personal development

How to Shift your Mental Health in ONE DAY!

5 tips to strengthen your Mental Health today!

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I heard recently, we get as much stimulation in one week as a caveman - or cave woman - would take in during their entire life span. Stop and think about that for a moment. Whether you are an outlier or not, this startling statistic highlights the insane amount of stimulation we are ingesting on a daily basis in a brain that was built and evolved from the cavemen days.

Noise in the brain is like stress in the body - and too much of anything is not a good thing. I am fascinated with the pursuit of finding more ways to let go of distraction so that I can enjoy being still, rest in the space between thoughts and breath, be with myself and with the moment, and ultimately, be with the way things are. Otherwise we are just running from one thing to the next, distracting ourselves, and falling for the misconception that the happiness we seek or the peace we desire is waiting at some destination down our path. When we are constantly riding the surface-level chemical high, we never really get to our depth. You get external validation, you feel good today and then all-of-a-sudden, you’re down in the depths of despair the next moment. That is exhausting and that is how most of us live.


In honor of Bell Let’s Talk and the many mental health campaigns and events [Flow + Arrow Day Retreat] & [Evolve - yoga nidra + cello] at this time of year, let’s press pause on the roller coaster and land on some simple ideas of how we can strengthen our mental health today.

1 - Connect with yourself

It only takes 6 mindful full body breaths to completely shift your state from anxious or (on the other end of the spectrum) lethargic, into a state of groundedness and flow. Our “tunnel vision” or narrowed perspective is generally connected to Beta Brain waves - which are a bit frantic. When we slow down, get into our bodies by noticing our breath and following the expansion of the inhale and deflation of the exhale, we change our brain waves, which calms our heart rhythm, which expands our perspective and allows us to see bigger picture once again. This simple act of slowing down to truly connect with who you are now, is the most powerful thing you can do to shift your state in a moment.

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2 - Get your body moving

We are built to move. Don’t get stuck on the idea that you need to workout in the gym everyday for an hour or that your movement needs to include a pool of sweat on the floor. Sure that is great for you, but even more so, we need to honor our bodies need to move as a lifestyle. Throughout your day, listen to what you body needs and offer yourself movement that feels good. Simple stretches, neck rolls, lunges, a few squats here and there, posture check-ins, spine twists, forward folds, get outside and go for a walk, stand on your sidewalk or porch and do a few sun salutations with your breath leading your movements, take the stairs, and sit on the floor to encourage yourself to keep moving rather than melting into the couch.

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3 - Before you eat...stop, breathe, take a big sniff, then eat

Mindful Eating is one of the most powerful practices I have incorporated into my daily routine. Growing up as the middle child of seven kids, I developed a habit of eating fast and not slowing down until there was no food left on the table. I also had an eating disorder for many years and used food to escape, numb, mimic pleasure, celebrate, console…to name a few angles to my unhealthy relationship with food. These habits started well-intentioned, comforting me in a time of need, but clearly does not serve me as an adult who would love time and energy for other things.

What I learned? The simple pause to smell my food before I take a sip of my yummy coffee or take the first bite of my food is all it takes to change my food experience. Pause, take a deep breath in and out, then take a big smell of your food and notice your salivary glands light up. The process of digestion and absorption is now ready, so dig in! Put down your fork or spoon occasionally, and just chew and enjoy. Notice how the food feels in your body.

Intuitive and mindful eating will direct you towards the foods that feel good and you will notice more readily when you eat something that might not be what your body needs or wants at this phase of your life.

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4 - Do something for someone else
One of the best ways we can get out of our head or struggles, is to focus on serving others. Big or small; these are random acts of kindness, compassionate gestures, love letters, positive feedback, celebratory acknowledgements, offers of support, a high five, a big hug, a patient listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Simply put, see love in others. When we focus our attention on others and look for ways to lighten the load or brighten someone’s day, suddenly our own struggles don’t feel as big. You’re system is built to respond positively to social bonds and loving companionship: we get a juicy boost of happy chemicals when we foster loving connections to those around us.

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“It is our hypocrisy and self-focus that drains us. When we become purpose-centered, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open, we discover energy we didn’t know we had.” - Robert E Quinn

5 - Develop an evening routine to support your sleep hygiene
One of our basic needs is sleep - I know, easier said than done. While it may take a few tries to land on an evening routine that supports your sleep habits, it is definitely worth the time and effort. Here are some simple things to try tonight….

  • Decide what time you will plug in your phone and keep it out of your hands for the rest of the evening

  • Before you shut down and head to bed, get down on the floor (with the tv on or your family nearby) and move slowly through some hip and shoulder stretches while consciously slowing and deepening your breath

  • Have a warm shower or bath

  • Pull out a notebook and write out three things you’re grateful for, three things you’re proud of, and what you need to release and allow tomorrow-you to handle

  • Once in bed, oscillate your head slowly side to side - as if you are rocking your brain in the cradle of the fluid in your skull

  • If/when your thoughts about the day begin to roll through your mind, rest easy knowing this is an important part of your brain hygiene. Your mind naturally reflects and integrates the day so that it can begin the long and short term storage process that happens over night. So don’t fight it, just notice it. Keep guiding your attention back to your breath and the feeling of you body laying in bed

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I hope you take some time to implement and practice these steps. Your mental health is a product of what you do and think about all day long. Change up some patterns and routines and you will notice a huge change in your mental health strength.

Interested in learning more and experiencing mental health strength training in person??

Check out the Evolve Retreat Co day of wellness on February 2 & the Yoga Nidra & Cello evening practice

Join Lucy Dunne and I at Flow + Arrow day retreat, on February 9

Movement & Motivation with Marin and Tommy Europe on May 28

Thanks for reading! Reach out if you have questions or requests for resources or support xox

Social Media Challenge for 2019 - update

My Social Media Challenge for 2019 - Retrain the Relationship

It has been an interesting month playing with my new habits and relationship with social media. I am determined to find the balance where I utilize social media for connection. I want social media to feel like a service and a support, not a hindrance or an addiction.

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What is this about?

If you read my last social media post, you know that I am exploring my habits and finding ways to set boundaries and support myself into a healthier relationship - specifically with instagram. SO what have I done? I delete the instagram app right after I use it. I only install it if I have something purposeful and intentional to share, and then I must connect with at least one person before I delete it again. This prevents me from scrolling aimlessly or thinking throughout the day about the perfect picture or what I could say about anything happening throughout the day.

One of the most fascinating - and frightening - realizations is that when my mind wanders, it often wanders into a visual of scrolling through instagram! I recall pictures and posts that I have seen in the past. Hilarious and scary all at once. I also have noticed that I often still pause when something is striking and I think about the perfect angle for the picture or a caption that would go with it. Basically, my mind is trained for instagram.

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On the Bright Side

On the bright side, I am noticing a huge shift in my energy all ready. By letting go of the possibility to post or scroll or upload pictures throughout my day, I am left with ample space to focus on real-time connection and soak up each moment with more presence. I am noticing that I am being more thoughtful and strategic with what I want to post and when, and that is opening my mind to pay attention to my other streams of connecting and advertising my business (programs, coaching, workshops and events). For now, I am very happy with this new boundary.

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What’s Next?

Heading into February, I am committed to continue on this track, plus - the next step - I am creating a consistent weekly schedule for my social media that will allow me even more space as I get into a rhythm and template to follow rather than making things up as I go.

Let’s Connect

I would love to hear from any of you about what schedule or template or rhythm you follow with your social media connections and advertising. What works for you? What have you tried? What are you noticing in your own relationship with social media? How does that make you feel?

Anything we do can be overdone or underdone. I invite you to truly check in with yourself and ask, is social media serving me or am I serving it?

Keep up the self-inquiry and self-love my friends. xoxox




Learning from my shadows.....again

I received a heartfelt message from a soon-to-be friend on instagram a couple of days ago. This friend opened up about her struggle with weight, divorce, motivation, and the desire to develop a better self talk habit through daily journal writing yet a resistance to it in the form of lacking a deeper understanding of the purpose and the HOW.

Quite honestly, this message came to me at the perfect time, because I also needed the reminder. For me to stop and do a little bit of reflection and digging in to find the answer I could share and inspire for another, was the healing I needed at the time too. 

My response to her is threaded throughout the paragraphs below, however, I wanted to take some time to write it out in a way that speaks to me and speaks to anyone else who reads these words. 

The purpose of daily writing is to rewire your thought patterns. It’s not about writing the negative or the positive stuff - it’s about choosing thoughts that create space for you to be who and where you are now, which then provides you with the energy and motivation for action. It's hard to make progress or find contentment when consumed by what you don't like in yourself or what you lack. There are so many other things to think about, and there are many perspectives to try on that allows you to be honest with where you lack yet in a way that provides compassion and inspiration.

Definitely be honest about where you’re at and what you’re noticing, and then shift into how you are embracing it, what you’re learning from it, and what you’ll do to practice this shift in perspective. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves and practice our way into letting go, forgiving, accepting, and setting up action steps to move onward.

Most importantly, it’s okay to not feel okay. It’s okay to struggle and to feel as though you are retreating into yourself. It's okay to have habits and patterns that get in your way. We all do! The main difference in those who are still productive and perhaps even happy or content in their struggle, is their perspective. I try really hard to remind myself daily to embrace my imperfections, love my shadows, learn from my missteps, and just keep trying! It certainly feels better when you are engaging in life in a disciplined and internally directed way. And it feels better when you get the sleep you need and the nourishment you require.

We are human, we are imperfect, and we can be content with discontentment because it means you are alive and you have the opportunity to shift as soon as you’re ready or are forced to make a change due to life circumstances. Either way, you’ll do it eventually, and I’m right here with you. 

Every morning I wake up and look at my body in the mirror, and too often my mood is determined by the shape I see. How much did I eat yesterday? How much did I move yesterday? How did I treat myself yesterday? It becomes completely ego-centric when I allow my morning trajectory to be determined by my mind's judgment of my body's current state. There is so much more to me than the shell of my body. I have depth, and I am grateful for the opportunity this life and this body affords me. I want to step into each day with love and compassion in my heart as I embrace my shape and make healthy and mindful decisions moment to moment because that is how I navigate life with the fuel I need. 

I struggled with body image, severe depression and eating disorders for many many years. I wrote a book about my journey and my overcoming. And still, I am not immune to this very real human condition of self-doubt and depression. I struggle to stay motivated to engage with life. Sometimes I want to just sleep, and it feels difficult and consuming to engage with other people. I experience anxiety and worry that I’m not interesting. I judge myself harshly and become consumed mentally when I overeat. 

Yet, I know that being thin is not what makes me happier. It’s the pursuit of health and longevity that will invite in happiness. It’s the act of getting sweaty or taking time to meditate that brings about good feelings - at any size. I started this morning with a simple and short meditation - as I sat on a stool facing out the balcony window to take in the light and the buzz of the wind and the few cars on the road. I reminded myself - don't just do something, sit there. I noticed my mind wander to a few situations in the recent past that irked me, that disturbed me, and I can see now that there are a few things I am carrying around with me that are contributing to my low state. So often there is something real in life that has bothered me, and instead of dealing with it, I try to just let it go, yet the low vibration feeling stays with me and manifests in other ways. Our brain likes order and meaning, so it will attach to anything as a way to explain the low vibration feelings that are present. 

Focusing on needing to be thinner to be happy is just attaching to something tangible as a reason for your feelings of lack. To heal the hurt of your relationships that need mending or dissolving, and to reclaim your life with passion and purpose, you need to change the glasses that you perceive your life through. Retraining your self talk patterns is a great place to practice.

I call it being pragmatically optimistic. When I’m writing to rewire my thoughts, I start with what I notice I am feeling. I then ask myself questions about what else could be contributing, and what are some other perspectives to try on, and what’s something I can do today to learn, grow and let go. The process of asking and answering high quality questions is where the shift awaits! So, the questions I am sitting with today, and I invite you to do so as well....

  • What is one thing I can do today to mend the hurt from a past conversation or relationship that seems to be nagging on my psyche?
  • What is my self-loving and compassionate mantra to land on and repeat when I find myself engaging in a habit or pattern today that I am committed to shifting or removing from my life?
  • What am I giving myself permission to feel today?

To close, I have a beautiful quote to share from Angi Fletcher. She is a model, mother, and vulnerable advocate for body image and self-love practices. I stumbled across this and felt immediately hugged by her words. Enjoy ;) 

"There are seasons for everything. Happiness doesn't come in a body shape; health and vitality does; having more energy does; being able to move easier does; not being as depressed does. But all these things comes from what you put in your body and what thoughts you choose to believe, not just in the shape or size of your body. When I was in my thinnest body measurement wise, I was also at my thinnest capacity for love, patience, strength, adventure and happiness. Your body is your body. It is changeable, moldable, flexible and more capable than you can imagine. But it is just a shell. You are in control of your mind and what you put into your body to either make it a machine or a prison" Angi Fletcher

Mindfulness Practice

We have everything we need to live full and happy lives. When you understand how your "machine" works, it is a whole lot easier to navigate. Your body is smart. It has to be in order to live this life, to function with the ongoing chaos inside and outside your own physical boundaries, and to continue growing from infancy until you unfold into death's grasp.

Your brain wants to heal you. It’s main job is to keep you alive. But one of the fucked up ways that it does that is to be on the lookout for danger at all times, and it is overly sensitive to little things that could potentially be dangerous. Like an unmet glance, an unmet expectation, and something as simple as déjà vu that reminds you of something that was uncomfortable in your past. We are triggered 50 to 300 times a day to feel as though we are unsafe, and in that state digestion stops, healing stops, and we lose access to higher levels of thinking. A little bit of stress is good for you but too much of anything is no longer a good thing. This is why mindfulness is so important. With mindfulness we become aware of how we are feeling and what we are thinking about. From this awareness we are able to calm down and redirect our mind towards what we want more of rather than focusing on what we do not have or where we lack.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is mono tasking. It is fully investing in this present moment as it is, even when it is terribly uncomfortable. With practice we start to realize that we are not just our emotions or our thoughts or our body or our actions. We are all of those things and none of those things. If you can witness something then you are more than the thing you are witnessing. When we develop a stronger relationship with the witness we are no longer attached to the emotional pendulum swing of our day and rather find a calm and steady state where we are witnessing our emotions and able to efficiently calm ourselves down so we can be problem solver’s rather than sitting in the energy of the problem.

The goal is not to protect ourselves perfectly because then you will not grow and you will not build the resilience, through experiential learning, that you need. Let yourself be imperfect. Let yourself be messy. Embrace yourself as a work in progress and a masterpiece right now as you are. A non-dualistic approach to life and growth that allows you to love and accept who and where you are right now while still striving and working towards your goals and your ideal future. It is when we embrace the space between where we are now and where we desire to be that we get access to a reservoir of high-quality energy and tap into the magical flow of life.

Allow every day to be a new adventure and experience, and trust that you can navigate with a clear mind and open heart by taking time each morning to ground yourself, to notice where your mind is going and how you are feeling in your body, and then create action steps and reminders that will serve who and where you are now and where you desire to be. An intimate relationship and conversation and connection with yourself in order to honour the balance between remaining unattached to the moment and fully invested in what the moment has to offer. 

"I deserve to be heard"

The first time I heard the mantra "I deserve to be heard" was several years ago when I was introduced to the Chakra system. The throat chakra is one of seven main energetic centers in our being, and it is the home of expression, non-violent communication and generous listening. The reminder we receive when in contemplation of the throat chakra is that we each have a unique contribution and a unique perception of reality. It takes conscious communication to bridge the gaps between our-self and the other, to create and foster our boundaries, and to speak our truth, to ourselves and to others.

In a yoga teacher training a few weeks ago, I was invited to repeat "I deserve to be heard" while in a guided meditation. While this was not my first time repeating these words, there was something different in the experience this time. This was the first time that it truly landed. Tears formed in my eyes. A wave of love, peace, acceptance and power washed over me. It was like I had one hand tied behind my back unknowingly and someone just gave me permission and the tools to untie myself. It was an extremely cathartic experience.

As I have sat with this for a few weeks now, I am getting more clear on what makes this mantra so powerful. First of all, mantras are an amazing way to shift your self-talk patterns efficiently. 95% of what you say today you also said yesterday. We are creatures of habit. When you bring in new thoughts, and repeat empowering words or phrases (i.e. mantras), you feed your brain new energy and are more likely to repeat these words and phrases later on. Your words cast spells, and overtime, you will believe whatever you say about yourself. With any great power comes responsibility. Mantras are only one piece of the holistic puzzle of self development. We need to be face to face with what makes us uncomfortable and continue harnessing our awareness of our own patterns and habits that are not serving who we desire to be. From this awareness, we can edit as we go, shift our patterns and habits with self-talk, reminders, support and accountability. 

Every voice deserves to be heard. This doesn't mean you deserve to be heard more than others. It also doesn't mean you have the right to talk over others or that what you say is more true than what others say. It simply means, you have a voice and you deserve to use it and be heard. That's it, simple. This is not projecting a rule of any kind, it is offering up a tool for your inquiry and discernment. 

For me, what was so powerful was that I had been struggling with my ability to effectively communicate with my husband. My monkey mind can jump in wild directions, and sometimes I will begin sharing something without context or back-story to bridge the gap between his perception of reality, our physical environment, and where my mind has gone. In fact, this becomes a point of conflict for us as he pushes back on my share with questions like "what are you talking about? why are you telling me this?" Rather than keeping calm and walking back through the process of how I got from A to Z, I had a pattern of feeling sad that I wasn't understood, hurt that he wasn't more curious about what I had to share, and upset that I was creating a limiting belief and story that my husband is not someone I can share my raw and unfiltered thoughts or ideas with. 

I am not one to get stuck and allow limiting beliefs to take over, so I chose to get curious and inquisitive with myself to get more clear on this pattern and what shifts I could make to grow through this obstacle. 

When I repeated, "I deserve to be heard" in my mind, I realized that I had been holding on to a belief that I share too much and that I need to keep things to myself until they are polished and ready to be delivered efficiently and profoundly. While there is some truth in that, it is also not complex enough to embody the full truth. It is not a hard and fast rule that I want to abide by. I love the freedom of speech! I love that my mind is creative and thoughtful and that I can come up with wild ideas and put them into action. My goal is not to stifle my voice, it is to become more deliberate in how I communicate and to share more context so that the conversation is co-created rather than me talking at my husband (or anyone else). 

Like most things in life, too much of anything is no longer a good thing. And rather than swinging from one extreme to the other (i.e. from over-sharing to not sharing at all), I wanted to find the healthy balance. For me, "I deserve to be heard" is now the reminder I need to repeat daily to honor my voice and contribution. It reminds me to slow down and think through what I want to share so that I honor the power and influence I can have. It reminds me to allow unfiltered and raw conversations to flow, and not be too caught up in thinking that everything needs to be manicured and polished. Sometimes yes it does, and other times, raw and unfiltered is exactly what is needed. Each moment is a new opportunity and I strive to be present and engaged with what the moment calls for, and to do that, I need to remind myself that "I deserve to be heard."

And guess what?? So do you!

Why a Five Day Evolve Retreat is right for you

Why a Five-Day Retreat? Five reasons why we at Evolve follow a five-day format for our retreats:

1. Habits dig deep and we want to ensure you have enough time to move from your path of least resistance (i.e. your old habits) into a new direction that serves you well (i.e. your new healthy habits). Rather than being inspired for a couple days and then go back home to status quo, we are more interested in life-long sustainable shifts that will change your perspective and motivate you to keep doing the work.

2. We have a lot to share and we believe in the integral importance of balance. We could bombard you over two or three days with more information than your brain can handle, instead, we choose to spread the inspiration over five days so that it is a comfortable progression that will leave you fueled, nourished, rested, rejuvenated and motivated to keep your progress going at home.

3. Happiness in life is not achieved simply with insight. You need time to practice, integrate and have conversations that will support your development. In The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, he says,

“The level of happiness you actually experience [H] is determined by your biological set point [S] plus the conditions of your life [i.e., loving relationships, as well as having and pursuing the right goals, in order to create states of flow and engagement) [C], plus the voluntary activities [V] that you do.

H = S + C + V.”

We want to support you in all pieces of this happiness equation. We are complex beautiful beings and we must give ourselves the space and time needed to understand the layers that make us who we are.

4. We believe in experiential learning. Whether it is a hands-on cooking lesson or a nutritional tutorial before we sit down for a meal, a workshop about sleep, meditation, mindful eating, or goal setting, a group fitness class or a one on one session with one of our many experts on staff, we want to make sure you get access to everything we have to offer. A five-day immersion will ensure that you do not feel rushed to meet your needs and you do not miss out on any of the amazing benefits we offer.

5. We know from experience that momentum can feel nearly impossible to start, but once it is in motion, it is nearly impossible to stop. We have a five-day outline that will spark momentum into healthy and mindful living. We want to make sure that when you head home you feel motivated, clear and supported to continue the momentum you cultivated. The real work begins once you are back at home, and we are excited for you to put these tools to good use!

Growth Mindset to learn from - rather than stay victim to - your Triggers

What are triggers? They are strong emotional reactions that arise suddenly as a result of some stimulus, and it is the mark of a deep wound or limiting belief.

How do we learn and grow so that we do not get triggered? The answer is found in the pause between the stimulus and the impulsive reaction. Like a thorn in your side that you have spent years concealing, protecting, and avoiding in hopes that it will never be touched again, the only way to remove the trigger is to find the thorn and do the work to learn, release and heal. This takes patience, curiosity, and a growth mindset.

We all carry emotional baggage. Whether we are reacting to things in the moment that are less than ideal, or holding onto judgement, resentment, guilt, or sadness from past events that rocked us to our core; this emotional baggage weighs us down. Where does this come from? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why is it easier to pass judgement and compare ourselves to what we are not, versus loving ourselves whole-heartedly and choose forgiveness and compassion as our first instinct?

Like most things I am discovering, the secret sauce to shift into a new direction and create new habits starts with a change in perspective. First of all, your triggered state is not happening because of the person in front of you or because of who you are, it is the sign of a trauma or un-digested experience from years ago.

“No one situation or person is fully responsible for the magnitude of our emotional charge. That person or situation has usually caused an emotion to surface that was already there, connected to some hurt that occurred in the past. One of the consequences of our habit of ignoring emotions is that they tend to pile up. So most of us have backlog of emotional wounds connected to situations that we never dealt with or resolved” (Conscious Communication by Miles Sherts).

Triggers are not something you can just “let go” of. That’s like having a fracture in your femur and expecting that you can just will it away. I don’t think so 😉.

Once you are aware that you are in a triggered state, try this…..

1. Take a few moments to gather yourself by creating a sense of grounding. Connect with your breath and tune into 5-8 seconds for an inhale, a pause at the top, and 5-6 seconds for the exhale, a pause at the bottom. Get out of your fight or flight state!

2. Then, ask yourself, what do I really want here? What do I want for this relationship? How do I need to show up here to move through this with grace, vulnerability and authenticity?

3. Once you can remove yourself from the situation, find some time to put pen to paper and write about your experience. What did you notice as the trigger arrived? What did it feel like? What “need” was not being met in that situation? 

4. What follow-up is needed (perhaps a do-over to share more context into what state you were in?) What reminder do you need next time you find yourself in that triggered state?

 

Trauma is generally a multitude of layers. Expect that this process will take some time and exploration. Use the wisdom of the Growth Mindset to bring in high quality energy and focus more on the process versus the destination. A Growth Mindset points at the joy of continually getting better at something rather than being fixated on not being enough right now. It is about being in the process of improving and developing skills rather than trying to prove your worth and demonstrate your skills. This mindset is ideal for the personal development journey because you will be face to face with parts of yourself that make you uncomfortable (to say the least). Your relationship with growth, yourself, and this life will dictate how much energy you can cultivate in that pause before you decide what direction you truly want to go in. The skills you cultivate in self-inquiry will serve you for a lifetime. They are tools that will allow you to move through difficult conversations and emotions with greater efficacy and empowerment each time.

You got this xoxo

Tools to help train your brain

One of the things that has helped me learn and grow the most is the idea that everything is a relationship. We are relational beings. What makes our existence so complex is that nothing is fixed or complete when assumed to be objective. Whether it is an intimate relationship with another, a supportive and loving relationship with friends and family, an acquaintance or stranger, or the relationship you have to your own emotions, to concepts, ideas, or systems; the depth is found in the relationship.

I don't believe there is a universal meaning to life. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we see things as black and white. I think we hold ourselves back and show lack of trust in our own powerful minds if we think there is one right way to do something or allow our emotions to lead the way. I believe we are all capable of finding a collective community of love and support while honoring our own internal guidance and structure of purpose. The beauty of life is in the quality of our relationships.

The relationship I have been most fascinated with is the one I have with myself. Around 10 years ago, I found myself in a place of deep unhappiness and a sense of not having enough control in my own life. I felt lost, confused, beaten up, angry, yet hopeful that there was a way to create the life I desired.

As I approach my 31st birthday this month and have the big upcoming moment of publishing my first book, I feel called to slow down and take stock on what it has taken to retrain my brain to develop healthy habits, heal from trauma, and find balance in my mind, body, and soul. My advocacy for mental health awareness has been a huge motivation for my internal drive. The biggest thing that has allowed me to connect with the community, create experiences and continue my studying and exploration has been the realization that we are all deeply affected my mental health struggles - if not in your own mind then in someone close to you.

I have not been hesitant to share my story because I own it, I lived it, and I see it in so many others around me. I have learned so much from who and where I have been. I am now deeply connected to my higher purpose and am happy to stumble, fall, embarrass myself, or sabotage myself, because I have the discipline to not let that get in my way. I choose to see it all as learning and practice. 

I have realized that my greatest potential is birthed from self-love. When I have my mind, body and soul all aligned in one unifying direction - fueled by habits that I have chosen and not fallen into - I step into the version of myself I want to know more and more. 

In this state of power, choice and opportunity in absolutely everything, I am tuned into the universal vibration of expansion and contraction, which feels like I am being held by something far greater than just me as I grow and fall more in love with life each day. 

I have learned that when you love the process and engage in life with purpose and play, the journey becomes the jewel and the destination becomes less finite, as I feel whole and complete in each mindful breath.

My business - dope(a)me - and my role as spin motivator and yoga teacher, are all platforms for me to share my love for life and movement. My goal each day is to follow the paradigm I have created as my goal setter mindset, and to engage in conversations that will deepen our collective connection to our inner pilot light that celebrates others' successes while carving a path that has never been carved before. While some people might say they are special, and others may think no one is special, I choose to believe that we are all special and have the capacity to create a positive impact in the world.

The environment and conditions you are born into creates the initial foundation that is programmed into your mind and body. Your duty as your grow older is to un-become what has been fed into your system so that you can become the unique and powerful YOU that you have that privilege to be. 

We all get in our own way. Our mind can be tricky and our habits dig deep. What I have experienced for myself is the awakening that sets in when you learn to calm your mind. Your mind wanders and constantly makes up stories and entertains assumptions about your reality. Your ego is seductive. It is driven by a subconscious addiction to happy chemicals and an overcompensation from a feeling of low self-worth. Your ego is the result of your over-protective system that is seeking serotonin and dopamine - which increases your feelings of worth, pleasure, and importance; a biological insurance program to improve your chances of survival. It seeks instant-gratification and grows stronger when you are tired, stressed, overworked, or lack "real" confidence. Real confidence is not a display or need to remind people of your greatness. It is internally directed and validated in results and pure contentment. 

Acknowledge your ego for what it is. We all have one. It's your initial and impulsive reaction. When you develop a relationship with your ego, rather than being victim to its allure and possession, you begin to notice it and can choose to respond from your higher-purpose and directive. 

So, enough about me and my current understanding and practice in life. It's time for you to put pen to paper and play with ways of implementing new healthy habits into your life! When you know how your mind works and see more opportunity to question what you think rather than assume you have it right, it becomes a lot easier to formulate a plan, learn and collaborate with others, and be efficient in your development. 

Here are FIVE keys to get started in retraining your brain to become the person you desire to be!

1. What you resist, persist:

Rather than resisting your current habits, choose to focus on building new ones. You can't erase habits, but you can slowly stop feeding them energy until they grow over and lose grip on your subconscious. Use the power of a morning routine while you have fresh energy. Bring in new thoughts, ideas, goals, movement, mantras, etc. Eventually, conscious doing becomes subconscious being. Although it can feel awkward and backwards at first, your compulsions need love and compassion if they are ever going to be released.

Another way to bring in the fresh energy and healthy habits you desire is to spend time with someone who has the habit you want. We have mirror neurons in our brain that fire when we observe someone else. Our brain lights up in the same manner as the person doing the activity we are witnessing. Hire a coach, go to workshops, spend time in environments with healthy and inspiring people. Your brain will begin to build the pathway so you can mirror the behavior you want more of in your life. By the same token, you can begin to create new pathways through visualization. When you take the time to fully step into a feeling, a possibility, or a desired outcome, our brain prepares for that reality and it becomes more real in our mind's eye. Just be mindful to keep the distinction between a motivating imagined future-state and the expectation that reality will be just as you visualize it to be. Intimacy without attachment. We can drain our own energy when we fall in love with our expectation and find reality to be not as sweet.

2. Integration:

Get curious about the habits you already have and find ways to add in some new happy circuits onto the roots already in place. You will create new habits with ease when you find ways to tweak or add to the habits already in rotation. Bonus: Focus on what feels good and what is fun in this process and your habit will stick even quicker. 

3. Conserve and Create:

You need energy to create new habits. Take time to fuel yourself with self-care practices, meditation, nourishing food, rest, sweat, play, novelty, and gratitude. Nourishment is not strictly what you ingest. It is your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental well-being. So often our compulsions are triggered when we feel lack, and we look to food - or other quick hits of pleasure - for comfort or discipline. Your health and wellness is holistic and involves many facets. Perhaps your sense of lack is a signal that your mind, body and soul are craving an experience or breakthrough. 

Be mindful of where you expend a lot of energy already and practice ways to calm your mind and conserve some of that precious fuel for when you really need it. Some things are simply not worth spending energy on. Discern when to be in inquiry, when to just tell yourself what you need to hear, and when to simply be and embrace the moment for what it is. 

4. Compound Effect:

When you have big goals and changes in mind, your subconscious can be spooked into feeling like this task is too big to take on, and self-sabotage or exhaustion will set in. Do yourself a favor and break down your big tasks or goals into small steps, and make sure to celebrate along the way. Your ego needs to be fed in healthy and conscious ways if you don't want it to take over. 

5. Practice: 

Learn to embrace the space between where you are now and where you desire to. This moment is your life. It is worth practicing being in love with each moment so that you don't build a habit of only being focused on more or the idea that happiness awaits at a future destination. Once you have a rhythm and structure of learning and growth in place, it becomes that much easier to fall in love with the process and practice your trust and improvisation. Every moment is practice for the next moment. 

 

I hope you find some inspiration and tangible tools to play with from this post. I would love to engage with you if you have any questions or are ready to take on your personal development with my guidance and support. 

I want to leave you with this message I came across last night on instagram. This is from the @wildwomansisterhoodofficial account. A beautiful image of an older woman with so much peace and love in her tanned and wrinkled face. Her words speak to my hope and my practice of being guided with purpose while completely grounded and in love with the moment as it is. I saw myself in her and was drawn in to her amazing energy. Enjoy ;)

"I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.  

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; it's just not their task.

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; it already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe. I Believe." 

by Mary Anne Perrone

 

A Mental Model to Serve Your Monkey Mind

photo by Mark Derry 

photo by Mark Derry 

We are programmed to compare and take notice when we perceive someone as bigger, bolder, or more of what we strive to be. This deeply ingrained impulse is an overactive survival mechanism. At one point in time it was extremely beneficial to get a surge of neurochemicals warning us when someone else did something that furthered their importance above our own. This status dance would motivate individuals to make themselves indispensable in the tribe to improve the chances of safety and procreation.  

The problem is, we now live in a society where the lives and successes of others are displayed second by second at our fingertips. We see others paving their way through life and we see a lot more of what is good rather than the not-so-good that we all struggle with yet few of us are open and willing to share.

As I continue to make bold moves and brave leaps to grow my business and create a larger platform for my message of mental health vulnerability and best practices to find balance, I see and feel the effects of comparison every single day. Whether in my own self-talk or in the struggles of my clients, we all have a tendency to lose track of the big picture and get fixated on the small-minded comparison of ourselves to the other.

I am here to remind you that although you can’t control your instinctual animalistic reactions, you do have control and power in your response after the fact. Know your mind, understand where your effort is best invested, and carve a new path of least resistance in your brain that brings you to gratitude and motivation for action. How? Keep reading.

One of my favorite reminders lately comes from a book titled, The Honeymoon Effect by Bruce Lipton. He says “there are four brains in every relationship.” We have our best-self, which comes out in the beginning of a new relationship as we are excited and we don’t have assumptions or baggage already attached to what the other person says or does. Over time, we get comfortable and our triggered state begins to show itself. The impulsive reactions, the emotional assumptions, the unfair expectations, the cruel jabs at the other. Where did that person come from?

We are programmed to seek safety, to seek companionship and a tribe that feeds our soul, and to carve out a unique impact and purpose that will leave a legacy. Along with these beautiful human wants comes the tendency to compare, judge, and constantly strive for more. We find pleasure in progress, and we feel pain at any sign of rejection or not being seen by someone we want attention from. We need to feel safe, connected, and purposeful, and until we do, there is a constant flow of energy being invested in searching for ways to meet these needs. Imagine a faucet attached to the back of your body, and while these basic primal needs are unmet, it is as though your tap is turned on and flowing energy out of your system until there is nothing left, leaving you exhausted and wondering why. There’s not much we can do about this deeply rooted operating system, other than notice when it is there and respond with words and actions that ground, support, and release the old patterns.

We tend to avoid our feelings out of confusion and shame. We tend to judge ourselves and make ourselves feel wrong for having the feelings in the first place. Yet our good intentions can lead us astray, because what you resist, persists. You think you are being wise by brushing that problem under the rug, or avoiding the nagging feeling that something is wrong, or shaming yourself for not being able to “snap out of it.” Sorry to tell you my friends, you are sending more energy down that pathway that you are trying to avoid, strengthening it’s power and building a superhighway towards the very thing you are “ignoring.”

The only way through this internal struggle, is to get to know it, love it, embrace it, get curious about it, notice your reactions and try out new responses. Open yourself up to the beauty and connections that arise from being a vulnerable and proud imperfectly perfect human being.

This is not the type of work you can rush. This is the epitome of slowing down to speed up. We need to reset our foundation and build strong roots so that we can grow and handle the waves of life with grace and resilience.

A "mental model" is a great way to begin the process of excavating and cultivating. Mental models are our unique perceptions and understanding of life. They generally help us navigate uncertainty by projecting past learnings and experiences onto the situation at hand. They provide a proven pathway towards success or a learned pattern to avoid pain or failure. We can’t do the same thing over and over and expect to get new results. We are all growing and learning in phases, and we need to continue the principle of self-study to ensure we are updating our belief system and feeding our mind and body the nourishment it needs.

So I ask you, What seeds are you planting? Consider the mental model that your mind is a garden and your thoughts and actions culminate as the gardener. Before you create the garden of your dreams, you must dig deep and remove the weeds and roots that suck the nutrients out of the dirt or strangle the progress of new growth. While we plant new seeds, we develop a rhythm of care to ensure time and attention are spent to tend to the young and vulnerable plants. We need patience and mindfulness to allow the garden to manifest and to notice issues that could halt progress and take action to create a remedy. We need the resilience and trust in the process, so even if the garden is destroyed or is not in great shape, you know no failure is a final failure and every moment is practice for the next moment. It is important to find joy and develop a passion for the work so that it doesn’t become another mindless chore to check off your list. Surround yourself with other passionate gardeners and continue opening yourself up to new ideas and tips that could serve your journey.

 

Reflection Questions:

What change challenge are you facing in your life right now?

What is your mental model to approach this challenge with as much empowerment and trust in your ability as possible?

What are the key steps to take on this challenge?

What is your motivating reason WHY to take on this challenge?

What reminder do you need to repeat when the going gets tough?

A well timed and thought-provoking question can be the difference between standing proud in the face of your challenge rather than avoiding or hiding yourself from the possible pain of rejection. Know your mind. Know what you truly want. And set yourself up with the support, thoughts, mental models, and motivation you need to make the change. You are so much more capable than you realize. Tell yourself what you need to hear.

 

The WHY and HOW of Wellness

The Wellness Journey Heals Us All

I am so honored to be a part of the team at Evolve Retreat co. We are a group of passionate individuals who are striving to spread health and wellness through education, motivation, action, and support. Because of my fascination with words and the understanding that we often use words without knowing what they truly mean, I want to play with this word 'wellness.'

 

Wellness is a buzz word that has been growing in popularity. It is a reminder that as a society we are beginning to truly see the benefits in viewing our health and happiness as a by-product of many facets, and not a simple single ingredient as being more important than all the others. We are complex and unique beings, and we collectively share a desire for growth; it’s a biological imperative. We are all on a journey, and while we are all at different points and phases, when we come together to share in the experience and learn tools for motivation and resilience, we create an environment that heals us all.

To “heal” simply means to become “more whole.” This is a beautiful shift in our culture as more conversations are gearing towards healing rather than the fixed concept of “curing” which connotes a sense of something being wrong with you that needs to be fixed. To heal, you first need to tune in to the feeling of alignment based on your core values and goals. We need awareness of the energy and stories that have either been hidden or become attached to who you think you are. To heal, we need to let go of beliefs and patterns that no longer serve who you are or where you desire to be headed. It is a conscious and deliberate choice to shift your self-talk into a language of empowerment and elevation. We also need a sense and trust in balance, this looks like the occasional push outside your comfort zone followed by time to ground down and regain stability. From this new space, you then can expand and reach further. Imagine what is possible when you engage in that balance dance over the course of a year?? And finally, although you may want to rush and push your way through this, the best way to grow through the healing process is to embrace the journey with patience, love and compassion, as you realize that every animal (including our animalistic nature) responds best to being heard, loved, and respected.

Now, you may be sick of hearing that you need to be patient and take this journey with an open heart and a calm mind, but perhaps a deeper understanding of how and why will support you. 

HOW?

Seek more ways to bring high quality energy into your mind and body. Eat to nourish. Laugh to generate healing vibrations. Go on adventures and try new things. Engage in conversations about ideas, goals, successes, and struggles that create learnings. Put pen to paper and explore your thoughts and insights. Get the sleep you need to function and be just as passionate about your self care and "me-time" as you are about your action and effort. 

Too often we look at what is in the mirror to determine our self worth or health. But the inside is much more indicative of your picture of wellness. If you are on a strict diet but are miserable or have tension and anxiety built up around your diet or desired habit, you actually are doing more harm than good. Your mindset and mood need to be tended to just as much as the attention you put into your food choices and actions.

Rather than seeing nourishment as solely the foods you eat, follow the wise words of Marc David in his book “Nourishing Wisdom”:

“Biologically, nourishment is encoded in our genes as the body’s longing for perpetuation of itself through food and procreation. Psychologically, nourishment is encoded as our longing for perpetuation through creativity, relationships, community, work and the exchange of ideas. Spiritually, nourishment is encoded as our longing for self-realization. Whether it is a warm meal, a warm fire, a warm friend, or a warm feeling, the metaphoric mind interprets each as nourishment and will substitute food whenever other sources of nourishment run low.” 

What area of your life are you lacking nourishment? Don’t judge, shame, or regret your choices. Right now is all you’ve got and you need all that precious energy to be in action and to enjoy the ride.

WHY?

This one is up to you. We all have a deeper why behind our goals and change challenges. What is your bigger why? For example, to lose weight is a goal, but the deeper why is most likely driven by a desire to feel confident, energetic, and capable in as many situations as possible. Sure a diet will help, but when you are grounded in your deeper why you will see there are many ways to practice and bring this sense of wellness into your life. The goal is not the point - it is important and necessary to give yourself direction - but it is not the only point! Your reward is not waiting at the end of this journey, it is a practice and deliverance based on the daily work. Life is right now, in this moment, so the work is in tuning into the present and finding contentment and gratitude along the way. 

I leave you with this, what are you doing today to engage in the healing process? We all have old wounds that need mending. We all have parts of our past that are sitting in our psyche and body undigested or misunderstood. What are the first few steps to health and wellness in your life? Trust that when you are aligned in your core values, engaging in activities and with people you love and are inspired by, and are taking incremental steps towards your goals, you will tap into a reservoir of energy you didn’t realize was available.

 

*If you are searching for professional help, try starting here...

Everything is an offer

To live in the world of personal development means to be constantly face to face with your hypocrisy and your own areas of improvement. It's not easy. But, it also means a lot of excitement and pleasure as you see positive change in your life and feel the result of your hard work paying dividends. I have found that the concept of "intimacy without attachment" is a great reminder to find the balance point and contentment with the moment while in pursuit of betterment. It reminds me to be passionate and desire for more while embracing this moment as it is because I cannot control what the future holds. It also reminds me to conserve energy by expecting the unexpected and to behave in a way that allows others to also have freedom and space for growth. "Intimacy without attachment" is one of many concepts and mantras I use to create and conserve quality energy for my journey.  

I am mindful of the fact that my work, currently, is in playing with the balance between pragmatism and compassion. I have found that a way to conserve energy is to be picky with where I allow myself to be influenced by others, more specifically, who and where I invest my emotions. It's become a dance as I notice my energy getting pulled into someone else's struggle, I allow myself to feel it and send some love and empathy, but then I re-center myself with the reminder that it doesn't do us any good if I turn "your struggle" into "our struggle."

I have witnessed that I am much better at supporting a shift in perspective or leading by example when I allow myself to stay open and rise above the momentary struggle. While this is an efficient way to operate, the shadow side is that at times when emotional investment and a compassionate shoulder to cry on is needed, I will choose curiosity and protect my energy from being drained by other people's "problems." This is not good or bad, right or wrong, it is just something to notice and play with so that I can lay my head down each night and feel confident, proud and aligned in my decisions as I reflect on my day. I want to be felt as a compassionate, vulnerable, and supportive person. And I need to continually check in with myself to ensure that my intentions are showing up strong and true in my actions. 

 

What I find most interesting about this recent realization is that my response is to see it as an offer to open up a bit more and trust my own strength and capabilities. I rarely feel guilt or feel a loss of power when I see my intentions are not aligned with my actions, because I know that that takes time and energy. I see the error in my ways, I learn what I need to learn, I readjust my aim, and then I get back into the practice of living life.

I see these insights as an opportunity to practice being a better coach, a better friend, a better daughter and sister, and a better partner. Because I am far from perfect and I would love for my family and friends to see that I am trying hard to be the person they deserve to have in their life. 

Everything is an offer, if you let it be. Perspective can always be shifted to see what you may have missed or what you have not been habituated to see. It becomes an offer when you can choose to respond in ways that invite connection, acceptance and creativity. You spread this offer wide when you start your response to a situation with "YES, AND...." Perspective expands when you can see the potential all around you and open your mind to receive the feather into your calm soft palm rather than grasping and forcing. 

This blog post is inspired by this book. An amazing title and an even more amazing read. This book plays with the beautiful lessons we can take from the world of improvisation and how that can open your mind and life in ways you may not see as possible.

This blog post is inspired by this book. An amazing title and an even more amazing read. This book plays with the beautiful lessons we can take from the world of improvisation and how that can open your mind and life in ways you may not see as possible.

I would love to have an impact in this world that leads us towards mindful and balanced living. I would love to see everyone unplug more often and take their down-time seriously. I would love to see more people create some space in between their initial impulsive reaction and their thoughtful and grounded pragmatic response. I would love to see more people crack open and share what keeps them up at night and what fears creep into their minds during the day. I want to see more bold and brave creativity as people get out of their self-doubting heads and allow themselves to show up and make their passions known. I want to see people setting goals and achieving them, making bold requests and standing tall in their higher purpose, stretching the limits of what's possible and seeing beauty and life-affirming magic in stepping outside their comfort zone. 

That is why I lead by example and do my best to share what tools and conversations can support the process. I want you to create and conserve more quality energy so you can experience bliss, passion, excitement, pleasure and purpose in a balanced and sustainable way. 

So cheers to balance. Cheers to practice and play. And cheers to embracing our imperfections so that we can create space and conserve energy for the journey towards our best self. 

;)

photo by Mark Derry

photo by Mark Derry

Set & Flow

I am so excited to be creating an ongoing collaboration with my friend Jordan Smuszko at his space The Village (4039 Brentwood Road NW). Our goal is to host a simple event that is focused on mindful movement and building forward momentum as I guide you through a journal session at the end to reflect on the past month and create actions and good vibes for the month ahead. 

Every first Sunday of each month, we will meet from 7 to 815pm, and we ask that you arrive 15 minutes early to sign a waiver and have some time to chill on your mat before we begin. We also want to make this as accessible and sustainable as possible, so we are asking for only a $10 cash drop-in (or $12 on credit card). If there is a good turn out and there is a want for more of these classes, we will be happy to add more. So show up and be a part of this movement!

This is an amazing way to build in some accountability and spend your Sunday evening with power, intention, and some inspiring people. 

Here are the dates for the summer. No need to register before hand, just show up and be ready to flow. All levels welcome!

Sunday June 4, 7pm

Sunday July 2, 7pm

Sunday August 6, 7pm