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Wellness Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Archive for the ‘Wellness’ Category

Happier this Holiday; 4 Simple Tips

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

With holidays in full swing, it’s hard to ignore the hailstorm of glittery magazine ads, TV commercials and gift lists.  So it’s barely surprising that this time meant for focus on family, appreciation and sharing tends to turn into a combination stressfest spending spree.

Fortunately, it’s easy to try a different kind of holiday this year, one that involves less over-commitment, guilt and anxiety.  When you focus on giving your attention and intention to the ones you love, including yourself, less stress and more time to enjoy life will naturally follow.

Here are four simple steps toward a less stressful holiday season, no inebriates required:

  1. Make your happiness a priority!

Over commitment is one of the major causes of stress and stress leads to unhappiness.  It’s okay to set limits for yourself and uphold them, which sometimes means having to say no.  As explained in The Happiness Project:  One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

  1. Presence over perfection.

We’re so bombarded with media images at this time of year, all designed by the best minds in the business to make us feel the need to achieve a certain level of perfection.  Decide what is important for your family and make that the center of your celebration.  When we make a conscious decision to appreciate what’s most important, a lot of the little things that otherwise stress us out become less noticeable.

  1. Meditate, even for a few minutes.

Research shows that meditation, even just ten minutes a day, is one of the most reliable ways to increase our natural tendency toward happiness.  And don’t worry about being good at it  Because even if you are terrible at meditating and your mind races and you struggle to sit still, those few minutes are still beneficial in improving physical, mental and emotional well-being.

  1. Skip the super-size….on everything!

Shop less.  You’ll have more time, extra money and create less waste.  We’re so programmed to believe we have to meet some set of expectations that may not even be accurately understood, we often unnecessarily overdo it.  Communicate with people you’re exchanging gifts with and see if down-sizing is an option.  Or if not, get creative.  Coupons for activities together (your treat), resale gifts or even home-made items make meaningful, less expensive gifts.   There are many ways to reduce spending and save time over the holidays, reducing your consumption is one of them.

So consider adopting even one of these habits this holiday season and see how it goes!  (and of course if you shop local and buy organic, all the merrier!)   However you do it, be present, stay calm and enjoy your holidays!

Byron Katie on Making your Goals a Reality

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

When it comes to things like health, happiness and productivity, we tend to habitually undermine our efforts without even realizing it!

Ask any busy person why they aren’t living their best life; exercising as much as they’d like to, staying in touch with friends, or getting enough sleep and you’ll get the same answer; “I don’t have time”.

We make that declaration without even cross-examining it.

Enter bestselling author and thought leader Byron Katie, who recently addressed a crowd of thousands in San Francisco at Wisdom2.0. Katie’s process, which I first encountered 5 years earlier, is as rock-solid logical as I remember.  It’s amazing to watch a change agent insightful enough to turn disempowering reasoning on its head with one simple sentence; “is that true”?

Plot spoiler; it almost never is.  Katie excels at talking volunteer audience members through what they perceive as their fixed reality, and opens their eyes to new options.  This simple technique is so highly effective I invite you to look at your own “I don’t have time” reality, and see if you can find some room to reprioritize your well-being.

And if you’re still convinced you simply can’t splurge on self-care, you’ll be relieved to know that daily health habits like good nutrition, adequate rest, exercise and meditation actually boost productivity, so don’t worry, you’ll make up for it.

Fortunately basic self-care habits don’t need to be time-consuming. Have you been putting off committing to a regular exercise practice because you don’t have the 90 minutes in your day to devote to a spin class?  Or waiting until your calendar is clear of pending social engagements to being a healthy eating plan?  Is it because you don’t have time?

If the answer is anything other than no, consider the words of Byron Katie, is that true?

Here are 3 simple ways to begin making your goals a reality, starting today!

  1. Think Big, Start Small. Your 5-year vision may place you in a stimulating work environment, a great relationship, a size 5 jean or a regular workout routine, but no matter how big the goal, your first step needs to be a small one.

For example, start with:

  • 10 extra minutes per day of work-related reading
  • Schedule a regular weekly date night
  • One push up per day (there’s an entire book based upon this one)
  • Swapping sugar-sweetened beverage for stevia-sweetened tea

The idea is to choose one simple, sustainable step toward developing a new habit and then integrate it into your sub-conscious routine.  This could take weeks or months, it’s different for everyone, but once it’s ingrained, that’s when you just do it – no willpower required.

From there, you can layer another small step as you move closer to your long-term vision.  And each step, as in any change of motion, becomes successfully easier.  You can do this!

  1. Pre commit, which means set yourself up for success by streamlining your environment for a win. One major barrier to getting started is the procrastination trap.  Your subconscious mind will find any excuse to avoid taking that first step to new habit formation, so remove any obstacles to success or anything that might test your willpower and just get started.

Here are some tips you can use to overcome the motivation trap and set yourself up for success:

  • Schedule your new habit in advance
  • If payment is involved, pay in advance
  • Enlist a reliable friend to join you
  • Join a group
  • Remove or hide any temptations or diversions
  • Keep the choices you want to make the most accessible
  1. Set yourself up for success. Another big barrier to new habit development is keeping your goal top of mind.  Unless we use cues in our everyday environment to remind us, chances are we’ll forget about our goal so often that eventually we just give up altogether.  One effective strategy is to create cues that work for you.

For example, say your regular routine when you come home from work is to drop your keys on the counter and head for the fridge.  Place a cue, like a reminder note in the entryway, put your workout duds near the door, and turn that snack break into a 15 minute walk around the block before you have time to talk yourself of it.

Here are some simple reminder suggestions to keep you on track:

  • Plan ahead the night before
  • Use your cell phone or mobile device to remind you to remember your new habit
  • Post notes in places where you can’t miss seeing them
  • Keep your gear or accessories highly accessible

Change takes commitment, and yes work too; but if you’re not working toward your goals, you’re working against them, so take the time and make the commitment to prioritize you, starting today!

More in Byron Katie and the work at http://thework.com/en.

Insomnia SOS, An 8 Step Action Plan

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

This week’s focus was originally fast and frugal fall foods, but with the sweltering week-long Northern California heat wave I just couldn’t bring myself to post it. At the same time, a bout of insomnia that can only be explained by a combination of heat and hormones had me all a-fluster. After 5 torturous nights I began to see sleep-deprivation for the sanity-testing problem it can become.

When people asked me for sleep suggestions, my advice was simple; regular schedule, no caffeine after noon, unplug at least an hour before bed, you’ll be fine. I had recently even adjusted my regular sleep schedule so I was getting up earlier and getting more done, which was nice. Looking back, I suppose I was feeling pretty smug.

So did I get my words served up on a silver platter when I found myself reduces to tears at 3 am after a week of sleep deprivation.

It was the same every night; falling asleep, no problem. Staying asleep? Bloody hell. I tried all my usual tricks and practiced the deep breathing techniques that typically work. Nothing.

I take my slumber very seriously, and given the studies associating lack of sleep with all kinds of unpleasantness, from weight gain to depression, so I was determined to resolve this, fast.

I found an article written by Dr. Shelby Freedman Harris, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at a highly accredited medical center in New York. Since reliability on these matters can vary and there are dozens of suggestions for cures, I thought Dr. Harris’ advice was both succinct enough to manage and safe enough to trust.  Steps 1-5 of the Action Plan below are based on her suggestions, and I added a few more culled from various sources to incorporate the additional measures that in combination delivered results.

Insomnia SOS, An 8 Step Action Plan:

1. Dim your lights an hour before bed time to start winding down, but not so dim you can’t read (I added that last part). A good magazine is an easy-reading treat if you don’t have a good novel.

2. Avoid looking at anything with a screen. This includes phone and TV. This is the most challenging suggestion for me, since I like to watch videos to relax before bed, which clearly was not the right strategy.

3. Practice a body-scan meditation right before bed to help you to relax. Here is a link to a good one:

4. Focus on your breath as you try to relax and keep ruminations at bay. This can be hard when you’re in an emotional place. Another expert suggests it can help to actually get up and write down your challenge to revisit tomorrow, which sounds like a good one to try.

5. If it’s not working, try getting out of bed and repeat the body-can meditation again. As counterintuitive as it sounds, Dr. Harris recommends staying in your seated meditation until you’re sleepy.

These exercises did help somewhat. But again I found myself up for close to 2 hours over the course of the night.

I knew needed to step it up so I did some more research.

6. This simple yoga pose (see top of post) was featured on Health.com to help with relaxation but will it cure the meno-insomnia blues? Considering I could do it in my pajamas it would be 5 minutes well spent, so I added it to my nighttime routine. I can’t say I noticed a measurable difference in sleep quality, so although I like the notion but the jury is still out.

The following day I recognized another possibility right there in front of me; supplements. I’ve read both positive and negative reviews about the efficacy of sleep supplements, so I thought I’d better review the options. It was hard to find valid research concluding that herbal sleep remedies really work. In fact according to an expert on Harvard Health Publications, the studies are actually inconclusive:

7. Valerian root “Some studies suggest that valerian is mildly sedating and can help people fall asleep and improve their sleep quality. But the evidence is mixed. An analysis of multiple studies of valerian’s effect on sleep published in 2010 concluded that people fell asleep only about a minute sooner than with a sugar pill.”

8. Melatonin has shown some evidence of reducing insomnia in people over 60, yet studies supporting its effect on the rest of the population are inconclusive.

L-Theanine and the other commonly recommended natural remedies fared no better in terms of scientific evidence.

Regardless, I had to give it a fair shake and I purchased a bottle of valerian tablets right away. As I’m posting this, I’ve had 2 successful nights of sound sleep for which I credit my combination of relaxation techniques, including the yoga headstand, and a valerian root supplement. Sometimes it takes a village.

I’m cautiously optimistic, but just to be on the safe side I’ve also gone 100% decaf. I can thank this little experience for teaching me to work a good night’s sleep into my daily routine, because now I know first-hand, few things are as important to happiness and well-being.

Let me know in comments if you have any helpful suggestions for getting good night’s sleep!

5 Fast and Frugal Foods to Fill Your Fridge this Fall

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Fall is beginning to sweep in its sweet breath of transition. Whether you have an altered schedule, different hobbies or new wardrobe, change is happening.  Coincidentally, times of transition happen to be the best time for creating new habits. One new habit worth learning is how keeping a few basic foods stashed in the fridge is a cheap and easy way to go.

For many of us, moving from packaged to home-prepared food is a special challenge, both because it requires some extra energy up front to get into the habit, and because we think we may hate it. So we end up putting off getting started.  So I implore you to start small and keep it simple.

I find that having preparing just a few simple foods will take you a long way over several days’ time, you can use them as side dishes for dinner, main dishes for lunch.  And don’t forget the snack potential.  You’ll end up with more nutritious, lower calorie snack options than the pantry typically offers, but the bigger surprise is how good these foods taste.

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Here are 5 fast and frugal foods to fill your fridge this fall:

Butternut squash:  Simply cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake for 45-55 minutes face down at 385.  Use a glass pan for easy clean up.  Add some salt, or a dash of garlic and a tablespoon of tahini for an delicious new twist.

Sweet potatoes:  Wash them well and keep the skins on for extra texture and more nutrition.  Bake them whole or cubed in coconut oil and salt at 385 degrees, for 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on size and preparation.

Garbanzo beans:  Don’t let the dried beans scare you, the overnight soak and 1 hour boil is well worth the simple steps!  Just soak your beans overnight, drain (the following day), fill a pan with water so it covers the beans by 5-6”, and simmer for about 90 minutes (until tender).  Serve with salt and cumin, or add to your favorite salad.

Quinoa:  Similar to rice, but a more complete protein that makes an excellent salad or side dish. Add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water and simmer, covered for 25-35 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and add ½ tsp. salt and combine with chopped veggies and fresh salsa, (purchased prepared if needed).

Cabbage salad:  Cabbage is amazing in its longevity, flavor and nutrient profile.  Why wouldn’t you keep it on hand?  It’s simple to sauté in coconut oil and Bragg’s liquid aminos or light soy sauce with a dash of salt and cumin.  Or dice it up and sprinkle with salt, rice vinegar and sesame oil for a yummy salad.

All of these foods can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days and retain their flavor and nutrition content quite nicely.  Make it easy to snack from the fridge vs. the pantry by treating yourself to a variety of simple, healthy whole foods today, no whole paycheck required!

Feeling Discouraged? Try these 3 techniques to stay on track with your goals

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Recently I was reminded of just how difficult the change process can be.  Ten years ago, I struggled relentlessly with healthy eating and body image.  After devoting the last decade to understanding good nutrition and healthy eating habits, my set of challenges has changed.  My passion for developing effective methods for using this information to help others presents a new set of struggles, and the emotions invoked can be just as painful.

Working toward a goal, whether it’s changing your eating habits, maintaining an exercise program or improving your skillset is always a challenge.  In the age of the iPhone, we tend to live in instant gratification mode.  This is why it’s easy to believe that the short-cut solution to achieving your dreams is out there – you just need to find the right one.

Newsflash, when it comes to changing habits for the long-term, there is no such thing as instant success.  Change is both a process and a struggle, but it’s not one we need to go alone. .As I face the challenges of growing a business, feelings of failure and gnawing self-doubt are inevitable. Unpleasant as they may be, they’re part of the process.  It’s tempting to look at other people who have achieved the goals you’re striving toward with something akin to envy as you wonder how they got so lucky.

Yet what we don’t see when we look longingly at the lives of successful people, is the blood, sweat and tears they put out to meet their goals just like you are.  The difference lies not in your ability, but your willingness to work through the hard times and keep moving forward.

So when the going gets tough, temptation is great and you just feel like giving up altogether, how do you get through the rough spots and stay the course?

Here are 3 techniques for staying on track with your goals:

1. Set a daily intention.  Do you have a wakeup ritual, or a short morning practice you do each day?  It’s a key strategy for super-stars from Tony Robbins to Marie Forleo.  This can take as little as 5 minutes of simply checking in with yourself and envisioning your goal for the day.  This simple practice reminds us to take one day at a time, and stay on track with our intention, even if it’s just for today.

2. Out of sight, out of mind.  If you’re regularly tempted by anything that threatens to stand between you and your goal, it’s time to restructure.

  • Don’t have anything in your fridge or cabinets you don’t want to eat, and if your living situation renders that impossible, at least place tempting foods and drinks out of plain view and swap in some healthier alternatives..
  • If driving by a favorite treat spot is too tempting, find another route.
  • Set up your environment so distractions like the TV, computer or other time-consuming activities are less visible, replaced by the goods that support your new habits – running shoes, meditation cushions, your gratitude journal.  We’re always being triggered by our environment; put your cues to work for you!

3. Find your tribe.   In their bestselling guide to forming new habits, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, the authors stress the importance of finding friends vs. accomplices.  Accomplices are those acquaintances that enabled your old habits, whether as participants or encouragers.  Friends are the people who will encourage you to reach your goals.  So even if  you need to join a support group or change who you spend your time with, ultimately this can make or break your success.

Remember, your goals are worth fighting for, and while forming healthy habits is a process and a challenge, when you change your life for the better, you’ll know it was worth every step.