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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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!

Finding Peace with Death. Flowing Through the Lifecycle, Change, and Difficult Times

Many of us do not want to feel pain, we do not want things to change, and we do not want to lose. Yet change and loss are a part of life. Here’s how you can move through your grief and find light within loss.

When we have a loss of any kind – person, pets, jobs, homes, communities, partners, children it can be one of the hardest places to find the light. Many people have the hardest time finding light in death of a person. Death is a difficult event for many of us. In the United States of America culture, we work hard to push death off, stay connected to our youth, and discount the value of aging. Death becomes a difficult topic as a result. In addition, many people struggle with change. This creates difficulty when “death” involves the loss of something they felt should remain in their lives, like a job, home, or partner. 

Discussing the Death of People

Depending on one’s spiritual beliefs, or lack there of, the death story and expectations around death may be different for each of us, however the experience of loss is one we all share. As we discussed earlier this week sadness is about loss and about recognizing what matters to you. When death occurs it helps us remember what matters most to us. It gives us a chance to reconnect to those still living and make sure we are communicating our care, love, and desire for deeper relationship while we are both still here. 

The loss of a child is one of the most difficult events one can go through. During this time it can be very difficult to understand the reasons or make sense of what is happening. However, many who have gone through the death of a child report they are stronger, learned something important, and/or the loss helped them refocus their lives into something more positive. Difficult but doable when focus remains on honoring our emotions and moving through the grief cycle. 

The Grief Cycle

The grief cycle has 5-6 stages. First we are in disbelief/doubt, then we bargain. When we cannot change the reality of our situation we typically become very angry. Sometimes angry at God, others, communities, social systems, people. Anger is ok. It helps us find injustices and do something about them. It helps us set boundaries and say no. However, if one is using anger to hurt others (verbally, emotionally, or physically) it will lead to other problems we have to clean up (shame, guilt, broken relationships, more loss). 

After anger comes sadness. Usually deep sadness. It is heavy and cloaking. It shrouds our desire to engage or can keep us isolated and focused on ourselves and our pain. If sadness is not allowed to move through it gets stuck. It often underlies depression (as does anger), chronic pain conditions, and anxiety. When it is allowed to move through we are better able to recognize what the loss means to us and how to honor it in the present. Maybe we deepen relationships, we might change our habits to be more healthy, we make embark on things that enhance our lives: adventures, move, or start a new job as a result of learning gained during the period of loss. (Note of caution, embarking on these things in the middle of the process may be a bad idea. We may not be truly acting from a place of new learning, instead acting from a place of pain)

Finally we come to acceptance. We move into a state of understanding around what the loss means to us, what we want to change as a result, and how we want to continue to grow and evolve. At this point we are able to form new connections to our loss and have gathered information about growing from it. Then we move into a sixth stage (not all models speak of this one). This stage is categorized by the new life we have created as a result of the loss. It may be the way we have decided to do holidays or honor the person(s) who have passed from this human experience. In this stage we own our learning and have incorporated it into our being as a true part of who we are. From this place our life has new meaning, purpose, and we are congruent in honoring the past and focusing on the future. 

Moving Through Change Associated with Loss

If you are moving through a difficult time of any kind, grief is often a factor. It may be the loss of a person, pet, job, home, community, physicality – we need to grieve all sorts of things. If you can allow yourself to feel the grief and the “death” of the experience you were having, you will find the richness on the other side. When you allow yourself the option to move through all of your emotions and cycle through them as needed (FYI: the grief cycle is not linear, you may bounce around at times) you gain a greater sense of yourself and what matters to you. Embrace your feelings and grow. Learn and implement the changes you are experiencing. Take an honest assessment of your experience and allow it to shape and change you for the better. 

If you are stuck or struggling with your grief, can’t seem to find the other side of it, or need help understanding your experience it is a good idea to seek a professional. As noted above, getting stuck can bring on other mental and physical health issues. Plus, many struggle with acceptance and cannot move into implementing the changes and learning as a result of the loss experience. Remember acceptance does not mean you like it, want it, wish it, or approve of what has happened, just that you are honestly looking at what is truly going on in your world. This is a difficult stage and it can help to have someone guide you through this difficult process. 

Finding the Light in Others

Ready to challenge yourself to let go judgment and negative thinking patterns? Read on to take the challenge and make your life better.

One of the hardest things is finding the best qualities of those we do not like. However, if you can muster this level of compassion, empathy, and kindness your life gets better. One of the reasons we struggle so much to show a high level of acceptance is judgment. Many of us are plagued by judgment. We judge ourselves, others, situations, places, you name it we judge it. 

Now judgment is not all bad. I am grateful I am able to judge how another driver is driving. Not to call them an asshole and flip the bird, but so I can determine how to pass, if to pass, or just move away from them. We need judgment to help us navigate the world without being overwhelmed by every decision we have to make to get through our day. 

Judgment becomes problematic when we use it to shame ourselves and others. The more we judge, the more scared of authentic connection we become. We shut parts of ourselves down so we do not become vulnerable to the judgment of others. We hide pieces of ourselves to fit in. We eliminate potential experiences to stay safe in what we know and avoid being judged by others for being different. Thus our unique gifts are marginalized and the world loses out on our full expression of ourselves. 

Today work on finding the light in others. Start with those you like (can be yourself) and move toward those who are neutral in your life – like the store clerk you see regularly. Finally, try and find the good in those you do not like or even hate. Remember it is not all or nothing. You do not have to like all of them or even the majority of them, just aim to find something positive about them no matter how small. Aim to practice this for a week or so and notice the changes in your life. I guarantee (I do not do this often) if you do this for a period of time, life gets easier and your negative self/other talk gets quieter. 

Easy Alfredo Sauce with Shrimp, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Zucchini

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:

  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Butter
  • Parmasean
  • Pepper
  • Pre Cooked Shrimp 
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini 
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • Parsley to color and garnish

The Cooking Part …

In a sauce pan melt the butter over low to med heat, when it is melted add the heavy whipping cream and parmesan. Stir off and on while the cheese melts and the ingredients blend. 

Sauté the broccoli and cauliflower in olive oil. I like mine al dente . When you feel like they are done enough for you, add the zucchini and cook a few more minutes. While these cook, I stir the sauce and thaw the shrimp. Add the shrimp as the last piece and sauté just long enough to heat through. Mix all together on the plate and garnish with parsley. 

What to serve with …

Sometimes I also add a pasta, if I am feeling like I need some extra carbohydrate. It’s been good over all pasta (regular and gluten free) options we’ve tried. A little French bread with butter and garlic was yummy too, … And of course … salad goes with everything.