Slow Down, Focus, & Finish Strong

I had a lot to do today. I am feeling a little scattered. I started by getting the kids off to school, then working with my dog on the leash – so she doesn’t break my arm when she pulls, then  I went to work in my home office, which can be harder than leaving my house to work because, then I started to take the dishes out of the dishwasher, started to clean the counters, started to check my email, started to look up the local yoga studio schedule. AND I wasn’t finishing anything I started.

This becomes a problem. I had to complete something or my day would be full of starts and no finishes. That never leaves me in a good mood. So I sat down, took a few deep long breaths to help re-set my system and began again. I looked at my to do list and focused on one thing I could do right now. Finished it, crossed it off, and focused on the next thing, finished it, crossed it off. Now I usually do my blog at the end of my other things to do – hence the lack of postings while I am in mid-semester – so the very fact that I am writing now is a testament to the power of my breath to keep me focused.

What helps you calm your system and focus? What allows you to stop the mental chatter in your mind long enough to feel successful getting one thing done? What will you do today to slow down, focus, and finish strong?

Working out isn’t just about the Body – It’s also in your Mind.

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?

Find the Essence of Life

How do your days go? Do you move through the days looking for something, anything to light you up or do you find yourself loving your life experience? Many of us can probably relate to both experiences with one being more dominate in our lives. In addition, many of us tend to “go through the motions” of life rather than fully experience each moment as it passes. Have you ever thought of trying to get more out of life? Would you like to learn to live yours differently? You can. For many just the process of doing their daily tasks is too much. It sucks the life and our joy right out of us so we need to be vigilant and have an understanding of what makes us happy. If I let my planner get too full of all the things “I have to do” rather than balance between the have-tos and want-tos of course I’m going to be crabby!

You can make small and simple shifts in the way you think that can bring balance back to your life and your life will naturally become filled with essence. Begin by noticing where your attention goes all day. Who saps your energy, who brings your more, what tasks do you cringe at doing, and which ones can you let go of and delegate to others? Just begin to notice without trying to change anything. Jot your findings down if you’d like. Also, begin to notice what brings you joy, energy, happiness, and contentment. Who are you with, what are you doing, can you repeat these experiences? Again, just notice, write it down only if that feels like a good idea.

As you begin to notice what brings you joy, happiness, and contentment begin to notice not only the emotion but also your posture, physical feelings, actions, thoughts, and facial expressions. How do you change with your whole body? How do you send those positive feelings out into the world? Do you smile at people you don’t know, do you say kind words, do you let trivial things pass? These simple things have the power to change the world and they all begin with you living your life to the fullest and experiencing your essence each day.

Think it is too simple to work? Don’t underestimate simplicity. Try it for 5 days and notice what shifts for you. Notice your thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms, and how you treat yourself and others when you are living life more fully. Only begin to shift your activities when you feel ready to do so. Sometimes all it takes is slowing our thoughts down enough to get off auto pilot. At that point the pain of staying the same becomes to great to continue living the way we have been and we can begin the process of small changes toward creating the life we want.  A life full of essence – yours.

5 Steps To Creating Your Own Time

 

woman jogging

I’m back on-line after a computer fix and a vacation. As I was thinking about this unexpected break earlier today I contemplated the beauty of finding our own time rhythm. Rather than being a slave to another person’s time needs what if you followed your own? Now, I would bet you are thinking no way – it can’t happen. But think about these 5 steps and see what comes up.

1) What is your natural rhythm? Are you an early bird or a night owl?
2) If given the opportunity when would you schedule work, household chores, leisure time, and exercise?
3) Do you prefer fast or slow pace to your day?
4) Can you be realistic about what you pack into your day? i.e. Many of us put as much as we can on our to do list but never get it done.
5) Are you willing to delegate and let some things go?

Think about the above ideas and see what comes up for you. For many of us we have been conditioned to think that frantically busy means we are important, taking care of everyone else’s needs first means we are not selfish, or we must produce to be worth anything. I invite you to evaluate how you feel about those concepts, as well as, how you might be able to live more according to your natural rhythm. Begin today. Enjoy

Be Free This 4th of July

The fourth of July is here once again. Last year I asked you to let go of all that was no longer serving you and celebrate your freedom. Did you do it? What was successful? What was difficult? What will you let go of this year?

We’ve been talking each week for more than two years now. How have our online conversations changed you? How have you evolved? I would love to know. When I am out and about I hear many stories about your lives and would love to hear your story. Change is hard. When we support each other and believe we can make our goals happen. You could be the support another community member is looking for. Amazing things happen when we work together.

Today I want you to think about what you are free from. What have you left behind? Negative thoughts? Excess weight? Belief that you weren’t strong enough? Your slow race time? People who didn’t support you? As you look back on on the past two years what did you start with that you are now free from? Celebrate your emancipation! Celebrate your ability to accomplish a goal. Congratulations! You did it. Celebrate You.

The person you want to be is achievable. It happens moment by moment in the choices you make. As you think about what you left behind and where you are going next ask yourself if you are living now as the person you want to be. We are the only ones who control our behaviors. We may like to think others do, but it really is about you and your choices. Free yourself from blaming and begin in this moment, right now, living like the person you want to be. Start making choices which free you from being stuck and wishing to be different. Be different know.

Free your thoughts to direct your behaviors toward the person you want to be. Stop wasting space acting in patterns which no longer serve you and free up your thoughts to act in ways which do. Once your thoughts are in place to move in a new direction your actions have no choice but to follow. Free yourself to make the change.

Free up your mind and let go of all those thoughts that keep repeating in your head. Let go of worry and anxiety; just be. The 4th of July is all about just being. Relax and let go of all shoulds and coulds and free up your schedule. Feel your skin relax and rest as you free your body and allow space for all parts of you to relax. Don’t worry about places you would like to change or see differently in the mirror, toss the ideal and free your expectations and just begin doing. Accept who you are today for all your greatness. Tomorrow you will be great, too.

Sounds good, I know. Sounds easy, not really. This process isn’t easy. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Its not easy, but you can do it. Free yourself from the voice that says you can’t. Practice selective hearing and hear only; you can. To begin practically take the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge This week. Free yourself from constraint and begin your new healthy life today. Free You – Be You.

Healthy Lifestyle Challenge:

Begin by letting go. For the day practice being present to the moment. In each moment throughout the day you have a choice to do this or that. Decide which one leads you closer to the person you want to be and choose that choice. Each time you realize you are not paying attention just decide to pay attention again and repeat as often as necessary throughout your day. Goals are just the end result of many little choices made all day long over weeks, months, and years. Easy, no…doable, yes.

 

Take Time To Breathe

So many of us run from one thing to another while life passes us by so quickly we can’t keep up. Today take time to breathe, slow down, and notice. Here are 5 ideas to heighten your awareness.

1) Stop – right now, whatever you are doing and notice how your body feels
2) Take 5 deep breaths – allow your belly to rise and fall and notice how it feels to breathe deeply
3) Notice all the colors around you – what do you see? Describe it in detail
4) Watch the clouds moving by – just notice and don’t focus too hard on any one
5) Pick three and try them at least 2x each today

By taking time each day to notice how we are connected to things around us, our life becomes richer. In addition, we begin to see the small ways life is beautiful, perfect, and mystical. Enjoy!

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.

Taking a Deep Breath Can Help You Manage The Holidays

As we blow through this holiday season searching for the perfect give, what have you done for yourself?We spend time wandering, looking, finding the perfect gifts. We expend all our energies finding things we believe others will want, but what about ourselves? Have you taken time for you?

We know that exercise combats stress but it’s the first thing many people slash when their schedules get overloaded. When we take deep breaths, exercising or not, we elicit a relaxation response, this in turn helps our body release hormones that calm us. They help slow our systems down. The result? Clearer thought patterns, more productive, more enjoyable everyday experiences.

Take some time for you this holiday season and don’t ignore the importance of exercise.

Accountability and Weight Loss

Accountability. A big, very important word, accountability. In our society of give me’s, I deserve’s, and I want’s we have lost some accountability for our actions.

I meet many people who wonder why they cannot lose weight. “I try so hard”, they complain. Then we look at their actions.

They eat large portions, have long Friday night happy hours with friends, lots of pop and fast food choices, and no planning for meals or workouts. They spend their money on other items, rather than a gym membership or home workout gear. Sometimes I wonder where the rational is. For example: If I drink a 20 oz bottle of pop each day. At approximently $1.50/pop, I could afford a gym membership, more than 6 workout videos, a small set of dumbbells, 2 yoga kits, personal training, a pair of shoes, or some workout clothing. This is where many say, that’s why I buy the liter of pop for $1. Hmmm…is it any wonder more than 60% of our population is overweight? Until we begin to take responsibility for our actions weight will continue to climb.

Its too hard, you grumble. The media sends to many messages at me to drink pop, eat out, and buy things. Work takes all my time and I can not find time to work out. Well, you are responsible for you. It is no one’s fault if you fail to plan meals and end up eating un-healthy meals. Notice I did not say eating out. We have many choices when we eat out, but are you making smart choices? It is no one’s fault if you choose to work long hours and never take a break. A work out does not have to be long. Study after study show employee productivity goes up when employees are healthy, absenteeism goes down, and morale gets better. If your boss is not interested in any of those things, you may want to re-think your place of employment, it may not survive. It is no one’s fault if you choose to spend money on clothes, cigarettes, poor food choices, and other sedentary activities. Invest your money into things that will help you reach your goals.

Working out does not have to cost a dime. Have you ever been in a convienence store in the morning before work? Notice what others are buying. Many times you will see armloads of pop and other sugary drinks, chips, gallons of coffee (think caffeine); interesting isn’t it. I recently learned 60% of our county qualifies for some form of government assistance, yet when I look around a convince store, many can spend quite a bit on poor food choices, and then complain they have no money to spend on health.

Working out does not have to take much time. Ever sat through an episode of a TV show only to think it was dumb? Why did you waste your time? How about when you sit through one and because it ended you watch the one right after it? Half of many TV programs are commercials, so even if you like the show, you could do some activities during commercials, or better yet, you could do activity through the whole show! There is a half hour of activity and you did not spend any money or have to find any extra time.

Working out does not have to be a huge change. If you start it will snowball. What about working activity into your life? Quit driving around the parking lot looking for the closest spot – there is your extra half hour of time. Park as far away as you can and walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Walk instead of drive, sometimes it’ll take you less time to walk, than to get in your car, start it up, move it, sit at the stop lights, move through traffic, and find another spot to park. Get wild buy a bike. If you need a parking pass for your car – there is your extra money. (Worried about winter biking, there are many who bike all year long, and I am sure they could help you get started.)

It is no one’s responsibility to get you moving. It is no one’s responsibility to make sure you are choosing actions that correspond with your goals, and it is no one’s responsibility to make sure you follow through with your goals – its all you. Make the choice today to be accountable for your actions and in control of your choices and ultimately your health.

Planning and Goal Setting For Fitness Success

Goals take planning. Many people have begun the journey to better health and have taken the challenge to begin exercising.  It is important to put into perspective what you are trying to accomplish.

First, look at where you are. What is it about where you are that you want to change? Is this something you can do easily? Why or why not? What might hold you back? How will you deal with those obstacles? Are you ready to change? Remember the saying: The pain of staying the same must be greater than the pain of change. It will be uncomfortable, hard, and time consuming, but if it matters to you it will be worth it. Who are you changing for? Write down the answers to the above questions. This will help cement the process you are about to begin. If you feel you are up to a challenge ask a friend to ask them and provide your answers, truthful answers, back to your buddy. An outside observer may offer fresh perspective on where you are and where you want to go. Please, make sure the person you pick to hear your inner thoughts genuinely supports your efforts.

Next, decide on a time line. How long will it take you to complete? What amount of time are you willing to commit to this experience? What is the priority level of this goal? Again, write down the answers. As you review your list, are you being realistic about your goal? Do you feel you are ready to take this goal on? Do you have adequate support? Do you need help from someone else: ie, family member, friend, professional? Who are your support people?

Finally, you must decide how you are going to tackle your goals? Will you do them together? Do they fit? For example: I want to become more healthy and eat better. These two goals fit together and help me accomplish both. On the other hand, if I want to learn a new computer program and how to paint, I may be better off tackling one goal at a time due to the intensity of each. Ask again: “am I being realistic about my goals?” “my time commitments?” and “my desire to reach this goal and put effort behind accomplishing it.” Remember if it was easy you would have already done it.

Once your list is done it is time to prioritize your goals. It typically takes twenty-one days to create a new habit so it is a good idea to take on one goal per quarter, or for three months at a time. Not that you won’t continue once you have begun, but giving yourself three months to really focus will allow you to create healthy habits, break the old ones, and account for setbacks, which will happen. Once you have chosen four goals to accomplish this year (less if they are very intensive) it is time to plan.

You will want to examine time commitments throughout the year, such as vacations, conferences, graduations, births, things you know are coming up and have the potential to throw you off. Then examine your daily commitments and decide how you will fit your new lifestyle activities into your existing lifestyle. Finally, map out the next year based on your large goals, followed by the smaller goals you will use to measure your success by. In the end change is a difficult practice, but we call it practice for a reason: if you do not practice you will never get your new habits down!