Photo by Kristin Rath

Getting Back to Happy

Have you ever gone through a vibrational rough patch? When you experience low energy or emotional numbness, not just for an hour or a day, but for several? That happened to me a few months ago. I couldn’t seem to shake the funk I’d been dragging around for so long, I was concerned it had become part of me. It ticked me off, actually, because I wanted *so badly* to get back to being happy. I kept saying, What’s wrong with you? Come on, get happy! BE HAPPY!! Berating myself into happiness wasn’t working. As you’ve probably experienced in your own life, that never works.

How do you get back to happy? 

I commanded myself to walk to a nearby park, even though all I wanted to do was lay in my bed. It was a bright day that sharply contrasted my mood. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. I wanted that too. I took a seat on a step leading down to an expansive pond, and turned my face to the sky, looking for answers. Looking for a way back.

What do you do when you’ve temporarily lost your joie de vivre?

The pond rippled from the wind. It was beautiful. Effortless. Everything was going with the flow. The twigs, patches of pollen, multi-colored leaves, and ducks were going with the flow of the water. Not resisting. Not second guessing or asking why. Just going with it. The grass and tree branches were bending with the breeze. Allowing nature’s abundance. None were saying, No, that’s not good enough. No, that’s not the right way. No, I don’t want that. 

Seeing all the raw beauty and noting its effortlessness grounded me into the present. The dialogue loop in my head shut off, taking all my concerns with it. I was thankful for the warm kiss of the sun through the chilled air. I was thankful for my sunglasses that allowed me to easily gaze at the sky. I was thankful for the punctuations of laughter and gleeful yelps from children in play. My focusing in on what was right before me brought me into a state of gratitude. And I remembered…

Life is a bowl of cherries

Photo by Kristin Rath

Gratitude is the way back to joyfulness.

Gratitude isn’t about guilting yourself into thankfulness for the things you *should* be appreciating, but about what you can appreciate in the moment. Whatever it is. The sun, the sky, the soft blanket around you, a really great cup of coffee, breathing. My mom has said to me–when I’ve griped about some minor thorn in my side–“Well, at least you have two legs that work. Not everyone does.” Not always what I wanted to hear, but she’s right. That was indeed something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is the answer. It can lift you back to what’s really important.

How could I have forgotten this simple but powerful practice called gratitude? We take things for granted. It’s just human nature. The trick is training ourselves to consistently bring our focus back to what we have and what’s going well in our lives, instead of focusing on what we don’t have and what isn’t working.

Gratitude is a gift. One that we can conjure up in an instant and gift to ourselves and others in a moment. And it doesn’t cost us anything. Rather, it gives back to us in the form of joy, peace, love, compassion.

In gratitude, we raise our vibration. With gratitude, we can get back to happy. Even when it seems impossible.

What can you be grateful for, right now?

5 Steps To Turning Your New Year’s Resolutions Into Realities

Pen and PaperAccording to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (December 13, 2012), 45% of Americans usually begin the year with New Year’s Resolutions, yet only 8% are successful with their goals.  That’s…depressing.

I don’t believe the problem lies with the people who make resolutions, nor in the resolutions themselves.  I think it’s in the planning and execution.  So let’s plan for success and take those goals from paper to reality!

How to Turn Your List of Resolutions into Realities

1.  Prioritize it.  This is not supposed to be a TO-DO (or NOT TO-DO) list, but rather a list of goals, which take effort, time, and determination to accomplish.  So don’t set yourself up for failure and discouragement by listing every single thing you want to do or stop doing.  Perhaps choose one goal for each major category of life: Health/Wellness, Family/Relationships, Work/Career, Spirituality/Growth, and Finances.  Or if one area needs a lot of work–or is most important to you–focus all your resolutions to fit that need. 

2.  Reword it.  Spend some time wording your goals so that they inspire you and put the focus on what matters.  I’ll use a few common resolutions as examples:

  • “Lose 10 pounds.”  First off, I don’t like this one because it puts the focus on weight and what you look like on the outside.  You could lose 10 pounds and be miserable because you starved or deprived yourself.  This is usually why the weight comes back because nothing really changed…the goal was merely to attain a specific loss of weight.  What if you reworded “Lose 10 pounds” to “Feel amazing in a bathing suit”?  See how the focus is now on self-esteem and inner results?  Interestingly, being happy and healthy on the inside will show up as the outer results of weight loss you wanted in the first place.  

Some other examples of rewording:

  • “Quit smoking.” vs. “Choose to put my health before my habit.”
  • “Get organized.” vs. “Organize my physical and mental space so I can be productive and balanced.”

3.  Plan it.  Now that you have a descriptive and inspiring list of goals, you need to plan for success!  Wearing a bathing suit with confidence is a great goal, but what does that look like?  Are you going to plan out healthy meals for the week so you don’t cave in for junk food when you’re tired and hungry?  Will you commit to yoga/spin/dance/boxing classes and lift weights to get the long, lean, sculpted physique you desire?  If you don’t brainstorm how you can accomplish your goals, you’re likely to abandon them.

  • Think outside the box.  So you want to “Be stress-free” (which you might have reworded to “Find my Zen every day” in Step 1!).   Taking yoga and getting massages are wonderful ideas.  But go further by getting creative.  Eating immune-boosting, nutrition-packed foods will keep you healthy and at your best.  As a result, you’ll reduce your stress levels as you’ll be more equipped to handle what life throws at you.  Also, what makes you happy, content, peaceful, calm?  Reading a great book?  Taking a stroll in the park?  A long bath?  If you figure out what those things are and add as many of those activities to your daily life as possible, you’ll experience more “happy” and less “crappy.”
  • But be realistic.  Can you realistically spend an hour communing with nature or reading a book each day?  Then don’t make that declaration.  Instead, keep your happy list in mind and sneak them in whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Take that best-selling book out when you’re faced with standing in a long line (that would normally stress you out!) or spend 5 minutes sitting outside in a sunny spot on your lunch break.  Even doing a little bit of what makes you happy is infinitely better than doing none at all.

4.  Theme it.  It’s likely that you can find a theme that embodies all your resolutions.  Unearthing a theme that connects with you and is rich in meaning is a powerful tool in living the life you imagine.  It should resonate with you, make you feel something, propel you forward, support you in your journey toward this year’s goals.  Here are some examples of themes and what they can represent:

  • The Year of Letting Go – Letting go of things that don’t serve you–insecurities, fear, bad habits, destructive relationships, negativity–so you have room to welcome in all the good things that are possible.
  • Just Do It – Saying yes to relationships, job opportunities, experiences, adventures.  Taking action, taking charge, taking control.  Doing instead of only thinking/hoping/planning.
  • Love and Light – Associating yourself with inspiring people, feeding yourself positive messages, looking for the joy in life and reflecting it, opening yourself up to love from yourself and others.

Hold your year’s theme in your mind as you go about your daily life.  You’ll find your actions will start to follow your theme, and therefore, contribute to achieving your resolutions.

5.  Memorize it.  Once your resolutions are focused, powerful, planned, and themed, it’s time to commit your goals to memory.  The more they are a part of you, the more likely you’ll see them to fruition.

You can do it!

More posts related to resolutions/goals

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!

How to Make Big Changes When You Have No Time to Spare

What if I said that in a year you could learn 365 new words, write a short story (or even a book), learn a new language, increase your body’s strength and flexibility, and improve your sense of well-being without adding any more time to your day?  You’d think I was nuts, right?  Well it’s true!  Although we all have jam-packed, hectic, no-time-for-anything-else lives, we can still accomplish some of those wish list items we have floating about in our heads.  How?  By using those “wasted” moments in our day to focus on our goals.

How could you use your commute to reach your goals?

How much time do you spend in a line, in a waiting room, in front of the TV, or in a bus/train/plane/automobile?  How much time do you take getting ready in the morning, puttering around on your lunch break, walking from point A to B?  Probably quite a bit.  And how much of that time is spent staring into space, listening to music, trying to look busy, flipping through a magazine, or checking Facebook?  Facebook statistics reveal that the average user spends 55 minutes a day on the site.  That’s about 6.5 hours a week!!  Instead of spending all that time reading up on other people’s lives, shouldn’t we be spending some of that time advancing our own?

Now, if you don’t mind spending your time the way you are, that’s fine.  But if you’d like to create more, learn more, and improve more…then use those hours with intent!  Last week I realized I’d gotten lazy with my intentions.  I used to read, write, plan, or try to learn something during my waiting/travel time.  Once I set my intentions to get something done during those moments, that’s exactly what happened.  Over the course of a week, I wrote a poem, lyrics for a song, a passage for my book-in-progress, and a rough draft of this blog post…only while I was waiting in lines and on subway platforms, and while traveling on trains.  Without adding any more time to my day–without adding more stress or complication to my life–I’d increased my sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and well-being…and had tangible things to show for my effort.  I’m excited to see how much I’ll get done in 51 more weeks!

Here are some examples of goals you could end up checking off that wish list:

  • Increase my vocab – Get a dictionary app on your smart phone and learn one word a day.  To really make it stick, repeat the new word with the definition in your head throughout the day and try to use it in a sentence during a conversation.  Maybe save those really long words for family and friends:)
  • Increase my strength and flexibility – While watching TV, do squats, tricep dips, abdominal crunches, and finish up with stretching.  If you have a bike or cardio machine in your house, get on it while you watch your show.  Even if you’re a bit of a couch potato, you don’t have to look like one!
  • Increase my literary or language knowledge – On long commutes, listen to audio books, or learn a language on CD or mp3.  I recommend the latter only if you’re in the car to avoid stares or bothering others.
  • Increase my confidence, attitude, and sense of well-being – While you walk from the car to the store, from your desk to the water cooler, or while you look at yourself in the mirror (the point is you can do this anywhere) repeat affirmations you’ve created for yourself.  You’ll feel and see the changes they bring, and others will too.

So now it’s time to ask yourself: What can I accomplish if I just used those “wasted” moments with intent?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Property of Kristin Conroy

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 3: Choose Better Thoughts

Laugh often...it's good for your health!

Once you’ve experienced the benefits of Step 1 (Choose Better Food) and Step 2 (Choose Better Behaviors), you’re primed to incorporate Step 3, Choose Better Thoughts.

You know the proverb, You are what you think.  What you say to, and think about, yourself shapes the person you are and could become.  It’s not easy to change the way you think, but choosing positive, supportive, health-inducing thoughts is the only way to make health and wellness a successful and permanent part of your life.

The following “Better Thoughts” were integral in my breaking free from food and body image issues.  I hope they can support you in achieving your health and wellness goals.

Be your own best friend.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Your best friend or your worst enemy?  We’re taught to treat others with kindness and respect, but many of us don’t extend that courtesy to ourselves.  You would never tell someone you cared about that they’re stupid, fat, or weak.  So don’t tell yourself those things either.  Sometimes those messages aren’t intentional; we’re so used to saying them that it doesn’t seem like a big deal.  But the messages you tell yourself every day have an effect on you, whether you realize it or not.

Monitor the thoughts you have about yourself.  Practice turning negative messages into positive ones.  Maybe try supportive affirmations until those replace your old, negative mantras.  If you can’t love your body for the way it looks right now, love it for its function.  For example, I’m not a big fan of the way my arms look, but I can love how they’re strong and give really awesome hugs.  When you concentrate on what you love or appreciate about yourself, you’re much happier when you look in the mirror.  And in supporting and nurturing yourself, you’re more likely to reach your health and wellness goals.

Forget diets, a.k.a the “quick fix”

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Dieting doesn’t work.  (This post explains more.Think about the quality of the food you eat, instead of basing its merits on calories and fat grams.  Why?  Because calories and fat grams are not all equal!  A piece of fruit vs. a fruit roll-up; olive oil vs. margarine; freshly juiced apples vs. commercial apple juice; raw cheese vs. cheese whiz….these pairs are not equal, even if the calorie count and fat grams say they are.

When I used to only focus on calories and fat grams to evaluate food, I wasn’t considering nutrition.  I chose a lot of artificial food.  And I was miserable.  When I turned my focus to quality and nourishment, the obvious choices were the least processed ones.  They also were the most satisfying, so I ate less.  Maintaining a healthy weight became rather effortless, which let my mind concentrate on more important things, like enjoying life!

And may I offer a reality check that will help you big time?  A slice of cheesecake will not lead to your undoing.  Nor will missing a day at the gym.  That’s dieting mentality, and I won’t stand for it!  Life happens, we’re human.  Accept it happened, take responsibility, and get over it.  Tough love lesson has now concluded.

Rather than looking at eating healthy as depriving yourself from the less-than-optimal food you love, think of it as offering yourself more nutrition.  There’s a big difference between “I can’t have that” (deprivation and judgement) and “I’d rather choose something with more nourishment” (support).  It was a huge mental hurdle for me, but once I disentangled myself from the habit of short-term thinking, I was able to see big changes in my health.

Know Thyself.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Learn to listen to what your body tells you.  We are born with bodies that have innate wisdom.  They know when we’re hungry or full;  what foods work with our bodies and which ones don’t; when we need to slow down and recuperate.  After ignoring and overriding those instincts from years of dieting and trying to keep up with cultural standards, we can lose that wisdom.  The good news is that our bodies doesn’t lose their wisdom…we just have to relearn how to listen to and interpret their messages.

Closing thoughts

This month I’ve introduced you to the 3 steps I think will help you achieve your health and wellness resolutions.  While these steps are simple, they’re not necessarily easy.  Be patient with yourself.  Instead of getting overwhelmed trying to put everything into action, focus on what food, actions, and thoughts will benefit you.  Choose ones that are within your comfort zone.  When those are a part of you, choose better ones.  And so on.  You wouldn’t consider climbing Mt. Everest on the first try.  You’d have to plan, prepare, and practice, while making a bunch of mistakes along the way.  Don’t think of the finish line right now.  Just the next step forward. 

In choosing better food, behaviors, and thoughts on a consistent basis, you’ll make your health and wellness resolutions a way of life.  Enjoy the journey to whole body nourishment!