How To Redefine Your Health Beyond Diet and Exercise

healthy without diet and exercise

Diet and exercise have overruled the health world for decades. And for good reason, too. Obviously eating all-the-plants and getting that treadmill desk have proven to improve your overall well-being. However, a whole new world of health is being redefined outside of the kitchen and the gym. On the days where your diet is less than stellar and you can’t make it to spin class, there are still numerous things you can do to keep your body, heart and mind happy. It’s time that we moved past what we eat and how we move, but focus on looking at ourselves as a whole machine so can understand how to take care of the parts that we can’t exactly see. There are my favorite ways that keep my soul and mind at peace!

Essential Oils
This is one of the quickest ways to bring a little peace to your day. Try peppermint in the morning to energize, lavender to soothe anxiety, and frankincense to spark your enlightenment. Either add a little to your wrists or use a diffuser at home or at work to enjoy the benefits. From cleaner air, a better outlook on life and reduced stress, there’s not much essential oils can’t do!

Products
While what you put into your life is important, it’s even more vital to take note of what you take out. While we know what we should and should not eat, we don’t always pay attention to what we put on our bodies instead of in it. There are numerous apps now that can inform you of what is in the products you use…and what you need to be concerned about. Think Dirty and Good Guide are my favorites!

Self-Care
Thank goodness #selfcaresunday is trending! Although #selfcareeveryday is more like it. Take time each day to do what soothes your soul. Whether it’s painting your nails and sipping tea, or saving up for a monthly massage, find what improves your quality of life and don’t compromise that time for yourself. Not only will it increase your confidence, it reminds you of you self worth and will motivate you to continue to make choices that make you feel good.

Environment that Serves You
Who you become as a person is often determined by who you surround yourself with. If you notice that you feel drained, stressed or overwhelmed, check what place you’re in and who’s around you that have caused you to feel this way. Once you identify what’s creating these negative feelings, you can work to eliminate them to finally have space for the ones that bring you joy.

Positive Inner-Circle
When you’ve created an opening to bring in the new, find a crowd that fuels you to be brighter and loves you as you are. Feeling accepted is one of the greatest influences of overall well-being necessary for a healthy and happy life. But keep in mind it’s quality of quantity. A few honest, caring and inspiring people is far more productive than numerous people who do little to trigger your own personal growth.

Foster Human Connection
Outside of friendships, there are hundreds of people that you will encounter each day. Take the time to create connections, even as simple as eye contact or exchanging pleasantries to strangers to spread joy. The more you share a kind word, the more likely others will follow. Even more so, create connections with people who look different than you, who come from a different generation, a different country, even speak a different languages. We absorb the experiences of others so might as well make them as diverse as can be to add depth and meaning to your own worldview!

Feed Your Hobbies
After elementary school, we often loose the time invested into our own creative outlets. Whether it’s playing sports, writing poetry or taking long nature walks, busy schedules and obligations become our priority. Start by chunking out ten minutes a day to invest into a passion you had as a child. By delegating your time differently, you’re able to have options that bring happiness and contentment to your life…exceptionally useful for when going through a difficult period. Having an activity to ground you when life feels out of your control not only brings peace of mind, but a confidence to handle challenging times.

Learn Something New
Learning a new hobby creates new pathways in our brain to increase our knowledge and skill set. Not only can it be fun, but it also helps expose you to new ideas that open your mind and allow you to connect better with those around you, not matter what the task is. As a pastime or an escape, learning something new can improve your overall quality of life by giving you something to look forward to.

What do you do to stay healthy?

xx,
Juliette

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Meditation Guide for Beginners: How to Create Your Own Practice

how to create your own meditation guide

Meditation can mean so many different things to so many different people. My initial image of mediation was of a divine yogi in full lotus pose rising above the earth in some sort of trance. And while this image isn’t entirely far-fetched, it was an intimidating endeavor for me to actually sit down and expect to be lifted off the ground…even if not physically, but spiritually.

I didn’t seriously start considering a meditation practice until I was asked,
“We shower every day to cleanse our bodies, but what do we do to cleanse our minds?” Good question. I didn’t even realize that was something to consider. When quite honestly, how could you not afford to refresh the nooks and crannies in the place we spend so much time, our own heads?

Although my fears of beginning a mediation practice were valid in their own right, they were in no way going to stop me at least from trying. It’s a silly thing, how could sitting still be so tricky? And yet, it was. As an avid fidget-er and constant go-getter, doing nothing not only seemed unproductive, but impossible. Close to it, at least. But that’s the thing about mediation…as soon as I started to create these expectations for myself (such as not twitching my toes or clearing my mind entirely), I had already created hurdles for myself instead of merely accepting these moments and letting them go.

As soon as we cling to our shortcomings, we prevent ourselves from moving past them.

Ultimately, the purpose of meditation is not to be still, it is to take awareness away from petty everyday concerns we create in our minds and lift away from ourselves in order to view the world experience outside of our bodies. Um, what? Real talk, we’re creating space between our bodies and our existence which allow ourselves to be free of mental disturbance. In doing so, we can finally view our existence as a separate identity than our thoughts. After all, how many of your thoughts are not actually rooted in actual life? Fear and worries that you’ve completely made up in your mind? No, not me, never. Ha. Meditation allows us to seek what exists in actuality while accepting that, although we will have thoughts and continue to have a range of thoughts forevermore (a sign that we’re human after all), we can learn to control them in a manner that is productive and healthy.

As we sit still, specifically cross-legged to allow for a flow of energy (more on this later) we are better able to separate from the self. The more we resist temptation to scratch, wiggle or move, the more we build up tolerance for these annoyances. Fast forward to real life, we are then able to notice annoyances in our daily lives but not need to act on them. AKA, you can’t stand your coworker whistling every morning at 7am, but you’ve controlled your thoughts to overlook this annoyance and not have it interrupt your otherwise pleasant day.

how to create your own meditation

So we know why we meditate, but how, exactly, does one get started?

Schedule a Time
Determine what time you’d like to practice and schedule it every day thereafter. While I know many people find meditation to be energizing and a uplifting start to the day, I prefer to meditate at night when my to-do list is complete so I have less anxieties floating around. Whether you prefer morning, noon, or night, take a moment before hand to jot down any left-over items that are still hanging around. Releasing these concerns, to-dos, or expectation before your practice allows you to physically empty of these ideas and bring a clean space into your meditation.

Choose a Method
While I fully encourage the use of a meditation guide to lead you through your meditation, it’s really up to you what you prefer. I initially began using Headspace and Buddhify, I’ve found that I prefer to just listen to the sounds of the ocean rather than getting caught up in the tone of someone’s voice, or hearing someone else’s breath going in and out. Set a timer for how long you’d like to sit, ideally aiming for 20-30 minutes (or longer), but allowing yourself to begin where you feel comfortable. 10 minutes? Awesome. 5 minutes? You rock.

Designate an Area
Find a comfy spot where you can sit up straight with your legs crossed, or legs extended long and crossed at the ankles. It’s important to maintain this posture to allow for deep breathing and keeping the energy circulating through the body. To prevent open circuits at your hands, touch your index finger underneath your thumb and rest them on your knees, or create a circle with your hands and rest them on your lap.

Find Stillness
Because we are human beings, thoughts are a natural occurrence. Meditating allows us to react to these thoughts without attachment. I’ve used many imagery strategies to acknowledge these thoughts and then send them on their way. First, imagine each thought is a cloud that slowly drifts into your mind and then you watch it drift on, out of your sight. Recognize the clouds are there, but do not hang onto them as clouds must keep their movement. Another image, a personal favorite, is to view your thoughts like the dishes at a revolving sushi bar. Really. Imagine each thought as if it is a unique sushi roll that we occasionally pull of the revolving bar in front of us. Notice that you’ve taken the dish (thought) off the bar, and then gently set it back on and let it go on its way. both of these images let us view thoughts as their own entities, in no way a part of us. By viewing them through an outside lens, the more we can accept them and move beyond their limitations.

…And Kindness
While we want to resist the urge to move to not break our higher existence, be kind to yourself and forgive yourself for disruptions. A skill not only for meditation, but life as well. Instead of dwelling on an imperfection (you just had to move that hair away from your eyes), acknowledge it existed, then let it pass through.

Breathe
As you begin to close your meditation, come back to your breath and bring slow movement to your body. It’s important to be gentle with yourself so you can then extend that gentleness outwards to the world around you. Make time to revisit this practice each way, working to extend the amount of time and expanding to various location to practice. (I’ve even managed a 20 minute practice on an airplane that was glorious).

Have you tried mediation? If so, what helped you stick to it? If not, what’s stopping you?

xx,
Juliette

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Does Yoga Actually Reduce Stress? The Facts.

how yoga reduces stress

One of my favorite sayings about yoga is how it’s funny how outsiders think yogis are all calm people when, in fact, we’re all here because we’re all nuts. Ain’t it the truth! As my anxiety and stress levels only increased with my age, I realized I wasn’t utilizing the proper, or any, coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures of *adulting*. The shallow breathing, consistently feeling overwhelmed, unregulated emotions, ya know, the good stuff when you can’t get a grip on life. And while I’ve seen many friends turn to medication as a solution (all the more power to them), I wasn’t yet willing to give up this fight to modern medicine. I wanted to address my issues holistically, identifying the root of these emotions and develop strategies to handle them in any and all environments.

So, I had no choice but to finally get serious about my yoga and meditation practice. While my occasional Sunday evening classes were enjoyable, they weren’t enough for me to change my thought patterns. Yet, driving to the studio and rolling out my mat for 75 minutes every day just wasn’t feasible with a full-time job (and my addiction to watching Friends reruns). I needed my practice to meet me where I was, literally, at my house. Although I was initially shaky and unsure of my yoga sequencing, a few vinyasas followed by a series of slow stretching and meditation allowed me to recreate my nightly routine. By taking my mat out each night, I also picked up some other habits, like keeping my phone in another room, turning the tv off and shutting down my busy mind in order to focus on my movement..ridding all the usual suspects known for causing stress.

And, shocking to no one, it worked. I learned to control my breathing, to recognize the signs of anxiety and stop them before they drowned me. Ultimately, I made major life decisions that altered my entire way of life. Instead of concerning myself with how I thought my life should look, I got rid of all the fluff. Ya know, the expectations ingrained in me, both from internal or external factors, that didn’t entirely match my interests or passions. Can you relate? Now, I finally had a clear vision to determine what direction I truly wanted to go in. So, I changed my entire social circle, altered how I viewed my day job, and, most importantly, registered for my own 200 hour yoga certification, giving me the ability to share this revelation with others.

It’s important to note that yoga doesn’t avoid uncomfortable positions. I mean if you’ve ever seen someone in revolved half moon, then you know this is true. Ugh, that pose it TOUGH. I digress. Yoga doesn’t shield away from tight, suffocating spaces. Instead, yoga puts you in these places to teach you how to respond to them in a positive way. It *changes* how your body reacts to frustrating moments in a healthy manner so that your body will start to react that way on its own.

yoga shedule

Still not buying it? Totally get it. I, too, am a “show me the data or I’m believin’ nothing” type gal. So here you go. Check out this study here that states that yoga can be considered as a possible adjunctive therapy for those dealing with stress and anxiety. Because it has no lasting side effect (only good ones..) or conflicts with any other form of treatment, yoga is shown to encourage overall quality of life. Or this one, where prisoners who completed a yoga or meditation program while incarcerated showed increases in their psychological well-being.
Even more so, in as little as nine days, another study suggests that “lifestyle modifications and stress management programs lead to favorable metabolic effects”.

Sold? Good. Now it’s time to put this into action. Tune in later this week for a simple ten minute sequence that will release tension, reduce stress, and empower your soul wherever you might be. For real. See ya then!

YOGA UPDATES! Are you in the Washington, D.C. area? Do you have a pre-teen or teen that could benefit from practicing mindfulness and yoga (aka all of them!)? I’m offering a pre-teen to teen yoga summer camp at Your Life Energy that will focus on building strength, balance, flexibility and healthy habits for when kids need it most! Find out more info here.

How do you handle stress? If at all?

xx,
Juliette

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