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Mind Your Monkeys

worried monkeys

Photo by Patrick Nijhuis

I have a mind that never shuts off. It’s like a 24/7 news station, giving me up-to-the-minute warnings, analysis, investigative reports, predictions, and reviews. This is great for brainstorming and multi-tasking. Not so great for relaxing and re-centering. It can become quite a jungle up there. I like to call my virtual wild kingdom of ideas, movement, and chatter Monkey Mind. If you think you’ve heard that term before, you’re right…I snagged it from the Buddhists. Don’t worry, I cleared it with them first.

When life throws me a challenge, my monkeys tend to call out in protest, a little like this:

Monkeys:  Who do you think you are? You can’t do this!

Me:  Why not? Other people have.

Monkeys:  Yeah. Smarter, better looking, more charismatic, more talented people.

Me:  That’s so mean!

Monkeys:  Look, we’re just telling you how it is, sugar puff. [Nods of agreement all around.] You’re a nobody in this world and you might as well face it. It’ll take you too long to master the skills or gain experience, and frankly you’re too old to start now.

Me:  No! I can do this! I believed in myself yesterday. [Pause.] At least I think I did.

Monkeys:  Well, that was Head in the Clouds Day. This is Come Back to Earth and Deal with the Hard Truth Day.

Photo by K.C. © 2013 Kristin Conroy

Here’s a hard truth: I can’t banish my Monkey Mind permanently. It’s part of my personality, inherited from a long line of overly active-minded ancestors. I can, however, keep the uprisings to a minimum. I’ve succeeded in taming my monkeys from wild, screaming primates who fling poo to civilized primates who drink tea and discuss the meaning of life in hushed tones.

I used to listen to my monkeys, mistaking their rants as gospel. I didn’t even know I had a Monkey Mind until a few years ago…I thought I was just crazy. I used to let them run the joint, allowing them to feed me a diet of self-doubt and anxiety that kept me from attaining groundedness and balance. It wasn’t until I accepted the presence of my Monkey Mind that I was able to do something about it. 

I know there are others like me out there with Monkey Minds because…well, I’ve met some of them. And that usually means there are many more I haven’t met. Therefore, I’d like to share what helps me soothe my vine-swinging mind primates, just in case you are one of those special people. I learned to be the zookeeper of my monkeys. I not only have to show them who’s in charge but take care of them as well. Make sure they get sleep, love, playtime, mental stimulation, and proper nutrition. I highly recommend practicing yoga. Find the kind that works for you. It’s not only beneficial for your body, but makes you feel mentally lighter and more focused too.

The biggest effect on my monkeys, however, is eating real food. Real food means food that’s minimally processed and originally sourced from something other than a box, bag, or can. Dark leafy greens especially make my monkeys sit down and shut up. Believe me, there’s a difference between forking in the good stuff and indulging in too much crap. I’ve tested this theory out more times than I’d like to admit. Eating well keeps your monkeys stay cool, calm, and collected. Take a gander at my recipes page for good eatin’ ideas.

Photo by Dominic Morel

Photo by Dominic Morel

Another significant part of the primate training process is keeping things in perspective. A Monkey Mind distracts you from focusing on what really matters in life. Monkeys have short-sighted vision, seeing only the fleas on the neighboring monkeys’ backs instead of the beauty of the jungle and the opportunities it offers. When my monkeys are in a frenzy and giving me directions to the loony bin, I arrange a sit-down with them:

Me:  Is worrying about this important to my happiness?

Monkeys:  Huh? Ummm…no.

Me:  The happiness of my friends and family?

Monkeys:  Hmm…I guess not.

Me:  Will focusing on this help me achieve my dreams or goals, allow me to grow or evolve, or effectively solve the problems of the human race?

Monkeys:  NoBut, but…

Me:  No buts, monkeys!  Answer me!

Monkeys:  [Sighs all around.] Noooooooooo.

Me:  Ha! I thought so.

In this case, as is usually the case, I’ll then kindly ask my monkeys to return to their cages to do some Sun Salutations.  Now, this doesn’t mean I can avoid things like bills, chores, errands, annoying work projects, or dealing with difficult people. But comparing these “problems” to the grand scheme of life prevents me from having a panic attack or tantrum because of the misplaced focus of my near-sighted monkeys.

It’s a challenge to live with a Monkey Mind, but when you’re in control, you can live a happy, balanced life. I encourage you to focus on experiences, not things.  Focus on love and appreciation, not being right or perfect. And by the way…perfection is for crazy people. Forget about trying to get there, have that, or wanting others to be that. You and your melon full of monkeys have no use for perfect because…it doesn’t exist.

So in conclusion:

  • Be aware of your Monkey Mind and accept it. It’s part of your charm.
  • Know your monkeys. What sets them off and what calms them down.
  • Be master of your monkeys. Otherwise, they’ll master you.
  • Enjoy life! Laugh fearlessly, love infinitely, give of yourself fully, grab opportunities firmly, learn voraciously. Do things that scare you so you can grow. You only get one chance to live this life. So make it count!

 

Green Dream Smoothie

Green Dream Juice and Smoothie Recipe

Ingredients for Green Dream Juice

These two recipes are smooth, mild, and cooling…perfect for easy drinking on a hot day.

Recipe for Green Dream Juice

makes approximately 40 ouncesGreen Dream Juice

  • 2 large organic apples, cored and cut to fit in juicer – I recommend Golden Delicious or Fuji
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 limes, peeled
  • 1 inch fresh ginger – No need to peel
  • 4 leaves green kale with stalks – Red kale won’t change the taste of the juice, but it will definitely change the color!

Recipe for Green Dream Smoothie

makes approximately 20 ouncesGreen Dream Smoothie

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled
  • 1 lime, peel cut away
  • 1 large organic apples, cored and cut – I recommend Golden Delicious or Fuji
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled or 1 teaspoon ginger juice 
  • 1 green kale leaf with stalk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Add ingredients in order listed in a powerful blender, like Vita-Mix, and blend until smooth. Add a small amount of liquid (coconut water, almond milk, etc.) if needed to help the blending process.

6 Easy Ways to Naturally Increase Your Energy Level

Before you reach for another coffee or energy drink to keep you going, try one of these all-natural energy tips.  They may not give you wings, but you’ll get enough of a lift to happily get on with your day.  And you won’t get the jitters or miss any shuteye later from overdoing it on caffeine.

6 Easy Ways to Naturally Increase Your Energy Level

  1. Sniff some peppermint.  Peppermint isn’t just for freshening up your breath. Inhaling the fragrance of peppermint oil increases mental concentration and alertness.  A drop or two of peppermint on the tongue is another method of boosting clarity.  But make sure your peppermint oil is from a trusted company that only uses 100% pure therapeutic grade, like Young Living Essential Oils.
  2. Take a stretch break.  Loosening up stiff muscles can relieve discomfort, providing an immediate energy lift.  Adding deep breathing while you stretch will send energizing oxygen to all the places you need it…like your brain!
  3. Giggle, guffaw, and LOL.  Even the National Institute of Health agrees laughing boosts your mood.  Laughing releases stress and tension, two major enemies of energy and well-being.  So go ahead and watch that funny video on YouTube everyone’s raving about. 
  4. Spritz some B12.  As we get older, it’s more likely we’ll become deficient in vitamin B12.  What’s so great about this vitamin?  It supports feelings of well-being, mental alertness, concentration, and memory!  Using a spray version makes it easy to get your B12 fix whenever you need it, and is the quickest method of absorption.
  5. Eat your kale.  Dark leafy greens like chard, collards, and kale are the perfect foods to eat when you’re feeling low.  These veggies are packed with nutrients that will give you a major lift and keep you there.  Incorporating dark leafy greens in a smoothie is a sweet way to get your fill, such as in my post 2 Green Smoothies, 6 Ways to Enjoy Them.  (Take a look at my Recipes section for more ideas.)
  6. Take a “good things” inventory.  Pause for a minute to think about–or better yet, write down–all the good things going on in your life.  Focusing on the positive will elevate your mind space to a happy place.  And happy places are always more energetic, don’t you think?

Got an energy-boosting tip that works for you?

Let us know in the comments section below!

fresh produce

Juicing for Health

I’m happy to say I’ve started juicing again…you know I’m talking about fruits and veggies, right?  Summer is a perfect time to juice, when the goal is to enjoy the warm weather while showing off glowing skin…in a bathing suit.  Not there yet?  Adding fresh juice to your daily routine might be able to help.  If you’re new to juicing, or need a reminder of all the benefits, let me share why juicing may be right for you…

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  1. Juicing is the easiest, quickest, and most efficient way to absorb all the nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables.  The process of heating food destroys nutrients in varying degrees, depending how you cook them.  Eating raw vegetables in the amount that’s ideal can cause digestive upset.  Juicing produce yields micronutrient-rich liquid that’s doesn’t require much effort from our digestive system.
  2. Juicing is easy.  Yes, juicing does take some prep work.  But after you select and clean your produce, it takes little time or effort.  And your meal is totally portable, able to be enjoyed on the go.  I love my Breville juicer (Juice Fountain Plus, recommended to me by Joe Cross) because it’s quick to assemble, extracts all the juice possible from fruits and veggies, is easy to take apart, and a cinch to clean.
  3. Juicing is tasty.  Freshly juiced produce is absolutely delicious!  If you’re new to juicing, it can be a little daunting to figure out what combo makes a tempting, nutritious concoction.  But after consulting the many tasty juice recipes out there, you gain the confidence to know which produce to use, and perhaps even try out your own recipes.  I recommend The Big Book of Juices by Natalie Savona for ideas and guidance.  With more than 400 recipes, you’ll never get bored. I love the nutrients list and benefits rating for each recipe, as well as the index in the back that suggests which juice recipes are helpful for what’s ailing ya.
  4. Juicing is sexy, because it makes YOU sexy.  With skin-glowing nutrients, cleansing properties, and slimming qualities that make a difference people can see…how can you not feel great about how great you look?

Although juicing does awesome things for your body, you do need to keep a few things in mind….

  1. Juice is not nutritionally complete.  There is very little to no protein, and no fat, in juice.  You need both in your diet.  I use juicing to complement my diet as a vitamin-rich snack or a detoxifying elixir.  The only time I use juice to replace meals is when I’m doing a cleanse, and in this case, I’m purposefully giving my digestive system a break from protein and fat.
  2. Fruit and sweet vegetables contain sugar.  Too much sugar, even from healthy sources, is still too much sugar.  If you’re trying to watch your weight or have blood sugar issues, use sweet veggies and fruit sparingly.  I use a carrot, beet, or apple (or half of one) for a touch of sweetness to greens-laden juices or to tone down strongly flavored vegetables like cabbage.  Adding lime or fresh ginger is a great low-sugar way to add depth to your juice or “cover up” strong vegetable flavors.  If you do use sweet produce to juice and want to keep calories/sugar on the light side, drink a small glass instead or dilute your juice with water or club soda.
  3. Use organic produce as much as possible.  Juicing requires a lot of produce…which means you’re consuming a lot of produce.  So make sure what you’re ingesting is free from pesticides and chemicals!  The worst offenders are on the Dirty Dozen list, so definitely choose organic for those.
  4. Fresh juice has a quick end date.  Freshly juiced beverages have a small window of time in which to drink them.  It’s best to drink fresh juice right away, but if you want to make juice for later, here are a few tips:
  • Store juice in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.  Make sure the juice fills up the entire jar to reduce oxidation.
  • Freeze the juice for later use.  Pop in a couple cubes of juice, frozen in an ice tray, when you’re making smoothies, shakes, and other cold beverages.
  • Taking juice with you but not drinking it right away?  Add a teaspoon of vitamin C powder or squeeze of lemon to the container to keep juice from turning brown.

Happy Juicing!

Hutch and burrito

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 1: Choose Better Food

Food is the foundation of health, and can either support wellness or take away from it.  Choosing better food is the first step in achieving your health and wellness resolutions.  Why?  Because eating quality food affects how your body and mind operates, and in the long run, your health becomes an accumulation of your food choices.

What does choosing better food mean?  Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean diets, deprivation, or extremes.  Choosing better food does not require drastic or emotionally painful changes.  In my experience, that sets you up for failure, both mentally and physically.

Below, I’ve listed what I consider the key points to choosing better food.  While you put these in to practice, remember that you’ll want these changes to be with you for the rest of your life.  So take it easy.  Take it slow.  Be aware of how your mind and body respond.  Don’t deprive yourself…encourage yourself to eat better.

Be unrefined.

I used to be hooked on nutritionally deficient foods.  Artificial sweeteners, refined food, processed food…basically crap food.  I was tired, emotionally imbalanced, and evaluated the merits of food solely on calories and fat grams.  Because I deprived myself on a daily basis, I was miserable and thought about food all the time.  I didn’t realize all my suffering stemmed from eating so many nutritionally empty foods.

Now I focus on “real food.”  Check out this short video to find out what that means.  If eating real food is new to you, start slowly.  Make small upgrades.  Try brown rice instead of white.  A fresh peach instead of canned.  Mixed green salad instead of iceberg.  Soda water with a splash of orange juice instead of orange soda.  If you go slowly, you won’t be traumatized and the changes will stick with you.

Get a handle on your cravings.

We all have cravings, but giving in to refined and processed foods all the time will take a toll on your health.  Those sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy cravings have healthy substitutes.  But if you have a craving for a specific thing (like Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream) and nothing but that exact food will satisfy you, then for goodness sake have it so you can get on with your life!  Enjoy it, savor it, allow a little squeal of glee.

When you make healthful food a part of your daily life, you’ll start craving those foods instead.  Refined, processed foods will start to lose their appeal.  I couldn’t believe the first time I woke up and couldn’t wait to eat some kale!  I actually feel unsettled if I don’t eat vegetables every day, especially the green leafy variety.  Now those are the kinds of cravings you can give in to whenever you like!

Plan ahead.

Choosing better food means planning ahead.  If I have a busy week and know I’m not going to be up to taking much time to prepare my meals, I carve out a few hours the Sunday before to cook for the week.  I clean and cut a ton of veggies, double or triple recipes, make sure I have essential oils/ingredients on hand…whatever I can think of that will cut my cooking time down to 10 minutes or less.

If you don’t have that kind of time, you can still eat nutritious food with little planning.  Take a look at this grocery list:

  • carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers
  • pre-cut or frozen broccoli
  • canned chickpeas and black beans
  • brown rice
  • Ezekiel bread
  • salad greens
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemons
  • whole free-range chicken (already roasted) from the deli department

By incorporating spices and common condiments you have in the fridge, this grocery list makes lunch and dinner options that take very little time to make.  Here are some meal examples:

  1. Salad with roasted chicken, veggies, and chickpeas with olive oil and lemon dressing (and spices)
  2. Stir-fry of brown rice, broccoli, and chicken (using olive oil, maybe lemon, spices)
  3. Chicken, salad greens, and tomato sandwich (using mayo, mustard, or olive oil)
  4. Chicken with beans and rice (using olive oil, spices)

I know these meals are all centered around chicken, but can you see how many quick meals you could make with a simple grocery list of versatile, nutritious ingredients?

Taking the time to plan out healthy meals will keep you eating right while saving you money spent on take-out and eating out.

Be realistic.

Choosing better food means doing the best with what’s available and doable.  Sometimes you’re at a friend’s house for a dinner and the menu’s out of your control.  Sometimes you go to a restaurant that doesn’t have many, or any, healthy options.  Sometimes you’re driving through the desert and the only place to eat is a tiny gas station.  Sometimes you simply just want to order the amazing lobster mac-n-cheese!  It’s OK.  Shoot for eating quality, unrefined food 80% of the time.  Do that, you won’t have to sweat the other 20%.

The more often you choose better food, the more it will become part of your life.

Need some healthy menu ideas?  Take a look at my Recipes Page for deliciously unrefined eating!