The Simple Vida Workbook

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I love teaching and helping others find balance and well-being. I have helped clients (and myself) find fitness for their specific season of life, eat for health and vitality, and live with greater intentionality and mindfulness. My approach is not merely to benefit this life but, more broadly, to benefit the one to come. Vida is Spanish for life. The Simple Vida is my approach to simplifying this life. I want to help you find balance and well-being in your life that compliments your faith and ultimately honors God. Struggles and difficult times are part of the human experience. We can’t escape them! However, we can handle them with ease, grace, and lots of prayer.

This week is the release of my digital workbook-style program. If you struggle with stress, health, critical self talk, relationships, goal setting, or handling emotions, this book is for you. Well-being isn’t a product of happenstance. No one can create it for you. YOU are the only one who can do the work of creating space for personal wellness. This workbook program will equip you with the tools you need to transform your mind and body so that you can have less stress, abundant wellness, and live purposefully. Will you join me on this journey?

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Handling Anger in a Healthy Way Part 1 + downloadable scripture guide

meditation psalm picAnger is an emotion that can quickly get out of control. I believe there are two main reasons for this. First, anger is a complex emotion. It is comprised of many layers of emotions and feelings like frustration, jealousy, sadness, loneliness, fatigue, and overwhelm. It is hard to discern our true feelings when they are a tangled up ball of emotions! Secondly, emotions have a primary life span of ninety seconds. However, when we cling to the emotion, unwilling to let it run its course, addicted to its story, we begin to strengthen a mind-body feedback loop. The more we feed the emotion, the more we reinforce neuropathways to respond this way again in the future.

When we feel anger, it is important to step back from the situation and draw ourselves into present moment awareness. A good way to do this is to stop, remove yourself from the situation (if possible), and take a few deep breaths. Take a moment to refresh your mind and perspective by praying, reciting a scripture you carry in your heart, or repeating a positive affirmation. If you would like a scripture guide for the verses I recommend, you can download the free PDF resource here. I encourage you to post them in easy to view places around your home or office. Even better, devote them to memory.

In my next post I’ll share some tips for understanding and handling your emotional triggers in the future. Hope this serves you well and free feel to email me if you have any questions!

 

Common mistakes when trying to break bad habits

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Breaking bad habits can be very challenging. Why is it so much easier to continue doing what we don’t want to do rather than cultivating what we do want in our lives? Habitual patterns form deep grooves in our brain and reinforce neural pathways. In neuroscience, the phrase is often used “neurons that fire together, wire together.” By changing our experiences (our habits), we can literally change our brain. As we create new habits, it is incredibly important that we see the value in those changes. Taking time to appreciate a new habit or experience, helps to cultivate the positive behavior by getting those neurons firing together. Enjoyable experiences have the greatest impact on forming new neural pathways.

Unfortunately, there are several common mistakes that keep us from breaking bad habits.

1. Trying to change too much at once
Often we try to change everything at once and we can’t stay focused. Studies show that if we focus on changing one habit at a time, we have an 80% success rate. However, the success rate drops to 35% when we try to change two behaviors. Trying to change three habits lowers our success to a measly five percent!

2. Unrealistic expectations
Are you trying to replace a bad habit with a new habit that doesn’t fit your season of life? Take your schedule and life circumstances into account.

3. Too vague
Sometimes the problem is simply that our goal is not clear. We haven’t specified exactly what we are trying to change, nor have we considered the steps required to make the change.

4. Focusing on “should” statements
We all know things we “should” do – but what do you REALLY want? Feelings of obligation are not strong motivators to change a habit.

5. No support system
Trying to change is hard. Doing it alone is even harder. Find an accountability partner that you can call, text, or even check in with through social media.

What would you add to this list? Comment below with your thoughts!

 

Flip the Switch on the Stress Response

We all have stress in our lives. Stressful moments are part of the human experience. We are not alone in this. I’ve mentioned before that 80% of doctor visits are for stress-related problems. Obviously, it is a huge problem in our culture. Emotions only have a ninety second life span which means they run their course and are over within that time period. However, we tend to rev up our sympathetic nervous system and get stuck in an emotional holding pattern. The feedback loop keeps us on hyperalert and stress responses flare. If we want to get out of that loop, we have to learn how to flip the switch back to present moment awareness. One of the main components of well-being is self-regulation. These skills focus on attention, regulating emotions, reflecting on information and experiences, and executing willpower, discipline, and self-control. The bad news is self-regulation is the first thing to go when we get stressed. Stress hijacks the brain and puts us in a state of imbalance. In this state, we have little control over our actions which only increases our stress more. This cycle continues to perpetuate itself unless we use mindfulness techniques to intervene.

Yoga and meditation’s relevance is that they can serve as our first line of defense by providing awareness of body sensations and using breathing techniques to calm the nervous system. When we meditate, we are able to bring our mind to the present moment and put our feelings and thoughts into perspective. This mental exercise is an important support for self-regulation.

If you are curious how the nervous system relates to this whole process, I made an infographic to help break it down. I’ve even provided a simple mindfulness exercise to help you reinforce positive mind-body feedback next time you are feeling stressed. Check it out below and let me know how it works for you!

 
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Mindful Eating During the Holidays // part 2

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I’m diving back into the topic of mindful eating during the holidays (you can check out part one here). Today, I want to focus on what to *actually* eat.

  1. Make a whole foods, plant based diet a priority. As a yoga instructor, I view food through the lens of nourishing the body so it can function optimally for well-being. Every where we turn, there is a new fad diet and fanatical followers. I prefer to follow the advice of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The University of California Davis Integrative Medicine has coined this catchy couplet “greens, beans, berries and seeds” making it easy to remember what to include in our diets. You can download a free reference chart here.
  2. Do not restrict food intake. Deprivation leaves us feeling dissatisfied and sets us up for failure. Period.
  3. Start each meal with a serving of fruit or veggies. Studies have shown that eating an apple prior to a meal reduces caloric intake by 15% (see the study here). Another study showed eating a bowl of vegetable soup first reduced calories even more – 20% (read more here). This is especially useful during holidays when calorie dense foods are plentiful. In a webinar from Forks over Knives, Matthew Lederman explains the connection between satiety and calorie density. Satiety is the physical feeling of our stomach stretching which turns off the hunger signals. If we can fill our stomachs with nature’s “multivitamin” (i.e. fruits and veggies) high in fiber, nutrients, and water content, then we will be less likely to overload on richer, more processed foods.
  4. When indulging, be very intentional and present with your choices. Refer back to part one of this series. If it is worth the splurge, take the time to savor each bite, chewing slowly, and engaging in the present moment.

As a side note, I am a huge fan of NutritionFacts.org for the latest updates on nutrition research. There are more than a thousand videos on nearly every aspect of healthy eating. It is a FREE, non-commercial, science based public service.

 

Mindful Eating During the Holidays // part 1

Now that Halloween has passed, the holiday season charges full speed ahead. While some embrace this time with the utmost enthusiasm, others find it synonymous with stress (guilty!).  Increased stress and unraveling of healthy habits are two of the less glamorous products of the holidays. One of the difficulties this time of year is eating mindfully. Mindful eating involves tuning in to understand what our body is truly craving and how to nourish it. I try to follow the guidelines below year around but they are especially helpful in promoting well-being in times of higher stress as they strengthen the mind-body connection.

  1. Before reaching for the party hors d’oeuvres or a platter of cookies, I ask myself “What am I really craving?” Am I experiencing hunger? Or, am I looking for a way to self-soothe or alleviate stress? Do I need connection with others or, conversely, alone time? If tuning in to the mind-body connection is a new experience, answering these questions may not necessarily be easy. Try drinking a glass of water and possibly engage in another form of self-care (i.e. take a walk, give a heartfelt hug, engage in face to face conversation with a friend, read a book, meditate, and so on). Full disclosure: sometimes we just really want the _____ (cookie, pumpkin pie, latte…) and that is okay. Move on to step 2.
  2. Before sitting down for a meal, I make sure I am actually sitting down. Besides meaningful face to face conversation, no multitasking allowed! Turn off the television, put away the computer, and silence your phone. In our fast-paced culture, it is entirely too easy to down a plate of food with the only awareness being an empty plate. We miss out on the eating experience; without savoring each bite, we may eat past our hunger cues and finish a meal feeling dissatisfied rather than nourished.
  3. Take 3 deep breaths before eating. This helps us slow down. In our family, we begin meals with a prayer of gratitude, thanking God for his provisions. Both of these practices helps us become more present and aware.
  4. As we eat (yes, I’m finally to the actual eating part!), try to chew several times. Chewing each bite twenty times is a nice goal but not always realistic. Just do your best here. To facilitate this better, I set my fork down between every single bite. Possibly take a sip of water between bites. Small sips of room temperature or hot water can aid in digestion. If eating alone, savor each bite. Involve the senses: notice the visual appeal, the smell, the warmth of the plate, the flavors, and the textures. If eating with others, engage fully. Stop eating when you are around 75% full. mindful eating.jpg