Category Archives: Tips

Mindful Eating at a Hotel Breakfast Buffet–Hold The Sugar Please!

Sugar2I recently traveled out of town and found myself scanning a typical hotel breakfast buffet to find something I could eat. Imagine my horror! If you immediately know what I’m talking about then this blog will be old news for you. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then please continue to read, for your health’s sake. Continue reading

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Mindfulness Throughout the Day

Smiling“Mindfulness is easy. Remembering to be mindful is the challenge.“ These are wise words from Christina Feldman, a meditation teacher from England.

If you have tried to practice mindfulness, you know exactly what she’s talking about. In the moment, sensations are quite accessible–feeling your body, listening to sounds, hearing your thoughts, and feeling your emotions. But, it is truly amazing how we can block out our entire experience of being present with the busy activity of our lives. You can go all day without really being present for it.

So, here are a few ways that you can make mindfulness more accessible on a regular basis. These are particularly well suited for practicing mindfulness throughout the workday. Continue reading

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Mindfulness – A Very Productive Activity!

MindSetI recently introduced a small group of women to the concept and practice of mindfulness. As usual, people were very enthusiastic, curious, and a little confused about how practical it is to practice mindfulness on a regular basis. On the surface, it seems very obvious.  Everyone wants to be more present in their lives, right? Underneath the surface, however, there can be some anxiety about what actually” living in the present without judgment” would do to change you and your life.

I often ask people who have a hard time seeing the value in mindfulness, “how much time you spend getting to know yourself?”  Usually the answer is “Never.” You don’t think twice about inviting a friend for coffee or lunch to see how she is doing, but you rarely, if ever, spend time with you—cultivating the most important relationship you will ever have.  Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

You can start with a short daily meditation practice.  It doesn’t have to be very long.  Here is a meditation with awareness on the breath that lasts under ten minutes.  If you have never practiced meditation, you will probably be aware of many obstacles to sitting and “just breathing” for a period of time.  Namely, you could experience restlessness and have the thought “I should be doing something productive instead of just sitting here with my breath.”  If this happens, remind yourself that meditating is doing something.  What you are “producing” may not be as obvious as when you are sitting down in front of a computer, but I guarantee you that change is occurring.

Some of the change is in how you relate to yourself.  With mindfulness, you are practicing kindness toward yourself and that always translates into feeling better.  Some of the change is happening at the physical level. The body begins to relax. Some of the change is happening in your brain. You are training the mind to be more focused and alert. Being alert and relaxed is really the optimal way to engage in your life and be more productive when you are doing anything else you need to do.

Don’t expect drastic changes all at once. Mindfulness takes practice and gradually begins to open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to a new of living and being.  It is a gradual shift. It’s just like anything else you want to get good at. You have to practice it.  Eventually you might notice that you are less reactive to a co-worker, you don’t yell at your kids as much, and you don’t get mad at people who don’t drive the way you think they should.  You might notice you are more patient or friendly toward yourself.

In essence, mindfulness sets the stage for the type of story you would like to have unfold in your life. When you begin to live more in the present moment with curiosity and kindness, you will begin to connect to yourself. And, when you do that, you are more likely to create the relationships with others that are more sincere and meaningful.  You are more likely to create the life that you want. Do you want a disastrous melodrama or would an exciting adventure story (with a happy ending, of course) be more to your liking.  It’s up to you.

There are many meditations on this website that you can use to get you started.  Feel free to download them and share them with others. Also, if you are a University of Missouri employee and working on getting points for your wellness incentive this year, you can even get points for meditating by logging into your Cerner portal and going to the workshop section of their website.

 

 

 

 

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Better Eating and Living through Mindful Self-Compassion

BE KINDWhat better way to start the new year than with a dose of self-compassion. Instead of letting the winter blues set in, find out how to warm the heart and shut out the cold.

What obstacles arise as you try to practice self-compassion? Find out how to overcome them in the latest issue of Food For Thought, a publication offered quarterly through the Center for Mindful Eating is now available.  Self-Compassion: Nourishing the Heart helps you to take a compassionate approach to your relationship to food and eating.

This article will help you

a) understand how a compassionate mind influences our brains, bodies and the way you relate to yourself  and others,

b)  try practical suggestions for a compassionate approach to relate to heart hunger in a way that allows true nurturing of the body,

c)  identify self-compassion as a key motivating factor for taking care of ourselves, including eating, and

d) learn four steps to adding self-compassion to your meals.

Enjoy!

 

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Mindfulness Opportunities To Make Time For In 2015!

As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, one of the ways to have more time is to take some of it time for mefor yourself.  And, as we start the New Year, now is a good time to set the intention to take more time for mindfulness. Some people call it self-care, I call it a necessity.

Taking “time” for mindfulness might sound like an oxymoron.  But, unless you are already an enlightened being who dwells only in the present and without judgment, you might want to consider being inspired to take time to practice mindfulness by a few of my suggestions below.

TED Talks on Meditation Continue reading

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Ho Ho Ho! Happy For a Reason

HHo Ho Hoow would you answer the question “What do you want in life?” As it turns out, many people say they want to be happy.  Yet, despite our relatively prosperous conditions, only one-third of Americans report being happy and we rank 17th compared to other countries on how happy we are, with Denmark and other European countries at the top.

So what do we need to be happy? (Hint: I don’t think you’ll find it under the Christmas tree.)

Scrolling through the documentaries on Netflix, I decided to one watch on this very topic called “Happy.”  It was released in 2011, but if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. While I’ve heard most of the information before, it is always good to be reminded of some basic facts.  First and most important, It is estimated that at least 40 percent of your happiness is created by with intentional activity–meaning it’s your responsibility (with 50 percent going to genetic and 10 percent to circumstances).

And, it’s not about how much money you make, how much success you have, or how much prestige you get from others.  In fact, after you have enough money to get your basic needs met, money will not buy you any greater happiness.  Even living under extremely poor economic conditions doesn’t doom you to a life of dread. In fact, many people with very little in the way of creature comforts are quite happy.

In the book “The How of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky details many of the intentional activities you can engage in to boost your happiness quotient. Try a few of them as you finish the holiday season and set some intentions for your happiness as the New Year begins.

  1. Be socially connected – The happiest and healthiest people have strong relationships to family and friends.  The communities you live in can provide love, meaning, support, and increase your feelings of self-worth. These networks support you with daily routines like cooking and taking care of children as well as during times of crises.
  2. Be physically active – Being physically active improves your life on many different levels by releasing hormones into your blood that do some pretty amazing things for your mood (and your weight). Doing some extra physical movement that feels good to your body, even if it’s only for a few minutes, every day will help you feel better, have more energy, and be more positive.
  3. Be resilient – The happiest people know how to bounce back from adversity.  One of the things that happy people do is re-frame negative events into learning opportunities.  You can’t change the events that happen to you, but you can change how you relate to them. As it turns out, construing benefit in negative life events is a tremendously effective coping strategy.
  4. Be grateful – Studies have shown that just listing 5 things that you are grateful for every Sunday can increase your mood compared to people who don’t take note of the good things in their lives. An attitude of gratitude can be practiced every day.  Before you go to sleep at night or when you first wake up, think of one or two things you are really grateful for.  When you feel grateful for someone, let them know through a kind word, a thoughtful email or card, or even just a hug.
  5. Be mindful – One of the attitudinal qualities of mindfulness is having a “beginner’s mind.” When you are keenly aware of your surroundings or seek ways to live out of your normal routine you will flourish with positive mental health.  There are many ways you can do this. You can drive a different way to work, go to a new restaurant, explore a new museum, try a new craft, learn a new language, play a new sport, or join a new club. Be open to the new and interesting in your life.  Never be a person who says they’re bored!  Life is an exciting adventure.

Happy Holidays!

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Mindfully Having Your Holiday Treats

We are smack in the middle of the holiday grazing period.  All of the break rooms Happy Holidaysare filled with candy, cookies, donuts, chocolate, cakes, and pies.  Brunches and holiday dinners with family and friends have tables filled with an overabundance of food. What to do?

These are just a few simple thoughts I want to offer you as you make your journey through the daily opportunities to eat holiday delights.

  1. Mindfully assess the situation. There will probably more food than you could possibly try or taste. Pick out the items that you think look the tastiest and just eat those.
  2. Relax. Enjoy the food you’ve decided to eat and savor it fully.  If you relax while you eat, you will be able to register fullness sooner and you will be less anxious –therefore not in as great a risk to overeat.
  3. Eat as if for the first time. Sometimes those treats that we think we like don’t taste that great if we eat them mindfully. Try tasting your food with a beginner’s mind. I recently tried this with a class of Eat for Life participants. One person brought in “puppy chow” for us to try because she said it was impossible to eat it mindfully.  We each ate only three pieces of this chex, peanut butter, chocolate, butter, and powdered sugar concoction.  I doubt that most of us will ever eat it again. If the food you eat is only palatable eaten by the handful, you might want to question if you really like it.  If it’s food you still really like, then you will be able to savor it fully.
  4. Beware of your hand that unconsciously reaches for food. If your office is like ours, there has been a daily influx of holiday treats. People commonly say things like, “I didn’t even want the donut but it was there so I took it.”  I would recommend questioning that strategy.  Do you really want to eat it just because it’s on the table? Or, if you’re standing at a party, try standing away from the food so that you’re not just automatically reaching for food that’s an arm’s length away.  It is estimated that we make 200 food decisions a day on a regular basis, but I’m sure that number increases during the holidays.  Make mindful, conscious choices and you will feel much better after the holidays.
  5. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This is no forbidden food so you can eat anything that you want. Having holiday treats can be a wonderful way to celebrate. When you don’t prohibit yourself from having food then it is less likely you will binge on it.

If you eat more than you planned, don’t get down on yourself.  This is the hardest time of the year to eat mindfully.  Enjoy every morsel! Enjoy your life! Enjoy the blessings of the season! Your happiness will help you be the best you can be and eat in a way that honors your body.

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Feast On Your Life At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving celebration word cloudWe all have many memories of past Thanksgivings. If you are like me, some are fantastic and a few are not all that great.  When I was a little girl and life seemed much simpler, I absolutely adored Thanksgiving.  I loved playing with my cousins that I didn’t get to see that often.  Sure, the food was good, but it was the company that made it the most fun.

As I got older, some Thanksgivings had pieces of the usual family dramas that make the holiday more difficult—misunderstandings between family members, alcoholism, split family rivalries, and guilt trips.  Of course there were still many Thanksgivings filled with loving connections between friends and family and tables filled with amazingly delicious food.  Sometimes both of these types of Thanksgivings occurred simultaneously!

My best advice for facing Thanksgiving is this—make it the Thanksgiving you want it to be. Even if you find yourself around some people that you find a little irritating, you can make the day a success. The key is attitude, focus, and gratitude.  Let’s break those down.

  1. Attitude:  You can choose the attitude you want to have every day.  On Thanksgiving morning when you wake up, choose the attitude you want to have.  You can be happy or you can be upset.  It is totally up to you.  Remember to keep choosing your attitude all day long. Even in the face of sometimes difficult circumstances and people, you can be the person you want to be.
  1. Focus: Are you focusing on the things that you like or the things that you don’t like?  Our brains tend to focus on the negative and you have to rein it in to focus on the positive.  It can take some mindfulness practice to remember to focus on what you like, not what you don’t like.  Talk with your favorite Aunt Sally and don’t get into an argument about politics with your Uncle Harry.  Be present for the wonderful smells and tastes of Thanksgiving. Don’t worry if everything isn’t perfect. It’s called “life” and there’s nothing perfect about it. That’s okay!
  1. Gratitude: Since Thanksgiving is the holiday to give thanks, this is probably the most important point to remember.  Gratitude can help you have a better attitude and better focus.  By enumerating the many blessings you have in your life, you feel better and, the better you feel, the more you are able to see the positive instead of the negative.  When your mind shifts away from the problem and into what’s right, you can often find solutions to any problems that might arise during the day.  When you express gratitude to others and speak about gratitude, you might rub off on everyone else around you.  Positive energy is contagious and you might even get a grumpy relative to crack a smile.

For a little extra helping of gratefulness go to theses daily grateful living practice ideas.  Make your life a feast on Thanksgiving.  It can be a feast of right attitude, focus on the positive, and gratitude.  Then there is a lot to be grateful for.  The yummy food is just extra!

 

 

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A Mindful Halloween Meditation

Tick or treating is so much funYes, anything you bring your attention to turn it into a meditation—even Halloween! So, let me tell you a little story and share my meditation on Halloween.  Last year for the very first time I was struck by the irony of me giving out full size, sugary candy bars to innocent children as they paraded up to my door on Halloween.  I also was struck by the irony of me then thinking about taking the left over candy to work to perpetrate the sugary treats on my innocent co-workers.  These behaviors were ironic because I teach a mindful eating class which raises the awareness of the impact of loads of sugar on our emotional and physiological well-being.  And, here I was inflicting it on others because of Halloween. Continue reading

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5 Tips for People Too Busy to Meditate

Be mindful in letterpress wood typeWhen someone tells me he is too busy to meditate, I know he is just the person that needs it most. The busier you are, the more you need to take time for a bit of mindfulness.  I’m sure you have felt the energy drain of a day when there is too much to do.  Instead of grabbing another cup of coffee or some sugar to give you an energy boost, try a little mindfulness.  Just like you plug in your cellphone every night, plugging into the present can be a great re-charge for your body and mind.

Mindfulness is about dropping in on all of our senses in the ever changing moment we call “now” with kindness and curiosity.  It just takes a few minutes throughout the day to make a huge difference in how you feel, how you respond to the stress in your life, and how much energy you have for all of the things you want to do.

  1. Do a three minute breathing space.  This short exercise is one of the favorites from my classes. Developed by Mark Williams, Zindel Segal, and John Teasdale for their mindfulness-based intervention for depression, it is a perfect way for dropping out of automatic pilot and dropping into your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.
  2. Take a mindful walk.  For three minutes, get up and simply walk.  Don’t think about your worries, your projects, and your to-do list.  Be aware of your body moving, placing your feet on the ground, the movement of your legs, the air against your skin, the muscles that are involved in moving you forward.  Every time your mind wanders, bring your attention back to simply walking.  Come back refreshed and more energized.
  3. Do a short seeing exercise.  For a couple of minutes, stand at a window and gaze outside.  Take in the sky, the clouds, the sun, the rain, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the cars, the buildings, etc.  Scan the environment and just notice the colors, the shapes, and the sizes. Be aware of the world around you. Breathing gently in and out and bringing your curious awareness back to your surroundings. See what you discover.
  4. When you are in a conversation with someone, let the other person be your object of mindfulness.  When your mind wanders from what the other person is saying, come back to the words that they are speaking.  When the person is finished talking, repeat back to the person what you heard them say so that you know you have understood them.  Notice how you get distracted and keep bringing yourself back to the person in front of you.
  5. Break out of your routine.  Nothing gets our attention more than novelty.  The problem is we fall into routine patterns and habits that lull us to sleep.  In the morning, eat something different for breakfast.  Drive or commute a different way to work. Meet someone new for lunch. Take in a new activity – a new museum, store, sport, hiking trail, lecture, or a new restaurant. Make your life a little spicier and notice how it brings you more fully into the moment.

While it is recommended that you engage in longer periods of time for sitting meditation or yoga, there are great benefits to be found in little mini mindfulness moments throughout your day. In fact, mindfulness throughout the day is the final goal anyway. You can bring your mindfulness to any activity and make it a meditation.

By coming back to the moment over and over again, no matter what you’re doing, you will improve your ability to take care of your busy day with more ease.  You will have more attention and focus so you get things done faster.  You will be utilizing the decision-making, creative parts of your brain so your performance will improve. And you will be calmer which makes you feel good and enhances the quality of the relationships you have with others.

Turn your busy day into a mindful day.

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