Thursday, September 28, 2017

There is beauty in simplicity

Lately I have been scouring the internet for articles on simplifying life, decluttering, de-stressing, etc.... The fact that I have been doing this indicates that I feel a need, and that perhaps a simple, uncluttered, unstressed life is not something that I currently have.

There are so many good lists and suggestions out there, giving sincere and earnest advice on how to improve your life with less:  less "stuff", fewer commitments and calming down.

Everyone has ways to uncomplicate their life which are personally meaningful.  For some the main emphasis would be reducing time spent on SM and in front of a screen.  For others it might mean having that huge garage sale to get rid of half of their household contents - the half that are never used and just collect dust without paying rent.

Being drawn to this desire to simplify means that I yearn to find balance, to rectify my current state of overcommitment and not having enough hours in a day to do all those "shoulds" and "musts".

So here's my list of what I can do NOW, and it's a reminder to self to stay on track with creating the life I desire in a different location and career:

1.  Go through the physical stuff - the closets, the drawers, the storage locker, the cupboards - and get rid of anything that hasn't been used in a year (it probably won't ever be).  Movers charge by the box, and it's better to pay to have 30 boxes moved rather than 50!  Donate the stuff that is in good condition.  Giving feels good :-)

2.  Cybertime and screentime detox.  Set a timer to deal with emails for 10-15 minutes, once or twice a day.  If SM is a necessity, schedule and regulate time for that, and keep it to a minimum.  10 minutes per day for a quick post, Tweet or update is all that's needed.  Getting this out of the way early means it is off the plate early.  Keep emails brief and to the point.  Save non-priority emails and chats, Skype, etc. for the least busy day of the week and set a firm limit (with a timer!) for that as well.

3.  Make time for exercise and stretching.  Even if it's a 20 minute bout of cardio or 5 minutes of stretching on the living room floor while dinner cooks, it counts!  Exercise feels good and improves mental and physical resilience.

4.  Set a sleep schedule and guard it without compromise.  7-8 hours is needed for optimal health and functioning.  Short-changing by an hour or two will affect mood and performance the next day, and 6 coffees won't fix the deficit.

5.  Take regular breaks and vacations.  This could be an afternoon off, a massage (save the RMT receipts for taxes!), a drive to a forest or park for a walk, or an inspiring documentary when in the middle of a tedious project.  A vacation could be an overnighter with a sleep-in the next day, a weekend getaway somewhere relaxing, or a longer holiday such as a cruise or a plane trip.  Longer holidays require advance planning and more detail, but if done right they can be amazingly rejuvenating.  Make sure any vacation is based around stuff that is relaxing and enjoyable, otherwise it's not a vacation.  The reason I don't vacation with other people, as much as I appreciate the good people in my life, is that my vacations are for ME, not for catering to the whims of someone else.  If I spend the time trying to keep someone else happy making sure they get what THEY want - there's no point in being away.  A vacation truly has to be a vacation :-)

What would you do to simplify YOUR life?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

To buy organic or not? That is the question.

In this era of growing concern over quality of food, many people are turning to organically sourced produce and animal products in an effort to avoid contaminants and other toxins.  "You are what you eat" is as true today as it was thirty-odd years ago when my mother admonished me to eat my vegetables and drink my milk.  However, nowadays one has to ask where those veggies and that milk is coming from.

I'm a big fan of gathering information to make important decisions, such as what to put inside my body.  I'm also a fan of smart spending, so $12 for an organic cabbage seems a little pricey when its non-organic counterpart is sitting pretty at less than $4.  I did some research to find out just which produce items should be purchased from the organic section, and which ones don't have to be.

The readily-available list is called "The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen", and this link will take you to one of the many websites indexing these produce items.  I like this particular source because it rates the foods in terms of relative level of contamination as well:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/what-are-the-dirty-dozen-and-the-clean-fifteen/

How much of your food is organic?  Do you notice a difference between organic and non-organic?

Feel free to comment with your opinion on this topic!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weighing in on Plant-Based Eating

I officially survived the two week vegetarian experiment!  My first week was totally vegan, and in the second week I added back egg whites and plain, skim, organic Greek yogurt for the beneficial bacteria.

I consumed WAY more fibre than I would in an omnivorous diet, I found some very tasty vegetarian foods which I am keeping in my diet (Amy's burritos and President's Choice meatless burgers), and my intestines feel superbly clean! 😀  I also discovered Freshii as a delicious lunch stop for wraps-to-go, customizable and 100% fresh.

It was harder to get the amount of protein I aim for in my daily macronutrient ratio, but with some vegan protein powder it was possible.

I am reading a book, also available as a documentary, called "What the Health".  If you want a sobering look at the harm caused by animal-based diets, especially the unsanitary and cruel conditions under which much of this food is produced, have a look.

I have decided to walk a line in the middle of the road, and adopt a flexible pescatarian diet.  This means a vegetarian diet that allows seafood.  Out of all the kinds of animal flesh one can eat, I like seafood the best.  I'll keep my organic yogurt and egg whites as mentioned earlier, and expand my culinary repertoire to include wild caught seafood that is very low in PCB's and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead.  I'm switching from cooking in butter to cooking with olive oil.  My flexible pescatarian diet means than if I am in an occasional situation where I could have organic free-range poultry or grass-fed beef, I wouldn't rigidly eschew that option.  For example, going to a restaurant that doesn't have anything in the vegetarian or seafood offerings that I would eat.

There are different types of vegetarians, and this article sums the categories up nicely:

http://blog.naturespath.com/vegetarian-vs-vegan-whats-the-difference?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=55445742&_hsenc=p2ANqtz--G7DhlMJ5vQmGCEwvFme2MHPIlKvN0jx0Ja4obepPNSqUt_H-naQI74pLKQuW2qTt60GE4OXWE0xTkpBR0qlhQ-0GUcg&_hsmi=55445891


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An edible experiment

One of my two top (as in trains with me double sessions four times per week) personal training clients has decided to make August a vegan month.  Having recently watched a Netflix documentary called "What the Health", he and his wife have decided to eat an exclusively plant-based diet for a whole month.  I don't have Netflix so I downloaded the e-book and will read it this month.  However, if you do have Netflix, check it out:

https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/80174177

In the spirit of solidarity I said I would join him for a fortnight.  Two animal-free weeks.  I dutifully stocked up on veggie burgers, lots of organic produce* from Whole Foods, and reacquainted myself with a plethora of beans, pulses and legumes.  I tested (and liked) a frozen breakfast burrito from Amy's, for those hectic mornings and Manic Mondays.  I've pushed aside cow's milk for nut milks and will cook with olive oil rather than my traditional butter.  I'm taking a good quality multivitamin to make sure I don't run low on vitamin B12 or minerals like zinc and iron which are more abundant in and better absorbed from animal flesh than plant sources.

I am curious to find out if I notice any change in energy level or intestinal functioning.  I believe that humans are omnivores, but I also believe that much of the food available to modern day humans is poor quality, polluted, and full of junk and chemicals that are harmful to health.  Dairy products are full of hormones, eggs are from tortured force-fed chickens, and most of the meat consumed by people is NOT free-range/organic/grass fed/wild caught, etc.  Not to mention all the processed stuff that is called "food" which is really just sugar, salt, fat and chemicals!  I believe that when you drastically clean up your diet, get the crap out of what you're putting into your system every day, then your body will feel and function a whole lot better.

Thank goodness I can still enjoy my daily almond milk cappuccinos!  :-)

*Some, but not all, produce is important to buy organic.  Read a future posting about what you should buy organic and what you don't have to.  The lists are called the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen".

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

If you want something, do it or go after it!

I was gently reminded by a friend of mine yesterday that I "hadn't updated my blog in a while".
A couple of months probably, I thought.  Today I had a look. Over half a year.  WTF???  How does time slip by so quickly?

One of my favourite sayings comes to mind: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper - the closer to the end it gets, the faster it goes".  Time really does seem to be speeding up.  But of course that is just my perception, or a subjective experience of the Theory of Relativity.

So it's time to crack open the blogging toolbox.  I have observed many people who simply wait for something to happen in their lives.  Then all of a sudden they realize they are 50, or 75, and life has gone by forever.  If you want something to happen in your life, you have to MAKE it happen.

If I want to post more frequently than at embarrassing six-month intervals, then I need to commit to this.  Nike says it best:  Just Do It.

This goes for maintaining a workout plan or starting a new nutrition program.  Neither will happen magically on their own if you just think about these things.  Thoughts and talk are cheap, all that counts is walking the walk.

If you post something on Social Media it can haunt you forever.  This is not the forum in which to make empty promises.  Ergo, if I state here that I will blog with a stipulated frequency, then I am morally bound to keep my word.

So how's this:  I will post AT A MINIMUM once a month.  That's a sixfold improvement from my recent track record.

In the meantime, I do a very good job at Tweeting every day, so when you're bored check out my Twitter handle: @STS_Health

TTFN.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wow, does time ever fly, 2016 will soon be history!

I am astonished that it has been over six months since I last posted.  To be fair, much has transpired in the last half-year:  the death of my father in Ontario and subsequent arrangements and travel, accepting a full-time job in another Lower Mainland city entailing a crazy daily commute (I recently left this job for a variety of reasons and remain on excellent terms with the company, my boss and colleagues), and the general whirlwind of life as a head of household, deputy management of multiple properties and maintaining some semblance of life discipline in regards to health practices.

Enough excuses; once more I am in a position to reflect on the final days of 2016.  I recently immersed myself in the audiobook version of "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne.  Most of the material was inspiring, compelling and extremely uplifting.  I remain skeptical of a few small sections where it seems that speculation was presented as scientific fact, but overall I highly recommend this work of auditory literature.  This is an excellent springboard from which to launch plans for the New Year:  "man becomes what he thinks about", and "what you think about and thank about, you will manifest".  If I am tired of seeing myself as an overworked, exhausted martyr, then it's up to me - and only me - to kickstart a new self-perception.

I recommend starting each day speaking out loud about the things you are grateful for.  If your housemates or partner overhear you - even better!  :-)  Start a trend of thanking!  Praise and bless all the wonderful things and people in your life, rather than obsessing and worrying about what you don't like or want.  "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness".

How was 2016 for you?  What do you have planned for 2017?  How will you move forward to align yourself and your life in every way with the bliss you desire?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Another 6 Steps "How to" article, addressing the invisible stuff of the mind

Mood plays a huge role in terms of hunger and food choice.  When my state of mind is challenged I notice that eating becomes less enjoyable and I eat more mechanically - because I know I have to.  Putting aside the dietary details of mental unrest, I took a deeper look at the root of the mind-food issue, and determined that repair needs to come from the inside out.  Fix the headspace, then fix the food choices and eating patterns.  I wrote the following article recently and published an abridged version on a business website, just the "6 steps" section.

I learned something incredibly powerful recently.  I have been living in a place of precarious uncertainty professionally, personally, and health-wise.  My predominant feeling about life could be likened to being on a treadmill where I didn’t have access to the controls, and on many days I could identify with Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote:  “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." No light at the end of the tunnel to strive towards, toiling for the sake of obligation to duty and providing for those who depend on me.

I was aware that I was fed up with feeling beset by the tedium of day to day life, that my jobs no longer brought me joy, that I looked for excuses to avoid socializing and that I was dragging my significant other down into my wet blanket state of mind.  With the death of my father last week and being forced to confront my family dynamics and deal with raw feelings of sorrow and loss, a simple realization struck me like hitting a brick wall at 60 mph:  I was the one responsible for my the way I was feeling.  Not outside events, circumstances or other people.  Just me.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said:  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Swap the word “inferior” for “bad” and insert the quote into my life.

I’ve always been a doer and a go-getter – someone who goes out and fixes things, makes things right for other people, and solves challenges.  This realization of my unique responsibility in my dilemma elicited almost simultaneously a feeling of “WTF do I do now?” and a glimmer of hope “If I am responsible for this I can fix it”.

I turned my focus to the task of strategizing – another thing I’m good at:  logical planning and organization – to come up a with a viable recipe to set my headspace on the right track so that the rest of my life would have a stable base from which to move forward, and came up with the following points.  I posted these as an article to a business website where I have been previously published.

6 Strategies to Conquer Negative Thinking

We all have those days - hopefully infrequent - where a black cloud seems to hang over our head and follow us wherever we go.  Moods can and do change, and are highly susceptible to our interpretation of events, more so than the external events themselves.

I would like to offer the following tips for helping to clear the clouds away more quickly, as go-to guidelines when needed.  Consider using them in the following order:

1.     When pervasive bad thoughts fill your mind, stop and ask yourself “How am I feeling around this thought?”  Chances are you are feeling bad – stressed, worried, unhappy, angry, etc.  Recognize that the way you are feeling is a direct reflection of your thoughts, which in turn engenders more thoughts along those lines.  According to The Secret*, as voiced by acclaimed author Jack Canfield** and life coach Lisa Nichols***, our feelings are a wonderful emotional guidance system and give us immediate feedback as to whether or not we are in alignment with our wellbeing and what we truly want.  If you are not feeling good, ask yourself “How can I turn this around – right now – so that I do feel good?”

2.     Identify the culprit.  It is tempting to say that “My boss is…..” or “My spouse is…” or “This wretched traffic jam is….” when in truth it is our response to these externals that is causing us grief.  In her book “Change Your Thinking” Sarah Edelman, PhD, refers to faulty thinking patterns which ambush one’s sense of contentment.  It is the way you think about your boss, spouse or the traffic jam that is causing you to feel bad.

3.     Do a 180.  Deliberately focus on something GOOD that is currently in your life, something or someone that you enjoy, are grateful for, or that inspires you.  When you shift your thoughts to a positive direction, your mood will follow suit.  When you are in a better mood the challenges are easier to deal with in a constructive way.

4.     Blast it with humour!  Recall the old adage about dispelling public speaking anxiety by imagining the audience in their underwear.  Apply this strategy to whatever other challenge you are facing.

5.     An extrapolation of the preceding point:  run with the bad thought – but ad absurdium!  If you are fuming about your server crashing in the middle of an important project, pretend that an army of micro-gremlins has invaded the hardware of your office and is planning to overthrow the entire company and set up a massive colony to enslave humanity by returning them to the ignorance of pre-internet days, where people will be forced to handwrite letters and use projectors for slide shows when making presentations.

6.     If a bad thought is particularly persistent, rather than try to beat it into submission and lock it in the figurative closet, look at it objectively and admit “OK, this is worrying/annoying and not my favourite situation, but as most things in my life are either neutral or pleasant, I can cope very well with this curveball.  I am very capable of dealing with frustrations.”

If you are still feeling negative and bummed out after trying some or all of these tactics, consider enlisting moral support, but do so with discretion.  If you are annoyed with a work situation, it may be unwise in the heat of the moment to complain to your boss.  Choose a trusted friend, mentor or counselor to share with.  And listen to what they have to say.  Often, the more objective advice of another person can reveal aspects of your situation that you hadn’t considered.

Good luck, and remember – you are stronger than you think.

* The Secret – spiritual documentary released in 2006 by Rhonda Byrne.  Amazing and highly worth the 90 minutes’ viewing time.
** Author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and others

*** Coach, motivational speaker and media personality, author of Motivating the Masses