Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Gratituesday: Orchids

Aren't we lucky to have orchids? 

Nothing brightens up a desk quite like them. 

I love how they look like little ladies walking up and down branches. 

Or maybe flocks of butterflies. 

So grateful for these flowers. 

What are you grateful for today? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Relax When You Can't Relax

I took my very first helicopter flight this past weekend after swearing I'd never set foot in a helicopter. My husband's best friend is a heli pilot and has tried to convince me many times that I would enjoy a flight. Every time, I tell him No Way.

But we went to visit him for his 40th birthday and something came over me. I felt like I should live in the moment and seize the opportunity to experience a flight.

As soon as we lost contact with the ground, I felt myself start to tense.

My adrenaline started to kick in as we hovered higher and higher over the pavement below. We were in flight. I was in fight or flight.

But all I wanted to do was relax and enjoy the ride.

So I made a concerted effort to get out of my head and into my feet.

The fastest way to pull yourself out of a stress response is to focus on relaxing your body.

I steadied my breathing and let my shoulders drop. I released my abs—which I had unwittingly clenched super tight. I let my legs sink into my seat. I felt my toes tap the glass in front of me. I tried to let every muscle fall slack.

As I relaxed my body, my mind began to follow.

I continued to breathe and focus on calming my posture.

I soaked in the sights of the green vineyards and a winding river and sprawling properties below us. When the wind would kick up and cause the helicopter to shudder, I went right back to letting my muscles grow heavy and limp.

It was a great flight.

I won't say I was as laid back as I would have been in a bubble bath, but I felt pretty darn good and was able to totally enjoy the experience.

And the best part is—I can do this same trick any time stress creeps into my day. I can choose to fake it 'til I make it, relaxing my body until my mind follows and calm is restored.

Do you think you could give it a try next time you find yourself slipping into fight or flight?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gratituesday: Fancy Desserts

Aren't we lucky that people keep inventing decadent desserts?

The kind you just want to hold in your mouth a few minutes too long
because they taste too amazingly delicious to swallow. 
If only spinach and broccoli had the same effect on our palates...

So grateful for fancy desserts. 

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, February 16, 2015

My New Daily Must-Read

I don't quite know how I ended up with the large print
edition but it made me laugh when I saw it. Obviously
the Universe wants me to get the messages loud and clear!
When I was feeling out of sorts a couple weeks ago, a good friend recommended that I start integrating meditation into my daily routine.

The great thing about meditation is that it doesn't have to look like hours spent in perfect stillness and silence. 

It can be quiet contemplation achieved while sitting on the carpet in a sun-filled living room. It can be a few blissful minutes spent watching birds scratch for seeds on your back lawn. It can be that moment at the end of the day when you close your eyes and breath and let your shoulders drop and loosen.

At least, this is what I believe meditation can be.

While discussing all of this with my friend, she mentioned a book that has been sitting on my bookshelf—unread—for over a year. If you've never heard of Mark Nepo's The Book of Awakening, I recommend that you just dive right in and buy it. Don't research it, just order it on Amazon.

It has 365 stories and accompanying meditations that guide you through your stillness practice each day.

It's so beautifully written. Even if you never did any of the meditation exercises, Nepo's rich prose makes the book worthwhile. I mean, just feast your eyes on this excerpt from today's entry:
"In actuality, misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything. So, when feeling miserable, we must look wider than what hurts. When feeling a splinter, we must, while trying to remove it, remember there is a body that is not splinter, and a spirit that is not splinter, and a world that is not splinter." 
Lovely, right? And spending a few minutes each day breathing and letting the mind and spirit explore each topic he covers—it's transformational.

It's the perfect way to invite some calm into your life if you're feeling caught up in chaos. Definitely a must read.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gratituesday: Hummingbirds

Aren't we lucky to share the world with hummingbirds?

The little helicopters of the bird world are so fun to watch,
as they zoom through our yards in search of their next sugar hit.
They're the only bird who can fly backwards, you know. 
Masters of adaptability. 

I wouldn't mind coming back as one in my next life. 

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I've Been Consuming Too Many "Empty Calories"...

This is the kind of stuff I should be consuming if I want to feel truly
healthy and satiated.
I realized last week that I haven't been feeding myself very well lately.

And it has nothing to do with the Pop Tarts in my pantry...

What I have been doing is stuffing myself with "empty calories"—using TV or social media or alcohol to numb out after long, chaotic days of work and home renovation disruptions. And then I wonder why I still feel crappy in spite of my nightly "relaxation."

Brené Brown first introduced me to the concept of numbing out when I took her Gifts of Imperfection online course through oprah.com. (She talks about numbing a little here.) It's when we try to attain the rest and respite we're craving with things that simply don't feed our spirits.

Rather than bringing us peace and lifting us from our pits of stress, these faux fixes just cause us to go numb.

We no longer feel the bad feelings, but we don't really feel the good ones either.

And after prolonged periods of numbing, you kind of just start to numb out everything—which can really inhibit your capacity to feel joy.

When I took Brené's class, she had us make a list of the stuff we use to numb ourselves. Mine included the vices I mentioned above, along with blaming, anger, and over-consumption of sugar.

Rather than continuing to rely on these numbing mechanisms, Brené says we need to tap into our "comfort wisdom" to find true peace.

How do you access the "food" you so desperately need of when you realize your relaxation facilitators aren't working?

Make a list of all the ways your wisest, most evolved self would tell you to unwind.

These are the activities that truly nourish and rejuvenate your soul.

When I became clear on the fact that I was numbing last week, I immediately dug out my comfort wisdom list from Brené's class. It includes things like "Go outside. Take a nap. Practice gratitude. Do something productive like organizing or cleaning. Read. Breathe and stretch."

Even just reading the list made my body feel more relaxed.

We all intuitively know what we need to heal from the ills of stress. It's just a matter of holding ourselves accountable so that we turn that that wisdom instead of the quick numbing solutions—which will never truly make us feel better.

Can you identify behaviors you use to numb out instead of really feeding yourself? And can you come up with a list of wiser, more comforting actions to replace those that will keep your spirit belly full of delicious, nutritious sustenance?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gratituesday: The Wisdom of Tea Tags

Aren't we lucky to have wise little tags on our tea bags?

Teaching us proverbs and lessons while we sip. 

I'm pretty darn grateful for them.

What are you grateful for today?