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How About A Nap?

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I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Sleep is a crutch. These are things I used to say myself. At 24 I had a packed schedule of personal training clients and a social life. I started work at 5:15am and finished often after 7pm sometimes as late as 9pm. I still went out with friends, watched all my shows, and existed in a world that I wore a badge of honor over how little sleep I got and could still function on. I may have been functioning but I didn’t spend much time evaluating how well, or unwell, I was functioning. What I came to find was that I was just getting by. Why, oh why, do we spend our lives just getting by?

I had to hit a couple walls before I started evaluating the quality of my life. First it happened with exercise, then with food, then sleep, money, self-love, parenting. It was an evolution. While exercise and food set me up with an amazing foundation it was the sleep that gave me what I needed to carry out the rest and to keep going. Prioritizing sleep made all of the other things easier. I am not one to look for the simple solution. In my experience I’ve found that simple solutions at best serve as a bandaid to a problem. It usually turns out that the shortcut takes you where you want to go but you end up on the opposite side of the road and triple the distance before you are able to circle back around. Once I realized sleep needed to become a priority in my life I began to research. I came across a book called The Sleep Revolution, a book written by The Huffington Post co-founder and editor in chief Arianna Huffington after she found herself in complete burnout. In the beginning of the book she says:

“Instead of questioning how we live our lives, we fall prey to sophisticated marketing that promises us health, happiness, sleep and energy. And who wants to be the naysayer, the Luddite who rejects such progress? A great deal of ingenious and insidious brain power, along with billions of dollars, goes into selling us a solution that doesn’t actually solve our problems but only disguises or prolongs them.”

Me. I want to be the naysayer. I want to be the Luddite. At least when it comes to taking the shortcuts, buying the pills, and trying to change our lives without questioning how we’re actually living them. Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity - a rich time of renewal, memory consolidation, brain and neurochemical cleansing, and cognitive maintenance. Does that really sound like something you’d want to put off until death? A lot of healing happens when we sleep: the activity of the lungs and heart is reduced to a minimum; our body’s temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate all fall and our muscles relax. This allows the cells of our bodies to carry out essential repairs, to grow and regenerate. Even when I was eating healthy and working out a lot I wasn’t able to see or feel the results I was going for. My body didn’t have enough time to rest, my body wasn’t given the chance to repair the muscles I was working. My immune system suffered and the rate of small injuries, extreme soreness, and overall grouchiness soared.

I work with a lot of people who are desperate to lose weight. They want to workout, they want to eat healthier, but they simply don’t have the energy. Usually we’ll come to find that their quality of sleep is similar to a mother with a newborn. The problem here is these people are still usually feeling like they simply aren’t doing enough; these same people will try to push themselves harder and dig the hole of desperation even deeper. It’s time to question how we live our lives. It’s time to prioritize and it’s time to move sleep much closer to the top of that list. Here are a few simple steps I took that made a huge impact in the quality of my sleep and in turn the quality of my life.

One: I gave my cell phone it’s own bedroom.

This was by far one of the best decisions I ever made. I had always used the “night shift” on my iPhone which automatically switches from the smartphones bright blue light to softer warmer colors. The bright blue light that your smartphone and your television emit actually causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that gives your body the “time to sleep” memo. Making this small change didn’t stop me from spending an extra hour scrolling my phone at night or reaching to scroll social media if I happened to wake up in the middle of the night.

Two: I started a wind down routine.

A wind down routine starts an hour or two before you want to go to bed. That means no phone, no television, and no over-the-top activities. It’s like a relaxation room at a spa. You want it to be quiet, serene, and full of things that will promote a restful sleep. A good book, a hot drink (that isn’t caffeinated), and soft lighting. Don’t be discouraged by imaging this to a grand routine that you jump straight into. If you can avoid taking your work to bed with you, that would be a perfect starting point. Slowly work your way to a routine one baby step at a time.

Three: I started data dumping.

If you have a mind that is constantly racing it’s going to be difficult to relax let alone fall asleep. If there is something on my mind that needs sorting out or is causing worry I write it down. I start writing until I’ve got it all out, it doesn’t need to be a perfect list or even make perfect sense as long as I’ve gotten it out of my mind and on to paper I know it will be there for me to handle in the morning. You could make a ‘worry’ list and then make an action column, writing everything you need to do as well as people you can contact to help you. Keeping a notepad by your bed will assure that you are able to save all of the data keeping you up at night and know you are able to sleep now and be well rested and better equipped to handle it in the morning.

Four: If I’m hungry, I eat.

Eating after 8pm will not make you gain weight. As always the impact of food and weight gain has to do with your overall intake, overall expenditure, and the quality of your food. If you are hungry before bed eating a good quality snack before bed actually helps build and repair muscle tissue, and may even improve your heart health. Eating when you are hungry will help maintain blood sugar levels and will ultimately help you sleep better.

Five: Get a good quality alarm clock.

I don’t mean quality as in expense, I mean quality as in its features and benefits. The most common argument I get for not wanting to give a cellphone it’s own bedroom is people using their phone as their alarm clock. The alarm clock that I use is actually Vimicy Wake Up Light Alarm Clock, a whopping $20 purchase from Amazon. The Vimicy has a thirty-minute wake up light window before the preset alarm time. A wake up light simulates what the rising sun should do, gently pull us out of slumber. The light starts dim thirty minutes before your alarm time and gradually increases in brightness giving your brain and body time to gently come out of sleep as opposed to a jarring buzzing ripping you from a restful sleep. No one likes to wake up to that alarming alarm. These wake up lights also offer options for nature sounds as opposed to buzzing. This makes for a better way to peacefully start the day.

While some claim our sleep requirements are thought to be genetically determined I’ve yet to find a person that would not benefit or function higher with at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Those that are consistently getting less than they need are courting chronic exhaustion. This doesn’t happen overnight but in several stages. At first we may feel an ordinary sort of tiredness which can be dealt with fairly easily. You can even carry on or “function” at this pace. If ignored, this can develop into the next stage where rest and sleep is no longer refreshing. We’ll keep going, stopping only when a flu knocks on the door. We can avoid these acute episodes of illness by actually getting rest when we are overtired. As you start to question how you’re contributing to poor sleep habits, be kind to yourself. The best changes come with well laid plans and baby steps. It can take two or three weeks for your body to catch up on a sleep deficit or to adapt to a new schedule so give yourself enough time and space to implement these strategies into your life before giving up.

Sweat & Smiles (and well rested),

Melissa

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What If Exercise Stresses You Out?

When it comes to stress and fitness you’ll often hear them tied together in one way or another. Some will say stress helps them to lose weight. Some will say stress makes them gain weight. Some people will say exercise alleviates stress and some will say it further exhausts their stressed bodies. The problem isn’t who is right or wrong, the problem is that we aren’t paying attention to our own bodies signals. Identifying what type of stress you are under, making adjustments to your routine and adding in more stress managements measures will be the key to reducing stress and choosing the right activities for you.

There are three different types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. Acute stress is the most common and is usually short-term and specific. Acute stress is what happens when a big test is coming up, you’ve been given a huge project with a short deadline, or are experiencing an imminent physical or emotional threat. Episodic acute stress is what happens when acute stress becomes a regularity. Chronic stress is what happens when stress is no longer fleeting but is persistent over a long period of time.

People often struggle with identifying their type of stress because they are using measurements of comparison. For example, telling yourself that you shouldn’t be stressed about your home life because at least you have a home is not actually changing the fact that you are stressed. Being realistic of your level of stress without comparison is going to be beneficial in addressing your particular stress management measures.

Exercise has consistently (and correctly) been deemed as a stress reliever.  Changing how we view exercise will also be something that changes the way you are able to utilize it as a tool to alleviate stress. The idea of exercise usually sends people's minds straight to long runs, jumping, and anything that causes significant panting and sweating. Exercise, in all its forms, produces endorphins - hormones that fight stress; but pounding the pavement and sweating it out may not be the best way to alleviate stress.

Physical and mental fatigue affect the same region of your brain - the anterior cingulate cortex - so if you are mentally fatigued, you’ll likely be physically fatigued. Stress can interfere with your workouts including impaired coordination, slower recovery, and higher risk of injury. This means that when your mind and body are fatigued and you decide to go for a run or do a high intensity workout you may be setting yourself up for exhaustion, injury, and even more stress. The secret isn’t to skipping your workouts but making adjustments to your routine, changing the way you see exercise, and adding in more stress management measures.

Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, hiking, leisurely walking, leisurely swimming can all produce the same endorphins without further fatigue and actually help to prevent injuries. These forms of exercise will also help produce the same results like weight loss and building strength. You don’t always have to be panting and sweating to call it a workout or see results.

Living a better, happier, and healthier life involves a giant learning curve. Taking the time to adjust your routine and try new things will teach you everything you need to know about what works best for your specific body. Listening to the signals your body is sending you to let you know it is too tired or too sore to carry out a workout will not only help you in the long run it will save you from impaired recovery and potential injury. The next time you are feeling stressed, or if you have been chronically stressed, it’s time to let go of comparisons, adjust your routine, and tune in to the signals your body is sending you.

Sweat & Smiles (and less stress),

Melissa

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What's In Your Cup?

There is a very distinct difference in Cannon’s energy when he says thank you because he was prompted and when he says thank you because he’s genuinely grateful. He was having trouble getting down a really steep hill with sandals on and he looked at me and asked if I would hold his hand and help him. When we got to the bottom of the hill he said “thank you so much, mama” and he meant it. He was so grateful for the help because it would have been much tougher alone. Lately I’ve been extremely grateful for the help because this part of my life would be much tougher alone.

A friend shared a sentiment that proposed the question: if you are holding a cup of coffee and someone bumps into you, making you spill your coffee everywhere, why did you spill your coffee? Too often we are inclined to say “because someone bumped into me!” The truth is you spilled your coffee because there was coffee in your cup. The point of the sentiment was to show that you will always get bumped but whatever is in your cup is what will spill out. Cannon could have been frustrated that he wasn’t able to get down that hill yet. He could have been frustrated that he didn’t have tennis shoes on for a better chance. He could have just sat on his butt and taken a less than desirable way down. Instead, he asked for help and was grateful when he got it.

I’ve been getting bumped a lot lately and while there are a couple drops of grief and anger intermingled my cup is full of gratitude. I can’t help but think that’s what all this work has been for. I didn’t set out on this journey of a better, happier, and healthier life so that I could have the easy way out. I knew I’d always be getting bumped. I set out on this path so that in these moments when it seems like there hasn’t even been a break between bumps to take a sip out of that cup that what spills out are things that I’m proud of.

There are things and phrases that I learned a long time ago, some I’ve even taught and spoken to others, that I’m just now beginning to understand. When you hear people speak about meditation and yoga you’ll hear them call it their practice. My yoga practice. My meditation practice. These are the tools we have readily available to us to practice, to prepare for the bumps. For me (and science) fitness is about so much more than the outside of your body. What is happening inside of our bodies when we are quiet, focused, and in the flow with ourselves is the practice we need to prepare for the less than desirable moments. Taking the time for yourself will not only make your physical body stronger it will make your inner body strong enough to withstand even the toughest bumps.My practice has made it so that during this bumpy road the things I find spilling out are patience, love, forgiveness, trust, and even joy. Whatever you are practicing, whatever is in your cup is what will spill out. When things get tough, what is going to spill out?

Sweat & Smiles (and still practicing),

Melissa

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Self-Love Is Self-Parenting

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Self-Love Is Self-Parenting

When people hear self-love they usually picture long luxury baths, spa days, and chocolate cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good epsom salt bath… and chocolate cake… but what self-love really means is loving yourself so much that you have no other choice but to act in your own best interest.

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Relationships: The Good, The Hard, And The Necessary

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Relationships: The Good, The Hard, And The Necessary

Relationships are hard. Relationships also affect every aspect of our lives. When there is a disconnection in one of your close relationships it can throw off the quality of your work, your health, and how you interact within all your other relationships. There is power in connecting with other people; when you trust that you'll find within those connections, whether it's a stranger, neighbor, or friend, you'll be delivered exactly what you need.

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Do You Feel Stressed?

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Do You Feel Stressed?

Do you feel stressed? Let me guess, you feel stressed but instead of honoring that you tell yourself that you have no reason to be stressed because you have a good life (which you do) and that you shouldn't be stressed (except you are). Stress isn't always bad, bones and muscles need a certain amount of stress to stay healthy but like all things there is a good and a bad. Knowing when to take a step back and even out is going to be the key to a better, happier, and healthier life. 

Comparing your life to others whether it's feeling inferior or convincing yourself that you shouldn't feel bad because others have it worse is unproductive in actually changing your thoughts or your life. Even if the stress you experience seems to be a creation of your own, it's still very real. When I'm working with someone and they say something like 'I know it's all in my head' I always think of a line from Harry Potter (yes, I'm a big Potter fan). In the final movie Harry asks his mentor, 'is this real or is this just happening in my head' to which he is answered, 'of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, by why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'. The fact of the matter is this, everything that you think and feel is very real. Most importantly, everything that happens within your body: both in your head and physical produces the same response from your body. 

The autonomic nervous system controls the actions in the body that you don't normally regulate through conscious thought, such as digestion and eliminating food, releasing hormones, sweating, and regulating blood flow. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is where energy goes out and fibers get broken down, sometimes we do this purposefully through exercise. The sympathetic nervous system is also our fight-or-flight response if we are in danger (both in real danger like being chased by a bear and the danger we may perceive in our heads). The parasympathetic nervous system facilitates digestion, repair processes, immune function, it is the yin to the sympathetic yang.

When you are repeatedly stressed, you're continually exhausting the sympathetic nervous system and suppressing the parasympathetic. This imbalance as you can see can cause chronic fatigue, chronic disease processes, autoimmune diseases, not to mention emotional imbalances and distress. Long term stress causes the constant rise of cortisol which can also create excess fat in that beautiful area near your belly button. 

Another major problem lies if you top all this off with more sympathetic nervous system in the form of high intensity and long duration exercise. In fact, there are have been clients I've worked with that are working out more than ever and not seeing the results they're working so hard for so we rework their program with less exercise and shorter durations of movement designed to increase energy instead of exhausting it. Like all things, there is a balance to be found and moderation to practice. 

For me personally, I do three high intensity workouts a week that last between 30-40 minutes. Everyday I practice some form of gentle movement designed to promote more energy and take care of any places in my body that need extra attention or repair. Once a week I like to get out for a longer period of time: a long walk, a hike, a bike ride. That's it. No seven days a week, two or three hours a day for me. And you don't have to either. 

What you eat and drink plays a role in your nervous system, your stress, and your overall ability to connect the mind and body. If you're nervous system is imbalanced that means you're struggling with energy so you may be reaching for more caffeine, sugary drinks, or anything you fill will give you a boost... and also put more stress on that sympathetic nervous system. I love coffee, but I do my best to not exceed one cup a day, on the occasion I go for another cup it better be before 2pm or that coffee will not be loving me back. It doesn't cause chaos in the moment, I don't even have trouble falling asleep, but the next morning I wake up feeling unrested and crappy and I bet you experience something similar even if you don't know why.

If any of this sounds like you, it's time to honor the stress and move forward in balancing it. You may have heard 'the first step is admitting you have a problem', in this case, 'the first step is identifying the primary stressors'. Alleviating the chief stressor in your life creates the most beautiful domino effect you'll ever experience. Make a realistic plan to address your primary stressor and set small progress goals so you can move in the right direction and celebrate each step forward. Surround yourself with positivity and positive people. 

Eat and drink to support a healthy system and healthy balance. Instead of worrying about what you should not be eating starting focusing on foods you can eat to support you. Make it a goal to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water (example: 150lbs = 75 ounces of water). Move and exercise balancing both high intensity and recovery, energy balancing movement.

Practice mental exercise. You may be familiar with things like the secret, the power of positive thinking, or meditation. There is a reason these things have been practiced for thousands of years. I read a book a couple weeks ago with interviews from over 130 of the world's top performers, there was a reason that nearly 90% of them mentioned meditation. Be mindful of the words you use, the thoughts you follow, and the people you surround yourself with. 

The truth is, you really do have a good life and you deserve to feel good in it. Honor that.

Sweat & Smiles, 

Melissa

 

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Breaking Up With Cardio... And The Scale.

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Breaking Up With Cardio... And The Scale.

Our nation is obsessed with cardio. When something in your life prompts you to lose weight or to live healthier you probably instantly think of walking, hopping on the treadmill, or starting with the elliptical. I'm here to fill you in on a life changing secret: it's time to put cardio and weight loss on the back burner. 

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A Labor of Love

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A Labor of Love

In short, once you take a path it will become easier to keep taking that path and harder to start taking a new one. This is how habits are created. This is how our lifestyles are created. That's why old habits are so hard to change. There's one thing greater, bigger, and stronger than the Law of Facilitation and that is love. 

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Your Individuality

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Over fifty years ago a famous biochemist named Roger Williams published a book called Biochemical Individuality. What he revealed to the world was nearly all of our internal organs vary in size, shape, location, and capacity. He showed that our metabolic rates (AKA your metabolism, AKA how you use energy) are staggeringly different from person to person. The water content varies from each person to the next. The oxygen capacity of the blood varies from one person to the next. Even if you don't understand what some of that means, here is what you can take from it: just as we all look different on the outside, we all functional differently on the inside. This is reason #153564785439 why diets will not work long term.

Many times people, very intelligent people, find a way to eat and live that works for them. They put a high price on that information and sell it to you... and then it doesn't work for you. You're left feeling like you did something wrong, or as if you didn't work as hard as them. As Roger Williams shared with the world, as my grandmother shared with me, and as I am sharing with you right now: you aren't like everyone else, honey (the honey was mainly just from my grandma).

Other times people, very intelligent people, find ways to "work the system" per say so that you'll drop numbers off the scale and it seems like 'this is the one', it's really working. And then it doesn't. I assure you God (or whoever/whatever you believe) designed your body very specifically to survive. You can't trick your body long term. Your body is way smarter than you are... no matter how intelligent you are. 

Sometimes you are plain out being gaslighted (usually by someone who has someone above them gaslighting them). This can be easily found by checking the language. Fat free, low calorie, low fat, detox, sugar free, things like that are all dead giveaways. Things that play on your fears: helping you cut carbs, keeping you on track, and anything that involves a "meal plan" that is for everyone. 

Your body, in all its biochemical individuality will waste no time in letting you know you didn't eat right for you. You may feel bloated, tired, get a headache, remain hungry or become hungry soon after. And never underestimate how much you DO know when it comes to food and your health. Fruits, vegetables, organic foods, whole foods (minimally processed, if at all), and animal products (like the ones raised on farms) are things you want to eat more of. Eat a variety of these foods. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Avoid processed foods (anything that comes out of a box). Eat organic whenever possible. 

For a couple weeks write down everything you eat (like in a regular old notebook). Make notes on how you feel AFTER you eat and leading up to your next meal. When you are eating to please your body you'll feel satisfied after eating. You'll have more energy. You'll feel full for a couple of hours after eating. Use your notes and make adjustments until you find your own personal sweet spot (get it, sweet spot?!).

There is a plethora of information on dieting, health, and wellness. Find people, places, and information that will take into account your personal metabolic type. Then go a couple steps further and take into account the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences in your life. The day you decide to not only look at yourself as an individual but also all of the factors that make up your life, is the day you'll be free to live it.

Sweat, Smiles, & Diet Free,

Melissa

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Is Your Time Costing You Time?

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Is Your Time Costing You Time?

Time: you never have enough, always want more, but don’t want to take it. I don’t say that to be speaking harshly, and certainly not to shame you (this is a strictly no shame zone). I point out your relationship with time because it is seriously hindering the quality of your life. In fact, a poor mindset regarding time will cost you money, set you back on your health goals, and wastes your very precious time.

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The Weight of Your Words

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The Weight of Your Words

‘Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. For most, that little rhyme was the first introduction to what my grandma used to call “hogwash”. Your words matter. Your words affect your physical feelings, beliefs, the people around you, and even your weight. It’s time to give up the hogwash and be the one that changes the dynamic of our society because your words matter.

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Finding More Energy...

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Finding More Energy...

I watched a Netflix documentary that I highly recommend called The Minimalist and while I got a lot of profound wisdom from it there was one distinction they made that really stuck out to me. The minimalist guys (which they call themselves) spoke on the difference between constructive worry and useless worry... and how many of us don't seem to recognize the difference. 

Constructive worry is the kind of worry that can aid you in what you are doing. For example, checking the time and staying on task so that you don't miss a flight is important. However, if you are twenty weeks away from the flight and it is the 200th time you've worried about missing the flight it becomes useless... and it drains your energy. 

Our society is known for worrying that we've not had enough sleep, that we don't have enough time, that we never have enough money. The belief is that we just need more of everything, but the truth is we have too much. 

We have too much worry. 

A staggering amount of people come to me for advice on how to increase their energy. I see millions of people spending hundreds of dollars a month on supplements to increase their energy. Lines wrapping the building at Starbucks because we believe the caffeine will give us the boost we need (don't get me wrong - I love Starbucks - but I also know it's not going to be the source of my energy). Coffee, energy drinks, supplements, patches, vitamins, more, more, more praying that by taking more - doing more - we'll have more. Even food has become a staple in the search for more energy, just look at the marketing in "superfoods" (which is a marketing term, NOT a scientific one). While food is quite literally the fuel we need for life, I still question why it is that we need so much more energy? Where is your natural energy going? 

Our bodies are hardwired to go. Our bodies create energy and crave to expend it. So if our bodies our hardwired to have energy, yet we don't have any, the question shouldn't be how to get more but to ask where is it all going? 

I got curious about where my energy was going. The first thing that pops up is: I'm a mom, but the simple fact is: being a mom doesn't require all that much of my energy. The useless worry, the mom guilt, trying to "keep up", the unrealistic expectations of motherhood... now that can zap the energy. What about work? My energy probably goes to my work. Does it? What part of my work actually sucks the energy out? Is it the actual tasks at hand? Nope. It's the useless worry over the things I can't control anyway; it's the negative attachments I've made with the word 'work'; it's the simple fact that we may be doing work that isn't all that fulfilling. 

Okay, if it's not your kids.. and it's not your work... what is it that is draining all of your energy?

It's your useless worry. 

Envision your brain is a computer and that all of your useless worry is an open tab running in the background. If you open 200 tabs on your computer, it is guaranteed to slow down. If you open 300 tabs on your computer, it may just shut down. The running tabs that you have constantly open and running in the back of your mind is slowing down your mind and body. We are overusing our minds without being mindful at all. 

This doesn't mean that your lack of energy is not real, or that it's all in your head, it is very, very real and your useless worry is truly burning up all of your energy. This kind of stress has the ability to turn into physical fatigue, physical symptoms, and even disease. Thyroid problems, chronic fatigue, adrenal problems, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, blood pressure problems, and many, many more are directly related to stress and worry. 

The problem persists when we seek treatment for the symptoms. When faced with an illness we look towards what we can take to fix it. What if we started treating the root of the problem - if we look to treat the cause instead of the symptoms? Then the questions turn from what can I take to what can I let go of? Instead of focusing on how to get more energy, we would focus on letting go of the things that steal it. 

We all know stress is bad and we've all been told not to sweat the small stuff. But how do we actually stop... well, we don't think about stopping. Telling someone to calm down when they are working up has approximately a 0% success rate - so telling yourself not to worry about something you're worried up will probably follow that trend. Here are 5 things to do instead: 

1. Ask questions

Walk yourself through it in baby steps. ie: will this matter in 5 days/5 months/5 years? What's the worst case scenario? What if this did happen? What can I do if the worst case scenario really does happen?

2. Close the running tabs.

If your to-do list is in your head, you're using entirely too much energy to try to keep track of it. In fact, I don't like written to-do lists either. If something needs done, schedule it. Find a spot in your calendar for it and you'll get it done because you've literally found the time. If it is just a thought or idea, you could use a journal, the notes section of your cell phone, or something like Trello (it's an app and a website) - whatever feels good to you; then set a time weekly or monthly in your schedule to go over your notes and ideas. 

3. Try a new mindset. 

I wrote recently about changing my mindset while vacuuming and I'm still shocked at the difference. How much of the things we think are hard are only hard because we've said or heard how hard it was? School started again and I heard so many people say how hard it is. Is it actually hard? I wonder if we started saying how fun it was if there would be a difference? I think there would be! With Cannon (or any child) you can see how susceptible kids are to our attitudes. Imagine if I talked about broccoli with the same excitement and energy as ice cream.. he'd start believing they were all "treats". 

4. Practice mindfulness. 

Be where you are. Enjoy who you're with. And for heaven's sake, sit that phone down every once in awhile. When I say be mindful, I mean be all there, wherever you are. When you notice your attention floating away - call it back to what you're doing or who you're with. Give the people you're with your full attention, be curious, ask questions, listen, and learn. 

5. Meditate

What I mean is practice. Everything else above is going to take practice and with meditation you get to practice whether you are or aren't feeling the stress. If you are stressed, it will help alleviate it. If you aren't stressed, it will leave you better equipped for next time. Practicing while you are in the middle of useless worry is like on the job training; meditation is practicing and preparation for the game. You never know, the quiet may just provide you with some answers. 

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Sweat & Smiles, 

Melissa

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Saying thank you and changing the game.

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Saying thank you and changing the game.

Last year I realized a big change I needed to make, and a blaring kink in my system (and by system I mean myself).

I could not accept a compliment. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I would say ‘thank you’ but then quickly I’d follow it up with a take down. For example, if someone told me how good my arms looked, I’d quickly reply by saying something about the cellulite on my legs. Or when people told me how much they loved what I was doing, saying, and writing, I’d be sure to remind them that I wasn’t always this way.

I noticed it one day, and then couldn’t un-notice it. That’s the thing about patterns - once you see them, you can’t un-see them. So I got curious about why. The truth is, it was partly a habit and partly because I was still a pretty harsh critic when it came to me. But the driving force behind it was a learned behavior - a belief that it was actually the right thing to do. Human connection is a funny thing - we all NEED it, we all CRAVE it, and we’re usually taught a list of things you should and should not do to connect with others. Not being too full of yourself, and not feeling like you are better than others rank highly among the rules of winning friends and influencing people (shout out Dale Carnegie, phenomenal book).

How about self-loathing? Gossip? Judgement? How have they become a solid foundation for human connection. I realized quickly that I was doing myself and others a disservice. I wasn’t sending a message of humility or leveling the playing field. The only message I was sending was: it’s not okay for me to love myself… therefore it’s not okay for you to, either.

Connection through self-loathing, or loathing other women, is a popular way women bond with each other. Women aren’t bad, hateful, or vindictive… most women are afraid and start getting the message that they aren’t good enough at a very young age; and this grows into bad habits, and poor connections.We’ve all seen it: Someone gets vulnerable about their lives… I feel like a terrible mother; I’m a hot mess; I’m so fat; I can’t fit in my pants; my house is always a mess; I’m not good at this… quickly women jump in for the rescue (which is a good plan) but the rescue turns even quicker to self-sabotage (not a good plan)… You’re a great mother, but me I feed my kids twinkles for dinner; you are so tiny - me, I’m the fat one…. The message is meant to make our fellow feel better but the real message sent: yes, this is how we are supposed to feel. I don’t have space to love myself, and I don’t have space for you to love yourself either.

We. Have. To. Stop.

It’s time to change the way we treat ourselves, it’s time to change the way we treat each other.

Here are the new rules:

1. When someone gives you a compliment say thank you - simple!

2. Compliment others, often. Never hold back that kind thing you were thinking.

3. When you see the self-loathing train start rolling, stop it in its tracks.

3a. Step in for the rescue and keep it all positive.

3b. Always remind people know what they’re doing well.

3c. Tell people what you love about them!

People often wonder what this whole self-love thing has to do with health and fitness. Once I lose this weight, I’ll love myself, right?! But that is working in reverse, and often times setting yourself up for failure. Working out because you hate your body, want to change your body, or dieting for the same reasons will only work in the short term - and by work, I mean, you’ll see a change in weight and then it will stop working and you’ll gain it back and then some. Digressing, feeding the harmful cycle.

The self-love route says I want to workout because I love and appreciate my body and it was designed to move; my body has always been there for me so I want to show up for it; I want to eat healthfully because that’s what makes my body feel best! This route will change the game and break the vicious cycles. This route is a road that doesn’t hit a dead-end. This route is a limitless road to better, happier, and healthier.

Sweat & Smiles, 

Melissa

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The Joy I Found Vacuuming

I smiled today the entire time I was vacuuming my house. I had been putting it off and I slightly grumbled when I went to do it. In fact, I had bargained with myself: if I vacuum then I can sit down and watch the Netflix documentary I had been wanting to watch. As I started vacuuming I remembered something that a beautiful soul once shared with me; she was working in her kitchen and I asked her if there was something I could do to help and she told me the only thing left for her to do was to sweep. She explained to me that she loves to sweep everyday because she just wants to touch her home. It was such a beautiful thought to me, so I decided to give it a try. 

As I started vacuuming and thinking of this wonderful woman and my home, I couldn't help but smile. The smile began a trickle down effect. I don't know if it tricked my brain into thinking I was happy to vacuum but after a few minutes I even found myself touching some of the walls as I went. I even found myself talking to my home - saying things like "thank you", and "you're such a good house." I went through the whole house opening up the blinds and letting some light in. I realized that at this point I was really in tune with myself and my home. I was being mindful. I could tell which rooms needed some sun light and which rooms needed some fresh air. 

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This entire interaction, as silly as it may sound, was really profound. It really got me thinking: aren't we all (things and people) just energy? We spend all day, all of our lives really, giving and receiving energy. And as I sat down I realized that my house was not spotless, the floors still needed mopped, things still needed put away, and the list goes on... but I felt better about my home in that moment than I ever had in the countless moments that I got it "spotless".  I wholeheartedly believe that is because of the energy I put into it. The happy and grateful energy that I was giving my home was the same happy and grateful energy that it returned back to me. 

It may seem this whole interaction seems silly - but I challenge you to give it a try. The next time you're washing your dishes, smile; practice mindfulness and gratitude and see what happens. What have you got to lose? Regardless of what one might think, there is one thing I know for certain - the proof is in the feeling. 

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Sweat & Smiles, 

Melissa

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How No Control Led Me To The Dolphins

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How No Control Led Me To The Dolphins

“Control is such an open ended word for me, something that I used to think I owned; I’m standing here with none and feeling so complete…”

This is a lyric from a song called “My Love” by Jess Glynne and the first time I heard it I immediately searched the song and listened to that line a couple times. Control is something I’m working hard to let go of. Last week I was even working on some new agreements that I wanted to make with myself and I had written down the one we all have heard: ‘focus only on that which I can control.’ After a few minutes I drew a nice big, dark line through it: 'focus only on that which I can control.'. The truth is, I can’t control ANYTHING so it’s not worth writing down.

I left my husband and son for over a week to travel to Hawaii and host my very first big wellness retreat. In the weeks leading up to it I was often asked how my two guys would survive and after careful consideration I decided they’d survive just like they do when I’m home. The concern is usually coming from the thought that “nobody does it like mom/dad/me”… but nobody has to.

I could have spent the weeks leading up to my trip and the days I was on the trip trying to control what was going on at home. I could have left a detailed list of what Cannon and I usually do in the morning, for nap time, for bath time, for bed time… and on and on and on. Had I done that then the ones at home would have felt constricted, untrusted, and, well, like someone was trying to control them.

Instead I focused on things that would be helpful - to myself and everyone. At home the morning routines looked different, the food routines looked different, and the house routines looked different; but I came home and everyone and everything was fed, cleaned, and well taken care of.

I took this lack of control thing pretty seriously on the trip as well. When things popped up (and they always do) - I went with the flow, I trusted my own instincts and the instincts of others. It was this style of go with the flow that led me to one of the greatest experiences of my life.

When we arrived at the retreat center we heard that the dolphins usually come in and swim around the bay between 6am and 7am in the morning. So the first morning I woke up and headed straight for the bay… no dolphins. I enjoyed the water, floated around for a bit, and headed back in for yoga and breakfast. That was the only morning I went out to look for the dolphins.

Nearing the end of the trip, in the late afternoon, I felt great but I was tired and I was hot. The owner of the retreat center gave me a hug and told me I needed to go cool off in the water; I didn’t really feel like it but I trusted her instincts. The problem was, massages were happening in my room so I couldn’t go and grab my swimsuit but one of the other girls offered to loan me one. I told three of the girls that I was just going to the water to cool off, assured them that I wasn’t even going to get my hair wet (because I didn’t want to wash it again), and they agreed to go for the same reason.

After about five minutes in the water, there they were, a pod of dolphins. We had one set of snorkel gear between the four of us but we all swam out to them anyway. Trading off the snorkel gear we watched, swam, and played with about 30-40 dolphins for nearly an hour. I’ll always swear that they seemed just as excited to see us as we were to see them. For me this moment seemed so surreal. Unprepared, unplanned (at least by me - obviously someone else had other plans for me), and without trying to control my time it became one of the highlights of my trip… probably even my life.

I get what Jess Glynn was saying now. Control is an open-ended word because it has no limits, there is no yes or no, it’s just this thing that if we keep trying to grab hold of it we’ll always be falling just a little bit short. Control isn’t something we are meant to have, let alone own. So the next time you find yourself reaching, grabbing, or pulling at control just decide to stand there with none, let go and let God (or the Universe, Spirit, Your Higher Power), and I promise you and your experience in this life will feel so complete.

 

Sweat & Smiles,

Melissa

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A Successful Day

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A Successful Day

Life isn't about everything going the way you planned, or even having things go your way. Life isn't about a to-do list, who got the most done, or staying busy. 

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Are You Drinking The Good Wine?

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Are You Drinking The Good Wine?

Shopping for gifts in a small town in Italy I came across the most beautiful handpainted Limoncello serving set; my parents are big fans of Limoncello so immediately I knew it was the perfect gift. The six shot glasses, bottle, and serving dish made it's way delicately packaged and into my suitcase and crossed oceans to make its way to my parents dining room to then sit... for three years.

I gave them the set as well as two bottles of authentic Limoncello, so it wasn't that they didn't have anything to put into it! For months I would go to their house and see the unopened bottles and unused set and ask 'you haven't enjoyed this yet?!' and each time the same response: 'we're saving it for a special occasion.'

My Nonnie (grandmother) passed away while I was on that trip to Italy. Thousands of miles from home I took a blow that I was and was not ready for. We're not talking about a grandmother that you have to go and visit a couple times a month. We're talking about a woman who practically raised us all. I knew her time was coming, and though I wasn't really ready I kind of was, and I owe that to her.  My Nonnie never lived a when/then kind of life. She never waited for when she got that new job, then she would enjoy this new thing; or when she lost that weight, then she'd celebrate herself. She lived a in-the-moment, purpose driven life. The older I get the more things I learn about her.  She was dealt some blows that have the potential to leave a person wrecked with despair, sorrow, and misery but instead she still loved life and all it had to offer. She still lived a in the moment, purpose driven life.

I had brought home a couple of nice bottles of wine for myself on that trip and once the funeral was over and traveling family had gone home I thought about opening one of those bottles but then thought, 'I'll save it for a special occasion'. I promise you as I walked away the glasses that hang on a wire wine rack clanged together. I know in the deepest fibers of my being that was her. And she wanted me to have the good wine - now. It was a special occasion.

For the next three months (until it was gone) I finished the day with a glass of the good wine. Sometimes it was just me on my porch, sometimes it was me and my husband, or in the company of friends but regardless those three months changed me. It was healing. It was powerful. And by the time the bottles were gone I found out that I wouldn't be drinking wine for the next nine months... that special occasion I'd been waiting on for a couple of years was on it's way; due the same month as my Nonnie's birthday, no less.

I have at times felt that wrecked with despair, sorrow and misery; I've also just felt bummed out for no good reason but I also still love life and all it has to offer. That means they're all special occasions. Each day that you have another chance, another choice, another moment... it's a special occasion. Drink the good wine. Burn the good candles. Buy the flowers just because. Live an in-the-moment, purpose driven life.

Sweat & Smiles,

Melissa

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