Just Live Mindfully

Healthy...Happy...Mindful

Author: jennmullenhc (page 1 of 4)

It’s Good to Be Happy

Ever heard that saying “It’s a good day to be happy”?  Well, that saying could really apply to any day of the week.  Let’s take Monday, for example.  For most people, Mondays can be hard.  It’s the start of the week, no one wants to go back to work and if you’re like Garfield, Mondays can bit you back.

I used to hate Mondays.  And even still, Mondays can be tough.  But every now and then, things go well – I get to work on time, I have my coffee to wake me up, I had enough food to eat during the day, etc.  The list can go on.  And that list can be different for others.  And you might think that I’m totally sugar coating things, but Mondays can be good days.  And I choose to see it that way.

I have learned over time that if you choose to be happy in a sea of people that are living negatively, then you will have a much more fulfilling life.  When I was younger, I was a negative child.  I grew up as a pessimist.  I never thought things were good and that the world was against me.  I told myself this was a realistic way of looking at the world.  Now, I laugh at myself because I think I was trying to protect myself.  Now, I see the brighter side of things.  The world isn’t as dark as I thought it was.

And what’s even better is that being happy is physically good for your health.  In 2012, Julia Boehm of Harvard School of Public Health found that people with a better sense of well-being tend to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.  People that fall into this category also tend to exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep and avoid smoking.  This sounds to me like it’s where I am now.  Do you fall into this category of people?  While more research needs to be done, it seems that this is the place to be.  If you’re not full there yet, don’t stress.  Just work on it a little each day.  Do some personal development, find a support group and take baby steps to get to the positive person that’s inside you.

What’s Your Reward System?

Yesterday at my full-time job, I had an AMAZING day!  I had a high-pressure situation that I was in and I nailed it!  Needless to say, I was proud and wanted to celebrate.  On my way home, I got to thinking…what should I reward myself with?  And that single question, opened the flood gates for me.  I realized that I used to reward myself with food or beverages.  Adult beverages, that is.  So here’s my question to you…

What is YOUR Reward System?

When you go to celebrate, do you go out for dinner and drinks?  Do you go shopping for the perfect outfit?  Is the newest album from Luke Bryan what you decide to treat yourself with?  As you read this, you might not be exactly sure what your reward system is, but take some time to think about it.  Don’t forget to include the kids too.  Celebrating is definitely a part of the journey and I encourage you to do so.

As I said, I used to reward myself with food and beverages but as I educated myself and became more mindful, I realized that might not be the best thing to do.  Let me give you some examples to help you get started.

  • You run your first 5K – You just ran your first 5K ever.  And it’s just a 5K, it’s a 5K mud run.  Yup.  Proud of yourself, right?  I would be too.  Instead of celebrating with food to make up for the calories you just burned, reward yourself with new workout gear or a piece of jewelry, like the Alex and Ani Eros Arrow Wrap bracelet.  It symbolizes your accomplishments and won’t add to your waistline.
  • You get a promotion at your job – You’ve been working really hard at work and your boss finally recognizes you and promotes you.  The step up comes with a new desk and a little extra money, but you want to celebrate after work.  Instead of getting together with friends or coworkers for a cocktail after work, remind yourself how awesome you are with this Boss Lady coffee mug.  You’ll be able to look at it and feel proud every time you have your morning coffee or tea.
  • You’ve finally paid off your credit card – Your credit card is finally paid off!  How long did that take?  2 years?  That’s ok because it’s G-O-N-E…GONE!  You are so excited and know you should celebrate, but how?  Dinner out with champagne sounds perfect, but that one glass might lead to two, or three or, God only knows!  So instead, reward yourself with a plan.  Yup, a plan for what you’re going to do with that extra money – a weekend getaway, a new bedroom set, a new pair of running shoes…

Now that you’ve seen a few examples, do you see where I’m going with this?  When you think about your reward system, think creatively.  Think out of the box.  Don’t automatically reward yourself with food or beverages.  Yes, that will give you immediate satisfaction but in the end, it’s not very good for your health.  A reward system that does not involve food and beverages, however, can be good for your health.  Just think…you’ll smile every time you wear that bracelet you bought for completing your first 5K and release endorphins!

Now here’s your challenge.  If you don’t have a reward system now, create one for you and your whole family!  Get a process in place so when you’re ready to celebrate, you’re not immediately gravitating toward food, but something a little more fun.  Share the reward systems you have in place and any special reward you’ve given yourself recently!  I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with.

 

To CSA or Not to CSA…

Have you ever tried a CSA?  You may not even know what a CSA is.  I’ve always wanted to try one and this year, I got my chance!  A CSA is a community-supported agriculture.  Basically, it’s buying straight from your local farmer.  Depending on the CSA, you get a selection of produce that’s grown on the farm each week (or every other week) and the best part is that it’s all fresh.

So how do you decide if joining a CSA is right for you?  If you have been trying to get more fresh produce in your diet, you have a couple of options – shop at the local market, you could grow your own or you could join a CSA.

  • Option 1 is probably the easiest, but to me, it’s the most complicated.  If you’re looking for fresh produce, and I mean really fresh with no pesticides or GMOs, you may not necessarily know where the food is grown or how the vendors treat their farms.  You can research the vendors, but that could take time.  And you don’t necessarily know how long the food has sat on the shelves.
  • Option 2 is to grow your own veggies.  Now if you’re anything like me, you aspire to be a gardener or farmer, but don’t necessarily have the time, the patience or the green thumb.  Growing your own food can definitely take a lot of work.  Currently, I have seeds sitting on my dining room table and at this point, it’s too late in the season to plant them.  I’ll be holding them until next year, for sure.
  • Option 3 is to join the CSA.  Many communities have them now and a quick internet search will help you find one near you.  Once you join one, you have access to many varieties of produce that may be new to you, and the farmer is on-hand to help you learn how to use them.  Even pick up is an easy process and can be much less stressful than going to the market.

Now that you know your options, maybe you’re leaning on joining the CSA.  This year, I was able to join a CSA and was so excited Friday when I picked up my share.  Here’s what I got:

  • Lettuce Head
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Scallions
  • Asian Greens
  • Parsley
  • Young Chinese Cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Basil
  • Choi

I was sooooo excited!  The most exciting thing to me, was the bok choi.  Although we have’t had it in awhile, bok choi made with coconut milk and caramelized onions is one of our favorite dishes!  That’s one thing that will be on the menu this week.  Friday’s dinner will be homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil.  Mmmmm, sounds good, right?

But what if you don’t know what to do with some of the items?  It’s ok, the CSA typically will have recipes that can be shared and ideas for how to try the produce.   The CSA I participated in this year even has a Facebook page where other members share the recipes they’re making.  The most fun part is the experimentation with the foods you’re getting.

I’ve already received the newsletter for Week 2 at my CSA and I’m even more excited for what’s to come.  If you’re still unsure about trying a CSA, research your local farms and get an idea of what they grow, how they grow their produce and what the logistics would be.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Do you suffer from SAD?

SAD – it’s a real thing.  And I’m not talking about the emotion of feeling sad.  I’m taking about Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Not everyone suffers from this condition, but most of the people that do live in an area that has season changes.  I live in New England and if you haven’t lived here, you may not know how drastic the changes really are.

In New England, the weather changes are not only be the seasons, but also by day to day.  It’s June and right now the temperature is in the low 60s.  Most think that June is when the temperature starts to warm up.  But unfortunately, Mother Nature has other things in mind this year.  And what Mother Nature doesn’t realize is that people that live in New England that suffer from SAD are having a hard time this year.

I experience symptoms affiliated with SAD and have waves of emotion. Think of SAD as depression, yet it tends to only arise during the seasonal changes.  I typically have the most of my symptoms in the winter, when it’s cold and dark most of the day.  However, this year, my symptoms have come up more this year because of the constant changes in weather.  One week it will in the 70s and 80s and then the week after it will be in the 50s and 60s and rainy.  That change can throw people off their normal game, including me.  So what do you do to counteract SAD?

I try to counteract my symptoms by not being alone.  By being alone, you’re left to let your mind wander and think thoughts that may bring you down.  Instead of being alone, make sure you have activities in your planner to keep you busy.  Choose one event a weekend either with friends or in a new environment.  Don’t overburden yourself, but make sure you have “fun” built into your schedule.

Meditation can also help you get through these tough times.  I recommend using guided meditation because it will help you get into a positive head space.  Guided meditation can range a wide variety of topics from stress relief to sleep to work environments.  These meditations can range from 5-10 minutes and typically have a soft music playing in the background.  I have been doing a short guided meditation in the mornings and I find the thoughts that enter my brain after are positive and get me ready for the day.

And don’t forget, the seasons pass and SAD will pass…in time.  The symptoms you face may bring you down temporarily but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  If your symptoms seem to be too hard for you to handle on your own, please see professional help from a therapist.  They can help you work through these symptoms and help you live, not just pass through life.

Is Vacation Mode Good or Bad?

While I’ve been on vacation, I’ve noticed something about the way I feel.  Yes, I’m calm and relaxed and I’m having fun, but my body is not in love with Island Time.  Let’s just say, my stomach has been in knots for two days now.  I’ve been trying to figure out if I hate something that didn’t agree with me or if I drank something I wasn’t in love with, and I think I figured it out.  But even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to make myself well again instantaneously.   And this whole thought got me thinking…

 Is Vacation Mode really the best thing for our bodies?

For me, it’s not.  I tried to stick to my routine by bringing my workout gear and going for a run.  That helped, but the food I’ve been eating and the beverages I’ve been having are not what I’m used to.  Good food, don’t get me wrong, but not what I eat on a daily basis.  So let’s talk about Vacation Mode and I’ll share my experience, which may be yours too.

Vacation Mode is what happens when we go on vacation, put ourself on autopilot, relax and become a lot more carefree.  When someone is in vacation mode, they tend to be a little more lax on what they eat and drink and go outside of their normal routine.  Some even forgo their workouts while they are in Vacation Mode because they feel they deserve a break.  All of these statements above include myself, to a certain extent.  In the past, I would never care about what I did on vacation because I was in Vacation Mode.  I would eat and drink whatever I wanted, I would not workout because I was on vacation and didn’t think I had to and would just forget all about my sleep.  Doing this over and over again led me to have the hardest time getting out of Vacation Mode when I got back to reality.

Now, after having my stomach in knots for two days now, I’ve realized that Vacation Mode has it’s good points and it’s bad ones too.  The good points include:

  • Knowing you might be able to relax
  • No work for X number of days
  • Less stress, if any at all
  • Great tasting food and drinks
  • Trying out a new place, or one you love

But Vacation Mode for has bad points too:

  • Eating too much or food that is too rich
  • Drinking too much
  • Getting less sleep than you normally do
  • You’re not in your own bed
  • Working out may not even be in the agenda

Now, I’m sure you can name other pros and cons for Vacation Mode.  I’d love to see your pros and cons in the comments below.  But let’s really answer the question asked earlier.  Is Vacation Mode good or bad?  I think it can go both ways.  I love vacation mode, but I think in order to keep myself somewhat normal, I need to workout regularly, I need to eat the same or similar foods that I would at home and I need to make sure I’m drinking enough water and going to bed at a decent time.  But for now, I’m still going to enjoy when I’m in Vacation Mode and slowly but surely work toward a life I don’t have to take a vacation from.  Even better, right?

If you need help getting out of Vacation Mode, follow these three tips I have that just might help you unwind and get back to your normal routine quicker than usual.

Three Tips for Getting Out of Vacation Mode

Here are my three tips for getting yourself out of Vacation Mode and getting back into reality a little easier.

1. The last night of your vacation, go to bed on time.

When I say “go to bed on time”, I mean go to bed at whatever time your normally do.  If you’re usually shutting off the lights at 9pm, then that’s when you should go to bed.  Yes, it’s the last day of your vacation, but do you really need to stay out until 2am?  Listen to your body to find out what time your bed time should be and stick to it.

2. Make sure you take a day off after you get home.

This is one of my rules.  I always take off the day after I get back from vacation.  I do this so I can recoup and get things back in order – the laundry, shopping for food, meal prep, etc.  It helps me ease back into my normal routine and feel like I’m myself again.  If you absolutely cannot take off the day after you get home, then try to go easy at work.  Easier said than done, but it will help.

3. When you’re in Vacation Mode, don’t stray too far from your normal routine.

This tip is HUGE because it’s the most important.  Staying as close as you can to your normal routine will help you feel like there isn’t anything to get out of when you come home.  Yes, you will have gone somewhere else, had more relaxation than you normally get and eaten a little differently, but sticking to your routine will help you feel like the only thing that changed is the location.

Dirty Little Word

When you use the word “can’t”, it triggers a reaction in your brain that makes you think that whatever you’re using that word in regards to is forbidden or against the rules.  By doing this, it makes it harder to resist whatever you can’t have or can’t do.

Throughout our lives, we experience both positive and negative energy that comes our way.  For some of us, that negative energy sticks with us more than the positive energy and the word “can’t” starts to become our reality.  We hear people tell us we can’t do something and then we start to believe it.  I was one of those people.  I always had a “glass is half empty” mindset and when people told me I couldn’t do something, I believed them.  I’ve changed since I was younger and now the word “can’t” is hardly used in my day-to-day vocabulary.  And you’d be surprised at how easy it was to remove.

Let’s take a real-world example and see how that dirty little word can come into your life easily.  During the holidays, we are so busy and the word “can’t” seems to come up a lot.  When we’re talking about visiting family, when we’re talking about giving back to people in need and when we’re talking about eating certain foods.  As you read this, I’m sure you’re thinking of a situation that may have happened to you.

Now, let’s see how easy it is to remove it.  The next time this dirty little word wants to come up for you, make a conscious effort not to use it.  At the family meal, you might see something you love, say a piece of cake.  Someone might offer you a piece and you’ll want to say “I can’t have that”.  Instead of saying “I can’t”, either remember your portion control or say “I’m choosing not to have a piece this year”.  It will change your mindset.

Using the word “can’t” brings I a negative mindset and that will ultimately control everything in your life.  Start changing your mindset, one thought at a time, and you’ll get your life to  have a more positive outlook.  Have you tried this already?  How are you doing with it?  I’d love to hear your experiences.

Proud Moments

Have you ever had a moment where you just were so proud of yourself you couldn’t believe it?  I’m not talking about a feeling of being proud of a family member or a friend.  I’m talking about being proud of YOU!  Maybe you had a moment during a school play when you remembered all your lines in the school play.  Or you had the courage to ask Sally Sweetheart to the Prom.  Or when you ran for 5 minutes straight without having any issues breathing.

Today, I had that moment.  I have been training for a 3.5 mile road race.  Every two days I go for a run.  I’ve started slow and each week I’ve increased my running time a little.  Now, let me preface this by saying this is a HUGE challenge for me.  Running has never been my favorite thing to do.  As an asthmatic, it’s scary.  For me.  I’ve always been afraid of running because I’ve always been afraid of losing my breath and having a panic attack or an asthma attack.  But when I was asked to join my employers team for the road race, I signed up.  Yup, HUGE challenge!

So today, I had my Proud Moment.  I look back to week 1 when I first started training and remembered how much my body ached.  Now, it’s week 4 and I’m amazed at my progress.  Instead of being afraid of running, I’m in love with it.  Being outside in the fresh air, music playing and just me and the road is an amazing thing.  It helps me clear my head, get in some exercise and give me another reason to believe in me.

I hope you find some inspiration in this asthmatic’s story.  My goal here is to inspire, motivate and encourage you to find a challenge to take on yourself and succeed.  And I leave you with one question.  What’s your Proud Moment?  Share with me below your latest success story, the challenges you faced and how you succeeded!

Do I Really Need to Meditate?

I asked myself that same question.  Like, really…do I really need to meditate?  Well, in my opinion, the answer can be different for everyone.  However, after really practicing it for the past month I would recommend it for everyone.  In this post, I share some information about meditation, some apps I use to help me practice the skill and how it could work for you.

What is meditation anyway? The definition is the written or spoken discourse expressing one’s thoughts on a subject.  To me, meditation is about getting inside that deep, dark space in your brain that contains your thoughts and feelings and sometimes has the answers you’re looking for.  It is a skill that must be practiced too, because it’s not easy…not even for a coach like me.  There are a variety of ways to meditate, but as a beginner, focus on guided meditation until you can hone the skill.

At my full-time job, I’ve taken guided meditation classes and either on a teleconference or in person, the instructor will lead us to a place that hones in on our thoughts, our wants and our needs.  The instructor will play some soft, quiet music, have us close our eyes and speak to us in a low volume that instructs us how to get to that deep, dark place inside our brain.  She asks us to focus on a question that we’ve been wanting the answer to and then stays quiet for a bit.  This quiet allows our brain to process the thoughts swarming in our head and helps the answer to the question we have come out.  She then brings us back to reality in that low volume and we awaken with a sense of calm.  Funny how just sitting there, quietly and thinking will make us feel so relaxed and focused.

As I said, meditation is not an easy thing to do.  But because I know the benefits (which we’ll get to) that meditation can have, I needed to start practicing it regularly.  I decided to check out some apps for guided meditations.  I decided to choose two for now, at least until I can decide which is right for me.  The first is Welzen.

Welzen is a free app on iPhone that provides mindfulness meditations.  It has a 5-day intro series to help you learn how to meditate, which I thought was fantastic.  Especially when you’re first starting out.  It also has a daily meditation that changes each day.  And it has categorized meditations that focus on a specific area of need.  Things like stress, work, relationships, etc.  The meditations last approximately 5 minutes so they’re quick and easy to do.  You can subscribe to Welzen for a monthly, yearly or indefinite time period, but the free version works well enough for me.

The other app I decided to try was Calm.  This app is similar in that it brings mindful meditations to the listener and has a variety of categorized meditations to try out.  It’s also great for beginners because it has a 7-day series to help you get started.  The guided meditation sessions range in time from 3 minutes to 25 minutes leaving it up to the listener to decide what to choose which meditation works for the time available.  Calm also offers a daily meditation.  The additional benefits of Calm are what I loved even more.  Calm offered breathing exercise, sleep stories, unguided timed meditations and more than 25 nature sounds to play in the background.  It even tracks your progress to see how often you meditate and how you improve the more you practice.

One thing to be leery of is the number of apps out there.  I did some research before I choose one and hey, I ended up choosing two to work with.  Mindful Magazine created a go-to list of mindfulness apps last month and Calm is one of the apps recommended.  To see the full list, click here.

So what are the benefits of using these apps?  What will they do for you?

  • Meditating regularly can help you sleep better and can even be a permanent solution to insomnia.
  • Meditating can help manage stress and anxiety.
  • Meditating can increase focus and productivity.
  • Meditating can improve relationships.
  • Meditating can improve creativity.

Why are there so many benefits?  I mentioned earlier how going to the deep, dark place in your brain can sometimes help you answer questions you might have but cannot seem to find the answer.  Meditation can open up that pathway to the answer and by finding the answer to something that’s bugging you, you open up the pathway to a healthier life.  I can tell you, since I’ve started meditating, I have had deeper sleep than I have had in the past 35 years!  Yup, it’s true!

So back to the question at hand.  Do you really need to meditate?  The straightforward answer is no, but I would highly recommend it to the person that needs answers in life, that wants to life a healthier life and to the person that wants a more fulfilling life.  And if your not sure, download one of the apps and try it.  You might just fall in love with meditation.  Let me know which app you end up choosing.

If you’ve already had some experience with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Share your comments below and tell me what meditation has done for you!

The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

Today at work a few of my coworkers and I started talking about sugar and sweeteners.  It seems like there used to be a ton of information about there about how the low-calorie sweeteners were good to help you lose weight and real sugar was bad.  Since I’ve started my own journey, I’ve learned a lot about those low-calories sweeteners and learned that many are artificial and really not all that good for you.  If I had time today, I would have shared with my coworkers what I’m about to share with you.  Read on to find out what artificial sweeteners are, what they do to your body and how you can cut back on them and make healthier choices.

What are Artificial Sweeteners Anyway?

Artificial sweeteners are essentially sugar substitutes that were developed in the 1950s as a way to help people reduce the number of calories people take in each day.  Two of the most common types of artificial sweeteners are aspartame (Equal) and Sucralose (Splenda).  It’s most commonly found in soda and because Americans tend to be big soda drinkers, 15% of us ingest artificial sweeteners each year!  The use equates to about $1.5 billion…yup, billion with a giant B.  With so many of us using artificial sweeteners each year, it’s no wonder that the United States is the most obese country in the world.  Some of us may not even know we’re ingesting artificial sweeteners.

How to Identify Artificial Sweeteners

The easy and short answer — read the ingredients list.  If you see words on an ingredients list that end in “itol”, you can almost guarantee that product has artificial sweeteners in it.  Let me give you an example.  I used to be an avid gum chewer and Trident was my go-to.  One day I looked at the ingredients and low and behold, I saw Xylitol.  Another one of my go-to products was Ricola Cough Drops.  These drops actually contain Sorbitol.  Needless to say, I don’t purchase these products anymore.

What Do Artificial Sweeteners Do to Your Body?

As I continued my research, I found more and more interesting pieces of information.  The first one was a shocker.  Artificial sweeteners may actually cause weight gain, not weight loss as many believe.  Although artificial sweeteners reduce calories, they actually have no caloric value at all and they do not have any substance.  This essentially tricks our brains into thinking we got the sweetness we were craving, but didn’t get the sugar we needed.  Therefore, it makes us crave more sweetness causing us to eat or drink more than we should.

Ingesting artificial sweeteners may actually make us sick with use over a long period of time too.  While artificial sweeteners do not cause cancer, however metabolic syndrome can.  Metabolic syndrome is what classify a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease, strokes and diabetes.  How do you know if you have metabolic syndrome?  The most common signs are high blood pressure, excess belly fat and having a resistance to insulin, just to name a few.  Having just one soda per day has a correlation to having metabolic syndrome.

Artificial sweeteners can also cause your bladder to weaken over time, causing you to have to use the bathroom frequently throughout the day.  Having just one packet of artificial sweetener per day can cause you to go to the bathroom more than you’re supposed to.

How Do You Cut Back on Artificial Sweeteners?

To help you get started, use the three Rs — Reduce, Replace and Renew.  Reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners to just one serving per day.  If you can get rid of them completely, even better.  Replace the artificial sweeteners with something natural, like sugar or Stevia.  Renew your taste buds and find out which foods your body craves.  Try adding in honey or berries to get the sweetness you yearn for.

So what’s the goal here?  Artificial sweeteners are like anything else — ok in moderation.  If you want to change your intake, start slow and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  Continue to do your own research and read ingredients lists.  Over time, your body will not crave the artificial sweeteners anymore and will make the change transform into a new lifestyle.  If you’ve had experience with eliminating or reducing artificial sweeteners, I’d love to hear about it.  Share your story in the comments below!

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