Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's Okay to Feel Tired

"Tired" may seem like a nasty 5-letter word in today's world. We come to expect the body to keep up with full work schedules, harrying commutes, family responsibilities, social responsibilities, finances, progression and improvement, and all the worries and anxieties that come along with being a well-rounded human being. Sometimes, the body just has to put its foot on the brakes by making you feel tired. Is this tired feeling evil for making you press pause? Should you just override it and keep going anyway?

If you seek energy in 5-hour, 8-hour, or 12-hour energy bottles, caffeine, or sugar, these temporary bursts of energy aren't real. These quick-fix substances put you on overdrive so you can get through more hours with a level of energy that your body can't keep up with. The backdrop still remains the same---in other words, you're still tired at the end of the day.

It's okay and natural to feel tired sometimes. Blaming yourself for feeling tired or expecting yourself to pick up the energy overnight only rubs salt into the wound. What the body is trying to say during periodic dips in energy is that you need more rest, physically and mental-emotionally---end of the story. It's not trying to tell you that you're not good enough and you need to do better. It's not expecting you to be super human and to find a magical supply of energy somewhere.

When you're feeling tired, don't ask yourself how you can keep up with the Jones's by pushing the body harder. Try and see that your health is talking to you, and it's asking for a break of some sort. Will you give yourself that break, so your energy can start to rise again naturally?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Satisfaction in the Simple

We often seek satisfaction from the biggest and the best in life. We imagine that the bigger and better the experience, milestone, and reward, the more value it will add to our days. Then we look at a cat, happily preening herself in a sunny spot on the carpet, and we wonder how that small action can provide her such satisfaction. Is the cat weird, or are we sometimes out of touch with the satisfaction inherent in the simple?

Simple avenues of enjoyment are all around us, yet we often ignore them while chasing after the big stuff. Why? Sometimes we don't even know because bigger and better seems written into the trends of culture. But if you pay attention, you can feel the body and mind tugging at you to reward yourself with more simple moments like the cat does.

Instead of seeing it as a bummer when you don't have plans on a weekend, it's a perfect opportunity to relish in simple activities. If you enjoy cooking, pull out that unique recipe you've had stored away for months in a kitchen cupboard. Let the process of cooking and eating your food deliver as much reward as you imagine a "big" experience would.

If you want to try your own form of preening, soak your hands in warm water for 15-20 minutes, then massage lotion into them while watching T.V. or listening to music. You could do the same for your feet. Practice a new hair do for no reason at all, that no one will see but you. Re-arrange your closet and notice how your taste has changed over time. Write a short story, even if you've never done it before. Play piano or learn how to play. Make up a new song.

Daily activities like making coffee, washing the dishes, or walking the dog are all simple moments that offer not only satisfaction, but also an anchor during strange or stressful times. Just because you don't get a blue ribbon or trophy for creatively stacking the dishwasher doesn't mean it's an unimportant or useless part of your day. How you approach the simplest moments can influence how you approach other experiences in life, large or small.

This week, let yourself find satisfaction in the simple.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Blank Page

Imagine pulling your resume up on the computer---and deleting it. Did your brain say "ouch" at the very thought of electronically crumpling up the piece of paper that claims to know everything you're good at and that you should be striving for?

The resume is a handy tool to get a job, and it's also a confining piece of paper that can spark feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and dissatisfaction. Even without the paper itself, you can see "resumes" metaphorically in how they affect life.

Each of us has roles that we can pressure ourselves to perform perfectly, and sometimes unrealistically. The roles and tasks performed can become larger than the person. The person can drown in the resume. It can feel like nothing's ever enough.

Again, imagine deleting all the lines on the resume page. The lines that talk about being the perfect business person, parent, daughter or son, teacher, worker, student, athlete, human being, and so on. What's left?

A blank page. It may seem like just an empty page, but it stands for a lot more than that. It's potential, free and ready for you to use. How would you fill it if you didn't have to stick with 12-point font, employment history, years worked, qualifications, education, and skills?

There are probably things that you imagine doing from time to time, fleeting thoughts in your mind. Maybe after you imagine them, you're habitually used to scrapping them because there are more important things to do on your resume. Of course the resume is bible...or is it? Maybe you do have space to do the things you've imagined doing. As long as you do them your way. The blank page may not come with directions, but it frees you to go where you've never been.

Just because we use resumes, doesn't mean we have to become them. Try pulling out a blank page, and see what happens.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wants Can't Be Discovered in Worries

Despite any tricks your brain pulls, it can be helpful to remember that wants can't be discovered in worries. Worries masquerade inside our heads as being caring, ambitious, and more "on it." Are they really helping, though?

Worrying is the mind's attempt to exert more control over situations that feel uncertain or uncontrollable to us. With enough worry, we imagine we can tease apart the ultimate answers to life's problems and get what we want. The act of worrying ties up a lot of energy and potential that can be used in other ways.

Ever had an experience where something you want comes around when you're not constantly worrying about it? Life doesn't usually seem that concerned with our worries, and it may actually wait until the worrying subsides before opening new doors and opportunities. Worrying is easy and common to fall prey to. What's challenging is to step back from it and see what else the world is made of. Energy, adventures, uncertainties...not always bad uncertainties.

By worrying, we can focus so much on the unnerving side of uncertainty that we lose sight of the other shades of it. Would you want to keep watching movies that you always knew the endings to? With worries, we seek to know the ending right now before going through the meat of the experience itself. Trouble is, worrying doesn't exactly produce real endings or results, so it can leave us spinning our wheels instead.

Next time a worry is waking up with you, piggy backing all day, and snuggling up beside you at night, look at it in the face and ask, "What? What do you want from me?" Reducing its importance will help you remember what you want instead.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Too Cool for School

In today's heavily social (media) world, sometimes a "Too Cool for School" craze catches on. What's "too cool for school?" You stop wanting to learn and experience life. Why? Because you're already being told what's "cool."

All of us are exposed to this phenomenon today over the internet, pads, phones, and myriad devices. It's worth challenging the net-like peer pressure to keep learning and discovering for yourself. Nothing against nets. After all, spiders use nets to catch food...just not other spiders. It's not easy to resist the pervasive culture. But your health and well-being benefits from wisely choosing how much you want to be involved.

Too cool for school tells you what's important to value. The more hits, the more news-worthy. The more likes, the more reliable. Is that how we really feel inside? That's a question for each individual to ask for his or herself. When it comes down to it, tweets, likes, hits, and thumbs up will never compare to solo and individual experience. Taste something and decide for yourself how you feel about it.

Even if a million people say it's worth following, it's okay to say you don't dig it. In fact, you'd probably rather go for a walk, write a story, or do nothing at all. The point is, you're not uncool just for having ignored it. Life is yours to live and learn through. Learning to filter all the stimulus available today to decide what's valuable to you makes a difference.

If you feel out of vogue, behind the times, not hip to it, or out of touch with the scene...maybe your mind and body are trying to tell you something? They're probably reminding you that you are cool for school. It's hip to be square.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

If a Tree Falls and No One Hears It...?

The question goes, "If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it still make a sound?" I'll shake this question up a bit and ask, "If you experience or see something, and no one else responds to it---did it still happen?"

At one time or another, each of us faces a situation in which we strongly experience something that no one else responds to. Know the feeling? Without anyone else echoing what you saw or felt, you may wonder whether you imagined it all. Throughout life, it can be challenging to hold onto your true experience when you're getting the message from others that it's better or more convenient to dismiss it.

You're like the tree (without the falling part necessarily). The tree still falls even if no one is there to witness it happening. That's what's most important. In your own life when you go through something that's important to you, it bears the same significance regardless of whether other people acknowledge it or not.

It can feel frustrating to know your experience and then to doubt it because you feel alone there. The experiences you have that don't fit a formula or can't be categorized can feel like that the most. What's most important, however, is that it really did happen---for you. The tree doesn't care if anyone heard it fall or not. For humans, it's more complex than that. Still, we can learn from the tree in keeping the integrity of our experiences even when there isn't a witness to them.

This month, take in those moments that no one else but you responds to. If you make a joke and no one else laughs, you can still enjoy the joke for yourself. If you see or hear something crazy and there's zero reaction around you, remind yourself that the event still happened for you. If you see a hummingbird zip in front of your face, a lady bug appear on your clothing just when you need a little luck, or an unexplainable occurrence...it's okay if no one else is there to see it or react to it but you. Sometimes the coolest moments are like that.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Door to the Invisible

Imagine you're facing a door, and on the other side of that door is change. In order to move forward you have to open the door without really knowing what's on the other side. The change is invisible to you from where you're standing, and the only way to see it is by opening the door. Will you open it?

Often, doors to change become visible to us at times when we're ready for them. They're not always there, but when they appear they challenge us to make the next move of turning the knob and stepping through the threshold. When the door's there, it's hard to ignore it. It won't let you forget that there's something you have to face on the other side.

It can be tempting to ignore the unknown and stick to the familiarity of your side of the door. Besides, nothing's forcing you to make the change. However, by pretending the door isn't there, you can miss out on good opportunities and learning experiences. Even though you have no idea what's on the other side, that's okay. Important doors often lead to places where we've never been before.

Do you see a door you can open toward change? It could be in any area of your life such as personal growth, career, relationships, family, or health. If you're standing there contemplating whether to make a move, remember it's okay that you're not sure what's on the other side. But the door is there for a reason. Open the door to the invisible.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Perfect: The Enemy of Good

Why is perfect the enemy of good? Think about it. The message of "perfect" is that you'll someday attain a status beyond which there's no point of trying, or learning, or growing. If you're perfect already, what's the point of interacting with life and getting something out of it?

"Perfect" tricks you into believing that there is a solution and an endpoint.  Do you think that any individual in the history of mankind created something unique by aiming for perfection? It seems to me that more innovative results came from casting perfection to the side in favor of creativity, autonomy, and doing the best you can. If you aim for perfection, you're placing yourself in a sterile bubble by default.

In a bubble of perfection, of course you can see the exact results you want to see in your health, social sphere, family, finances, and personal goals...by omission. You'll have to omit all the stuff that's not going perfect. What does this mean? You'll have to omit a part of yourself in order to reach perfection. Human beings aren't meant to strive for perfection, they're meant to adapt. By adapting to the world around us and the unique events we're each going through, we stay open to possibilities. Perfection doesn't leave room for possibilities. Why? Because it's too perfect.

Next time you're aiming for perfection, ask yourself what your mind, heart, and body are really rooting for. Are they seeking adventure? Are they seeking to break out of a bubble of certainty in order to taste what life is offering? Are they asking you to push yourself beyond previously held limitations to get to know yourself better and what you're really made of?

It doesn't help to seek answers outside of yourself and from other people. Is it worthwhile to get down on yourself because a bunch of people who don't even know you don't believe you can reach your goals? Who knows you better than yourself? These are questions to ask yourself when the dazzle of perfection starts glittering stronger than your true desires.

Perfect is the enemy of good. Remember that when you're asking yourself to jump out of your skin to be something you're not. Is the effort worth the risk?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The #*!*?! Keeps Coming

During life, most of us hold our breath and wait for a time that finally feels calm and accommodating to who we are. Do you know the feeling? We work, try, and grapple, hoping that times will change and things will get easier. After small periods of calm, we're usually thrown back into the mix of stress and ups and downs. Just as you're waiting to get off an emotional roller coaster, life often buys you a ticket for a new one. What's that about?

The truth is, the #*!*?! keeps coming. The illusion that if you wait long enough or try hard enough, that all the messiness and frustrations of life will stop is just that--an illusion. So what do you do? A big part of living in and staying healthy in reality is coming to terms with the #*!*?! Keeps Coming phenomenon. None of us have a human-desired control over life. We live in a world that is wild no matter how we try and contain it. When you live in the wild, you have to prepare.

You prepare first and foremost by taking care of yourself. With the knowledge that storms, lightning, and droughts may be around the corner, you still have to keep up with physical and mental-emotional fitness as much as you can. Preparation helps you to get through new and stressful periods of time that you may not have foreseen (since we don't have crystal balls at our disposal).

You can also make more peace with the fact that #*!*?! Keeps Coming. Have you wanted it to be different? If so, in what ways? Ask yourself if the positive changes you're hoping for live in fantasy land or in reality. Reality tends to repeatedly present challenges with a common theme if we're ignoring the bigger picture. Unless we face the challenge head on here and now, we'll often be met with it again.

Finally, it's okay to step back and not try so hard all the time. Trying your best is admirable. However, some forms of trying resemble banging against a wall over and over again. No matter how hard you try, the wall is still there and you can't imagine it away. Try what you can and be open to adapting along the way to new strategies if you have to. Try with a clear, realistic, and flexible mindset.

#*!*?! Keeps Coming can be a relief in some ways. It lets you be a human in this wild world. It helps you to realize your limits as you're using your potential. Sure, maybe that one person is frustrating you. Maybe that one situation is difficult, but should it be all up to you to solve the conflicted interaction? The workplace is experiencing some tension. Why should it be your job to solve all of it? Ask yourself why you have to sit at home with all of the world's problems on your shoulders.

This week, notice how the #*!*?! Keeps Coming. Let it live and breathe in your life, so that it doesn't completely consume your days and weeks. As you come to terms with the persistent knocking of the #*!*?!, maybe finding solutions to all of life's problems will feel less important. Maybe living your day as it is will become more so.

The Turtle, the Rabbit, and You

The story goes that the turtle was slow and steady, but he won the race. The rabbit was faster from the start line, but he thought he had a big enough lead to be able to take a nap when tired. While he was napping, the turtle won.

The turtle was slow and steady and the rabbit was fast but lazy. This story brings up an interesting dilemma. How do you want to approach things?

The fear of being too slow and behind everyone else can rear its head in life. It tells you forcefully that you haven't reached where you need to be. You should be somewhere else. This somewhere else is in line with where everyone else is. The punch line is always that you're not good enough.

You might feel the opposite and more like the rabbit. You're so fast that you've reached the end, the destination---without actually crossing the finish line. You can just stop where you're at and nap without looking further. Do either of these feelings sound familiar?

The pace you're at in life is unique to you, but it can be easy to judge where you're at. Very often the judgement is unfair and not helpful toward where you want to go next.

How fast or slow can you go and still reach your goal? Does it matter what other people think about your decisions?

Life isn't a race. Ultimately, you are on your own path. Ideally, you don't want to be so slow so that you can't imagine the possibility of reaching your goal. In that case, fears and anxieties are most likely blocking your path. However, the steadiness of the turtle is helpful to emulate so that you don't give up.

You also don't want to be so fast and hurried that you prematurely run out of energy and feel tired before you near the finish line. In that case, you're probably running toward goals forcefully and somewhat blindly without a realistic pace. The strong potential of the rabbit, however, is helpful to see in your own life.

Most likely, you're somewhere in between the turtle and the rabbit and going at your own speed. Don't worry what others say, but look honestly at whether you feel too slow or too hurried in your efforts. It's not all about the finish line, it's about how you want to run your journey.

This week, take realistic steps to get where you want to go, and focus on running at a steady and confident pace.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Playfulness and Health

What is playfulness? If you're reaching for the dictionary on this word, toss it aside! Playfulness can't be described with words. It's a feeling, and it's one that can easily be neglected in this world and in health. How is playfulness good for your health?

When you're playful, you're appreciating the lightness that can be experienced in your life. This lightness naturally supports a balanced body and mind, gets you looking forward to new experiences, and helps you enjoy interacting with yourself and the world around you.

Naturally when stressful times arise it's not always possible to bring out your playful side. On the other hand, how many days or weeks go by for people in today's current lifestyle that aren't riddled with stress in some way? Let's be realistic and say that playfulness can sometimes appear on the endangered feelings list.

Don't forget to enjoy your personality along the way in life. Playfulness isn't all about how you appear to the outside world. It's more about the lightheartedness you allow in your own life, even when life presents you with a regular reel of challenges and missteps. It's a secret joke exchanged without words. It's that laugh you share with yourself or someone else. It's watching yourself, someone else, or your pet do something unexpected and memorable. Playful moments aren't frivolous, they last for a long time.

Handle the daily routines, responsibilities, work, duties, and bills. Just don't forget to play sometimes too.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No Such Thing as Perfect Health

Is there such a thing as perfect health?

Well, is there such a thing as a perfect person? The answer to both questions is:  NO. Human beings go through real life, real challenges, unexpected events, and uncertainty. During this lifetime, there is no such thing as perfect health.

The way health is depicted in the medical community and media can sometimes be misleading in this respect. You see perfect specimens of health running down the beach in a commercial or health magazine, and you're led to believe that every single day unfolds this way for truly healthy people. Commercials depict people who are happily on medications that bypass the need to look deeper into existing health imbalances. A woman eats a container of yogurt and her healthy weight and slim figure are set for eternity. While many of these tactics are marketing strategies, you still have to resist health propaganda out there in the world when the message doesn't fit you as a person.

Do you want to be a perfect person? Or would you rather approach yourself and your health from where you're at in life? This is a tricky question. It's undeniable that the shiny tune of the word "perfection" beckons each of us during life. Striving for it can lead to frustration, disappointment, and feeling stuck. Striving for perfect health is no different. Unless you approach your health from a realistic and approachable standpoint, it can always seem so far away, running away from you as you run toward it in its perfect fantasy form.

Ever heard of "wabi-sabi"? Wabi-sabi is the Japanese view that accepts imperfection as a form of beauty and balance. To acknowledge wabi-sabi is to see that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. By accepting the wabi-sabi in your health, in your personality, and in your life, you can really appreciate what makes your health and your life tick each day. You can also respect the journey that you take as an individual to feel health in your life amid the very real challenges that come your way. Your health has strengths and it has weaknesses, it has room to grow, and it's human just like you are.

Don't strive to put yourself and your health in a picture perfect bubble. In a bubble, you can't move around and you can't learn. When you take care of yourself outside of the bubble and still work toward health in an imperfect world and body, you're getting somewhere real. Here's to your wabi-sabi, and here's to your health!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Only You Can Do It

There are certain things in life that only you can do. Want to turn your health around? Only you can do it. Have a desire to reduce stress? It's up to you. Have you been thinking about improving your sleep, losing weight, clearing up your skin, or eating healthier? Again, all signs point to you. While you may find resources out there to help you along the way, the first step to getting what you want in health or any other area is the realization:
Only I can do this for myself. No one else can do it for me.
Life can offer openings for you to get what you want, but until you take ownership of what you want, these openings may be hard to find. The temptation is often to seek answers outside of you. What book will help, which video has useful information, what did your friend say the other day that her doctor told her to do? Education is important when it comes to health, but the first steps toward getting healthy are often simple and within your control. These simplest measures can be the most difficult to start even though they are completely within your hands.

We're taught to seek solutions elsewhere and doubt our own instincts when it comes to self care and healthy living. Your body, however, offers the most powerful clues on what to do to take care of yourself. When you ask yourself what you're uniquely aiming for, even when no one around you is on the same boat, you're taking care of your health. When you turn to yourself during stressful times and support yourself through it, you're clearer on how to get healthy.

Only you can do it. No one else can. Taking accountability for what you want helps you to own it and to take real steps to get there---no matter what. When you frame your goals outside of yourself and look outward for the answers, the challenging times can feel stuck rather than opportunities to learn and grow. This mindset can lead to a cycle of disappointment and discouragement.

Look at your health goals square on, and ask yourself what you can do. Don't turn to him, her, them, or it. Just you. Are you doing what is in your power to perform, or are you relying on flimsy suggestions from the outside? When you build your own foundation for your goals, then you can use others' advice with more discretion and make it work for you. This approach can apply to any goal in your life.

This week, remember that only you can do it. And then ask yourself what real steps you're prepared to take to make it happen.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Guilt of Going for It

Have you ever wanted something for yourself, and then felt guilty about wanting it?

It could be an interest, a goal, a dream, a win, or just about anything. It's common to want something and to experience guilt or fears of backlash about it. You might even wonder whether life will somehow punish you for following your dreams.

The guilt and fear can snowball into a superstitious belief that going for what you want is taboo and dangerous. Sound familiar? Let's look at this guilt in an open light.

First off, what is guilt?

Guilt is one word, but it can have many different shades of meaning. The dictionary describes guilt as:  "The fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime." The dictionary says that when you do something wrong, or someone else claims you've done something wrong---you feel guilty about it. In fact, there are many other triggers of guilt that have nothing to do with wrong-doing. Guilt can actually come from right-doing.

Guilt can result from wanting to do something right---by going for what you want in life! We're universally taught that certain dreams are acceptable to strive for in life. It often includes a family, a house, an occupation, a cat and a dog. These desires are definitely important to the extent that you want them, but they are not all that life's made out of. Each individual has unique wants and dreams outside of this picture. What are yours?

It's challenging to go after what you uniquely want, the things that no one else around you is striving for. Thoughts can pop up such as, "What will other people think about this?" or "Am I doing something wrong by going for this?"  You might fear that you won't belong anymore if you set off confidently in pursuit of your dreams.

You may also have second thoughts such as: "Am I imagining the importance of wanting this?" or "Am I on the wrong track and hurting others by selfishly wanting this in my life?"

The guilt can reach so far as to imply to you: "I'm a bad person." or "I'm crazy for wanting this." or even "When are the police coming after me?"

Facing your dreams head-on often triggers guilt as if you're doing something wrong...and sometimes lots of it. You may feel afraid of leaving others behind to go where you want. You may also wonder whether you're hurting those you're close with in order to live your dream.

To follow a dream, however, you have to walk your own path and and not everyone can be a part of that journey. Some people will be supportive. But other people may not be in favor of you getting what you want, and in that case you have to decide what you're willing to put on the line. It's an individual decision, and an individual risk.

Going for what you want requires the courage to face guilt when it comes up. Guilt is a very real emotion, but for many people there's a tendency to want to suppress it when it arises. You may think to yourself, I know what I want---so there's no problem, right? For most people, however, the journey to follow a dream involves personal challenges, growing pains, and frustrations. If you ignore the guilt that underlies going for what you want, you can't fully appreciate and harness the journey that you're on. You may even find that you eventually get a shell of what you want, without the real substance inside of it.

This month, ask yourself what you've been really wanting in life. Has guilt blocked your path getting there? Have you suppressed this guilt? Get to know the guilt a little better and instead of feeling like you're doing something wrong, you might remember that you're actually doing something right by wanting what you want.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Health and Your Inner Teacher

When you travel the halls of your memory, who do you remember as your most influential teachers? How did these teachers influence your life and change it for the better? Great teachers spark more than math, literature, or science in your life. They spark something else as well, something deeper and long-lasting that stays with you. As an individual living your life, you have another teacher you may not have touched on in your memory. That teacher is you! When you're trying to get healthy and support your body and mind better, your inner teacher is key toward achieving what you want.

Health involves learning. You learn about your body and which lifestyle habits foster balanced health, versus which habits derail health. But you also learn something else. You learn about yourself as a person, how you face challenges, and which obstacles are blocking your road to health. The journey toward health involves more than regimens for diet, exercise, and sleep. The journey is unique to who you are and where you're at in life too.

Bringing out your inner teacher to learn about your health isn't always easy. Everyone wants to believe they are perfectly healthy, and sometimes facing the reality that your health needs more support can be challenging. It means admitting that you're not perfect and that you still have more to learn. It takes knowing that supplements, medications, or doctor's visits alone can't keep you healthy. You as a person are an essential part of your health, and acknowledging this fact takes honesty and courage.

When you call forth your inner teacher in an open and honest way, you can explore your physical and mental-emotional health through a unique lens. You can ask yourself if there are societal and personal expectations that are burdening you and blocking your health. You can explore whether some part of your past unfairly has a hold on your health and who you are today. You can explore your relationships with yourself and other people to see whether they are supporting or hindering health. You can also notice how you manage stress and emotions and whether your current approach could use some adjustment for better health.

Good teachers both challenge you out of your comfort zone and patiently support you through the discomfort that can result. Getting healthier can feel strange and uncomfortable at times. The body and mind are used to doing what they always do---in other words, homeostasis or equilibrium. They will maintain states of health, but they also maintain states of unbalanced health. To get healthy, your inner teacher has to push you beyond comfortably unhealthy habits. On the other hand, your inner teacher also has to patiently help you through these potentially awkward transition periods and regularly remind you: "I can do this!"

What steps have you taken lately to bring out your inner teacher on the road to better health? If you feel that it's been a while since you've listened to your inner teacher, that's okay. He or she is always there and you can turn to that side of yourself when your health feels neglected or stuck. Remember to give your inner teacher the same respect that you would any other great teacher in your life.

As you head into the autumn season, a period of time that is infused with transition in the air around you, encourage your inner teacher by asking  yourself the following questions:

1) What are current strengths in my health?
2) What are some weaker points of my health that require more attention and learning?
3) Without focusing too much on the past or the future, what steps can I take today toward better health?
4) What are my obstacles to health in the present moment?
5) How can I create space in my life for my inner teacher to express itself and help me with health?

As you ask yourself these questions, you'll find that your body and mind naturally know which direction to go in---if you listen to them. By paying attention to your inner teacher, you'll learn new things about your health and how better to support it. And you'll enter your own hall of fame of great teachers.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Health is Wealth

What is wealth? The word "wealth" can quickly trigger images of money, cars, savings and bonds, and whatever else can be accumulated with currency. But how often does the word "health" pop into someone's mind when thinking about the meaning of wealth? These two words do rhyme, and that is often the extent of the similarities seen between them. But health is wealth!

Think about what helps you get through life each day, supports you while you're earning a living, and gets you through challenges. Your body helps you do all of this! Picture yourself with healthy energy levels, managed stress, good sleep, smooth digestion, glowing skin, a strong body, and a spring in your step. Does that picture remind you of wealth? A worn down or neglected body, however, often feels like the opposite of wealth.

Taking care of health on a physical and mental-emotional level makes you feel rich in a way that money can't do alone. Whether you're pursuing money or your dreams, your health is the foundation upon which all of these goals are built. When you're healthy, you actually have more energy and motivation available to make money in a healthy way too. Supporting your body and mind helps you not only do what you want in life, but it also helps you appreciate and enjoy this journey more fully.

What happens when you don't support your health? Without health, can you truly feel wealthy no matter what you possess? The only person who knows that answer is you. Quality of life is boosted when you value health as an important and indispensable source of wealth. Health makes wealth feel more balanced and in line with who you are as an individual.

How can you earn more health? First, it's important to realize that health is not separate from the other things you do in life to achieve wealth. It's an essential part of it. There might be areas of your health that feel neglected, and if so what are they? Imagine metaphorically putting "money" toward these areas so they get the attention and care that they deserve. Whether it involves getting more rest, reducing stress, increasing energy, losing weight, or any other health measure, learn to see these changes as valuable---just like you would view money itself.

Next, be honest about the influences that may be draining your health. No one likes losing money or watching it trickle away uselessly. It's more satisfying to use money toward things that you really want and that feel valuable to you. Learn to see your body and health in the same way. You don't want to see your energy drained through accumulated and ignored stress, careless lifestyle habits, or bottled up thoughts and emotions. If you're noticing a drain, find a way to address that hole so you can start to rebuild your health and energy levels again.

Finally, recognize areas of your life you that focus on excessively at the expense of your health. If you're a student, it's great to get good grades. If you're working, it feels good to make money and shoot for promotions. If you're taking care of your family, it's satisfying to see everyone happy. All of these roles are important, but they can also rapidly take over who you are and how you approach your health. Don't let these roles define your health for you. Practice balancing your health with your life.

It can be challenging to support health while trying to keep up with so many other activities in life. That's okay, your attempts don't have to be perfect. They do have to be honest, though. While you're working toward money or other goals, don't forget to build your health at the same time. Health goes hand in hand with wealth. This week, ask yourself how you can feel more wealthy toward your health.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Does It Mean to Be Strong?

Strength is a useful quality in life. It helps us persevere, show toughness in the face of adversity, and survive as individuals. We, like all living creatures, are a part of nature and toughness helps us in a world where we don't always have control over what happens to us. It helps us get what we want, including what we want in our health. Though strength is desirable in life, at times it can be tempting to unnaturally "wear" or force it in order to block out other uncomfortable feelings.

What does this mean? Say that you've just been through a difficult situation such as leaving a job, moving to a new place, or enduring a break-up. Instead of looking at all the feelings that are bubbling up inside, you decide that you have to be strong. You're not quite sure why you're saying this, but you feel that for the sake of yourself and others that it's better not to rest idly in a state of discomfort or confusion. "YES," you confirm to yourself, "I have to be strong!"

This type of forced or unnatural strength is not the same as true strength. What it's effectively doing is suppressing a natural instinct to process what you've just been through. Maybe you are confused. Maybe you're hurt. Maybe you're mad, and even more. You may not necessarily know how to express all the rising feelings, but the firm declaration to not feel them and instead be strong will actually make you feel weaker---not stronger.

It takes energy to suppress feelings that want to come out. This drained energy can make you feel tired, and while you look in the mirror and tell yourself you're being strong, you'll know on some level that you're pretending. As you're blocking yourself in this manner, your health can take a hit and make it even more difficult to move through your challenges.

We can all learn to read clues from our bodies and minds on when to exercise strength versus when to encourage a more nurturing and gentle attitude. Just because you're gentler with yourself through tough times doesn't make you weak. Toughness and gentleness are two sides of the same coin, attributes that when used the right way can help you naturally face whatever you're going through in life. Abandon one or the other, and all of a sudden you can feel like the floor has fallen out from underneath your feet and you don't know why. It's because both strength and gentleness are needed to take care of yourself and your health.

Next time you encounter a challenge, ask yourself how much you're forcing yourself through "I need to be strong" boot camp. If you notice that you are taking this approach, try taking a step back and nurturing yourself and your health. You may end up being surprised at how much stronger you feel naturally with this more balanced mindset.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Take a Dose of Selfish, and Call Me in the Morning

When it comes to staying healthy, the role of selfishness can't be overestimated. We often hear how being selfish is not an admirable way to be. You're taught that helping others is more satisfying than helping yourself. Giving to others is better than giving to yourself. Caring for others is preferable to caring for yourself. Instead of adopting this mindset, it can be powerful to try out a new one. Take a dose of selfish, and call me in the morning.

Attending to personal health requires the skill of being selfish. And yes, it is a skill. We're so trained to see selflessness as the ideal that being selfish can feel uncomfortable at first. Selfishness, however, is important when trying to achieve anything in life. For example, if you want to publish a book one day, you'd have to be selfish with your time to have the opportunity to write. Want to enter a degree program? Then you'd have to be selfish with your resources and energy expenditure. Do you want to be healthy? In that case, it's wise to list selfishness among your top health care priorities. It even has to come before diet, exercise, and other specific health care regimens.

Being selfish isn't always bad. Health takes energy, prioritizing, time investment, and putting yourself first. It takes the courage to put your hand up and say "no" when you feel like outside influences are hindering your health. It also takes the brazenness to declare that you as an individual are just as worthy of getting your attention than other people.

I've seen stubborn cases of skin issues, weight gain, and many other health complaints improve from someone putting his or her foot down and deciding to be more selfish toward health and life in general. It's not always easy. When you decide to be more selfish, fears can arise surrounding doing things your own way and for yourself. You might be scared of how people you know will react. Your new approach can snag on others' expectations of you and the attention they're used to getting from you. Being there for yourself and for others doesn't have to be mutually exclusive, however.

When you are taking care of yourself the way that you need to, you'll have more energy and opportunity to be there for others in a realistic way. You'll also realize what your limits are and how much you're capable of giving to others without sacrificing your own health. You'll experience increased energy, more relaxation, and more balance in the way you approach life, health, and your relationships. You'll also be less likely to freely give away time and energy that you don't have available to give.

Think about your health. Do you feel like more selfishness is needed for you to feel and look the way you want? If so, ask yourself the following:
  • Where do you feel you've been giving away time and energy that you don't have available to give?
  • What areas of your health are asking for more attention?
  • How can you re-prioritize to allow more space for selfishness?
  • What fears come up when you think about living life more selfishly?
  • What does healthy selfishness mean to you?
As you continue on your journey toward health, experiment with doses of selfish and see how it goes!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Do You Believe in Magic?

What is magic? Is it all "abracadabra" and "hocus pocus," or is there something more to it? We often describe childhood as having a magical quality to it and we fondly remember the magic surrounding a first kiss. Once these periods of time pass, sadly, the words "magic" and "magical" are used less often and presumed to have a polar relationship to the word "adult." Magic is actually a real and integral part of both life and health for kids and adults alike, and it surrounds each of us---if we pay attention to it.

I recently had the opportunity to go see a Huey Lewis and the News concert and undeniably, the adults in the audience were re-experiencing the magic they had felt during their childhoods and teenage years. As most of you probably know, Huey Lewis and the News are a San Francisco-based American band with a unique and catchy style of music that is a genre unto itself.

Their music not only captures the pizzazz of the decade during which their songs played regularly on the radio (the 1980's), but it embodies the thrum and energy of life and magic itself. How could I gauge this? Half of the audience was younger and attending their first Huey Lewis and the News concert. Though times have changed since the 80's, people continue to be attracted to music that captures life and youthful magic the way that Huey's songs do. If you're interested, check out their music!  www.hueylewisandthenews.com

Have you ever heard a song, read a book, or watched a movie that instantly transports you back to a time when you remember magic swirling around you? If so, how does it make you feel when this happens? For many, the immediate euphoric sensation may come with a twinge of sadness or nostalgia afterward. It can be bitter-sweet to remember times that felt more innocent and unburdened such as those felt during youth. When we're young, the world feels open and new like an unexplored gift. Though music and other forms of art can capture these memories and their magical quality, we quickly realize that there's no way to go back in time.

You know what, though? That's okay. There is no need to go back in time to have magic and innocence present in your life. Time has a forward progression, and that's the way it's meant to be. But that doesn't mean that life will rob you of magic simply because you can't go back in time or because you're an adult! You are where you are, and you are who you are---and there's a real-time sense of magic accessible to you right now. It's not exactly the same magic you felt during childhood, but it's true for you today.

Life can feel hectic and busy to the point where each of us ignores or rejects the magic that already exists for us. When you're momentarily jarred from reality by something touching such as magical music, it may not simply be due to nostalgia for the past. The strong emotions may be triggered by the magic that you're missing in your life today. Magic helps us stay true to who we are as individuals, promotes health and vitality, and inspires awe about the human spirit and the world we live in. What would a world without magic feel like?

This week, challenge yourself to kindle the magic that is natural to you and your life. What areas of your life could benefit from a healthy dose of magic and awe?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Catching Currents in Health and Life

Have you ever watched while a bird catches a current of wind to get where it wants to go? In one swift movement, the bird's wings can glide from one current to the next, just by naturally following the direction of the wind. The bird will swoop to the left and then way over to the right, without the changes in speed or direction looking forced or unnatural.

Even while we as humans do not have wings, we can still catch the metaphoric wind currents in our own lives to help us get where we want to go. Human nature, especially in the form of stuck thoughts, tends to dictate that change needs to be forced and that we have to make it happen. A gung-ho attitude in life is not a bad thing. However, there are places in each of our lives where we can afford to take a step back from deliberate or forceful measures in order to catch an existing current of flow and movement that is already in place.

Can you think of situations in your life lately where you have felt stuck trying, waiting, struggling, suffering, banging your head, and begging life to do what you're asking it to do? You may not feel like you're taking flight in this area. Take a deep breath, Take a step back in your mind, and Imagine yourself flying like a bird. Your wings have felt locked in place with one fixed idea or thought pattern. Now that you're free of that, you're rising, gliding, and dancing on currents of air that you can't exactly see---but you can feel. Do you feel the buoyancy, as you imagine this scenario?

When you want to go left, the wind supports your flight there. When you want to change direction, your wings find nearby currents to help your flight. When you want to hover for a short time in one spot, you can rest there until a new current comes along that you feel like catching. You are still flying on your own, but the existing currents are helping you take the path of least resistance where possible.

It's okay to catch currents once in a while to get where you want to go---even if you don't know exactly where you're going yet. The bird shows us how satisfying, and how deceptively productive it is to catch airflow and movement that's already happening around you. Whether it's in the area of your health, relationships, career, family, or whatever situation is unique to you at the moment, a natural current can help you get where you want to go. Even without actual wings, we humans can experience the buoyancy, lift, and gliding that birds experience. You just have to be open to catching the currents around you.

This week, observe the currents swirling around you and see which ones you feel like riding!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Be "The Best," or Best at What You Do?

There comes a time when you're cultivating a new skill, an art, a business, a talent, or just about anything where you're standing at a distinct crossroads. One metaphoric road sign reads "Be the Very Best." The cross street is marked with a sign that bears a resemblance to the first one, but represents something entirely different. That sign says "Be the Best at What You Do." As you stand there, many conflicted feelings may flow through you. You start to wonder what "The Best" means to you.

From a young age, we're often generically taught to be the very best. Whether you're learning to play the flute, dancing, playing a sport, going through grad school, or applying for a job (the list goes on), a repetitive message may knock at your brain cells. It says, "Not good enough---strive to be the best!" What was once enthusiasm for going for what you want can turn into confusion and discouragement. "What is the best," you wonder, "and how can I possibly achieve a status that, by definition, seems reserved for one person?"

In reality, the idea of the best always begs an answer of who out there is better than you and who is worse than you. Rather than a focus on your own unique skill and talent set, "the very best" implies that your inherent value is absent without this comparison. It stresses recognition rather than self-satisfaction, perfection over practice, an ideal rather than realistic expectations. It asks you to be things that you are not.

The sign that reads "Be the Best at What You Do" is far more meaningful to who you are. What do you do? Naturally, you gravitate toward certain talents and ways of using these talents that are unique to you. When you work toward being the best at what you do, you can actually focus on what you're really capable of. It doesn't matter what the person sitting next to you or across from you is doing. They can't possibly be the best at what you do, because they're not you. And vice versa. While the message of being the best points everywhere else, the act of being the best at what you do points exclusively to you.

Being the best at what you do is a challenging journey, and it takes courage. It's not always easy to shut out words from the outside that are directly or indirectly telling you how you should see your work and your worth. It is, however, a very rewarding experience to taste and keep nurturing your own unique potential. You will probably stumble across aspects of your talents that you didn't realize existed. You can surprise yourself and be proud of what you accomplish, even if: 1) no one is looking and nodding in agreement, or 2) people are shaking their heads in disapproval.

When in your life have you felt the sweep of energy from knowing that you did something your way, and that it was good enough the way you chose to do it? When did you last taste the sensation of doing or creating something that surprised you and opened your eyes to new doors? If the words "The Best" have been knocking too painfully on your brain lately, open your brain cells and say, "No thank you." Instead, invite over thoughts that encourage the unique nature and journey of being the best at what you do.

If you're standing at these crossroads right now somewhere in your life, look both ways and go in the direction no one has yet traveled. The road that is reserved for you.

Monday, July 8, 2013

History Repeats? Move on to Your Next Adventure

Have you ever faced a challenge, a conflict, or some other difficult situation in the present that already feels very familiar to you...almost as if you've encountered it in some other form before? Perhaps in your past...

You might have wondered why this type of situation keeps returning for you. Maybe it's a work-related challenge, a tiff with a friend or family member, or a personal obstacle such as passing a test or reaching a goal or dream. Whatever the case, you may wonder, "How do I keep attracting reflections of my past?" Your new challenge may mimic your past one so closely, that it seems beyond coincidence. How do you face what's in front of your eyes without precisely reenacting the events that came before it?

We've all heard the phrase "History repeats itself." It's true that when you're faced with a challenge in the present that resembles one from your past, that there is a chance of history repeating itself. Your mind may even convince you that you'll inevitably meet the same fate as you did before. On top of that, the conclusion from your past may have been disappointing or upsetting, leading you to believe that the new situation will end in disappointment too. What do you do with this echo from the past?

Don't worry---you don't need a time machine to travel back to the past and correct things in order to meet your present challenge. Your new situation can be a gem in that it presents a new learning opportunity to help you grow and expand your horizons. How? Life tends to present us with challenges that are familiar to us as an opportunity to try it again. Life doesn't always expect you to get it all right the first time. It is how you take advantage of these refreshed opportunities that makes all the difference.

The next time you're faced with a challenge that closely resembles one from your past, remember that you've been living life in between these two events. You're the same person, but you're also an individual who has life experience with which to learn and grow from. How are you going to use what you learned in the interim to face what you're going through now?

Next, don't get caught up in chastising yourself for the decisions you made in the past. If there is a major contributor to history in fact repeating itself, it closely involves this unhelpful mindset. Trust yourself enough to recognize that had you known then what you know now, you may have done it differently---or might not have. The point is, it's impossible to know and it doesn't matter right now for your current situation. Given what you've been through so far, how will you handle things today?

Finally, try to be honest with yourself and admit that repeating circumstances have kept presenting themselves over and over again to you. What are they asking you to pay attention to, work on, or move on from? Try and detect where these challenges are trying to nudge your future, so that history doesn't have to repeat itself any longer.

Just as there is an innate intelligence to your body and your health, there is also an intelligence in the challenges that you face. Instead of posting a label on your forehead that reads "History Repeats Itself," tear that label off and try something new. If you get in touch with your individual experience and insight, your growth, and the unique lessons you've learned, these clues will lead you in the right direction more than a page-by-page reading of your history and past will.

This week, ask yourself, how can you derail history from repeating itself---so that you can move on to your new and excellent adventure?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independent You!

Every 4th of July, the air is filled with a lightness of being and an exciting buzz as we all get together to celebrate Independence Day. Signs of celebration surround almost every corner as we think of freedom, yet we are also reminded of the strength and courage that it takes to uphold freedom in the face of challenges that come along in life. We are joined by many others while watching fireworks, but the independence represented by this day is also felt on a very individual level. Each of us is unique, and each person manifests independence in a unique way. What does independence mean to you?

Achieving the health that you want in life and shooting for your dreams involves independence on a very personal level. It takes asking yourself what is most important to you, knowing you will back yourself no matter what happens, and---remembering that you exist. Many things in life can tempt you to pull away from yourself, whether it be stress, work, social pressures, or just about anything. When this outside pressure presents, you know it and feel it on some level, but it takes honesty to face it. It can't be underestimated, in the face of life pressures, the courage that it takes to uphold existence itself.

What does it mean to exist? That isn't a question someone else can answer for you. When times get tough, you can dig deep to find out what you're really made of, and that is a loud gesture of how you exist. But even day to day, the act of upholding individual existence helps you face challenges that will inevitably arise on your unique path. On the level of health, remembering that your body exists and paying attention to it no matter what happens externally is a big part of preventive medicine. When you stay in tune with your body and pay attention to what it's going through, you'll be more than half way toward your optimal health!

Each of us has a unique vibe, and this vibe can echo as strongly as the reverberation of fireworks. You just have to pay attention to it. What does your body say, what does your mind tell you, and what does your gut feeling spell out is right for you? This is real independence. It starts with an individual, and it ends with an individual.

After the fireworks have left a soft haze and buzzy quiet in the air, ask yourself how you'll exercise your own independence this week. Which parts of your life have been waiting for a dose of independence? Which parts of your health have been asking for it? And where in your own independent life will you erect a flag to say: I came, I saw, and I conquered my own challenges?

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Health as Art

We often look at art as something outside of us---a painting hanging on a wall, an ornate vase, a moving photograph. If we look at art through a different lens, we can see that the first and most beautiful work of art begins with the body itself and the potential that it holds for life and health. Without even stepping into a museum or a gallery, we can wake up every morning and picture the art we want to see in our bodies and health.

What is Health as Art? First, it involves recognizing all the coordinated events that the body is designed to carry out on a daily basis. From digestion, to immunity, to muscular strength and circulation---the body creates an artful display of physiology every day that helps us get the nutrition and energy we need to do what we want. It all happens without you even having to think about it.

Next, it's interesting to look at the connection between inner and outer health. Constant communication happens in the body to let us see outwardly the health that we're experiencing inwardly, and vice versa. When we feel better in our health, we tend to look better too. This reflection of health is boosted when we really pay attention to the body's signals both inside and outside.

Health is also like art in that each individual is unique. Every body is different from the next, and what it takes to uphold health and beauty for one person is different from the next. As you get to know yourself and your health better, you can find ways to reflect the most artful expression of your unique health.

Health isn't usually described as artful, but it definitely is. Inner health is what allows each of us to bring vibrancy and health to anything we create, whether it's related to writing, drawing, work, music, or just about any other activity. Health isn't just an isolated event, it's woven throughout everything that we do.

Just like any art, you want to see an honest expression of it in your health. Feeling this type of health begins with you instead of anything outside of you. It's great to eat well, exercise, and live a healthy lifestyle but first you want to get in touch with your body's physical and mental-emotional expression. It gives you all kinds of clues into the best ways to support a truly artful expression of your health.

This week, try and appreciate the art that your body demonstrates just by doing what it naturally does. Pay attention to it, and see what you learn about yourself---and your health as art.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What is Success?

What is success? Does it involve reaching a goal or an ideal, making a lot of money, gaining recognition or popularity? You can say that success has many different definitions depending on how you look at it. While success can have a lighter healthy side to it, it can also wear unhealthy disguises that feel oppressive, heavy, and full of unhelpful pressure. When the idea of success becomes larger than you as an individual, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself what you're really seeking.

As a rigid idea, success can neglect the journey that you go through as an individual living life, overcoming challenges, and going for what you want. It can imply that unless you get approval and praise from the outside world, that what you're doing doesn't have real meaning and worth. When success takes on these forms, it actually discourages you from using your true potential and talents in favor of the single-minded pursuit of the final outcome.

Success can also lecture to you that you can't enjoy your journey or what you're doing until you've reached the final destination. Now that's a thinker, and a bit of a catch-22! If you have to wait until you reach the end to feel truly satisfied, when do you get a chance to relish and learn from the journey? Truth is, this type of thinking doesn't let you enjoy the achievements and challenges that you experience along the way toward reaching your goals.

Following the one-sided path of success can leave you feeling like you missed out on what's really important to you, whether you reach your goal or not. It can become an endless waiting game for something that you no longer feel a real connection with outside of the idea of success. You may end up sacrificing real experiences in favor of chasing success, success, success.

Sound familiar? It's a challenge that each of us uniquely faces to put success in perspective so that the idea of it doesn't consume us and leave us feeling burdened, tired, and perpetually dissatisfied. When the word S-U-C-C-E-S-S starts making you feel a lack of excitement and motivation about what you're doing, it can be helpful to put a creative spin on it. What does that mean?

Instead of forcing yourself to aim for success, it can help to give yourself more open-ended encouragement that sounds like:  Let's see what I can do!  When you ask yourself what you can do---instead of how you can guarantee success---your goals are allowed to live and breathe along with you. And you're free to live and breathe alongside your goals. This freedom can open up unexpected new doors and opportunities that you would have never encountered by just staying on the single-minded path of success.

It's also helpful to ask yourself, "If I were encouraging a kid or someone else to go for what they want, would I use the same tactics I'm using for myself?" Sometimes we push ourselves the hardest, using unrealistic expectations that we would never use to encourage someone else. By asking yourself this question, you can get some outside perspective on whether your approach to reaching your goals is helping you or hurting you.

Achievements feel most worthwhile when they're coming from you as a real person---not from the idea of success. Focusing on what you're really capable of (and what you WANT to do) lets you pay attention to health and learning lessons in a way that is not blocked by the rigid idea of success. Afraid that your goals will pass you by if you look at them through this lens? Don't worry, you'll be surprised by how your goals are infused by new life and energy with this approach.
Now, let's see what you can do!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Break the Rules, and Enjoy

Rules, rules, rules. They're everywhere! We have no choice but to pay attention to rules on a daily basis, and obviously certain rules are there for a good reason. At work, at school, in traffic---rules exist, and that's the way it goes.

There are instances, however, where you just gotta break the rules. Think about your favorite authors, musicians, mentors, and teachers. Did they follow every itty bitty rule in the book, or were there times where they tastefully stepped beyond rules to do what they really wanted or to create something new?

Some rules are self-imposed, and it's helpful to re-evaluate these rules once in a while and decide whether they're serving you or not. Have you made certain restrictions for yourself and your life that may be holding you back? Whether we realize it or not, each of us has rules we follow regarding our health, work, activities, and other areas of life. Some of them are useful and are there for a reason. Other rules can limit your health, your potential, and your enjoyment. These ones are not necessarily helpful.

For example, it's great to keep an overall healthy and well-rounded diet to get necessary nutrients, support your body, and sustain energy. Dietary rules can be useful. If you're restricting every meal, however, by putting 100 rules in place on what you can and cannot eat---that's another story. Overdoing the rules on diet can backfire and restrict your health and your enjoyment of meals.

Let's look at another example. Say you want to learn how to write fiction and are very excited about writing your first story. You pick up a couple of self-help books on this topic, and you decide to follow every rule in them so that your writing is perfect. When you start writing your story, instead of feeling creative juices flowing, you feel the weight of each rule you're following. Now writing has become a chore.

In these examples, if you were to choose reasonable rules, they would serve as general guidelines to help you along the way toward a better diet or a good story, respectively. In excess though, the rules can stifle your health and your creativity.

Think about the self-imposed rules you adhere to on a daily basis. Are there instances where you'd benefit from loosening them up? This week, try breaking a couple of your rules that might be making you feel suppressed, stuck, dissatisfied, or bored. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Health as More Than a Band-aid

Each of us has areas of health that feel stronger, and then there are areas that feel weaker. Can you picture which is which in your health? It can be tempting to want a quick fix for the weaker areas---take a pill, find a supplement, try a new exercise technique, drink more water, sleep 8 hours, and the like in terms of health tips. You decide to use all these health tips, and "voila" you expect to feel better in a week or two. But why is it that you don't quite feel better yet?

Health tips can be useful when used the right way, but there are often deeper layers from which health needs healing first. If a specific area of your life feels stuck, unbalanced,or neglected, your body will ask you to pay more attention in the best way it knows how--through physical and/or mental-emotional health symptoms. Health, just like life, takes courage to uphold and support. It's great to keep health tips in your mind and practice them when you get a chance, but also pay attention when it's time to dig deeper to support your health.

Digging deeper means going beyond the superficial definitions of health and discovering your own that are unique to your life. How do you know when you're feeling healthy, and how can you tell when you're not feeling yourself? First of all, you have to check in with yourself to see if you notice the difference. Everyone does on some level, but try looking at your health with a new lens if you feel out of touch with what you're going through.

Next, remember that you've had meaningful life experiences and that what you've learned from them can help you handle what you're going through today. Health isn't just about blood pressure readings and lab results. Health also comes from the confidence that you feel ready to handle challenges in life. When you experience moments of doubt surrounding this confidence, find a way to back yourself and your health too. The supportive feedback you have toward yourself counts just as much, if not more, than what you hear from others.

Finally, remember that you care. At times, life can feel consumed by thoughts of image and status quo. Promises of "What looks good---is also readily accepted" swirl through the air as readily as oxygen. Still, you must find a breath of fresh air for yourself amid this mentality. Remember that you care on a level beyond image, acceptance, and Band-aids...health-related, or otherwise.

Real health is about more than covering things up with a literal or metaphoric Band-aid. Real health involves you as an individual and what you go through in your life. Because of this, you are your best healer deep down. Sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper to access the true power that you possess.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What Routine Can Do for Your Health

While you're sitting at home, it can be easy to ask yourself, "What am I missing out on?" The mind has a habit of making ordinary activities feel not good enough sometimes. It can be tempting to constantly search for the latest and greatest thing out there. "What is everyone else doing, and what are the consequences of missing out on that?"

The truth is, the "latest and greatest" has no real end in sight. There is always something new that people are talking about, passing on, and seeking. Regular 'ole routine, however, has something great and healthy going for it too. The habits you've developed for a typical day can offer you steady comfort, grounding, and rhythm. Your routine can help support you through high days, low days, times of transition, and times of uncertainty.

Which routines are your favorite? Habitual activities allow you a moment to reflect and experience peacefulness. For example, maybe you enjoy doing laundry around the same time each week. While you're methodically getting clothes out of the dryer, folding them, stacking them, and putting them away you might enjoy listening to music or watching a T.V. program. What does laundry have to do with health?

The time you spend on something as familiar as laundry presses the brakes on the usual high-paced traffic of the day or the week. While you're folding away, you can think about whatever you want. If you want to temporarily ignore worrisome thoughts of workplace drama, unattended errands, or upcoming deadlines, you have the freedom to do that! If you'd rather simmer your thoughts/worries on low during your routine, you can do that too. Routines give you the opportunity to interact with thoughts less intensely, and they may even help you gain new perspective on a situation you're experiencing.

Routine doesn't have to be hum drum and boring. It can be reliable and medicinal in its own way. In a way, everyday routines are healthy "me" times. Your time is your own, and you get a chance to hang out with yourself.

Routines aren't always about chores like laundry either. Maybe you go outside and pick up mail at a certain time each day. You walk to the bus station and wait for the bus. You return library books and grab a few more. You enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or a cup of tea at night. You catch a favorite show on the television. You listen to a quirky radio program on your way to work. It can be anything!

This week, notice which of your routines give you a chance to enjoy spending time alone. Have fun with your routine, and let it support your health in the natural way that it can.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Art of Relaxation

Ever had the feeling that everything is rushing at you way too fast, and way too forcefully? Life has a habit sometimes of testing you in challenging ways all at once. What do you do when this happens?

Often, our minds tell us that we have no choice but to keep up with all of it at once. Time to be Superhuman, right? If you ask the body what it needs during this time, it will tell you a different story. It will tell you to learn the Art of Relaxation, both during your "on" times as well as your "off" times. The effects of ignoring this lesson often trickle not only into health, but also into all the activities and tasks you're trying to keep up with.

The Art of Relaxation involves some key ingredients to make it work well for your body, mind, and overall enjoyment of life. Let's go over them one by one:

1) Don't worry too much about what others are doing! The mind will tell you that Sue, and Mindy, and Kate (for example) are all able to manage exercising five times a week, starting their own businesses, raising families, cooking a different meal every night all while working a full-time job. Will this thought process help you in the Art of Relaxation? NO! So, let yourself off the hook in not comparing your stress and relaxation thresholds to other people's levels.

2) Do you feel like you have to "get back to" your responsibilities first before you're allowed to relax? Is that nagging bill bothering you, or your coworker who's demanding that memo? Do something different for a change, and get back to yourself first. If you were to e-mail or call yourself right now, what would you tell yourself? Think about the suggestions you could give yourself about unwinding and letting loose a bit. Be creative on how you can breathe some fresh air into your life without outside hindrance. Be selfish! After you take a breath, you'll feel readier to handle everything else.

3) Take it one step at a time. Sometimes when we get super busy, the thought of relaxing and unwinding becomes yet another task. You may hear your mind chastising you for not being more chill, or scolding your body for having under eye bags, skin breakouts, indigestion, fatigue, or other physical evidence of stress. Now is not the time to yell at yourself for not having it all together. Take relaxation off of your "To Do" list and place it in a more respectable position of "You Time." You deserve the Art of Relaxation, and even though no one else will remind you of this regularly, it's still true.

The rest is up to you! What do you want to do, when you're not doing? Go for a walk around the neighborhood, maybe. Read a suspenseful or thought-provoking book. Draw or paint something. Learn a new instrument. Just lie on your bed and listen to music. Cook something new. Tune out for a bit in whatever way you choose.

As you embrace the Art of Relaxation, you'll see that it is medicine for your health, your soul, and your life. Practice it regularly, and you'll get better at it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Here's to Your Quirks!

Whether anyone's around or not, what do you most enjoy about yourself? What makes you You?

Each individual has unique traits that are hard to describe, yet can make that person not just endearing to others but also to themselves. What are these unique traits called? Maybe French speakers would call it a "Je ne sais quoi," meaning something which can not be described with words. These traits can also be called your unique "quirks."

Quirks include the little habits you have without even remembering how they got there. Think about your preferences, food cravings, a few of your favorite things, and anything else that makes you smile or feels familiar when you think about it. Even if no one else is "into" your quirky habit or preference, you still like it regardless of what anyone says. Some quirks are chosen, others just appear over time without you realizing it.

Quirks are a part of who we are, and therefore they are also a part of what makes up health. Some healing and medicinal arts even take your quirks into account before choosing your ultimate remedy or treatment. For example, Homeopathy asks a number of quirky questions as they assess your health profile, including questions about your food cravings, temperature preferences, and whether you keep your room messy or tidy.

Ayurvedic medicine not only finds out your body type and physical traits, but it also explores mental-emotional traits and quirks. Practitioners look into whether you have a creative streak, like to be a perfectionist, enjoy being your own boss, and a number of other behavioral nuances that help make up the individual that you are.

Sometimes a tendency arises to notice other people's quirks and see them as unique and interesting, while simultaneously ignoring our own. What makes it possible for us to appreciate other people's quirks is the fact that each of us has our own. It's healthy to enjoy your personality, so go ahead and celebrate the quirks that you have.

Can you think of an example of a T.V. show you like to watch that celebrates quirks? One popular show that continues to entertain years after its original airing is "Seinfeld," and this is largely because it touches on those unnamable expressions of life that each of us possesses--Quirks! Here are some questions to jog your mind on your signature quirks:

What's your favorite color or number?
What are a few of your favorite things?
What special things do you do in the morning or before bedtime that comfortably set your schedule more than a clock ever could?
How do you talk to your pet?
What is the first food you'll look for in the kitchen when your stomach growls?
What's your favorite cereal?
Do you eat slow or fast? Sip or gulp? Enjoy leftovers or not? Prefer sweet or salty?
Chuckle softly or bust up uncontrollably?

Arguably, no two people will have the same answers to all these questions. No two snowflakes are alike, fingerprints are singular, and you are you. Let your quirks make you laugh. Let them shine. Enjoy them and embrace them. Let them help you through challenging times. And you'll see something cool take place--your quirks will support you in your health at the same time.

Wanna share your quirk? Comment below!