Meditation offers health benefits that impact mind and body. Meditation addresses the stress response allowing us to access the relaxation response which creates increased mental wellness, creative expansion while releasing uncomfortable and non-useful thoughts and emotions.
Meditation is certainly not something new that I have talked about here! In fact, I’ve mentioned it over and over (as it is one of the primary ways that I keep myself sane) because I’ve see the direct impact that it can have on a variety of struggles for those that I work with, including anxiety, emotional eating, eating disorders, panic attacks, depression and limiting thoughts and beliefs—which directly impact the ability to take action. Meditation is one of the core practices that I have studied both in relation to my yoga studies along with all of the emerging research within the therapy, mental health and wellness world—and all of the benefits really are pretty vast and astounding.
When you are able to add in even just a small amount of meditation daily, you can have a tremendous return on your time investment in the way of health and wellness benefits. As little as five minutes a day can impact stress hormones, neurotransmitter production and circadian rhythms. Twelve minutes a day has shown an even greater impact such as improving telomere length of neurons in the brain (which indicates a younger brain!) increasing focus and concentration and decreased cognitive decline. Not to mention that meditation improves your self-awareness and reduces emotional reactivity which is one of the most valuable ways to improve the quality of your life on a daily basis.
There is often a lot of confusion about meditation. People tell me all the time, “I can’t meditate, I can’t get my mind to be quiet.” This is the primary misconception of meditation. The fact is that meditation is not about turning off your thoughts and sitting in perfect silence. I can tell you from experience that this is not what happens, and definitely not when you are just beginning the practice. Now maybe a long-long time meditator can silence their mind for long periods of time, but most of us have A LOT of thoughts constantly running through our minds. So let’s say that you generally have 100 thoughts a minute, and through a concentration and meditation practice you have 60. That will still feel like A LOT of thoughts, but it is still an improvement! With more practice maybe you’ll have 45 thoughts a minute, and with more 30, but again, that may still feel like a pretty active mind.
The purpose is not to silence your thoughts, the purpose is to distance yourself from the thoughts, to not be so reactive to the constant stream of emotionally provoking thoughts which may only cause stress and tension. In meditation you learn how to witness your thoughts rather than respond to them. This is the true practice, to recognize that you are not your thoughts and that they do not define you. Traditionally meditation is done in a seated posture and connecting with a single point of focus. This single point of focus could be your breath, a word or phrase, an image, a candle flame, or an image you create in your mind such as a sphere of light.
Mindfulness meditation is about being aware of all external and internal potential distractions, such as sounds, body sensations, thoughts and emotions and the mindfulness process invites you to simply notice them. You can even label them for exactly what they are. Here’s an example, as you sit and observe your internal and external space, if you hear the sound of a car, plane, ticking clock or someone talking, you simply label it as a sound rather than letting your mind consider the story of the sound. When you get into the story of the sound you will most likely evoke emotions and then thoughts, such as “ugg, that’s so annoying, I’m trying to meditate and that car keeps honking it’s horn.” That’s how we typically address annoyances in life, however mindfulness invites you see the honking just a sound, no thoughts or emotions necessary. Do you see how this may help improve your response to other potential annoyances in your life?
Meditation is allowing your mind to fully focus on one thing, and when you find you are distracted, you bring your focus back to that single point of awareness—that one thing. It really doesn’t matter so much what your point of focus is so long as you make a consistent effort to maintain it. Not judging your experience or getting involved in your emotions is helpful as well.
The most important element in order to reap the benefits of the practice is to be consistent. Daily is ideal, and even 1-15 minutes is great. If daily does not feel doable quite yet, you might start with 3 days a week and increase as you are ready. I am planning to roll out some support for those interested in a supportive community of beginning/skeptical/interested meditators in the fall! Stay tuned for updates! If you find you’d like some support getting started now, feel free to reach out. No matter how you start, try not to get caught up in the details, it is the experience and practice that matters most, not that you have the right chair, lighting, props or anything else!
If you have been implementing these eight areas of wellness that help support a long, healthy and happy life I’d love to hear how they are working for you!
Taking on new challenges and remaining open to life-long learning is yet another way to remain healthy and vital throughout your lifespan. While taking on new challenges when you are out of school, such as starting a new job, training, or moving into a promotion may feel exciting, what about taking on a new challenge after your career is well established and you are settled into the routine of your life?
Last week we looked at the health benefits of being curious and open-minded throughout your life, which is also about life-long personal growth and learning. Taking on new challenges may have a similar feel, however, one of the main elements of taking on a new challenge is that it requires that you confront some of your personal fears. Let’s say you take on the challenge of learning a new instrument, a fear might be, “what if I am no good at it” or “what if it’s too hard” and so on. These fear-based thoughts will prevent you from taking action and enriching your life. Taking on a new challenge and continued learning could be so many different things. It could be moving to a new home or city, learning to rock climb, learning a new language, instrument or skill.
Whatever challenge you choose, the most important aspect of allowing yourself to grow is both that you do it at all and how you approach it. Learning to combat the fear-based negative thoughts will be the first challenge you will have to address. So, let’s look at how to approach those thoughts as a part of this vitality and wellbeing creating process.
Negative, fear-based thoughts are a pattern of conditioning that often begin quite young. You may have battled many thoughts that hold you back in life, or you may be a victim to them right this very moment. Either way, the first step is always awareness. When you notice that these thoughts in fact exist and are having an impact on your life, this will help you make a choice on how to respond to them. The second step is recognizing that these thoughts are just thoughts. These thoughts are not you and they do not define you. Know that you do not have to believe everything you think.
Once you have these first two steps underway, the third step is knowing what to do with the thought. In this step you can ask yourself, “is this a true thought?” Let’s use the example of a fear thought based on your desire to learn a new instrument: “what if it’s too hard?” Now, is this a true thought? Well no it’s not because you haven’t even tried yet. Then, ask yourself, “is this a useful thought?” With this same example of learning a new instrument, no it’s not useful. This thought is not helping you move in the direction of taking on a new challenge that can open you up to living a life of vitality and wellbeing. Do you see how this one, maybe even seemingly reasonable, thought is limiting your ability to take action on learning a new instrument (or any other challenge?) I can guarantee you that these thoughts are not true and most certainly are not useful.
Once you’ve been able to determine this, you can take action on creating a reality based thought, something like this, “although I have some fears about not being good at a new instrument, I am going to choose to try, practice and enjoy the process of learning.” This is called reframing. Reframing allows you to live in a space of reality and empowerment rather than in a space of undetermined fear and placing limits on your life because of these fears.
So, what would you like to learn? What’s a new challenge you’d like to take on no matter what stage of life you may be? Today is just the right day to take action. When you challenge yourself, you build up your self-esteem and your self-worth. When you learn and grow, you continue to build a life for yourself that you are excited to live. Allow yourself this opportunity to expand. This keeps your brain active and reduces stress, a perfect combination for longevity and vitality! Take on a new challenge and expand your knowledge and your personal power beginning today.
Not sure what challenge and new learning to take on? Here are some ideas on where to spark your interest:
- Do challenging word and number puzzles
- Take or audit a class that interests you at a local community college
- Write down five areas that interest you that are outside of your area of career/work
- Research books and/or classes about those topics
- Read one book on this topic, and then another and another
- Sign up for a class on this topic
- Learn a new language
- Learn to play an instrument
- Learn to knit
- Take an art class
- Take a workshop
- Join a book club
- Go to a museum
- Join a community sports league
- Take a new class at a gym/yoga studio/recreation center
When you begin the process, be sure to check in with and challenge any limiting thoughts and beliefs that hold you back. Notice the impact on your life when you allow yourself this freedom to live a life of progression and growth for years to come.
Being curious and open minded is yet another wellness essential that supports living a long, healthy, happy life of vitality. While it may seem obvious that eating well, exercising, restful sleep and even sound relationships improve longevity and wellbeing, keeping your mind curious and open may not be as obviously linked to wellbeing. When you consider the mind-body connection, yes, reduced stress is a primary focus which can be supported through maintaining a sharp, active, curious mind. Flexibility in your viewpoints and perspectives allows for longevity and vitality as well.
When you spend time with a child who is just beginning to learn about the world, they ask a million questions. Then those questions are followed up with “why?” At some point we stop asking why and just respond to life based on what we think we know. Being curious and asking why can increase your learning and personal growth and wellbeing.
When you are considering a viewpoint contradictory to your own in a curious and open-minded way, rather than becoming defensive and possessive of your views, you maintain lower stress levels because the defensiveness causes your stress levels to rise. You also create more awareness and understanding of the other person or groups viewpoint which allowing for less of a sense of “us against them” which also is associated with stress. Knowing that we can improve our wellbeing by moving from a fixed, negative world view to a more positive, flexible one allows for personal growth by increasing kindness, tolerance and acceptance.
Life can become rudimentary and mundane so easily. Becoming entrenched in a certain routine and way of being and not creating the energy or time to expand your mind can happen without even noticing it. Life is busy and these days can get filled up with a lot of seemingly important tasks. When was the last time you asked why?
The first 20-25 years of our lives are often dedicated to learning and expanding our minds. Beginning a career requires new learning until the skills are mastered and then we just kinda settle in and cruise for a while. This is where life can get filled up and your time gets taken over by daily chores and responsibilities. The next thing you know you surround yourself with people with similar viewpoints that you have and your work and/or family life and remain tightly bound in that bubble. If you are ready to get back to curiosity, growing your mind and increasing your vitality through the process of expanding your awareness here are some ideas:
- Ask questions and listen to the answers without offering your own opinion on a topic, keep asking questions until you feel you have a solid take on the other persons opinion. Only offer your own if asked, and if then, remain non-defensive, have a conversation about expanding your viewpoint rather than trying to convince another person to take yours as their own
- Talk to someone from a different cultural background than your own and be curious about how their culture impacted their personal experience, viewpoint and life in a way that is different from your own
- Volunteer at a community recreational center, after school program or anywhere with those with less fortunate financial means than your own
- Go to an art museum
- Go to a science museum
- Go to a musical event that you might not normally attend
- Take a class
- If you go to a house of worship, try a different one from a different denomination or if you are comfortable with it, even a different faith than your own and talk to at least one person from that new environment. Listen only, be curious and open to hearing about someone else’s experience, viewpoint and lifestyle. Try not to judge, remain curious and open to understanding another person’s perspective.
- Learn a new skill in an area of interest (art, craft, new instrument, sport, cooking, technology…)
- Read anything
- Watch a sunrise and/or sunset
- Never stop asking why?!
This is a short list of ways to begin thinking about how to remain curious, open-minded, interested and engaged with the mysteries of life and a worldview beyond your own. When you think about traditional learning, it was to master a skill or get a certain grade in order to achieve something else, not necessarily just for the sake of learning or growing. This is a new way to approach learning—simply for the sake of expanding your mind and intellect and sense of being a human. Just listening to and being curious about someone else’s view of life and overall perspective can be amazingly expansive.
For the past 18 years I have worked as a therapist in several different capacities, from a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, to working with at-risk youth from the inner city and outer counties of Richmond Virginia, to people of all walks of life who desire to decrease their emotional distress, heal their relationship with food, themselves and others and feel more confident and well. One thing I know for sure is that we have way more alike than we have differences and yet culturally we are set up to feel that any difference is a potential threat to us.
When you expand on this personal level, your mind naturally begins to open and create less anxiety and fear surrounding others. With this you create less internal struggle which only enhances you life and helps you grow in your vitality.
Having a healthy balance between activity and rest is essential to living a long, healthy life of vitality. Over the past several blog posts I’ve been outlining a variety of areas of wellness necessary to live well, feel well and be well on all levels. The area of movement and exercise is one that is commonly focused on in the wellness world, but often one that is difficult to create a routine around that sticks for the long term.
Our bodies are designed to move. Haven’t you heard that sitting is the new smoking? Yikes, that makes sitting sound super unhealthy! There’s a ton of information out there about the optimal type and amount of exercise and movement that we need. However, really the best kind of movement is movement you actually enjoy doing and the best amount of time is how much time will realistically fit into your current schedule—without creating any additional stress.
Beyond identifying what you like to—and are willing to do—and the realistic amount of time you can commit to it within your schedule, the next most important aspect of movement and exercise is consistency. If you only sporadically move your body, you will not receive the same level of long-term benefits that come along with consistent exercise. These benefits are well researched, vast and most impressive. Some of the benefits of movement and exercise include improved sleep, increased energy, reduced cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, reduced cognitive decline, increased mobility throughout your lifespan, increased mood stabilization, and reduced stress levels. These are all pretty convincing reasons to get off the couch and get moving.
I find the most difficult part of being consistent is that I don’t ever really feel like exercising. Now, if you suggest taking a restorative yoga class, to that I say, yes please! Doing thirty minutes on the elliptical machine and 15 minutes of strength training, not quite as exciting to me. While yoga can absolutely serve as exercise (and so much more!) for me, it’s more of a relaxation practice, and I find that to get in exercise I personally need to more traditional movement. To shake the low motivation I have to remind myself that I am most likely never gonna feel like it (at least not very often.) So, to stay motivated, I find it is super helpful to focus on the benefits, including how I feel after I complete a workout. I want to be healthy—health and vitality are two of my personal values—so this means I need to exercise. I have to plan it and prepare for it so I don’t talk myself out of it. When I do move my body, I feel accomplished, stronger and more emotionally balanced. Focusing on those super valuable positives helps me to get off the couch and to the gym.
If you are struggling to get exercise into your routine, I suggest that you keep an exercise log. First, plan out what days you will exercise, what form of movement you will do, and for how long you will do the exercises directly onto your calendar. If you put it into your mindset by writing it out and planning ahead of time, you are far more likely to make it happen. Then, keep a log of how you feel before you exercise, how you feel after you exercise, and what motivated you to do if you didn’t feel like. When you reflect on this log it will serve as a helpful reminder of why you are choosing your health and vitality over a temporary feeling of laziness—or even dread.
If you are just not a gym person, the most effective way to start the process of moving is finding a form of movement that you really enjoy. (You can catch an older blog on 5 ways to get more movement without the gym here!) This could be dancing, joining a community sports team, walking, yoga, pilates, signing up for a community 5k and training for it (with a friend makes it even better!), swim, hike, taking a dance class… Finding something you enjoy and doing it along with a buddy can make it something you actually look forward to doing regularly!
When you commit to regular movement and exercise you are committing to your health and wellbeing and creating a greater life of longevity and vitality. To begin to make it happen for you, first identify what movement you actually enjoy, then the amount of time you can dedicate to doing it. Create your exercise log and plan for exactly when you will do it. Begin using these tools and see the impact moving your body can have on your life for the better beginning today!
I am now at the half-way point of outlining the eight essential areas of wellness for vitality! Today’s topic is one that alludes many… Sleep…Ahhh… doesn’t a good night’s sleep sound just delightful? Do you remember the last time you got one? Sleep is an area of wellness that can be the most neglected and the most difficult to grasp. With all of the foundations of wellness, when it is neglected it will negatively impact how you feel on all levels. Getting a good, restful night’s sleep is essential to living a healthy life of vitality and wellbeing.
If you suffer from chronic insomnia, waking during the night and having trouble getting back to sleep—or just struggle to fall asleep despite feeling exhausted—you are not alone. Sleep is allusive to so many and it is an area that many people spend a ton of money on to attempt to remedy with varying results.
Loss of sleep can cause an imbalance in blood sugar, which causes cravings. Lack of sleep can cause you to be a bit, let’s say, grumpy? Or even worse, super irritable, causing challenges in relationships and overall contentment. Lack of sleep will cause you to feel drained and not have enough energy to engage in the other areas of wellness needed to live a life of vitality. When you are exhausted, do you feel like preparing a healthy meal, getting in time for exercise or even a date night or something social and fun? Probably not.
On the other side, when you sleep well you feel refreshed, energized and able to make clear-headed decisions throughout the day. Here are some suggestions to help you get the zzz’s you need to feel vital, energized and prepared to take on whatever challenges come your way.
If your goal is to sleep through the night and wake feeling rested it can be helpful to attempt some of the following strategies to create a sleep plan that works for you:
- Go to bed at the same time each night, your body thrives on routine and consistency for your personal circadian rhythm
- Create an evening ritual that helps you focus on the transition time from the activity of your day into time for rest, this will signal to your brain and body that it is time to slow down and prepare for sleep
- Find a good book, reading can help shift your focus from your thoughts or the long to-do list running through your mind and prepare your mind for sleep
- Avoid blue light exposure (cell phones, iPads…) at least an hour before you go to bed
- Avoid stimulating TV shows, movies etc… at least an hour before you go to bed
- Take a warm bath before bed with Epsom salt and calming essential oils such as lavender and/or vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot and sandalwood (my favorite!)
- Have your room as dark as possible, the smallest amount of light can cause sleep disruptions, use a sleep mask if it is comfortable for you
- Use a sound machine to block out any external noise that may disrupt your sleep
- Keep a sleep journal, logging your routine in the evening such as what you had for dinner, when you go to bed and anytime that you wake up- this can help you notice patterns or triggers that disrupt your sleep- it also helps you recognize when you are making some progress and what helps you sleep well
- Practice stress reduction techniques daily to help maintain a more positive mood and to create less restlessness at night, a great resource is the Insight Timer app with guided meditations, binaural beats and even bedtime stories to help you fall (and stay) asleep
- When you are struggling to calm your mind, say to yourself “this is the time that I have designated for my mind and body to rest, I can return to my thoughts and worries the next day when I can actually do something about them”—use this or other coping thoughts that help return you to the present moment and away from the distracting and distressing thoughts, such as stating to yourself, “this is my time to rest, I can return to these thoughts later” etc...
- When you wake up in the middle of the night, first try to do a body scan in your mind’s eye and notice if you are holding tension in any areas of your body—if so, with awareness, allow the tension to release—if your mind wanders away, come back to focusing your attention on your body—this may be a difficult process at first as it is the nature of the mind to wander, this takes practice and perseverance
- Practice counting your breaths or use the so-hum breath (saying “so” in your mind as you inhale and “hum” in your mind as you exhale) to help keep a single point of focus to your mind until you drift off to sleep
- Do not have any caffeine after lunch
- Limit or avoid alcohol, try not to have any at least 2 hours before your bedtime as it can cause your body to not enter a state of deep sleep
- Drink enough water throughout the day, when you are even a little bit dehydrated it creates disruptions in all of the systems of the body
- Do some movement and exercise during the day, even a short walk or gentle stretching in the evening can help improve the quality of your sleep
- Try some type of tea such as chamomile or other rest, sleep or calming teas to help induce a feeling of being sleepy, although this may not help you sleep through the night, it may help you get a few hours of deeper sleep
Did you try any of these and find that they improved your sleep? I’d love to hear what works for you! Have another suggestion that helps you? Share it with me so I can help get the word out! Sleep is so important and can create greater health in mind, body and spirit.
Over the last couple of posts I’ve covered some less obvious areas of wellness within the eight essential areas of wellness for vitality. The first two included encouraging examination of your relationships in order to improve and grow in your support systems. Have you been considering how you can grow your social support network and working on strengthening your close core relationships? If you have, have you noticed an impact on your overall wellbeing? Now that those elements have been discussed, I’ll return to a more fundamental foundational element of wellness and one of my favorites to talk about: Nutrition!
When your body is well nourished through nutrient dense foods it functions optimally. Nutrition is one of the most impactful ways to improve your vitality and wellness. However, if you are stressed, anxious, lonely, hiding your true self and unsatisfied, the food you eat, even if it is the healthiest in the world, you will not be able to receive its full benefits within your body. Deepak Chopra says, “You can feed the healthiest food to stressed out person and they will only make poison of it.” When our bodies are in a state of stress, it is not engaging in the ability to properly digest. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). When we are stressed, anxious and dissatisfied with life, the body does not divert the same level of energy to digestion. In order to improve your nourishment received from the nutrients your food contains, it will be helpful to address how you cope with the stress in your life.
This is an element of nutrition and vitality that is essential, that you not only eat well, but that you feel well as you are eating. These are my (very) general nutrition recommendations:
- Eat your vegetables and fruits - Have more than 50% of each of your meals be comprised of colorful veggies and fruits - Eat food that is unprocessed—or at least minimally processed - Make sure you can pronounce all of the ingredients on the ingredients list on the processed foods that you do eat - If you can, choose organic - Drink plenty of filtered water - Minimize/reduce your sugar consumption (approximately 24 grams added sugar daily for women and 36 grams added daily sugar for men) - Keep alcohol and caffeine to a reasonable minimum, unless they are a problem for you, in which case eliminate them all together - Take a high-quality multivitamin or other supplements that will support any areas of possible deficiencies in your diet
So that’s a very basic place to begin with nutrition. They are simple but not necessarily easy, just like everything else that comes to taking care of yourself.
It is not only about what we eat when it comes to being properly nourished, but also about how we eat it. I am using this opportunity to talk about the importance of nutrient density as it’s related to vitality and overall wellness but I want to also address the patterns of stress and stress eating, so I will interject the importance of mindfulness and mindful eating here as well.
If you feel as though you eat healthfully and yet still feel a little crummy, you most likely want to take a look at your stress levels. If there are emotions you have not addressed and they are lingering internally, this can cause a low level of stress much of the time. To address how you eat, let’s take a look at mindful eating. Here are the how-to’s of mindful eating:
- Begin by engaging your senses (pay attention to what your food looks like, smells like, tastes like) - Have a space free from distractions (no social media, internet, TV—this allows you pay attention to how your food makes you feel) - Take small bites - Chew thoroughly before taking another bite - When you are eating, just eat - Place utensils/food down between bites - Check in with your body to notice hunger/full sensations - Notice the impact that certain foods have on your mind, body, energy and mood - IF you catch yourself judging your food (thoughts such as: too many calories, this food is good, this food is bad…) remind yourself that it is food, just food
When you eat in this way, you create a positive environment for your food to be enjoyed. Your body can properly assimilate the nutrients your food provides for you. You can also notice the impact your food choices have on your mind, body and spirit. As you continue to grow in your practice of nourishing yourself through high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, pay as much attention to the practice of eating itself. Notice the impact on your overall wellness and vitality. As you integrate these practices for your mind and your body you will begin to feel the positive effects of being well nourished in all areas of your life.
Over the next several posts I am diving deeper into eight essential areas of wellness to live a long, healthy, happy life of vitality. The first area of wellness that we explored and strategized to improve was creating a strong social support. The second area of wellness that we will dive into is close core relationships.
Having strong, deep and unconditionally loving relationships is an essential area of wellness. This area of wellness is consistently a marker for those who live a long, healthy, happy life. Healthy core relationships indicate a healthy inner-being and healthy life. Close core relationships exist with the people you trust and that you are deeply connected. In essence, these are your most valued relationships. These core relationships could be your partner, anyone in your immediate or extended family, your best friend(s), your business partner…really whoever you are closest to on a deep, genuine level.
These core relationships are often just a handful of people. These are people who love and care for you no matter what. These are reciprocal relationships, meaning there is a flow of give and receive and feel balanced and healthy. These are the people you trust, love and know that you could call them at any time of day or night, and they’d be right there for you. A relationship like this might be tough to come by. Relationships on this level require the ability to be authentic, to be yourself, to be vulnerable and to be fully accepting of exactly who they are and you are fully accepted for exactly who you are.
If you feel as though you are seeking just this type of closeness but struggle to be authentic, to be seen, and to be yourself, you might benefit from exploring the challenges you experience to show up as your authentic self. If you feel as though you once had this level of closeness with some people, however those relationships have drifted or become less reliable or close, there is hope to create that closeness once again, if indeed that person is a healthy person to have within your life.
Relationships are difficult to maintain and require effort, time and consistent communication in order to keep them within a healthy and authentic place. There is absolutely no shame in seeking a therapist or other support if you feel your closest core relationships need some TLC. It is possible to heal these relationships without external support as well, just both parties need to be on board and ready to put in the work!
Some ways you can strengthen your current core relationships is to take time to talk, well—really, to take time to listen. Listening is a skill and an art form and is one of the most wonderful gifts you can offer someone you care about. When you truly hear someone you care about you are not formulating what to say next, you are not defensive, you are trying to hear and be open in a loving way. Becoming a compassionate listener rather than a problem solver for those you are close with can help bring healing and deeper understanding as well.
Having dedicated time to enjoy one another is another important part of maintaining a close core relationship. When your time spent together is always about problem solving, discussions of practical matters and daily tasks, this can put a drain on your closeness. Find time to spend time doing something that brings you both joy or maybe just nothing in particular. The intention, no matter the nature of the relationship, is to provide a opportunity to create closeness and joy within your relationship.
Honesty is a component of creating closeness and authenticity in your core relationships. This requires vulnerability, a willingness to disrupt the peace at times in exchange for a more secure connection. You have to make it safe for those you care about to approach you, and you need to have safe people to approach with your concerns. This might even be a simple practice of being honest with mundane things as well as in deeply important areas such as being honest and open about your feelings.
Consider one existing relationship you are already have, that may be experienced as going pretty well overall. Consider someone you do feel some level of closeness, but you’d like to improve and strengthen. (You don’t want to start with a relationship that needs a ton of repair.) First, ask yourself can you accept this person for exactly who they are, without any condition? (Now ask yourself this again!) Do you feel that they can offer you this same level of acceptance in return? If so, how can approach this person in a way to let them know you’d like to strengthen and build upon the foundation of your relationship? As you reach out, be vulnerable, be real and share yourself in a way that offers the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way, knowing that relationship building is a process, a marathon, not a sprint!
If this person is amenable to working and growing and strengthening the relationship, practice these three areas to work to continue to grow, connect and improve your connection. Start with listening to them, then find time to have fun together and enjoy this time spent. Then assure yourself that you are being fully and completely authentic within the relationship, being open and honest. Notice the impact as you grow and expand within your close core relationships.
As promised in my last post, I will be detailing the eight wellness essentials outlined in that post one by one. The first area of wellness to live a life of vitality is all about having a strong social support including friends, family and community groups. Spending time with friends and enjoying the company of others provides a tremendous amount of benefit to our lives.
From the wellness perspective, having a strong social support creates the best circumstances to live a long, healthy and happy life. When you share the company of friends, you might share a meal, a shopping venture, a walk, an experience or even a good cry. The benefit to your health comes in the process of sharing, of feeling connected, supported, heard and cared for. Having a support system where you can be your authentic self allows you to feel safe, valuable and secure.
By nature, we are social creatures. We have a need to create a sense of safety in our lives, and a solid social support offers just that. When you find your tribe, the people who unconditionally love and accept you, you feel supported, cared for and you can give yourself permission to be you. This can be a challenge to find as so many of us show up to life with a lot of social anxiety. This anxiety will cause you to worry about what people think about you, you may fear that you will be judged and this can cause you to feel as though you have to be *perfect* in order for people to want to be around you.
When you are ready to reconcile your perfectionism, release your anxiety and just be you. Inevitably, your social life will open up in a positive way. When this occurs you no longer attempt to hide behind perfectionism or people pleasing and you can be your true self. When you allow yourself to relax and become more confident in social circumstances, you become a better and better version of yourself through your relationships. In our current culture more and more people are connecting through social media outlets and yet more and more people are expressing feelings of isolation and loneliness. We all long for genuine, nonjudgmental connection.
If you find that you are feeling more isolated and lonely when it comes to a social network, know that there is always an opportunity to grow and expand into a social support that will be beneficial for you. If social anxiety is crippling for you, it might be helpful to seek additional support to work through your fears and automatic responses when it comes to social situations so that you can create more opportunities to expand both your social support and to feel more confident and less anxious. If you do not feel that you have overwhelming social anxiety but have become isolated for other reasons, there are many things you can do today to begin to grow your social support.
Having a strong social support is a wellness essential, and what that looks like, just like any wellness journey is absolutely personal to you. For one person it may feel best to have a small, tight group of friends where others may prefer to have a variety of friends across many social experiences. There is no wrong way to grow in your social support! If you feel as though you have a strong social support and feel really good about the relationships you currently have, then take some time to reach out to those people and let them know how important and meaningful their relationship is to you. If you feel as though you’d like to grow socially and strengthen your current or potential social connections, I put together the following list to help you think about how to expand your social outlet in a way that feels nurturing and healthy for you.
Try one or more of the following to grow your social support today: -Take an in-person class on a topic that interests you -Host a dinner party for an organization you are already a part of -Join a book club -Join a Meetup group -Go to an event that sounds interesting to you and talk to one person you don’t know -Go to a community meeting/religious service/open house event… and talk to one person you don’t know -If you have kids, have a play date for your kids whose parents you’d like to get to know better -Call an old friend that you haven’t talked to in a while and catch up -Volunteer anywhere -Participate in a committee at your work, kid’s school, in the community… -Get your friends together for a potluck this weekend
From the list, what feels doable? What feels as though it would help you grow and strengthen your social support? When you try one, notice the impact of creating meaningful connections on how you feel about yourself.
Research has shown that those who remain vital and well throughout their lives engage in several areas of health and wellness that go well beyond making healthy food choices. While nutrition is absolutely a big part of health and wellness, it is one facet in a much larger view of living a long, healthy, happy life. There are eight areas that seem to be consistent practices amongst those that do find themselves healthy and vibrant in mind, body and spirit all throughout their lives.
These eight areas that create longevity and a strong, healthy mind and body are:
1. A large social support including family, friends and community groups
2. Close core relationships
3. Well-nourished through whole, healthy enjoyable foods
4. Restful sleep
5. Active throughout much of the day/consistent movement
6. Curious, open-minded and continue to learn ALL throughout life
7. Remain willing to take on new challenges no matter what their age
8. Consistent meditation practice
If you are rushing through life getting poor sleep, inconsistent movement and are isolated don’t fret! Just know that this is the right time to evaluate how you prioritize your health and wellness within your life. If the foundation is not set, most likely you are not seeking out new challenges because you feel that there is so much yet to do with your current ones. Wellness is about creating the time needed to nurture healthy relationships, learning and growing as well as healthy cooking in order to eat well and meditation.
Think about it this way, what is the cost to your life if you don’t begin to shift your ways and create wellness within your life now? Your body is very forgiving, it wants to be in balance and to feel well. Today is just the right day to re-evaluate and create a new wellness routine that will support your vitality and longevity. What healthy changes can you begin to make today if your hope is to live a long, healthy, happy life?
When you begin a wellness journey, it is helpful to start with just one area that you would like to improve within your life. A complete overhaul is generally not possible and most likely not sustainable (you can read more about that here!) The focus for this post is about not just knowing what you need to do, but actually doing it! If you were to select one area from the seven areas on the list that could benefit your health for the better starting today, what would it be? Why would you start there? The thing is, we are all aging at this very moment, so why not continue to do so in a way that feels as though you are expanding, growing and encouraging vitality!?!
After you consider the above questions about where to start, it would benefit you to think about why you aren’t prioritizing your health and well-being? What blocks do you face? Are they motivationally based, timing or something else? What fears do you have to change, grow and live in a space of vibrancy? Take time to think these through in order to help yourself live your priorities.
I know that when I get stuck, it is usually because I fear that I’ll have to give up something I enjoy despite whether or not it is good for me. That’s not the most useful line of thinking, right!? Do you do this too? If so, know that restriction is not what improving your health is about. Wellness is about what you add to your life and when you do, to be able to notice and grow what improves for you within your life.
I talk a lot about healthy eating and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, (it’s kinda my thing!). While I love talking about all things food related, I will be detailing each of these eight areas of wellness over the next few weeks as reminders (for myself included!) that wellness is a wholistic journey! You can’t ignore or avoid areas of wellness because they aren’t convenient to you, or because of any other excuse. Vitality is a process, and if you want to create a full and vital life, it requires that you take action and that you dedicate yourself to well, yourself—your own well-being.
So, are you with me? Are you ready to address the process of living a full and vital life, even if it means giving up some things that are difficult to let go of, or adding in elements that are unfamiliar? Keep your eyes out for detailed ways in the posts ahead to improve your overall health, vitality and wellbeing!
How do you get your day going? Do you have a routine, ritual and a way to ease into your day? Or, do you rush and feel as though you are always mentally one step ahead of yourself and yet feel one step behind with all you need to do before your day “officially” begins?
Having a consistent morning routine is one of those deceivingly simple life hacks that can be hard to implement, but when you do, it makes a major difference in the feeling of your whole day. The truth is that your morning routine does not have to be long, fancy or anything too out of the ordinary. Your morning routine just needs to be consistent and offer you the opportunity to be presently engaged from moment to moment. The first place to begin is to have an adequate amount of time to actually offer yourself space where you can ease into your day. The intention is to offer an opportunity to bring on a sense of calm rather than triggering your stress response first thing in the morning!
If you are thinking, that’s great but I’m NOT a morning person— I am right there with you and know all about it! The thing is, having a morning routine helps to create more ease into the day and actually creates less disdain of the mornings. I used to wake up with little time to spare and felt as though I was one step ahead of myself in my mind—what I still had to do—and yet I felt a step behind knowing that the time I needed to get out the door was looming ahead! I started my day stressed-out and it had a negative impact on the rest of the day. I had to make some adjustments and they have paid off big-time in my energy and my mood!
Routines are so incredibly valuable because they allow the wellness practices that you desire within your life to become a deeply engrained stress-relieving habit. When I don’t protect my time, energy and digestion, I suffer. When I attend to my health needs and keep my stress in a manageable space, I flourish. This is a practice, a daily need and it is useful to constantly review, update, tweak and grow.
For this week ahead, consider one thing you could add to your morning (or maybe take away—like the news or scrolling through social media) that would increase your ability ease into your day. What is one thing that would help you create more present moment awareness into your morning? How can you set yourself up to have reduced stress and increased energy? How can you create just one simple change that can have a big impact on your day ahead?
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few sample morning routines that you might find to be useful:
-make your bed
-Your day has now begun!
Scenario 2: (my office-day morning routine!)
-drink lemon water
-rest on the couch with tea
-breathing and intention setting for the day
-check in with emails
-prepare lunch for the day
-off to work!
Scenario 3: (my work-from-home day morning routine!)
Do you have a morning routine that works for you? I’d love to hear about it! Did you try any of these listed above or tweak one area of your morning to improve your day and reduce your stress? I’d love to hear about your experience!