“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” - Jan Glidewell
People like “stuff”, especially in America! We tend to hold onto it year after year. We accumulate physical things, toxins in the body, and emotional baggage. Stuff… the more the merrier? Definitely not. The more you hold onto, the more you’re held down and held back. If you’re feeling physically or emotionally cluttered, it’s probably time to Spring Clean your life! There is a saying that goes, “You have to get rid of the old to make way for the new.” Try these simple ideas to help you say goodbye to the past and welcome the new:
Go through your closet with open eyes and an open mind. If you see things that you haven’t worn in a year, chances are that you’ll never wear them! Round them up and drop them off at a local donation receptacle. Don’t know where one is, you say? Search here: http://www.donationtown.org/news/donate-clothes.html Some organizations will even pick up your donations right at your front door!
The same goes for your kitchen cabinets, your basement, your garage… Donate non-perishable food items to a local food pantry to help the less fortunate. Find one here: http://foodpantries.org/ If you have boxes from when you moved into your place 5 years ago, let them go! Tupperware, curtains, small appliances, sports equipment, books, toys, bedding, you name it and you can probably donate it! Find a complete list of things that you can donate here: http://www.donationtown.org/acceptable-donations/
Just like our homes, our bodies accumulate things that we don’t need or want in the form of old food residues and toxins. To spring clean your body, give it a break from processed, rich and complicated foods by either cleansing or fasting for a short period of time. Cleansing means reducing your food intake to just simple vegetables and fruits, lots of water and perhaps some whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, kasha, wild rice). Fasting means limiting most foods and drinking lots of water, fresh (not pasteurized!) vegetable and fruit juices, teas and occasional pureed soups. Without much energy going toward digestion, more energy is available to the rest of your body and mind. Try either method for a couple of days, a week, or a month if you can. Cleansing and fasting will make you feel lighter, can sharpen your concentration, help you gain insight (more on that in a moment), and promote spiritual awareness. Cleansing and fasting will both help cleanse your colon, which can aid in weight loss, promote improved immune function, reduce your risk of colon cancer, and improve overall digestion and nutrient absorption from your food. Experts say that the average person has at least 5-20 pounds of accumulated waste matter in his/her colon!
While you’re cleaning out your home and your body, you may notice that it’s helping you clear your mind, or that it’s at least increasing the flow of thoughts in your mind! I mentioned above that cleansing and fasting may help you gain insight. A clogged body can really affect the mind in a negative way. Digestion takes up an enormous amount of energy in the body. Therefore, when eating less and cleansing, your body has more energy to use for mental and emotional tasks. Take advantage of this spring cleaning time by identifying any negative thoughts or old habits that you’ve been harboring that no longer serve you. A cluttered mind and heart leave no room for life’s gifts and surprises to enter. A clean, open mind will allow you to receive the good that awaits you every day. Mantras are a great way to accomplish this! A mantra is a word or group of words used as an instrument of concentration when repeated, chanted, or sung. Try repeating these as often as possible throughout the day, especially during your morning routine (writing them down is powerful, too):
“___________ is over and done with. I live by a new vision now!”
“Life is about change; change is constant and I’m open to it!”
“Everything happens for a reason and then I move on! I choose to focus on how I want things to be next."
Sound too silly? A mantra is just as effective when chanted quietly in your mind.
Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, March 13th, so remember to set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to sleep on Saturday, the 12th. This is the adjustment period where we lose one hour of sleep, so try going to sleep an hour earlier a few days ahead of time so that you can adjust quickly for Monday morning! A diet rich in the broad spectrum of B vitamins will also help you wake with more energy. Foods high in B vitamins include lentils, bananas, oats, wheat bran, leafy greens, avocadoes, and nuts. However, a high quality B-complex supplement can cover all the B bases during a health maintenance and/or adjustment period. Raw (unheated), whole food supplements are always recommended and can be found in your local health food or vitamin store.
In honor of the coming of spring and St. Patrick's Day, we celebrate the common clover! Did you know that clover is edible, and highly nutritious? It's abundant in your own back yard and beyond, and it's abundant in nutrients including calcium, lecithin, chromium, magnesium, potassium, silicium, vitamins A, E, C, B2, and B3. It also has anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and anti-asthmatic properties, as well as being a detoxifier in the body. I'd call that lucky clover, for sure! So, when you head out to hike this spring and come upon some wild clover sprouting from the ground, take a bunch and have a snack. The flavor is refreshingly light and mild, with the youngest shoots showing off a slight lemon flavor. Wild edibles have more to offer than many of us know!
Intentional Chocolate is a conscious company making amazing chocolates that are blessed by master meditators - some who have trained with the Dalai Lama - to hold the following intention: “Whoever consumes this chocolate will manifest optimal health in body and mind. Whoever consumes this chocolate will experience an increased sense of energy and well-being." They started making these chocolates in 2007 and clinical evidence has shown that those who ate one serving per day experienced decreased stress, increased energy, greater calmness, enhanced focus, and better general well-being. I'm not kidding! Evidence validating the power of intention is strong, so consider giving a conscious gift of delicious good wishes to a loved one on this Valentine's Day (or any day!); bless them with some Intentional Chocolate!
At the risk of sounding like a self help guru, I'll ask anyway... How much do you love yourself? Seriously, do your actions on a day to day basis benefit you and those around you? Do you work in a field that feeds your soul? Do you have relationships in your life that fulfill you and make you your best you? Does the food you put into your body make your body give back all it can in the form of energy? Is there a hobby that you've always wanted try but just never did for whatever reason? Did you create art in the past and "just don't" anymore? Maybe it's time to start again. Self love is about taking care of all areas of your life so that you reap the rewards in the form of true wellness.
It's important that we contemplate the state of our bodies, careers, relationships, and spirituality, and find ways to cut out negative actions and thoughts to replace them with beneficial ones. If you sit home and dwell on a flabby belly, wouldn't doing some simple ab exercises make you feel a whole lot better? Feeling creative, but stuck in a regimented business world? Design your own business cards or carry a camera around and take pictures of nature on your way home from work. If you're feeling no spiritual connection, buy a book on world religions or spirituality to help you find a practice that you might resonate with... read it at lunch, bedtime, or buy it on CD and listen to it in your car. If you're a busy parent and feel that you never get time to pamper yourself, might a nice bubble bath and a good book or songs on an mp3 player at bed time feed your soul more than doing the laundry or watching television? Or, maybe a massage from a professional would do you a world of good... or maybe a massage from a lover? Schedule "me" time into your life. Just do it... and don't you dare feel bad about it! "I don't have time" is a statement of illusion and choice. There's no reason why blocks of time on your calendar shouldn't be dedicated to your health and happiness. After all, how you feel affects all those around you, too! Think of at least one thing you can do for yourself per week, write it down, and then do it! If you're feeling stagnant, contact your local health coach (that's me)!
A main focus of ancient Ayurvedic living is the idea of eating with the seasons, with the understanding that nature provides the antidote to the extreme of each season. For example, during the hot summer months, nature provides us with fresh fruits and vegetables to cool us down. During the winter, nature provides fatty nuts to insulate us from the cold. If you crave warm comfort foods in the winter, it's simply because your body is craving warmth during the coldest time of year. Your body knows that it needs, so have fun answering its calls! Warming foods for winter time include soups, stews, root vegetables, winter squashes, and spices like ginger, cayenne, curry, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin. Let food be thy medicine. Experiment with warming foods and enjoy the coziness!
Oh, yes, it's that time of year again! Resolutions abound, and most of us have a laundry list of things that we'd like to improve (or ignore!) or projects that we'd like to start. New Year's Resolutions are opportunistic ways for us to jump on the bandwagon of making up for the things we think we should have done, or to make amends with what we think we did "wrong" over the last year. This creates a period of motivation and excitement, only to leave us guilt ridden and ashamed when our resolutions get thrown into the same heaping pile of failure as prior years' efforts.
How many of us actually make and commit to a resolution successfully for twelve full months, and beyond? It may help us all to understand that the New Year's Resolution is more of a dirty set-up than a personal motivator! Let's make one blanket-resolution to stop making resolutions, and instead make the commitment to identify and understand our wants and needs and then make small steps to improve our lives daily.
Resolutions are often a set-up because most are unrealistic. If we don’t normally go to the gym, and then simply resolve to do so in the New Year, we’ve skipped important steps in creating a place in our lives to make going to the gym actually possible. We must also establish if we really even want to go to the gym in the first place, or if we’d be better off with another form of movement or exercise. If we’d be happier running outside, or hiking, then why would we sign up for a gym? Because others do so? If we regularly eat sweets or unhealthy foods, or if we smoke or indulge in other behaviors that harm us, like unhealthy relationships; we can’t cut them off cold-turkey because there may be a component that we have failed to consider: mental or physical addiction. Old habits die hard, whether they’re things that we do or things that we don’t do.
Add unrealistic expectations or goals to the fact that many resolutions are made in a negative form to begin with, or from the standpoint of what we must deprive ourselves of, and you've got a recipe for failure (and a brownie binge or two!). If we resolve to not eat sweets or unhealthy foods, to not smoke, to not curse, to not blah blah blah, we're starting off in the negative. Rather, we can create goals with the concept of "adding in/crowing out", which was a major component of my own Integrative Nutrition training. This basically means that rather than taking away something perceived as bad and saying that we can’t have such, which creates feelings of failure and guilt when we inevitably “cheat”, we can add in more of what we want or feel good about in order to crowd out that which we want less of. If we want to clean up a habit of cursing (a popular resolution!), we can have a "word of the week" initiative where we learn and practice a new, creative, and expressive word each week, which would then be incorporated into our vocabulary to crowd out the curse words. Doesn’t that sound like it would be more effective and productive than simply saying, “I’m not going to curse anymore”? If we just decide not to curse, without thinking of what we’ll replace the curses with, we’ll be, well… s**t out of luck (pun clearly intended). Furthermore, if we want to eat fewer sweets, we can think of healthier options to add into our diets to crowd out the sweets, like a handful of fresh blueberries, plump dates, or 30 minutes of kissing! Yes, kissing! We don't always crave sugar just because we need sugary foods!
Why do we actually do the things we do that we then resolve to stop doing? Why do we not do what we know we want to do or need to do? The answer is often that we're not feeling fulfilled. We may indulge in brownies because we need some sweet comfort which then creates a sugar addiction in the body and a vicious craving cycle! Brownies taste good and they fulfill a need in the moment that's not being fulfilled elsewhere either by food or other areas of life. We can identify patterns of hindrance by paying close attention to our habits and cravings, when we do or have them, and how we feel prior to, while, and after we do or have them. Keeping a journal may help. We must identify what’s really behind our daily habits and cravings, because they’re often indirect. Patterns can be broken once they've been clearly identified and understood.
Most importantly, we must give plenty of honest thought to what we truly want in the New Year and beyond. In the spirit of staying positive, let's think about what we want to do, and of course, what is doable for us; not what we can’t or shouldn’t do or what’s unrealistic for us. How many of us know in our hearts what we want on a deep level, as opposed to what we think we should want or do, or what others (including the media) influence us to want or to do? We may have been conditioned by parents, education, media, religion, friends, and/or coworkers to maintain ideals that are in direct opposition to our true selves. Think of the doctor who wanted to be a reporter but attended medical school because she was expected to do so. My heart goes out to the over-worked corporate executive who is trying to catch up to that bigger house or faster car while his love and natural talent for painting is desperately seeking at least 15 minutes of fame.
We can start by making a list of everything we want now or have always wanted, in all areas of our life: joyful activities, career, personal relationships, diet and physical health, spirituality, whatever. Then, we can narrow down those few things that we want to manifest the most immediately, and write down one action step that we can realistically take to move us one step closer to each goal. Then, write steps two, three, four, and so on. Procrastinators and/or those who are struggling with feelings of insecurity must remember that they deserve and are worthy of health and happiness, and making deadlines for each action step may help to complete steps to then transition to the next steps.
Identifying what we truly want and need, and then making it happen can be accomplished with the right attention and attitude. Of course, support is a necessity and to deny that is to deny what we are by nature: social creatures who thrive on positive reinforcement! As a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, I work with people to help them identify and reach their own specific health goals by creating customized health and wellness programs. I work as a mentor and resource who thrives on the success of my clients. There’s nothing we can’t do, and nothing that we can’t have if we are willing to go for it! So, exit unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions, and enter long term self-awareness and success!
Here’s to your health and wellness in the New Year and thereafter!