Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

positive affirmation

5 Tips for Managing the Holiday Goodie(s) Temptation

1.    Accept the fact that in your workplace and friends’ homes, on the counter tops at local markets, and just about everywhere, there will be bowls of candy, plates of cookies and fudge, and a plethora of pot-luck celebrations. It’s not about avoiding these temptations; it’s about creating a success plan that combines pleasure with honoring your health goals and well-being intentions. Give yourself permission to celebrate the season, and know that you can bring balance to your decision-making.

2.    Savor the Flavor! I am especially fond of this mindful approach to holiday splurges.  It’s simple: there’s a plate of homemade fudge at your office reception desk. They are made-from-scratch and chock-full of wholesome ingredients. These cubes of sweetness are likely cut into small squares because they are so rich, but if not, you can make your first mindful decision to cut a tablespoon-size piece. Take it back to your desk or to the break room. Cut it into 10 tiny pieces. Tiny. Admire the bounty of delight in front of you. Lean down to inhale the heavenly aroma. Take the first small piece and place it on your tongue, allowing it to begin to melt. You can see where I’m going with this—you are making the piece of fudge into a sensuous sensory experience, you are inviting your brain to participate by stimulating your senses: Sight, look at ALL those tiny pieces of fudge! Smell, rich, chocolate-y, nutty; Taste, as your tongue comes alive; Sound, as you exclaim your delight! Your brain will be infused with pleasure! Wait 5 minutes to repeat the sensory experience again. And again. And again, until over the course of an hour or more, you have fully engaged in the mindful enjoyment of eating a small piece of fudge. NOTE: imagine the contrast of grabbing a few pieces of fudge as you walk by the plate and take them back to your desk. As your emails load, you pop the entire first piece in your mouth, mildly aware of how good it tastes, prompting you to gobble the second piece, and possibly the third. Within 5 minutes, you’ve eaten three chunks of fudge, your brain has not been invited to the party, diminishing the experience of absolute sensory pleasure, and leaving room for more…and more.  See the difference?

3.    Visualize your success. Before you go to a party, or walk up the stairs to your office, or go to the salon to have your hair cut, see yourself as relaxed and confident. Know your intention: to enjoy yourself while staying true to your health and well-being commitments. A positive affirmation comes in handy here; “I am looking forward to mindfully savoring the foods and treats that I choose well”, or “I will eat and enjoy the veggies and salads that are on the table, then I will decide on what treats to savor.”

4.    Express gratitude, for the abundance of food that is available to you, and more importantly, express thanks to yourself for the savoring of the foods you have mindfully chosen. Say to yourself, “Thank you for taking time to eat that fudge slowly; I like your intention to take care during the holidays”, or even, “Hey, way to go!”. Every time your brain receives positive affirmation for a behavior, you are reinforcing the happy experience, and are more likely to choose that behavior again!

5.    Move your body regularly—walk, pedal, swim, skate, whatever is appealing and available to you. Ramping up your metabolism throughout the year is beneficial, and during the holiday season you will find it even more so. When you exercise regularly, having the occasional mindful splurge will not have as big of an impact as it could if your schedule doesn’t include routine physical activity.

Happy Holidays!

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!

Positive Affirmation

Affirmations are spoken imagery from a positive point of view.  The best use of affirmation occurs when we become aware of our ongoing internal dialogue or self-talk.  We have decades of practice with the tendency to engage in judgmental and negative self-talk!  The practice of positive affirmation will shift this internal dialogue into a pleasant, supportive means of nurturing yourself while becoming more familiar with optimism and compassion.

  • Positive affirmation, also known as Cognitive Restructuring,effectively counters the harmful cycle of negative self-talk because of selective awareness—we are really only able to hold one statement at a time in our mind.  Cognitive Restructuring is an acquired skill that requires practice! The primary purpose of affirmations is not to change objective reality, but to change subjective reality.  As you strive to change your mind, feelings and behavior, you can design affirmations to offset the negative self-talk statements.  Positive affirmations are even more powerful when used together during the relaxation response practice.
  • Choose a Goal for your affirmations.

Choose something that you deeply desire, a state of being or a behavior that you wish to enjoy on a regular basis, involving your mind, body or emotions.  Replace a negative behavior that you want to be rid of with a positive behavior.  An example of a positive affirmation to support behavior change for a sedentary lifestyle would be to say, “I enjoy feeling energetic”.  “I feel engaged in my physical health when I take a walk”.  “I like feeling more relaxed after I walk”.

  • Keep your affirmations completely positive.

Avoid the use of words such as no and not, and contractions such as don’t, shouldn’t, and wasn’t.  Instead of  “I will not feel anxious about this test”, consider, “I am fully prepared for the examination.  I feel calm, relaxed, and confident in my ability to perform.  The answers to all the test questions are available in my mind and I can produce them at a moment’s notice.”

  • Make your affirmations personal.

More personal expressions motivate the deeper mind. Instead of “I will have an effective talk with my boss” or “My boss is going to understand my point of view” consider, “I am prepared for this meeting.  I have the ability to communicate my point of view so that my boss will understand.”

  • Use powerful affirmation words and vivid, enriching adjectives.

Consider, “I feel a deep, rich, soothing feeling of peace” as opposed to “I feel relaxed”; or “My mind is crystal-clear and alert, and the answers I need are available for instant recall” as opposed to “I know the answers”.

  • State your affirmations in the present tense.

We may be waiting for the “someday” when we are going to start a business or lose weight.  We all possess the potential to procrastinate and intend to do something “one of these days”. Consider, “This morning I will take 3 minutes to listen to the birds sing before I leave for work” as opposed to “I am going to start taking quiet time before work”; or “I forgive myself completely and thoroughly” as opposed to “Now I know how to do it better next time”.

  • Keep your statements simple.

Use a subject (generally the subject of the sentence is you), a powerful verb, an object, and some adjective or adverbs to enrich your affirmation giving it a visual or otherwise sensual aspect.

  • Detached observation.

Take time to pay attention to the self-talk patterns you have become used to.  If you run out of the house in the morning to go to work, realizing that you left your lunch on the kitchen counter, instead of saying to yourself “You dufus!  You forgot your lunch”, consider “Hmmm, how interesting.  I was moving quickly this morning and in a hurry, so I left my lunch on the counter.  I can slow down just a moment and breathe, then go back into the house to grab my lunch”.

As you begin to enjoy a heightened awareness of the words you choose in your self-talk, you will be creating new language patterns that will be kind, compassionate, and accepting of yourself. This then will be subtly transferred to the words you use when communicating with others.

“It was with sincere gratitude that I had the opportunity to meet and work with Robin Mallery—it was perfect timing for me in my life. With Robin coaching me, I was able to cultivate new life skills that I implement daily. She is kind, attentive, informative and extremely intuitive. I recommend Robin highly. Thanks again Robin!”

–F.G., Grass Valley

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