Category Archives: Health & Wellness

3 Steps from Anxiety to Freedom & Peace

This blog series by Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA, CTLC, BCC is called “Little Changes, Big Results” and introduces common problems and simple starting points for people, including those of you who are new to transformational life coaching. Welcome to Complete Life Coaching, where we connect, collaborate, and create. 

Part 1:  Mental Chatter & Anxiety

 

Web of Anxious ThoughtsI wake up in the morning and it starts immediately… My own voice, yelling at me. “What the hell am I doing with my life? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just get up, feel good, and GO? What possessed me to say THAT to him? Of course no one can love me for long, I make it too hard. Just stop trying.  Or, good gawd, just stop EATING.  Look at yourself – UGH. Get off your fat ass and go to the gym.  How did I get SO FAR BEHIND?”

Maybe some of that sounds familiar to you.  I know with certainty I have said all of it and, honestly, way worse to myself, inside my own head over the years, especially the “bad ones,” before I knew I could change that self-talk.  I also know I would NEVER say such unkind, unhelpful, and let’s face it, just plain MEAN stuff to another human being.

So why do we say stuff inside our own heads to ourselves, about ourselves, that we wouldn’t dream of saying to a friend or family member? The short answer is that our minds, left to run wild, are full of fear, anxiety, loathing, and shame. And we are the constant recipient of our own projections of perceived faults and failures.

In my professional coaching practice, I am often the first person to hear someone’s “monkey mind” unleashed for an outside observer to see, and I view my position with humility and respect.  I am honored to be able to just listen to my clients, many of whom feel they’ve never been heard or understood. When a person decides to pour out what’s really going on inside her mind, it’s an act of BRAVERY and takes vast COURAGE. (Aside on courage:  from the Latin, then Old French, and finally handed down to us through Middle English, the word courage means heart. The heart as the seat of feeling, thought, etc.; spirit, mind, disposition, nature. As far back in English speaking history as 1300s, courage, when applied to a person, means “a quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear or shrinking; braveness, boldness, valor” and it’s also “spirit, vital force or energy.” Speaking our minds, giving voice to the feelings and thoughts from our hearts, clearly takes a lot of this courage, this quality of mind.[1]) I appreciate that magnitude of pure heart it takes to pour out the sludge and really take a clear look at it. It is terrifying to trust enough to be so completely vulnerable, so it certainly takes courage to tell our dark sides and share our stories of shame and pain. [Trust in the ability of the other person both to listen without judgment AND keep our confidence is key… Here’ s a great video about discerning when it’s okay to be vulnerable.]

Speaking the negative self-talk, the monkey chatter of a fearful, shameful, antagonistic voice of our own dark self to another and trusting them to be open to receive – to listen intently – to remain solidly in non-judgment and compassion bolstered with empathy – takes heart.  To speak out the chatter requires a connection deep down, literally, in the nervous system to the heart and the gut, making the speaker vulnerable.  As one chooses to speak the darkness, the self opens from the core & exposes the chatter, shining light into the darkness.  And when we turn on this “heart light,” of courage to be open and vulnerable with a trusted other, we taste freedom.  It is then that we start to observe ourselves more keenly and make choices about how much freedom we will allow ourselves.

When we choose to make this one little change: to trust SOMEONE and to say out loud all the darkest chatter of the monkey mind, giving true voice vis a vis acknowledgment to the shame and rumination and spinning out of control narrative and allow another person to hear us, to understand us, we get BIG RESULTS for ourselves.

So, how can one begin to make this one change?

Step one:  Begin by becoming more conscious and aware of that inner dialogue. Just notice.  Just observe your mental chatter. If it feel and sounds more negative and painful than positive and motivational, begin to simply watch your own thoughts whenever you notice.  Back off yourself, and just watch.  This might be in a minute of silence after an argument with a parent, partner, child, co-worker.  It might be in bed at night, trying to fall asleep after a long day. It might be as the alarm goes off in the morning.  Just start with a minute.  Just watch, like your head is a spectator sport.  For a just a minute, don’t play, don’t engage, just observe.  As you practice, this minute could turn into 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes… It becomes a silent, observing meditation practice.  You realize there’s more to “you” than all that self-talk.

Step two:  Decide you will make one change on your own behalf to begin the process of shifting your mind and asserting control over it. “In short, the mind is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” – Dr. Dan Siegel (from this article on his website) After you’ve made this decision, you can continuously reinforce your choice to change each time your mind wanders down its usual path of negative talk.  The great news, is that your mind is expert in that wandering!  So it gives a LOT of opportunities to notice, to pause, to consciously shift.  First watch, then you decide.  Repeat.  Constantly.  It’s a process, it’s ongoing, and the timeline is your lifetime.  Start slowly, but start consistently.  Notice each time that you notice.  Your ability to stop and observe without judgment will expand over time.

Share Your Darkness to Spread the LightStep three: Choose someone to talk to and be willing to trust and share openly, with the spoken expectation (and AGREEMENT FROM THE OTHER PERSON) of receiving empathy and non-judgment, just listening.  This person might be a professional like a trained life coach, or counselor, but she could be your best friend or brother or someone else that you truly trust and can feel safe with as you reveal some parts of yourself that you may have actively hidden.

Let’s think about empathy for a minute. Empathy is not sympathy, and the difference between them is very important.  Empathy creates direct connection because empathy is “the power of projecting one’s personality [personal experience] into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation.[2]” Early uses of the word in the English language talk of such things as “my mind’s muscles” and “feelings of… motor empathy.”[3]  Now we know that empathy is built into our brains and nervous systems with specialized neurons called “mirror neurons” and that we truly can feel connected to other human beings vis a vis our own experiences of feelings and emotions. Researchers and practitioners such as Brene Brown & Marshall Rosenberg cite empathy as critical to healing self and others, though their research and practices are ostensibly very different.   “We’re wired to tell our stories, not keep our secrets,” says Dr. Brene Brown.  It’s true.  And it’s what creates connection in that “embodied and relational” mind of ours.

These three simple steps result over time in huge changes in your mind, your body, and your relationships. More empathic connection means more time feeling truly connected to other human beings, and therefore encouraged and “plugged in” to community.  We are hard wired to connect deeply to others, and openness and trust feed those connections.  With time and practice, the chatterbox that opened this article becomes adept and skillful at refuting, dismissing, or reframing the negative blah blah blah into something much kinder, warmer, and more realistic such as….

“I’m alive. That’s good. I’ll feel better once I’m up and moving and showered and fed some good food.  Last night’s conversation was a doozie, huh?  It’s okay.  Today, I will try hard to stay focused and remember I love me. That’ll help solve the problem that started the argument to begin with.  I’m learning not to engage when I’m exhausted. I’m okay.  Everyone has bad days and makes mistakes.  Just take a breather and keep going.   Just do your best.  Going to the gym could help, even if it’s just 20 minutes it’s good for me.  I’m doing just fine where I am, just remember to breathe.”

This kind of radical shift takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight.  However, this 3-step practice, done consistently and repeatedly, over the course of 6-months to a year, yields massive results that can help calm anxiety; decrease mental, emotional, and physical stress; strengthen relationships, both with self and others; and mend the mind so that thinking and performance improve in all areas of life experiences. You’re worth it.  May you experience this empathic magic beginning immediately. Namaste.

[1] Etymology & information on “courage” abstracted from The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), second edition, Volume V. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK. ©1933, 1989.

[2] OED, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.

[3] OED, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.

 

Shamanic Sound Healing + Tonglen Meditation

shamanskyShamanic Sound Healing Journey with Guided Meditation + Potluck & Fireside Dancing

Please join us for a afternoon and evening of healing, sharing, and learning at our Magical Mountain Retreat Center with special guest Sonic Yogi, professional musician and sound healer.

We’ll be experiencing the deep healing offered through time in nature while Sonic Yogi shares the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, Native American flutes, and other sacred instruments. We’ll have time for discussion and sharing, as well as guided meditation practice for increasing loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves and our world through the ancient Tibetan practice of tonglen (giving and receiving).

After the sun goes down, we will celebrate our journeys fireside with dancing and hula hooping…or just sitting and enjoying, if that is your preference.

This event is free, but donations will be accepted to cover costs and to thank Sonic Yogi for traveling from Lawrenceville, GA, to share and be with us! $10-20 per person is suggested.

Details:
We will provide garden fresh greens for salads and plenty of iced tea and deep well water. Please bring a favorite dish to share for the pot luck dinner. We will be outside most of the time, so please be prepared with yoga mats, cushions, insect spray, and sunscreen. Restroom facilities are available.

Movement, Mindfulness, & Creating Positive Experiences

Rowing for joy health

Taking up a new sport is excellent mindfulness & movement practice!

In this podcast, CLC discusses the importance of mindfulness, movement, and creating positive new experiences.  These practices can be used to relieve the effects of anxiety, depression, anger issues, and trauma & PTSD.  Learning to incorporate easy practices into your daily routine is one way to get started in a more grounded and solid-feeling life.

We discuss easy mindfulness practices that get your 5 senses involved and make it easier for your nervous system to calm down and focus on the present moment. We share stories about how movement helps with shifting moods and attitudes.

For more information on getting help, contact us for one on one help, resources, or join us for a retreat or workshop.   You are also invited to join our online communities and get involved!  Let us help you THRIVE.

Listen here now. (Available to stream or download.)

 

The Evolution of Purpose

What is YOUR Life Purpose?

What is YOUR Life Purpose?

In this podcast, certified transformational life coaches from Complete Life Coaching discuss an increasingly important topic in the realm of coaching, Life Purpose and Meaning.  Many people begin the coaching process to resolve an acutely painful problem (grief from the loss of a loved one or because of a divorce or unexpected job change) or because they “feel stuck and have tried everything – including counseling”, or because they’ve lost the ability to trust in themselves and their own judgment… Whatever the beginning of the process, we’ve found that our sessions usually lead into a deeper exploration into the distinctly human questions: WHY am I here?  And WHAT is the purpose in my life?  Let us help you feel better, and start to answer life’s BIG questions for YOURSELF.

We are here to help!  Have questions?  Want a free trial coaching session?  Call us at (864) 918-2914 or email us at info@completelifecoaching.com.

Thank you for being here!

Paleo Lifestyle, Whole30, and You

Fresh veggies

Eat Your Veggies!

My friend Sandi completed her first Whole30 in January 2013.  It took me a year to get my mind ready to take on the challenge myself in January 2014.  Today, I am two Whole30’s and one Whole60 into converting my SAD (Standard American Diet) into a much more plant-based, nutritionally dense, locally sourced diet and it’s awesome. It’s amazing how dietary changes, whether you take them on all at once or incrementally over time, can change not only your waistline, but how you look, feel, think, and behave every single day.  Following is an interview I did with Sandi about her transition into a Paleo lifestyle, and how it’s helped her.  Both of us highly recommend you take stock of your diet, and see if some of these principles could help YOU feel better and be your best self!

Vicy:  I’m excited to introduce Sandi Smith, founder of the local food blog “Paleo Greenville.”  She has a Facebook community page by the same name, and she’s also a very good friend of mine who I originally met through rowing.  (We both LOVE rowing!)  So today, Sandi, I thought we could just talk a little bit about what “paleo” is (and is NOT) and what your interests are and how you got started.

Sandi of Paleo Greenville:  OK!  Well I got started kind of on a dare…  It was a good thing that I didn’t know as much about it as I know now probably when I was first beginning because honestly all the information out there is overwhelming!  (laughs)  So I was talking to some rowing friends that are in a different city and they were all going to do this “Whole 30” thing – that was in January 2013.  And so I said I could do a Whole 30, if I knew what that was!  So they sent me the website and I kind of read it and I thought, “oh well, you know, it’s only thirty days… like, I could do anything for thirty days.”  And the key to me, and I know that we have talked about this before, was that I didn’t feel bad [at the time I took the dare]. At that point, I had already lost probably thirty pounds [by] calorie counting, being really rigorous with my exercise, really incorporating rowing into my life… I was feeling good at the time and did not know how much better that I could feel when I started cutting out some of these inflammatory foods and being really intentional about my eating.  So I did [this Whole30 thing] for thirty days and about halfway through it with absolutely amazed at the results that I was getting.  Things like I could really breathe in a way that I had never really noticed breathing before.  It was like the air was cooling my brain!  [laughs from Sandi and Vicy]

I was also sleeping so much better.  And it’s not that I felt like I had a problem sleeping, but just soundly like a rock from the minute my head hit the pillow and then waking up five minutes before the alarm every day. So those were some of the changes of my first 15 days.  Then acne cleared up tremendously, which was really incredible because that was something I had struggled with for a long time.  So I was kind of noticing some of these changes.  You’re not supposed to weigh yourself or measure yourself AT ALL during the program. But when it was over, I did see that I had lost thirteen pounds, which was, you know, pretty incredible in thirty days without starving myself or counting calories at all and eating to satiety every single meal. So that was really impressive to me!  So that’s how my “paleo” lifestyle started.

Delicious Paleo treats

Special Paleo treats – YUM!

Vicy:  Awesome!  Okay, so can we back up a little bit and you – because I could do this but I would rather have you do it – Can you kind of explain what paleo is (and isn’t)?  And since you mentioned this whole30, which I did as well this year as you know and our listeners have heard a little bit about that, but can you just tell people what the Paleo diet is and what that means and then maybe go over the rules of Whole30?

Sandi:   Absolutely!  So, the term Paleo diet or just Paleo comes from the term Paleolithic. And the idea would be that we would eat a more traditional diet similar to what our ancestors ate and what humans had evolved to eat over the course of us being people.  You know it’s only really in the past hundred years that we’ve introduced packaged foods and processed foods.  And really since the advent of agriculture, you know, not more than a couple thousand years ago – max – that we started eating crops like grains and growing corn and things like that so this is taking us back to a pre-agricultural human diet is the gist of it. And there’s you know a lot of opportunity to make fun of that!  Did a caveman eat a cookie?  No.  Because, you know, they don’t grow on a tree.  Did a caveman have an oven to bake these paleo brownies in?  Clearly, the answer is No and I think we’re all aware of that and I would never call it the case. And for those types of reasons, it’s a weird name.  But I do think that thinking about what the Paleolithic people ate is useful because the concept is really about seeking a varied diet based on local food that was close to them that was easily obtainable in their environment. [So these are] the types of foundational things that we’re looking for [in the context of “paleo lifestyle” in our modern times.]

As to the Whole30, I’ll kind of go over the rules then quickly and you can take a deeper dive on each of these topics…  Some of them are a little bit debatable but the first one would be to remove all grains.  We’ve heard a lot about gluten but that really is just part of the reason to let go all grains – even like grains of corn rights etc. Reason being, grains contain elements that are inherently designed to do things like protect their seeds from predators like birds, but they can also wreak havoc on our digestive systems. So rule 1:  remove grains from your diet.

Next is to remove dairy.  Some people take that to be all dairy or that’s what it takes for them, and some people can tolerate a little bit of cultured dairy like yogurt and cheese and stuff. That’s one of the key distinctions between Paleo and primal which are sometimes lumped together in discussions.

But dairy also has highly inflammatory properties and it’s really for baby cows… You know it’s not something that humans are supposed to eat.  You know milk:  [it’s supposed to be] human milk for human babies and cow milk for cow babies.  Milk is highly charged with all sorts of you know messages from the mother to the baby about how they are developing, what is supposed to form, and what type of antibodies there are…  So when you’re drinking cow antibodies, for example, this is very foreign to our system and many people have an inflammatory reaction.  Therefore, we would recommend that you take out dairy.

Similarly with grains, there’s also removing legumes [for Whole30], so you know that would be beans.

Vicy:  So even soybeans [tofu and what not included], peanuts, which of course include peanut butter?

Sandi: Yes, that includes peanut butter but almond butter…

Vicy:  There was a time I really didn’t think I could live without peanut butter!  [laughs]

Sandi:  I know!  It’s funny, but almond butter becomes a perfect substitute.

Vicy:  And it’s really reasonably priced, particularly when you make it at home.

Sandi:  That is true.  And remember that peanuts also develop a mold, which has more to do with processing and stuff, and they’re one of the most highly pesticide laden plants because they have a very thin shell that doesn’t protect them from pesticides in the peanut itself.  It’s not something you can wash off.  So there are there are lots of reasons that peanuts in particular are not a great food choice.  And then other legumes like soy and grain like corn are the number one and number two G.M.O. crops! So you want to stay away from soy primarily because the G.M.O. And when you start looking at private labels it’s just absolutely insidious [pesticides and GMO’s].

Vicy:  So, avoid soy in all forms.

Sandi: Yes.  And there’s a LOT of it in processed foods.  Soy oils, soy powders, and soy proteins are really mixed into most processed foods now. So it’s something to be aware of and pay attention to.

Vicy:  The rules so far are no grains, no dairy, no legumes… and only good fats!

Healthy food prep

Easy food prep – Make Your Own Ghee

Sandi:  Yes!  Only good fats. So you want to be focused on fats that are easily digestible to your body. Some of the seed oils – like canola oil, vegetable oil, what is marketed as vegetable oil – is just soy oil anymore so there are lots of hydrogenated fats. Obviously then we need to consider replacing those oils with things like pure olive oil (if you know and have a good source for it), certified organic or grass fed butter (that’s been clarified so you can remove the dairy particles and make a product called Ghee, which is the Indian name for clarified butter.)

Vicy:  I love ghee!  And it’s very easy to make it very easy to make at home inexpensively.

Sandi: Yes and you should opt for grass fed starter, if that’s an option.  Kerry Gold is a brand that’s grass fed, and there are some other brands out there too. [Another component of Whole30] is opting for animals and protein sources that are as close to their natural diet so that they fit into your natural diet… Those are sort of the major tenets of the Whole 30….

Vicy:  And then that really big next rule becomes the really painful one for most people.  Sugar.

Sandi: Yeah, sugar.  NO sugar for a Whole30.  Sugar has been shown to be more addictive than cocaine. It acts on your brain in ways that you [Vicy] probably know much more about than I do, but it will keep you coming back for more. And part of the processed food industry knows that and they create what, in the book called It Starts With Food, is called food with no brakes.  [Great book by Melissa and Dallas Hartwick, which is what the Whole 30 program is kind of based on, but they take a much deeper dive in the book & they tell us all about food with no brakes.]  For example, you can start eating a bag of chips and just keep eating until it’s gone and they’re designed to be that way. They talk about crunch-ability, for example, and there’s all these scientists in white lab coats trying to come up with the next you know hot food item that people won’t be able to put down and so when you get into these food with no brakes and you end up eating a bag of Oreos you know you might even feel bad about yourself. But they [processed foods] were designed to make you have that trigger response!

So those foods work really well!  Just the way there were designed in a lab to work!  Therefore, the Whole 30 does require you to cut out ALL added sugars and sugar substitutes, if you will. But you’re welcome to eat fruit, even if it’s a date or a high sugar fruit.  You know we don’t mince words there.  Nobody ever killed themselves by eating two apples a day. That kind of REAL sugar is not what we’re talking about but anything with any sweetener – and I’ve got a list that’s got seventy different names for hidden sugar like maltose and dextrose and you know there’s cane sugar beet sugar and even artificial sweeteners can still have some of the brain effects.  That includes stevia, which I know is a popular right now. Agave syrup, even though it’s quote “low glycemic index.”  Any of those sugars need to be removed from your diet and what that does is not only reset your brain connections, but it helps reset your palate!

And so I can remember being about fifteen days into the Whole 30 and eating a strawberry. This was in January.  I was eating a strawberry and I told my husband, “this is the most succulent and delicious strawberry I’ve ever had,” and he looked at me as like this [funny face] and said, “those strawberries really aren’t even very good.  It’s January!”

So I think when you do you dial your sugar receptors back and you take your palate back to a much less hyper stimulated state, you pick up the nuances of food. I mean food really does become a whole different experience!

Easy snacks

Easy fruit snacks kids love!

Vicy:  It really, really does! I can definitely vouch for that. OK So the basic rules are to spend thirty days with NO sugar or sugar substitutes, removing all the possibly inflammatory foods we’ve already talked about, and the purpose of this is to give you an opportunity to ultimately reset everything:  reset your metabolism and reset your palate.  And as Sandi said, it kind of resets your whole relationship with food.

And then after that 30 days, then you can kind of play with adding things back one category at a time.  You can look back and begin to see how your body responds and have a better sense as to how food is actually making you feel, which has been really eye opening for both Sandi and myself and really everybody that either of us have talked to that have actually done this 30-day process.  It does take a certain level of commitment to do it.

So at this point you are pretty strictly paleo and your husband has in turn become paleo as well and you have three children who are off to a good paleo start, too, yes?

Sandi:  Yeah! There seems to be two kinds of ways to start “being Paleo.”  It’s funny because my husband does say, and it’s true, I’m a Band-Aid ripper… I just want to get things over with!  So the thirty day very strict program was perfect for me. It helped me wrap my head around this thing. It gave me insights that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. The second way is, you know, in a slow progression type of way. But since we’ve been on this paleo journey and started PaleoGreenville.com and really started talking to more paleo people, I think there are kind of two camps. You know there’s a Band-Aid rippers that do it all in one and then there are the people that slowly phase things out over time.  Like, you know, all the crackers in the house are gone, so I’m not going to buy any more crackers, etc.  And so we really did kind of a combo approach in my household even though I went very fast and strict.  When there had been some great results I was having and he [my husband] so those, he was on board within a couple months and then and I just feed him what I eat, so he has less choice in the matter!  He’s pretty strict too in that regard.  And then the kids: we have kind of transitioned a little bit more slowly, and so on some levels and I’m ashamed to say that I let them eat up all the crackers, and then all the chips you know whatever was left in the house and then I just haven’t been replacing them.  And so I’ve kind of gotten to a point, as the primary food shopper,  that I’ve decided, “if I’m not eating it I’m not buying it,” and they’re young enough – eight, seven, and four – that that they don’t have a lot of consumer power. [Laughs from Sandi and Vicy]

So it might seem wacky at first, but they eat pretty much you know eat what we eat. They still eat some dairy and you know it’s debatable there are certainly other great sources, primarily vegetable sources, of calcium in things but you know they’re still growing so they eat the whole milk yogurt and cheese and some cultured dairy I should say.  A couple of them were almost vegetarians, so they eat beans.

The beans and black beans have persisted in their diet but they seem to be tolerating them very well.  So that’s something that we’re looking for in terms of you know just stomach upset or indigestion or problems that they don’t seem to be having problems with it… They’ve been eating certain things since they were babies and it’s something that their bodies are used to eating.

Vicy:  Yeah so maybe can you tell about what you CAN eat on Paleo and maybe, on an average day for you, what’s on your plate?

Paleo plate

Paleo plate – veggies first!

Sandi:  Well that’s a really good question because I get a lot of responses when I talk to people like, “I could never do a Whole 30 because I couldn’t give up X, Y, or Z.”  You know, for example, say, “I can’t give up my morning oatmeal,” or “you know I do yogurt every day at work at lunch,” and so it is always kind of funny to me now because I think “that’s so silly,” but you know people are very set in their ways and then you know there’s the other response which is like, “oh my God!  What do you eat or what can I eat?  You’ve taken everything away from me!”  And I would argue, and many paleo cookbook authors and all the paleo blogs in the entire Internet would say, that that is simply not true.  There’s still a lot to eat!  So I have not been hungry at all.

So I started eating that way and I think you can focus on the things that you can eat and we even encourage the kids by saying you can have all fruit and any vegetable and all protein sources lean or fatty we don’t care. You’re going to have good fats and that really opens a world of possibilities. You know sometimes you end up with a whole lot of ingredients and not, you know, maybe, what used to be considered food at your house. So there is some prep and some cooking involved.  You can look at Michael Pollan and some of the other pundits out there.  I think you know cooking at home and cooking for yourself is part of the next revolution.

So for my typical day:  I would start with breakfast and we do eat a ton of eggs so you know I definitely have eggs and I need more vegetables.  So at every meal if I can get those veggies, and practice cramming more vegetables in my day, so I would add spinach or mushrooms and whatever vegetables were left over from last night – cook up kind of like an egg scramble.  Sometimes I’ll have like a bacon and sausage with it and then I always try to have some fruit with breakfast, too, because I enjoy that.  And then for lunch, you know I’m on the go a lot and so I pack my lunch and I either make like a whole roast and have some throughout the week from there, or I like to make homemade mayonnaise so I know what all the ingredients are and even if you’re out and about you know you can always do a chicken with you know salad or something equally easy. And then dinners:  we grill a lot and do maybe a sweet potato, a meat, and a vegetable.

I try to make vegetables kind of the main course so I might do three veggies, and apportion it to me and my husband, and the kids.  So that’s really, I think, the key is filling your plate with fibrous vegetables. They give you all the good fiber and vitamins and minerals that you need and then you just kind of fill in with protein.

Vicy:  I know you and I’ve talked about the fact that some people need more protein than other people.  For example, I suspect that I eat a good bit more protein than you do, but I tend to have longer workouts.

Sandi: Sure.  Everyone needs to think about their own needs.

Vicy:  One thing is that, though you can’t see us, I’m 5’ 8” tall with broad shoulders, athletic build, and Sandi is only 5’ 1” and a very petite build, so we don’t have the same needs.

Local fresh foods

Local food means local farms!

Sandi: Exactly.  You have to think about these things!  For example, with my petite build and so that was something even with my husband and me at first.  When we first started this, I’d kind of split the food up evenly between two plates until I realized that he’s, you know, a lot bigger than me!  So now I’m trying to do the two thirds one third because I don’t need to be eating as much food as he does and he needs to be eating a little more!  So that that’s kind of how we do our portions. Over time, you just kind of learn what you need.

Vicy:  YES!  You know, one of the fascinating things to me just in general was learning better what my body’s actual hunger signals are and how I had responded to that versus how I’m responding now:  it’s drastically different.  So this is a topic that I’m very passionate about and as you can hear in her voice so is Sandi, so we will be revisiting this. But I just wanted to give everyone sort of an introduction to Paleo and the Whole30 program, and if you’re interested, you can learn a lot about this topic via Sandi’s blog http://www.paleogreenville.com/ You can also find her on Facebook and she has lots of beautiful pictures of the food that she makes and having gotten to try a lot of it, I can tell you it is delicious and she does a lot of linking to other people that have recipes and what not and then if you’re interested in any more than that you can contact her or you can contact me!

We appreciate your being here so much!  Thank you for joining us Sandi.

Sandi:  Thank you!

Note:  All photos are from Sandi’s lovely Paleo Greenville Facebook page!  Thank you Sandi! 🙂

Reduce Stress & Anxiety with Sound Therapy

Sound TherapyTibetan singing bowls and Native American flutes in the hands of a professional musician make for the most relaxing way imaginable to spend an afternoon.  As my body relaxed, my mind and spirit followed easily.  I found that even hours after my sound therapy session with Sonic Yogi Jonathan Adams, I felt calm, at ease, and completely and totally relaxed – almost “floppy” in my body.  Sound therapy is so freeing, and it’s so easy to experience because all one needs to do, is lie back, get still, and stay open to receive.

I had to opportunity to interview Jonathan about his own experience with severe stress, anxiety, and depression, and how he discovered sound therapy as a tool… and is now using it in his own practice to help serve others.  Following is a transcript from that interview, including links to online resources that can help YOU reduce stress in your life – right now.

Vicy:  I’m here this evening with Jonathan Adams, who is a professional musician and travels all over the country playing music.  We are talking to him tonight for this health and wellness series because Jonathan’s Alter Ego, I guess we could call it, is Sonic Yogi.  I met him through his sister, who is rowing instructor at Greenville indoor Rowing, and I think that Jonathan’s story and his talent are amazing.  I got to experience some things just this past weekend that helped me understand a little more about what he does and I wanted to share that with all of you. So Jonathan can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is and your personal story that led you to sound therapy?

Reduce stress & anxietySonic Yogi:  Sure well as you mentioned I’m not a musician and I do that for my living and I play guitar in the group that I play with and I’ve been doing that for fifteen years or so I guess now. And so I’ve been involved in music for a long time. But in 2011, I had an experience with really intense anxiety and I had had experiences before like this with panic attacks and mild anxieties here and there. But this experience was sort of an overwhelming sort of all-encompassing experience. And it’s sort of difficult to describe, but to get through it was actually a wonderful thing and so I feel that I learned a lot about my mind and my body and how they work together and how that even sort of influences my spirit. And how I learned to kind of basically help myself. I learned to stay balanced and I learned to relax. And through that process I also discovered sound therapy, which was cool for me as a musician, and I discovered that sound itself can actually help us relax and help us better physiologically relax and also mentally relax.  So I’ve been exploring that path for the last several years since then and using it for myself and as I’ve talked about this experience and in our concerts as I’m traveling around, I’ve also realized that, you know, this experience of anxiety and stress and depression, these kind of things are not isolated at all but it seems as I travel that I’m finding that there are a lot of people that are affected by this.  And so also I have been enjoying the opportunity to hear the music that I make and then also you know work with people one on one.

Vicy:  Absolutely!  So I would definitely concur that the experience of stress and anxiety is widespread. I’m not sure that it’s more pervasive than it’s ever been but maybe we’re just more willing to admit it. I know that among my clients, both one on one coaching clients as well as business clients, that learning how to manage stress in ways that are doable and practices that can bring you to a place of calm on a regular basis is something needed regularly.  That’s a huge aspect of transformational life coaching in general… That it’s [controlling stress & anxiety] really crucial to do more than just survive. So what do you think has helped you Jonathan?

Sonic Yogi: Well that’s a good question. I think I have learned a lot from a lot of different areas. I was already doing yoga before this experience and then I started meditating more after the experience and then doing sound therapy and I’ve really searched for the common links between all of those things.  Because I know this, like for instance, after a yoga practice or session I would kind of have this feeling of deep relaxation and almost euphoria and you know in talking to other people, I learned that they had similar experiences…  so it kind of came to down that they, you know, they’re high [feeling] after yoga or meditation… I’ve gotten to know links from meditation and sound therapy and these things and so I feel the common link between all of those things was just helping me to relax and let go of the stresses.  I’ve realized that the stresses weren’t only in my mind but they were also in my body and my body was reacting to the perceptions of my mind and so I kind of had to work on it from both angles. Both my mind and my body and so I had to learn to relax my body at the same time I had to learn to change my perception and change my behavior patterns and change my physical responses to those patterns so you know… That’s easy to say you know right here and right now!  It actually took me quite a while to learn all of these things and it was, you know, little lessons here, little lessons there that kind of helped me to come to a place of more balance and over time I have learned more about my own personal inner world and how that works with my body. If I find myself sort of burning the candle at both ends or getting stressed out mentally at something then I can feel that stress building up and at least now I have the awareness to break that cycle before it turns into full blown stress or anxiety.

Helps with depressionVicy: So I think you said a key word there that I know is the word that I use with myself a lot and I also use it with clients and that is creating an inner awareness: recognizing what your responses are to stress right now, then getting good at identifying them early so that you can kind of put up a road block to that so it doesn’t go any farther. And instead you start moving back in the other direction toward feeling relaxed and feeling at peace and feeling calm in your body and in your state of being.

Can you sort of explain to people what sound therapy is or at least what it is in how you interpret it and how you use it?

Sonic Yogi: Sure.

Well I see sound therapy has really kind of intense meditation. It’s out there for you with Tibetan bowls, which look like bowls and may sound like bells and they have a lot of overtones to them and so what I ended up doing when I’m doing this type of therapy is putting the bulls around the person and they’re all sort of tuned in a similar scale and so when I play these bowls it really just creates a wash of sound that’s very soothing.  I’ve discovered it actually interacts with our own brain waves and so our brain waves create frequency waves and these frequency waves are measured in Hertz. And so sound waves, which I use all the time as a musician, are also measured in Hertz.  So when I first learned about this, I wondered if there were some kind of interaction between the two. I later learned that sound waves can in fact have some effect on our brain waves and so on.

Yeah and so you know I play a certain sound waves or oscillations that can affect the brain waves and help a person come down into a lower state of brain waves and sort of relax our brain waves.  Also our heart and breathing are all connected and so relaxing the brain wave patterns helps us to release stress in our entire nervous system and so that’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is that you know a lot of time the thinking mind is engaged throughout the day and so that’s just what I call it is to think in the mind and that’s the part of us always going in that mental image. It’s kind of go along to get along, and I kind of think of that as being more of a left brain right and our left brain sort of focuses on these patterns and you know we’re always looking out for our own survival so it’s in our best interest to notice these patterns… You know, notice that we need to live and notice that we need to avoid hot water or whatever it is. So we noticed these patterns. There’s another side of our brain – right brain – which kind of takes in more of the whole picture and kind of disengages from that constant pattern calculation.  Calculating those patterns all the time I think can actually lead to stress especially if it’s unnecessary and it’s just out there. [Sound therapy works] Because the sounds are kind of random and flowing. There’s not really a pattern to them and so it’s relaxing to let go of the patterns in my opinion, to move a person into that right brain space much more quickly. Whereas with music in general we’re hearing the patterns and we hear the chord progressions in the scales and they can all be very beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with that but with sound therapy itself it’s kind of bypassing that whole part of the brain. So I kind of think that those two things are keys to how it works. So number one it’s just altering the brain waves and then number two it’s kind of getting outside of that thinking mind and getting it outside of those patterns to just experience the present moment.

Vicy:  Yes. So that last line [you said] might be the key. You’ve mentioned the brain wave patterns, which is something that I am very familiar with, and we use a lot of different  techniques to help people actively move from some high beta state, which is essentially a panic attack when you’re in a very high frequency beta and then start bringing that down and learning to induce alpha state and even theta state with a lot of experience and I notice that last weekend when you were doing the sound therapy that it was very obvious to me that I was very deep in alpha state because I was very aware of what was happening but at the same time had no real interaction with it. And it’s interesting for me hearing your theory on sort of bypassing most of the left brain because one of the things that that really resonated with me was my awareness of my internal state of being which neuroscience calls “interoception.”  And it was really, REALLY acute, not only during the experience but also afterwards for several hours. I was very super aware of the internal workings of my body like even once I was sort of back. Functioning in the world and driving my car and going to the grocery store and that kind of thing. And so now that you’re you’ve told me this other part of your theory, I think that that makes a lot of sense because the right brain one of its jobs is to give us sort of the gestalt view of ourselves and give us really deep access to the energy and information flow from our bodies into our minds. So you know into our brains so… Thank you for sharing that.

Sonic Yogi: That was sort of new to me in talking to you. I have to do some thinking on that.

I’ve noticed that myself. You know I think that I’m being more aware of that…I think just the way the world works and the way we were educated and you know the job we might do better and it’s, well, outside of us.  So I always look out for information outside, and that’s where our work happens, but as a result of this experience [dealing with stress and discovering sound therapy] I just echo what you said which is that I can go inwards and kind of internal sort of monitoring of my systems and kind of think about how I feel and learn to really react or not, and learn to just be aware of those things in real time.

Life Coaching for the spiritVicy:  So it helps you stay aware of what’s actually going on INSIDE of you, but it also helps you stay in the moment which is really important. Jonathan I would love to talk to you more so maybe we can do this again and have time to share some of the sounds of sound therapy at the end?   What you do is awesome and really it’s fascinating and it’s something that’s really accessible, really easy, to help people get still… and I think that’s one of the things I know I get a lot of resistance from with my clients when we kind of get to a point in coaching where they recognize they need to do something to get still and have some being time not just doing time. All of the time and the sound seemed to make it a little more approachable I think for a lot of people. So if someone was interested in what you do, how might they find you?

Sonic Yogi:  Sure. Well I started a website called sonicyogi.com and samples are there.  I created downloads for users and they are actually free. People can just go there and listen, stream the music there or download it and then I also have a list out to a blog where I’ve sort of been exploring some of these ideas that we’ve talked about for myself, and anybody interested in reading can check that out.  I live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and I’m also doing individual sound therapy here in my home and in Decatur, Georgia at a wellness and Healing Arts Center.

Vicy: Fantastic. So again, you can learn more about Jonathan Adams and sound therapy at his website sonicyogi.com.  You can also see him in person in Lawrenceville or Decatur, Georgia.  Thank you so much for taking your time to talk with us Jonathan. I really appreciate it.

Note:  photos in this post were taken during a Sound Healing session at Greenville Indoor Rowing by Laura Caylor.  Thank you Laura!

The Fountain of Youth: Keep Your Brain Young

diversindevilsden_500wI’ve always been adventurous and have often been quoted as saying, “I’ll try pretty much anything at least once.”  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that this statement is still true and it’s a big part of why I truly enJOY my life, my work, and all the people in “my world.”

It is true, to the best of our knowledge at this time, that fundamental differences exist in the adolescent brain (11-24 years old by neuroscience & psychiatric definition) that make us all distinctly different in these years than in childhood or in adulthood.  However, as adults, we are fully capable of embracing our ability to consciously change our brains by first examining our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, and then changing the ones that don’t seem to be GROWING us and actually helping us THRIVE in our lives.  When we start making changes, our brains change too!  What’s awesome is that those brain changes affect how we think, remember, focus attention, make decisions, and relate to others (and ourselves).

We can learn a few things about how to GROW and THRIVE in our lives by setting ourselves up to experience more of the positive sides of four specific qualities embodied in the teenage and young adult mind, according to doctor and researcher Dr. Dan Siegel.  In the book Brainstorm, Siegel defines those qualities as:  Novelty Seeking, Social Engagement, Increased Emotional Intensity, and Creative Exploration.  There’s no time like the present to take on at least one of those categories consciously and make some changes in your life to support it!

“Novelty seeking” is a perfect starting point in flexing my adult-brain muscles because adventure and the deep sense of excitement and exhilaration I feel when I try new fun stuff is fantastic for me!  It’s also something that I can really hold onto and am able to enthusiastically transfer to others through the power of storytelling and sharing.  (Which is cool in and of itself, AND it ushers me forward in my own growth because it precipitates more social engagement and increased emotional intensity in my own experiences… see how that works? Growth-orientation feeds more growth!)

This past weekend, I took a road trip with friends to visit even more friends down in Florida.  We wanted to escape the winter for a while and get some sunshine, swim time, and some new experiences to forge new positive memories together.  Goals:  all accomplished and the trip exceeded all expectations.

boatfriends_smNovel Experience #1:  We canoed and kayaked around one of the local crystal clear headsprings (72 degree water, year ‘round) and got to swim with a multitude of wild manatees. We saw a family of manatees with a wee baby, and our individual manatee counts ranged from at least 6 to maybe 12-13 separate manatees.  Once we were in the water with them, they swam right up to us, often nudging us with their bodies or their noses.  I was snorkeling when 2 large adults swam directly up to one of my friends while I watched from about 5 feet away.  Once of those guys turned towards me and swam directly underneath me, touching the skin on my bare legs as he swam by.  It was truly an amazing experience!  As we swam slowly away from the headsprings, we were able to identify them as the water turned darker and more brackish.

I felt excited but calm; these large animals were clearly curious and totally trusting of us.  I felt a deep sense of connection and responsibility after I realized that most of the manatees had scars on their backs from propellers.  I was so grateful to be moving slowly and mindfully through their waters, a visitor inside what was clearly their territory.  When we got back in our boats to paddle upriver for a while, I just felt awestruck by how graceful these animals were and how they seemed to just immediately embrace our presence, in spite of their scars.  I think this experience taught me a valuable life coach lesson about trust, using my strengths (enthusiasm, curiosity, love of learning), and the golden secret of slowing down and paying close attention. If we had just jumped into a boat and sped away upriver, we never would have seen those welcoming creatures.

(Apologies for not being able to photograph the manatees; I wasn’t prepared with an underwater camera.  But you can see how happy we were after swimming with them!)

stepsintodevilsden_outside_smNovel Experience #2:  When you’ve been friends with a group of people for a time period now measured in decades, you all get to know each other REALLY well.  The super cool thing about that is that you’re able to perfectly predict the kinds of new experiences that ALL of you will enjoy, which makes it easier and easier to set up the possibility of new awesome memories you can create together.  Our second day of adventure on this trip was one of those, “I know people who want to come here even though they don’t know it exists yet” moments.  Our friend T, host with the most and partner in our cozy accommodations Rainbow River Club, had scouted out a place called “Devil’s Den” and we packed up with swimsuits, snorkel gear, and a picnic to go check it out!

stepsintodevilsden_smAfter signing our lives away on various waivers which required a steady stream of initialing down the side of a front and back sheet of paper, we walked carefully down a set of about 20 stone steps into a hole in the earth.  At the end of those stairs, we were standing on a rock ledge that had another 20 or so wooden steps leading down to a series of underwater platforms in the huge cave below, with sunlight streaming in from a gaping hole in the earth around the corner from where we’d entered the stone staircase.  As the light lit up the water, you could see straight through to the bottom of the cave about 75 feet below the water’s surface.  One person at a time (as instructed), we walked down the steps with our snorkels and flippers in hand.  Once we got the platform suspended in the 72°F water about knee deep, we put on gear and pushed off for a snorkeling adventure while scuba divers explored the depths below.  It was an incredible experience!  You could see all kinds of fishes and as you swam around, the light danced all around.  We had a private swim for about half an hour, exploring every nook and cranny we could get to without dive gear.  I’ve never seen anything remotely like it anywhere, and it just felt like we were in some fantasy adventure movie of some kind.  It was unreal and truly awesome.  Although we’re used to swimming in 60° mountain river water in the summertime, 72° with flecks of sun inside a cave is only tolerable on bare skin for so long!  So, we climbed back up the two very steep sets of stairs and found a sunny table to spread out a picnic and warm ourselves up like turtles on a log.  By the time we’d picnicked and walked around the old SCUBA training facility on the property and dried out in the sun and shared what our personal take on the place was, the sun had shifted significantly and there was more sun on the hole in the earth. “Let’s do it again!” and off we went back into the earth for another swim and exploration of this cave that had a bit more light on it now.  None of us wanted to leave, really, and have determined we would love to go back and spend some more time… and maybe go beyond the surface next time!

selfieinsidedevilsdenIt’s SO IMPORTANT to keep experiencing new things and growing our connections to friends and family in exciting and memorable ways that make us all FEEL GOOD.  Embracing change through self-selected growth is one of the keys to long-term happiness, brain health, and a positively oriented thriving life.  If you’re not doing anything new, or changing anything by using more of your strengths, we strongly encourage you to take on a challenge of some kind to do so!  Keeping your brain, your mind, your body and your spirit active and growing is the closest thing to the fountain of youth we’ve discovered!  Be well and be good to you and yours.  Namaste!

Curry Spiced Cauliflower “Rice”


Vegan Cauliflower RiceCurry Spiced “Rice”
(grain-free, gluten-free, #whole30 compliant, vegan, made with cauliflower power!)
original recipe by Vicy Wilkinson, MA, BCC

I’m so lucky that part of my job as a transformational life coach involves helping people (myself included) continuously improve their nutrition and ability to take good care of themselves at the most basic levels.  Food is the tastiest of those basic levels of THRIVING!  And I LOVE FOOD SO MUCH!  I’m grateful that many of friends enjoy my becoming-more-and-more-frequent #whole30 resets.  I’ve found that following the guidelines of this program as outlined in the book It Starts With Food every 4-6 months really helps me stay better on track over all, with both health and fitness goals and all the rest of my goals, too.  {As within, so without.  As above, so below.}

At some point during the last year, I cooked dinner for a friend, and ended up serving her a “rice” dish I made with cauliflower that she has asked me about ever since!  “How did you make that?  It was delicious!” she says to me every time I cook for her.  During my weekly food prep for a busy week of seeing clients and changing the world, I finally decided I would try to re-create this dish, and keep up with how I did it so that I could share it with her… and you!

I realized that one of the keys to simple recipes like the one that follows is that having a good spice cabinet.  If you’re still getting by with salt, pepper, oregano, and Mrs. Dash, I highly recommend that you start exploring new worlds by adding a spice or two to your kitchen apothecary each time you visit the grocery store over the next few months.  You’ll be amazed with what you can do with just a couple of ingredients, and the right blend of spices! {Also, even if you’re missing a couple of the less common spices in this recipe, like Garam masala or 5-spice, try it anyway!  It’ll still be good, you’ll just be missing some of the subtle hints created by these antique spice blends.  Pick them up  next time you’re in a spicy mood!  Remember, spice doesn’t necessarily equate to heat.}

Here’s the recipe, along with a few pics I took of the prep work along the way!  Please cook, share, embellish as you wish… and ENJOY!  ♥

Ingredients
*Note:  the full version below is pretty spicy, and is recommended for people who are used to this intensity of spice pallets.  I’m including (in bold) the 1/2 spice version for the unsure or timid!

  1. 1 head of cauliflower
  2. ½ tsp. 5-spice powder (commonly found in Asian food sections of most grocery stores; consists of fennel seed, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon) (¼ tsp. 5-spice powder)
  3. ½ tsp. Garam masala (another spice blend; usually consists of black and white peppercorns, cloves, cassia bark, nutmeg and mace, black and green cardamom pods, Bay leaf, Caraway) (¼ tsp. Garam masala)
  4. 1 tsp. turmeric (½ tsp. turmeric)
  5. 1 tsp. cumin  (½ tsp. cumin)
  6. 1 tsp. curry powder [I used hot, yellow curry powder in this version; use whatever youRaw Fresh Ginger have on hand!]  (½ tsp. mild curry powder)
  7. 1 tsp. cinnamon  (½ tsp. cinnamon)
  8. ¼ c. ish fresh minced ginger (*see photo ~ this is a ¼ c. measuring cup, before I minced it)
  9. 1 large or 2-3 small cloves fresh minced or crushed garlic (½ large clove or 1-2 small cloves garlic)
  10. ¼ c. raisins
  11. Big handful of nuts*
  12. 3-4 Tbsp. coconut oil
  13. Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast

 

Instructions

  1. Wash cauliflower, and then cut it into large chunks.Spice pallet for Curry Spiced Rice
  2. Add all pieces of cauliflower to your food processor and “pulse” in 20-30 second bursts until cauliflower is a nice “rice-like” texture, with maybe a few larger chunks. {This will probably only take 3-4 bursts – you don’t want cauliflower dust! J}
  3. Set aside until you prepare your curry paste.
  4. Add 3-4 Tbsp. coconut oil into a large saucepan, and heat to medium for a few minutes.
  5. Stir in your “wet” curry ingredients: garlic and gingerWet Curry Paste Ingredients
  6. Reduce heat to low and stir in all the “dry” curry ingredients: turmeric, cumin, curry powder, 5-spice, Garam masala, and cinnamon.
  7. Now add your cauliflower and stir until the curry paste coats everything fully.
  8. After it’s all mixed up nicely, turn up the heat to about medium and stir frequently for about 10 minutes to soften the cauliflower.
  9. Reduce heat to low and add your nuts and raisins.Cauliflower Rice ~ Spice Coated
  10. Cover and let simmer on low (lowest possible setting on your stovetop) for 15-20 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat and sprinkle with Bragg’s nutritional yeast (because it’s good for you) & stir or “toss” before serving.
  12. ENJOY! {Garnish with curly parsley, if you want to get real fancy with it.}

*I used pecans in this batch; sometimes I use cashews; I suggest you use whatever tree nuts you have on hand.  I’m pretty sure I used pistachios in the first batch I ever made that my friend raves about so much.  NOTE:  to maintain #whole30 compliance, nuts must be raw tree nuts, no peanuts and no nuts roasted in any non-compliant oil.

Serving suggestions:  Pair your tasty spicy rice with baked or roasted chicken, and a simple roasted veggie.  (I like roasted purple cabbage and a simple chicken breast, for example.)   Better yet, stick with the Indian theme and make Tandoori Chicken or Tikka Masala to go with it… but be prepared to spend some extra time in the kitchen for these delights!

May we all eat well & be healthy and happy! Namaste. 

Joy Jar: Remember the Positive Experiences

Joy Jar ~ Savor the Positive For the past several years, I’ve seen a post floating around the Internet that instructs people to place a large empty jar somewhere visible in their home, and every time something really good or happy or positively surprising happens, write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. Then, at the end of a whole year of doing this, you’ve got a whole jar stuffed with happy memories that you can read and savor.

This past year, I finally thought to do it!  My this year’s self is very grateful to my last year’s self for starting this tradition in my home.  Why?  Going through my “Jar of Joy” yesterday was so enlightening and inspiring to me! This past year has been one of the most difficult ones of my entire life due to a tragic and sudden loss – to a violent suicide – of a close friend of almost 30 years.  And that loss came on the heels of a solid year of grieving other lost family members and friends, so there was a period during last year that I was lost in a sea of grief, and every day was a struggle to keep “practicing what I preach” and learning to grieve but keep GOING and keep GROWING at the same time, while not giving in to wanting to just give up.

This Joy Jar showed me that even when I think there is too much darkness for any light to get through, that is not really true… The light is ALWAYS there, we just have to look for it AND we have to write it down so that it doesn’t get lost in the dark.

Build a Positive Life with Happy MemoriesI found fabulous little nuggets like:
Got a kayak today and I am SO GRATEFUL to my friend S. for giving it to me!  
It is cold and pouring down rain outside, but reading about that moment revived it in me and I was filled with so much gratitude and EXCITEMENT, just by remembering that fabulous gift.

Another one was:
E. and I successfully rowed across the lake and back, including a moving turn, without stopping in our new favorite scull, Dark Matter.  YAY!  
If you’ve been keeping up with us, you know by now that I am a rower, and that I started indoor rowing and eventually began translating those skills to the water by learning to scull.  It’s a life-long learning curve, so getting to the point that we can navigate our tiny domain without stopping AND successfully turn that crazy long boat without stopping is incredible!  (One day, we’ll row in a bigger shell and have coxswain to tell us what to do, maybe, but until that day, we row doubles.  And it’s hard! But SO FUN!)

And then there was this sweet one:
I had a great first real date with I. today, and the goodnight kiss was sweet.  
I mean, do I have to say anything about this?  A first kiss, even if it goes nowhere in the long term, is a sweet happy memory.  <3

This was exciting too:
Complete Life Coaching got a call from a NASDAQ-traded company today to ask if we’d considering giving a talk on dealing with high stress in the workplace!  (My comment on that little slip of paper was:  Wow!  We’re both excited!)
Sometimes, memories are exciting enough to give us a whole new *spark* when we think about them!  And a lot of the times, that spark will inspire us to keep moving towards our goals, even the giant daunting REALLY big picture ones!

As I went through the jar, I found evidence of progress made on many of my goals, and I discovered how I was able to keep up with many of my best practices for self-care, self-love, and self-discovery even when I thought I had basically thrown in the towel.  I learned that there’s a part of me that pays attention to the positive, even when I seem overwhelmed by the negative. I also learned that it’s so wonderful to have and acknowledge all my support during crisis, and on the good days!

There were so many magical little memories from last year that I’d lost completely, but this jar saved them for me.  Now, I am able to savor them!  Please try this simple technique, and I promise your next year’s self will thank you!

STOP Your Runaway Thoughts & Take Control of Your Mind

Tame Your Mind, Improve Your Lifeby Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC, Certified Transformational Coach

It’s nighttime, you’re trying to relax and go to sleep, and your brain suddenly bombards you with thoughts about what you woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ said during that argument yesterday or great ideas that will turn your whole life around AND save the world or the twenty- seven tasks you didn’t complete because you were trying to help the kids with a school project… or a million other things that our minds can come up with when we’re lying in bed and trying to relax and fall asleep.

In the world of transformational coaching, we call all this thinking, which has a tendency to turn dark, negative, and brooding, rumination or having ruminating thoughts.  Another term for this thinking-excessively with little control is “monkey mind” or “monkey chatter.”  In the Shambhala Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this sort of mental chatter is compared to having an untamed horse for a mind.  No matter how you look at it, rumination can get out of control and cause a lot of difficulty in life such as insomnia, anxiety, short temper, forgetfulness.  If left to fester and expand, rumination can lead down a slippery slope of temporary negativity into low mood, poor resilience, chronic stress, and even depression.

Of course, rumination doesn’t just happen when you’re trying to relax and go to sleep; many of us are plagued with ruminating thoughts during our wide awake time as well.  For example, how long have you obsessed in your mind over a stressful conversation that happened hours ago?  Or what kinds of thoughts take up space in your mind when you’re getting dressed in the morning and a certain pair of pants don’t fit right?

No matter when rumination gets in your way, though, there are proven techniques to help you regain control over your mind and discover your calm, peaceful center so that you can quiet that monkey chatter and choose a better direction for your powerful thoughts!

One easy way to put the brakes on rumination is very simple:  stop “just thinking” by taking specific action.  That action can be as simple as sitting down for 5 minutes and writing down what your mind is saying.  Just dump it all right out on paper.  It’s amazing how this simple act diminishes the hold negative thoughts have over us.  If it’s at night and you’ve already gone to bed, do yourself a favor by sitting back up, turning that lamp on again, and taking up pen and paper. When we write down all the stuff our brain is screaming to us, it helps externalize our experience and in this simple act, many people find immediate peace.

Sometimes our brain is just trying to help us remember important things; when we write those things down, we can refer to them later when we CHOOSE to do so, and our brain can stop reminding us and let us focus on relaxing.  This is especially helpful when your brain gets stuck in a loop about the minutiae of daily life:  schedules, tasks, 17 things you must remember before walking out the door Monday morning…whatever it is, write it down – just “brain dump” it out there onto the paper.

Another great thing about writing it down is that for many of us, our mind likes to pour out creative ideas or solutions to problems we had a month ago at random times.  If we take a few minutes to capture some notes about those ideas and solutions on paper, our brain can relax and move on.  Writing things down gives us a logical sense of closure.   It’s essentially clearing the cache in your mind like you do in your web browser.

If you find that writing is extremely difficult for you for whatever reason, I recommend keeping a voice recorder or using an app on your phone to just talk it out: literally speak your list or rambling thoughts into the recorder.  (Sometimes this works especially well for extroverts who don’t enjoy writing, but do enjoy talking!)  The outcome is similar as with writing it down because you have externalized the thoughts.

After you’ve taken the time to empty out some of the chatter, your mind can begin to relax and you can further help slow down any future rumination by taking advantage of that moment of spaciousness in your mind.  After writing or voice recording, take 2-5 minutes to focus on your breathing and calm both your mind and your body all at once.  If you take a really deep breath in and count to four – 1, 2, 3, 4 – slowly in your mind, then hold your breath for an equal 4-count, and then slowly exhale to a count of eight – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – you will notice instant feedback from your body.  Repeat this breath at least 5 times and you will help relax your entire nervous system, which naturally shuts down all that spinning monkey chatter.

If you find you still have some chatter after doing this breath work, you may want to take a step further in your writing or voice recording process by making notes about some potential solutions or ideas if your mind is still focused on some sort of dilemma.  Some of us need to not just write the thoughts down, but also to do some creative problem solving in order to gain that sense of closure that helps us rest.  You can alternate between breathing carefully as described above and writing to maximize your level of control.  With practice, it all gets a lot easier and you can begin to slow the rumination periods over time.   Bonus tip for problem solving in your sleep:  Ask yourself a specific question about the problem and then go to sleep.  Write for five to ten minutes first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed, and see what kinds of answers your awesome self has come up with overnight, like magic.

Experiment with these tools and make them your own.  Once you find out what works best for you on those nights your brain tries to hijack your calm and your sleep, keep whatever you need beside the bed and keep those ruminating thoughts from robbing you of well-deserved, and much needed rest, relaxation, and precious sleep.

Take care of you.  If you need more help, give us a call.  We’re glad you’re here.  Namaste.