My 14 Ways to Live a Happier Life

I read this awesome article recently called 14 Timeless Ways to Live a Happy Life. As the content of the article is self-explanatory by its title, I won’t go into the details. I will only say that it brought me an amazing amount of perspective, clarity and joy. I was so inspired that I created a list of my own 14 ways to live a happier life. Enjoy!

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  1. Breathe: Breathing is the only thing we do that is both voluntary and involuntary. Thus, how we breathe has a direct effect on our involuntary nervous system. Have you ever noticed how you breathe during a stressful situation? I would hazard a guess that it’s short, sharp or hitched. Next time you are stuck in that traffic jam focus on your breathing – inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for a second, then exhale for 4 seconds and repeat. You will be amazed how just altering your breathing can calm your mind and slow down your racing heart.
  2. Forgive: So many of us spend so much of our lives either mad at someone or angry from some situation that happened in our past. This pent up animosity, regret, (insert your negative emotion here) is so bad for our minds and our bodies. Negative thoughts are contagious and will affect all aspects of your life, including your health. Try practicing forgiveness and releasing these emotions and feelings. You may be amazed at how freeing it is.
  3. Love Unconditionally: Love is the most powerful and positive emotion out there. It has the ability to transform lives. For all of you dog owners out there, think of how your pup reacts when you walk in the door at night after work. That, my friends, is unconditional love. Send this love out into the world and I promise some powerful love will find its way back to you.
  4. Never Give Up: You deserve to have the life of your dreams. Don’t ever sell yourself short. If you truly believe in something from the very bottom of your heart, you can find a way to make it happen. Not saying it will be easy, but you can do anything if you truly put your mind to it.
  5. Address Your Stress: You may have heard that stress is the main cause of 99% of all illness. Sounds about right. Stress is bad news bears folks. I heard a great segment on NPR a week or so ago about how even small, daily stresses in our lives can be detrimental to our health (check it out here). Scary right? What can we do to combat this? Breathing deeply (see #1 above) and exercising daily are two good places to start.
  6. Get Back Into Nature: Our bodies haven’t really changed much since we were cavemen way back when. Back in those days we slept on the ground and constantly interacted with nature. There is a term out there called grounding (or earthing), which is based on the principle that direct interaction with the Earth is beneficial to our health (get more awesome info on earthing here). So get out there and walk on the grass in your bare feet and get your hands dirty in the garden. You will get some great vitamin D from the sun and breathe in some fresh air while you’re at it.
  7. Eat Foods With No Ingredients List: Humans are animals. Yes, very smart ones that have evolved and invented some pretty cool things, but still animals nonetheless. Our digestive system and inner workings also haven’t really changed much since the cavemen days. As a result, our bodies are healthiest and happiest when we fuel them with whole, natural foods. Just adding a few more whole fruits and vegetables to your diet will do wonders for your health.
  8. Laugh: For those of you who personally know me, I absolutely love to laugh. Loudly. We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine.” Not only does it strengthen relationships, laughter provides a boost to your immune system and your energy levels and helps to counteract pain and stress. So get out there and crack some jokes! Even corny ones will do 🙂
  9. Be Grateful: Remind yourself often of all of the wonderful things in your life and be grateful for them. It will help you when things are not so great. Tell your loved ones every day how much they mean to you.
  10. Choose To Be Positive and Happy Every Day: Every day when we get out of bed we have a choice. We can choose to be happy, positive, kind and loving. Or we can choose to be negative, angry and hurtful. Of course there will be days when we are sad, that is inevitable. But remembering this choice may bring a spring to your everyday step and help us kick the blues faster when we are down for the count.
  11. Remember That It Will All Be Okay: One of my favorite artists, John Lennon, once said – “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I try to keep these words in mind every time something difficult tries to trip me up. Life isn’t perfect and sometimes it throws us a curveball. Keeping these words in mind might just help you remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
  12. Try New Things: I’m sure that at some point in your life someone has said to you, “don’t knock it until you try it.” It’s true. How did you discover all of the things you currently enjoy doing? You obviously had to try them for the first time at some point. You never know the path new opportunities could lead you down. It may end up being the best decision of your life. Think about something new you’ve been dying to try and then go out there and do it!
  13. Every Day Is A New Day: Every day when we get out of bed we have the opportunity to start fresh. The Earth starts a new spin on its axis and the world reawakens from its slumber. Set aside the worries and woes of yesterday and take on the day with a clean slate and a new (positive) attitude.
  14. Don’t Look Back, Only Look Forward: We can only learn from our past experiences, we can’t relive them. I have always struggled with this one and have to remind myself that regret is just a waste of time. What we’ve gone through in our lives shapes us into who we are. Recognize that and use that knowledge to make your present and future the best that it can be.

Peace, love and veggies,

The Yogi~Foodie

Why Organic?

To buy organic or not to buy organic, that is the question. We are pummeled with a lot of information about organic food. But what are the most important things for us to know to help us make informed decisions when buying our food? Here is a quick bit on what I consider to be five key facts on buying organic…

  1. It is better for the environment. Pesticide run-off gets into our water supply and conventional farming techniques use more energy and deplete the soil. When we buy local, organic produce from our farmers’ markets or in our grocery stores, it has not traveled as far as products you may buy that are shipped in from around the globe. Therefore, it doesn’t take as much fuel to transport these items and they have less of an environmental footprint.
  1. Organic produce has been found to have at least two times the mineral content (calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphoruOrganic photos, etc.), less heavy metals and less pesticide residue than conventional produce. Pesticides, which are poison designed to kill living organisms, have been linked to diseases such as cancer.
  1. Everything we buy at the grocery store sends a message to the big food corporations about what we as a society want to eat. So the more processed food and sugary drinks we buy, the more money these companies will put into producing and marketing them. On the flip side, the more organic, local produce and meat we buy, the more likely these companies will realize the profitability potential of these items and the more money they will invest in them.
  1. You cannot wash off the pesticides. Just like we absorb things through our skin, pesticides are absorbed into food when the crops are sprayed, so you will still be exposed to traces of them when you eat conventional produce.
  1. Pasture-raised animals that primarily eat grasses (the food these animals have always been supposed to eat) have greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, the good type of fat that helps to decrease inflammation in the body. Animals raised in feedlots that have a corn-based diet have a greater amount of saturated fat, which has been linked to obesity and high-blood pressure, among other health issues.

Yes, buying organic is more expensive. If you can’t afford to go all-in, I suggest you focus on buying organic meat and dairy, as well as items listed as the “Dirty Dozen” below, which is produce that has been found to have the greatest traces of pesticides. The “Clean Fifteen” below are produce that has been found to have the smallest traces of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group compiled these lists. For more information, check out their website – http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/.

The Dirty Dozen (or The Filthy Fourteen?)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry Tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Peaches
  8. Potatoes
  9. Snap Peas (imported)
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers
  13. Hot Peppers
  14. Kale/Collards

The Clean Fifteen

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Onions
  11. Papaya
  12. Pineapples
  13. Sweet Corn
  14. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  15. Sweet Potatoes

~Love, peace and (organic) veggies~

The Yogi~Foodie

My Healthy “Eating Philosophy”

I hate the “D-word”. Diet.  I feel like it has such a negative connotation in our society for so many of us that merely the use of the word can negatively impact the body on a subconscious and energetic level. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of this word? For me it is the feeling of disappointment, failure and other negative self-directed thoughts. I know I am not the only person out there that feels this way, which makes me sad. I don’t want to get too much into my thoughts on our culture and media and its affect on our health (that’s a whole other blog post for another day!), but I will say that our thoughts surrounding what we eat and how we feel about what we eat is mainly impacted by the diet industry and its massive media machine. So for the sake of avoiding this word-that-must-not-be-named, let’s call it an “eating philosophy.”

Americans spend north of $60 billion annually to try to lose pounds, as reported by the US News & World Report in January 2013. That is a massive number. Take quick trip down memory lane and think about some D-words you have been on. Did they work? How long did you lastIMG_1132 before you gave in and gained all or some of that weight back? How did you feel when you were on this diet? Chances are a lot of people have answers to these questions. I certainly do. Yeah they worked for a little while, I felt pretty crappy for most of it and they definitely didn’t last in the long run!

I have been on a bit of a personal journey of late (as discussed in my first blog post) and think I have finally found my true eating philosophy. It’s still a work in progress and some days I fall off the wagon, but isn’t life a work in progress, ever changing and evolving? So too must be the way we eat. And here’s the catch. We are all different. Every single one of us. We all come from different backgrounds, have different activity levels, different jobs, different genetic material, and live in various geographical locations. So why would one way of eating work for everyone? It doesn’t.

Instead you must find what works best for you. Sounds like a pain and time-consuming, but you only get one body and one lifetime, so why not? What do you have to lose? Once you start feeling better, and it won’t take that long, I can guarantee you that you will be a lot more excited. The first thing is to get back in touch with your body. Are you really hungry or is that your mind and emotions talking?  How much water are you drinking? Dehydration can also manifest as hunger. How do you feel after eating certain foods? Does your body react negatively to certain things (i.e. digestive issues, heartburn, fatigue, other aches)? Try experimenting and not eating that food for a week or so and see how you feel.

Here are a few things to live by that I have learned from some experience:

  • Generally the body enjoys foods grown from nature instead of those processed in a lab.
  • Read labels! If you don’t recognize an ingredient on the list, chances are your body won’t either and won’t be able to properly digest it.
  • If produce is too expensive for you, supplement some of it with the frozen stuff.
  • Buy in season, it is always cheaper.
  • Don’t like vegetables? Roast a little in the oven with some olive oil for 30 minutes and put it on top of your favorite pasta.

If you can’t give up that afternoon soda, try upping the amount of water you drink during the day. If you are having trouble kicking processed food (and it is tough, they make it that way), try eating it with some healthy vegetables beforehand. Always crave something sweet after dinner? Try making yourself a heaping bowl of fresh fruit. This concept is called crowding out. Add in the good stuff slowly, meal by meal, nothing too drastic. Even just a few times a week is a great start! You may find that, over time, you are eating less and less of the crappy, artificial stuff.

The most important thing is to go at your own pace, experimenting and finding the types of foods that you enjoy most. If you are goal driven, maybe set some weekly or monthly goals for yourself. If you like to write maybe start a food diary where you write down your thoughts and experiences and how you feel. If you like to experiment and play around, hop on Pinterest and find some fun recipes. Stay positive and try to enjoy yourself. We are all wonderful, individual human beings that are built differently and bring different energies to the world. So embrace your individuality and kick the D-word for good!

The Road Less Traveled

Excerpt from The Road Less Traveled by Kit McCallum:

“For each individual is … unique … and personal.

And that is why … while standing at a crossroads,

Only “we” can formulate the decision for ourselves;

The true direction that lies within;

The choices we must deliberate on with clarity and wisdom.

For it is only through personal reflection,

That we can now choose our destiny;

… Our next adventure;

… And the future we will embrace.”

 

Pretty much everyone is familiar with Kit McCallum’s poem on the road less traveled. But have you really taken the time to read the words and reflect on them? If I had asked myself this question 3 years ago I would have just shrugged and said, “yeah, it’s a poem about life and how it’s better to choose the road less traveled.” Yes, very profound, but poetry comprehension was never one of my strong suits. When I look back now, I know that I never really understood this poem because I had never chosen the road less traveled. Yeah, I had traveled my own road, but in a way, it had always been paved for me. Now, only after choosing the unbeaten path, do I truly have an understanding of those words and the profound impact they can have on your life.

I took the practical route through college, majoring in accounting because it was something I was good at and I knew could guarantee me a job upon graduation. For the longest time I dreamed about being a successful career-driven woman who kicked ass and took names on a daily basis. The picture in my head was always of me strolling down a New York City street in a power suit. I stayed an extra year to get my masters degree in accounting and studied for an entire summer to pass the CPA exam. At that time I was excited about what the future held and more than a little naïve of the realities of life. I started a job at a public accounting firm and moved to the “hip” part of town where all the young 20- and 30-somethings lived. I had dreams of a fast-paced life filled with chic clothes, hip drinks and hangover-less mornings after nights out on the town. Realistic? Yeah, maybe in a Sex and the City episode.

Slowly over the span of a few years the reality of life and working day in and day out for the next 30+ years sunk in. I began to question my path in life and whether it was something I really wanted. I had a great apartment, wonderful friends and a loving family, but deep down I wasn’t truly happy. At the time I had no idea the reason for this general unhappiness. Was it my job? Was it my weight? I didn’t know, so kept on trudging down my paved path, not truly finding what was missing in my life. I figured that if I just followed this path I had dreamt about for so many years and reaching the success I sought, I would eventually find happiness. But sometimes a girl’s dreams don’t turn out to be what the woman wants…

Then came the first decision leading me towards my own path. After what I can only describe as an intuition that this was the right thing to do, I got a dog. A beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that I named Tucker. I was 25, had never owned a dog before, and had absolutely no idea of the responsibility that came with being the mother of a puppy. While Tucker has challenged me in ways I could never have imagined when I got him, he taught me the meaning of what it was to like to love unconditionally. Despite our ups and downs, I would never take back my decision to get him. Looking back, this was the first time that I truly listened to myself and trusted a gut feeling that this was something I was meant to do.IMG_0676

The second time this happened was about a year later. For years I had dreamed about living in San Francisco. Having visited my family there many times, it was a city I was familiar with yet seemed so different from what I was used to growing up on the east coast. I decided to quit my job, pack up my things, and move Tucker and I to the City by the Bay. Again, deep down I knew that this was something I was meant to do and that I would regret never trying.

I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with family for a month while I found a job and an apartment. I decided to remain practical and get another accounting job that paid enough for me to be able to afford an apartment in a good part of town. It was a gorgeous studio apartment; classic San Francisco (those who are local will know what I mean). Everything seemed to be working out. Then I became lonely and homesick for my friends and family. I realized that I wouldn’t just meet people and have a network of friends immediately. I realized that the long hours at the job I had taken would make that even more difficult. I trudged on, taking Tucker on long walks and hikes to explore the city and my neighborhood.

After a while I realized that I was really tired. All of the time. I also realized, with alarm, that I was consuming a venti Starbucks coffee daily, followed by venti-sized black teas and green teas. And I was still feeling droopy eyed at my desk. I told myself that this cannot be normal. I went to see a few doctors, got some lab tests done. They all told me I was fine. Then one of my closest friends in the city who I knew from college shared with me her health story. It changed my life. She told me that she had once experienced symptoms similar to mine. She recommended that I send my lab results to her naturopath, who took one look at my results and told me that I was not fine. I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid (hypo-thyroid), adrenal fatigue, low levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine that responsible for helping you to feel positive and happy, and a hormone imbalance. It was a lot to take in. On the one hand I was happy I had answers, but on the other hand I was terrified. I didn’t have much of a support structure in the city and was barely scraping by financially as it was.

I began taking thyroid medications and a steady stream of natural supplements to help bring my body back to its natural balance. This friend, to whom I will be eternally grateful for helping me to change my life, also re-introduced me to yoga and introduced me to energy therapy and the impact diet has on your health. I started going to yoga a few days a week and started cooking all of my meals from healthy, natural ingredients, completely cutting out processed foods. I began working with an energy practitioner to clear energy blockages in my body that were negatively impacting my health. It took some time before I started to feel better. While it wasn’t the ultimate goal, I lost weight and began to feel comfortable in my body. Yoga helped me to slow down. Energy therapy taught me of the power of following my intuition and the power your mental state and thoughts have on your health. Both taught me to listen to my body. My diet helped to bring a clarity that I had never before experienced.

I continued living this way for a little longer, slowly discovering how I wanted to live my life and building my future. After two years I decided to leave the city and return home to the east coast. While part of me looks back on my time in San Francisco and remembers the devastating loneliness I sometimes felt, my time there will always forever be remembered as the time that altered my path in life forever. I went to California a lost girl desperate for change that would jolt me into happiness and a feeling of fulfillment in my life. I returned with renewed confidence and better knowledge of what I wanted out of life and how I wanted to live my life.

I decided to return to accounting and moved back to my old neighborhood right outside of Washington D.C. But even though I was returning to some things from my life before my move, there was a key difference – the belief that I was on the right path of what I was meant to do with my life. Today I continue to explore that path. It is never ending and I am okay with that. Every bend has its challenges, but can also bring happiness and joy. I have learned that sometimes life’s greatest challenges lead to some of its greatest discoveries. I have recently taken another step and started a year-long online program to become a certified holistic health coach. Whether this new bend in the path will lead to a possible new career opportunity, I don’t quite know. For now I will just go with the flow, focus on continuing my path to health, nurturing the relationships with friends and family that surround me, and trusting that life will unfold as it is meant to be.