6 Ways to Be More Mindful This Holiday Season

Welcome to The Holiday Sanity Blog Tour, 20 days of tips, tools, techniques, and perspectives from me (and 19 other coaches) with LOVE this holiday season. I’m so excited to be a part of this tour and connect with a group of like-minded coaches that have such a passion for helping others.
When Megan Hale & Jenn Scalia shared their vision for this blog tour with me, I knew I wanted to be a part of it because the holidays are such a beautiful and joyous time to celebrating with loved ones, but often, we get so caught up in relationship drama, hunger games and trying to be everything to everyone that we forget the spirit of the holiday season. The Holiday Sanity Blog Tour will serve as your guide to make it through the holidays with grace, ease and feeling the incredible abundance this season brings.

So without further ado, please enjoy my insight into getting through this holiday season with grace, ease, and well-being.

Holiday Sanity Tour

‘Tis the season for vacations, parties, family gatherings and some much needed rest and relaxation.  But it can also be an incredibly overwhelming time of year for many people.  There are decorations to put up, plans to make, invites to send out, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, parties to attend, groceries to buy, meals to make and cleaning to do.

With all the hustle and bustle the holiday season brings, it’s no wonder setting aside time for quiet contemplation is almost an exercise in futility!

It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday rush, but have you ever noticed that when you’re so busy rushing to do, you forget to really just be? Rather than taking advantage of this joyous and happy time of year, you’re just focused on getting things done; forever racing against the clock.   All that doing simply diminishes downtime, leaving you with little time to relax and regroup.

What would it be like to NOT look back at another Christmas that came and went in a flash, but instead to actually experience the love, joy and connection this season brings?

Regardless of what we are doing—whether it is eating or exercising, travelling or relaxing, conversing with others, each of these activities presents an opportunity for mindfulness.  With that in mind, here are 6 easy ways to integrate mindfulness into this holiday season:

Eat mindfully

Numerous social gatherings, the stress of holiday shopping and out of town visitors can all be triggers for eating without abandon, and not being aware of what and how much food we are eating.  While I am a big proponent for moderation, it’s the holidays and you should enjoy the delicious baked goods, wine-soaked parties, and delicious feasts you come to expect at this time of year. Mindful eating is not about denying yourself the pleasures of eating; it’s quite the opposite.  It’s about enjoying whatever we eat fully. When you sit down to a meal, take a moment to really see the food in front of you, to smell the aromas, to let the flavors rest on your tongue before swallowing or picking up that next bite.

Exercise mindfully

You’ve heard the old adage: “If it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t real.” Put this into practice with respect to your exercise routine this holiday season.  Take a look at your schedule for the week and carve out some time to exercise every day.  Whether it be hitting the gym, going to a yoga class or going for a walk, schedule it into your day and make it an appointment you absolutely cannot miss.  Set yourself up for success by planning your daily activity and making it a non-negotiable.

Travel mindfully

It is easy to let the disappointment of flight delays and traffic ruin your trip before it even begins. If you face some delays on during your holiday travels, take advantage of it to spend some time focusing on yourself.  Maybe that means blasting Taylor Swift in the car and shaking it off! Or connecting your Bluetooth and giving an old friend a call.  And better still, if you’re experiencing airport delays, be sure to take a mindful breath before speaking to that flight attendant. You aren’t the only one feeling the stress of the holidays and she may reward your empathy by assigning you to a better seat or offer you an extra pillow!

Relax mindfully

It might sound counterintuitive, but how often do you sit down to relax only to start thinking about all the things you “should” be doing?  Sure, there are a million things we could be doing with our time and many of which are good and even productive ways to be spending our hours.  But rather than contaminating your precious free time cleaning dishes, running errands, setting up coffee dates, schedule in 10 minutes of YOU time.  For 10 full minutes, sit in silence, eyes closed and pay attention to your breath.  Ditch the guilt.  Enjoy your leisure time.

Converse mindfully

Epictetus said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”.  Really let that one sink in this holiday season.  In your interactions with friends and family this year, really focus your complete attention on actively listening to the people who are speaking to you.  Resist the urge to let your mind wander, interrupt or talk about yourself.  You may just find you learn something from the people around you and you’ll certainly develop a deeper connection with those you hold dear.

Practice gratitude mindfully…

It can be so easy to focus on the negative, especially when there’s a lot going on during the holidays and you’re trying to make sure everything is just right.  But there are so many things to be thankful for and when we are truly mindful, you automatically become aware of all the incredible things to be thankful for.  No matter how big or small, you can usually find something you’re thankful for.  Regardless of how the day went, go to bed every evening and make a list of 3 things you are grateful for that day.  This practice will help you create and maintain positive thinking patterns.


When you live in the moment, your mind naturally settles down and your anxiety dissipates.  And like anything new, it takes practice and conscious effort.  But if you can make a commitment to yourself to stop from time to time, shift your attention away from your thinking, and pay mindful attention to your experience right now, it will go a long way in helping you enjoy the holiday season, and your life.

I’ve had so much fun connecting to so many amazing coaches who are passionate about helping others.  I’d love for you to have access to the rest of the tour so you don’t miss out on this valuable resource.
Make sure to sign up here for all the Holiday Sanity Tour updates and be sure to check out Sally Mercede’s Holistic Holiday Gift Guide while you wait for Kristen King’s delicious recipe for dark chocolate molten caramel cookies tomorrow!
As always, my wish for you is to love yourself, nourish your body and live the life you crave,  especially through the holidays!

21 Day Smoothie Challenge

EXCITING NEWS!

In honour of the launch of the 21 Day Smoothie Guide, Holistic in the City challenges you to drink a smoothie every day for 21 days for the 21 Day Smoothie Challenge! Starting on Monday May 5th, the ladies of Holistic in the City will be making one smoothie from our 21 Day Smoothie Guide, and sharing our experience with all of you by posting photos, tweeting and chatting about all the smoothie goodness.


 Please join us

It’s super easy to participate; all you need is a blender, yummy ingredients and 10 minutes every day. During the challenge you can still eat how you normally would, but now you’re adding in a delectable smoothie!  And don’t worry if life gets in the way and you miss a day, rejoin the challenge when you’re ready.  Tomorrow is always another day.  It takes 21 days to create healthy habits, so by the end of the challenge we hope you are hooked on smoothies and feeling amazing.

21 Day Smoothie Challenge Promo Image copy

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why I’m taking a break from my blog

UPDATE! 

I’m currently working on some projects and content that I am so incredibly excited about right now and that I think you’ll really love.  So stay tuned and feel free to keep checking back, because you won’t want to miss a thing!

I cannot believe how quickly this year has flown by.

When I look back at the last 6 months, I am positively stunned by all the accomplishments I’ve made, the challenges I’ve overcome and the steps I’ve taken to become a healthier, and happier me.  I graduated from nutrition school, started this blog and have spent the last few months attending workshops (here, here and here), all in the hope that I could one day become an authority on helping women nourish their bodies from the inside out.

I remember at one time being SO clear that I wanted this blog to chronicle my journey to clear skin through loving kindness.  My plan was to begin to heal myself over the course of one year and inspire others to take small actions through loving themselves and nourishing their bodies and do the same.

But somewhere along the way, I got stuck.

Blog posts became less frequent.

I stopped feeling authentic in what I was writing.

I began comparing myself to other people and envying how easily ideas, words and concepts came to them.

I lost my enthusiasm.

And ultimately, I began to feel like a fraud.

2013 has been an incredible year of change, risk taking and self-discovery for me.  I have learned so much about myself, and what is most important to me.  However, with working full time, finishing school, taking extra courses, learning about blogging/social media/marketing/etc and just trying to have a bit of a life, I haven’t really had a chance to process any of it.  I’ve been so busy consuming and absorbing information that I haven’t actually taken the time to process it, see what works for me (or what doesn’t) and find a way to incorporate it into my life.

I need to create some space for myself and to do that, I need to silence the nagging voice in my head that is constantly telling me I am balking on my blogging obligations.  I’m going to take a few weeks to really dig deep and be honest about what it is I want to offer.  I want to find my unique voice and really give all you wonderful people, the very best and most authentic version of me.

And isn’t that what I’ve been talking about these past few months? Loving yourself enough to understand what you need, and giving yourself compassion when you are struggling.

I want every piece of writing I create to be educational, entertaining and empowering.  I want to deliver quality, not quantity.  And most of all, I want it to be 100% me.

In the meantime, I’m still going to be very active on social media, so please stay connected with me while I’m away from my blog. Here’s where you can find me:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Thank you so much for your support, understanding and love through all of this.  I will be back soon and ready to rock your socks off!

Have a wonderful New Years Eve and be sure to set some healthy intentions for yourself for the New Year.  I have a feeling 2014 is going to be the best year ever! Don’t you?

 

4 ways to get through the holiday season

Note from Samantha: I am absolutely thrilled to have the lovely Natalie Shay, Psychotherapist and Stress Management Counsellor do a guest post for me.  Not only is she an incredibly warm and kind person, but she is an incredible counsellor.  I had the pleasure of working with her last year when I was really struggling with my skin and self-love issues and she really helped work through a lot of my issues.  This particular post is very fitting because I know we all get a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season, especially with the onslaught of family, work deadlines and holiday shopping.  These are wonderful tips to help you create some boundaries for yourself, which will help you learn how to put yourself on your TO-DO list this holiday season. 

Holiday time is here, and as fun as it is, it can also be very stressful being around our loved ones. So how do you cope? Let’s start with the basics – boundaries and self-care.

One of the first things I try to learn about a new client who walks into my office is whether they are able to set boundaries for themselves.  Why is this so important? Without boundaries, we cannot take care of ourselves, which can lead to stress or sickness. It is no coincidence that my inbox gets flooded during the holiday season with e-mails from people who are overwhelmed and have their health issues flare up.

Let’s take the famous analogy of being on an airplane when the air pressure drops. If you put an oxygen mask on a child before yourself, what can happen to you? I think you get my point. This is the same thing you need to focus on in your day-to-day life and even more so in times of stress.

So what is boundary setting? Some examples are learning to say no, listening to your body when it is burnt out and needs rest, doing something for yourself before doing something for others.

This may seem logical, but it can be overwhelming to try putting it into action.

So let’s start small.

1)   It’s time to start taking care of you!

Why is this important? Many feelings are masked by not having boundaries in place. Feeling burnt out, angry, resentful, like you are trying to stay afloat… the list goes on and on. It’s time to start realizing that you have needs that aren’t being met, and that this situation is affecting your health and causing you stress. Write out why you feel you need to set boundaries for yourself around your family and friends and use this to remind yourself whenever you forget why you want to make this change.

With all the family gatherings, parties and shopping, it can be easy to forget that you need some “you” time. Look at your calendar this week and book off 1 to 2 days or nights for yourself – for you to do whatever you feel like. As tempting as it may be throughout the month to book something in, remind yourself that it is very important to take care of yourself. If that reminder does not work, think of it as a doctor’s appointment you cannot miss.

2)  Create a list

Create a list of the boundaries you feel you need to make with your family. You aren’t going to work on all of them right now, but you now have a list of boundaries you want to start implementing.

3) Pick one

Pick one boundary to start with this year. Write it out and start practicing it before your family gatherings. For example, you may decide that you will take half an hour a day for yourself.  Schedule it, and make sure to keep that half-hour for yourself. On the day of a gathering, continue this habit. Your aunt may want you to come by early to help set up, but this is more time than you want to spend with your family. Remind yourself this “you” time is crucial for your health, and let her know you can’t make it. This is time for you!

Another example may be deciding on how long you talk to a family member on the phone before or after the event. You can let them know you have 15 minutes, and when those 15 minutes are up you let them know you have to go. If they continue talking, remind them that you have something to do (even if that something is sitting on your couch for 15 minutes before the kids get home).

4) Write it down

Write down every time you respect your boundary. This will remind you that you are progressing. Any time you need this reminder, take a look at your list and see how you have been improving.

Remind yourself that this is a learning curve. You may not always do it “perfectly,” and sometimes you may not do it at all. You are not perfect; do you remember any past holiday season that went exactly the way you wanted it to? If so, you were probably on The Cosby Show (for those of you who are too young to remember, it was a show from the 80s of a picture-perfect family). Don’t beat yourself up! Recognize that you are trying to make a change and be GENTLE on yourself.  The gentler you are, the quicker the change will happen.

Start practicing some of these steps. Eventually they will become second nature, and you will feel empowered to set boundaries whenever you need to. This is what self- care is all about.

 

Now over to you: how will you put these steps into practice this holiday season? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Natalie Shay is a Psychotherapist and Stress Management Counsellor. She works with individuals and consults with organizations with respect to topics such as stress management, burn-out prevention, work/life balance and emotional eating.  She works with clients to help them overcome ineffective habits and create healthier new ones. You can contact her at natalieshay@gmail.com and read her newsletters at www.natalieshay.com

what happened vs the story

Have you ever noticed that you tend to collapse an event that occurred in your past with the story that you tell yourself (and others) about that event? 

For example: When you are 13, your boyfriend breaks up with you (what happened) and you decide that it’s because you are overweight, unattractive and as result, no one will ever love you (the story).   So you begin to live your life as though the reason why men don’t approach you or the fact that you’ve never had a long-term relationship is because you are overweight, unattractive and not worthy of love.

While this may seem like a trivial example, that is honestly how it works.  Humans are meaning making machines – we attach meaning to every moment of our lives and when the meaning is negative, it can have a severe impact on our lives.

This past weekend, I participated in The Landmark Forum.  It was an incredible and eye-opening experience.  Essentially, what The Landmark Forum does (among other things), is it asks you to distinguish between two universes (the story + what happened) and realize that the meaning you attach to “what happened” doesn’t actually exist.  In fact, what happened didn’t mean anythingLandmark

This was such a powerful concept for me especially when it came to my relationship with my brother.  While we have our moments, my brother and I are not exactly what you’d describe as close.  And it occurred to me that the reason for this stretched all the way back to an event when I was 6 years old (and he was 4).

[Coles Notes Version] My mom forced me to let him play with my Barbies one afternoon  even though I really didn’t want to – he had a history of destroying my belongings.  Minutes later, I found him in the bathroom cutting the hair off my newest Barbie because he couldn’t undo the braid I’d put in her hair.

He was not punished and the blame was placed on me for causing the event because I rarely played with him.  And in that moment, I decided that my brother was selfish, loathed him because there were never any consequences to his actions and resented him because his life was so easy.

HE WAS 4 YEARS OLD! 

And I have been carrying around this story for over 20 years!

He did what he did and he didn’t do what he didn’t do.  And that’s it.  By making the actions of a child mean something other than what it was, I have wasted over 20 years of my life having a superficial and inauthentic relationship with my brother.  I have been angry and resentful towards him.  I have punished him time and time again; and every time he did anything that coincided with my 6-year-old view of him, I would be validated in my feelings and I’d have further “proof” that I was right and he was wrong.  That I was good and he was bad.

But most of all, I robbed him of having an older sister.

When I came to that realization, it literally broke my heart.

When I shared this realization with my brother, he said he had no idea that I felt that way about him.  He admitted that he never understood why the two of us have never been close when all the other brothers and sisters we knew were.  And then he did something that surprised me…

He thanked me and he told me he was open to the possibility of us having an authentic and loving relationship with one another.

Ladies and gentlemen…I think I just got my Christmas gift early.

 

Now over to you: What do you think? What’s your story? And can you distinguish it from what ACTUALLY happened and make peace with your past? Share with me in the comments below!

set some healthy boundaries

Do you have difficulty saying no?

Are you always trying to be nice to others at the expense of yourself?

Does agreeing to certain requests leave you feeling resentful (even if it is within your power to decline?)

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you my friend may be experiencing symptoms of the “disease to please”.

And trust me, I know the symptoms well.

As a bona fide Over Achiever and People Pleaser Extraordinaire, I would constantly say yes to requests of my time and energy even when I knew I had a full plate.  I was notorious for double booking myself with different commitments, not because I wasn’t organized, but because I didn’t want to let anyone down.  But the problem with that rationale is that I would inevitably let someone down because I clearly couldn’t be in two places at once!

Does this sound familiar?

Or how about this one….someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do/can’t do/don’t have time to do but instead of saying NO, you have the following conversation in your head:

“Ugh, I REALLY don’t want to do that”

“But if I say no, they’ll think I’m not a nice person…”

“…And I really should just do it, I’m just being selfish”

“But I really don’t want to…”

“Whatever, I’ll just suck it up and do it. GRRRRRR!”

Am I getting warmer?

I came to the realization during a particularly low point last year that I have a serious problem setting boundaries and being able to say no to the things and people that do not serve me and are not worthy of my time.  And while I knew it wasn’t healthy or realistic to give everything to everyone (and leave nothing for myself) I really struggled with the word “boundary”.  It seemed so isolating, so restricting.  I associated the word with only negative connotations and for a long time I resisted putting up boundaries because I was afraid of losing my connection to the people around me.

But what I realized about myself was that I didn’t think I was good enough or that I would be unlovable if I didn’t put the needs of others first.  I wanted people to like me, to see the real me and I was willing to sacrifice myself in the process.  But the truth is, love and respect can only come when you possess these qualities yourself.   When you say NO to others, you are actually saying YES to yourself.

Life is an echo. What you send out, comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you – Zig Ziglar

When you tune in to your innermost needs and well-being, it allows you to be happier, healthier and in turn more giving towards the people in your life.   When you put yourself first, everyone wins.

I truly believe that one of the best things you can do for yourself and those around you is to set healthy boundaries.   Honestly ask yourself: Does this feel right for me?  What do I need?  And once you have answered this question, educate the people around you.  Let them know what you need from them and then lead by example as you follow through with the commitment you’ve made with yourself.

When I asked myself these questions, it was clear to me that I needed to unapologetically prioritize exercise in my life and give myself permission to slow down.  So right now, I am setting boundaries by:

1.  Sticking to my exercise commitments (I schedule them as appointments and refuse to cancel unless absolutely necessary)

2.  Committing to a daily meditation practice

3.  Celebrating self-centred Sundays every week (#selfcentredsundays)

4.  Letting go of relationships that are not supportive and inspiring

 

Now over to you: Do you set boundaries to protect your needs? What do you do?  Or are you a people pleaser and trying to find a way to confidently say NO?  Leave me a comment and let me know! 

reflecting on a LIFE CHANGING week in LA

life changing event

I’m back from LA and I really want to tell you about it!  I’m literally bursting at the seams.

If there is a part of you that is yearning to get away, to finally do something about that ultimate self-care practice (think: yoga, meditation, journaling) that you’ve been putting off for months or just stepping a little bit out of your comfort zone on the path to true healing, this post is for you.  My trip to LA for the Mindful Self-Compassion workshop gave me a taste of all three (and SO much more).  As I write you these words, I feel lighter, more in tune with myself and so much more content than I’ve felt in months.   So if you’re curious to hear about my week in LA, please read on!

Where I stayed

Vintage loft

This was my home last week.  Isn’t it adorable?

I rented this vintage loft space from a couple through Airbnb and it was honestly one of the highlights of my trip!  Cintia and Steven were incredible hosts – they picked me up from the airport, let me use their kitchen to cook, and spent hours chatting with me about different aspects of nutrition (Steven is vegan and Cintia was in the midst of a 6 week juice cleanse while I was there!).  My accommodations were pristine and it was exactly like staying at a B&B, as there were other travellers coming and going during the course of my stay.  Their house was located 15 blocks from the ocean Santa Monica Pier, beaches, Third Street Promenade, shopping and dining.  I did a ton of walking, I just felt so safe and at home.  I will definitely be back to visit those two, they made my stay in LA so wonderful.

What I ate

Let me just say that Santa Monica is a nutritionists’ culinary paradise! Here’s a roundup of my top 5 favourite places to eat!

Co-Opportunity Natural Foods

I bought my groceries for the week at Co-Op, which was literally a 2 minute walk from where I was staying.   Not only did this grocery store provide natural, organic and local food, but since it is a co-op, it is owned by the community.  This place literally had everything!

True Food Kitchen

TFK

True Food Kitchen features dishes that closely adhere to the principles of Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet.  The restaurant chain is known for its delicious flavors, healthy ingredients, environmental awareness and an inviting atmosphere.  All of the dishes are inspired by Mediterranean, Asian and Californian cuisinuse and use local, seasonal and organic sources whenever possible.

Sugarfish by sushi nozawa

Sugarfish

I am such a sushi lover but this sushi was the freshest, most incredible sushi I have ever eaten in my entire life!  It is honestly a totally different kind of sushi dining experience.  Sugarfish shuns “American-style” extravagant rolls and fusion dishes. Instead it concentrates on the purity of basic ingredients and offers a very simple menu.  Diners choose from three core menus called Trust Me’s, which feature edamame, and different options of sashimi, sushi and hand rolls – depending on how hungry you are.

Real Food Daily

Real Food Daily is Southern California’s premiere organic vegan restaurant serving a 100% plant-based menu using foods grown with exclusively organic farming methods.  The food at RFD is balanced according to Eastern health philosophies and heart-healthy Western nutrition recommendations and is almost entirely local.  And bonus, RFD is also part of a local composting program AND is a certified green business, woo!

Café Gratitude

Cafe Gratitude is a 100% organic vegan restaurant specializing in gourmet vegan cuisines.  It strives to always use whole ingredients that are locally seasonal and fresh.  What I loved about this place is that the menu begins “I AM” and each dish is named after a specific intention.  I was feeling particularly hungry the day I stopped by and opted for a “Caesar” salad and raw pizza dish named Hearty.  I had to order my dish by saying: “I am hearty”.  How clever!

What my days looked like

The workshop at InsightLA ran from Wednesday to Saturday from 9:30am – 5:30pm and Saturday from 9:00am to 11:00am.

MORNING SESSION

9:30-10:30am – Meditation, reflection & sharing

10:30-11:30am – Partner or small group exercise followed by reflection and sharing

11:30–12:30pm – Informal practice followed by reflection and sharing

AFTERNOON SESSION

2:00-3:00pm – Meditation, reflection & sharing

3:00-4:30pm – Informal practice followed by reflection and sharing

4:30–5:30pm – Informal practice and/or exercise followed by reflection and sharing

Even though I spent the day sitting and meditating all day, let me tell you, I was physically and emotionally drained!  I remember one of my friends at the workshop telling me that having been new to meditating that this workshop was like going from never running a day in my life to deciding to run a marathon – it was seriously that intense!

After the workshop

(I have no pictures here as my phone broke at the beginning of my trip and I couldn’t get it fixed until right before I left.  The upside? I got to experience Santa Monica with my own eyes as opposed to through a camera lens!)

The days were long and busy, but I really wanted to see some of the beautiful city I was visiting, so most nights I was out and about.  After all, this was my chance to play tourist!   I went down to the Santa Monica Pier, experienced the nightlife and shopping on 3rd Street Promenade and explored the busy streets of  Santa Monica.  I felt right at home.  The one thing I noticed right away was how friendly people were (or rather, how unfriendly people are in Toronto?).  EVERYONE always took the time to say hi to me and I struck up countless, in depth conversations with perfect strangers.  It was incredible!

While it was only 6 days, I have a lifetime of incredible memories and learnings that I will keep with me always.  I am so thankful I gave myself the permission to step out of my comfort zone and take a chance on something I had absolutely no experience with.  It was an opportunity of a lifetime.  Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer were the kindest, most brilliant people I have ever met in my life and I am so grateful I was able to participate in this workshop taught by them.  I am determined to keep up my meditation practice so that I can attend MSC Teacher Training in 2016.  But in the more immediate future, I am so full of ideas for things to come on the blog and I can’t wait to share them with you.  I want to add more value for you on this platform and make you feel empowered, educated and entertained in the process.  2014 is going to be an exciting year and I know this is just the beginning!

 

Have you ever been on a trip or attended a workshop that left you feeling incredibly inspired? Share with me in the comments below!

Inspiration Board: LA Edition

Greetings from Santa Monica!  I’ve been here less than 24 hours and I am already so in love with this city!!!  I spent most of yesterday travelling but because of the 3 hours time difference, I was still able to get out and roam the streets of Santa Monica until dark.  BONUS!  I feel like I’m vibrating with incredible energy right now and so I decided to dedicate today’s blog post to some great quotes and inspirational sayings that I hope add a nice lift to your day:

InspB1

InspB2

InspB3InspB4InspB5InspB6

 

And be sure to follow me on Instagram, so you see what I’m getting up to in California!

Until next time friends! xo

Signature MyLiveSignature

seeing things just as they are

1 more sleep until LA!  I’m so excited to get out of Toronto and embark on this 6-day adventure to the City of Angels where I will be fully immersed in mindful self-compassion.  Not to mention, this is the first time I’ve every travelled on my own and I am can’t wait to take in every minute of this new experience!  Today’s post is the last post in this 3-part series on self-compassion and we are going  to explore the concept of mindfulness.  Read on!

Mindfulness

My acne was out of control.

And I was tired of just sitting back and letting it run my life.  It was time to take action and deal with it my way.

I researched holistic ways of treating acne.

Became vegetarian, went gluten-free, stopped drinking coffee.

Made appointments with dermatologists.

Saw numerous naturopaths, nutritionists, and herbal medicine practitioners.

Began seeing a stress counselor.

Spent hours upon hours online searching natural acne remedies.

Tried every kind of yoga from hot Bikram to Iyengar.

Experimented with every cream, oil, lotion and ointment.

And spent countless dollars on books promising to help me heal my gut, detoxify my liver and stress less.

All in the name of finding a cure for my cystic acne and finally ending my pain and suffering.

And while all of these actions were part of my experience to get where I am today and find what worked best for me, at no point did I stop and notice how much I was suffering.  I was so busy being in “problem solving” mode, and spending incredible amounts of time and energy dealing with the crisis.  Although this is certainly necessary, it is very important to recognize that these moments take a lot out of us emotionally.  When I finally hit my breaking point (which was, consequently when my skin started getting better!) I was so exhausted and fed up with trying to fight my acne, that I just gave up.

And that was the key. 

I had finally tapped into the crux of mindfulness, which requires noticing of suffering without avoidance or aversion.  Instead of avoiding my suffering, I turned toward it.  Because, in order to show compassion to yourself, you need to be aware of painful emotions.  You need to feel to heal.

Mindfulness requires you to take a balanced approach to negative emotions.  So while it is important to not suppress negative feelings, it’s also important to not exaggerate them as well.   Avoid getting lost in the story; it’s about seeing things just as they are.  No more, no less.

We’ve all done it: a painful situation occurs and you get lost in the emotions of it.  You get caught up reliving the moment in the past or you’re constantly worry about a future event which may (or may not) come.

My skin is so awful, it’s never get better and no one will ever love me and I’ll be unhappy forever.

(Oh yes, I’ve said it, thought it, felt it.)

Mindfulness reminds us that reality only happens in the present moment and helps bring our awareness to a new level.  This is important because it allows us to take a giant step back from ourselves and question whether or not what we think is actually true.  Rather than reacting to a situation out of fear, anger or pain, we can respond from a place of love and calm.

And so, I want you to try something the next time you catch yourself going into problem solving mode.  It’s a Noting Practice.

Get into a comfortable sitting position and sit down for about 10 minutes.  Simply note any sounds, thoughts, emotions, smells or physical sensations that arise in your awareness.  If you feel an itch, notice it and then respond accordingly (free to scratch it!).  Notice your breath “breathing in”, feelings of impatience “when is this going to be over?”, or distractions “phone vibrating on the table”.

Every time you become aware of a new experience, acknowledge it and make a quiet mental note to yourself.  And if your mind starts to wander and you realize you’ve completely forgotten about your noting practice, acknowledge the experience (kindly!) and note “lost in thought” and come back to now.

It is possible to train ourselves to become more present and have better awareness.  And the benefit is improved mental strength to deal with challenging situations that inevitably occur.

 

Now over to you, what do you think of the Noting Practice? Did you find you were able to stay present, or did your mind wander?

 

 

you’re only human

Holding hands around world

Why me?

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I thought those two words to myself as I looked in the mirror at my complexion.   My skin was erupting in acne and it was so red, painful and inflamed I could barely look at myself.  And I couldn’t figure out why it was happening.

I’d seen dermatologists, naturopaths, fellow nutritionists and nothing they said or did could help me get to the root of the problem.  In fact, many of the treatments I tried actually made my skin worse.  Much worse.  I even contemplated going back on Accutane for the 3rd time – thankfully a late night call to a dear friend stopped me from filing the prescription!

Needless to say, I was depressed.  I was crying every single day out of frustration.  I felt immense guilt and shame that I had let my health get this out of my control.  And as a nutritionist and seemingly healthy individual, why couldn’t I just figure this out and make it STOP?

Why me?

Everywhere I looked there were people with perfect, glowing, CLEAR skin. It was the perfect example of observational selection bias at work.  You know, the effect of suddenly noticing things we didn’t notice much before — but we irrationally assume that the frequency has increased.     A perfect example of this is what happens to pregnant women who suddenly notice a lot of other pregnant women around them. 

It’s not that women with flawless skin were appearing more frequently to me, it’s that I’d selected that “item” in my mind, and in turn, was noticing it more often.  But unfortunately, each time I would see these women, it would:

  1. reinforce in my mind how terrible my skin looked
  2. make me question if I would ever have clear skin again
  3. remind me that this isn’t normal and should not be happening

And when the feeling of “THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING” comes up, that’s typically when we begin to feel very lonely and isolated from others.  Just like my experience with my acne, typically when people notice something about themselves that they don’t like or if they make a mistake, they irrationally feel as if they are the only ones having this problem.  They get tunnel vision and cannot see beyond their own suffering.   But this is not a logical process.

The common humanity component of self-compassion invites us to recognize that the human experience is imperfect; that these feelings of disappointment, failure and inadequacy (and even health challenges, in one way or another) are felt by everyone and define what it means to be human.  We all suffer.  We all struggle.  And while the triggers, circumstances and degree of pain is different, the process is the same.

What I’ve learned from self-compassion is that pain is all-inclusive, NOT exclusive.   All human beings are infallible.  Why else is it so common to hear someone say “You’re only human!” as a means to comfort someone who’s made a mistake?

So the next time you experience a difficulty in your life, try not to take it so personally.  Remember that despite how someone may look on the outside, on the inside we are all dealing with difficulties, failings, disappointments and possibly even health challenges.   When you travel down the path of common humanity, you begin to feel more connected to others rather than separate, and this makes the pain much easier to bear.

What this means, my darling, is that you are never alone.

 

 

What do you do to remind yourself that you are not alone in your struggles and life challenges? And be sure to check back next week for Monday’s post on the final aspect of self-compassion: Mindfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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