Shitstorms + Sunshine: 4 Questions To Rescue You From A Negative Holding Pattern
This blog is timely considering a month of constant heart breaking losses and set backs:
We all face tough days or times. It’s a part of life.
But how you react, think and act during these tough times makes a big difference. With a helpful set of habits the outlook on life can change in a huge and remarkable way. I know from experience, I was a big, die-hard pessimist years ago.
So this week I’d like to simply share five of my favorite timeless tips on optimism. Fundamentals that the wise people that came before us have lived by for hundreds and thousands of years.
1. Remember: It is not too late to change your life.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
It may feel like you have been on the same path and stuck in the same habits for so long that you are stuck permanently on your current route.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. I didn’t make many positive changes to my own life before I was 25 (i’m 34 now). And over the past 7+ years I have received thousands of emails from readers of all ages – between 14 and 72 – that have told me about how they have recently changed their life in a positive way.
You may not be able to change your life in any way you want right now. But work with what you have where you are right now.
Make just a small change if that is what is possible. That small change and success will give you confidence and optimism and you can build upon that to make more and perhaps even bigger changes over the year.
2. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.
“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.”
It is easy to let thoughts spin out of control. To let them grow from just one thought or one situation into a big thing in your mind.
So what can you do about it?
One thought combination that has helped me with this habit is to:
- Step 1: Say stop right away. If you have read anything I have written about self-esteem then you may have seen that I often mention using a stop-word or phrase. This also works well for optimism.
In this case it simply means that as soon as you become aware of that you are starting to make a mountain out of a molehill you say or shout STOP! or something similar in your mind. I tend to use the phrase: No, no, no, we are not going down that road again.
- Step 2: Broaden the perspective. After I have used my stop-phrase I ask myself this about the perceived problem: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks? The answer is almost always no. And my mind is once again more chill, calm and level-headed.
3. Find a more helpful way to view your troubles.
“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”
Not all troubles in life are molehills (or simply made out of air).
And these more substantial challenges can easily to get drag you down.
But if you view them in a helpful and optimistic way then, yes, they may still hurt. But they tend to often hurt a lot less and can even be a source of optimistic excitement.
For example, I did not to like making mistakes or failing at all. I often chose to stand still and to not do anything to not risk anything.
But nowadays I have learned that these things tend to truly be a blessing in disguise.
What has changed?
I view them differently and act upon them differently than I used to. I ask myself:
- What is one opportunity in this situation?
- How will this experience help me in the long run?
These questions help me to make good use of a situation that may seem negative at first.
And after having gone through this process over and over again I am a lot less afraid of making mistakes or failing. Because by now I know from experience that by handling challenges in this way I have gained many benefits and grown as a person over the past years.
4. Focus on the small steps you can take.
“Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done.”
Focus on what you can do about your situation and take action on. Not on asking yourself over and over why something happened to you or why you failed. That will only lead to pessimism and feeling powerless.
Instead, ask yourself: what is one small step I can take today to get the ball rolling and improve this situation?
Just take that one small step today. Then another tomorrow. The small steps tend to add up quickly and, as I mentioned above, will breed confidence and optimism that allow you to take more and bigger steps.
5. Learn to reduce and handle worries.
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
Worries can be very destructive.
But most of the things you fear will happen never happen. They are just nightmares or monsters in your own mind. And if they happen then they will most often not be as painful or bad as you expected. Worrying is most often just a waste of the time you have here.
I know, this is easy to say. But what can you do about it?
What has worked for me is a similar combination to the one that I mentioned above.
- Say stop. I first use my stop phrase: No, no, no, we are not going down that road again.
- Look back into the past. Then I ask myself a question based on Churchill’s quote: how many of my worries and things I feared came into my reality in the past? The answer is always the same for me: very few.
These two steps help me to calm down and to think more clearly about things once again
Life Is a Battle!
Exhaustion Is Not a Status Symbol
How Does the Militarization of Fitness Affect Your Workout?
- No pain, no gain. You have to suffer to get in shape.
- More is always more. Duh.
- Working out is not fun, but it's an obligation.
- If I don’t almost throw up, I’m holding back too much.
- You’re only as good as your last workout.
- I feel like a loser when I miss a workout.
So What’s the Other Option?
Using Intensity Wisely and Normalizing Discomfort
With the holiday weekend approaching, I wanted to remind you about a couple of excellent resources for healthy AND tasty recipes. Its all about the mindset: Try not thinking about passing on high fat, processed and recreational sugary foods as depriving yourself. What you are truly depriving yourself of when you choose these options is good health.
Enjoying a quality of life and health expressed in your personal Vision of Wellness is a freedom worth fighting for!
Heart Healthy Recipes (American Heart Association)
Healthy Recipes (American Diabetes Association)
Enjoy a Freedom Fighting Holiday!
Yours Truly In Health,
I have been following Geneen Roth since 1986. She continues to inspire me:
Last week, when I was at a gas station filling the tank, washing my windshield, checking the oil, and adding little whooshes of air to my tires, I noticed a woman in the car next to me eating a piece of pizza. And then another. And then the entire pizza. After that, she ate a box of donuts and a carton of ice cream. I wanted to walk over to her and say, “Oh, honey, tell me what’s going on….” Then I remembered that when I was bingeing, I would have run down anything that stood between me and food. So I decided to preserve my life and not interrupt the Binge Trance. Still, I couldn’t get her out of my mind for the rest of the day.
Bingeing used to thrill me. From the moment I decided to binge, to the hunting and gathering of the food that would be its centerpiece, through the eating (um, inhaling) of those foods, I would be heart-pounding, eyes-gleaming enthralled.
A binge had the power to stop time. To stop everything that was disturbing me: the worries, the nitty-gritty tasks I was avoiding, the arguments I was having with a friend or family member. Bingeing was a way to sidestep my life and enter a world in which nothing existed but me and food. It was, as I’ve called it in my books, “a plunge into oblivion.”
The hardest part of bingeing was, natch, when I reached the end. The last bite would be taken, and I’d be surrounded by the evidence of my romp (which was really more like a rampage) through the grocery store: empty cans, crumpled cellophane packages, torn cardboard boxes. I’d end a binge feeling unbearably full – and incredibly empty. Only now I had added another layer of pain to my list of pre-binge worries: my seemingly out-of-control relationship to food and my ever-increasing body size. The truth was that rather than take any of my pain away, I’d just doubled it by bingeing, and the resulting desperation was almost unbearable.
Having paid close attention to my many binges, and having been asked countless binge questions over the years, I think I’ve gleaned some wisdom that’s worth sharing.
First, we all need to have built-in plunges into oblivion. We need to give ourselves permission to check out from the frantic, overwhelming pace of our lives. If you watch small children, you’ll see that they race around madly and then collapse. They put out huge amounts of energy, and then they need to rest. We’re like that, too, but we’ve forgotten about the downtime part.
We think we can be on the run endlessly and be fine.
The rhythm of exertion needs to be followed by rest. There is a time to run around and a time to plunge into oblivion. If we don’t build the latter into our lives, we suffer. Either we become utterly exhausted or we sneak a plunge on the sly, sometimes while sitting in a car at a gas station. We grab time for ourselves by bingeing, and because we don’t feel we’re allowed the luxury of downtime, we end up hurting ourselves.
Downtime is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. The food-free version could include reading, knitting, even watching soap operas. But if you are so tired that you can’t imagine doing one more thing, what you should do is simple: nothing. Even for five minutes a day. If it’s too outlandish to consider resting and either doing nothing or doing what you love, then it’s time to take a second look at how you’ve constructed a life that includes everyone but you.
I also have some advice on what you can do when you find yourself knee-deep in the Binge Trance. Try to become aware of the part of you that is separate from the activity, the part that is witnessing what you are doing and saying, “Wow, I am sitting in my car at a gas station by myself surrounded by $50 worth of pizza and donuts – I wonder what’s going on?” Pay attention to that voice at least as much as you are paying attention to the next bite. Be curious about what you are doing.
And at the very least, taste the food you are eating. My experience in bingeing – whether it’s on two cookies or an entire cake – is that I am so caught up in getting the food in my mouth, I forget to taste it, to enjoy it. And as long as you are eating, you might as well enjoy it. If bingeing is the only time you give yourself permission to eat your favorite foods, why let the moment pass you by without noticing the crunch of those foods? Since binges are a way to give yourself something, let yourself receive it. The positive by-product of this awareness is that compulsion and mindfulness cannot coexist. Once you become aware of what you are doing, it’s harder to continue with the same momentum.
What if you finish every last bite or drop? What do you say to yourself, how do you treat yourself? I have a three-word directive for coming off a binge: Be unspeakably kind. In the empty fullness left after bingeing, the “I can’t believe you did this again, what’s the matter with you, you are a failure now and forevermore” voices sense a place to step in. And when they do, they roar.
Don’t let them. If they threaten to overtake you, imagine them, as a therapist friend of mine says, as teeny screeching mice the size of your thumbnail. Imagine putting them in a jar and covering it with a very strong lid. Since their squawking can’t hurt you now, treat yourself as if you were doing your very best. Live as if you deserve to be here, regardless of what you have just eaten. And know that every time you remind yourself that you belong here, regardless of what you weigh, you are speaking the truth.
Amazing blog written by my mentor and coach, Ellen Schuman
I Want to Lose Weight
This is “Healthy Weight Week”! Now sponsored by Green Mountain at Fox Run, “Healthy Weight Week is an educational event to help change public perception that weight determines health and that dieting is a viable health solution.”
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time in my life I’ve said, “ I want to lose weight. If I could just lose this weight, I’d be happy ”. Add another 50 cents for every time I felt pressured (Mom, you know who you are) and was told I “should” want to lose weight, I’d be rich!
We’re all bombarded with the messages daily; some overt, some covert….thin equals pretty. Diet commercials encourage me to “Say hello to my new beginning”. Why? Because my current life isn’t worth living if I happen to live at a higher weight than a Victoria’s Secret model? I’m to emulate some now bikini-worthy celebrity who was paid a million plus dollars to live on meal replacements? Or I’m to substitute Special K Cereal products for two of three meals a day, so I can “lose up to 6 lbs. in two weeks”?
A weight loss segment on Good Morning America ends with the two seemingly intelligent women anchors spontaneously saying, in unison, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. Then, they high five each other and laugh, as if they have just chanted their battle cry, and they’re winning. My hair salon was promoting its hair products and these words were on the cover of the brochure, “Get the Skinny”. We’re talking hair products here! Really? No wonder we feel badly about ourselves. We’re told even our hair is too fat!
Alleged weight loss “experts” on the Biggest Loser (even our family physicians) say, “If you want to lose weight, try behavior modification”. But think about it. Weight is not a BEHAVIOR. What you weigh today is not a “behavior” to be modified. Not sure that’s so? Just talk to people who have tried to “modify weight”, who have spent a fair (sad) portion of their lives focused on their weight, and they’ll tell you they weigh more today than they did the day they accepted dieted as a religion or as a required and acceptable way to live.
So, if you’re ready to,
1) let go of dieting as your way to feel “in control”
2) reject the pursuit of weight loss as a national past time and moral imperative
3) stop believing that weight loss is THE route to health and happiness and, instead, begin to explore new ways to make a life that brings you your best health, energy, and joy…
what do you do next?
My recommendation…embrace SELF-CARE! Focus on healthy behavior, not on weight and weight bias. Develop new healthy habits you’re willing to practice, a step at a time, that will improve your emotional, physical, nutritional, social, and spiritual health…no matter what you happen to weight on any given day.
Begin to feel more at home in and be more loving to your body. Maybe start with gratitude. Notice the many pleasures your body provides; taste, sight, hearing, pleasure of touch, and smell. Your body takes you through each and every day and allows you to experience it all! It provides the pleasure of taking a walk with a friend, watching movies, dancing, making love, enjoying great music, eating great food. Gratitude and self-care can go a long way when it comes to feeling at home in your body.
“Feeling at home in your body,” also means taking ownership and responsibility for your body.Treat it well. Give it great fuel. Take it in for repair, when needed. (Would you treat your car any less well?) Please accept your body as it is now, with weight wherever it happens to be today, along with all of your aches and pains, and challenges. Its the only body you’ll ever have!
Think about it. If you respect your body vs. loathing it, will you be more willing to take good care of it? Will you be much more likely to make healthier choices if your focus is on being as healthy as possible, rather than on being as thin as possible? (Very little I did in my attempts to get thin would be considered healthy, by anyone’s standards.)
Here’s to self-care and to your best health possible! As you take wonderful care of your body, your body will do exactly what it’s naturally meant to do when you treat it well…
The following is an article written by Dr. Michelle May, founder of "Am I Hungry" a program centered around Intuitive Eating.
Your Picture of health
Have you ever seen a photo mosaic? From a distance, it looks like an ordinary portrait, but up close, you realize that it’s actually comprised of thousands of small detailed photographs.
Your health is like that: a mosaic of the thousands of small decisions you make about your eating, physical activity, and well-being. No single decision determines the outcome, but altogether, they create your picture of health. Here are six surprisingly small resolutions that add up to big changes:
1. Find the middle ground.
Think of eating and physical activity as a pendulum with two extremes: All and Nothing. What happens if you draw a pendulum in one direction and let it go? Of course, it swings to the opposite extreme. Too often, this is how people approach their eating and exercise choices: all or nothing.
No individual snack, meal, or drink—or day on the couch—will ruin your picture of health, but a pattern of overconsumption or disregard for your health will affect the end result. Since perfection is not possible (or even necessary), find the balance in-between. When your eating and exercise plan take into account your schedule, preferences, goals, health concerns, and other issues specific to you, you’re able to establish a healthy lifestyle that is flexible enough to withstand the realities of your daily life.
2. Use nutrition information as a tool, not a weapon.
Rigid rules set you up for failure because when your favorites are off-limits, you’ll still want them. This can trigger cravings, overeating, and guilt, so you may find yourself in the trap I call the “eat-repent-repeat” cycle. Instead, enjoy the foods you really love without guilt. This freedom actually decreases cravings and overeating, and increases enjoyment and moderation. When guilt is no longer a factor, common sense prevails.
Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet. Just keep in mind the common-sense principles of balance, variety, and moderation when deciding what to eat: balance eating for enjoyment with eating for nourishment; choose a variety of foods to feel healthy and satisfied; and practice moderation in all things.
If your eating is out of balance, simply ask yourself, “Is there a healthier choice I could make without feeling deprived?” You may discover that you are just as satisfied with frozen yogurt in place of ice cream, whole grain crackers instead of chips, or a small instead of a large. That is balance, variety, and moderation.
3. Check your fuel gauge.
You wouldn’t pull into a gas station to fill up without first checking your fuel gauge. But how often do you eat just because it’s there? To recognize the difference between wanting to eat and needing to eat, pause and ask yourself, “Am I hungry?”
It’s a deceptively simple question. You’ll probably be surprised to discover how often you feel like eating just because you’re bored, tired, stressed, or want a reward. Eating food your body doesn’t need leads to weight gain—and doesn’t meet your emotional needs very well either.
By asking “Am I hungry?”, you may sometimes realize that you’re too hungry. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, sets you up for overeating and poor choices. Keep nutrient rich foods on hand for snacks. Examples of great choices include a handful of nuts, fresh or dried fruit, whole grain crackers with string cheese, or a pouch of ready-to-eat tuna.
4. End eating on autopilot.
Eating on the run doesn’t work because multitasking is a myth. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time so everything else goes on autopilot—especially eating. Thiat’is why you can get to the end of a meal and feel stuffed, but strangely unsatisfied.
On the other hand, mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started. Eat with attention by taking a break to eat. Make eating an opportunity to refuel and recharge. Minimize distractions, pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and appreciate the aromas, appearance, and flavors of the meal. Awareness of your body’s fuel needs and conscious enjoyment of the entire experience leads to greater satisfaction with less food.
As you experience the benefits of eating more mindfully, ask yourself what other areas of your life would improve with less multitasking and more intention and attention.
5. Exercise for health, not punishment.
Don’t make the mistake of exercising to earn the right to eat or pay penance for eating, as in, “I was so bad at dinner last night; I’ll spend an extra hour on the treadmill.” This negative approach leads to dread and avoidance. Instead, exercise for energy, productivity, health, function, and longevity.
Find activities that you really enjoy and that work well in your schedule. Even busy people quickly discover that it’s a great return on their investment when they focus on the benefits. Exercise is so valuable in fact, that if you’re too busy to exercise, you’re just too busy.
If you aren’t in shape yet, start small and you’ll quickly adapt. Picture that pendulum: small steps practiced consistently are more effective than one large, temporary overhaul.
6. Take responsibility for your well-being.
Self-care is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. But don’t expect someone else to say, “You know what you really need? Time for yourself!” You have to believe you deserve it and be willing to invest your precious resources to make sure you get it.
Even the little things—restful sleep, connecting with family and friends, time for favorite hobbies, quiet relaxation—all contribute to your effectiveness, health, and vitality. When you keep the big picture in mind, tile by tile, choice by choice, you’ll create a masterpiece of good health and your best year yet!
I recently attended a Pilates Conference sponsored by a leading equipment manufacturer, Balanced Body. In attendance were Pilates instructors from around the world. It was so amazing to be among enthusiast's sharing our passion for Pilates and helping others. With a desire to get a taste of the evolving repertoire and new ways to move on the reformer I signed up for a few intermediate/advanced master classes. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m a Pilates teacher who has been doing this specific type of functional movement for 7 years. Well, I was soon humbled by my first class. Unbeknownst to me during registration, this was a 90 minute class using a Pilates “Arc” on the reformer (image below).
With a fusion of my thoracic and lumbar spine, this “Arc” was NOT my friend. My back would never in my lifetime have the ability to extend over this prop. I was immediately faced by 2 choices: Option 1: An ego based, muscling through the workout on the Arc with obvious limitations and paying for it with an all too familiar muscle spasm and/or inflammation in my lower back for the rest of the day. OR Option 2: treating myself as I do with all of my client’s with limitations by showing empathy and compassion and perform effective variations WITHOUT the Arc. Truth be told, my ego won for the first few exercises and I quickly felt pain radiating down my back. That was all I needed to remind me of the importance of self-compassion and respecting my own limitations. I immediately hopped off the “!*!*!” Arc, found a foam roller and began gently applying massage to my muscles that were seizing up to protect my spine. Fortunately, I was able to course correct by revisiting my second option: share my limitations with the teacher and perform most of the class w/out the Arc.
Every class following this experience involved many exercises that I could not do without making significant modifications. This is the wonderful fact about Pilates! There are so many exercises, which can be performed with adjustments and assists to achieve the same result! At first, I felt like having a little pity party, for not having the ability to perform exercises as beautifully as most of the other students and impress the master teachers. Once I shifted my mindset to the positive and focused on lessons learned from the experience I actually felt a sense of gratitude for my limitations and for the gifts of empathy and compassion acquired because of them. When I shared with the instructors about my fusion they were more than accommodating and even used it as an opportunity to teach other student instructors how to work with a fused spine = )
Lessons from this experience I’d like to share:
- Don’t allow limitations prevent you from participating fully in your life.
- If there is something you are getting a nudge to try just show up! Allow yourself to feel the anxiety and discomfort of trying something new knowing it will pass. If you find that you aren’t enjoying the experience you can modify, take a break or just leave. It’s never too late to course-correct.
- Speak Up!
- Always practice self-compassion!
- Never compare yourself to others!
Thank you for reading = ) Now get out there and Rock What You've Got!