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Health and Wellness

My Favorite Wellness Resources (Wellness Spells Series)

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Today, as part of the Wellness Spells Series, I would like to share a few of my favorite wellness resources. Some of these resources are well-known but a good launching point for a beginner; I hope that I may have also added a new resource or two for the more seasoned wellness explorer that are more off the beaten path.

For Food:

I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan. Pollan is a food writer known for his mantra of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It’s so simple it almost makes healthy eating too easy. Check out his Cooked Documentary or his book, Food Rules.

For more healthy inspiration, check Youtube channel, Pick Up Limes. Sadia of Pick Up Limes is a certified nutritionist who happens to be vegan. She’s got lots of tips on how to stop yo-yo dieting, avoiding late-night cravings, and more, for vegans and non-vegans. She also has a very soothing personality and her videos are just so pretty!

For Fitness:

I’m a big fan of Yoga With Adrienne, also on Youtube. She brings a sense of lightheartedness and self-love to her classes which makes you look forward to getting on the mat. Now, I will say that while she does have episodes on mind, body, and spirit connection rather than just “fitness”, she specializes in a more Westernized style of yoga and I have really been wanting to get a better understanding of the traditional foundations of yoga, so if anyone has any resources to share for that please let me know in the comments below.

I would also recommend Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of SuccessWhile not specifically fitness related (though there is a chapter on sports) it looks at how the way we think about ourselves and our skills can affect our ability to grow and improve, which can be huge in terms of meeting our fitness goals.

 

For Anxiety/Meditation:

I know it’s a classic suggestion, but you can’t go wrong with Thich Nhat Hanh. This Buddhist monk has created several books on meditation, mindfulness, and happiness. They are accessible and understandable to anyone of any religion.

And sometimes, when things aren’t going our way, we just have to laugh. That’s why my second recommendation is Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Brosh, for a take on life’s stresses that we can all relate to.

For Minimalism/Simple Living:

I really love the book Simple Matters by Erin Boyle. It takes simple living beyond just getting tidy and looks at long-term solutions for a life of beautiful calm. The book is filled with photos of design ideas that are doable, affordable, and magazine-worthy all at once.

Also, this may be my particular taste, but I really enjoy Jenny Mustard on Youtube. She has a beautiful channel full of inspiration for simple living, minimalism, wellness, and more. She has laughingly described herself as an “acquired taste” though, so make sure to watch a few episodes before you decide how you feel about her.

Today’s Wellness Spell is:

Sharing perspectives increases our paths.

By this I mean, sometimes we get stuck in a particular way of doing things, but someone else might have new ideas. Whether through a different knowledge base, a different life experience, or just a different perspective, taking time to see how others face a problem may help us to see a way we didn’t see before.

Is there a wellness resource that has been especially helpful to you?

Inner Dialogue Mindfulness (Wellness Spells Series)

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I hope you are enjoying the Wellness Spells series so far.

I would like to talk about our inner dialogue this week. Have you ever had a moment where an unexpected thought crept into your inner dialogue and surprised you? After seeing a photo of myself recently in the height of my dancing years in high school when I was thin and toned, I found myself inadvertently thinking, “I should focus more on weight loss and less on health.” When I realized this thought passed through my mind, I was stunned. I’m a huge advocate of health. Furthermore, I’m in a healthy weight range, have good blood pressure, good sugar levels, eat well, and exercise regularly. There is no problem with my weight, but in that moment, I perceived a problem.

Now, I’m not someone who ordinarily thinks things like this about weight, but I think that made it all the more shocking. I would be willing to bet that a lot of us -and especially women- have a thought that slips into our minds like this from time to time. It’s just a sign of how pervasive this kind of rhetoric is in our society that even with the best of intentions, it still creeps in.

This week, I would invite you to take close notice of the things you tell yourself. Are you practicing self-kindness? Does this kindness extend to your innermost thoughts? Or are some thoughts intruding that are unkind? You spend more time with yourself than you do with anyone else, so you might as well try to be a good friend to yourself. Would you want to be around someone who is unkind to you? Who tells you that you need to lose weight when you are healthy? Or that you have done a poor job at what you do? Or that you should try much harder when you are already trying? We don’t often think about the things we tell ourselves, but they can be harmful, especially if we don’t acknowledge them and let them have their way, so to speak.

I don’t know about you, but I try not to be around people who say things like that and treat me that way. And yet, if I’m being honest, I sometimes find myself being that kind of friend to me. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this (ahem, perfectionists of the world, I’m looking at you). There is a big difference between encouraging ourselves to grow and improve and being hard on ourselves. It takes a very conscious awareness of our own inner dialogue to be able to improve our own self-talk.

So, if you haven’t done this before, I invite you to listen to the inner dialogue you tell yourself and make sure you are being a good friend to the most central person in your life: you.

Today’s Wellness Spell is:

Be your own friend.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking something unkind about you?

Elitism and Wellness Trends (Wellness Spells Series)

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Before I get too deep into my Wellness Spells series, I would like to address something that has been on my mind. Lately, I have seen a lot of very thoughtful posts that are critical of wellness or lifestyle trends. The particular ones I am seeing getting a lot of flak lately: minimalism, veganism/plant-based living, yoga, and the tiny house movement. There have been others, but those I have seen the most. The general critique is that such practices make a lifestyle that is common or compulsory for some into something glamorized, expensive, and/or culturally insensitive and accessible only by the elite.

Let’s take minimalism as an example. Criticisms of the minimalist movement are that it glamorizes a lifestyle that is compulsory for many (by limiting spending), that it simultaneously is inaccessible for persons living month-to-month due to an emphasis on making expensive, quality purchases rather than smaller, more frequent purchases, and that it is mostly taken up by people of a certain status.

I think these criticisms are definitely worth addressing and am grateful that someone has done so, but as someone who spends a lot of time promoting wellness, I would like to take a closer look at them and address a few issues with the criticisms. First, I do think that these criticisms tend to come about in the height of these trends, after they have, essentially, been turned into commercial commodities, marketed, and after the most extremist forms of these lifestyles have been highlighted:

  • A critic of the tiny house movement is rarely looking at the baby boomer unemployed during the recession who lost his home, had no money left for retirement, and hoped that downsizing  and turning away from conventional ideas of “more square footage is better” would allow him to live peacefully; they are looking at the 100K deluxe mobile tiny home with the sauna and the heated floor they see on TV or on Pinterest.
  • A critic of yoga isn’t looking at the early Eastern yogis who sought to spread their practices to the West when they felt that people here were lacking wellness practices and spiritual connection; they are looking at the expensive classes, pricey workout clothes, and an emphasis on appearance with no spiritual, cultural, or historical understanding.
  • A critic of minimalism isn’t looking at a young graduate who is loaded with student loan debt and is trying to simplify and prioritize her spending habits to save money and invest in what she truly wants out of life; they are looking at the glossy minimalist loft apartments in magazines and the corporate executives who chose to ascribe to a simpler lifestyle after becoming highly successful and who only own 100 things.

It should be said: to be able to focus on our self-actualization is a privilege in and of itself. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it falls at the top of the pyramid. When we are concerned for our safety or we have nothing to eat, we will not be able to prioritize nourishing our own potential. Even wellness in and of itself is hard to focus on if illness is an issue. So, in that way alone, I can’t in good conscience say that there isn’t an aspect of elitism in wellness trends that we should be aware of.

We are all in different places in terms of what we need in life. That doesn’t mean, though, that taking the time to address self-actualization if we are fortunate enough to be able to do so is a bad thing; in fact, I would argue that it is the responsible choice to make. This kind of emotional growth can and should come with an awareness of the disparities in the world and a drive to help rectify that.

Along that line, I also think that people are realizing that even the most privileged lifestyles have their downsides. I once heard an explanation to justify minimalism that went something like, “Excessive consumerism is a first-world problem, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.”** I truly believe that living an overly-consumerist lifestyle is toxic, both to our own well-being and to the world at large. We are consuming too many products, too much meat and junk food, too much television, too much plastic, too much of our own time and money, just too much of everything. All of this distracts from focusing on our well-being and having a deeper awareness of the world around us. Taking the time to re-assess and prioritize what we really want and need to let into our lives and what kind of person we want to be is necessary.

I have two suggestions:

First, if you yourself follow any kind of trend, be it a wellness trend or something else, consider looking a bit more into its foundations and stripping it down to the essentials. Does this trend have an important cultural history and are you aware of what that is? Have you given thought to what this trend means to you, personally, and how it has changed your life? Are you caught up in the pricey goods, the bells and whistles, because you feel that you need those things in order to follow this trend? Does the reality of the trend truly match the fantasy that is being sold? Does the trend have scientific validity? Have you thought about where you purchase the products for your trend and if they are made ethically? Have you thought about if the way you talk about the trend is sensitive to others?

And secondly, for the critics, I would also suggest stripping these trends down to their essentials. Pay less attention to the designer stores, TV shows, and extremists and more to the everyday, heartfelt stories found online, the people trying to make the best out of bad situations, working with what they have, and finding hope in small changes that bring them joy. Research where the trends started and why. Ask yourself why the trend bothers you; is it because the trend is inherently insensitive, because you just don’t like it, or maybe even because you feel uncomfortable with the idea of personal growth? Whatever you do, by all means don’t stop bringing up valid criticisms, just please do so respectfully and with a comprehensive understanding of the trend itself.

So, today’s Wellness Spell is:

A critical eye with a joyful heart.

To me this phrase means to examine our passions in life to really get to the root of them, but to also take note of what makes us happy. We shouldn’t ignore the things that truly tickle our heart; in one way or another they are trying to tell us something. At times, though, this may mean finding a different method to reach that same feeling or digging a little deeper into just what it means to us and why.

I hope this has been helpful; I really value wellness myself and wish to continue promoting it in a respectful way. It is very exciting to me that so many wellness practices are coming to the forefront right now and I think that is great. If you have any additional thoughts on the matter that I didn’t cover, please let me know.

**If anyone can help me find this quote and credit it, please let me know! I think it may have been from a documentary but can’t find it.

 

One Small Step (Wellness Spells Series)

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Welcome to my new series, Wellness Spells! Like the name suggests, each post in this series will focus on a different aspect of wellness. I will also cover a few myths and misconceptions about wellness.

First off, what is “wellness?” Dictionary.com defines it as “the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.” In the West, we have for a long time seen our physical health largely in terms of illness, as in something that needs to be fixed or healed, rather than focusing on things like prevention and physical and emotional growth. Lately, though, I have noticed more people pursuing wellness, whether they are seeking out a healthier diets, coloring or practicing meditation to feel more calm, or re-examining their life choices in order to prioritize what they want the most. Isn’t that great?

Sometimes, though, starting a new wellness practice can be scary. We see a long road ahead of us and it can feel intimidating. That’s why today’s advice is to take just one step. This could be something as simple as adding one more vegetable to your diet today, visiting a website about a wellness practice you have interest in, swapping out one household product for a healthier or more ethical option, or even just putting on your running shoes. Don’t worry about steps two, three, and four; just get comfortable with the idea of step one.

Are you wondering where the “spells” part of “Wellness Spells” comes in? Each post in this series will have a “spell,” which will basically be a phrase or mantra to keep in mind that will help you on your wellness journey. Today’s spell is:

Once you have achieved step one, steps two and three are easily done.

Okay, okay, it’s a little cheesy, and I seem to be channeling Marry Poppins today, but I hope it will be helpful (and please let me know if it is).

Is there a wellness practice that you have always wanted to try, but just never got around to doing?

 

I Was Blamed for Having Depression

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It’s Christmas time and my husband and I are eating Pho. We are having an interesting debate: What level of crisis allows the off-topic discussion of politics on a non-political blog, and how much or how often?

We agreed that one in twenty posts sounded fair for the time being. So this is my ONE, and I will make it count.

I was diagnosed with depression my freshman year in college. I was grieving from the loss of my mother, aunt, and grandmother, who had all passed away when I was in high school. My dog had been hit by a car and my boyfriend and I had broken up a few weeks prior to my first counseling appointment. I was also having family issues and was struggling with the changes of a new school, new friends, and harder classes. I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I was physically ill, and I had lost 30 pounds in less than two months.

Instead of empathizing with me, my therapist told me after maybe two sessions that I needed to re-frame my thinking; “Sometimes things just aren’t as bad as you think they are,” she said. She then gave me a sheet of paper outlining all the different ways a person can think irrationally.

Now, if you have read my blog, you know I am a big fan of optimism and cognitive re-framing. And no offense to the wonderfully effective cognitive behavioral therapy, (or therapists in general, because in my time working in the field I have known far, far more lovely ones than bad ones) but I didn’t take her particular approach very well for my particular situation.

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Me at the beginning of my recovery from depression; I weighed less than 90 pounds.
This was my first experience with victim blaming, but it wasn’t my last. I realized that yes, depression can be accompanied by irrational thinking, but it was easier for her to think I was depressed as a result of thinking irrationally than to realize that a bunch of losses in close succession might hurt, and that, more importantly, such unfortunate events could happen to anyone, even her. I must have done something wrong. Otherwise, the world wouldn’t be fair.

Despite that unfortunate speed-bump, I recovered quickly on the basic combination of another counselor and medication. I found new meaning in helping others in need. I thought I had put that part of my life behind me.

That was, until I graduated college and applied for health insurance. I received a piece of paper that said that the insurance company could not accept anyone who had been diagnosed with depression within the past five years. I was confused. To a 23 year old, 19 seemed like a lifetime ago. I was healthy and had been healthy for nearly four years. I had already been dropped from my family’s plan, I was living completely independently, the recession had recently hit and I was lucky to even have a part-time job without benefits. I didn’t have many options.

But more than that, the darkest, most painful part of my life was reduced to a simple risk factor. Despite knowing how insurance worked, when I stared at that piece of paper, it felt like I was being punished for something that happened to me that I had no control over. I was angry. This was wrong. But it was also perfectly normal. And I heard that voice again, saying, “Sometimes things just aren’t as bad as you think they are.”

I went on to work in the mental health field at the time when mental health funding for my state had just been cut in half. This had a wonderful trickle-down effect of impairing not only the public mental health centers, but also local nonprofits who saw less grant money and more desperate clients who had been denied treatment by other centers that could no longer accept them. All those extra people ultimately ended up in the emergency rooms, so the state didn’t save any money, and yet when anyone complained, the general attitude from the state politicians was, “Things aren’t as bad as you think they are.”

There have been many, many things happening in the world lately that I have been very upset about, but the recent healthcare bill in the United States hit a nerve. To be clear: I value empathy and compassion above all else. I used to believe that anything could be talked out. That with the right caring, the right understanding, learning enough about how the world works, learning about the people who think differently than me, finding middle ground, then consensus could be reached. And yeah, I DO value conservative values like building up families, financial stability, spiritual growth, and being proud of my country. And I AM concerned about the thinning of the middle class, the national debt, and healthcare costs for Americans. I DO care very much and I DO want to work with people. After all, it’s my job to learn to work with people and listen to what they are going through.

Lately, the assumptions people make are that I am NOT that type of person. I have been called brainwashed, ignorant, accused of not trying, of being hormonal, irrational, too young to understand, and repeatedly talked over with an eye-roll, all because I draw the line at victim blaming, blatant hatred, admitted elitism, willing closed-mindedness, and misogyny committed with a smile. I WANT to be a person who reaches a consensus. I WANT to be a person who reaches out to learn about someone else’s point of view. I WANT to be diplomatic, kind, and empathetic. I WANT to learn and grow and change my mind and not be partisan or polarized in my views.

And heck, I WANT to have a blog where I talk about how finding life’s magic leads to happiness all day instead of talking about this.

But if I am forced to choose between putting my foot down or being complicit in letting people be stomped down, discriminated against, silenced, blamed for their depression, chronic illness, pregnancy, and treatment resulting from rape, and allowed to die, well, I will choose to be the kind of person who puts my foot down.

And if you are bothered by that, that says a whole lot more about you than it does about me.

Because YES, things ARE as bad as I think they are.

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolution: Five Things Learned So Far

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I am now on my third month of my resolution to invest in growth, both in my personal growth and in the world around me. Here are a few things I have learned:

1.Investments come in all shapes and sizes. I was a bit worried about investing in growth this year because my budget is tighter right now than normal and my life has been pretty chaotic lately. There are a few things, like purchasing a news subscription, that I have decided to hold off on. BUT, I have realized that there are so many things we can do to invest in ourselves and the world around us that cost nothing or can even save us money. I have enjoyed consuming a more plant-based diet, simplifying my cosmetic/beauty ritual with more versatile and ethical products like shampoo bars, purchasing re-usable products rather than disposable ones, learning new things through Youtube and Netflix, and becoming more politically active. I know that when I do have more flexibility in my budget again, I will be able to save more money because of these budget-cutting changes.

2. Not everyone gets on board. I’ve shared a lot of my changes with friends and family, with varied results. I’ve had one person ask me why I would shop at a co-cop or farmer’s market when Kroger was so much cheaper. I tried to explain that I shop healthier there and purchase less junk food and less meat, so I actually save money, both literally and in healthcare costs down the road. Got a blank look from that one. I’ve shared some Facebook links encouraging a call to action that got very minimal responses. (Having worked for a nonprofit before, I expected that.) But, sharing information isn’t so much for all the people who don’t respond as for the people who DO find the information useful or inspiring. That makes it worth it.

3. You learn what people DO want to invest in. For all the moments I thought people would respond and they didn’t, there were some that surprised me, like the time I shared the $10/month Mighty Fix subscription I bought back in September and got a HUGE response with tons of comments and even people texting me for more information. Another time, I asked for documentary recommendations for me to watch so I could learn new things and got so many responses I still haven’t watched them all. So, sometimes the things people do get involved with can surprise you.

4. Perfectionism is a thing. Because so much of what I am doing involves self-improvement, I do sometimes feel a little hypocritical when I fall short of my own expectations. I eat fast food with a client about once or twice a week and I am still beating back an insatiable sweet tooth daily. I’ve been wanting to reduce my trash, but have thrown away a lot of trash lately since I’ve been cleaning out my house. I’ve found myself questioning things I say or how I present myself if it isn’t “growth-oriented” and have to remind myself to invest in self-care and authenticity, too. I’ve second-guessed a few purchases that were not the most ethical or the most prudent choices. When these things happen, I just try to remind myself that growth is not linear. The important thing, I think, is not to restrict ourselves or think about what we “should” be doing but rather to enjoy the process of growth and to realize all the ways our lives are enriched by making positive changes.

5. Growth is a mindset, not a temporary change. There is actually a wonderful book that goes into this in much more detail by Carol Dweck. In this process, I have realized that it is not so much about the physical changes I am making, though they have certainly been impactful to me, but in nourishing my ability to affect change in myself and to share that with others. It’s had a huge impact on my perceived self-efficacy. Things like learning new facts that have completely blown my mind, getting responses to emails I have sent out to political leaders, having people contact me to ask questions about changes I am making, figuring out simpler ways to perform everyday tasks- those things have made me realize that investing in growth is a lifestyle change that could potentially have ripple effects within myself and maybe even in my community as well. It’s that realization, even more than the actual changes, that has had a huge impact on my outlook in life.

Six Myths About Happiness Explained


Exploring how life’s magic leads to happiness has lead me down some peculiar paths and has lead me to some even more peculiar ideas about happiness. I would like to clarify some of these ideas and explain what the field of positive psychology has discovered about happiness.

1. Money doesn’t buy happiness. 

Money does buy happiness… a little bit. We need enough money to cover our basic needs and to have some sense of stability. We are happier when we are warm and dry, have food in our bellies, and have a degree of choice/mobility financially. I have heard a few different numbers given for how much is ideal, but it seems that happiness increases as household income increases until it plateaus somewhere in the mid to late tens of thousands. (Seventy thousand in household income was one number given; I imagine this number would fluctuate depending on cost of living, inflation, etc.*)

2. Winning the lottery will make you happy. 

Neither is it true, though, that the more money we have, the happier we will be. This is because of something called the Hedonic Treadmill, also known as Hedonic Adaptation.* We become accustomed to a new income and lifestyle and continue to want more and more. Thus, something like getting a huge windfall will make us very happy… for a very short period of time, until we adjust to that change. The idea that more money will give us more happiness (beyond approximately seventy thousand in annual household income) is a myth. We will be just as happy making seventy thousand a year as making two million a year, or two hundred million. For those on the Hedonic Treadmill chasing that six figure salary, it is better to focus on daily intentional changes like practicing gratitude and to recognize that much of happiness comes not from a change in income, but a change in mindset.

3. Running/eating well/thinking happy thoughts is all anyone ever needs to be happy. 

I once had a coworker at a mental health nonprofit who believed this and was very dismissive of mental illness, which infuriated me. Mental illnesses can be life-threatening and can require professional treatment, often including medication or even hospitalization. Would we tell someone with stage four cancer to take a walk and eat some vegetables? No, we would trust that that individual was following a healthcare plan set up by medical professionals to best suit their needs. The same goes for mental illness.

4. Positive psychology is invalid because it ignores mental illness and is just about “happy thoughts.” 

I actually heard a Professor of Psychology make this argument against studying positive psychology and I wondered how familiar he was with positive psychology research. Positive psychology is a more holistic approach to mental health, rather than focusing exclusively on illness. Just as a doctor might suggest preventative lifestyle changes such as eating well and exercising, so too can a positive psychologist suggest ways to increase our mental wellness. Additionally, “positive emotion” is a very small piece of the mental wellness pie, and having healthy emotional responses, including “negative” emotions, is also vital to overall happiness, according to positive psychology research.*

5. Everyone has an equal opportunity for happiness. 

Fifty percent of happiness is genetically variable, and another ten percent is circumstantial.* If someone else just doesn’t seem as happy as you no matter what they do, consider that they might be genetically predisposed to be a little less happy. Circumstantial factors like culture, socioeconomic status, and gender also play into how happy we are.

6. You can’t change how happy you are. 

Despite happiness having a genetic set-point and being influenced by circumstance, forty percent of our happiness IS variable.* That means there are things we can do, like practicing gratitude, learning something new, and performing random acts of kindness, that can increase our happiness quite a bit. Our happiness is absolutely something that we DO have some control over if we are intentional about making changes to support positive mental health.

I hope this has clarified some nuances about happiness. There are a lot of memes and platitudes on the internet that don’t address some of the complexities found in happiness research. I am far from being an expert, but I have done quite a bit of research, so if you have a question about happiness you would like me to address, please let me know.

*Source for this post: Positive Psychology: Theory, Research, and Applications by Kate Hefferon and Ilona Boniwell

New Year’s Resolution: Investing with a Twist

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“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.”  -J.B. Priestly

I love New Year’s Resolutions, not because they are some sort of cultural obligation or because they give me an opportunity to work off my extra holiday diet, but because they are to me representative of a fresh chance and the opportunity to change perspectives.

I want to make 2017 my year of investing, but here’s the kicker: I’m not talking about my bank account. To invest is to put our time or energy or money towards something with the expectation of receiving a profit or a material result. In essence, I hope to make choices based on what I think will help myself and the world around me to grow.

  • I’m investing in people and the environment by purchasing local, second-hand, or fair trade when possible and in thinking through every purchase.
  • I’m investing in truth and integrity by subscribing to a reputable magazine and newspaper.
  • I’m investing in hope by sharing stories of positivity and love and letting others keep their negative or hateful energies rather than letting them impact me.
  • I’m investing in my mind by reading and asking deep questions.
  • I’m investing in my body by being intentional about food and exercise.
  • I’m investing in my soul through prayer, mindfulness, and being open to a new spiritual journey.
  • I’m investing in my future by thinking of obstacles to my success not as threats but as challenges that I can tackle with a sense of adventure.
  • I’m investing in family and friends by making my loved ones a priority.

Yeah, that’s a lot to take on, but it’s more about a shift in mindset than in tackling definitive goals for all of them. My resolution is to start every day with a mindful moment thinking about what kind of investment I want to make that day, and to revisit those thoughts intentionally throughout the day. I also plan to pause before I make a purchase and to ask myself, “Is this an investment?” I hope that this will foster growth and that I will be able to share this journey with you as the year progresses.

Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?

Let Your Bodies Work their Magic

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(No, it’s not what you’re thinking.) I am currently recovering from a sinus infection- and taking the first antibiotics I’ve had to take in over four years.

I used to be the queen of sinus infections, colds, bronchitis, I even got pneumonia twice in elementary school. Sure, I had a bad immune system as a kid, but even as an adult, I couldn’t get through the winter without going to the doctor several times. What changed?

Four years ago, I got the worst sinus infection I had ever had. I had been diagnosed with chronic Eustachian tube dysfunction about a year prior to this infection, and without going into too much detail, the stuff in my head just… wasn’t going anywhere. Anyway, after a month of trying different antibiotics and having that ugly word, “surgery” looming over my head, a combination of an obscure antibiotic and several other medications eventually worked.

There were many lessons that I could have garnered from this experience. What it led me to, personally, was the resolve to rest at the first sign of illness. As I told myself, had a medical excuse. My boss, who had witnessed the whole sinus infection saga, understood. But more importantly, I started to wonder, why aren’t we ALL encouraged to stay home every time we’re sick? Why don’t we ALL have a medical excuse for taking care of our bodies? Why did it take a more serious diagnosis before I felt comfortable staying home?

Each and every one of us ALWAYS deserves to treat our bodies well. First off, our bodies are often the best medicine. I realized firsthand that this was true when I started listening to mine, feeding it the right stuff, and resting to let it do what it was supposed to do: heal me. And wouldn’t you know, that almost always works really well? Not to mention it can save a lot of money in doctor’s bills.

Then there’s the fact that we can be more productive if we let ourselves rest. Rather than missing a full week of work because our slight head cold turned into something more serious, we can just miss a day or two, then come back revitalized.

And finally, we won’t infect others if we stay at home. That means more productivity in the long-term, instead of having an illness spread from one person to the other. Not to mention, less people getting serious infections means less people taking antibiotics, which means less antibiotic resistance.

I’m not blaming the work force, or those who are ill, and I’m certainly not blaming doctors (bless them, they tried to tell me this for years.) I think we simply have a culture nowadays that doesn’t know how to slow down and let our bodies work their own magic. All too often, sick days are discouraged, if not openly in the workplace, then within our culture as a whole. There’s a certain “brave aura” to working steadfastly through an illness, but when that illness is a minor infection, it just strikes me as a little silly.

Moms have it especially hard. Working mothers have to split their sick days between themselves and their children. Stay-at-home moms don’t get sick days, period.

We also live in a culture that focuses on sickness, not wellness. Insurance won’t even cover most appointments and procedures without a diagnosis, which means that we have by necessity stopped looking at our bodies as a whole, beautiful, interconnected system, a system that was made to heal itself in many ways, if treated correctly. Instead we look at parts and pieces and point fingers at causes which are so often secondary and temporary. I had a doctor just last year stretch the truth a bit on a test that I needed for very valid reasons, just to ensure that it was covered.

What all of this boils down to is that we as a culture have very little incentive to respect the natural healing functions our bodies provide. But we need to. Being kind to our bodies and letting them do their thing isn’t just necessary; it is rewarding and amazing to experience and oh so beautiful. Now I’ll admit, it’s not a cure-all (that darn tube in my ear still isn’t working right- more on that later), but if you are the “just work through it” type, or if you are working in a culture that is, I challenge you to be brave the next time you come down with an illness and stand up for your own health. Give your body the rest, fluids, and nutrients it needs to function optimally. And on that note, I’m going to get some rest.

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