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

Why haven’t you hired a health coach?

You don’t have wait to reach crisis mode or hit rock bottom to see a Health Coach. As a matter of fact, when you are on a continuous path of self improvement, you are raising the bar. When you keep reaching for higher and higher standards to improve your quality of life, it’s inevitable that more obstacles will come onto your path. That is a great thing! This means growth! Depending on your perception and how you want to tackle those next steps on your journey, this will either set you up for success or failure. If you fail, you can learn from it, what that means is that it’s not the time to give up. It may be that you need to approach your goal from an angle that you are not aware of.

Hiring a health Coach should not be seen as a luxury, it should be viewed as a necessity. This is an investment in your all around wellbeing. As someone who works in the health care industry, I see the high demand with patients in need of seeing their doctor. With this observation, the Healthcare Provider is unable to spend the quality time they would like to further discuss the elements of living well. Self care is very important in this new time we live in. We no longer need the mindset of continuing down the path of “being busy” to appear important in society. Making small adjustments or improvements and learning to hold yourself accountable is quite empowering. In this new world we live in, we need guidance to navigate through these uncharted times. We need the skills to thrive and we need to find a way to implement our new goals into our daily routine. Doesn’t that make you excited to be alive?!

I can remember a time when I was in survival mode, when it came to my mental and emotional health. Looking back now, I see it as if I was spending my health like my paycheck. I was barely getting by and living week to week. My mental and emotional state was lacking and it was also effecting my eating habits, physical and social health. There were days I spent more energy than I had. I finally made the decision that enough was enough. I now choose to live in abundance, rather than live in survival mode, I live and thrive.

What is a Heath Coach? Let’s start off with what a health coach does not do. They do not prescribe, diagnose, or tell you how to live your life. The health coach’s main goal is to lead the client back into feeling well in a reasonable way. I’ll partner with you to collaborate on ideas that are specific and tailored just for you. We all have diverse needs, desire, routines, commitments, responsibilities and should not live our life as a one size fits all.

What can I hire a health coach for? There are so many great areas to contribute to improving your well being. We can review your diet, exercise and/or sleep routine to make any tweaks. Find ways to manage health issues, addictions, stress, anxiety or disease prevention. If you’ve decided to run a marathon or want to incorporate a meditation practice in your daily routine but not sure how to begin, I’m here to guide you through a style that works right for you. If you are sabotaging your relationships or emotional health. Maybe you want to make a career change, start a family or relocate to another city. Or you want to reestablish your spiritual connection and wants more meaning and purpose incorporated in your life. These are some of the examples of how we can move forward.

How do I to get started? Set up a 15 minute virtual call on Zoom or by phone here. Your next step, you will tell me a bit about yourself, discuss goals and determine how I can support you. Once you decide to work with me, we will set up a payment option for a 6 or 12 week program. This includes 1 hour sessions, twice a month with two 20 minute improvement virtual sessions per month to check in. At the end of each session, you’ll leave with clarity and motivation to execute your program.

Portland, Oregon

When you are ready to take that next step, I will be here for you. In the mean time, be well and take care!

My experience with daily intermittent fasting

I realize that this post is not for everyone. Especially for those that exercise or train at high levels of cardiorespiratory endurance or lift heavy amounts of weight. But these days there seems to be a craze about fasting, intermittent fasting and juicing to cleanse the body. You can find all types of fad fasting plans on line. I’m not here to tell you that this lifestyle is better than the next, and I’m not telling you that you need to try this. My post is to inform you of the concept and my knowledge and why I choose practice with it. If you happen to be curious, make sure that it’s truly a right decision for you and that it supports your health rather than hurt you. I can only speak for myself as to why I eat like this regularly. My belief is that I no longer need snack or graze, and eat 3 meals a day to keep my energy up. Eating this much actually resulted in belly bloat, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal issues. My perspective is to strive for an empty stomach rather than feel hungry and miserable. The reason I fast is not why you think. I DON’T do it for weight loss, I fast for my spiritual wellbeing. As a result, that includes staying focused and experiencing mental clarity, obtaining a higher level of self-discipline, feeling energized and having a plan to live a full, rich, youthful, happy and healthy life as an older adult. I do it for self-love, self-respect and for physical performance.

People fast for religious purposes, rituals, self control, to cleanse the body or healing, and for some it is mandatory prior to surgery or a procedure. It’s considered the oldest therapy for medicine and has been practiced for thousands of years around the world. Your body naturally fasts when you are ill. Of course you can find articles on how bad it is to fast, so when people abuse fasting, like anything else, there will be negative consequences. People must use common sense, so if you feel weak, EAT! and don’t over indulge in between fasts.

A few years back I had the amazing opportunity to live at a yoga Ashram for a month. For 30 days, food was served at 10AM and 6PM. That’s it! There were limited sugary treats to buy at the giftshop, no meat and no caffeine. You say this sounds like torture, I say it was glorious! Of course I kicked my caffeine habit a few weeks prior and so thankful that I did that so my withdrawal symptoms would not interfere with my new 30 day lifestyle experience. The first few days, I had a little discomfort feeling my hunger pains but I survived. The energy and the mental clarity that I experienced was a whole other level. It was a spiritual cleansing! A “clean and pure” kind of energy. I look differently at the way I consume food. I’ve became so appreciative of it and I especially prefer fruit as my treat of choice over candy.

I intermittent fast daily, and it is my decision to eat at 10am and 6pm. Why at these times of 10 and 6? It is said that the ideal fast should last eight hours in between the times you eat, to make sure that your stomach is truly empty. Five hours minimum if you have very strong hunger pains. I practice common sense. I stick to healthful whole foods, I choose to eat seafood rather than chicken, pork or beef. My plate servings tend to be smaller, but can also be bigger without feeling guilt and I fill up quickly. Yes, as you’ve seen in past posts, I occasionally go off track and when I do, my body know that I’ve beat it up. My body knows as if it has a new set point of a higher frequency and when I allow myself to treat it badly, I pay for it.

My belief is that eating certain foods takes a huge toll on your body as well as eating in general. The more nutrient dense and lighter foods that you eat the less taxing it is on your digestive track. If you ever follow or get a chance to hear Sadhguru speak, he is one wise, badass Indian Yogi, drives a motor cycle and the founder of the Isha Foundation. He says fasting is excellent for health reasons. It’s important to give your body a break from digestion to realign itself. If you give your body 8 hours worth of time of no eating, a minimum of 50% of your health problems go away in 6 weeks time. Allowing your body to break from digestion, heals you on a cellular level. Do not let your body become lethargic with food. Feeling dis ease causes disease. Sadhguru also affirms that this will keep your body vibrant or your body will be the dominate force in your life. This means your body will hold a power over you unless you keep it in a certain level of ease, it will rule you.

Remember to be smart and be well! You do not have to juice or starve your body for days to detox it. Giving your digestion system a rest for a few hours aides in the process. The body knows how to restore itself naturally.

Weekend farmer’s market in Ithaca, NY.

This is why your failing at changing your healthy lifestyle

“Have a Mind that is Open to Everything and Attached to Nothing.” Wayne Dyer

Do you want to know why most people make plans every year, especially around the new year to lose weight or to be “healthy” in eating better or being more active but fail within the first 3 to 6 months?

When you want to make a change, whatever that may be, there are a few components involved that you need to know. Making changes on motivation or will power alone will set you up for failure. You cannot read, talk or think yourself into being healthy, you have to do the work. This works for every goal you set, because how you do one thing is how you do all. First, you need to ask yourself, what is your readiness to change? How serious are you to start and stick with a program? Is the change for health reasons or to look and feel better? Do you see the benefits or are you skeptical? Do you think the change will work or do you think that you are the exception and there is no hope? Would you rather feel great daily and sleep well regularly or numb your feelings with quick fixes such as food, television, alcohol, etc.? Do love yourself enough to invest in you!? The investment right now is so much more fun than receiving that hospital bill 5 to 10 years from now. Second, there are 5 stages of change that everyone passes through to make that shift in that desired lifestyle. (See below.) Some people may never get out of stages 2 or 3 and linger there for the rest of their lives. Others may move back and forth between stages 3 and 4. Some move quickly thru the stages and can maintain it. While some people get to 4 and revert back to stage 2 a few weeks later. We all move at our own pace and we can’t expect the journey to be direct.

These 5 stages are:

  1. Precontemplation – no intention on making any change.
  2. Contemplation – thinking about making a change, weighing the pros & cons.
  3. Preparation – decided to change, by buying a membership or signing up for classes.
  4. Action – practicing the new behavior for at least six months. (This is the most challenging stage.)
  5. Maintenance – incorporated the behavior into their lifestyle for six months or more. Looking for support of professional to develop other behavior changes.

Can you figure out which stage you identify with in making that particular life change? Now that you see the science behind this process, are you able to make the connection as to why you might be stagnant? Are you in the process of taking that next step but not sure how to get to that next level? Some things to consider: You may be overly ambitious and have goals that are a little out of reach? Or if you’ve started your process, have you underestimated the time and energy it takes in accomplishing them? Maybe you have too many lifestyle goals and need to narrow them down so you are not feeling overwhelmed. If you’d like to brainstorm on ways to fit realistic goals into your schedule that set you up for success, email me here and we can start collaborating on what a healthy lifestyle looks like for you and how it fits your into your values. Your time is important, finding the right goals and having fun along the way is the kind of mindset that is necessary to establish and approach this next chapter.

So now that you have these tools, I hope this makes your progress a little easier to know were you are and uncover any road blocks to stay focused on the end goal. If not, remember to reach out to a professional for motivation, support or even just to brainstorm ideas you never realized that you can benefit from. We are all going through changes and it’s great to normalize our barriers so we don’t have to feel isolated or face it alone and make it hard for ourselves.

This is where the magic happens!

What the heck does this phrase even mean? “This is where the magic happens!”

As a personal trainer, I’ve used this phrase before to cheer on my clients, nearing the end of their session. Involving a level of physical activity to get them out of their comfort zone. A session consisted of determination and hard physical activity. In this moment, I’m so proud of them for showing up and doing the work I say, “C’mon, this is where the magic happens!Saying this to get them through that last final set. Meanwhile, what they are experiencing in that moment is a turning point.

So, I’ll tell you what that phrase means to me. It’s that teeny-tiny moment in time, that split millisecond of a moment when you are doing anything that is just beyond your reach. You think to yourself, do I stop or do I keep going? Am I going to quit because it feels far too uncomfortable or am I going to finish because I’ve came this far?! What’s so wonderful is that in that very moment, you have the freedom to make that choice. So, what’s that decision going to be the next time you are in this situation?

This happens when starting your own business, sticking up for yourself, complimenting or starting a conversation with a stranger on the street, helping someone out, learning to dance or trying a new skill, in your workday- a project or unfamiliar task. Not just in working out but in about anything that gets you out of your comfort zone. This is that turning point. A break through in the terror barrier.

Summer morning of 2020

When focusing on the moments we say yes in those occasions, we feel empowered. It might not be in that instance but when all said and done, when we reflect. It’s that positive tipping point and what it does to us, our physical and mental wellbeing. We are changing our brain and developing neurons or new pathways. (Read any book written by Dr. Joe Dispenza.)

When we say yes, first things first, we realize that we are okay, we are still alive and we didn’t die from the task at hand. We build up our self esteem, we build confidence, we surprise ourselves with our power we hold within. We are proud of ourselves! This is the kind of inner approval we want to strive to seek rather than the need of the approval from others. We have trust, love and respect for ourselves. We just learned something new and we feel accomplished! Sure, it may have been sloppy or flawed but we did it! When it’s over, we feel peace and joy. Relief and freedom. We may even want to try it again! We feel appreciation for the opportunity, the people that supported us through or played a role in that bit.

If you like what I’m saying and would like to learn more, let me introduce you to a guy named Bob Proctor. I highly recommend you find his presentation on YouTube or his website, Proctor Gallagher Institute. He has a powerful model that I learned called the Terror Barrier. It’s the feeling of fear and anxiety you experience when you’re about to push past your comfort zone. He also talks about ways to break through that moment. For me, this was a life changer and every time I see his presentation, I always take a little more away from it. It’s inspiring.

In regards to avoiding that uncomfortable growth, I think it’s necessary in certain moments to push past it. We’ve reached a place where it’s expected things should be comfortable and complain when it doesn’t go our way. We work for the weekends and we sit on our sofa watching Netflix with a glass of wine. We live in a world where everything is at our disposal. Amazon can bring a book or your entire groceries to your doorstep in less than an hour. I want to remind you that if you are comfortable, you are not (living) learning! Your age doesn’t matter and not even the levels of education you achieved make you an expert. Who told you to stop being a student after graduating academia?

There are so many opportunities on this Earth to experience. For the last few months, I make every effort to try and do 5 things a day that make me feel uncomfortable. I challenge you to do the same. I promise, you will not die from embarrassment. This will prime you for those bigger moments when you have to make that heftier decision, making it that much easier. You’ll experience things or meet people that you’d never had the chance if you didn’t face that challenge that brings you to that next level! Go get it!

My cookie and brownie diet

I was going to post something else today but with back-to-back snowstorms, I felt the need to take a different approach. Today we were hit again with another snow storm. This is the third one this week. In fact, when a snow storm in Pennsylvania is predicted, a mass exodus to the grocery store is pretty much the norm. Although it’s nothing quite like the one we experienced in March when the whole world shut down, but it’s our reality as the first flake makes its way to the ground. When you have no place to be, a snowstorm seems so cozy, with a pot of comfort food stewing on the stovetop or baking in the oven. For some reason, this time around, making a batch of homemade cookies AND brownies seemed like the right thing to do. With a husband having a never-ending sweet tooth, there was nothing in my way stopping me. When all said and done, I came out of the first storm with a sugar hangover and a few extra added pounds. Lucky for me, I’ve been down this road before. I know what I need to do to get myself back on track. We all slip up. So rather than beat myself up or feel helpless and guilty, I knew that it’s time to do the work. I want to share this weight loss piece with you because it helps anyone who wants to start out and doesn’t know where to begin or for someone who went on a sugar bender for a month and needs to course correct.

Weight loss is not just about calorie reduction and increased activity, if you want to be successful at it, you must include behavioral strategies. I still have the freedom to live a healthy lifestyle but I add these principles to keep me focused.

  • Self-monitor – It’s constant, keeping a sleep journal to track your sleep routine is always the one step people forget, especially if you don’t sleep well to begin with. Sleep plays a huge part in our health and logging our patterns can help us adjust our habits for better sleep hygiene. (Sharing this info is necessary with your healthcare provider too.) Now a days, there are so many great apps to download on our phones to track our water and food intake as well as our activity levels.
  • Avoid tempting situations – I meal prep every Sunday so I’m prepared for the week and not tempted to buy lunch on the go or grab a slice of pizza when there’s a work related pizza party. I also keep a 10-minute timer on all of my social media accounts so they lock me out and I’m not tempted to substitute my workout time with this time waster.
  • Spend time around like-minded people. Having a social support group to lift you up works wonders to achieve your goals. Investing in yourself by hiring a coach or a trainer to help navigate you through those time of momentary relapses and unwanted habits. Not to mention we all can continue to learn a thing or two about something or be reminded of that certain thing we would have overlooked if we went at it alone.
  • Substitute – instead of cooking with butter or fats to improve on taste, use spices. There are a variety of recipes to experience. Salt and pepper are not the only spices in this world. Experiment with fresh spices and learn a different world cuisine. Middle eastern dishes have blends of spices that make your taste buds zing! Not just food but workouts too. If you hate running, then don’t do it. Hiking or biking get the jobs done.
  • SMART goals – Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time Bound. These types of goals have a very specific intention. Write them out and review often. We set goals in other areas, why not for our health,
  • Change your mindset – Stop the all or nothing thinking. Look at this moment differently, it’s not a permanent calorie restriction but a temporary calorie reduction. You can eat all the food you want if they are nutrient dense rather than energy dense. Ask yourself, if the program you are about to start, does the diet support your exercise program?
My lunch includes; 2oz of smoke salmon, 1/4 cup raw almonds, 1/2 cup blueberries, raw spinach, roasted zucchini and cauliflower.

And finally, we can’t continue without knowing exactly how active we actually need to be. Bringing your physical activity level up to 150 to 300 minutes of a moderate intensity per week is something we all should aim for. That means, if you do the weekly bare minimum that is only 30 minutes out of your day, for five days a week! Or 22 minutes per day, 7 days per week. Don’t be afraid to do this in three 10-minute intervals to add up to 30 minutes, if that’s what fits into your schedule. So now that you know I even have moments of weakness, I hope these guidelines are enough to get you started. I’m here when you are ready.

(Please see your doctor if you have known cardiovascular disease or have been sedentary for sometime before starting a workout program.)

Toxic Positivity

I was working with my business coach and we had an amazing discussion on toxic positivity. Before this, I could never quite articulate what it was I was experiencing but he seemed to nail it on the head and I wanted to share. A little background on me before I begin. My mindset was, no matter what, just stay positive! Oh, how dangerous this is. Especially when I force my toxic positivity on others; potentially making them feel bad too. Somewhere in life I picked up the belief that I should never let people know I never feel any sort of negativity. When someone asks me how I’m doing, just smile and say fine, no matter what! (I still do this anyway because I don’t want to be that person who shares my grievances and have people running for the hills every time they see me coming.) But every time this happened, I blamed myself for not being well and felt even worse. I denied my state of being and created more negativity on top of already feeling bad.

Trying to be positive makes you even more negative and then you stay stuck in the same old patterns. It’s no wonder it’s hard to make self-improvements when you get into this vicious cycle. Toxic positivity leads to suppressing your emotions, not processing emotions correctly and not letting them surface as they should.

What not to do. We think we need to hype ourselves up to feel better. Find your grit! Man up to do something we are not excited about. Well this is wrong, it doesn’t work. Sure, it’s a quick fix but it’s coming from a place of not feeling good and causing more resistance. Also, you will seem needy or resentful and people pick up on that. Another way we are reinforcing resistance is by convincing ourselves of something that we don’t believe in. We can feel that lack so much more than the belief. In order to believe in something you have to find proof. And old patterns of the past are what is showing the proof. (I hope that makes sense?) Lastly, this is the one thing that gets me every time. I try to force myself into thinking positively. My brain wants to do what it does best. Solve a problem. So, when I feel bad, I try to look at every angle in solving the issue to feel better. This is just another distraction to not feel the feeling you need to feel and creates more resistance.

What to do. First, notice the resistance. Then don’t feel bad about feeling bad about. No matter what it is. Allow yourself to feel the feels. Let it be, and accept the feeling. You will notice that these feelings are then released and your attitude starts to change. Good feelings arise and are not forced. The second thing to do is focus on feeling neutral instead of feeling positive. Feeling negative, neutral or positive is a state of mind. If you see my creation below, picture the line as a road, if you are in a bad place and you want to leave you need to travel through the state of neutrality before you reach the place of feeling good. It’s easier to find proof when you are in neutral. You don’t have to believe it; you just have to try!

________________________________________________________ A. Negative to B. Neutral to C. Positive

The ways I get back on track is by setting myself up for success. I make a list of to do’s and if I only get to cross one thing off that list, I succeeded. If I notice I feel bad and I allow it, give me a gold star! That’s success! You don’t need to be successful in the moment to feel success. Feeling success feels pretty damn good! Look for the blessings in disguise and the validation within, not from others.

Remember, don’t try to make yourself or others feel better with toxic positivity. Stop the fight within and be real with yourself. Finding a way to get neutral is where you want to strive to be. Make success a priority by your standards and not others.

Are you a mouth breather?

In the Yoga culture the saying goes, “Breath is Life.”

We take advantage of breathing. The next time you cannot think of a single one thing to be grateful for, be thankful for your breath. We release tension while we breathe. Athlete’s take advantage of how they breathe to enhance their performance. We don’t have to think about breathing while we sleep or do any other activity for that matter. Not only does it feed every single cell in the body with oxygen rich-blood, it purges the body of waste and carbon dioxide working through our circulatory system and nervous system. It balances the brain activity. Did you know that depending on the time of day, your breath is more dominant through one of your nostrils? Try this: sit up straight, take your index finger and push on your left nostril by closing it shut, breathe in, out, then plug your right, breath in and out. Cool huh? Were you aware of the subtle difference? One nostril may feel like it’s clogged or stuffy and feel that it’s easier to inhale or exhale the air out of one side than the other? Try it in the morning, afternoon and night. You will notice that if the dominate side is left in the morning, it may be your right side that is dominant in the evening.

Do you breathe through your nose or mouth? If you breathe through your mouth, please STOP now! You have to retrain yourself. It will take some focus and conscious effort to breathe correctly through your nose again. It will also take time for your nostrils to stop feeling like they are clogged. Since you stopped using your nose for its purpose, breathing this way will feel unnatural for a bit. Breathing through your mouth is gross. There is no protection from the impurities that enter through the passage way, inhaling contagious diseases. The nose is designed to protect you from this. The nose also warms the air before entering your lungs. Your mouth does not do this, so any cold air that enters the body shocks the system, doing damage to the lungs and other organs.

Where do you breathe into your body? Watch an infant breath when they are asleep, they are born breathing naturally. Before we begin, let’s try this little experiment…Lay on your back, place your left hand on your belly and your right in your chest. Take a deep breath. Does your left hand on your abdomen rise or is it the right hand on your chest?

There are 3 locations in the body where we breathe into and this is called high breathing, mid breathing or low breathing. Starting with high breathing, this is where people breath into the collar bone region and is the worst form of breathing. We breath this way when we are stressed and minimal air enters the body. People tend to be mouth breathers if they commonly breath this way. Even if we aren’t stressed, high breathing make our body think it’s distressed being prone to anxiety issues and chronic diseases. Mid breathing, or in yogi terms, Intercostal breathing. This is where most of us breath. When we take a deep inhale, feeling our chest expand outwards, we think we are doing it correctly when in fact we are not. Low breathing, or deep breathing is the best form of respiration. Pulmonary issues go away, people are less prevalent to colds, the quality of your blood increases with oxygen and healthy lungs begin to resist germs. Going back to laying supine, notice that when inhaling deeply, your abdomen is pushed out all the way along with having a broad chest. When exhaling, your diaphragm becomes concaved. Try your experiment again, where do you breathe into now? You may cough when you begin trying to breathe deeply. That is a great sign!

So, why am I telling you all this? Yes, this is something that comes natural and we are taught the rest of the information in elementary school. I’m telling you this because people do not know how to breathe. We have to be reminded of all the bad habits we picked up along the way and reeducate ourselves so we can correct it. How breathing correctly has improved my life? It has given me mental clarity, I have better control over my anxiety, I have better control over the way I project my voice, I became a better runner and it has made me more aware of being in my body.

Breathing exercise are wonderful ways to strengthen the lungs, cleanse the airway passages and lungs, develop your voice or even recharge. I’m telling you, that you won’t ever need a cup of coffee midday after a breathing technique, you will feel revitalized and energized. If you are interested in learning more, I would love to share my practice.

A yogi mentor of mine, Clara Roberts-Oss recited the following in class that I would love to share…“We have three rhythms in our body. The rhythm of our heart, the rhythm of our breath, the rhythm of our brain waves. If we are able to affect one then we can affect all three. The one we can really manipulate is our breath. By manipulating the breath, by deepening the breath, you slow down the heart, the brain waves and become more present.