From a Hot Mess to a Beautiful one.

Hot mess was a term that was used in reference to my life more than once and more than once by myself, about myself. For years I felt that there would always be at least one area in my life that would be a mess or at least look like a mess from the outside (which equals stress in my world). And even if I managed to get all my ducks in a row for a moment, they quickly began to waddle off and make some sort of mess, a big ducking mess. 

While things are often still not where I'd like for them to be, the mess is no longer unmanageable, its expected. I can spot the messiness creeping in and do something to change that, things move slower and are more predictable, like now I have turtles in a row. I now know that by acknowledging the mess and the uncomfortable that I am slowly cleaning it up and that maybe one day it won't be a challenge to keep in order, it will be part of my routine, a healthy habit. 

My old habit of ignoring the mess, running from it, blaming someone or something for it, shoving it in the closet, under the bed, hiring someone to deal with it or stressing over what people will think about my messiness, is slowly being let go. By taking a good look at my mess and working to declutter and reorganize my daily life, I now see all of my mess as a beautiful work in progress. I now see this messiness as an opportunity for growth and change, which to me makes my mess beautiful. 

If you could hear my thoughts.

I have spoken about how much my life has changed this year. I have let go of lots of things that no longer serve me and started inviting in love from every person, place or thing that is willing to send it my way. Most recently I am in the process of letting go of my tendency to focus on what's "wrong". This stems from a drive for perfection, a drive for perfection that I didn't even know was a thing until three weeks ago. But over these past three weeks I have seen this perfectionism road-block pop up EVERYWHERE!! 

When I first learned that there was an underlying strive for perfection in my actions, I resisted the idea. I am the person that aims to simply get things done, usually at the last minute and usually with regrets on waiting til the last minute. It was in this resistance that I remembered my yoga teacher telling me that perfectionism can actually cause paralysis. It can cause resistance, often showing as procrastination. Why get started or even try if it's not going to compare to the others? If it can't live up to my silly (self-imposed) expectations? This perfection paralysis was something I totally recognized, again EVERYWHERE!!!!!

This hidden drive for things to be perfect often caused me to focus on the things that were wrong in a situation. For three days after this revelation, I began to see it. I was focusing on what was wrong, what could go wrong, what I had done wrong in the past and where there was potential for more things to go wrong. On that third day I had a complete emotional breakdown. I had been witnessing these thoughts and doing my best to flip my inner self-talk-script but after 72 hours of this I was exhausted. I was tired of noticing the flaws, I was tired of that feeling of overwhelm and anxiety it brought me when it was in focus. Very similarly to the feeling I had when I decided to quit drinking, I decide to let go of this way of thinking. 

This is not an easy task. I am still constantly reverting my thoughts to the love that exists in the present moment. I am telling myself "Jennifer, return to love", over and over and over again. I am repeating mantras of hope and trust, morning, noon and night. I am reading books, listening to podcasts, interacting on social media and listening to songs that support this healthy mindset. I am talking with those that are open to deep emotional conversations (when these unicorns appear) and I am writing my thoughts and using my voice to continue to reinforce the thoughts and feelings that I want to be my new normal.

Reprogramming our thoughts is a long battle but it can totally be done. I know this because at one point (and for many years) I thought there would never be a day in which I would choose to never drink again. Has this happened to you? This experience has allowed me to see that our thoughts are programmed by our past, our community, our leaders, our friends, and our experiences. And just as they have been programmed, they can be reprogrammed. First step will always be to check in with those thoughts as you cannot change what you do not notice.

I tell you all of this so that you understand that creating change takes effort, but if you start with your self talk and pump yourself up instead of adding to the mess that drags you down, this effort lessens and you are able to tackle the next thing standing in your way. Its like peeling an onion. You will shed one bad belief, thought or habit and move on to the next thing that is holding you back until you are the healthiest version of you. 

You are worth the effort and discomfort that this process will likely bring. The trade off has been well worth it for me. The time (days, months, maybe years) spent struggling to think healthy thoughts is way better than unknowingly living from a place of fear, constantly self sabotaging my greatness. I am awake to my nonsense and moving towards creating more freedom, and it feels so good. Come with me. 

Actions are based on beliefs. What is it that you believe?

What are your beliefs when it comes to your health and wellness (mind, body and soul)? One of my current "gurus" is Jen Sincero . In her latest book she talks about "mastering the mindset of wealth". While there are many, many amazing tidbits in You Are A Badass at Making Money, the way she explained what drives our actions has changed my life. No joking. Life changing. 

We often try to work harder and willpower our way through changing our actions but as I've discussed before, we only have limit efforts and willpower is not an infinite resource. It is for this reason that it's crucial to have other tools in the habit change tool box for those times when our willpower has been depleted. And if you're able to explore this tool (concept) with an open mind it might be one you use the most. Jen explains that our beliefs about a certain habit will directly affect our actions.

  1. Beliefs - We all have certain beliefs about things. Beliefs about money, our health, our bodies, what a relationship should look like, what a successful 35 year old female looks like, and so on. These beliefs are instilled throughout childhood and/or big moments in our lives. Difficult moments like being told we aren't cut out for something or when that relationship ended and we believed that we would never find someone better. Sometimes we let social media (and before that, Hollywood) trick us into believing that our bodies need to look a certain way in order to be truly happy. These beliefs run around in our minds controlling the show. 
  2. Thoughts and Words - Because of this mindset we tell ourselves things that reinforce those beliefs. If the belief was from childhood we may have been telling ourselves that we weren't good enough for a very long time. We then start to say things that further drive home this belief. For example, when we say things like "I can't do that cause I'm broke as a joke", or "Are you kidding me? I'm way too lazy to ever accomplish that" or "I will never look like her in a bathing suit", we are not only further drilling that FALSE belief into our minds, we are literally cutting off any hope of getting to a place where we are financially flush, running that race, and feeling like Ashley Graham in our bath suits. 
  3. Emotions - Imagine if someone followed you around and constantly told you those things? Eventually you would take the comments to heart and let them drag you down or you'd flick that person right in the forehead, three stooges style. Feelings of never being able to achieve something severely limits the actions you will or will not take. 
  4. Actions - Why bother working out if you'll never lose weight? Why change your spending habits if you're too broke to save any money? Why look for a different job or relationship if you're not worthy? Those emotions will kill your motivation and sabotage the efforts you do muster. 

Beliefs ----> Thoughts/Words ----> Emotions ----> Actions

You don't have to know anything other than what you believe about yourself can have serious affects on your success and happiness and you can absolutely change your beliefs. Simply start to peel the onion on the actions you are looking to change. Notice your words. Witness your emotions. Pay attention to your actions. Dig around to find what it is you believe. If you choose to no longer believe that then don't. Flip the script and find out what it is you truly want and believe in that! This may take some time and effort but once you believe you are worth it and you're thinking and speaking in positive manner, you will feel a sense of desire and confidence thatmakes taking action a much easy task. No willpower needed. 

The only question you need for change.

When life goes sour there are many questions that I start to rattle off in my head. Why did I go to that mental space again? How did I let this get out of hand again? When will this all make sense? Who the hell do I think I am? What the hell even happened?? These questions might start the reflection process but they don't work towards solving the root of the problem. 

I often discuss the issue of neglecting to work on the root of the problem. Most of us tend to focus on the symptoms of the problem, placing a temporary fix, like placing a bandaid over the nail that is stuck in our foot. In order to really relieve the pain, you have to remove the nail and allow for the healing to begin. Of course, pulling the rusting nail out will hurt like the dickens but once its out you can nurture your foot back to health. Using this bandaid method only sustains the pain. Numbing with pain relievers and continuing to cover it up, results in a nagging ache that won't ever go away. Sometimes this neglect will result in a very serious situation, forcing you to remove the nail but now there is all sorts of added pain such as infection, increasing the amount of time and level of expertise needed to heal this wound.  I now personally choose to go through the pain, knowing that it will be temporary, so that I can have health and happiness for the rest of my life. 

When I am reflecting back on a situation that has not gone in the way in which I hoped, the first question I ask myself is "What could I have done differently?". You know the definition of insanity right? Doing the same thing over and over, yet wondering why you keep getting the same results. By asking yourself this simple question you start to uncover the point at which you are straying from your path and with enough investigation you will start to uncover the reason you are straying in the first place, which is the root of the problem. 

For example, last week I continued to spend money on eating out, despite the fact that I had also spent a good bit of money on groceries. So instead of just beating myself up, I started to ask myself what I could have done differently so that this wasn't a reoccurring problem. Through this I concluded that I needed to have quick and easy meals that I can make from pantry staples, so that my excuse of being too tired to cook would no longer be an excuse. I also brought into focus that I hate having to do dishes before I even start cooking, so ensuring that I tidy my kitchen as I go will take this excuse off the table as well. By taking the time to come up with easy meals made from foods I always have and tidying my kitchen on the regular I have begun the process of removing the nail. 

Another, bigger example is why I quit drinking. I was tired of the physical and moral hangovers, I was tired of the pull it had from my health and wellness, and I was tired of the way it affected my relationships. Before I started to look at it this way, I simply managed the symptoms of this problem. I would only drink so much or on certain occasions and would make sure that I was safe when I did drink. I would try to drink different types of alcohol and did my best to hydrate and make sure to eat while consuming the booze. None of these changes actually changed anything because they were not the root of the problem. Because I neglected actually removing it for so long there was definitely a lot of infection that surrounded this problem but when I did finally remove the nail I allowed myself to start the healing process. I am still going through this healing phase and my wound is still sensitive but I know that I am on the right path as I have tackled the root of that problem. I can see how much I have already healed and I know that a full recovery is in sight. 

3 Lessons From Mother Nature

My one and only planned vacation for this year was a recent trip to North Carolina. I've visited this particular spot on this mountain numerous times throughout my life and yet I saw things very different this visit. My perspective on my life has drastically changed over the past 6 months, allowing me to see things from a different lens, a different perspective. Here are three things that I learned from my stay with Mother Nature, turned into mini lessons for life. 

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. - Lao Tzu

I first read this quote on a tea bag tag one night and of course, I thought how genius the idea was and made a little note of the quote. But it wasn't until I was having a mini meltdown at the cabin that this actually started to mean something to me.  Even though this was my only planned vacation for the year, I decided to put some silly and grand expectations in my head about using the time there to create content for my business. I really badly wanted to take advantage of the setting and to crank out a bunch of work so that I could use it to build the dream I have in my head, FASTER!!! My expectations were not being met and then all it took was one other hitch in my day to just leave me in tears. Don't worry, the tears were counter attacked with a shower and a meditation session, and those tears are the reason for this lesson. They made me stop and take a further look at what the root of the meltdown really was. 

Life is not about getting somewhere fast. When you move fast you tend to miss things. You miss important tasks, you miss errors in your work, you miss all of the good that is happening around you, you miss the view. You also miss the lessons. Each experience is a chance to learn something new, making you that much stronger to take on your goal. I am learning that no amount of speed will ever be better than really working to prepare yourself, showing up to do the work, and learning from your mistakes. This is how life works. 

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All of the calm is in the quiet. - Me

I had lots of quiet time on this trip. Hammock hangs, challenging hikes, meditation and long drives provided lots of space for thoughts. The quiet is when you really get to connect to what is it you want out of your life. Its when you hear your thoughts and if your willing, maybe even hear some guidance in the stillness. THIS IS SCARY. Some of my thoughts are beyond scary, as in, "I'd rather not think about you right now, maybe ever." But the best way to move through those thoughts and let them free is by sitting with them. The more you take quality quiet time the more space you give yourself to work through stuff, its the time in which your best ideas will emerge. If you use mediation as a regular source of your quiet time you will also get better at creating more calm on the spot, as this is the practice of not reacting to the noise - both the inside and the outside noise. Find the quiet regularly, even if just for a few moments each day. 

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After all you're just as tall as the mountains that you climb. - Thomas Wynn and the Believers

The analogy of a goal being like climbing a mountain is of course a popular one. Well, when you actually start climbing mountains, I guess there's a chance that this could start to really take shape. You set a goal and you are stoked. You are at the bottom of the mountain with all of your gear and you are off, but first a selfie :) The first few steps are exciting and the setting is crazy cool, but then you realize just how many steps its going to take to get to the top. The enthusiasm starts to fade and your focus turns from the trees and the sights to putting one foot in front of the other and just breathing. Now, it will depend on your mountain and it will depend on your attitude just how long that miserable stretch will last. If all you focus on is the pain you feel and the distance left to climb you will suffer more. But if you notice fatigue yet focus on what's happening in the moment, you will find spots for loving rest and breaks. If you simply continue to place one foot in front of the other, and maybe even ask for help along the way, your focus will be on what's thriving in the moment, providing yourself with the motivation to keep going. 

Once you reach the top, make sure to take in the view and be grateful for the climb. Then understand that the work is not over. It is now time to do the ever so tedious task of walking down the mountain, to then start searching for the next mountain to climb. Every time you attempt to climb you are growing into a stronger, taller version of yourself with handfuls of wisdom from your climb. 

I am going to leave you with this gem of a song by one of my favorite bands Thomas Wynn and the Believers. And FYI they are locals and they are amazing. 

Meditation is Medicine + I Choose to See Peace Meditation

If I told you I had a pill that would significantly decrease your chances of suffering from all sorts of disease would you buy it and take it daily? How much money would you spend on that wonder pill? Would you share it with your family and friends to help keep them healthy too? What if I told you that you didn't need a pill to make this happen. What if I told you that you could reduce your chances of suffering all sorts of disease simply by meditating daily. Would you be as gung ho as you were about the magic pill?

What is mediation?

Meditation is the practice of training your brain to work at different frequencies. Our brain has five different categories of brain waves, each correlating to different kinds of activities. The higher frequencies are associated with active learning and an alert prefrontal cortex, where we spend most of our day. With meditation, you can train your brain to move into the lower frequencies which are associated with calm and peaceful feelings. Lower, slower, wave length frequencies allow more time between thoughts. Meditation allows you to move from highly active thinking mind to a more quiet and visual mind. 

What are the benefits?

The studies on mediation are vast and the benefits are outstanding. From young to old, healthy to ill, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and Oprah Winfrey to busy moms and students, meditation can help to not only make you more focused and productive, but it can help you to stay calm and make tough decisions in crazy and hectic moments. Look at this list below. I have never seen anything with proven results that positively affect such a wide variety of human life as meditation (sleep and exercise are a close second). Benefits include but are not limited to the following:

  • Decreases depression
  • Regulates mood and anxiety disorders
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces panic disorders
  • Increases concentration
  • Reduces alcohol and substance abuse
  • Improves focus and attention
  • Improves ability to work under stress
  • Improves information processing
  • Improves decision making
  • Trains mental strength, resiliency and emotional intelligence
  • Relieves pain more than Morphine
  • Improves pain tolerance
  • Helps manage ADHD
  • Improves learning, memory and self-awareness
  • Improves rapid memory recall
  • Prepares you to deal with stressful events
  • Fosters creativity
  • Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Increases resiliency to stress and therefore increases immune system
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Decreases inflammatory disorders
  • Helps prevent asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Helps treat premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms
  • Reduces risk of Alzheimer's and premature death
  • Helpful for those with Fibromyalgia
  • Helps to manage psoriasis
  • Improves empathy and positive relationships
  • Reduces social isolation
  • Increases compassion
  • Decreases worry
  • Decreases feelings of loneliness
  • Reduces emotional eating

All of these benefits have studies to back them up. Check out this post for links to all of the science. 

How do you begin a meditation practice?

First, take a look at the list above and count how many of those things would benefit your life. I counted 10 for myself. Next, decide how important those benefits are to you. Are they no big deal, or are they differences that would greatly change your day to day life. Take a moment to notice the value that a mediation practice would bring to your wellbeing. For me, this is a no brainer, pun intended. Looking at my list of things that meditation can help allows me to recognize the massive need for a practice in my life. Tap into what your life would look like with a solid meditation practice and then set yourself up for success.

  • Just Breathe. You can start with just 2 minutes of sitting quiet and focusing on your breath. Feeling your inhales and feeling your exhales. If your mind wanders simply bring it back to your breath. Building to 20 minutes daily is ideal. 
  • Find a video or app to help guide you through. If you want more than the two minutes you can search for all sorts of specific meditations, such as gratitude, lovingkindness, forgiveness, or increased energy and they range from 5 minutes to hours long. I love an app called Calm and people rave about one called Headspace. You can find morning meditations all over the internet, just find one that you like and stick to it for a while. I have one below that I created just for you :)
  • Create a special place to do your meditation. This can be as basic as a yoga mat on the floor or can incorporate pillows, candles, photos of people and places that make you happy, or any other objects that make you smile. The more enjoyable your space the more likely you'll come to it. 
  • Connect meditation to another habit. I personally like to do my meditation before anything else, unless I have to pee, then that comes first. But if you need help making it a regular part of your day, connect it to a habit you already have each morning like brushing your teeth. Don't go too far into your routine, try to get it done within the first few moments of your day so you don't get distracted.
  • Add it to your calendar or daily checklist. I have a daily checklist in my journal that has all of my daily tasks like, hydrate, track my food, read, write, move (exercise), walk Coconut, etc. This allows me to see how consistent (or not) my practice has been. 
  • Use it throughout the day. If you missed it in the morning, find time to squeeze it in later. My practice generally looks like 5-10 minutes in the morning and 5-10 minutes in the evening, however I squeeze meditation in all day long. I use my 30 Breaths meditation (in which you sit and focus on your breath for 30 breaths) all the time. When I'm stressed and feeling frazzled, or when I'm antsy and feeling like I need something right this minute or i might snap, like sugar, junk food, buying crap, more coffee, or a nap. I used meditation so much when I was first trying to quit drinking. It is a tool in your tool box to help you deal with the stressors of life, all while bringing so many benefits, way more than a glass of wine or a pint of ice cream ;)
Meditation I used to come out of an anxious moment. Stop. Drop. And meditate.

 

One conscious breathe in and out is a meditation. – Eckhart Tolle

Becoming lit from within.

If you're not hip to the lingo the term lit is now being used to reference anything that is awesome, turned up, exciting, intoxicating in any manner, that lights one up, as if lit from within. Parties, outfits, substances, music, food, places, possessions, money, careers, and even people can be a source of awesomeness and excitement that helps to light us up, providing us with an intoxicating hit. Throw them all together and you will start to understand why it is so hard for most individuals to light themselves up naturally. It is why we struggle to just be. To just be alone, to just be quiet, to just be still, to have less, to let go of our ego, all of these things are foreign because of this mash up of an overwhelming 24-hours-a-day stimulation. We have slowly grown accustom to receiving multiple sources of these outside things to make us "happy", "calm", "content" or more appropriately, just distracted. 

The problem is these will only work for a short moment, and then you're back to the sadness, the solitude and the quiet. If this place is uncomfortable and unfamiliar it may be time to get to know this place a little better. Inside each of us is a comfort zone and an un-comfort zone. They both have really valuable things to each us but we will only decipher what they are by spending time in both spaces. That space where we are sad, fearful, stressed, frustrated, angry, jealous, or whatever other spaces are uncomfortable for you, are meant to be explored. They are meant to be felt and to be experienced fully and presently, and no this does not feel good. But that does not mean that we aren't meant to feel it. It is only through the mud that the lotus flower can bloom. It is only by sitting with those feelings (whether on your own, with a loved one, or with a professional) that it can it all start to become clear again. The clouds may come but behind the clouds the sky is still blue. You have to learn to sit in the cold, cloud covered, lots of times stormy spaces, and patiently wait the suns return. Nurture your self and do what's best so that you can be in the mud, perhaps you turn it completely into a mud bath, fancy spa treatment. #selflove

It is in these quiet, cloudy moments that the challenges start to unfold and become lessons, making you stronger and wiser than you were before, preparing you for the next step on your path. If you run from these moments and instead drown them out with all of the outside noise and nonsense, you will miss out on that lesson and be forced to stay right where you are, you will be stagnant, forced to sit around and wait for this same lesson to come around again. You will continue to encounter the same storm over and over, a groundhogs day moment everyday. Sitting in this space is no easy feat, but just like anything else it is a practice. The more you choose to experience it the easier it is to move through, and if there is ever a truly unfortunate circumstance such as a family members illness or death, you will have been practicing moving through these emotions and it may be just that much easier to endure.

You have a choice to run or to stay. If you choose to run start to ask yourself why. If you choose to stay start to ask yourself why. These thoughts are scary at first but then comes that moment of enlightenment, your ah-ha moment and then you move on, tackling the next mountain and peeling the next layer all while moving closer to the truest, happiest version of yourself. You will be learning to become lit from within. 
 

Sadness give roots. Happiness gives branches. Both are needed. - Osho

Food does more than make you fat.

Have you ever wondered why you get "butterflies" in your stomach when you are nervous? Or why you develop a stomach ache or nausea when you're stressed or angry? This is because of a crazy cool connection between our brain and our guts. Hippocrates, a greek physician known as the father of medicine, is quoted saying "all disease begins in the gut". He said this over 2,000 years ago and most are still struggling with creating a healthy gut today. 

We have all felt the reaction that our stress and worry can have on our digestive system, but now it is time to understand that that path works both ways. The food you eat is not simply, "good for you" or "bad for you", or simply food that will make you fat or food that will make you skinny. The food you decide to eat each day is information for your body. Our bodies begin breaking down the food and send the necessary components, such as protein or vitamins and minerals, to their appropriate places to be used, while waste is sent in another direction.

This process works great when you are choosing to eat real fresh organic foods, because your body knows exactly what do with that information. When you eat fruits and veggies, the vitamins and minerals found in these foods are sent to be used for many metabolic processes, the phytonutrients are sent to be used to fight inflammation in the body, and the fiber is sent to assist in digestion and to trigger the feeling of being full.

The trouble arises when you start to replace fresh organic foods with processed, hormone filled foods with fake, laboratory-made ingredients. Your body has no freaking clue what to do with artificial colors and flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate (msg), high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and most other ingredients in processed foods. If the ingredient list looks like a science experiment that is because it is. Studies on these foods long term are few and far between. High consumption of these foods will give your body the wrong information and cause malfunction in some way, shape or form. You are giving your body the wrong information. 

Now before you get all stressed out about what you should be eating, I want you to simply start to witness how frequently these processed and fake foods are in your diet. Take notice of how often a restaurant is in charge of what you're eating. Start to look at the food labels of the foods you are regularly eating and see if you can possibly find a more natural version to take its place. This will be a slow process and will require an open mind. Most of these fake, foreign-to-our-body ingredients are in the foods for a reason. They make food super sweet or super salty without the need for real ingredients, saving them money and altering your taste buds to only like really sweet or really salty things. Are you someone that always needs to add salt or sweeteners to your food? This may be due to consistently eating foods that are hyper salty/sweet. Your taste buds can change back if you start to remove the processed junk. 

Companies use hormones and antibiotics to make animals really big so they can make more money (despite the health of the animal and the quality of the product). They add artificial colors to appeal to kids that like to eat things that make their tongues turn blue. Unfortunately, this is not an accident. The people responsible for our mass food production are more interested in getting people hooked and increasing their profits than they are in caring for the health and wellness of the people that eat it. Not cool man. 

That is why it is imperative to start to witness and educate yourself on what you are regularly consuming. Understand that your food choices will affect more than how you look in a bathing suit, they will affect your sleep, your moods (depression and anxiety), your energy levels, your ability to focus, your motivation to stick to your wellness goals, your entire body and therefore your entire life. Your food is information. What messages are you sending your body?                                 

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.” - Michael Pollan