New Year, New Me? Nope.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of hearing “new year, new you!”

Come on, like I’m going to start all over again? I’ve been building this masterpiece for decades now, and there must be some part that’s good enough to bring into 2019. Am I right?

Not that I noticed, but that Planet Fitness marketing as a sponsor of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was pretty genius. I’ll bet a lot of folks in Times Square and watching from home were considering a new gym membership. Heck, I even gave it a thought (very briefly)!

But enough about that…I have some real ideas for making 2019 happier and healthier. And, no, I’m not subscribing all of you to the “kale of the month club.” (Maybe next year?)

First of all, something for happiness…how about we change the slogan from “new you” to “return to you” or “a more authentic you”? What if we all decided to spend a little time deciding what really makes us happy, and add that into our lives, no matter how quirky? You want to get really good at ax throwing? Or you want to buy cool art supplies and make pom-pom animals? How about just getting out to see your friends and socializing more? I say pick one thing you really love to do and make time for it, even if it seems frivolous.

Secondly, something for your health…let’s ditch a few chemicals. What if you took one conventional personal product like soap, deodorant, tooth paste or makeup and switched it out for an organic/natural one? Last year I switched to a natural deodorant, made by Native, and I’ve been trying different natural toothpastes. Just switching a product or two could reduce some of your exposure to chemicals that may be messing with you.

I’m getting this from Alisa Vitti’s book Woman Code. Guys, don’t leave just yet, she includes a list of personal products and the common chemicals they are made from that are known endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can cause problems with development, reproduction, immune function, the nervous system, and cause cancer risk to rise. So you will want to look out for things like parabens, phthalates, sodium laurel sulfate (which is in everything), to name a few. We are lucky to have so many options on the market these days, so you have a good chance of finding some stuff you really like that is a bit healthier.

OK, enough about the scary chemical talk! Let’s refocus on what makes us happy, especially the wacky or unusual stuff. Recently, I happened to stumble upon this website called Legacy Cacao. On this website you can order authentic small batch Cacao from Guatemala that is blessed by a Mayan Priestess. It is supposed to delicious, full of antioxidants and have positive vibes attached. Obviously something like this won’t appeal everyone, but I can honestly say that I really want some of this. I don’t know anything about Mayan spirituality, or if I would even like the end product, but it sounds amazing. Thinking about blessed chocolate makes me happy.

What out of the ordinary things make you happy?

Here’s to an amazing new year full of health and happiness!

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Can I get some hygge over here?

hygge

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of hygge. It’s been trending in the past year or so and is a Danish cultural practice, simply meaning to relax and get cozy and content, especially with family.

You don’t need to go buy a new throw rug or blanket for the couch, you just need to take some time to rest and be with people you love, and really, some good coffee of hot chocolate wouldn’t hurt either.

Our bodies respond to the seasons and especially the light, whether we want them to or not. Hello, seasonal affective disorder, anyone? I’m guessing this is because our bodies are much older in design than this insane 24-7 digital world we live in. Let’s face it, when the sun isn’t shining, it’s killer to get out of bed in the morning. Yes?

So let’s see winter for what it is…a natural time of rest and hibernation. While we don’t need to go off the rails by eating ourselves into a doughnut induced coma, we can take some time to just chill out and put our to-do lists aside temporarily.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or feel inspired by the Winter Solstice (me!), the point is that we celebrate the return of the light, literally and figuratively, and we have a winter break to rest up for the more active sunny seasons ahead.

All this rambling on is meant to convey one thing, no matter what your holiday plans are, take some much needed rest and relaxation time. Alone, with friends, with the family, with gingerbread or some amazing pomegranate cocktails – just give yourself a chance to breathe this holiday season. (The world will still be there when you are done.)

Here are some fun links…

Hygge 101

Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Wishing you a relaxing winter break, happy holidays, and a marvelous new year!

 

In sickness and in health

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Thank goodness you can’t hear me coughing while I write this!

In my mission to eat healthy and be strong, I somehow got tripped up by a nasty cold. I’m just going to go ahead and blame my kids for bringing it into the house because I nursed them through it for nearly two weeks before it knocked me down.

I fought it, too, with lots of hot tea, vitamin C and extra rest, but it took me out anyway. At least I can say I went down swinging.

They say it’s the beginning of flu and cold season, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The problem here is that when you catch a cold or the dreaded flu, there is very little your doctor can do for you. Antibiotics won’t affect a virus, and it seems like doctors hesitate to prescribe anti-viral medications unless you’re on your way to the ER. I mean, why aren’t they using these drugs more? (I honestly don’t know if there is some kind of risk associated with anti-virals…anyway.)

After I checked in with my doctor, and given the fact that I was sicker than I’ve been in years, I had two choices:

  1. lay in bed and moan and wallow
  2. figure out how to get better on my own

Of course I spent a little time on #1, but I like to limit self pity to about 10 minutes a pop so that the negative self talk doesn’t really take hold. But, I am all about finding solutions to problems, so once I had my narcoleptic nap on the sofa, so I quickly moved on to #2.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Banish the negative self talk and turn it around. Yes, I felt quite bad, but I knew I would recover and decided to focus on that. Words have power for our bodies and minds, and I nixed the baddies as soon as I realized they were popping up.
  2. Find out what really cures your cold. Colds are caused by viruses, what stops them? Go ahead and google antiviral foods, etc., you might be surprised at the common things we eat and drink that stop viruses in their tracks. I liked this article because it listed real stuff normal people eat and included suggestions for recipes.
  3. Let your body be your guide. Are you craving a certain healthy food? There is a good chance your body needs whatever nutrient is in it. Once I was well enough to be up and around I went to the grocery store and perused the produce section. One day I spent an outrageous sum on watermelon juice because once I saw it, my body was like “yes, please!” Damn, that was good. Another day it was a bowl of berries or cut mango. (I’d never buy these convenience foods on a normal day, but splurged when I was sick, and it was soooooo worth it.)
  4. Take it easy. No matter what you are fighting, getting extra rest can only help. Like #3 let your body lead. If you need to sleep for a while, do it. If you are restless and ready to take a walk or do some laundry, do it. I finally went back out to exercise after two weeks and opted for a walk over a run, and it felt just right.

I hope this helps you when you are down for the count, and if you have any tried and true remedies, PLEASE share them with me and everyone else in the comments.

I’m no doctor, but if you are part of a vulnerable population for the flu (asthmatic, elderly, immune compromised) please consider getting the flu shot. It could save you a lot of misery.

Here’s wishing you a healthy fall and winter ahead!

 

Podcasts, politics, and perspectives

voting

Anyone tired of talking about politics? I know I am, and it’s not slowing down one bit as we head towards election day.

Since our nation’s political issues are hot potatoes right now, I wanted to share some cool podcasts I found about, you guessed it, politics.

These two podcasts are worth the listen, as they share what I believe are new perspectives that may help us to see “others” (those on the other side of the fence) in a slightly new, less harsh light.

The first podcast I recommend is from the series Hidden Brain (so many great episodes), this one is called Red Brain, Blue Brain. How do we develop our political affiliations? Most people assume we inherit our parents’ ideas, but, of course, there is more to it than that. I found this episode fun to listen to, so keep an open mind.

The next podcast is a little heavier, from the OnBeing series. It’s called, aptly, What is Good in the Position of the Other? What I love about this conversation is that it does not include platitudes like “let’s meet in the middle” and “we’ll find a compromise.” It honestly addresses the fact that some people will never see eye to eye or vote the same way. But there is a process involved here to help us see that we don’t have to intensely hate each other.

If you give these a listen with an open mind and heart, it may slightly cool some of the fires burning in your brain. These perspectives are about understanding each other just a little bit more, so give it a shot.

Thanks for reading (and hopefully listening), and may the cool breeze of fresh ideas make you smile today!

 

Always a work in progress

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Hey, everyone, how’s it going? Is October treating you well?

I have just survived about two weeks of $%!# hitting the fan one day after another. At first I was bummed, then I got kind of mad, and then I just starting laughing as consecutive things just went all kinds of wrong. Like most things in life, we really don’t have control over them, and so I settled in to cope and react the best I could.  I had to laugh after a few days, because it was the extreme opposite of being in flow!

This would include being ravenously hungry at a pizza party with no alternatives in sight, pizza being my diet kryptonite. Yes, I ate it, knowing it would kill my energy for the next few days and tempt me with a slippery slope of, “hey, let’s just make this a major cheat day and start over tomorrow.” Luckily I resisted that little devil on my shoulder!

I slowly emerged from the bad karma and started to feel better, in no small part thanks to my new work out routine. Although I have been making huge strides in my health (no pun intended) due to food changes, I’d been slacking in the exercise department. Once upon a time I ran cross country and was in seriously good shape pounding out the miles and having amazing core strength I used to downhill ski every winter. Eventually my joints protested the pounding and I had two kids, which totally destroyed my abs, leaving me functioning but not very strong.

For the past few years I have been walking a lot and doing random bouts of yoga. All good and useful and relatively gentle, which made me feel productive, but still not exactly fit. I finally decided to get serious about exercise and commit to a schedule, which I’ve been doing for about a month now. One weekday and one weekend day I go out in my neighborhood and walk up hills and run the straights and downhills. It only takes me about 30 minutes, but doing it twice a week with the variety of speeds and terrain has been a game changer for me.

My energy has definitely increased, my core feels solid, and I generally just feel more strong and fit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to be on American Ninja Warrior, but for me, at 42, this is damn good!

I also realized that I need my version of cross training, meaning that twice a month I need to do yoga for stretching and range of motion, and add in wellness treats like massage and/or a pedicure – things that help me relax and contribute to my well being from time to time. No, they can never really get the knots out of my back, but I can still enjoy the experience!

And, of course, nothing really works without the food! I’m currently obsessed with Sunfood spirulina chlorella tablets, which were recommended as a detox/ antioxidant/ micronutrient supplement in the book Woman Code Alissa Vitti. Yes, they look like seaweed, but you just swallow them and they do their job. I also regularly eat sardines out of the can – which sends my kids running from the kitchen – but they are a good source of Omega 3s, iodine and calcium, so I’m going to keep eating them. And pretty much everyday I eat healthy fats like eggs and nuts along with my greens and gluten free grains.

I know, it really doesn’t sound that great, but it feels great, like I’m finally filling up with the right fuel after years of eating cheese sticks. (God, I really miss those cheese sticks!)

 

I know there is no one size fits all diet or exercise plan for everyone. I also know that there are times it all goes south, and other times that it hums along beautifully. I can only hope that you, too, can experiment with foods and exercise and find just your right sweet spot. And, if you fall off the wagon, don’t give up, because you can always climb back on tomorrow. Call me if you need to commiserate, you know I’ve been there!

Now tell me, what are your best go to solutions with food and working out?

Bonus question: how do you avoid eating all that Halloween candy?

 

How’s it flowing?

flow

Of all things, I’ve been pondering the idea of flow recently.

You may ask yourself, how much is there really to think about? You can go with the flow or you can decide not to, right?

While that may be true, it’s not the whole story. There is a theory of flow from psychology that describes the flow state as one of concentration and enjoyment, as in you are so focused on your favorite activity (painting, for example), that you lose track of time.

If you give it some thought, you may come up with some activity that can put you into the flow state, where you seem to be working on instinct and completely focused on one thing. I get that way when I write, and I notice that I kind of zone out when I’m running, too. (When I get into either activity, and I stop procrastinating and thinking about it, the rhythm takes over and it’s very peaceful and enjoyable.)

Of course, when I think about flow on a daily basis, I usually go back to the “go with the flow” concept. And I’ll tell you why that has changed my life for the better.

I am prone to anxiety, and I can worry with the best of them. If I really give in to worry, my mind can spiral so far out of control with dire possibilities, I should get awards for creativity! Of course, worrying and being anxious feels really bad, so I do my best to combat it and keep those crazy negative thoughts away.

What do I worry about besides money, global warming, and gun violence? Usually 99% of my daily worry resolves around time. Will I get the kids to school on time? Will I be late for work? When will I have the time to clean my house/ write my novel/ actually relax? I’m constantly looking at the clock and seeing how much time I have until the next thing, because, honey, there is always the next thing…even if it’s getting to sleep at a reasonable hour so that I can rest before resuming my daily clock watching. (Seriously!)

Here is where the idea of flow (as in going with it) comes in. When my internal alarms start cranking up, I say to myself…”There is enough time for everything, and today I will flow from one thing to the next.” Add in a few deep breaths and a visualization of myself remaining calm all day, and I have the antidote for worry.

Each time the clock watcher starts pacing, I remind myself to just flow with what the day will bring. There are many unknowns, and meeting them calmly will solve more problems than flipping out over the clock. Am I right?

This may seem overly simple, or even kind of silly, but if you try it for real, and make the effort to imagine yourself calm and “flowing along”, it can really help. A day in flow can still be incredibly busy as you move from one task to another, but if you erase the time anxiety, there is so much less stress.

I believe there is a mindfulness component to this, too, which would explain why it’s stress reducing. If you simply go from thing to thing without thinking about it too much or adding a layer of worry, you are more in the moment. There is a task in front of me right now, and I’m going to do it without thinking ahead to the next. Yes, you know the next thing on the schedule exists, but it doesn’t have to ruin what’s happening right now. Your internal clock watcher will still nudge you, and you’ll glance at the clock and think, “I’ve still got time, we’re good.” And if time has run out, you think, “OK, I’ll get back to this tomorrow/ next week/ whenever, and move on to the next,” without having your heart rate shoot up!

Yes, believe it or not, this little bit of mantra, breathing, and positive thinking has helped me immensely. It’s quick and free, so why don’t you give it a try?

One last word about flow. By randomly browsing online today I came across the new(?) sport called Parkour. (I’d seen it in passing online before but never knew what it was.) I’m just reading about it, so I’m no expert. What I get is that it’s both a sport and an art form based on a working through a military style obstacle course. The goal is to surmount your obstacles, perhaps quickly, perhaps gracefully, but in the end you just do it.

It is supposed to be a good workout because you have to do so many different physical motions, and it’s symbolic of being creative about navigating obstacles. One website that I can’t seem to find right now said the name is French and is derived from the word “path”. You literally have to follow the path and flow around obstacles.

Yes, I think it’s a little trippy that I started reading about it today, as I’ve been thinking about writing about flow for a while.

I guess I’ll just take it as a sign and, well, you know…

 

What season inspires you?

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We are in the home stretch of the summer – how is everyone doing?

I feel fortunate to live in Pennsylvania because we get to experience four distinct seasons: a hot summer, cool fall, a snowy winter, and wet spring. Everyone has their favorite, right?

So technically it’s still summer, and the fall doesn’t start for almost another month according to the calendar. I’m going to just call this “late summer”.

Late summer is usually not welcomed by parents of school aged children. There are endless to-do lists for back to school shopping, and there never seems to be any available camps at the end of August which makes it difficult to go to work! And, I think my least favorite thing about the start of school are the forms. Each year we fill out multiple forms with our basic info like name, address, and phone number. How many times can you writing your address out? I mean, the school sent the forms via snail mail (they obviously know where we live!) And I received the tuition bill via email (they’ve got me on file.) So, why do I have to fill out the dang forms again? Imagine the forests that could  be saved by a school database – shocking!

Anyway, I just shared why a lot of people do not like this time of year. Despite these little annoyances, this seems to be my season. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have a few ideas.

  1. We get a few beautiful days with a break in the heat and humidity, lovely signs that a crisp autumn is on the way.
  2. School starts again, and our family returns to a regular schedule. (No more crazy camp and vacation schedules.)

Now, these reasons alone do not really make this a wonderful season, especially given all the stuff I mentioned above. So, you are just going to have to trust me on this.

For some reason, I feel completely alive at this time of year. Maybe I’m looking forward to the change of season, or maybe I’ve always liked the beginning of school…who knows?

What I do know is that I begin to take stock of my life as if through new eyes, and I get some amazing insights on how to improve everything from the disaster that is my living room, to my personal workout routine, to my goals for the year. Light bulbs are sparking on in my mind, and I feel focused again, like I can see the path ahead in a way I couldn’t before.

(Last year I started my auto-immune diet around this time and have had great results.)

It sounds like New Year’s Day, only it hits around the end of August! I really don’t understand it, but I’m taking it and moving forward with positive thoughts in my heart.

Does anyone else ever experience this?

What time of year or season sparks your creativity and purpose?