Now this is how you lose weight!

Ultimately we want to change to a healthier lifestyle because we don’t feel good about ourselves. You can eat all the right things, change your diet, exercise regularly and eliminate as much stress and fear as you can from your life but if you don’t do this one particular mental shift, you could be throwing it all away. Causing you to repeat the same patterns of weight gain and weight loss. It’s not wrong to go about changing your lifestyle this way. This mental shift approach may sound just down right crazy. But before I continue, ask yourself, have any of those processes that you’ve tried all of these years really worked for you? Were you actually able to change your lifestyle and stick to it without cheating or falling off the wagon? Let’s take a look at a new approach and begin to build a relationship with our physical body, to be able to listen to and understand its needs.

I heard this approach about 5 years ago. I was 30 pounds overweight, had health issues and quite honestly, depressed. At the time, this approach sounded silly. I was willing to try anything because at the time I didn’t realize how low I actually felt. My barometer to feeling good was ignored by me. Setting my new points of feeling good lower and lower. Then I covering it up with bad food, alcohol, current news and terrible reality t.v. shows. I was forced to look that I was in a pretty bad spot in my life.

But what did I have to lose? I was feeling pretty desperate. The approach – “Don’t focus on your current circumstances. If you’re 30 pounds over weight, then visualize the way you want to see yourself. Most importantly appreciate and love your body.” I remember the day I heard this, because later that day when I got home, I stripped down and looked in the mirror. I couldn’t even look at myself without being disgusted or finding something to criticize. I had talked so badly about myself for so long that I didn’t even like myself. I truly felt unlovable. I didn’t even believe that I had one good thing to say about me and I didn’t know how I was going to feel self-love and visualize myself as a size 6? I was way too focused on my current circumstances. This was not going to be an easy strategy that I could think or plan my way out of. I wanted to look and feel good but was tired of doing so in such superficial ways.

Over the next few days, I looked at old pictures of myself when I was at my target size and started really basic by finding ways to appreciate and my body. My arms are strong and can lift weight up over my head. My legs get me from one place to another. My stomach is where I digest food to keep me alive. I could at least start there. If I’m not happy with this vehicle that I travel around on Earth with, how can I expect it to work for me?

Once I caught a glimpse of self appreciation and who I wanted to be, I really started to experience a new connection with myself. I’m going to be honest; this did not happen overnight for me. I had abused myself with thoughts and bad food for so long that it took time before I truly found a way to care for myself. I learned one of the best examples to really connect with my body was through yoga and becoming aware of how my body moves in unison with my breath. I watched myself in the mirror as I held a pose, empowering me while building up my strength, stamina, mobility and flexibility. Like strength training, it’s a wonderful way to compare and track your own self progress daily. It felt so great when I was consistent and saw my results. My motivation grew stronger! The game of losing weight is no longer superficial to “look good” for others and all competition and comparisons with others seemed to fall by the way side. I compete with myself daily, weekly or even monthly and that feels terrific when I see the progress. This body is my very own housing and does things that I never thought it could do. Getting out and being active releases all those limitations I thought I had. When I released those types of limitations on the yoga mat, I could release them in all areas of my life.

When I’m feeling tired or sluggish, I now know this is a major disconnect between my soul and my body. I now talk to my body and even my cells kindly, say loving things. (See Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water experiment.) If you really sit and think about how amazing your body is, you will never complain again about your turkey arms when you wave or partake in conversations with other women fighting over who has the biggest thighs or more back fat. These conversations will begin to seem so trivial and dull.

Not that there is anything wrong with trying a few programs to see what works best for you. But stop chasing that fad diet and stop with the 21-day challenges. Start with this mental shift because setting a strong foundation for self-love will guarantee self-respect and discipline. Embody and become that healthy person you wish to be and you will see the magic! That “healthy” person is inside of you waiting to be loved and dying to be heard and live again.

Juiced up

I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands with my gut health. Although I work at a terrific healthcare facility in the Philadelphia area, I’ve been having trouble getting an appointment to see a Gastroenterologist. I am very fortunate that I finally have an appointment at the end of September but I can’t sit around and wait, possibly making matters worse or even get sicker by continuing with my original diet. You see, I’ve been experiencing terrible acid reflux. Both over the counter antacids and prescription antacids do not work. I can’t even seem to drink a glass of water or eat a banana without experiencing major heart burn. I also have major belly bloat and I cough a lot, especially before bedtime. Prior to my diagnosis from my health care provider, I thought I had a nasty chest cold. I had no idea that coughing was a symptom of acid reflux. The first thing I did was kick coffee. Once the caffeine withdrawals subsided, this nearly made a dent so I needed to do more.

I needed to drastically change my diet. I had to cut out everything I that I eat and slowly reintroduce things back in. I must say that even before this change, my diet has been consistently healthy for the last 6 years with a few slip ups. I do not eat meat, but I ate all sorts of fish or seafood. I drank a glass of wine or beer once a month or every other. And I may have occasionally gorged on pizza or Mexican food and had a few too many cookies over the holidays. I considered myself a pescatarian, someone who eats a vegetarian diet and occasionally fish.

I’m feeling a lot better, although I’m not 100% completely healed. I will occasionally eat something that will immediately let me know that wasn’t right for my body. I learned that I needed to kick dairy, eggs, all types of breads, eat certain types of fish, nothing pickled or even oil on my salads and or for cooking. If it’s not fresh or raw I can’t eat it (I need a bigger refrigerator for all these fresh fruits and veggies). Canned, jarred or processed is a no! My condiments consist of lemon (this actually doesn’t hurt my acid reflux believe it or not), honey or maple syrup and fresh or dried spices.

I never thought I could be someone who could live without cheese or eggs. My diet is so time consuming when it comes to preparation. But I know that this is not permanent and feeling good and my health is extremely important to me. I also enjoy the time making and creating new dishes that I never made before and I love knowing what exactly is going into my body.

One thing that I started doing is making fresh juice daily. I replaced my espresso and start my day off with fresh celery juice. On the weekends my husband and I enjoy this juice concoction that we make up – see below. I took my time researching the perfect juicer. This really depends on what your needs are and what your budget allows. I purchased this one here. The lovely Kris Carr has a great break down here on the types of juicers that are out there that helped me make my decision. There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to juicing. This book, Medical Medium Cleanse to Heal by Anthony William was really informative and answered a few questions that I had.

Our favorite weekend juice recipe: All organic fruits and veggies
To prep please wash and cut. 1 lemon- peeled, 4 carrots, 1 beet, 2 green apples, 3 cups of kale, parsley, 1 cucumber, 1 inch of fresh ginger.

It is so important to pay attention to what your body is subtly telling you. Your heart, your gut your nervous system is always giving you signals. It’s important not to ignore these messages because they can fester into something bigger. Keep your options open and work with both a conventional doctor and holistic doctor to get your health back on track. Ask a million questions and find out what more can be done if something is not sitting right with you. Do not settle.

Why I don’t care what people think of me

As a life long people pleaser, my addiction to keeping others happy has been emotionally exhausting. My people pleasing addiction is not something that I can kick over night, but it’s something that in this lifetime I constantly have to be on guard and on the lookout. Some of the reasons I pleased my family, bosses/coworkers, friends and even strangers was because I hate confrontation. Somewhere along the way I picked up the belief to think that it’s easier to tell people what they want to hear rather than tell them the truth. Also, the thought that someone didn’t like me was crushing. Over the last 5 years or so, as I really took a deep look within myself, I’ve learned the harm this was causing to my relationships, the expectations people had of me and how I was living in someone else’s frame instead of being in charge of my own frame. It felt yucky and I felt like a fraud. I was prioritizing the needs of others over my own. As I took my power back, I found it very uncomfortable to break a pattern that was so ingrained deeply. I now see how taking the easy way out of pleasing others can lead me back to these old patterns if I become lazy or complacent. Especially in certain situations and around certain people. In those moments, doing the heavy work to relay the new foundation from something I’ve already built, yet in those times of discomfort, that is where the real lessons are.

I’m not telling you that I don’t care what people think of me from the ego’s standpoint, I’m telling you from my heart where love and compassion reside. I no longer want or need approval from others because their approval is solely based on their own preferences and prejudices in their life experiences and what makes them happy. This is so exhausting, especially if someone you want to be happy is never satisfied. If someone dislikes, criticizes, gossips, complains, yells or makes fun of me, I see that they are stuck with the burden of not feeling or experiencing love. When someone is experiencing or feeling true love, they wouldn’t for one second do any of those things listed above.

I understand that everyone is on their own life journey, dealing with their own crap. So why hold that against them? I have no idea what they are going through moment to moment. Or even know what kind of thoughts go through their head at any moment of time. People are hurting because they don’t know any better in that moment. Should they know better? No, not necessarily. I remember countless times when I didn’t know any better and was doing the best I could, feeling trapped and not knowing that I didn’t need to suffer in my life experiences. Can you remember those times when you didn’t know either? Just as recently as this past week I noticed that when I encountered a rude stranger, I’m not giving them a free pass to treat me unkind, instead I just simply notice that they are hurting and it needs to be off loaded somewhere. As I’ve learned how to manage my own emotions in a way that keep me in control, having the clarity to respond with compassion and not unconsciously reacting to empower others in their bad behavior has given me space to stand with power in my frame. I can truly separate myself and see anyone as someone carrying pain in their own heart or fighting a tough battle within their own environment and feeling unworthy.

This has changed the way some people see me and I may come across as uncaring because these people were used to my agreeableness. For as for the others in my life, they understand this and our bonds have brought us closer. Living from authenticity is much easier and feels so easy and freeing to me. Life is so much easier when you live in a place of compassion rather than competition and judgement. A wise friend of mine recently said, it’s better to be unpopular and live from your truth and happiness rather than trying to dumb it down to make everyone happy. I’m paraphrasing a little and this was actually advice he gave me to about running a business but this applies to everything in life.

So I want to say to those who also get caught in this cycle of people pleasing, there is hope to breaking the cycle and being aware is the first step, just be patient. If you can meet people where they are. No one can hold any kind of power over you and remember to stop making everyone more important than you. Stand into your power. If you lose people along your way, it’s because they don’t like that you no longer cater to their every need. And the ones that continue their friendship with you see a difference in your energy and have more respect for you. If you need guidance or just someone to talk with on how you plan to change your people pleasing habits, I’m here for you. You can also comment if there is an approach that has helped you that you would like to share.

September 2020

Screen Apnea

I want to share with you a topic called screen apnea, (email apnea or Zoom apnea) The people I study and hang with in the same circles have been discussing this over the past week and I found this to be a good topic to bring awareness.

The definition of this term includes anyone and everyone, unaware of participating in the following activities: driving, watching tv, scrolling on your smart device, at a desk and in front of a computer screen. People tend to use their shoulders instead of their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs in this position, causing them to breathe shallow. We might even stop breathing or hold our breath and not even realize we are doing it. Yes this is a real thing and I can personally attest that over the last few years, I noticed my husband doing this. During the first few months of the pandemic, we set up our workspace across from each other at the kitchen table. I noticed him holding his breath and I had to tell him to breathe. He then gasps for air because he’s unaware the he stopped breathing. He also does this while we are relaxing on the sofa watching a movie. We kind of used to laugh at this when it happened and I thought that this was just something that only he did.

People have been talking about this for over a decade now. The topic recently resurfaced due to the pandemic, naming it Zoom apnea. Why should you care? It maybe influencing and/or harming your health. Breathing incorrectly leads to exhaustion or energy drains and compromises your work production. Our automatic nervous system is compromised, by holding the breath, this throws the nervous system (sympathetic) into flight-or-flight mode, and affects the (parasympathetic) related to rest-and-digest. This contributes to stress-related illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Over time other issues may occur like: sleep disruption, lack of focus or slower reaction times, depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Screen apnea alters your body’s balance of oxygen, nitric oxide, and carbon dioxide causing inflammation and interfering with your immune system’s ability to fight infections.

What to do? Chances are you are not breathing correctly, check out this post here. I know myself that there are certain times of the day or events when I breath shallow. If taking a breathing class seems like a waste of time or silly, start becoming aware of when you are breathing shallow and fix your posture. Sitting up straight makes it easier to breath and easier for our organs to function correctly. Also, it’s best to get up and move, go for a walk or stretch. Get your blood circulating to restore your breathing to its natural rhythm. Get rid of that brain fog and clear your mind. I can’t stress the importance of breathing correctly, yet we all seem to take it for granted.

Please comment below and give me your thoughts on this blog. Tell me if you thought this was helpful, or if you agree or disagree. It’s important to be aware of the simple actions we take that may or may not lead to adding stress to the body. I also want to hear from you if you’d like to know simple breathing techniques that can help any one from a CEO to a grade schooler. How to deal with energy drains and learn energy restoring techniques for daily life situations.

Thank you!

Picture this. It’s the year 2030 and I live here

My future backyard to the home I own and the view of the sky.

What does your 2030 look like? Try it! It’s 2030 and I…

  • never felt this good!
  • am happy to be alive and well!
  • look better than I ever have now than in my twenties or thirties!
  • didn’t know I could ever own my own business and be this successful.
  • didn’t know I could earn that Master’s Degree.
  • never even knew I could overcome depression.
  • didn’t know I was this strong! (Mentally, emotionally and/or physically).
  • had know idea I could quit this terrible job and work here at this great place.
  • could have such a great relationship with my spouse.

We can get so caught up in our daily life that it’s difficult to even think about what’s going to happen in 10 years, let alone tomorrow. A lot can transpire, even in 2 years. Lives can completely change for the better or worse, depending on how you look at a certain situation.

Yesterday, I took a social media scroll and I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this quote by Rob Booker. “Your 2030 lifestyle will be determined by your 2021 decisions. For me, this statement has so much power and meaning. That every thought or action I take right now has an impact on my future. What can I do right now to lay my path for that lifestyle I desire?

Less than 10 years from now, I will be 54. (Holy crap!) My plan is the same as anyone else’s. Continuing to live an active, happy and loving life with my husband, surrounded by our friends and community, inspiring each other. Having that peace of mind and the freedoms that make our lives joyous and meaningful. To get up every morning and be overly excited to start the day! To be healthy, sharp, friendly and allow people to feel great by just being in my presence. For me, I think continuing to have these simple pleasures, the success and abundance always follow. I myself need to be reminded on days of the little mundane things. For example when I don’t feel like writing this blog. Thinking what’s the use? Only 2 people may be reading it and one of them is my dad, (Hi dad!) and not sure if it’s making a difference.

This message is not to upset, I simply hope to get you thinking about your future and the bigger picture. No matter what your age, situation, health condition, lifestyle, we are here on this earth to have meaningful lives. When that meaning has left, we start to decline, we don’t get excited to wake up in the morning. Reminding you again that it’s never to late to start that thing you always wanted to do. Even if you don’t think that one small idea will not bring you something that leads you to next thing to follow through on that next great thing. It really does and when you see that wheel start to spin, life gets exciting again!

I encourage you to send this to someone who doesn’t think that their actions or thoughts have meaning today. What you are doing in this moment is setting you up for your 2030. Will you continue because you like the way it’s going or do you need to course correct? 10 years ago I was living in the Pacific Northwest. I moved back to Philly in 2012 and six years ago I was living in a major state of depression that I didn’t think I could overcome and 30 pounds over weight. I’ve been there and I refuse to go back. I finally had the courage to get over my feeling of apathy and little by little find ways to heal by being inspired and helped by others. Our best days are just around the corner!

Emotionally Drained to Rejuvenated

We are all made of energy along with everything we buy, eat and surround ourselves with. This concept isn’t dreamy and new agey, it’s science based. We can’t see energy like emotions, infrared or radio waves but it’s all swirling among us and we forget that it’s there. We can feel when our energy levels or reserves in our own body are low. Somedays we feel too exhausted to do the things we do daily even after a night’s sleep. And forget about exercising or stretching, some sort of activity that is great for our physical and mental health. If we let it go on for another day or so we can feel it come to fruition as a cold or a migraine, stopping us in our tracks. Finally to let it all go and actually needing to rest. So today I would like to talk about the most common energy drains. Relaxing in front of the television or scrolling through social media further depletes our energy and motivation to get back on track to living fulfilling healthy lives.

It can be blatantly obvious when we are in or around certain situations that deplete our energy. We sometimes don’t realize that we are actually losing energy, it’s called experiencing low grade anxiety. For example, the people we allow into our lives who may be complaining or overbearing, the conversations we have holding us back, hard decision making, situations or events that are stressful, places like work or being in crowds of people and finally, when we are alone with our thoughts, thinking about someone or something is exhausting. When this happens, we are slowly expending energy until we are energetically deficit. This leads to temporary memory loss, not being present and enjoying the things we are doing. We are giving away our power to people, places or things.

How do we plug these holes and stop our energy from leaking. Becoming self aware is the key and the first step to take. If you want to know more about how to overcome these energy drains and start focusing your power on the things that matter to you the most, you can reach out here at danielle.wood.smith.@gmail.com I will hand you over timeless, in the moment techniques that will relieve you from facing situations like standing in line at checkout, family gatherings, or sitting in aggressive traffic. You will be able to work on yourself to feel compassion for others and improve your relationships with people, see the world differently and respond rather than react inwardly or outwardly. We no longer need to wait until situations change or go on vacation to feel our strength and motivation again. Know that right now you can take your power back and keep it! Don’t hand it over to people who don’t care about you.

This makes me so angry my head could explode!

You know that feeling, when you get so angry that your head is about to explode or you can feel the fire in your gut? Maybe you’ve taken it a step further and said or did something that felt so good in the moment and regretted later. Or how about this situation? You have a project at work and there are no good ideas flowing. You get so in your head that this mental block causes you to have trouble sleeping or being present with your family in the times you are alone with them. Sounds so familiar?

What if I told you that I have a solution? This solution could help you with anger, fears or phobias, anxiety and stress. You have to promise me one thing. You have to practice this daily whenever you remember to and like working out and building muscle, you have to remember that there is a muscle memory and it’s going to take some time to see results. Don’t give up or dismiss this too quickly because there will be moments when this is a challenge.

Before we begin, let me share with you a little about me and why I use this technique. I’m a thinker. I’m analytical and my left brain loves to override my right brain or the creative side of me. I feel like in another lifetime I could have been a detective. Nothing gets past me. I can almost get to the bottom of every problem. My brain just wants to do what it does best and it wants to solve! This can work against me, I’m in my head so much that at times I can’t think my way out of a dilemma. If I’m not careful, my brain will keep going through the night on an endless loop causing me to lose sleep. It’s so damn maddening. So, the solution to this is not a quick fix to my problems and I can always use this when new issues arise.

We need our brain and our heart to work together, in coherence. The heart plays a major role in our emotional system. Your heart beat pattern becomes chaotic when you experience stressful emotions. A coherent heart shows balance between the autonomic nervous system (heart rate, digestion, hormones) and communicates information to your brain and other parts of the body like the nervous systems, blood pressure waves, etc. (See reference listed below.)

So often, even the smartest individuals make bad decisions, they will say to themselves: “I knew better, I don’t know why I did that.” It’s because in the moment, they let their brain override their heart. Without sounding too woo-woo, think of ourselves like a computer. Our brain is like the hard drive and our heart is like the computer screen. All of our life’s experiences are remembered in our brain and all of our life’s feelings are in our heart. We can’t turn on the hard drive of the computer without seeing what we need on the screen to do our work efficiently. It’s evident that our brain processes data but our heart does as well. When we let our brain override our heart, this can lead to heart issues.

What we need to do is follow our heart instead of leading with our head. Most of us find this scary because we think we will be criticized or taken advantaged of or we won’t get what we want. But what you show is your true authentic self and people will respond to you more positively. It takes a lot of energy to keep your emotions covered. People can feel your manipulation, complaints and resentment in your presents even if it’s not communicated through talking and it’s a huge turnoff.

There are three steps to this process and you’ll eventually need to focus so that all three steps correspond at once.

Whenever a negative emotion arises, redirect your focus on feeling your heart. If you have trouble with this that’s okay. Take a second to close your eyes and try to feel your big toe without touching it. Now, move that focus to the center of your chest and feel this area around your heart. Still having trouble? Put your hand over your heart. I realize this may seem weird if you are trying to do this in a middle of a heated conversation but if you practice this focus privately on your own time regularly when you feel indifferent, that heated moment to redirect that focus from your head to your heart will start to become common. Second, once you can feel your heart center, now breath in deeply but comfortably. Focus on your breath, imagine breathing into your heart’s center and exhaling through your solar plexus (a few inches above your belly button.) And the final step, bring up the feeling (without trying to thing to hard) of appreciation of a person, pet, place or thing. If you have trouble with this, set the intention of feeling those feelings and it will eventually come to you. Sooner or later, this process will work as one, immediately feeling your heart, breath and appreciation as second nature.

This heart-based approach has worked wonders for me. I’ve learned to respond intelligently instead of reacting emotionally. I no longer let my heated emotions from a situation like someone cutting me off in traffic, to get the best of me or ruin my day. Sure, it’s easier said than done and what about those people who just push your buttons so bad!? Like I said before, this takes time, if you are persistent, you will see a gradual difference and will notice progress over time, feeling better. Responding from the head and not from the heart is a leading cause of many layers of emotional pain.

If you want to read more on this topic going more in-depth about anger along with some personal stories, a great book to read is Transforming Anger by Doc Childre and Deorah Rozman, Ph.D. Don’t let your day or week turn into an emotional tailspin. When you remember to catch yourself, you can get to a place where you can say, “let’s turn this around and see how good this day can get” rather than steam.

I really hope this helps. Remember to give me any feedback on your progress. I would love to hear from you on your transformation.

Photo by Jan Prokes 

I had trouble with this when I first started out too.

Oh yes, the trials with meditation and staying focused! This is not going to be me telling you why you must meditate and all the sweet benefits that come with it. Although, I may be guilty of sprinkling the message through. I’m a huge advocate since it guided me with my own path for bracing me in my own mental health. This post is more for those who already know the blessings in doing so and want to gain from the benefits, who’ve tried a few times but have given up for whatever reason and really determined to start their practice again. For some, this may aid in learning different techniques in staying focused. To my fellow meditating friends, what is some advice that you would like to share that helped you in your practice, knowing it can help others? Remembering when you started out and what you now know that could make it just a little bit easier for them the next time they sit in stillness. (Write in the comments below.)

I don’t go around telling everyone that I meditate, but when it comes up in a conversation that someone does, I get excited in this discussion with my fellow meditators. I want to ask them what their practice is like and some of the strategies they’ve learned to quiet their mind? How and why, they got started? And what their life was like before and after they started their meditation journey, because there is a major shift that happens. I love hearing the different strategies that people have in their routine because it’s certainly helped me in deepening my own practice over the last few years. So, come right out and ask someone, don’t be afraid if it’s weird. There are so many people that are willing to help and in the same space as you, especially more so now than ever! To this day there are times I need to change it up because of the state I’m in or I’ve learned to get in my own way. I never skip a day because sitting with the intention to meditate is far better than not doing anything at all. If I don’t take a little time, it leaves me frazzled and all out of sorts on the lower end of the emotional scale. I no longer find myself doing or saying careless things or a catch myself well in advance before I do.

It saddens me when I hear people say, I don’t meditate, I don’t have time or I can’t quiet my mind long enough. Meditation should be a part of everyone’s day like brushing your teeth, showering and putting on your shoes before you leave the house. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. It’s kind of like consuming a healthy well-balanced diet. With the basic knowledge of eating well, not every lifestyle diet works for one person. You will hit plateaus in your practice as well as experience the highs and lows. No one can ever go about it the wrong way and once you start and maintain a routine, you will notice a significant difference. No need to chant, burn sage, sit cross legged in a cave with your hands in chin mudra and burn candles. But if that floats your boat, go for it! Just remember, try not to rely on the assistance of a meditation props or rituals “to help you” with your practice for too long. All you really need is a place without distractions, a place that’s comfy and it’s alright if you sit or lay down and just being aware of the feelings or pains in your body. Sitting at the same time of day and place seems to be best. Start with 1 minute of completely quieting your mind and feeling your own awareness within if that is all you can do and add the extra time each session as you go along.

My story with how I got started, I set the intention back in 2016 that it would be nice to take the time, 5 or even 10 minutes a day for myself to get still. My emotions and mind were all over the place and not connected with my heart. Every well-grounded individual seemed to have their stuff together and I wanted that for me too. It took a few months until I got the urge to finally set my alarm early before work and gave it a try. It took a while because the snooze button looked really nice and was way easier to push for the next 3 months rather than get out under from the warm sheets into the cold air. My desire became stronger. The first time I sat down and tried, I remember the thoughts in my mind were so loud. I would chase one thought pattern and then the next and then the next, next, next. I was re-centering every 1 to 3 seconds. It was like I was in a crowded noisy room filled with voices of multiple conversations competing to be heard with no one there but me in it. I knew I needed some help to start out and I couldn’t do it alone. Since I’m a thinker, if I’m not careful, a full five-minute session would be about planning my day and never get to a state of peace and relaxation. I needed to listen to guided meditations or something with soft music that would not distract me.

Then magically it appeared in my email box, notifications from Deepak and Oprah on their 21-day meditations. This was exactly what I needed to kick start my new habit. Those guided meditations are so beautiful and profound. It’s been five years since I remember those cold dark mornings, getting up early and start something new. Like anything when you first start something new, there is a lot of stop and start until it becomes natural. There was working with my confidence in making sure that I was doing it right, self-discipline to care about myself enough to maintain and shape my mental health and being patient with my mind which it wanted to work quickly in achieving the process of stillness. I’ve tried it all and some of the great suggestions included: staring at a candle flame in a dark room or visualizing my favorite calm relaxing place, counting backwards from 300 while focusing on my breath. I’ve used mala beads and chanted OM. I even breathed in the feeling of ease and exhaled anger or whatever negative emotion I was sitting with. I purchased so many books and audios. All of these are really great practices to quiet the mind but in my case my mind wasn’t connecting with any of it for long. I finally have it working for me and no longer depend on background music.

I sit twice a day for 20 minutes. First thing in the morning and again right before bed. Both times, I imagine myself, sitting in a void or a dark room with no lights muting my five senses of taste, smell touch, seeing and hearing. With my eyes closed, I will look to my right and left and imagine a space of infinite darkness before and all around me, floating through space with no time. I let myself sink into the seat that I’m in. I re-center by focusing on my breathing 4-6 long breathes in and out if I need to. I then focus on the space around my heart. I once heard someone say to do it this way especially for those whose thoughts get away from them and focus somewhere else than the place that could distract you the most. I liked what I heard and have been using this technique ever since. You can also focus on the space between your eyebrows, around your body, above your head. If I am on vacation, and I’m too excited to sit for that long, I will meditate when I’m in the shower, focusing on the feeling of the water hitting my neck and back for as long as I can.

Don’t give up and go easy on yourself when you don’t make the time to sit still. You may not have the luxury of time to sit for more than 5 minutes, do what you can. Meditating is a marathon not a sprint. If you want know more about any of the meditations mentioned because you think it may resonate with you, feel free to email me at danielle.wood.smith@gmail.com for more insight.

Portland, Oregon – September 2019

There is a magic in meditation. Meditation doesn’t solve all your life’s problems or makes you better than others. However, it does help you become resilient when life throws you a curve ball. People with resilience understand there are going to be challenges but remain flexible, open and willing to adapt to change. They catch that curveball when it comes. It prepares your body and mind at a new set point, to frequently experience the higher emotions more often. Your intuition is stronger and having that super power is one thing I’m not willing to let go.

Surya Namaskar

Today, I would like to provide you with a recording that you can use anytime, anywhere. Yoga is designed as an energetic practice. To unite the body with the mind and restore adequate energy flow.

Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a great way to stretch and move the entire body. It’s called this because it’s to be practiced in the early morning, facing the sun. It’s done in sets, to make sure that both sides are equally used. It’s a special sequence of 12 yoga postures coordinated with breathing and performed 12 times. You don’t have to be a yogi or even take a full yoga class to receive the benefits. Although, when combined with other yoga postures, sun salutations are a complete body workout.

Surya means sun and Namaskar is a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing. It was a daily routine and spiritual practice in ancient traditions. As mentioned earlier, each set of sun salutations has 12 asanas or poses. When repeated 12 times, you are performing 288 poses. The best time to execute the sun salutation is on an empty stomach and at sunrise or early in the morning.

These sequences are a moving meditation. When practiced daily it has deep benefits such as providing mental clarity, reducing abdominal fat, spinal flexibility by going through a wide range of motion. Physically, this practice stimulates and relaxes the nervous system as well as activating the respiratory and circulatory by warming up the body. It enhances flexibility of the hips, pelvis, upper back, neck and shoulders. It also lubricates and strengthens joints and muscles.

(One set consists of two rounds – six working with the right leg and six with the left leg.)

This arrangement can be done no matter what type of shape you are in and your physical activity skill is. Practicing at different speeds can have different effects. If you are a beginner, start with 4 rounds and gradually build your practice up to 12 rounds. This can be done as a warm up to your work out. For someone like me, who lifts weights and loves to run, I feel it’s a great way to stretch and get the heart rate up. A few quick rounds can be a great cardiac workout. Inhale and exhale on alternating movements helps pace yourself at any speed. You may do this standing or even seated in a sturdy chair if you have difficulties getting down on the ground and back up again.

Enjoy! If you would like a private lesson, to attend a class or more info on chair yoga, feel free to send me a note.

Quittin’ it Cold Turkey

With permission from my client, I want to share with you a brief discussion from his recent session. This conversation is a great reminder that we get caught on auto pilot mode, pick up a habit that makes us feel great even though it may not be the best choice for our health. Before we know it’s taken control over us. We are in need to find a way to break free from this pattern. How would you go about releasing from a habit that has a very strong hold on you?

This discussion with my client revealed that he is excited to get back on track with eating healthier and having an exercise routine! He loves the way this makes him feel. Finding the time and having the family support would be ideal. However, in our conversation, it came up that he currently lives with and manages diabetes. He would love to eventually stop taking his medication by the end of this year. He has some obstacles and confessed that a few mornings a week, he LOVES to have a donut or two with his coffee. In fact, cake is his weakness. As he sat across from me, professing his choices, his tone and his actions told me a subtle story that he feels guilt and shame after he eats this and that he knows better. Sound familiar? I could tell just how motivated he is to get started, but his next words that followed were “I’m going to do better by quitting cold turkey.”

Quitting cold turkey may work for a very, very small percentage of people out there. I advised against this idea. This will set you up for failure and put you back in that very spot you don’t want to be in. No matter how strong you think you are. We will have some days when our moment of weakness is challenged and we cannot get through those 5 to 60 seconds of making the right choice by using our will power and motivation. We will justify that consuming that donut one last time is well deserved. It’s funny how our brain will trick us into doing something we know isn’t in our best interest. We need that donut because we had a bad week and it’s well deserved or we need it because we had a good week and having only 1 won’t hurt to celebrate. The worst, is when you see your friends doing it and you think all kinds of thoughts that eating that donut is healthy because there is strawberry icing and strawberries are good for you. Yes, been there, done that! Why do we keep on with these actions when we “know better“? Our body is telling us in that moment that it needs something. It’s hungry and it’s especially going to be okay with eating that treat because this is what you give it every morning at this same time. It’s predictable and that’s what it’s used too. It doesn’t like change, it wants familiarity.

So how are we going to kick this useless morning routine or any addictive behavior for that matter? We are going to replace it with an alternative habit, a heathier option. I know this is not as easy as it sounds but by doing this, it’s going to break yourself from being in auto pilot mode. You are going to make amazing changes by doing something that is out of your comfort zone. I know you got this! Start off easy, don’t over deliver by making promises you can’t keep starting off with kale and a fruit cup and not follow through, especially if that’s something you don’t like. Bridge the gap and meet yourself halfway. Make small habits and keep changing them until that apple is more enjoyable than that donut. There are a ton of food options that are healthy, convenient, taste good and trick your brain into thinking you’ve just indulged. This goes for anything and everything. There are a million ways to get around your obstacle by getting creative. If you tell me that there is no way to overcome your habit, no other option, then you are not ready to break the pattern.

Make a list of the habit(s) you’d like to break and think of ways on how you could replace those habits with another healthier option. Here is a short list of examples that I’ve changed from the past. They may not work for you but for some reason, I’ve made them work. I’ve incorporated these new habits in my routine and find them enjoyable. My client came up with the idea that he will look at an alternative healthy option when it comes to replacing his donut. He enjoys granola or protein bars and will make sure the sugar content in the alternative is not the same or higher as what’s in that donut. He is not ready to eat fruit but said he is open to eating and apple as an even healthier option down the road. I respect that decision.

Habit to Break My Why? Replacement Habit Achievement
Buying/ drinking Starbucks lattes.Want to be free of caffeine, save money for other things, cut calories.Drink tea at home in my fancy tumbler.Feel healthier, less jittery and anxious. Not depending on drink to feel awake, no brain fog. Many satisfying teas to consume.
Sleeping to the very last minute on a workday.Feelings of unproductive, frazzled, rushed.Get up early to stretch, meditate, journal for extra time and self care for myself.Feel accomplished, more self respect, have time and enjoy my morning routine.
Watch tv/Netflix before bed.Hard time getting to sleep.Read a book that is educational or building my business. Feel uplifted an productive. Sleeps better and learned some new skills.
Check my cell phone, the news, email or social media. Time waster, feel angry, bothered by other peoples views and values that don’t match mine.Phone tucked away, out of reach. I grab my water bottle and take a sip of water. SO HAPPY AND PRODUCTIVE! More time for important things. No longer have the need to compare myself with others. Healthy skin. Hydrated. I’m able to work on myself to be accepting of the views of the peoples who don’t match mine.
Make an after work snack.Eating extra unwanted calories.Exercise after work.Sleep better, burn additional calories rather than consume.

The other thing to watch out for is…THE AFTERMATH! How do we talk to ourselves after we eat that sugar bomb? We also cause harm to ourselves with our own mental words or thoughts. We would never tell our friends that they were piggy for eating that. Why should we say it to ourselves? We may tell our self “how could I have given in?” “What the hell is wrong with me?” “Why can’t I be stronger?” “If I only had the will power, I’d be able to look like Halle Barry or David Beckham right now.” Shame, guilt, comparison – those emotions are just as harmful to your mind and body as eating that sugar. That kind of talk is unnecessary so if you’re going to eat a donut, eat the donut! But watch your thoughts that follow with the wasted energy. And most importantly STOP beating yourself up.

Also, stick with this for 40 days. Why 40? 21 days, you are just getting started and is not long enough to change your life! 40 days is almost a month and a half. Within the realm of yoga, there is an ancient wisdom that states, “doing a practice for 40 days will help one to break old habits which no longer serve them.” In other words, it takes 40 days to break a habit.

And finally, visualize what it would be like when you are no longer under the spell of your habit. What does your life look like? How has your life improved? What do you look and feel like? Sit with those feelings and really use your imagination. Where would you be if you haven’t made the change? The practice of self-control, self-respect, self-love will no doubt make you stronger and feel empowered in receiving the benefits to feeling a healthier version of you. You can still turn things around, refuse to let it go on for any longer or it will be much harder at that later date. You got this and I believe in you!

No one ever became successful from inside their comfort zone, confront your fear and you will become free of it. Much love…..Danielle