It was beautiful here in Los Angeles this past weekend–and if the beaches hadn’t been closed, I would undoubtedly have been there. I admit it was frustrating. But I was able to shift myself out of frustration, as I have had to do many times during this pandemic, because of the concept in yoga philosophy that tells us: Whatever we focus on expands.
In other words, I could have focused my attention on my frustration which would have only increased my sense of feeling less in control of my life altogether. It would’ve created more stress and ultimately put me in a foul mood all weekend. Yuck.
When I decided to shift my focus on what I CAN do and what I DO have control over (such as, I can sit in my backyard and enjoy the beautiful weather, I can connect with others through technology, I can cook and eat nourishing food) suddenly my weekend got a whole lot better.
That’s not to say any of us should pretend that difficult feelings aren’t there. Acknowledging frustration, sadness, and fear, and giving ourselves space to process these emotions is one of the most loving things we CAN do for ourselves right now.
And when we focus our attention on the things we can control, like nourishing and taking care of ourselves, processing our emotions and practicing gratitude for what we do have, we put ourselves in a much better position to:
Feel better and create a healthier environment for ourselves and whoever we may be sheltering with.
Stay healthy and strong.
Have a more balanced perspective on the whole situation which will help us endure whatever lies ahead.
I’ve been speaking with a number of my workshop attendees–can you guess what I hear about the most in these conversations?
1. I know the habits I have are not great.
2. I want to change those habits, be healthier but I don’t know where to begin
3. I’ve tried making some changes, and it works for a while but then I get thrown off track and struggle to get back to those bad habits.
Change is rarely easy. We’re often working against some deeply rooted patterns. But it’s not impossible to change those patterns.
Today I’m sharing my top tip for getting started on creating a new habit:
GET CLEAR ON WHY YOU’RE DOING IT. The first step I take with any client is clarifying why they want to make changes. Understanding what’s sparking this desire to change will keep you anchored to your motivation. It will help you get through the tough times on your journey and remind you why you started in the first place.
And we gotta go deep here. No one wants to lose weight simply because they want to fit in their pants. So it’s important to keep asking yourself “why” in order to get to your deeper desire. For instance, ask yourself: Why do I want to fit in my pants? Why is that important?
And whatever your response is to that question, ask again–well why is that important? I recommend asking yourself “why is that important” about 9 times.
There is always a much deeper reason underlying your desire to change that you may not have admitted to yourself before. Find out what it is.
TIPS: As you ask yourself why, get out of your head. You’ll never find the answers there anyway. See if your responses can come from the heart or the belly. Allow the deeper desire to emerge from your whole self. Try not to edit what comes up. You may want to “free write” or talk into a recorder without worrying about anyone (especially you!) judging what comes out.
Once you’ve got your BIG why answer, write it down.
How powerful can this be? As an example, that client who thought she wanted to lose weight to fit in her pants? She made another discovery. What she really wanted, was to lose weight because she wanted to have more energy to spend time/play with her kids, and to show them that they can do things they set their minds to.
A little more powerful than pants right? And by the way, she’s lost almost 30 pounds.
For those of us in California, our stay at home order, unsurprisingly, was extended another month. Eesh.
Regardless of where you live, the restrictions and changes we’ve experienced over the past month have been a LOT to process emotionally. To various extents, we’re all experiencing more stress in our lives. And it’s important that we address this added stress and counter it with healthy activities.
And yet, sometimes when we’re feeling stressed, it’s hard to think of anything but the stress.
We forget that we already know so many ways to help ourselves.
So here’s a couple of recommendations I’ve made to my clients, and advice I am following myself!
1. Keep a list. Take a moment and write a list of healthy activities that help you reduce or manage your stress levels. Write everything down you can think of that makes you feel better without compromising your health (in other words, keep activities and substances off this list that aren’t boosting your health or immune system).
Keep this list handy, and when you have time or urgently need to de-stress, take it out, pick one activity on the list and do it.
TIP: Try not to get into your head too much about which one to do. Pick the one that caught your eye first. Or you might even decide before feeling stressed which activity you’ll do when you are feeling stressed. Either way, avoid paralysis by over-analysis!
2. Make de-stressing a daily habit. Commit to doing one or more of these stress-reducing activities every single day. Rather than doing these ONLY when you’re super stressed out, designate a particular time of day to de-stress daily. Not only will this help you create a good habit, but it will also help you build resilience to stress.
TIP: Try doing your daily stress-reducing activity with a partner. This helps you both be accountable to each other.
We made it through another week. And there’s no doubt some of us are starting to feel a restless and/or anxious (if you weren’t already!). I know I’ve experienced a wave or two of this, especially over the weekend when I’m missing my friends or family, or a trip to the beach or a movie theater.
I thought I’d share what’s helping me get through these disquieting waves.
1) Go for a walk. Something about being outside and moving the body has such a tremendous effect on my mood. I may even throw some sprinting in there to work out some of that restless energy. A good stretch afterwardis the icing on this delicious cake.
2) Do a Grounding Meditation. There are probably a million meditations out there referred to as “grounding.” Check your favorite app or YouTube and find one that works for you. This practice helps me to come back to my whole self, where I am reminded that it’s ok to feel restless and nervous. This is part of the experience of life right now. BUT that’s not the whole of it. It’s also offering an opportunity to be appreciative for what I have. And to see possibilities I may not have seen before.
3) Connect with someone. Anxiety deepens our sense of isolation. So the perfect antidote is to connect. Whether it’s getting a hug from my husband or checking in on a friend with a text or call, connection reminds me that I’m not in this alone. I cannot help but shift out of my own anxious thoughts and into relief and compassion when this happens. Try it!
What healthy activities are helping you through this time?
With all the concerns about the spread of coronavirus, I’m seeing a lot of helpful tips about washing hands, not touching your face, not traveling unless it’s necessary, etc.
What I’ve found missing from this prescription, however, is attention to how our minds and emotions are inextricably linked with our immune system.
Did you know that patterns of pessimism, worry, fearfulness, resentment or anger, for example, create a stress pattern in the body which depletes the immune system?
Of course, we can’t feel joyful and optimistic in every moment, but if your tendency is to worry, think the worst, or you find yourself currently holding a grudge or harboring anger, now is a great time to take actions to create a new pattern (perhaps the coronavirus is nature’s way of insisting we do so).
Here are 3 ways you can create new and more positive patterns for your mental and emotional well-being, and ultimately strengthen your immunity.
1. Have a daily gratitude practice. Numerous studies have shown that taking time each day to give gratitude for what we have has profound effects on all aspects of our health: physical, mental and emotional.
To start your own practice, choose a specific time of day (I like to do mine every night before I go to bed), and think of at least one thing you’re feeling grateful for that day. It can be ANYTHING! Then allow yourself to really feel how into this gratitude. Be with this feeling for at least a full 10 seconds. Notice how it feels in your body. Sweet, you’re done for the day.
If you want more tips on how to create your gratitude practice, or if you struggle with creating/maintaining a practice, check out the tips and practices in the Gratitudesection of my free online wellness community, THRIVE HIVE. We dedicated a whole month to exploring Gratitude practices. Check it out, it’s free!
2. Develop your sense of self-compassion. Our culture breeds a sense of I-am-not-enoughness among us, and it leads many people to some seriously negative self-talk. Often this behavior is mistaken as a form of self-discipline. But as Kristin Neff points out in her book Self-Compassion, this kind of self-criticism actually triggers the flight or fight response in the nervous system. In other words, our own negativity towards ourselves is seen as a threat! As a result, stress hormones increase in the body, as well as blood pressure and adrenaline, which will deplete the body’s ability to respond to another threat like, you guessed it, coronavirus.
So where to begin with developing this practice of self-compassion? Awareness is key. Notice how you talk to yourself. Would you say those things to a friend? If not, ask yourself, what would you say to them? Connect with your compassion and then offer those same words of care to yourself. And remember, this is a new skill you’re developing. Be patient and kind to yourself as you work on it.
3. Have a daily breath or meditation practice. It’s not news that breath and meditation are some of the best tools for surviving and thriving in our fast-paced culture. In fact, I’d say these tools are essential. Particularly because of their effects on calming the nervous system, reducing stress, and consequently strengthening our ability to fight pathogens like the coronavirus.
And if the word “meditation” causes you anxiety, don’t sweat it. Start instead with a simple daily breath practice. Here’s how:
First, decide on a good time of day to set aside one-two minutes for your practice. This may take a few tries to find a time that works best for you. Then set a time for one minute (you can increase this time as you build your practice). During this minute, take some slow, deeper breaths. Keep your attention on your breath as you do this. Notice the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of the body. Notice the parts of your body that move as you breathe. If your mind wanders, that’s ok. Just gently bring it back to your breath.
When the timer goes off, take a moment to notice how you feel and appreciate this moment you gave to yourself for healing and restoring the body, mind and spirit. And you’re done.
Want more tips on starting a breath practice, or want to learn different breath techniques? check out the tips and practices in the Breath Practices section of my free online wellness community, THRIVE HIVE. We dedicated a whole month to exploring Breath Practices. Check it out, it’s free!
Wishing you resilient health and ease this spring and all your days!