4.2018

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Mindfulness

Mindfulness as your GPS for the journey…

A video offered as the starting point for Your HeartMatters Journey. I can’t wait to know of the richness of your experiences as you create the opportunity for inviting mindfulness into your day.

It’s not all or nothing. Being mindful is the gift that keeps on giving–your familiarity with this delicious way of observing events during your day will make long-lasting, positive brain changes. As we move forward together on this optimal health journey, the practice of mindfulness will lend itself to a practice of quieting the brain through intentional elicitation of the relaxation response. Stay tuned for more! I will continue to work on keeping these weekly video posts under 4 minutes–this one was close!

A Calm Within the Storm

A marvelous occurrence: 5 + inches of rain has fallen within the past 72 hours. It’s not so much the ferocious storm that has made this time special, as it is the calm and slow pace that I gave myself permission to create and enjoy in the midst of the storm.

Friday’s plans for a snowshoe outing were canceled due to weather and suddenly, on Thursday night I realized that I had a weekday looming–without commitments!

Admittedly, my mind went to all the work-related items I could accomplish! Eight hours of unexpected and suddenly available time can create the space for many To Do tasks to be checked off the list. I thought about it for just a moment when my next thought was NO! Just hang out. Take advantage of the day and of the storm and stay warm, dry, and quiet–right at home.

At that moment, I gave myself permission to just be.

For the past 72 hours, I have not gone out of the house, except to take Grace for a walk. Twice a day for the past three days, I have donned my rain-gear and enjoyed a 1/2 hour of bliss–walking through the storm, cozy and warm in winter clothes, experiencing the fierce wind and rain, senses stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells of the storm, and I’d return home with a joyful heart and a smiling dog.

I’ve sat quietly and have felt grateful for that quiet. I have baked dozens of mini-loaves of cranberry and coconut-pumpkin bread to be shared next week as holiday love. I have savored the aromas wafting from my kitchen. I have watched the flames in the woodstove. I have made soup and roasted squash. I have had fun on FaceBook and yes, I have even answered a few emails. I have watched the great trees bend and sway in the powerful winds. I have enjoyed seeing the birds braving the elements to stay well-fed from the feeders. I have slowed down.

I gave myself permission to be calm within the storm.

After the Rain

Were there a way to capture the splendor of the forest after the rain…

An unexpected summer storm–cooling down the sizzle of August, dousing the dusty walking paths of my daily excursions, and bringing all of my senses alive–

Dressed in long leggings and a jacket (in August!), I ventured out with my sweetie and my sweet dog to savor the post-storm beauty on a walk through the woods. Immediately I was intoxicated by the smells! I am almost at a loss for words to describe the richness of the varied aromas permeating the cool, fresh air. Mountain misery, wet and sticky, released a pungent sage brush-like flavor; damp Madrone leaves, knocked to the ground by the wind, now gifted me with deliciousness; wet earth smelling so rich and fertile…

And the visuals, oh my, so dazzling. Water droplets clinging to Cedar boughs and catching the sunshine to create prisms of color; dull, brown bark of the Evergreens now vibrant as sepia, burnt sienna, and caramel; pristine white clouds, full and fluffy, against the deep blue summer sky; and the moss, the iridescent greens of which exist only in nature–so luscious and inviting, that I felt compelled to reach out to feel the texture, which was as soft and wet and yummy as it looked.

Speaking of touch, the tactile stimulation was spectacular. Fresh, clean air, cool to my skin, ruffling my hair with the gentle breeze; soft earth underfoot; my hand cupped warmly in my sweetheart’s hand; feeling love and sharing in this miracle of nature.

The sounds were just as delightful–birds singing from their hearts, seeming to celebrate the storm’s end; water droplets falling to the ground; tree limbs swaying in the breeze; dogs barking from afar; and Grace’s charging feet chasing her ball…

I felt as refreshed by our walk than did the forest seem–after the rain. Home again, heart filled with gratitude and a quiet joy for the simple beauty of life.

JOY is all around us

Joy.

It’s there — all around us, ours to savor, ours to appreciate, ours to create…

Creating joy begins when you give yourself permission to slow down, just for a moment, so that you can observe the happenings of your own world. The small things. The occurrences or thoughts that might otherwise go unnoticed, if you hadn’t given yourself the moment to pay attention.

Even in our busy lives we have time to to invite mindfulness as the filter through which we view our day. Popping to the grocery store in the midst of several other chores, take notice of the smile on the face of a child who is helping his mom load the cart, or the elderly couple holding hands as they stroll the isles; when you walk into an office building, admire the flowers blooming brightly in the planter boxes; on the way back to your car, notice the sound of the birds singing from the trees; watch a sunrise or sunset, marveling at nature; walk alongside a stream; share a smooch with your sweetie…all of these everyday small details will bring you to joy.

The more you invite joy, the more familiar this healthful emotion becomes to you. Your cup will be half-full. Your world will shine brightly. Your tensions will melt away. You will feel lighter, more patient, and more energetic. From a purely physical perspective, the inflammation that occurs in response to the hurry-up stress hormones will diminish; blood vessel soften, leading to lowered blood pressure; blood glucose levels become more balanced; and brain chemistry becomes less chaotic — all of this, just from giving yourself permission to slow down to experience joy.

What is bringing you to joy today?

7/1/10 Milk and Honey

I’m honored to speak to this group of women about mindfulness, taking care of emotional and physical health and well-being, and staying balanced in the face of all things motherhood. Milk and Honey meets on most Thursdays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM at In the Kitchen in Nevada City.

About Milk and Honey: “We are a group of local mothers who believe that healthy babies lead to happy families, community and a better world. Our group aims to provide support, encouragement, resources, education and friendship for breastfeeding and aspiring mothers, babies, pregnant women and families. A professional specializing in Mamas and Babies will lead brief talks and be available for questions during our weekly drop in hours. Connect with other parents, learn, and share your joys, questions and concerns.” For more information and to connect with Milk and Honey, visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Milk.and.Honey.Cafe.NC?ref=ts.

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!

How Your Brain Can Save Your Heart…

I listened in on a teleconference yesterday; sponsored by HeartCoaches, that featured Cynthia Ackrill, MD as the opening speaker. Dr. Ackrill “has extensive training in new brain-based approaches to behavior change and performance enhancement.  Her specialty is psychoneurobiology, a field of applied neuroscience measuring brainwave patterns and their correlation to psychometric measures of symptoms, behaviors, and performance”. WOW! This burgeoning field of brain science is utterly fascinating and holds the key to understanding the opportunities for sustainable behavior change that supports optimal health and well-being.

Also discussed was the VIA Survey, an assessment tool that defines character strengths. Recognizing and utilizing your character strengths are correlated with “an understanding of the various dimensions of character, the dynamics between character strengths, and the valued outcomes that result from living authentically in concordance with one’s character strengths. With greater ability to articulate and develop character, we will be poised to better direct our talents and abilities into meaningful and engaging behavior to better our own lives and the lives of others.”

Paul Nelson, MEd, and Director of HeartCoaches, described the 4 brain-based strategies that he has developed “that research has shown to be critical for increasing self-efficacy, encouraging determination, strengthening resiliency and creating an optimistic attitude–all essential ingredients for making lifestyle changes that lead to a longer, healthier, happier life.”

I was thrilled and deeply touched that during the teleconference, my HeartMatters program was validated by science-based principles and studies. Behavior change that leads to optimal life-management is entirely possible by incorporating a mindfulness and relaxation practice and positive affirmation, creating a Health Vision, and engaging in small-step daily goals that are subtle, pleasant, and realistic. And in the process, you will cultivate an emotional connection to your deeper self, understanding your strengths and opportunities, and believing that it is possible–a secondary benefit to enjoying radiant health and well-being.

Doesn’t that sound like what you want?

"When my husband of 34 years died I lost my interest in cooking.  Instead I began relying on quick frozen organic entrees and dinners. After three years I decide to improve the quality of my diet, so I contacted Robin Mallery. Robin helped me create a more nourishing and healthful diet that took my busy teaching and consulting schedule into consideration.

It was a joy to work with Robin. She is knowledgeable, supportive, intuitive, and warm.  I highly recommend her as a Heart Healthy Coach.

Through lifestyle counseling, the sharing of her delicious and healthy family recipes, and an informative and fun "field trip" to a local whole food market, I have shifted to an eating plan that is healthy, delicious, and swiftly prepared. The key to swift and healthy meal preparation for me has been Robin's 90-minute Sunday afternoon food prep model, a strategy that assures quick and delicious high quality meals throughout the week. I consider my leisurely Sunday afternoon food preparation time as self-indulgent "me" time, and enjoy chopping, baking, and sauteing against the backdrop of classical music and a glass of wine.  I also love the fact that a nutritious and delicious dinner is ready when I walk through the door every night of my work week.  It's as if I finally have that personal chef I have always coveted, only it's me!"  ---Patricia J., Nevada City

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