Motivation Monday: To New Beginnings!

Life Starts All Over Again | thewellnessscientist.com

 

 

Happy Monday, peeps! The fall is my favorite time of the year, and while I am sad to see the summer go I am embracing this new season and the new beginnings that fall will bring.

Fitzgerald was always one of my favorite authors, and this quote from The Great Gatsby: “Life Starts All Over Again When It Gets Crisp in the Fall” has a whole new meaning for me this year. I am truly motivated to be the happiest that I have ever been!

I am grateful for all of the good things and amazing people in my life, and I know and appreciate that any negativity I am experiencing is going to make me stronger.

Question: Do you love the Fall weather? Are you experiencing any EXCITING new beginnings? Please share!!

Running and Eating My Way Through The Long Weekend

Last weekend was Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend, one of the much-needed long weekends we get every year. I feel like this year is flying by already, and I don’t know where the time has gone! Finding balance with writing, half-marathon training, and spending time with friends & family has been a challenge. The long weekend was JUST what I needed to get back on track.

I started Friday off baking these Valentine’s Day M&M/Chocolate Chip cookies

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thanks to an awesome recipe from Averie at Averie Cooks. She has some of the most delicious-looking food pics I have ever seen!! Packed up a couple to take to my amazing Pilates teacher, and I was off for my Pilates session at 3.

Ending the evening with a little bubbly and the yummy Champagne & Cheese Fondue that I posted last Monday.  You can see the hubs hard at work making sure the cheese doesn’t stick 🙂

veuve-sm

fondue-prep-sm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kicked off Saturday with a 4-mile run to prepare for Sunday’s long run

sweatshirt

and then headed down to Kula Sweet in Los Altos to visit with Courtney and do a little shopping 🙂

Image courtesy of Kula Sweet Boutique

Image courtesy of Kula Sweet Boutique

Ended the evening with dinner at Palo Alto Sol with Jason. Basically had to roll ourselves home, but it was SO good!

Sunday aka Long Run Day with Jason, Andy, and Courtney. We’re all doing the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon in just a couple of weeks (gulp!)  We all did a half marathon last year, but I haven’t kept myself in top training shape since then. This will be my first time to Palmetto Bluff, and I’m really looking forward to staying at The Inn and exploring the area.

Planned to run 9 miles through & around Stanford campus. Weather was gorgeous and luckily we had Andy to weave us around the most interesting parts of campus and keep the run fun. BTW, no filters used on this pic – it was this clear & this blue!!!

stanford-campus-feb

 

After the run, we had a great and well-deserved brunch at the Coupa Cafe at the Stanford Golf Course (yep, still eating!) I was thinking about the French toast I was going to order during the ENTIRE run!!!  Gotta stay motivated, right?  LOL

Ended the day with a quick shop for dinner at home and a nice soak using the Aches & Pains relief bath salts that Village Naturals Therapy sent me.

Village Naturals Therapy Bath Salts

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to walk on Monday after the long run, but these soaks did the job! So happy that I wasn’t stiff the next day.

Monday, last day of the long weekend (sigh), but I guess it had to end … Took a MUCH NEEDED rest day from the past couple of days of training. Last big ticket item on the long weekend agenda was a drive up to San Francisco to meet Audra, Jonathan, and Parker for dinner! My first time meeting this little guy!!

Parker

He is a doll & hilarious! Definitely kept the waiter on his toes :-))))

All in all, it was a great weekend spending time with the hubs, laughing while catching up with friends, keeping up with half-marathon training, and of course eating along the way 🙂

What did you do over the long weekend?

Was it action-packed or did you take a much needed time-out?

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Laughter is the Best Medicine

 

Does your best friend, partner, dad, or someone in your family make you laugh every time you talk to them?  If you said “YES,” then you may want to spend time with your favorite jokester.

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

I spent a couple of hours the other evening catching up with a group of friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in about a year.  I swear, I laughed so hard my cheeks were sore the next morning!  It was well worth it, though. And guess what? Research has shown that laughing boasts lots of health benefits.  Some of them include:

1) Calorie burner.  10-15 minutes of laughing burns off about 50 calories.  Nothing compared to running, but not bad for sitting around having a good time.

2) Immunity booster.  Stress takes a huge toll on our immune systems.  Some studies have shown that laughing may boost the number of antibodies and immune cells we produce.

3) Tension tamer. Laughter can also stimulate blood circulation and help our muscles relax.  Both help reduce stress symptoms!

4) Pain reliever.  Scientists at the University of Oxford found that a good laugh is linked with feeling less pain, likely because laughing causes a release of endorphins (which can also act as painkillers.)

5) Memory sharpener.  In a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Maryland, humor during instruction led to increased test scores.

What makes you laugh? Got something funny to make us all crack up? Leave it in the comments!!

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Live With Intention

When I woke up this morning, as many other mornings, the first thoughts I had were of course my to-do list.  While I was having my cup of coffee, I started thinking about how easy it is to let the day pass by while just living passively.

I decided that I wasn’t going to do that today!  Instead, I was going to make sure I was living with intention.

Live-With-Intention-sm

You’ve probably hear this saying before … it was made famous by Mary Anne Radmacher years ago.  Her entire quote is:

“Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen Hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.”

Did you live with intention today?  If you did, that’s awesome!  If not, think about what living with intention means to you and what you can do differently tomorrow to really make it count

 

How To Be Your Best Self

That particular week seemed more difficult than others.  I felt angrier and my patience was pretty much nonexistent.  I remember sitting in a team meeting and, for no reason, tears started to well up and I discreetly left the room so that no one would notice.

I was leading a very big project at work, and things were running as smoothly as one would expect, but I was literally on 24/7.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken a day off.  A year or two maybe, with the exception of Christmas day.  For about two years, I had dreamed of going to a destination spa I’d discovered online.  I could practically feel the tranquility through the photos on the website.  In a minute of desperation, I called the spa & was told they had availability for the next week.

meditation-lake

1) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

The spa was usually booked weeks in advance, so I took their availability as a sign, booked the trip, and committed to taking the next week off.

The timing wasn’t great from a work perspective…in two week’s time, I was going to be hosting a conference with over 100 guests flying in from around the world.

But some crisis or extremely urgent work matter was always on the horizon…there was never a good time to take a day off, much less an entire week.

Sound familiar?

My colleague swore that she’d get in touch with me if there was any out-of-control emergency that should couldn’t handle herself.  I let out a big exhale, and a few days later I was off!  And you know what?  The office didn’t fall apart, the conference was a huge success, and I did a better job hosting because I was able to relax and recharge.  Anxiety gone.

Take time for yourself.  You deserve it.  Jobs come and go.  Bosses you admire move on to other jobs.  You are with yourself for the long haul … so give yourself the down time you need.

2) NURTURE YOURSELF

We’re all grown-ups with jobs, relationships, and maybe kids of our own, but there is an inner child in all of us that needs nurturing.  Instead of nurturing that inner child, we busy ourselves and/or pick up bad habits to avoid feeling alone, sad, or inadequate.

I used to be the queen of negative self-talk.  My diet was awful, I didn’t exercise, I drank coffee or soda all day, and I didn’t get enough sleep.  I was even going to therapy, but I wasn’t doing the work I needed to do outside of that hour/week, so it took a really long time to get where I needed to be.  That was my path.  I made it, but I wish I hadn’t suffered as long as I did for no good reason.

Take the time to take care of yourself physically.  Get a physical every year.  Have you blood drawn and check for things like high cholesterol on a regular basis.  Drink water, eat healthy foods, and get the amount of sleep that you need.  No job in the world is worth feeling miserable every single day.  If you don’t take care of yourself, who else will?  And what about the people you take care of?  If you can’t take care of them, who’s going to do that?

Make self-care a priority. You will never regret it.

3) LET GO OF YOUR CONTROL OBSESSION

When I arrived at the spa, the control freak in me was delighted to find that someone had carefully selected a full day of yoga & exercises classes, short wellness seminars, and body treatments for me based on my “pre-arrival interview,” and I had schedule waiting telling me what I’d be doing the next day.

Desperate for soul-nourishing, I had decided in advance that I was going to become a yoga devotee during my week away.  On my first morning at the spa, I showed up to the first yoga class on the schedule, just before 8 a.m.  I found myself a spot at the front of the class, little overachiever that I was.

Then something happened, instead of the instant bliss-fix that I had planned, all I could feel was the pain and tightness of my hamstrings and my hunched shoulders.  I started to feel defeated, like I had failed before I had started, and I couldn’t stop the negative thoughts spiraling in my mind.

The teacher invited the class to “open our hearts.”  (OK … I’m actually embarrassed to admit the first thought that popped into my mind, but if one person can resonate with this, then it’s worth it!)  The first thought I had when this teacher said “Open Your Heart” was “F-YOU!”  I was actually angered by this complete stranger’s suggestion that I trust her and allow myself to become vulnerable.  Inside I was screaming, “I’m here, aren’t I?  I’m trying!!!  What else do you want from me?”  Somehow I viewed her kindness as an intrusion — a criticism that I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I couldn’t get past it that week.  I wasn’t ready to give up control.  I toughed out that class until the end, but I never went to another yoga class the entire week.

Luckily, there was more than yoga planned to improve my wellness that week.  A couple of days later, I met with Sarah, my assigned personal trainer.  I was in my early thirties at the time, but I felt like I had the body of an 83-year-old!  Like on The Biggest Loser when they tell the contestants “Your body age is actually 79!”  That was what I felt like.

Sarah was nice, but she was there to prove a point.  She challenged me with “heavy” 10-lb hand weights and encouraged me during the interval training she had designed for my session.

That 1:1 experience was what I needed, along with a little positive reinforcement.  I was able to let go and be vulnerable.  I started running outside after that meeting with Sarah, and it was during those runs that I was able to feel a certain freedom.  Once I let go of the need to control any and every situation (which is impossible, by the way), I finally felt like the universe was on my side.

My advice here?  Just let go.  Sounds easier said than done, but it is incredibly powerful.  If you need to talk to a professional or a friend, coach, or mentor to get there, do it!  Once you stop fighting, it gets so much easier.  And you’ll be so much happier.

4) BE GRATEFUL.

One of the most popular items on the schedule that week was a one-hour wellness seminar called “How To Be Happy.”  I think every single person in attendance that week was packed in to the room for that message!

One of the big takeaways from that session was practicing gratitude.  We were asked to keep a gratitude journal for the rest of our stay.  Before bed each night, we were to write down five things that we were grateful for each day.  In doing so, we were creating a scenario where we were looking for positive things that happened during the day.  It could be something big like, “I’m grateful for the amazing personal trainer I met today and the way she encouraged me” or something as small as, “I’m grateful that we had cheesecake for dessert tonight — I love cheesecake!”

Keep a gratitude journal.  You’ll spend the day looking for things you can write about, making it harder to focus on negativity or problems!

5) TRUST YOURSELF

A few years later, I was rummaging through a closet and found the binder of resources I had taken home with me from the spa to continue working on my goals.  I found a little note that read:

“Great job this week! You can tell you feel refreshed.  Keep this feeling going by exercising daily.  You have to make yourself a priority — you deserve it!”

Wise words!  I made a risky decision and started a whole new career and chapter in my life.  Today I make my living writing about health, wellness, and self-care.  I also coach women who are looking to make healthy changes to their lives and improve their level of happiness.  I eat healthier, I get more rest, and I make exercise and my personal relationships a priority.  I’m happy to say that once I was able to silence my inner-critic, I also came to enjoy yoga and its many benefits!! 🙂

Trust yourself.  We deserve much more care and kindness than we tend to give ourselves.  And really, the only validation we need is our own.

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Fall Forward

Fall Forward

While I love the idea of getting an extra hour of sleep when we turn the clocks back, I have a hard time dealing with it getting dark at four o’clock in the afternoon!  Can you relate?

It has been a rough week getting adjusted with more tension in the air surrounding the recent election & results.  I’ve seen comments from friends on Facebook about how we are a nation divided and how things are only going to get worse, etc.  I wish we could all just channel the overwhelming energy and emotion that we are putting in to negativity and turn it into something positive.  I’m not planning to get political in this post, but I support Americans accepting what they can not change and working together as hard as we can to fall forward instead of backwards.

Just like any other goal, you have to put something in to get something out.  Just my two cents in an area that I normally stay away from … but I do feel strongly about looking ahead and not focusing on the past!

Speaking of looking ahead … I’m looking forward to hosting Thanksgiving in our new house!  Gotta get on the menu planning!  I found some really yummy side dishes, desserts, and different ways to make brussel sprouts (my favorite!).  Now to order the turkey for the meat eaters! 🙂

Though I LOVE the fall, the cold & rain can make me a bit lazy, even though I know that a workout is JUST what I need to give myself that extra boost of energy (not another cup of coffee at 3:30!).  Here is a link to my Pinterest board called Workouts You Can Do Anywhere if you are looking for workouts you can do indoors or for a little motivation!

 

 

A Sure Way to Stress Less? Aim for Happiness

Studies show that on average, Americans spend 75-80 percent of their waking time complaining.  When you complain, your body interprets that as a stressful situation & releases adrenaline.

 

Dr. Frederic Luskin, a consultant in Health Promotion at Stanford University, says “Stress is a perception that I do not have what I need to satisfactorily handle my life,” “Stress is wanting what you do not have, and happiness is wanting what you already have.”

Happiness is Wanting What You Already Have| thewellnessscientist.com

Seems simple enough, right?

As I shared in my previous post, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, today’s emotional stressors trigger the same “fight or flight” response that our long ago ancestors used to feel when running away from wild animals that wanted to make them dinner!

When that happens, stress hormones are released causing your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise (among other harmful things).

We need to learn to slow down a little, practice mindfulness, and taking note of what causes us to feel stressed out.

One way to stress less is to make happiness a goal.  Cultivating happiness means nurturing personal relationships, practicing gratitude, helping others, and shooting for your dreams.

Other posts you might like:

Why Boundaries are Important to Your Health

How to Get Your Happy Fix

Being Inspired by the Ordinary

Multitasking vs. Mindfulness: The Science of Stress

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Spending Time Alone

If you have been following me on Facebook this week, you will see that I have been exploring the city of Tokyo!

I think back to just a couple of years ago when I couldn’t bear the idea of eating lunch alone in a restaurant.  Now, I’m off all day exploring a foreign city on my own!  I’m not sure what I was afraid of before… Maybe I thought that people were looking at me or judging me?  I’m not sure… but I love the freedom of caring more about what *I* want and what *I* think than a random stranger that I’ll likely never see again.

On Monday, I joined a Nia class with the lovely Black Belt instructor Yuki Maezawa.  The biggest challenge was getting from my home base in central Tokyo to Suginami, which involved switching to a local train at Shibuya.  Shibuya is by far one of the most crowded busiest places that I have ever seen in my life!  It’s like the Times Square of Tokyo.  The crossing outside of the station, known as the Scramble Crossing, is known to be the busiest crossing in the WORLD!

Photo courtesy of theguardian

The Nia class was very enjoyable!  Everyone was very welcoming and spent the first minutes of class introducing themselves to me.  The class was taught in both Japanese and English, but with the familiar moves, it was almost like no words at all were necessary. It was a wonderful start to my week!

On Tuesday, I spent some time exploring an area of Omotesando/Aoyama that I hadn’t seen before.  I set off in search of Cafe Madu, which I’d learned of by reading a wonderful blog called The Expat Wife who has written wonderful reviews of area cafes & restaurants that I have found enormously helpful!  (Expat Wife… if you are reading this, perhaps we could meet for a tea sometime? 🙂  The setting and the food were very nice and afterwards I found two other places that I’d been searching for & unable to find before:  The Aveda Salon & Aveda Pure Cafe (I peeked inside, but since I had just eaten, I added it to my to-do list…) & Nicolai Bergmann, another cafe where I’d like to have an Afternoon Tea/Cake set, which is adjacent to Nicolai’s incredible flower shop.

nicolai bergmann omotesando aoyama flower shop tokyo

nicolai bergmann florist tokyo aoyama omotesando

Yesterday, I decided to head to Ginza – probably one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world – for lunch at the Gucci Cafe.  I’ve passed by this Gucci store several times on previous trips to Tokyo and always wanted to stop here for my afternoon cake set fix 🙂  When I learned that they served lunch, I was off!  The lunch set did not disappoint!  My waiter was super-friendly and spoke excellent English (a huge plus for a struggling tourist).  The food was incredible right down to the last drop of pistachio sauce along side my strawberry tart and fresh vanilla bean ice cream!

Gucci Cafe lunch set afternoon tea dessert cappuccino

All in all, it has been a pretty great week.  A few years ago, I would not have had any of these experiences because I would not have wanted to go off on my own & explore.  Now, I look at it as an adventure!

My words of self-care wisdom for the week?  Don’t let the idea of doing something alone paralyze you.  It can be scary and overwhelming at times, but don’t be afraid to spend a little quality time with yourself.  Life experiences are waiting for you!! 🙂

Why Boundaries are Important to Your Health

 

Statistics show that stress causes 80 – 90% of all illness, yet we continue to take on more than we can handle at work and in life.

We know that setting our own personal boundaries can make a huge impact on your quality of life, so…

Why is it so hard to set boundaries? 

Just like everything else, learning to set boundaries is a skill.  And it’s personal.  You have to define what is acceptable to you, where your “line” is, and let people know when they are crossing it.

Boundary setting has nothing to do with changing other people, it’s about changing the way you react to their demands and communicating.

Here are some boundary-setting steps you can take to improve your skills:

  • Do you know what your own boundaries are?  It may have been so long since you stopped to think about it, you might need to do a little self-awareness exercise to get started.  That’s ok!  Grab a pen and paper & start to jot down areas where you know you need boundaries.  Decide what you will no longer do or tolerate.
  • Get the word out.  If you want people to start respecting your new boundaries, they need to know what they are! Calmly communicate to others what is not acceptable.

For example, if you are consistently being asked to work on your day off, let your boss know before she asks again that your day off is now designated as “family time.” Try not to place blame on anyone when you are doing this.  This is an important step in getting other to understand your new boundaries.

  • Be firm.  Once your new boundaries have been communicated in a non-blaming manner and you have been very clear about what is and is not acceptable, you have to start enforcing them.  If you are being ignored and disrespected, then it may be time to walk away.
  • Do unto others.  Make sure you practice what you preach.  If you want people to respect your boundaries, then you have to do the same.  Be aware of the boundaries of your loved ones and co-workers.  If you aren’t sure, ask!

How are your boundary setting skills?  What other ideas have worked for you?

 tension is who you think you should be

Ready to start setting boundaries? All you need is a goal to get started. Get my FREE Goal Setting guide now!

 

 

 

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was filming a video today that demonstrated exercises to release tension in the hands, wrists, and forearms, and I started to think about emotional stress and tension.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how difficult it can be to stand up for yourself when you are a people-pleaser by nature.  How is it that the fear and anxiety that comes from saying “no” to someone else can be greater than the stress and anxiety that we are placing on ourselves by saying “yes”?  I have wondered this for many years.

I decided to do some research on the “fight or flight” response.  While these days we aren’t typically running from wild animals who want to make us their dinner, emotional stressors such as being forced to work 60 – 80 hour weeks for fear of losing our jobs can illicit the same response — rapid heart beat, a surge of adrenaline, stress hormones pumping throughout our body.  All of the same things that would prepare us to fight or run away from a predator are engaged, and we lose the ability to thinking clearly and rationally during that time.

In most situations today, once our fight or flight response is activated, we can’t fight or run from these threatening situations.  We have to figure out how to regain control and deal with it.  In fact, there are so many of these modern day stressors – feeling overworked, missing a deadline, sitting in awful traffic every day – that our fight or flight response can stay triggered for days on end.  This leads to aggression (like road rage) and overreaction; every little thing feels like the LAST straw!
So what do we do?  How do we deal with this emotional stress?
I have to say, I absolutely learned this lesson the hard way.  As far as traffic is concerned … let’s just say I’m still working on that one. 🙂
One thing we can do is give ourselves a time-out.  Change your environment.  If possible, remove ourselves from the situation by going for a walk or stepping outside for a few moments until we feel calmer and our rational thinking returns.
Another option is to surround yourself with positive people, people who are grounded.  Discussing the situation with people in the same boat adds fuel to the fire and keeps your anxiety level high.  Try talking with someone you trust who is removed from the situation and can offer perspective.  Maybe you DO need to change jobs, so “no” to a new assignment that is going to keep you away from your family or go against your values.  A reality check from a positive supportive person can be just what you need.
When your nerve cells are not firing out of control, practice mindfulness.  Try techniques like taking deep, relaxing breaths or a short meditation.  Finding ways to promote relaxation are helpful, as you can cue them during stressful times.  You can read more about mindfulness in my post, “Multi-tasking vs. Mindfulness: The Science of Stress.”
How often do you feel your “fight or flight” response kick in?  Do you ever wonder if you should stay or go?  
I’m sure you have found other ways to deal with the anxiety-provoking feelings.  Tell me about it in the comments below — I want to hear from you!

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