As a yoga teacher I of course talk to a lot of people about yoga. I love hearing all about someone’s life changing yoga moment or about how they can’t imagine life without it now, but I am always way more interested in the conversations about why someone can’t/hasn’t yet tried yoga. You see, as a yoga teacher my goal is to introduce yoga to as many people as possible, in a manner that leaves them wanting more yoga. I have no current aspirations to teach people to put their legs behind their head and yet, that’s what most people feel is required to attend a yoga class. This is not the goal in most yoga classes but knowing what yoga works best for you will greatly improve your chances of building a practice.
Yoga is one of the oldest forms of exercise and is accessible to anyone that is interested. There are forms of yoga that build total body strength, with a powerful and sweat inducing practice. These types of yoga are great for challenging the body to get stronger in every sense of the word. On the other end of the spectrum there are practices designed specifically for restoration with gentle poses, lots of props like chairs, blocks and pillows to achieve comfort in the pose, and even built-in meditation. These classes leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated.
No matter what type of yoga you do, all yoga will benefit your health and well-being. By increasing flexibility and maintaining range of motion and posture, yoga simply lets you do all the things you love to do now, longer! Yoga helps you play tennis till you're 80, it allows you to go see amazing places and do amazing things and yoga even helps to strengthen your mind as you age, so you’ll crush your family on game night for years to come.
So where do you start?
I always recommend starting with a restorative practice first. This will prime the body for the more active yoga poses and will familiarize your self with some basic yoga poses. This will also allow you the chance to get to know your teachers and then use their guidance to build your practice to fit your bodies needs. These classes have multiple names such as restorative yoga, yin yoga, adaptive yoga, chair yoga, deep healing yoga, again your teacher will be able to guide you to a class with restorative intentions.
Once your body finds a little more space and comfort in the restorative poses, check out a class with a little more flow. Sometimes called slow flow, flow and stretch, cool flow, or vinyasa flow, these classes teach the flow of breath and body together, moving throughout a range of motion with synchronized breaths.
From here you can venture into the more advanced practices if they fit your goals. When your body is ready, hydrate, eat a healthy snack and then go check out that power yoga, hot power or advanced yoga flow. These classes are a great way to shift your energy, building strength and stamina, on and off your yoga mat.
As always, listen to your body, not your mind when it comes to progressing your yoga. If you ignore the signs your body is giving you, you become susceptible to injury. If you’re not quite sure how to listen to your body, don’t worry… yoga teaches you this. Keep coming back to your yoga mat to spend time with your body and you will be communicating freely with your body.
Yoga Flows for All Levels
I’ve missed my blog. I first started a blog in 2011 because I was drawn to the storytelling of it all AND I was really into Julie & Julia :) But so quickly life starts to become about numbers, data, and efficiency and the lovely stuff gets left off the to-do list. I have yet again realized how shitty life gets when we let the lovely things go. For me lovely things that I tend to let go of are: yoga classes, hammock hangs, writing, cooking, all things that make my life so much more enjoyable in the day to day. So, below you will find writing inspired by a recent journaling session.
As I flip through a cookbook this afternoon I see a recipe that requires the use of dry white wine. My first instinct was to flip the page, insinuating that I’d just never cook with wine again. But then I thought about how much flavor wine adds to food (however, on reflection this is a false belief I uncovered around alcohol. There are many other ways to add flavor to cooking.) Then I thought of how gross “cooking” wine is, which led me to imagining there was a bottle of white wine in my fridge. Yikes. *I quit drinking two years ago.
That gut punching emotion instantly came over me but this time I did something new. The moment I felt that yuck in my gut, I noticed how intense it came on and how strong it showed up in my body and instead of running away, I took about three or four steps and then paused. This pause wasn’t new. I’ve been noticing my ability to pause and walk myself through crappy self-talk. What was new, was that after I paused, I decided to go back and sit in that emotion. What?? Why would I willingly let that emotion wash over me? I have done this sort of work while being guided by a coach or therapist but not so quickly or ever with any motivation to go back.
I put down the Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook and paused The Great British Baking Show (I’m searching for a cake to make myself for my birthday). I closed my eyes and imagined that a good bottle of white wine (my old nemesis) was sitting in my fridge, and there it came. The heavy meets queasy feeling in my belly that to me feels like fear. Fear of what my answer would be, fear of whether I’d turn down the opportunity to numb out. Yet, it was a mixed batch of fear. I decided to sit in this particular brand of fear and I decided to get to know it, to see if I could put a better name on it. I ultimately landed on FOMO. Yep, that stinkin fear-of-missing-out. Watching so many people drink, not just in my life but in so many areas of our culture, I am constantly being told that I am missing out on something, something that all those other people do. I know that I am missing out on that chance to numb from the stressors of life. If I can’t, it must mean I am abnormal, something must be wrong with me.
Thank goodness, I now see things differently. I now see alcohol as any other drug. Because of all the images of alcohol being injected into my life, plus a bloodline with lots of drinking practice, I never saw it as a drug. However, this socially encouraged drug is “a leading risk factor for disease burden worldwide”.
In a flash I redirected my thoughts from fear (as I’ve been practicing) and reminded myself that nothing outside myself will ever make me happy, therefore it’s okay that wine isn’t in my life. It would have never been able to make me happy. That heavy and queasy feeling started to lighten. By getting to know that emotion and witnessing my thoughts I walked myself to a lighter place.
I now aim for bliss. I hope I don’t lose you here, but I now spend so much time and effort on making myself self feel good - mind, body, and emotions, that when I string together activities that make me feel good, I begin to feel a sense of release, a sense of calm. When this bliss is added to successive days of meditation there is no need to numb. This experience created a new mantra for me to use, bliss or bust.
As individual humans, we will all have individual dietary needs. Add in specific goals and it really starts to vary from human to human. There are however a few things that will help all humans to feel better. Below is my revamped version of the food pyramid. Take a peak and then let me walk you through each level.
First off this pyramid was designed to represent your daily intake of food. Each time you build a meal, build from the bottom up. As you work your way up the pyramid, the quantities decrease.
The base of all nutrition and foundational for feeling good is hydration. Dehydration contributes to fatigue, foggy-headedness, headaches, and body cramps. All of these will make things more challenging when trying to live a healthier life. Tips for drinking more water:
Invest in a water-only container to travel with you always.
Invest in a home water filtration system.
Start with a glass first thing in the morning.
Add lemons, limes, oranges, berries (frozen fruit works too).
Every time you sit down at a bar or restaurant order a water and drink it.
Get your water in early so you don’t wake up 10 times to pee each night.
The next layer of all healthy diets is vegetables. Despite what type of nutritional plan you are aiming to achieve, vegetables should make up the majority of your plate. They are filling and low in calories making them perfect for finding a healthy balance. They also make your skin look amazing and give you energy to move through your day, workout included! Green vegetables get bonus points as they have more actual electricity in them, which is why they help power your body so well. Tips for eating more veggies:
Roast a bunch of seasonal veggies and add to meals throughout your week.
Keep a bag of kale on hand to make quick salads and to add to soups and smoothies.
Keep frozen peas, edamame, and veggie mixes on hand to add to meals quickly.
Eat something green with every meal!
Find dips and spreads to dip them in for healthy snacking.
Next up is protein. The amount of protein will depend on your size and goals. Protein helps to build lean muscle, which boosts your metabolism naturally. Shooting for 20-30g of lean protein per meal will get you a good start on hitting your protein goals. Tips to upping your protein intake:
Before you stress too much about how much to eat, find out how much you’re consuming right now. The best way to do this is to track your food for a few days to decipher your starting point. Apps like Loseit or LifeSum work great.
Familiarize yourself with high protein foods that meet your requirements (vegetarian, vegan, paleo). Lean meats, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, oats, tofu, beans and veggies all provide decent amounts of protein.
Combine protein filled foods together to up the amount in each meal.
Invest in a high quality protein powder to supplement when needed. You can add this to smoothies, healthy baked goods, and more. Make sure the powder is a decent quality by checking out the ingredients list… the less ingredients the better. Also, ease into a new powder as these can trigger stomach issues in some.
Fruit shares the same row on the pyramid as proteins because once you’ve filled your plate with veggies and protein, fruits can be a lovely way to add flavor, fiber and nutrients to your meals. They are naturally higher in sugar than veggies so start with the veggies and then sprinkle in some fruit to curb sweet cravings and fill you up with vitamins and minerals! Tips for eating more fruit:
Add a piece to your breakfast - frozen fruit works great here too!
Keep fruit handy for snacks - bananas and apples are my go to.
Try something fruity instead of sugary for treats.
Add some to your salads.
Eat with the seasons to keep it fresh and interesting.
Familiarize yourself with fruits with lower sugar (carb) levels to help you reach your goals - I love this article for that!
Healthy fats make you feel full and help you to burn body fat. The same way that heavy greasy food is filling, healthy fats allow you to feel satiated without all the grease and calories in a slice of pizza. Most people do not consume enough of these while trying to eat healthy and therefore, end up feeling hungry and that’s no fun. **Beware of the quantity! They are up high on the pyramid because they are high in calories, meaning you need less of them to get the benefits. Tips for increasing healthy fats:
Add avocado to everything!! Sandwiches, salads, smoothies, toast, rice bowls, get crazy.
Add nuts and seeds to salads and homemade dressings or pestos.
Keep a bag of nuts on hand for a quick pick me up snack. **Monitor portions.
Use chia seeds, flax seed, olives and olive oils.
Grains and Dairy
Grains and dairy are good IF your body can tolerate these foods. It is not a given that each human can eat these foods. Our bodies were not originally designed to eat processed grains or dairy everyday so it is rather normal to need to limit or eliminate these foods from your diet. If you have regular stomach troubles I’d recommend reducing these foods from your meals to seeing how you feel. Most of these foods are to be eaten in smaller quantities and less frequently for optimal health.
Try different kinds of grains - oats, quinoa, brown rice.
Eat full fat dairy, just less of it. - Eating small quantities of full fat dairy will help you increase your healthy fats and be more filling than that zero calorie yogurt filled with empty calories and sugar.
Try nut milk, coconut milk, oat milk and other substitutes when needed. **I like almond milk for baking or cooking, coconut milk for adding creaminess to soups, smoothies, battering fish or tofu & making whip cream. I really love oat milk (this brand specifically) for my morning coffee.
At the tippy top of this pyramid is the “Fun” foods. I personally think all food is fun if you really start to play and get creative with flavors and recipes, but this category contains the foods you would typically eat during a holiday or at a party. These are foods that are treats. Be sure to treat these treats as TREATS, not as your fifth meal everyday. Indulge in these foods to curb cravings but also pay attention to how these foods make you feel. There are other ways to celebrate so keep that in mind when faced with a room full of treats :) Tips for consuming fun foods:
Indulge in small quantities and eat it slow. Savor and indulge slowly.
Invite a friend to indulge so you can split something.
Make homemade versions of your favorite treats (preferably with the best ingredients you can find/afford).
Don’t keep binge worthy foods in the house, make a special trip/date to indulge wisely.
Take a pause before you consume. Ask your body if it even wants it. Make a tea, a drink a glass of water, or take a walk first, then see what the craving is telling you.
No matter what your eating plan or intention is (high carb, vegan, keto, paleo, low carb, see-food diet, lol), all plans will need your body to stay hydrated in order to get results. Vegetables, healthy amounts of grains and protein, along with adequate healthy fats are all required to find the healthiest you. The only thing that changes is the is the percentages of these foods, based on your goals and your biology. Tracking your food is the easiest way to get results, but not required for every day life. If you are trying to create healthy food shifts you must know your starting point. Then you slowly tweak as you learn more and more about what YOUR body really needs to feel its best. Stay curious. Be kind. Be patient.
Here is a list of some basic journaling prompts that you can use to begin unfolding any thoughts that get stuck up in that noggin of yours.
Find something to write in.
Pick whichever one jumps out at you and give it a whirl.
Do not censor your writing. Just let it flow out.
Shoot for a time limit and just keep writing until the time is up. 3-5 minutes is a good place to start. Doodle for the rest of the time if you have to :)
If I weren't afraid I would...
What's blocking me from...?
What do I want most?
Whats hard? How can I invite in more love?
What do I desire from the next (time period; two weeks, 6 months)?
In what areas are you unsatisfied?
In what areas are you satisfied?
What would my best self do today?
How does my energy? What might help?
How does my body feel? What might help?
Do you need more structure/action/masculine?
Do you need more flow/creativity/feminine?
What needs to be healed?
How can I show my body more love?
Why do I want change?
Remember that journaling is a tool, one of many that should be in your all natural stress relief toolbox. It's okay if emotions arise during this process, as its just energy that needs to be let out. Often I feel completely relieved and often with more understanding of how to move forward. Journaling is a simple act of self care that can help you to navigate the tricky waters of your mind. Relax and just let it flow.
What do I mean by high vibes? Thats a good question. I like to simplify it by equating it to a natural high. When I am vibrating at a high level I am feeling naturally high, feeling good. I'm not going to dive into the science of the actual vibrations that occur in our bodies here, but when you are feeling good you are considered to be vibrating at a higher level than when you're not feeling so good (angry, scared, anxious, depressed, tired, sick, etc.). This is why one grumpy person can ruin the mood of a group, the lower vibes are messin' with the high vibe energy in the room.
I have been on a serious learning path with depression for years. Never being officially diagnosed I had no clue what depression even was. Now, I am still learning but I at least have a basic understanding of it, I have a love for the process (even though I forget this love every time I'm in it), and I know that there will be many more chances to learn from this thing called depression.
While it is my goal to feel good as much as I possibly can, it's near impossible to ALWAYS feel good and I logically know this, but life doesn't pause simply because I am feeling down. When I get a little funky (low-vibey), I tend to forget that it is simply part of the process. I used to try and dig in, try to figure out what caused this "slide", feeling that if I could find the source I could somehow remove it and therefore remove the depression but I have since learned that there is no one source. I can be triggered by other low-vibe people or conversations, by low quality foods, and by low-vibe media, and by a general lack of self-care. So instead of trying to bring even more focus to this feeling that I no longer want, I have instead chosen to take it easy and sink into some self-love.
As soon as I notice my low vibes I try to muster up some joy or simply find a way to play. Doing anything, big or small, that raises my vibes will help me to start making my way back. The more I practice this, the faster I am able to recognize the funky feelings, create new vibes, and return to love. This work has allowed me to move through depression in a way that I have never moved before. Below is my current framework for climbing out of a funk but know there is also work with professionals (spiritual, holistic, & health) being done too.
Clues my vibes are lowering:
- Space is beginning to get cluttered (or is already a hot mess).
- Clothes and dishes are piling up.
- Fridge is lacking healthy foods.
- Feeling exhausted, shitty sleep.
- Binges (sleep, Netflix, sugar, etc)
- Annoyed by others easily.
- Negative Hamster Wheel - where my thoughts get stuck on the negative.
Instant high vibe activities:
- Meditation is the best activity there is to change your vibrations. Most of the time this actually neutralizes my thoughts, feelings, and vibrations allowing some peace.
- Put on my orange Rainbow OPTX Sunglasses - color therapy :)
- Create Your Own Joy playlist + Dancing
- Make and eat a healthy meal.
- Play!! Swings, skateboards, cards, games, Coco, handstands. Just play!!
- Plan my next few days/work week/bullet journal.
- Clean my house.
- Take a walk.
- Get in water.
- Plants/feet in the dirt/sit in the sun.
- Yin Yoga
Activities to help maintain these vibes:
- Meal prepping
- Bullet Journaling weekly/monthly intentions/goals/tasks.
- Nurturing Coco
- Regularly getting out into nature.
- Self Care/Sleep/Water
- Regular play dates with friends.
- Bring focus to the lower three chakras.
- Be creative, somehow.
- Self Love - Remembering that I am perfect and I am love.
Remember, that this is my personal experience. I am at this point after almost two years of diligently working to understand these emotions. I have done some work to get here and had lots of help along the way. If you take anything from this, I hope you know that you are not alone and that many have successfully found peace and joy right along side depression. Again, I will use the reminder of the moon to help explain how absolutely normal this is...
"The moon is a reminder that no matter what phase I am in, I am still whole." - unknown source
I am a big fan of turning to Mother Nature when I need some clarity and guidance. She is not my only source for these needs but she is one of my first stops. I can watch and witness how her seasons change, how plants and trees grow, how the ocean ebbs and flows, it is all visible proof of change and growth, of death and rebirth. By going outside on my break and reading in the sun for 15 minutes or playing hooky and heading to the beach, I not only enjoy the peace and grounding that nature provides but inevitably, if I look hard enough, I fall into a moment of understanding.
In a recent discussion on the On Being podcast, Michael McCarthy a naturalist and writer explained that for 50,000 generations we lived amongst nature, we were just a part of the wild life, and for the last 500 generations we've moved away from living in and among nature to very far from it. He claims though that despite our movement away from moving in sync with Mother Nature it is still very much apart of our biology. "There is a legacy deep within us, a legacy of instinct, a legacy of inherited feelings, which may lie very deep in the tissues — it may lie underneath all the parts of civilization which we are so familiar with on a daily basis, but it has not gone; that we might have left the natural world, most of us, but the natural world has not left us."
It is for this reason that I have started to witness the many many cycles that show up in nature and I have begun exploring my own cycles. Yes, that cycle but also, my cycles of energy and concentration, cycles of depression or anxiety, and cycles of growth and challenge. I have invited in the concept of paying attention to cycles in the following ways:
- Started tracking my menstrual cycle and symptoms. I use an app to keep an eye on whats happening. After recognizing certain trends I have begun making conscious decisions based on those cycles. Day One - Wicked bad cramps. Day Three - Crying for no good reason. Day Four - Eat ice cream. I would do find time for a heating pad session on day one. I would do my best not to schedule any important meetings on day three. I would buy ice cream on day four :) Knowing my tendencies helps me to prepare and get in harmony with them instead of fighting against them.
- New Moon & Full Moon Journaling. This was the first way that I really found a regular journaling practice, mainly because it was only twice a month. I have a moon app where I track new and full moons each month. Every new moon I journal about what I want to invite into my life (more patience, more presence, more movement, love) and every full moon I journal about what I want to let go of (judgements, fears, sugar, complaining). I love this practice because the moon reminds me to do it!
- Scheduling weekly tasks based on moon cycles. This is newer for me but so far I really love it. I found this article explaining what types of actions and energy are best according to the phase of the moon. I understand that this might be a little out there for some, but it provides me additional focus for each week. For example, right before the new moon each month, is a great time to tie up loose ends and clear the desks (and your mind) for the new cycle. Its a time to meditate on new ideas and get clear on what's ahead. Then, when the new moon arrives, it's time to set new goals and start to bring your ideas into fruition! Keep your eyes open for more one this as I sink in :)
- When I find myself in a depression I think of the moon. I remember reading once that one side of the moon is always dark. I love this because it reminds me that it's COMPLETELY NATURAL to feel dark or down, to feel as if you've lost momentum, to feel a little lost. Knowing that the moon ALWAYS cycles around to find it's light side helps me sink into this darkness and see what I can learn from it. I can take a step back and just be a friend to my darkness and move with it instead of feeling like I'm flawed and fighting against it.
But without the dark we'd never see the stars.
If this feels like something you can relate to and want some more on working and living in sync with your life cycles, check out this interview: How to Tune into Your Own Cycles and Create Sustainable Success between Kate Northrup & Laura Thompson-Brady.
For so long I was rather proud of my stellar multitasking skills. It was one of the reasons I enjoyed working as a server in a restaurant. I loved trying to be as efficient as possible and to this day I still find myself trying to carry as many things as I can to and from the kitchen. While these skills come in handy while hosting Thanksgiving, my multitasking mind is driving me crazy, and even worse making me frazzled and spacey. Yes, I know... I have always been frazzled and spacey but either it's getting worse or I'm just noticing it more and I need to get a handle (a lack of focus is also a common side effect of depression). Yes, it's great to be efficient but there is a time in which simply doing one task at a time, with thought and focus, brings better results and is oh-so welcomed.
I notice how frequently my mind jumps from one thing to the next while driving or in yoga. I see myself forgetting things because I decided to switch my focus right before I leave my house. I see myself running late because I was trying to squeeze in one more thing. Even when I walk Coconut, I see how quickly my mind flits from one thing to the next. It directly correlates to the level of anxiety that I experience moment to moment. When my mind is going nutty, thinking of all the things, I tend to have higher anxiety. When I calmly move through one task before moving onto the next, I have little to no anxiety.
There are three things that I am currently focusing on to bring about more mindfulness (opposite of multitasking) while moving through my day.
Witness and write.
The first is that I am witnessing and writing about it. You cannot change something if you don't understand it, so watch and then get curious. Then get those thoughts out of your head. Writing is the best way for me and has scientific evidence to show that it helps you let go of frustrations and gain clarity. This is a safe place to vent. It is also a great way to track your life. Like writing a textbook for how you create change. Really quite amazing when you look back to old fears and realize that it was just part of the plan.
If you can't find a rhythm for regularly writing out your thoughts, you can talk them out if you wish. My favorite places for this are the car and the shower. I simply ask myself questions about why I feel the way I feel. Why that thing bothers me so much? What would happen if I tried another way? What are some other ways that this might work better? What ever you do, let the words fly out of your brain. Once they are out you can start to use them to create the plan. Its like your words are the building blocks for change.
**Always remember that if you dive into stuff thats too deep, it's okay. Take some deep breaths and remind yourself that those kinds of feelings are a part of being human. Maybe find a friend or a loved one that would listen well. Even better, ask a professional for help. You don't just get over stuff, you have to go through it. It can be scary but it also can be very freeing.
Of course, meditation.
The second thing I'm doing is upping my meditation game. I have been meditating off and on for years, but I realized that even my meditation had a sense of "okay let me do this so I can check it off my list". Over the past few months I have started to create more time for meditation, I have found guided meditations I like for certain times of the day or concerns. I have made playlists and have been treating it with much more respect. I now see my mediation as the time I get to reconnect, to myself and to something bigger, the energy of the earth. I know this sounds like I should be hugging a tree, but it's true. Everything on earth is made of energy, everything. And by being still and breathing I am able to notice my energy (how my body feels, how my mind feels, what emotions are coming up) and I'm able to feel the bigger energy (the support of the earth, the things I notice with all five of my senses, and the peace that shows up every once in a while when I really get in there).
I've even take meditation off the pillow and into regular activities too. Most nights I use this yoga nidra sleep mediation that I love. I tap into other senses when I'm walking, washing dishes or showering. I stop and sit on a bench for a moment or go outside and sit quietly in the sun for a few minutes. This all started as a gratitude practice that I did once daily, but has become the practice of being grateful in as many moments as possible throughout my day. Stop and smell the freakin' roses.
The last thing I'm doing to find more moments of clarity, is I'm learning more about mindfulness. Reading books, listening to podcasts, going to yoga, indulging in professional guidance on the subject. These are not done daily but they are included in my month so that I can continue to learn new tools to help me calm my monkey mind. No one wants a worked up monkey.
This is a slow climb kinda habit change. A slow burn process, but one that brings so much value to not just changing your habits, but changing your life. Even more, the more work you put in, the faster the changes start to happen. Witness and then get curious. Let the words free somehow, someway. Meditate. Meditate some more. Then meditate while you swim in the ocean or simply wash your hair. Learn more about what your multitasking mind is actually seeking and how to invite in more focus and peace. Focus and peace, that's all I'm asking for. No biggie.
Let me expand on that. You don't need a therapist to heal or change, but they sure do help. And in some cases therapy will absolutely be recommended and necessary. What I am meaning to say here is, there are actions you can take to start uncovering the source of certain struggles, discomfort or pain without this assistance. Once uncovered you can begin the work of letting it go. Yes. This is scary but it is worth every uncomfortable moment and every bit of sweat and tears. I have found ways that help me through this process and I'd like to share what I have found when it comes to self exploration.
Now, you may be asking how this is fitness related and why is a personal trainer and yoga instructor giving advice about therapy and self exploration? Because most of the reasons why we fail at stick to health and wellness goals, to change habits, or to find ways out of situations we don't enjoy, is because we aren't asking ourselves enough questions. Why is it that when shit gets scary we go back to what feels cozy and comfortable, to what is easy? It was when easy no longer worked for me, that I started asking myself real questions.
Before I dive in, make sure you know that this process is 100% normal. It is required work for every human that wishes to finally start living life the way they were intended, feeling happy and inspired simply by living out their life. Happiness is the reward of self exploration. This process isn't light or easy so start here with a serious self love practice and then build into asking questions. Self love is the pace car of self exploration.
Don't jump in head first. Pick one question and focus on it for a few weeks. More than likely it will uncover some shit and you will have to regroup with self love. Attempt this in tiny digestible pieces and take breaks when you need.
Last but not least, if you come across uncomfortable things don't panic, take some deep breaths and return to love. You are doing this work to set yourself free, but you have to take the steps through the uncomfortable and downright slippery terrain. If you hit something that you cannot get through on your own, find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and be open to exploring with a professional. You wouldn't wander in to the jungle without a guide would you? My mind can feel like a jungle sometimes so I consult a therapist when I hit something that feels bigger than simply journaling or best-friend-talk.
Some questions to start the process:
- How does my physical body feel?
- How happy am I?
- How well can I focus on something?
- Why am I doing this? What is the motive?
- What's my purpose?
- Is my food giving me energy?
- Am I able to handle my stress?
- In what ways do I handle my stress?
- Am I socializing?
- How does my social circle make me feel? Inspired? Drained?
- How does social media make me feel?
- What is draining my energy?
- What gives me energy?
- What could I do all day?
- What fills me with joy?
- How do I feel about my body?
- How can I add more love to my life and relationships?
- What can I do differently?
- Am I adding value to my relationships?
For me, I like to pick a question and then either meditate for a moment or go for a walk with this question on my mind in a gentle, I'm gonna take my time kinda way. Not in a fearful or stressful kinda way. I remind myself that this is a process and one that has yet to let me down.
A lot of times I will get new questions from books or podcasts, sometimes from conversations with friends and mentors, however, the question that I usually jump to is "Am I acting from a place of love or a place of fear?" Oh, man... when I first noticed how much I let fear run my life it was a scary moment, like a panic attack turned depression moment that lasted days. I felt like I had wasted so much time and squandered so many relationships because of fear. But I returned to love with some bubble baths and some reminders about why I was doing the work. Understanding that this work was coming from a place of love I was able to endure the discomfort.
Start thinking and journaling about your question. Then take breaks from thinking about it and do other things that help you think clear, like exercising outside, art, dancing or watching something inspiring. Don't force it but don't avoid it. Find a happy place in between that allows you to uncover a little scary bit at a time. Again, if a giant can of worms is uncovered, take some deep breaths and consult a family member, trusting friend or therapist. This does not make you weak as this will actually allow yourself to let go of the source of your weakness, making you so much stronger!!
There must be a curiosity about why things aren't working. Troubles do not simply disappear. When they seem as if they have, there is a good chance they are just waiting under the surface, subconsciously affecting decisions and relationships . Sometimes you find things you never knew were there and it all starts to make sense. You gain an understanding for why you avoid group exercise, for why you eat too much at each meal, for why you place everyone's needs in front of yours. Understanding this why brings you to a place where change can happen. Start with some gentle loving questions and you will start to find the answers. These answers will allow those old habits to fall away and you will build new loving ones in their place and this will become you're new normal.
A few years ago, if you asked me to create more joy in my life I would have immediately correlated this to going to more concerts and traveling more. While I did have a wonderful life and there were plenty of joy filled moments, this concept that I now shout from the rooftops of creating your own joy daily, may have seemed silly or even impossible. But like most things once you experience the benefits, when you see the results, it all starts to make sense. So now I shout this to anyone that will listen.
Science has shown that when you laugh you release endorphins which reduce your perception of pain and trigger positive, feel-good feelings. The simple act of making yourself laugh will make you feel better. While laughter is always the best medicine, creating joy is a very personal experience and can vary from day to day and from moment to moment. I have complied a list of ways that I create some joy and some resources and ideas to help you make this a regular part of your day.
I do have one caveat... If you aren't doing well on your foundational habits of getting sleep, drinking plenty of water and adding some movement into your day, no amount of listening to your favorite song will cancel out extreme fatigue, so be sure to spend some time laying a solid foundation while you create your joy.
How to use this list:
This list is a starting place. Ultimately, find some way to regularly add some joy to your day, despite your mood. Once this becomes a regular habit, it will not only help you stay grateful and happy it can help you become a more productive human. Hell yeah!!
Also, if there is another area of your health and wellness that you are struggling with, such as sleep or exercise, how can you add more joy to the process? When these activities feel neglected or like a punishment, they will be harder to stick to. Add some joy and you won't have to push yourself so hard to make it happen, you will begin to be pulled towards them. Add some essential oils and a relaxing playlist to your bedtime routine or reward yourself when you have a week filled 7 hours nightly. Invite a friend to yoga and grab a bite after, add some awesomely uplifting music to your workout or again reward yourself for a killer week of exercise.
Music: This is my go to joy creator.
- Listen to your favorite song/album as you get ready for work or go for your morning walk. Thank you Spotify for all that you do for me :)
- Here is my Create Your Own Joy playlist on Spotify.
- Go catch an open mic night or your favorite local band. Wills Pub in Orlando is one of my favorite spots to find a wide variety of live music.
- Sing along with your music or create your own music!!
- Learn to play an instrument or find some peeps to jam with.
Media: Be careful, this can build you up or wear you down.
- Follow fun and positive accounts on Social Media. Slowly let go of the ones that are Debbie-downers and that are full of people complaining. See ya later haters!!
- Watch a funny movie, show or stand up - Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a recent fave.
- Subscribe to a funny or inspiring YouTube Channels:
- Listen to a podcast: **There are hundreds of podcasts. These are a few of my faves.
- The Marie Forleo Podcast
- Girlboss Radio
- The Robcast
- Under the Skin with Russell Brand
- The Daily
- Pod Save America
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- The Art of Charm
- On Being with Krista Tippett
Movement: Also releases endorphins.
- Dance in your kitchen while you cook dinner :) #danceforyourdinner
- Go dancing with your friends.
- Walk your dog.
- Do a mini workout. Here is an oldy but a goodie of mine ----> CORE-dio
- Take a dance class with a friend.
- Try a new form of exercise.
- Go for a hike or to the beach.
- Do some cartwheels or handstands or simply stretch.
- Play catch or kick a soccer ball around.
Make Something: Being creative can help with feelings of depression.
- Gratitude list.
- Cook a meal or learn to cook a new one.
- Get crafty, just for fun. Extra points if you get your hands dirty.
- Plant some plants. Again with the dirty hands.
- Start a blog.
- Take an art class.
- Make hand made gifts.
- Make someone smile by smiling at them or telling a joke.
- Make someone happy by helping them and being patient.
- Books!! I love reading books by comedians.
- Ellen Degeneres - Seriously... I'm Kidding
- Steve Martin - Born Standing Up
- Amy Poehler - Yes Please!
- Tina Fey - Bossypants
- Jerry Seinfeld - SeinLanguage
- Spend time with friends and family.
- Get out of your comfort zone - try something new, get a tattoo (spend some time thinking about this one), plan a trip to somewhere new, go somewhere you've never been.
- Spend time outdoors.
Create a life you don't want to avoid or run from. Add more joy and see what happens. A little goes a long way.