I’ve been doing this for – maybe 6 weeks? I’ve lost count. And even if some mornings I forget or don’t have time, I keep coming back.
I started doing this because I was struggling with my inner creative spirit. I am an artist (and everyone is), and I wasn’t letting myself create.
More than that, I wasn’t letting myself out. There are many reasons why we don’t let ourselves out into the world. My personal reasons include fear, perfectionism, boredom, obligation, lack of time, lack of money, lack of energy, worry and uncertainty about “the point.”
One of the wonderful things about working with kids is relearning how to play.
All day every day:
I exchange jokes with them
I hear about something exciting
I listen to a long monologue about a favorite [game, sport, activity, food, restaurant, etc.]
I watch them learn new things
I see them explore and share what they’re passionate about
I have kids who are really into basketball, horses, guinea pigs, video games, books, baseball, art, and farming equipment. No matter what it is, they are really into it.
Where does all of that enthusiasm and passion and playful spirit go, as we get older? It seems like learning to be in society means learning how not to bore others with our interests, how to talk about things everybody likes, how to please the people around us. We get filters and walls and limits that we didn’t have as babies, kids, or teenagers. There’s an open minded beauty to a child’s explorations of the world, if they feel safe and welcome to explore it.
My morning pages are my space to be a child. Or maybe they’re my space to be an adult. I write down all my dreams and worries, what I’m looking forward to and what I’m dreading. When I’m finished, three pages later, I breathe a sigh of relief and let it go.
Part of my becoming process is learning how to tap into my inner child. As a kid, I used to spend hours on my favorite activities. I had an urgent need to keep doing them. I wrote stories – novels – I played with dolls, I created entire worlds in my head. And they were real and vivid and beautiful works of art.
We all did it. We all must do it again. We have an even greater capacity as adults to imagine, dream, plan, and create.
That’s what will make the world more beautiful, one person at a time.
I discovered the secret of true and deep and lasting happiness.
Aren’t we all looking for happiness? Aren’t there images everywhere, all around us, of ways that we could be happier? Don’t we, in almost all of our conversations, assume that happiness is the ideal state of being?
In my nutrition school last week, we had a lecture video by Gretchen Rubin, who researches habits and habit formation.
She gave us 7 keys to happiness. Here they are:
Sleep 7+ hours every night.
Cultivate good smells. (my favorite)
Organize possessions and declutter your space.
Make your bed every morning.
Establish and deepen relationships.
These are phenomenal suggestions, some of which you and I probably already knew. I have invested significant amounts of time in all of these areas since beginning my year of intention, as I’m now calling it. And, they work. If all of us do just these seven things, I think we’d see a significant improvement in happiness.
This led me to a conclusion of my very own. The secret to happiness.
Here’s my equation:
Health > Happiness
The sign in the middle is a greater than sign, maybe. It might also be an arrow. We could read this as “health is greater than happiness,” or “health leads to happiness.”
What kind of health? All kinds of health. A healthy body, a healthy brain, a healthy spirit. In R.A. training in college we called the health areas “SMELPS” – Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, Lifestyle, Physical, and Social.
These areas of health still matter in adulthood. Maybe more than ever.
Let me pose you a question:
Is there one thing that you know, if you did it right now, it would make you healthier? At this very moment?
Maybe it’s brushing your teeth. Maybe it’s having a glass of water. Maybe it’s reading a great book before bed. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite music, burning a favorite candle, remembering your favorite childhood bedtime story.
Do one of these things in the next 24 hours. Do one thing that makes you healthier. Maybe more than that. If you do a thing anyway, without meaning to, pause and recognize it. Like: “hey, healthy thing. Thanks for making me feel better!”
Odds are, it’s also something that makes you happier.
Both happiness and health live in the inconsequential corners of our lives. They reside in the minutia of our mundane daily rhythms. Health and happiness are both achieved by making small, intentional choices about how we spend the next moment.
Neither are things we “achieve.” Neither are permanent, nor are they a given. They take diligence and work, but not the hard or tasking or monumental kind.
Health, and therefore happiness, take the kind of work that begins with mindful attention to what we need or want, and ends with following through to get it for ourselves. Moment by moment.
One of the things that’s been most helpful to me in life, but especially in my health journey, is the idea of a growth mindset.
Here’s a little exercise: write down one “negative” thing that you believe to be true about yourself.
Mine was something along the lines of: “I’m not an athlete.”
In junior high, I was on the softball field, up to bat, and I hit a foul ball. The boys behind me said, “well, at least she hit it.” I laughed it off. But I learned, gradually, that I was bad at sports. Not a natural athlete. Not a runner. Not able to be active without feeling defeated and comparing myself to the “natural athletes” I thought I wasn’t. I failed all the P.E. “tests” on various sports rules – football, basketball, etc. I was picked last for teams. I focused entirely on my intellectual self, because my physical self was the source of such hard feelings.
Of course, if you think you’re bad at something, you aren’t going to want to do it in your free time. So, rather than getting “better” at sports, I just avoided them. This reinforced my identity as a non-sports person, and I became what I thought I was: bad at sports. Not athletic. Not active.
This was cemented for me a decade ago, and I didn’t really question it until this year. When my energy and physical well-being started improving in January and February, I started craving movement. I felt like I had so much energy to burn. I started Barre classes, running, and swing dance lessons. I would go home and take a walk. These new behaviors were both cause and consequence of a new attitude that I was forming: If I move, I will get better at moving.
Obvious, right? But it was not obvious until I challenged my own beliefs about exercise. I believed that exercise wasn’t “worth it” if I didn’t go hard, and when I felt like I couldn’t go hard I just wouldn’t go. I thought exercise was all about losing weight, and when that didn’t happen (see: thyroid problems), I stopped. I set a lot of goals and couldn’t fulfill them, partly because I was handicapped by my own attitude, my own identity as someone who doesn’t exercise. Who’s not a natural athlete.
Now, instead, I describe myself like this:
I enjoy movement. Moving makes me feel good. Moving gives me energy. No matter how much movement I do, it’s beneficial to my health. The goal of my movement is to have fun and feel strong and flexible.
Everyone is a “natural athlete.” It is natural for us to move! Humans did nothing but move for hundreds of years, and it was pretty healthy for them. Another thing I’ve learned is that you get better at whatever you want to practice. If I do yoga, I’ll get stronger and bendier. Running will make me better at running. If I do barre, I’ll get stronger and more stable. If I swing dance, I’ll get better at swing dancing. And, as long as I’m enjoying myself, I will keep moving! I don’t have to worry about when my next workout is, because I’ll know when I need to move next.
There are people who are “natural athletes” who have similar, fixed beliefs about themselves. In fact, everybody probably has fixed beliefs about themselves. Your belief about yourself could be in a totally different area than mine. The point is, psychologically, beliefs have a tremendous impact on behaviors. In fact, beliefs cause behaviors. But, behaviors also cause beliefs. Liberation from these fixed beliefs is totally possible, if we are able to challenge the attitude as we change the behavior.
And, when that happens, we can literally change our identities.
I think the world will be a happier place if everyone is exactly who they want to be, don’t you? 🙂
Let me preface this by saying: everyone is different. These are 5 things I needed, and 5 things I’ve seen many other people need, but what you need may be different. Making changes requires a lot of reflection and it’s very specific to each individual, so trust yourself to figure out what you need!
A reason: Why do you want or need to make a change?
In my case, I was finally tired of not feeling my best. I wasn’t quite sure how I could feel, but my doctor seemed convinced that I could feel better. I had a laundry list of symptoms that turned out to be the result of chronic autoimmune disease, so my motivation lay in alleviating those symptoms.
Once you’ve identified an area of your life that you want to improve, ask yourself this question, which I learned in the beginnings of my health coaching training:
What does your body need to heal itself?
The theory of non-western medicine is that people know their own bodies better than health professionals do. This is contrary to what we’re led to believe: if something’s wrong, doctors know how to fix it, right?
Wrong. Or, right, but only some of the time. The goal of health coaching is to empower people to listen to the data coming from their own bodies. Are you tired? Are you stressed? Do you have eczema? Allergies? Asthma? Do you need Adderall to focus or Nyquil to sleep? Your body is in a state of stress in all those cases. Making a change will be more successful with the identification of that stressor. There may be a lot – in that case, pick one to address. Generally, when one thing starts falling into place, it has a domino effect.
A goal:Change goals must be specific and measurable.
Lifestyle changes require a lot of willpower, and the brain has limited reserves of willpower. Therefore, willpower must be focused in an intentional way. For instance, instead of “eat better,” decide exactly how you want to eat better. Do you want to eat more veggies? “Include leafy greens in at least two meals per day for a week.” Drink more water? “Drink at least 60 oz per day of water for the next 30 days.” The gray areas are totally removed from these goals, and there is an opportunity to do more than your goal, increasing feelings of success.
Goals like this enable mini-successes which replenish willpower reserves. It’s easy to measure whether you’ve accomplished them, so it’s easier to stick to them. It’s also easier to buy into a change for just a week, or just thirty days, allowing small and incremental changes in lifestyle until they become habitual behaviors.
Support : Love and encouragement, from yourself and others, enables the achievement of goals!
Everyone needs different kinds of support. In my world, a good support system is comprised of people that are able to cheer me on when I’ve had a success, are interested in what I’m working on, and hold me accountable for my intentions. People who shut down, shame, or get competitive about lifestyle behaviors are not your lifestyle-change friends. It’s okay, they can be your fun friends, but you need others to provide all the unconditional encouragement that you need as you exert willpower to make a change!
Also, whatever change you’re making, odds are that someone else has made it already. Either this person is in your personal community, or they’re in some social media community somewhere. Instagram has many powerful sources of information and inspiration in the form of wellness bloggers, or registered dieticians and health coaches. Which brings me to….
Inspiration: Keep up your energy by staying inspired!
Embarking on a new goal can be fun. In my wellness journey thus far, I’ve loved learning new tricks in the kitchen, making new recipes, and absorbing new information about health and wellness. It isn’t always easy, which is why inspiration is so important. In those moments when it feels so boring, so frustrating, and so hard, there is usually a new dish that can rekindle some newfound creativity.
Even yesterday, as I contemplated beginning the Autoimmune Protocol for healing my thyroid, I went to the bookstore and bought a new cookbook full of recipes. It totally reinspired my meal planning and made me excited to start the week!
Perspective : The most famous line in the whole30 is a tough love line:
It is followed by the admission that yes, it will be hard. Food, especially, is an emotional, social, cultural, personal issue that can be very triggering for people. Breaking habits is notoriously hard, because they’re habits, a.k.a. deeply entrenched, automatic behaviors. But, I think this quote is important to remember. Many people said, when I told them about the Whole30, “I could never give up (insert food here).” Having a growth mindset has been the most liberating thing for me. My attitude going into January was “yes, I can do it!” Once I did, it only made it easier to believe.
The weather is FINALLY hot, guys. The sun came out of hiding. Thank Zeus. Er, I’m sorry, Helios – let’s keep it going, buddy.
I am definitely a cold-weather person at heart. But let’s just say that the past FOUR DAYS of sun have been the LONGEST STRETCH of sunny weather since SEPTEMBER??? Sorry, I’ll stop yelling. It’s been a rough winter.
So anyway, this weather has gotten me thinking – hard – and when I’m supposed to be doing other things – about all the fun things I want to do this summer. Here are my summer dreams:
Become a wellness blogger. One amazing thing that has come out of the Whole30 is that I have discovered this community of people on the interwebs that are doing the whole food/healthy lifestyle thing in really down-to-earth ways. They’ve become my main sources of inspiration and information as I embark on this journey to figure out what the heck is inflaming my system. I have since become really interested in the idea that food and mental health are very connected, and that nutrition could be the key to reducing things like anxiety and boosting peoples’ moods. My goal for the summer is to explore wellness and see what I can give back to this amazing group of influencers!
Read. Lots. Now is the moment when I casually drop into my blog post that I am going to grad school in the Fall. Starting in September, I will be a student of humanistic psychology with the goal of becoming a therapist? Although I still harbor secret dreams of being a professor and researcher and writing a book. And I will be working as well. So, I want to get a head start on my reading for next year as well as dive into the stack of books I’ve had sitting next to my bed forrrrrrever. I can’t wait to be #learning again.
Plan the heck out of next year. Planning is something that I just will not have time to do, and it is also probably the most important thing that I do as a teacher (along with manage the class and stuff like that of course). When I start the year, I want my projects planned out for each level so that I know my major units and when things will be assigned and due. It’ll be easier than last year, because last year I was going in blind!
Do yoga and barre and run and dance and walk and hike and camp and swim and…One of the major, like indescribably major, benefits of getting my health things figured out is that I have way more energy than ever before. A combination of better thyroid performance and less chronic inflammation (no more asthma) makes it so much more fun to exercise! I really can’t believe that I was missing out on this feeling. Plus, with the weather, I just wanna get outside. It calms my mood and body system like no other thing does.
Ciao for now. Time to get back to work. TTY soon 🙂
As I got more and more into my Whole30 journey, I collected new blogs, Instagram accounts, and cookbooks that served as great resources when I needed inspiration. I thought I’d share some of them here.
Against All Grain: Danielle Walker makes amazing recipes. I have two of her books, Celebrations and Against All Grain, and I like looking through both for new meals to try. I use her recipe for nut milk, which is super simple and delicious!
Shut the Kale Up: Her Instagram is more in-depth than her website, but she is generally just so cool. Her bowls are drool-worthy and her son is adorable. She has lots of cool wisdom to share, and is very real about her lifestyle and how personalized everyone’s lifestyle should be.
Minimalist Baker: Dana makes recipes that are fast, easy, and amazing. Her vegan parmesan cheese is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and her baked goods are allergy friendly and always look scrumptious. I’ve made a variation of her vegan cheese several times. Cashews make amazing dairy replacement products, who knew!?
The other things I use all the time for recipe inspiration are the Whole30 Cookbook and the original Whole30 book. I’ve recommended both to friends and family members and everyone loves them. The recipes are simple, easy, and usually all the ingredients are things people have on hand. I highly recommend them – even if you aren’t doing a Whole30 anytime soon, or ever.
Hope you enjoy these resources! Message or comment if you’ve found some hidden gems that I haven’t.
In my post on Food and Feelings last time, I talked about my meltdown of a couple of weeks ago, when things just seemed so hard. After that, I was given the green light to add some things that I’d taken out – Thai food (no soy, though), rice, maybe quinoa or other gluten free grains, and mayyyybe paleo sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup.
For the first week, this went okay. I accidentally ate soy sauce because there was free octopus salad at my favorite sushi bar. Cue hand hives. It happened about ten minutes post-consumption: tiny red, itchy spots under my skin. Cue feelings of guilt, frustration, and general angst about the unfairness of it all.
In the following two weeks, my forays out of the Whole30 guidelines included rice cakes, almond flour crackers from Simple Mills (this was really made with all compliant ingredients, but is an SWYPO situation), and coconut butter cups from Eating Evolved (coconut sugar). I also had half a girl scout cookie, and…I think that’s it. Until last weekend.
It was my friend’s going away party. I was prepared with compliantly roasted chips and paleo chili. I swung by Trader Joe’s to pick up some gin and carbonated water – the first alcohol I’d have in 2017. When I arrived, I spontaneously decided that this would be a YOLO night. No more worrying about ingredients, no more label-reading or sticking just to what I knew I could consume without repercussions. So, throughout the evening, I consumed: dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gin and soda water, tequila, tomato (in the chili), and a slice of cake.
It doesn’t sound like much. It didn’t feel like much. But, the next morning, I instantly decided: NOT worth it.
Melissa Hartwig, in Food Freedom Forever, promotes a really great system for enacting the “food freedom” that comes post-Whole30. True food freedom is all about making very mindful choices and critically thinking about what you put into your body.
For example – you will not suddenly want to eat more cake when it’s your birthday. Your body doesn’t know it’s your birthday. If you see some amazing treat, Melissa challenges you to decide, with thorough and conscientious thinking, whether that treat is “worth it.” In other words: armed with the information that Whole30 gave you about how that will affect your body, what is the best course of action? It’s sometimes to eat it… and sometimes, it’s to not eat it.
My first mistake was the gin. I had maybe two drinks of it, but it impacted my ability to make mindful choices for the rest of the evening. My other mistake was deciding to throw the rules out the window. I could have had a few peanut butter cups and been satisfied. But, because I was eating “whatever,” I had to try everything.
Why wasn’t it worth it? For the whole day afterward, I was in bed with a variety of symptoms: stomach distress, a massive headache, fatigue, bloating, and suddenly worsened eczema. I was angsty and irascible. On Sunday, I had a glass of wine with friends. Not only is alcohol not great because it annihilates gut bacteria, but I am also sensitive to grapes, sugar and brewing yeast; this did not go well either. Going back to work on Monday was the worst. I slept poorly for a few days in a row, waking up stressed in the early morning. My mood was depressed; I was less patient and much less fun with the kids.
On Wednesday, I talked to my doctor. She told me to go back to what I know works for me: Whole30 eating. After 14 days of that, I’m supposed to reintroduce a medical food she prescribed me for people with malabsorption. It has sugar in it, so I have to monitor my reaction and make sure it’s okay for me to consume. Round 3, Day 6.
I follow so many bloggers now who are Whole30, Paleo, health nutty clean eaters. They are often very inspiring, because they show me that it’s possible to get where I want to go. But sometimes, looking at their social media accounts makes me feel like they’ve achieved a perfection that I haven’t achieved yet (that cliché instagram probem). My life right now feels out of balance.
I think it’s important to hear from people in this stage, the struggle to back in balance: the stage where you don’t think it will ever happen, and it feels really hard, and you’re in the middle of this giant life change which exhausts your willpower muscles to a maximum.
But, in the back of my mind, I know that I’m on a right track. My diet right now includes so many nutrients, so much produce, and so much variety. I am getting better at combining simple ingredients to make varied and delicious meals, and I am really comfortable in the kitchen.
Meal for family!
Shepherd’s Pie: experiments in seasoning
Prep mode strong
People often express pity that I can’t eat all of the things. My external response is: yeah, it’s hard. My internal response is: but, it’s not worth it for me to eat like I used to. What I put in my body has too much physical, mental and emotional impact on me to ignore. It wasn’t always this way, and I hope it won’t always be this way, but for now I’m embracing my reality and thanking this experience for forcing me into a healthful and nourishing lifestyle.
On that note, I’m thinking of starting a project: developing my blog even more, as if it were my full-time job. If I were to write much more often, what do you want to hear? What do you like about my blog? What do you wish I did differently/more of? You can help by leaving a comment addressing any and all of these questions. Let’s learn and grow together :).