ll be ready – you are now motivated to stay motivated!

How To Improve Mental Health Using Exercise

Many of us have good days and bad days. But what happens when our worry, fear, and sadness take over? It can be hard to exercise and find the energy to take care of ourselves during those times. For some those times are situational and fleeting however for others the situation leads to prolonged feelings of sadness or worry. Exercise can improve our mental health. Exercise can improve mental health by helping our bodies release endorphins. In an article by Jennifer C. Panning titled “Mental Health Benefits of Exercise” she points out that endorphins are our bodies natural way to help us create feelings of happiness. In addition to releasing endorphins exercise helps us focus on caring for ourselves.

When we take time to care for ourselves we are better able to realize our own value. As we realize our own value our self-esteem and confidence go up. As these rise so do our feelings of well being.

According to Daniel M Landers, “We now have evidence to support the claim that exercise is related to positive mental health as indicated by relief in symptoms of depression and anxiety”. This is important because the CDC states 1 in 5 Americans suffer from these illnesses. Landers highlighted studies which show both conditions are helped by exercise (without medication) with similar effectiveness to just using medication.

For many the decision to take medication is a tough one. There are side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido, and feeling “flat” which are compounded by worries about how long one will have to take the prescribed pill, not to mention the financial cost. Personally, I am not against medication and I know it can be effective and helpful, but my opinion is that a combination of treatment is most effective.

By focusing on healthy lifestyle choices like adding exercise into your daily routine you make positive steps to feel better, learn new and healthy ways of coping, and take charge of your life conciously.

*It should be noted that exercise is not a cure all and professional help and advice should be sought before beginning any exercise program and for your mental health concerns.

References:
CDC. Treatment Works – Get Help for Anxiety and Depression.

Landers, D. M.(1997). The influence of exercise on mental health. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Diegest. 2, 12. http://www.fitness.gov/mentalhealth.htm

Panning, J. C.(2000). Mental health benefits of exercise. Mental Health Journal. http://www.findcounseling.com/journal/health-fitness/

Rose, T. (2007). Depression and Weight Gain.

Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind

I saw these three words on a tapestry hanging in a local store one day. We walked in, myself and my three children and I stopped looked twice and thought that is it! These are the rules we need to live by. I stopped the kids and had them read our “new family rules”. And you know what? Home life has gotten easier when living by these three words.

Many people think being kind to other people is about the other person. They aren’t wrong, but more than being about the other person it really helps you in the end. By doing acts of random kindness, anything from a smile, picking up a dropped item, to giving up a seat on the bus helps you.

As you attempt kindness towards another person you are more aware of kindness directed at you as well. As you find yourself more cared for by others your self-worth rises. As your self-worth rises you take better care of yourself and you give more care to those around you, even strangers. The cycle continues. And this is before we get into the bio-chemical reactions that take place when you feel good because you helped someone out.

So today find a way to Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind.

The Body’s Wisdom

The body holds many truths. When we tune into the body we can tap into our personal wisdom, get our own message, and lead a more fulfilling life.The body houses a lot of information and experts tout it doesn’t lie. For many we spend most of our time in “our heads”. We think, and we think, and we think. We try to reason, rationalize, justify using our thoughts.

Our minds work really fast. They are very efficient and keep us busy. Our bodies on the other hand move at a slower pace and don’t hold our attention as well unless we’ve got a pain or problem and then we become consumed with the problem which doesn’t move us forward either.

By slowing down we are better able to tap the wisdom of the body and get information about what we want, need, and desire. My experience has been the body knows. The body knows and it is honest, sometimes painfully so. But by tapping into that knowledge I make better decisions because I have true knowledge about what I want or need in that moment. By tapping into the knowledge housed in my body I have been poised to make better decisions about my life, my work, my daily activities and my life is fuller and more joyous because of this gift.

Try it Today:

To begin carve out quiet space. Begin by breathing – just noticing the breath. Feel the breath going in and out, how your breath feels in your body as it goes in and out. Once you have gotten calm, ask the questions:

What do I notice about my body? (sensations, feelings, tightness, space, etc – describe it)
How do I feel about that? (Is there an emotion tied to that feeling? Can I name it? What do I notice about that emotion/feeling?)
What does this body feeling have to tell me right now?

See what arises. Notice and stay focused on your body and breath. What seems clear to you now? Just notice what information comes up for you.

If you find your attention wandering, gently bring it back to your breath and begin where you left off. This is a practice – be patient with yourself. The work is in practicing not in achieving results.

**If you find feelings, emotions, etc too strong it may be a good idea to seek a professional to help you process them.**