Back to Basics, Part 2

So last time I revisited some of those foundational practices that allow us to live and perform at peak – exercise, nutritious clean food, mood and hydration.  Incorporating any of these into your daily routine will make a significant difference in how you feel, look and function.  Give attention to each of them and you are well on your way to living a healthful lifestyle that will pay you dividends now and in the future.

The fact is that building strong personal health habits is the most important thing you can do to improve energy, stave off sickness, and increase overall wellbeing.  Each of us is responsible for taking care of ourselves and living a lifestyle that supports us in that.  As we make healthier choices for ourselves, we build behaviors and skills that build on and support each other.  It’s all connected!

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You may think to yourself, “But I don’t have time to exercise, shop, cook healthy meals, sleep 8 hours, etc.  Taking 30 minutes to exercise out of your day might seem like a chore, or just another item to add to your “to-do” list.  I’m not denying that we all have busy lives with multiple demands on our time – I have them, too!  What I know, though, is that incorporating healthy habits, making the time to get outdoors for exercise and fresh air, and getting a good night’s rest, helps make the rest of my day better, helps me to live better.  And, in the end, I’m more efficient, productive and able to meet any challenges that come my way.

Here are the rest of my essentials:

Sleep – We can’t be at our best if we are not getting adequate sleep.  Period. Our bodies and brains suffer when we are sleep deprived.  Cognitive ability is decreased, and our emotional states are adversely affected.  (Ever been cranky because of lack of sleep?)  There is all sorts of new research these days about what sleep deprivation can cause – overeating and weight issues, weakened immune response, accidents, even heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.  Not to mention that dragging yourself through the day is not a whole lot of fun. 7-9 hours a night is the usual recommendation.  Decide what you need to feel your best and make it a priority.

Stress Management and Self Care – Did you know that over 60% of all doctor visits in the United States are stress related?  Burnout and depression are epidemic in this country and elsewhere, and the number 1 cause of work disability in the world.  Self-care is NOT self-indulgent.  Time out is essential for wellbeing and can take many forms – there’s a reason why meditation and mindfulness have become so popular in recent years.  Classes are everywhere. Find a practice that works for you and build it into your life regularly.  Other proven stress relievers are journaling, and activities such as gardening or photography.  Find something that you love that re-charges your batteries.

Community – Did you know that having a strong social support network has important health benefits?  Supportive relationships – whether family, friends, colleagues, or members of the community – have been shown to contribute to psychological and physical health, as well as longevity, and can be a tremendous resource in times of stress.  And it works both ways – giving and receiving support are of equal benefit. Make it your mission to develop and build a community around you.

Meaning – Meaning and purpose are essential to inspiring wellbeing.  Going about your life with a sense of meaning, of knowing that who you are and what you do matters, provides proven health benefits and can impact longevity.  A study led by Patrick McKnight, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, found that having a sense of purpose can promote healthier living in general.  It doesn’t have to be about doing “big” things.  If it’s something meaningful and motivating to you, that’s all that matters.  What do you love, what do you care about deeply, what gets you out of bed in the morning?  There you go.

What about you?  Is there something you can do to develop more community around you?  Can you begin to make sleep a priority and notice the difference in how you feel and perform?  What do you want more of in your life, what lights you up?  What recharges you?  If you feel like it, please leave a comment.  I’ll be sure to respond.

And – If you’re ready to prioritize a healthier lifestyle, I’m now offering my Evergreen Wellness Workshop to private clients, with the option of 2, 3 or 6 private 30 minute coaching sessions.  In 6 weeks, you not only get great info on sleep, food, mood and exercise backed by the latest research – you’ll get activities and action steps you can start right away to see results in how you feel and look. This program will not only help you get on track, it will teach you how to stay on track and be successful.  Plus, it’s filled with fun short videos, great info, and lots of cool health-boosting activities!  Email me at Suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com and we’ll set up a time to talk about whether this program is right for you!

Civility?

I was having a conversation with a good friend not too long ago about some distressing comments I had read online in response to a posted article.  Frankly, they were ugly and I chose not to continue reading.   My friend’s observation: “Society has lost its sense of civility.”

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since.  I took a look at the Merriam-Webster definition of the word, which is: 1. an act or utterance that is a customary show of good manners; 2. speech or behavior that is a sign of good breeding.

Civility isn’t complicated.  It’s manners, politeness, showing courtesy and kindness to others. It’s being respectful, to both yourself and others.  It’s maintaining composure in difficult circumstances or with difficult people.  It’s being willing to hear others’ perspectives and opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.  One does not have to go too far these days to find examples of the lack of it.

I thought about how I might draw some food for thought from the science of positive psychology about how this atmosphere of disaffection and discord impacts wellbeing.

Dr. Martin Seligman, in his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, discussed his theory of wellbeing, and what promotes human flourishing.  The acronym he gave it, PERMA, stands for:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement
  • Positive Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

Thankyou

I’m struck by how incompatible those ideas are with the lack of civility in our society today. If positive emotion and engagement might encourage and reinforce civility, what does the lack of it do to us as individuals, as a culture?  What does it do to our wellbeing, our happiness, our sense of flourishing?

Make no mistake, happiness and wellbeing are important business.  Research shows that happy people are healthier, live longer, have better relationships, make more money and contribute more to society.   I don’t know about you, but when I hear and read some public dialogue these days, I don’t feel a sense of positive emotion, of wellbeing.  I feel ill.

In case you think I’m referring to any particular brand of politics, I’m not (despite the current political climate.)  At time, students – and parents – show disrespect to teachers and faculty, even though they may have a legitimate disagreement. Parents go into tirades at coaches and school-age players at sporting events.  The internet provides a space for all sorts of bullying, harassment and name calling.

What has happened to respecting others’ opinions, even if they differ from your own?  What role models do younger generations have to look up to, if what they have to emulate are adults behaving badly? Speaking of adults, if our homes and families are where we get our foundation what, exactly, are we passing on? What has happened to basics such as kindness, character, dignity, and acting like a grownup (assuming you are one.)

Going back to Seligman’s PERMA, I can’t help but wonder how this type of behavior impacts our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health.  One definition of flourishing is:  “to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.”  It’s our responsibility to create that favorable environment, for ourselves and others.  As someone wise once said, “We carry our own weather with us.”

The good news is that so much of this is under our control.  We have the tools we need to create positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.  Research shows that approximately 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, 10% by our circumstances (married, single, living conditions) and 40% by behavior.  We get to choose who we will be and how we will relate to the world around us.  We decide what kind of meaning our lives will have.  Making a conscious effort to practice kindness, hope and optimism, gratitude, connection – all of these contribute to impacting the world around us.  So does courtesy, respect and good manners.  And those start at home, with us, and with what we teach our children.

George Washington said it well:  “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

What about you?  What’s your take on the topic of civility?  Please feel free to post a comment on my blog or share it with me in an email.

I’m taking the month of August off from writing this newsletter, for vacation and family time. Enjoy the rest of summer and I’ll see you after Labor Day!

Summer Bucket List

I don’t know about where you are, but summer in Colorado is short and seems to fly by faster each year.  At the beginning of the season, I usually have lots of plans, ideas, and to-do’s – what I want the summer to look like – most of which probably don’t ever get off the ground.  I’m ok with that, though, because some of them do – and they add to the memories of summer that will last long after Labor Day.

In his book, Flourish, Dr. Martin Seligman enumerates the benefits of happiness or well-being in our lives.  They include more meaning, love, gratitude, positive accomplishment, growth and better relationships.  Seen in this light, putting a premium on enjoyment of life is part of the picture of having a full, successful life.  The whole goal of positive psychology is, in fact, to increase flourishing in our life, according to Seligman.  I, for one, don’t want to pass up on having a flourishing life.  So, with that in mind, here is my summer season list, so that I can be, as Montagu said, seized by those moments of happiness and flourish.

  • A trip to the coast of Oregon – something I’ve been wanting to do for years!
  • Try standup paddleboarding – I have no excuse not to, my son rents them out at our local lake.
  • Let go of anything I don’t need or want anymore – make space for more life, less stuff. (The key here is to be sure that more flows out than in.)
  • Go horseback riding at least once. I live in Colorado, for Pete’s sake.
  • Practice listening more than talking.
  • Take more walks with my husband. Spend time with my precious son, before he goes back to school.  And, of course, our dogs.
  • Spend more time at home – puttering, reading, de-cluttering (my new favorite thing) or – what a concept – just enjoy being.
  • Eat outside whenever possible – whether at home on the deck, or at a restaurant.
  • Pick wildflowers from the yard and bring a bouquet inside.
  • Finally, for all of you who wrote the kindest emails on the passing of our beloved Ben, thank you so much! And – May I take this opportunity to introduce our new family member, Princeton.  I had absolutely no intention of adopting another dog so soon, however, Princeton needed a home and one thing, as they say, led to another.  He is a perfect fit for our family and we are so happy to have him.  I plan on spending lots of time with Princeton and Charlie this summer – hiking, walking at the lake and playing.   A simple summer pleasure and, for me, one of the best.

Speaking of wellbeing (and dogs), do you know that there are actual health benefits to having a pet?  Research shows that owning a pet can improve quality of life in several ways.   Emotionally, having a pet has been shown to decrease depression, stress and anxiety.    Pets also can help lower blood pressure, improve immunity and even decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. Then there’s all that unconditional love and loyalty that pets can provide.

Introducing Princeton!

Introducing Princeton!

I’m sharing my seasonal bucket list with you in the hope that you might be inspired to create one for yourself, as you become more intentional about what you want your summer season to look like.   I invite you to craft one for yourself and, if you feel like it, share it on my blog or my Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/Evergreen-Life-and-Wellness-204475386293524/

Here’s to summer!

Review: The 5 Minute Journal – A Cool Way to Get Journaling

As someone who has journaled off and on throughout my life, I have to admit that the last few years have been more off than on.  I’d always appreciated the process and found it an excellent outlet for organizing my thoughts, but had somewhat fallen out of the habit.

Over the last year or so, I somehow seemed to keep stumbling on one article or another about the benefits of journal-keeping, but couldn’t quite get back into making it a habit.  Enter The 5 Minute Journal.

I decided to try it after hearing an interview with one of its creators, UJ Ramdas.  It incorporates some of the basic principles of positive psychology, and that’s what got my attention at first.  I also appreciated that the beginning of the day starts out with three things you are grateful for.    Knowing the benefits that a grateful mindset can bring (better health, more happiness and stronger relationships, for starters), I got hooked in a bit further.

5MinJournal

I’ve been keeping the journal for almost two months now and here is what I’ve found:

  • It really doesn’t take more than a few minutes, morning and night.
  • The book starts out with a clear explanation of the principles behind the morning and evening prompts. For example, starting the day with three things you are grateful for automatically puts you in a state of not only looking for the good things in your life, but being mindful of them.
  • The morning prompts set you up to be intentional about your day. Asking yourself, “What would make today great?” at the beginning of the day acts as a catalyst that programs you to be more purposeful about how you go about your day.  Improving your days on a daily basis over time lead to an improved, happier existence.
  • That same question (“What would make today great?”?) also serves as inspiration – encouraging you to look at specific actions you can take to make it a good day, what you have control over. (“Going for a run with my dog,” is something within your control ; having that great job land in your lap, not so much…..)  The more you act successfully on your own behalf, the more empowered – and better – you begin to feel.
  • I’ve found that reflecting on three “amazing” things that happened during the day has helped me to focus on things I may have otherwise overlooked. Recent entries for me have included things like a surprise call from a long-ago friend, a beautiful spring day, an interesting conversation, and a red BMW convertible in the lane next to me filled with 3 (HUGE) St. Bernard’s out for a ride.
  • The evening question, “How could I have made today even better?” effectively encourages actionable problem-solving and trains me to look for better ways to do things next time. Since life (mine, at least) tends to have recurring problems, I get a chance to think about what I might do next time in the same circumstance.

Each day starts with an inspiring quote, and the book itself has a rather simple, minimalist look to it.  I’ve never really been one to journal in the morning but now that I have, I’m enjoying having those few minutes to plan what I’d like my day to look like.

Overall, this journal has been a simple, yet effective investment of my time each day.  Some critiques I’ve read are the price (I paid $22.00, the journal lasts 6 months), and that it can become repetitive.  I find that the consistency of the questions works well, for me at least. Knowing I’ll be answering the same questions each day is training my mind to be on the lookout for the answers. I’m definitely a fan of The 5 Minute Journal.

Got Time?

Do you know anyone who isn’t pressed for time these days?   Everyone I talk to seems busier than ever in their work and family lives, often with little left over for themselves.  And I’m just talking about the basics:  Healthy food, exercise, sleep, downtime.

Extreme business is probably a topic for another day all by itself.  What’s important here is that staying  physically and mentally fit is the most important thing you can do to ensure  you give your best to what’s important to you.   Not doing so impacts your energy, mood, performance and ability to enjoy life.  Ongoing neglect can eventually result in health issues – heart disease, hypertension, obesity, insomnia and lowered immune capacity, just to name a few . One of the most effective – and simple – ways to achieve fitness is to eat right and exercise.  I know we’ve heard it all our lives.  But how many of us actually do it?  Most current statistics show that only about half of Americans exercise regularly (that is, at least three sessions a week of 30 minutes each.), and obesity has reached an all-time high in the U.S.  So what gives?  We have all the information we need   about what’s good for us – why aren’t we doing it?

What I hear from people goes back to that time thing – too much to do and not enough of it.  Lack of energy is often blamed as well.  And the thought of making changes can be daunting – but it doesn’t have to be!

Making even one small change can make a difference in how you feel and look – and serve to inspire you to continue making additional changes that, over time, can have a significant impact in your wellbeing.

So what about chunking it down, and looking at one small change you could make in the interest of a healthier you to move the needle a little closer to an improved lifestyle.

I’m going to list a few ideas here to get you going, most of which will require an investment of no more than 10 minutes a day.  Some will take under a minute.  Choose one that fits for you, and notice how it makes you feel.

  • Take a brisk 10 minute walk outdoors.   While any type of movement is good for you, studies show exercising in natural environments increases energy and feelings of positivity, and decreases stress, anger and depression.  Outdoor exercisers report greater enjoyment and satisfaction with exercising and a greater likelihood to repeat the activity again.
  • Start your day with hydration.  Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your health.  After 7-8 hours of sleep, you’re already slightly dehydrated.  Water is one of the most important sources of energy for the body.  Starting your day with a full glass of water rehydrates you and gives you an energy boost.  And it takes less than a minute.
  • Try a green smoothie.  If you love your morning smoothie, try throwing in a handful of spinach, kale, or other juicing greens.   It’ll boost the nutrient content, stabilize your energy and is an easy way to trick yourself into getting your greens.  Here’s my favorite Green Smoothie recipe.
    1 cup soy or rice milk
    Frozen bananas and blueberries (or your favorite fruits.)  I like to freeze mine for added texture.
    1 cup vanilla protein powder
    1 cup kale and spinach
    2 T. wheat germ (high in Vitamin E, anti-oxidant)The beauty of starting your day this way (aside from the  nutritional benefits) is that studies show  that each time we take an intentionally health action, we are more likely to take other healthy actions.  On the go? It’s portable.   Time:  5 minutes.
  • Take five. Or ten.  Sitting quietly and focusing on your breath for even 5 minutes can work wonders to calm your mind and body, steady emotions, alleviate stress, and help you to re-focus and reorder your thinking.  There is an abundance of information available on meditation these days, and the benefits are too numerous to go into here.  Just try it.  Start with 5 minutes for a week. And see where it takes you.
  • Take time off.  Many of us struggle with this, especially in the world of computers, and smartphones.  It’s much easier to bring the office home with us these days.  But it’s important to know where to draw the line between work and time off.  Taking an afternoon off to spend with family or friends, going for a bike ride, or reading a good book has documented benefits for wellbeing.  Driving too hard without a break impacts focus and productivity over time.   The most successful among us know the value of time off and its impact on performance and creativity.

 

Making an Impact

Most of us want to be a positive influence, to contribute in some way to the world around us.   Too often, we feel that we lack the time, money, or other resources we need to make an impact on the world around us.  So, despite having good intentions, we often end up not doing anything.

Another scenario is those of us who are already taking care of others in some way – whether that means raising children, caregiving of an elderly parent or, increasingly, both. We may already feel stretched and depleted, with little left over to give.<  We may already feel stretched and depleted, with little left over to give.

Research has found that caring for others or volunteering in various capacities can enhance both health and happiness, especially among older or retired individuals.  Helping others provides a sense of meaning that can boost both self-image and mood, which in turn can enhance our sense of well-being.

“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” ~ Napolean Hill.

I like that quote because thеrе аrе mаnу times in life whеn wе саn simply ѕеіzе a mоmеnt аnd be a positive influence.  I like thеѕе оdd moments bесаuѕе thеу usually take рlасе ѕmасk dаb in the middle оf аn оn-gоіng life.  We don’t have to plan them or wait for them.

Anything you do, heck – еvеrуthіng уоu do –  саn mаkе a dіffеrеnсе.  Simply taking the time to hold a door for the person behind you, or sending a handwritten thank you or card to someone, can make a difference to the recipient.   I once went through a Starbucks drive-through ready to pay for my order, only to be told that the person in front of me had already taken care of it.  When I agreed to pay for the person in line behind me, I was told that this string of kindness had been going on all morning – for hours!  Need I mention the good feeling I had for the rest of the day?

If you’re wondering where to start, here are a few ideas although I’ll bet you can come up with your own just by looking around.

difference

Reaching out to help someone else impacts both of you positively.

Lеnd a hand.   Hеlр a со-wоrkеr lеаrn thе соmраnу’ѕ new рrоgrаmѕ, or help your nеіghbоur сlеаn out her gаrаgе.  Acknowledging how much you appreciate someone’s work on a project can make his or her day.

Raise уоur сhіld wеll.   There’s an old сlісhé that says thеrе аrе thrее mаіn wауѕ tо mаkе a difference in the wоrld. Thе fіrѕt іѕ to рlаnt a trее. Thе ѕесоnd іѕ tо wrіtе a book, and the thіrd іѕ tо rаіѕе a child. You may not be able to impact the world at large, but you dеfіnіtеlу can be an exаmрlе tо your сhіldrеn ѕо thеу grоw up tо be rеѕроnѕіblе, respectful and kind adults who contribute to society in a positive way.

Got free time?   Hаvе extra time оn your hands?   (Lucky you!)   There are literally hundreds of community organizations looking for you with just as many options.  Hеlрing out at a local animal shelter, an organization such as Project Angel Heart, that delivers meals to those coping with life threatening illness, or CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) that act as voices for abused and neglected children – the list is endless.  You can give as much of your time per week or month as you like and you wоn’t juѕt bе mаkіng аn impact оn others’  lіvеѕ.  You might just discover new purpose in your own.

Plant a trее:   Plаntіng a tree, or ѕеvеrаl, is one оf the оldеѕt wауѕ to make an іmрасt оn the rest оf the world.  Hоwеvеr, it іѕ juѕt аѕ important tоdау аѕ іt hаѕ аlwауѕ been. In fасt, with thе grоwіng concern fоr glоbаl wаrmіng, thіѕ ѕіmрlе асt іѕ еvеn more nесеѕѕаrу аnd useful than еvеr.

Fасе уоur challenges:  Challenges can brіng out thе bеѕt in us depending on our perspective.  Fасе your challenges squarely аnd uѕе thеm  as stepping stones to personal growth and and ѕuссеѕѕ.

Help оthеrѕ tо face their challenges:    Support and mentor others in facing their own challenges.  Yоu dоn’t hаvе tо gіvе a speech or wrіtе a book for this.  Sіmрlу ѕhоwіng your own dеdісаtіоn in wоrdѕ аnd асtіоnѕ can serve as inspiration, and don’t underestimate the power of encouragement and quiet confidence in others that they, too, can walk through difficulties.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2013 concluded that, “Help given to others is a better predictor of health and well-being than are indicators of social engagement or received social support.”  Concern and caring for others is part of the fabric of our lives.  Showing that concern and care can be as simple as stopping in to check on an elderly neighbor, or picking up a few groceries for her.  And there you go – you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s world.  I guarantee you the impact you receive will be just as powerful.