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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How To Be Happy

Ah, happiness … why does it elude us sometimes?  We work hard, we’ve done everything we are supposed to do, but that happiness fix seems just out of our grasp.

When I googled “How To Be Happy” before writing this post, there were more than 2.5 billion search results returned.  Seems like we are all on the same quest.

One of Audrey Hepburn’s famous quotes – “The most important thing is to enjoy your life — to be happy — it’s all that matters.”

But how do we do it?  Most of us don’t think of happiness as a kind of good health.  Getting happy and staying happy involves just as much self-care as scheduling regular visits with our doctors, therapists, and personal trainers.

Part of being a good health coach or wellness coach is the ability to dig deep & figure out what is eating away at us that causes us to overeat or have unsatisfying relationships.

People often ask me, “Why Do I Need Wellness Coaching?”  We are all unique individuals, so the solution to health & happiness is unique for each and every one of us.  In fact, I’d bet if MORE people had personalized wellness plans developed for them, they wouldn’t need a therapist AND a personal trainer — they’d be setting and achieving goals that broke through both their physical and mental health barriers.

Here are some things you can start doing immediately to Get Happy:

1. Practice gratitude.

Once a week, think of just one thing you are grateful for and write it down. The more specific you are about why you are grateful, the more successful this is. Remember not compare yourself to others. When you do this, negative thoughts creep in. Focus on YOUR life!

2. Experience life.

You don’t have to go far — just get out of the house!  Sitting on the couch watching TV isn’t getting you anywhere – literally! – and it’s could be making you depressed.  Even if you don’t want to, take a walk and be grateful for the beautiful scenery around you. Or, get up early one morning and go to a place where you can watch the sunrise. It is a beautiful thing to witness, and you have an opportunity to do it every day.

3. Commit to an attitude of gratitude.
Start each day by saying “I am grateful.” My friend has a small bell hanging in one corner of her office at work. Every once in awhile, someone will brush past it as they enter her office, and the bell softly jingles. This is her private reminder to herself to count her blessings. Find something that works for you.

Other articles you may enjoy:

The Science of Gratitude

What Makes You Smile?

5 Things You Can Do to Feel Better Instantly

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

5 Things You Can Do to Feel Better Instantly

 

Everyone seems to be looking for quick and easy ways to change something about themselves or make their lives better in some way.  Whether it is the latest way to lose 30 pounds in 30 days or the latest book on how to live the life of your dreams, the multi-billion dollar self-help industry in America shows that many of us believe we are dissatisfied with the status quo.

Most of us are living extremely hectic lives trying to balance work and life.  We may not realize how much extra emotional baggage we are carrying, let alone set aside the time to do the kind of soul-searching required to figure out why we are anxious or have become emotional eaters.  There are are few easy practices that you can start right now that will make you feel better instantly!  The more you practice, the more you will see the positive change in your life.   

1.  Breathe.  We take about 20,000 breaths per day, but most of us are shallow breathers.  Breathing is the way we take in oxygen, allowing our organs to function properly.  Increased levels of oxygen in the blood promote good health in many ways, such as reduces stress and increasing energy.  Thich Nhat Hanh said, “breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” 

Try this deep breathing technique:  Lie flat on your back and place one hand on your belly.  Breathe in slowly through your nose until you feel your belly rising.  Gently hold for a second and slowly release the breath feeling your belly sink.  Repeat.

2.  Drink more water.  A large number of us are dehydrated and don’t realize it.  Start your day by drinking a tall glass of cold water (yes… BEFORE your coffee!)  Stay hydrated throughout the day, also drinking a glass of water before each meal.    

3.  Get some fresh air.  When I was interviewed as the featured Community Blogger in Whole Living magazine’s March 2012 issue, I was asked what I did to “rev my energy.”  My answer?  Head outdoors!  If you don’t have time for a 20-minute walk, just walk around the block and practice your deep breathing.  You WILL notice a difference!  

Karen-Morse-Whole-Living-Blogger

4. Listen to music. Studies have shown that music effects the brain like no other human function.  We know that listening to music can promote relaxation.  I read recently that music therapy has been used in medicine for many years and has benefited patients with chronic pain and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Put on your favorite song, close your eyes, and let the healing begin!

5.  Smile.  A number of studies have reported that the act of smiling (even when you are not in a good mood) can cause your mood to improve!  Having trouble putting a smile on your face?  Try one of the following:
Play with a puppy or a kitten
Sing like no one is listening
Give someone a hug

There you go!  Five simple things you can do to feel better in an instant!

Other posts you may want to check out:

10 Quotes When You Need a Boost of Motivation

The Science of Sensation

Is Worry Holding You Back?

Are you a worrier? Some people are more prone to anxiety due to a genetic mutation. Research focused on a gene known as the COMT gene has show that people with two copies of the met158 variant of this gene suffer from greater anxiety than others.

Don’t Worry

Don’t despair! Other research shows that even those with a predisposition to worrying can control their reactions to anxiety-causing stimuli and enjoy a calmer existence.

Dr. Dennis Greenberger is the co-author of Mind Over Mood, which was named the Most Influential Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Book by the British Association of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. Mind Over Mood uses a tool known as “Thought Record” which helps people learn how to recognize, evaluate, and change negative thoughts necessary to decrease anxiety. By answering questions about anxiety-causing experiences, people are able to separate actual experiences from their mood or automatic reactions to the experiences.

Let’s say I’m going to take an exam for which I am well-prepared. However, when I enter the room, I immediately begin to feel like the other people about to take the exam seem more confident, look more prepared, etc. I have no information that this is true, and frankly, it has should have no impact whatsoever on my own performance — but worry can take the reigns and psyche you into feeling inadequate. By completing thought records, people can obtain a clearer picture of their thoughts and a deeper appreciation for how thoughts are affecting and determining their feelings.

Using this tool can really change perspective of a situation. It’s not easy work, but this learned behavior can have a tremendous positive impact on quality of life for those who suffer from chronic anxiety.