4.2018

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Balance

Food for business travel

Yes, take those few moments to pack healthy snacks that will sustain you while traveling for business…or pleasure!

90 Seconds to Breathe With Intention

Brain Changes Lead to Behavior Changes

Joy, mindfulness, positive affirmation, and visualization

We are creatures of habit, finding comfort in the familiar. Our brain reinforces this sense of routine and familiarity, in that the brain would rather you made the same choices over and over.  Although you may be committed to a goal of “eating healthier” or “becoming fit”, the very desire to change familiar behaviors to ones that will support the achievement of your goal(s), are perceived by the brain as being a stressor, which will activate the sympathetic nervous system response of fight or flight.

The body of science-based evidence continues to expand that validates the fact that we can “change our brains” to be more responsive to subtle and pleasant behavior change goals. There are four principles to practice that will decrease the excitability of the brain, minimize stress hormone presence in the body, and create the brain changes that will enhance the achievement of small-step behavior change goals.

  • Invite joy into your life
  • Move mindfully through your day
  • Express positive affirmation regarding your intention
  • Visualize the outcome you desire

How wonderful those principles are! Finding joy is such a gift—and it is everywhere, if you choose to see it. The laughter of children playing, the glorious song of birds celebrating spring, the scent of blooming flowers, the smile you receive as a result of a kindness you extend to another human being, the petting of an animal…all of these opportunities present themselves to us every day  (in variations, of course), and if we slow down enough to see them, then JOY will become a primary emotion throughout our day. And by the way, joy and gratitude are kissin’ cousins in terms of the positive effect on your brain and body.

Mindfulness and joy go hand-in-hand, in that the slowing down of being mindful creates the space to experience joy. Additionally, mindfulness can be evoked while we are eating, listening, and even while working on the computer.

Ah, positive affirmation…isn’t it interesting that we have evolved to be a species that expresses displeasure about ourselves—in the form of negative self-talk. This very common and potentially sabotaging dialogue can be slowly let go of simply by practicing positive affirmation. Called cognitive restructuring, expressing your intention with positive words will diminish resistance and ambivalence that the brain holds regarding new behaviors or thoughts. For instance, stating “I enjoy the energy I feel after going for a brisk walk” is received differently by the brain as opposed to “If I am going to get into shape, I have to go for a walk”—a subtle difference on the surface perhaps, but truly, there is the positivity of “enjoy the energy” versus the obligation of “have to go”. Think about it!

Lastly, consider visualization. It’s been known for years that prior to competing, athletes visualize the ski run, or the gymnastics routine, or the bike race, seeing themselves at their best performance. This prepares the brain for success and fine-tunes mindfulness for that particular event. You and I may not be racing in the Olympics, but nonetheless, the same technique of visualization will enhance our performance to create our own personal successes. Imagine a party scene, as it relates to your commitment to “eating healthier”. See yourself visiting with friends, visualize the buffet table: you take a small plate, mindfully selecting a variety of small bites of whatever you desire, see yourself sitting at a table with friends, enjoying their company, eating slowly, savoring flavors and textures, allowing yourself the time to become satiated. Visually experience the pleasure and satisfaction of having eaten well, reveling in good conversation with others, and having honored your personal commitment. When you arrive at the party in reality, you will have set the tone for your behavior, simply by having visualized your success.

These four principles are FREE! Meaning they are available to you right this very minute, at no cost to you, but for the few moments it takes to practice.  Practice is a key concept, as each of the four mindsets becomes more and more familiar to you and your brain when they are intentionally practiced.

I invite you to experience joy, cultivate mindfulness, express your positive beliefs about yourself, and visualize your success. What a rich life you live!

Healthful Behavior Change

Which statement appeals to you more: “I want to lose 30 pounds by July 31, 2010” or “I wish to feel energetic and to move comfortably in my body”?

There is a significant difference between the two statements, in addition to the obvious that one sounds tedious and the other sounds delightful. The weight loss statement is a commonly uttered “goal”, while the dreamy second statement reflects a “vision”; both statements warrant a bit of compassionate exploration.

Many of you have set a weight loss goal or another behavior change intention (“quit smoking”, “get fit”, “eat better”, “learn to relax”) that has been created with a long-term endpoint in mind. While I applaud the decision to pursue your optimal health, I also know that the challenge of an endpoint goal is that success is not achieved until the goal is met. Meaning, until the scale rewards you with the numbers you seek, your sense of accomplishment will be diminished. And how exactly would you measure “get fit” or “eat better”?

The opportunity lies is creating a health vision. As is done with the second statement, “I wish to feel energetic and to move comfortably in my body”. A health vision is a futuristic statement, captured with positive words, that will set the tone for the 3-month long-term goal(s), and the essential daily small-step goals you will write, monitor, and modify throughout the behavior change process—the very change process that will lead to the achievement of your health vision.

Working within the framework of this health vision used as an example, we will break it down into small components:

  • Feel energetic
  • Move comfortably in my body

The behavior change process begins by assessing your current choices, habits, and resources, and builds upon what is already occurring in your life. We will invite subtle, pleasant, and effective small-step daily changes that will support the attainment of your health vision.

Your vision may in fact peripherally include weight loss, but we are not going to measure weight loss! We are going to design a few new behaviors that you can add to the repertoire of choices you are familiar with. We are going to measure your success as you incorporate those new behaviors, one small choice at a time.

We know that in order to feel energetic and to enjoy moving comfortably, a routine physical activity program will be initiated and/or built upon.  For instance, what type of routine physical activity are you currently committed to? Two days a week in the gym? None? Walking the dog everyday? Moderate amounts of gardening? Golf? We will step off from your current routine, which for the sake of this example is walking the dog everyday. We’ll explore what type of physical activity interests you, what is your time allowance, whether this will be a solo activity or one that can be shared with a partner.

The 3-month long-term goals might be:

  1. Lose 10 pounds
  2. Eat 5 small meals per day, 3 days per week
  3. Walk 3 times per week for 30 minutes, without stopping

These long-terms goals are realistic and measurable—the two essential components of successful goal creation.

Now we will write daily small-step goals that will be lead to the achievement of the 3-month goals. These daily goals will be pleasant and subtle, as well as measurable and realistic. A tracking tool will be utilized to assess daily success; if a barrier presented itself and success was not achieved, we will explore that barrier, modify the goal if necessary, and continue to look to future successes.

The small step goals for the first week as a beginner—the dog walker—might look like this:

  1. Walk for ten (10) minutes, without stopping, twice this week.
  2. Engage in demonstrated upper and lower body stretching exercises, twice this week.
  3. Complete a food diary for three (3) full days, email it to my optimal life-management coach.

These three goals may not appear to be meaningful in terms of looking at a long-term goal of 10-pound weight loss. But for the person who is not engaged in routine physical activity, except for the slow dog walking, or for a person who is not eating with awareness, these subtle behavior changes are in fact the perfect small steps toward the future. These goals invite immediate success, and allow for confidence building, as opposed to “I am going to go to the gym 4 days this week”, or “I am going to cut out the junk food this week”—both of which are too big, too loosely defined, and too dramatic in terms of the shift in behaviors. Will this person eventually be at the gym 4 days per week? Sure, it is entirely possible. Will this person be eating far less junk food in the future? Very likely!

Our brain is a marvelous organ and it protects us – from perceived stressors. Big, undefined goals that limit pleasure or add unfamiliar behaviors—too much, too soon— are perceived by the brain as a stressor. This then evokes the fight or flight response and the brain literally will become resistant to that new behavior! When we write small-step daily goals that are pleasant and subtle, the brain welcomes the opportunity to engage in an activity that is perceived as pleasant, which will lead to ongoing engagement.

After one to three weeks of success and comfort with the initial small-step goals, you will be ready to up the ante just a bit, to look like this:

  1. Walk for ten (10) minutes, without stopping, three days this week; OR Walk for fifteen (15) minutes, without stopping, twice this week.
  2. Engage in demonstrated upper and lower body stretching exercises, three times this week.
  3. Eat 5 small meals per day one (1) day this week.
  4. Eat a 6-color salads twice this week.

These goals will become comfortable and familiar within a couple of weeks and can be ramped up another notch, then another, and another. Within the first eight (8) to ten (10) weeks, substantial progress will have been made in regards to engaging and enjoying subtle and pleasant behavior change. You are well on your way!


A bike ride saved my brain…

I felt a bit crabby, my vision was blurred, my thoughts were disconnected, and I wasn’t quite sure at what point in my “learning more about the back end of my new website” session I was. I had entered a technology dead-zone–brain dead that is.

Spending too much time sitting still, especially in front of a computer brings me to that place every time. But today, I had a deadline, a project to complete before bedtime, a commitment had been made, so there I was. With my brain beginning to sizzle and my body feeling antsy. It was getting late, dusk was around the corner.

Aha! A bike ride. Brilliant!

I went out fast, and pushed hard for 50 minutes, while riding our standard neighborhood loop. My senses were so relieved to be outdoors and stimulated by the beauty around me. A sweet, rich aroma permeated the cooling evening air, birds sang from the treetops, the dipping sun cast warm golden light, neighbors walking dogs smiled and waved as I passed, my legs felt strong, lungs were full, heart pumping to keep up. I felt … marvelous.

Relieved of tension. Able to let go of the brain strain. Buzzed by endorphins. Pleasantly fatigued muscles. Quieted mind. Rejuvenated.

Grateful.


Relax! 60 seconds is all it takes…

Relax!
60 seconds is all it takes…

It is well accepted that in our society, we are immersed in a fast paced way of life. Much is known about the potential negative consequences of unrelieved stress on both our physical and emotional health. While there may be some opportunity to alleviate your own personal stress triggers to some extent, two more realistic and immediate choices are available to you. One is to modify the manner with which you respond to a stress trigger, and the other is to practice the elicitation of a relaxation response on a regular basis.

Both of these choices are appealing, because both are attainable, pleasant, and very beneficial. Read the rest of this entry »

Women in the Workplace—is that the Office or Home???

For most of us, it’s both.

Women today do it all…contribute to the family finances, in some cases as the sole provider; nurture their children, partners, and extended family members; take care the house, which may include shopping, preparing meals, cleaning, laundry, or minor repairs; help with homework; talk with teachers; soothe hurt feelings and broken hearts; walk the dog; empty the cat litter box; write out the bills (all the while balancing the family budget); and mow the lawn in summer. While there may be a family effort exerted for these daily living tasks, much of the coordination, if not the effort itself, is left to the woman of the household.

Given all the energy women devote to household/family needs, how is it that we find time for success within our work life? Because we must. Whether we go to work full time or part time, at an executive or laborer level, love our work or just tolerate it, women give as much of themselves to their job as they do to their family and home.

That brings me to my point: What’s left over? Where is the energy or the time for our pleasures, our personal pursuits, or our self-nurturing? Yes, we derive pleasure from our family and work successes and challenges, but is that enough? NO, it is not!

We need balance in our lives. This is easier said than done, yes, but it can be done. Finding balance is a practiced skill, meaning that it must be practiced to become familiar. As working women, our path has been obscured by our sense of obligation to others, so that we can no longer see the way to care for ourselves. This is evident on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

Balance incorporates three key components: relaxation or a quieting of the mind, eating foods that are health sustaining, and engaging in some type of physical activity. The quieting of the mind is the most important aspect of this balance. The relaxation achieved from this quieting can have a tremendous positive affect on your physical and emotional health. Give yourself permission to take just one, or three, or six minutes a day to sit and breathe is all I am suggesting. Read the rest of this entry »

"Robin Mallery has been working with me for over a year now. During this time, she has introduced me to many different thought and choice options--most importantly she has helped me understand that I am the most important choice. Her passion for living right and feeling even better brings a human support to a process that could easily have been uncomfortable and unsuccessful. She is tireless in her unending support. Her talent for listening heightens a nurturing coaching relationship. I recommend Robin for those that have chosen to change; she will help support that decision, and you will be pleased that you chose to change and that you chose Robin as your coach."

---B.B., restaurant and business owner, Northern California

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